The First Christmas
The last day of term was a hard one. Eliza knew it would be, she had had that feeling when she woke in the morning and Fred wasn't next to her in the bed that it would be a hard day.
Nevertheless she told herself to get up and have a shower. Glancing at the clock she saw she would only just have time for a quick breakfast, if she had her usual long shower. The bathroom was warm and she was touched to realise that Fred had switched on the electronic towel rail before he went to work.
She had been so cold last night that he had spent most of the night rubbing her arms trying to keep her warm.
"Get in the shower, Eliza." She said to herself, firmly. On days like these it helped to give herself instructions, sometimes in her head, sometimes out loud. She pulled off her fleecy pyjamas and stepped into the shower, the water was hot as it always was but it did not warm her, she had a quicker than usual shower and then dried herself off and pulled on her school uniform.
It had felt strange at the start of the school year to be allowed to return to the cottage every night. For the first two nights she had stayed at Hogwarts but she hadn't slept and she learnt from Bill, who was the temporary Transfiguration teacher that Fred hadn't either. It was Dumbledore's portrait who had suggested the current arrangement and after a few ground rules (stay at Hogwarts until nine to do homework, return to the school after breakfast etc.), the new regime started.
Eliza walked downstairs and made herself a cup of tea, she didn't feel like eating. She sat at the table staring at nothing until Biscuit jumped in front of her and demanded attention. She stroked him and then fed him and then pulled on her yellow coat and picked up her bag.
"Go to school, Eliza." Nodding to herself she walked towards the fireplace and floo-ed to Hogwarts.
"Good morning, Eliza." Eliza stepped out of the fireplace and turned to the Headmistress's desk, McGonagall appeared to be having a cup of tea and reading her post.
"Morning, Professor." Eliza waited a moment but then forgot the reason why so started to head towards the door.
"Tired, Eliza?" McGonagall asked, Eliza turned back. She hadn't even realised that McGonagall had looked at her.
"Cold." She replied.
"Is the cottage draughty?"
"I don't think so." Fred had never mentioned being cold, no one else had either. Eliza was always cold these days but this morning seemed particularly bad.
"Eliza?" Eliza blinked and looked up at McGonagall.
"I said you better get to Herbology, I'll see you this afternoon." Eliza nodded.
"Go to Herbology, Eliza." She said, turning away from the desk and walking out of the room. She walked down the spiral staircase and as usual found Harry, Ron and Hermione waiting for her at the bottom. Ron appeared to be moaning about homework.
"…last day, surely they won't give us anymore? We've already got millions of essays! Oh, morning Eliza."
"Hi." She said, stepping off the last step.
"Alright?" Harry asked, carefully. He was always careful around Eliza now. She was convinced that the only reason Harry and Ron had returned to Hogwarts rather than joining the Ministry straight away was to keep an eye on her.
"Yes. I've got Herbology." She said, without reason apparently because they all had Herbology. Hermione nodded and the quartet began their journey to the greenhouses.
"So, what did you do last night, Eliza? Did you finish painting the basement?" Hermione asked.
"No." Eliza put her hands under her armpits as she walked, she was so cold. Eliza realised she was expected to contribute more to the conversation but she just couldn't bring herself to do it.
"We had Quidditch practise, Hermione came to watch." Ron said, he struggled the most with Eliza's mood swings, he never knew what to say.
"We've got a match the first week of next term, against Hufflepuff, I reckon we should be alright, don't you, Ron?" Harry and Ron talked about Quidditch the whole way to the greenhouses and when they entered greenhouse three they were the last one's there.
"Morning all! I want you to work in pairs today, pair up now."
"I'll go with Eliza" Said Harry quickly, before Eliza had even realised that Sprout had stopped speaking. "Just don't snog or anything, we're in a public place." Ron laughed and Hermione blushed.
It seemed so natural to see Ron and Hermione together that Eliza often forgot that they were still at a relatively early stage in their relationship.
Professor Sprout gave the instructions and Eliza followed Harry to their work station at the back of the classroom. Eliza noticed as they arrived that the other Gryffindor's had made a kind of barricade between the twins and the other students, it was a kind thought but rather unnecessary, the class was mainly Hufflepuffs and they knew better than to bother the The-Girl-Who-Jumped and The-Boy-Who-Lived.
Harry started doing something and Eliza extradited her hands from her armpits.
"Do some work, Eliza." She whispered to herself.
Harry often used to twin bond to talk to Eliza about delicate matters, at the start of the term it had led Hermione to be angry with Harry for not paying enough attention to his sister, he had been outraged and Eliza had to hastily explain the situation to Hermione to defuse her anger.
"What are we supposed to be doing, Harry?" She asked, quietly. Harry appeared to be using tweezers to do something to the plants in front of them.
"Pull off the hairs, their used for potions or something." Eliza picked up the tweezers, her hands were shaking and she couldn't hold them steady enough to get anywhere near the plant.
"Don't worry, I got this." Harry said, taking the tweezers out of her hands.
"Sorry, Harry." Harry shook his head indicating that it was no bother, Eliza put her hands back in her armpits and in what seemed like no time at all, the lesson was over.
"No homework from today's lesson but don't forgot I want the proposals for your final project in during the first week back, no excuses! Longbottom, Miss Potter, a word please? The rest of you have a lovely Christmas." Even though Eliza was technically a Weasley now the Hogwarts staff always called her by Potter and Eliza didn't really mind.
The class wishes a 'Merry Christmas' back and Eliza walked behind Neville to the front of the class.
"I'll wait outside, Eliza." Said Hermione, Eliza nodded and Hermione shut the door leaving Eliza with Neville and Sprout.
"Now, I wanted to know if you were both still interested in the extra credit project next term?"
"Definitely Professor…." Eliza lost the tail end of the conversation, this happened every so often, as if her ears were suddenly under water. She closed her eyes and tried to concentrate, when she opened them again the sound was back.
"…too much on, Eliza." Neville was finishing, looking at her nervously.
"What do you think Miss Potter?" Eliza looked at Sprout, what did she think? Lots of things, always lots of things.
"It's not a good day." Eliza said simply, Sprout nodded sadly.
"Well, have a think about it dear, let Neville know when you've made up your mind, okay?" Eliza nodded and Sprout dismissed them.
Neville started to move but Eliza remained, waiting for instructions from herself.
"Go to Arithmancy, Eliza." Sprout smiled at her encouragingly and Eliza left the room and met up with Hermione.
They walked to class in silence, well to Eliza they did. Halfway she realised that Hermione was speaking to her, she tried to pay attention.
"…the entire holiday at the Burrow or will you be at the cottage?"
"I asked if you were spending the entire…." The sound cut out again, Eliza could see her friend's lips moving but the sound was gone. Eliza closed her eyes but the sound did not return for several seconds.
"Bad day. Cold."
"Oh dear, do you still want to go to Arithmancy?" Eliza nodded and they arrived at the classroom with the rest of the students. Professor Vector called them in and then time seemed to disappear again and they were out of the classroom on the way to lunch.
"What did we just do, in Arithmancy?"
"Not much, just a Christmas translation from the 1400's, complete waste of time. Don't worry." Eliza nodded and they continued to the Hall and sat down next to Ginny.
"Hey guys, good morning?" She asked, happily.
"Eliza's a bit foggy." Hermione explained, Eliza didn't even think to feel annoyed, she knew Hermione was only trying to help.
Ron and Harry arrived and Hermione started talking about the plans for the holidays.
Eliza, you in there?
Eliza looked up at her brother's face and nodded.
Do you want to go to the lake?
Eliza shook her head, it was freezing.
Room of Requirement? I need to talk to you about something.
Eliza nodded and Harry took her hand and led her from the Hall.
When the entered the magical room it had a large roaring fireplace and a squishy sofa.
"Eliza, can you listen to me for a minute?" Harry asked, as they sat down. Eliza nodded, looking at the fire and wondering why it wasn't warming her up in the slightest.
"I've had a letter from Aunt Petunia." That was strange, Eliza had heard from her Aunt a few times since the final battle but she never thought that Petunia was writing to Harry.
"She's going to court…" The noise faded and this time Eliza was grateful for it, she didn't want to hear what Harry was saying.
Eliza, are you listening?
Damn it, she thought, the bond still works.
Bad day, Harry. Very bad day.
"Okay, okay." Harry said out loud, pulling her into a hug. "It's okay, it can wait." Eliza nodded, relieved.
A knock on the door disturbed the scene, Harry pulled away from Eliza and told the person to come in. It was Bill Weasley.
"Hi, Professor." Harry said, with a grin that didn't quite meet his eyes.
"Potter." Bill walked into the room and knelt down in front of Eliza, breaking her eye contact with the cold fire.
"How's the weather, sister-in-law?" He asked, with a slightly serious face.
"How foggy?" Bill asked.
"I'm cold Bill, I'm really cold."
"Yeah, Fred told me. You alright apart from that?" Eliza shook her head.
"Do you want to go home?"
"No, I can't. I have to follow the rules!"
"It doesn't matter today, Eliza…"
"It does, it matters every day. I can't break the rules for this, it would be too easy and then…" Eliza stopped talking, it was too important to her to explain.
"Okay, okay. Just don't push yourself Eliza, give yourself credit. No one thought you'd last all term, you're doing really well."
"Just a few more hours." Eliza said, more to herself than to Bill.
Bill stayed with the twins for the whole lunch hour. The house-elves bought them food and they talked about the Christmas plans for the Burrow.
When the bell rang Eliza stood up.
"Go to Advanced Transfiguration, Eliza." She said, quietly. She noticed the worried look that Bill gave to Harry so she sought to pacify him.
"It helps, if I give myself instructions."
"Okay, fair enough. I'll walk you, I've got a free period." Harry said goodbye to them and returned to the Common Room.
The gargoyles at the bottom of the staircase to McGonagall's office let Eliza in without a password and Bill gave her a light kiss on the forehead and then left to go to the staff room.
She climbed the stairs and knocked on the door.
"Come in." Eliza opened the door and walked up to the desk without looking up, when she reached the desk she realised that there was no chair for her, she then looked up at McGonagall.
"I hear the weather is foggy." Eliza nodded, she was sure that the must be an entire owl somewhere in Hogwarts devoted to keeping the teachers, Fred, and Mr and Mrs Weasley updated on Eliza's mood.
"I've decided it's about time I took you back somewhere."
"Okay." Eliza replied, she couldn't even be bothered to ask where. McGonagall stood up and pulled on her tartan overcoat and disappeared into her study for a moment leaving Eliza alone in the office, she looked up at the portraits and found her gaze wandering to Professor Dumbledore, he was watching her closely.
"Don't forget Eliza, sometimes the brightest light can be found in the darkest place." He said, softly.
"What about the coldest place?" Eliza asked.
"The warmest heart." He replied smoothly. Eliza continued looking at his portrait as McGonagall returned to the room.
"Come on Eliza, we'll need to leave the grounds to Apparate."
"I can't Apparate." Eliza replied, she was hit and miss at the best of times but today definitely felt like a miss waiting to happen.
"I'll side-long you of course, you still don't have your license." Eliza nodded and followed McGonagall out of the office.
They walked out of the entrance hall and were half way across the grounds before Eliza realised that McGonagall was talking to her.
"…see Poppy if you would like, when we get back?"
"I said… never mind. Have you managed to transform yet?"
"No, I don't want to until I'm sure I can back-transform." Her animagus ability had not been tested since the battle and Eliza was reluctant to try until she felt better.
"Well next term we'll give it a go, I can always help, Eliza. Help will always be given at Hogwarts to those who ask for it." Eliza stopped sharply, trying to locate a lost memory.
"Someone said that to me… who was it?"
"It was probably Albus, it was one of his favourite expressions." Eliza nodded and continued walking, her mind working on trying to remember the situation.
They arrived at the gates and McGonagall opened them with a wave of her wand, they walked through them and McGonagall continued walking for another ten metres before holding her hand out for Eliza to take, when she did the older witch sighed.
"Aren't you going to ask me where we're going?" Eliza looked at her for a moment but couldn't find her voice so with a twist of Apparation the duo faded.
They arrived on the outskirts of what looked like a small village. It was blanketed in snow, which was still falling lightly, and had a friendly atmosphere about it.
"Where are we?" Eliza asked, her curiosity finally showing.
"I've bought you home, Eliza. To Godric's Hollow." Wherever Eliza was expecting to go it was not here, McGonagall looked unsure for a moment but then moved forwards and after a moment's hesitation, Eliza followed.
"Can you tell me about them?" Eliza asked.
"Didn't you ask Remus?" The familiar pang hit Eliza but she managed to quash it.
"I didn't like making him sad."
"I probably spent more time with your father, he was excellent at Transfiguration, not a patch on you but still very good."
"He was an unregistered animagus."
"Really?" McGonagall asked, stopping and turning to Eliza. Eliza explained the tale about her father, Sirius and Pettigrew learning to become animagus to keep Remus company during the full moon. She already knew about Sirius being able to transform into a dog.
"How in Merlin's name they managed to train Pettigrew is beyond me, they must have been excellent teachers. What was James' form?"
"A stag. My mother's patronus was…"
"A doe, like yours I believe…" Eliza's ears struggled for a few minutes and McGonagall seemed to notice because she stopped talking.
"I can hear now."
"Is it getting more frequent?"
"It's worse when I'm foggy. What were you saying?" McGonagall looked at her for a moment as if deciding whether to push the issue and then resumed her story about Lily.
By the time they reached the graveyard Eliza was so cold she was struggling to follow the conversation and reluctantly she asked McGonagall to stop talking.
"Just for a little bit." She added, hoping that she didn't seem rude. McGonagall gave a tight smile and nodded. She led Eliza right up to the headstones that bore her parents name.
"I'll be in the church, if you need me." Eliza nodded and heard McGonagall's footsteps fade.
It was strange to be here. Harry had described the graves perfectly. Eliza had only had a short time between waking up from her coma to returning to Hogwarts. She had intended to come here but her recovery and then marriage and delayed things.
After Eliza and Fred married they went on a honeymoon to Europe, they have travelled around for three weeks and then returned to England so that Eliza could return to Hogwarts and Fred could open the shop again. Fred had seemed to come back to himself during the trip and when they returned he finally had the courage to look in a mirror and talk to the twin he lost.
"I'm here, I came to see you." Eliza said softly, tears rolling down her face. "You sent me back." Voicing it out loud for the first time made Eliza realise the conflicted emotions she had with her death.
Part of her loved the time she spent with her parents in the cupboard, the foggy part of her brain wished that she had just stayed with them forever. Good things had happened since she had returned, she knew that, but on days like today it was hard to remember them.
"Sometimes… sometimes I wish you'd kept me with you. Sometimes it's too foggy to see the sun." Eliza pulled out her wand and made a bouquet of Lilies and Tulips and placed them between the two headstones and then walked into the church to find McGonagall.
The teacher stood up and met up with her student by the door.
"Would you like to see the house?"
"Yes, I would, please."
They walked up a snowy street and finally came to rest in front of an only partially visible house. Eliza moved forwards and put her hand on the gate, the rest of the house appeared as did messages on the fence.
We believe in the Potter twins! Long live the Potter Twins!
On and on for what seemed like the whole length of the fence, Eliza smiled slightly and then looked up at the cottage.
"Why is it still here?"
"It belongs to you and Harry. You may want to live here one day." McGonagall replied from behind her.
"Harry might. I think I'd like to go now, Professor. I'm very cold."
"Very well, take my arm."
With a twist they were back by the gates of Hogwarts. They walked up to the school in silence. When they reached McGonagall's office, the Headmistress took a long look at Eliza and then shook her head in exasperation.
"Come on, hospital wing."
"I'm not sick."
"No, but Poppy may have something to warm you up, and clear the fog." Eliza wanted to refuse, but she also wanted to get warm again.
When they arrived at the hospital wing Madam Pomfrey pointed Eliza to the bed that the Matron knew was her favourite and then disappeared into her office with McGonagall. Eliza knew they would be discussing her in detail.
Before they returned to the ward the hospital wing doors opened and Bill walked in with Flitwick, who was holding a letter looking grave.
"Eliza, is Professor McGonagall in there?" Bill asked, pointing at the office, Eliza nodded and the teachers disappeared into the small office.
Eliza closed her eyes and tried to remember all the people she would need to buy Christmas presents for, lists always helped her. Fred's gift was already sorted, Harry would be easy. Hermione would probably be a book, Ron would be sweets or something about Quidditch. Ginny had been complaining about her gloves having holes in so that was easy. Mrs Weasley, she was always tricky. Mr Weasley could be ecstatic over the smallest muggle item so he was easy. Neville would like a plant. Luna… Luna would enjoy a book perhaps?
"…listening, Eliza?" Eliza jumped slightly as Bill's voice broke through her brain, she turned to him and saw that Flitwick was also there, with McGonagall and Pomfrey.
"Sorry, I was making a list."
"It's okay. Eliza we need to talk to you about something." Bill was now Head of Gryffindor but he usually left McGonagall deal with anything to do with Eliza.
"I don't want to talk about Aunt Petunia." She said, firmly. Bill, Flitwick and Pomfrey looked confused but McGonagall's gaze flickered across Eliza's face in a way that made Eliza sure the teacher knew what Harry had trying to be telling her.
"It's not about that, it's about Luna."
"Luna?" Eliza asked, confused.
"Well about her father." Flitwick continued. Eliza's heart jumped and she suddenly heard Xenophilius Lovegood screaming in agony, as clear as if he was sitting right next to her, or in the next cell.
Eliza clamped her hands over her ears but the noise did not lessen in the slightest. She tried to bang her ears with her hands but strong large hands stopped her.
"Eliza, it's okay. You're at Hogwarts." He said, Eliza tried to squint her ears against the sound but it took what seemed like forever for the screaming to stop. When it did she nodded at Bill and he let go of her hands. Flitwick and Pomfrey had left the room, leaving Bill and McGonagall behind.
"What… what's going on?" She asked. McGonagall sat next to her on the bed and Bill sat down on a freshly conjured chair.
"Eliza, Mr Lovegood has died." Eliza's eyes flicked between the two teachers, waiting for one of them to contradict the statement.
"How?" She asked. She had seen Mr Lovegood a few times since Azkaban, she had seen Penny Clearwater a few times as well, it was a strange bond that they shared.
"He killed himself, Eliza." McGonagall said quietly, Eliza closed her eyes trying to remember the last time she had seen him. A few weeks ago when Luna had met up with him in Hogsmeade.
"He seemed… He seemed okay, just a few weeks ago."
"He left you a letter. One for Luna and Miss Clearwater as well. Would you like to read it?"
"No." Eliza replied quickly, shaking her head. "Where's Luna?"
"She is with Professor Flitwick and Madam Pomfrey, they are explaining to her what has happened." McGonagall slipped the letter into Eliza's bag.
"What time is it?" Eliza asked.
"Nearly half past two, why?" Bill replied.
"I have to go to Care of Magical Creatures."
"Eliza, you've had a shock, you don't need…"
"I have to go! I have to follow the rules." Eliza whispered harshly, interrupting McGonagall. The witch looked at her carefully for a few moments and then stood up.
"Okay, Poppy left you a Pepper-Up, I'll fetch it for you." Eliza nodded and after taking the potion she pretended that she was warmer and allowed Bill to walk her to Hagrid's cabin where Ginny was waiting.
"Eliza! Have you heard?" Ginny asked, throwing herself on Eliza and hugging her firmly, this confused Eliza who had always viewed Ginny has not much of a hugger.
"Yes, she has. Both of you come to my office after you've finished." Bill said, he allowed Ginny to hug him and then walked back up to the castle.
The rest of the class gradually joined the group, the Ravenclaws, who had been much kinder to Luna since the battle, looked rather subdued and Luna was predictably absent.
Hagrid joined the group and led them over to the enclosure where Bowtruckles were waiting for them.
"Just draw them and makes some notes." Hagrid said, looking distracted. Eliza and Ginny walked over to one of the creatures but neither girl pulled out their sketch pads. Hagrid walked up to them and sat down on a tree trunk.
"Poor girl, 'nother orphan." He said, pulling out a table cloth sized handkerchief and blowing his nose.
"I just can't get my head around it, he seemed fine the other week. He was excited about having Luna home for Christmas. They were going to go to Norway." Ginny said quietly.
"Alright, Eliza?" Hagrid asked, looking at her.
She shook her head, she was not alright.
"Can I go for a walk, Hagrid?" She asked.
"Sure, don't leave the grounds though."
"Do you want me to come?" Ginny asked, Eliza shook her head, dropped her bag on the ground and left the paddock.
She had no idea where she was going until she reached her destination. Her wall was still standing, strong as ever. She looked up at it and saw the names that she missed the most shining back at her. Soon there would be another name added, she would make sure of it.
Using her wand she cleared the snow at the base of the wall and then sat on the walkway with her legs over the edge, she leaned her head on the wall and it felt like all the people on the wall were supporting her, holding her up.
Sometimes she felt like this was the last place she had been certain on anything. When she threw herself off this walkway she knew exactly why and she had no fear.
"Not thinking of jumping are you, Eliza? I'd have to jump after you and I'm not a strong swimmer." Eliza shook her head and then felt Ron sit next to her.
"Surely there are warmer places to think?"
"I'm always cold at the moment, it doesn't make a difference." Ron didn't speak for several minutes and then Eliza felt herself tilt her head so that she was leaning on Ron instead of the wall, the present not the past.
"How are you, Ron?" She asked, as he put his arm around her.
"Alright today, last day of term and all."
"You didn't have to come back, you know? Hermione didn't think you would."
"We're a quartet, and we wanted one normal year at Hogwarts."
"I'm not sure that's possible." Eliza replied with a small smile.
"Well, we'll give it a shot."
"I'm angry with him, Mr Lovegood." Eliza said, softly.
"It's understandable, have you seen Luna?"
"I've sent an owl to Mum, telling her to set the table for one more."
"That's nice Ron."
They sat there in silence for another few minutes before Ron spoke again.
"I'm thinking of asking Hermione to marry me, what do you think?" Eliza smiled, her head still on Ron's shoulder.
"I think it's a wonderful idea. Don't expect her to want to get married until after the NEWT's though."
"Not a chance." Ron laughed.
"Let's go inside, Eliza. You might not be cold but I am." Eliza nodded and allowed Ron to pull her to her feet, he kept hold of her hand and led her all the way to the Gryffindor corridor.
When they reached the portrait of the Fat Lady they found Zacharias Smith waiting outside it, he turned to Ron and Eliza when he saw them approaching.
"What are you doing here, Smith?" Ron asked, as usual he had little patience for the Hufflepuff, perhaps even less now he was captain of the Hufflepuff Quidditch team.
"Need to sort out the Quidditch rota for next term, Weasley." He then looked at Eliza. "Where's Potter?"
Where's Potter? Where is your brother? If you give us Potter we'll let you go! If you want the pain to stop just tell us where he is! Where's Potter? We'll let them go if you tell us where he is!
The next thing Eliza could recall was flying at the Hufflepuff and knocking him to the floor, the surprise of the attack took both boys by surprise and it took Ron several seconds to respond.
"Eliza! Eliza, stop it!" He threw himself on Eliza and tried to pull her off Smith, she then turned on him and all she could see was red hair and another Fred-imposter. She couldn't smell his aftershave, it wasn't Fred.
"Stupefy!" The spell hit her on the top of her head and she felt herself immediately slip into unconsciousness.
"…some kind of flashback."
"She's been foggy all day and with Mr Lovegood as well…"
"What exactly happened, Ron?" Eliza opened her eyes at the sound of Bill's voice and found herself, predictably enough, in the hospital wing.
Ron and Bill were standing on the left hand side of the bed, Pomfrey was holding a cold flannel on Eliza's forehead which seemed strange.
"Eliza, you're awake! Are you alright? Smith stunned you, I'm really sorry…" Ron's words faded as her ears failed her and her eyes closed as she tried to regain control of all her senses.
When she opened her eyes again McGonagall, Harry and Hermione were also present and Eliza could hear their conversation.
"We were just getting the Common Room and Smith was waiting outside, he asked her where Harry was and she just flew at him, I managed to get her off him but then she turned on me and she was banging my head against the floor, Smith managed to stun her and then we bought her here." McGonagall looked at Eliza and saw that the student was looking back at her.
"Eliza, what happened?" She asked, moving up so that she was standing next to Pomfrey who still had a cold flannel against Eliza's forehead.
"I'm cold." Eliza said, looking at the nurse.
"You have a fever Eliza, the Pepper-Up probably made it worse, I should have checked you before I gave it to you."
"What time is it?" She asked.
"Nearly four." Bill replied.
"I have to do homework in…"
"No, Eliza. You have to stay here." Pomfrey said firmly. "Drink this." She passed a potion, and then another to Eliza who swallowed them without question.
"Eliza, why did you attack Smith and Ron?" Bill asked gently.
"He took me back there."
Eliza shook her head and put her hands over her ears, trying to stop the sounds of her screams.
"…exactly did Smith say, Ron?" Hermione was asking. Eliza put her hands harder against her ears as she saw Ron say the words. Harry paled considerably and McGonagall sat down.
Eliza felt the potion that Pomfrey had given her start to drag her under and she let her hands drop from her ears.
"…have used the exact wording, he couldn't have known."
"What was the other Potion, Poppy?"
"Calming, quite a strong one. Eliza Potter stop fighting it or I'll give you another one and you'll have to spend the night here!" Eliza looked up at Pomfrey and the nurse put another flannel on her head and then stroked Eliza's forehead until she gave in.
"…be a prick about it, will he?"
"Nah, Harry had a word with him." Eliza heard Fred and Ron and took a deep breath in, which filled her nostrils with the scent of Fred's reassuring aftershave and then opened her eyes.
"There she is." Fred said, smiling and leaning forwards to kiss her on the forehead. "I thought I'd been in here for the last time."
"You should know better." Eliza replied, with a slight smile.
Fred pulled back and Eliza saw Ron in the next bed. The whole incident came back to her and she felt sick with herself.
"Ron, are you okay? I'm so sorry…"
"I'm fine, just a mild concussion, I don't even have to stay the night." He replied. "And Smith is fine, he's been discharged already, he said sorry if he scared you."
Madam Pomfrey came out of her office and walked up to Eliza, waving her wand over her.
"Your fever is down, how are you feeling?"
"Okay, warmer. It doesn't make sense, how can I have had a fever? I've been freezing."
"It's called Azkaban Fever. It can affect prisoners for a few years after they've been released. Hagrid had it last year. It's a side effect of the conditions in the prison and the Dementors, it affects the thermostat of the brain, tricking you into thinking you're cold when in fact you're burning up."
"But she was cold last night, she was like ice."
"It's a complicated condition, the only way to get a true temperature is from the ear. I'll show you how to take it, if you like?" Fred nodded and Pomfrey spent a few minutes teaching him the spell.
"So if she's really cold but the temperature reading is high then…"
"Then give her to this or bring her to me if she's confused or unresponsive, if it's caught early it can be treated with one potion. Today's incident was probably made worse because of the fever and Eliza's general mood."
"Foggy?" Fred asked, Eliza nodded and Fred reached to take her hand.
"Why didn't you tell me?"
"I didn't realise how bad it was until I was here."
"Then use the mirror, Eliza, please?" Eliza nodded and Fred looked reassured.
"Right well I'll give you a week's supply of the potions, once a day with food. Owl me if there are any problems, Fred?"
"Will do, Madam Pomfrey. Thanks, can I take her home?" Madam Pomfrey nodded and went to collect the potions, Eliza sat up and walked over to Ron's bed.
"I'm really sorry, Ron."
"Don't worry, a small part of me will treasure the sight of you knocking Smith to the floor forever." Eliza smiled and leaned forward to kiss Ron on the forehead.
"We'll all pop and see you tomorrow afternoon. Hermione wants to know if you still want to go shopping on Monday?"
"Tell her yes, I still need to buy my presents. I'll get you an extra I'm-Sorry-I-Gave-You-Concussion present."
"And I will get you an extra Thanks-For-Wiping-That-Smirk-Off-Smith's-Face present." Eliza smiled.
Five minutes later Eliza and Fred were climbing the steps into McGonagall's office, Fred knocked and then they walked in.
"Feeling better, Eliza?"
"Yes, thank you, Professor. I'm sorry about what happened."
"Not to worry about it, Mr Smith has agreed to let the matter drop."
"I should at least get detention."
"Perhaps one, I'll let you know next term. Now, take it easy and I'll pop in to see you next week." Eliza nodded and then Floo-ed back to the cottage and sat down on the sofa as Fred arrived, there was a delay that suggested that McGonagall was giving Fred some kind of lecture.
Fred landed smoothly on the rug and Eliza smiled up at him.
"How long do you reckon we've got?" She asked.
"I reckon about ten minutes." He replied.
"Yeah, they'll try and wait for a bit longer but in the end Mum won't be able to resist. Do you want something to eat?"
Eliza stood up and put her coat on the hooks and walked into the kitchen, the table was covered with sketches for new products.
"Have you eaten?" She asked as Fred switched on the kettle.
"No, I could ask Mum to…" The Floo bell rang out and Fred laughed and then walked into the living room. Eliza started making the tea and when Fred returned he had a smile on his face.
"Mum's bringing stew, they'll be here in ten minutes." Eliza smiled and passed Fred his tea.
"I'm going to get changed."
"Okay, don't go into the spare room."
"Can't a man have any secrets?" Eliza looked at him for a moment and then shrugged and walked upstairs and into their bedroom. It was likely that her Christmas present was in the spare room so she respected her husband's wishes.
She debated whether to bother putting clothes on but in the end pulled on her pyjamas and dressing gown and then walked back downstairs just as Mrs Weasley was dishing up the stew. She put down the bowl when she saw Eliza and rushed over to her.
"Oh Eliza dear, are you alright?" She asked, holding her daughter-in-law at arm's length.
"Yes, I'm fine, honestly." She was pulled into a firm hug and then steered into a seat. Mr Weasley leaned over to kiss her on the cheek.
"You're not in any trouble, are you?" He asked.
"She asked for a detention." Fred replied, laughing.
"Whatever for?" Mrs Weasley asked.
"I can't just put people in the hospital wing and get away with it!" Eliza protested.
They ate the beef stew and talked about a variety of topics, naturally at the end of the meal they landed on the subject of Mr Lovegood.
"Such a shame, poor Luna!" Mrs Weasley said, looking teary.
"I haven't seen her, I should have tried to find her."
"We can pop around on Sunday maybe." Fred suggested, Eliza nodded.
"He left Penny and me a letter each, I haven't opened mine."
"Leave it until you feel stronger, Eliza." Mr Weasley said, wisely.
"Professor McGonagall took me to Godric's Hollow today."
"She's been thinking about taking you for a while, how was it?" Fred asked.
"Strange, could we go back one day?" Eliza asked him.
"Of course, maybe at Christmas?" Eliza nodded.
Half an hour later Mr and Mrs Weasley left and Eliza and Fred had a hot chocolate and walked up to bed.
"What did you to today?" Eliza asked as they climbed into bed.
"Spent the morning working in the back and then helped in the Hogsmeade shop in the afternoon, loads of adults in their buying for their kids and nieces and nephews."
"Will you go in tomorrow?"
"In the afternoon, Lee's covering the morning. Ron and Ginny want to work for some of the holidays though, so we'll have time together." He said, kissing her on the lips and then putting his arm out for her to nestle into.
"Goodnight, Eliza. I love you." He said after a few minutes, turning off the light.
Eliza waited a few moments and then realised that she didn't want to sleep, she wanted Fred.
"Hmm." He replied, his voice muffled by her hair.
"I don't want to sleep."
"Why? Worried about nightmares?"
"I am a bit tired." She replied, taking her hand and putting it under his T-shirt. It took a few moments for Fred to realise why she didn't want to sleep, she felt him smile in her hair when the penny dropped.
"Are you trying to seduce me?" He asked, stroking Eliza's hair with the hand underneath her.
"Perhaps. I need you." She replied, drawing circles on his chest with her finger. He laughed slightly and then pulled his arm out from underneath her.
She leaned up and found his lips, he was smiling at first but then passion caused him to open his mouth and run his tongue along her bottom lip.
"Are you sure?" Fred asked, as always. In response Eliza pulled away and pulled off her pyjama top. Fred turned on the lamp on his bedside table and then grabbed his wand and performed the contraceptive charm before looking up at his wife.
She still had a T-shirt on, that she wore under her pyjama top. Her hair was tied in a loose plait, and her brown eyes were smiling at him. He reached out and ran his hands up her sides and then pulled her on top of him.
She rolled over so that they were side by side again and pulled off his T-shirt and ran her hands over his chest, he had a small amount of ginger chest hair and his muscles were still prominent on his abdomen.
He kissed her fiercely and she moaned into his mouth. His right hand found her left breast and he started stroking it, softly at first but then, encouraged by her sounds, squeezing her.
She closed her eyes and ran her hand through his hair, his tongue still fighting with hers. He sat up slightly and dropped his hand from her chest to pull her T-shirt off, and then climbing on top of her.
He ran his hands over both of her breasts and was pleased to see her close her eyes in pleasure. He then leaned forwards and kissed her neck, one of his hands supported him and the other dropped past her chest, replaced by his mouth.
He sucked her nipple and then swirled his tongue making her nipple hard. His other hand moved slowly past her belly button and ran along the top of her pyjama bottoms, he felt her tilt her pelvis up and he dipped his hand under the fabric.
Kissing her on the lips again. She moved her hands so that one was at the back of his neck and the other was on his back, she passed a spot just below his shoulder that made his breath hitch, she returned to it and then felt his fingers in his curls.
He pulled away from her mouth and watched her face as he ran his fingers past her curls, at first her eyes were open and she was looking at him with longing but as soon as he hit her centre her eyes closed.
She felt him circle her centre and then she felt his mouth on her breasts again, going from one to the other, sucking her and kissing her. His fingers dropped again and entered her quickly, his thumb found her centre and she could feel the orgasm building.
Before she climaxed he pulled his hand away and she opened her eyes, confused.
"Eliza, do you trust me?" He asked, in a strangled voice.
"Of course, why?"
"I… I want to taste you, will you let me?" Eliza thought for a moment and then nodded. They had never done this before, although Eliza would be lying if she said she hadn't thought about it.
Fred kissed her on the lips and then moved down the bed and pulled off her trousers, knickers and socks. He then moved back over her and kissed her on the mouth, his fingers found her centre again and Fred moved his mouth down to her chest, then her stomach. She then spread her legs and felt herself grow tense.
Fred clearly noticed and moved between her legs to kiss her lips again.
"Now Fred, please. I want you to." She whispered, he nodded, and then thrust his pelvis over her centre so she could feel how much he wanted her.
Eliza closed her eyes as she felt him move away from her face, his fingers were drawing lazy circles in her curls and then she felt the damp fingers move up and caress her chest, she moaned and then she felt his breath on the most intimate part of her body.
He started with a soft kiss and then his tongue touched her centre and she made a sound that she was sure she had never made before. Fred made an almost guttural sound and then thrust two fingers inside her, she cried out in pleasure.
His tongue ran over the centre and then ran along her fold and entered her, she could feel him licking her and it felt incredible, his thumb ran over her centre and his tongue thrust in and out, a second hand reached up and squeezed her breast.
She could feel the orgasm building and Fred sped up his actions, when he knew she was close he pulled his tongue out and sucked on her centre while his fingers entered her, it seemed like every nerve on her body was screaming in pleasure.
She screamed and her walls clamped around his fingers and the orgasm was unlike anything she had ever experienced before, it took what must have been hours to pass and when it did she opened her eyes and Fred was looking at her.
She reached for him and pulled him into a passionate kiss. She ran her hands down his bare chest and when she reached his boxers he pulled them off himself, his mouth never leaving hers.
"I could…" Eliza began, pulling away from Fred's mouth.
"No, I'm too close, another time. That was incredible…"
"It was." Eliza replied smiling, he nodded and she returned the gesture and felt him enter her.
They both moaned loudly, Eliza could never feel as alive as she did now, in these moments with Fred when it was just the two of them, connected in the most intimate way.
Fred finished quickly and collapsed on top of his wife, breathing heavily.
"I love you, I love you, I love you." Eliza whispered, kissing the top of his red hair.
Fred took a few minutes to steady his breathing and roll off her, when he did he threw the quilt and moonstone blanket back over them and wrapped both his arms around her, holding her to his bare chest.
"I love you more." He replied, kissing her shoulder. Eliza smiled and closed her eyes. It was the best way they had come up with so far of clearing the fog.
Eliza woke up the following morning early, they were both still naked and Fred has his right arm over her, protecting her. She rolled over so that she could look at him.
His arm still bore the brick shaped scar from the wall he was trapped under, the incident was now almost exactly two years ago. His arm was fine most of the time but if he overdid it Eliza would notice the pain it caused him.
She slid out from underneath him, trying not to wake him.
"'liza?" He mumbled, opening one eye. "Time is it?"
"Early, go back to sleep."
"'kay, don't go in the spare room." Eliza smiled and slipped out of the bed. She walked into the bathroom and turned on the shower. Before she stepped into the water though she brushed her teeth and caught sight of her reflection in the mirror.
She had put a lot of weight on this term, almost a stone, but she still looked thin. She looked down at her pale body and ran her fingers over her numerous scars. They didn't bother her, not like how Hermione's scars haunted her. Most of Eliza's most distressing scars were in her mind.
She had a long shower and when she finished she walked back into the bedroom and changed into a pair of jeans and a yellow jumper, Fred was starting to wake up properly.
"Do you want me to bring you a cup of tea?" She asked, as he sat up.
"No thanks, I'll be down in a minute, just have a quick shower." She nodded and left the room, her hands pulling her wavy hair into a ponytail as she did.
When she arrived in the kitchen she walked over to her school bag and pulled out the letter from Mr Lovegood. Flicking on the kettle she sat down and opened it with shaking hands.
It took her several minutes to pluck up the courage to unfold the parchment but when she did she realised how similar Mr Lovegood's writing was to Luna's, the letter was brief but it made Eliza wish it was non-existent.
When I heard your screams, I thanked Merlin that it wasn't me. When I was screaming, I wished they were with you or Penny. One time I even told them to ask you about Luna.
I cannot live with the guilt, I am sorry.
P.S. Please help my Luna understand that there are some things you aren't meant to recover from.
Eliza read the post script again with a jolt. She had said almost the same thing to Professor McGonagall in the cupboard, there are some things that you are not supposed to live through.
Eliza could almost feel the fog descending so before it touched the ground she stood up and ran up the stairs, Fred was just stepping out of the bathroom, with a towel around his waist, he turned to Eliza as she entered the room but he hardly had any time to look at his wife's face before she slammed into his chest.
After a moment of shock Eliza felt Fred put his arms around her.
"I read the letter." She whispered into his damp chest, he hugged her tighter and moved so that they were sat on the end of the bed.
"You should have waited till I was there." He said, kissing the top of her head. She was still wrapped around his chest, all of her energy going into listening to his heartbeat.
She stayed there, with her head against his heart, until she could feel him start to shiver from the cold. She let go of his so fast it was as if he had electrocuted her.
"I'm sorry." She said, making to stand up. Fred grabbed her arms firmly.
"Stay here. Don't go." He said softly, Eliza could feel the fog returning and Fred seemed to notice because he stood up and wrapped his arms around her again, she found his heartbeat again.
"Let's lie down." He said, Eliza made no response so he moved towards the bed and after a few minutes he was lying flat on the bed and she had her arms around him and her ear over his heart.
He ran his hand over her head and waiting patiently. At one point his stomach rumbled and Eliza made to flee again but he pulled her back down and she settled onto him again.
Within five minutes she was fast asleep, Fred waited until he was sure she wouldn't wake and then moved out from underneath her and wrapped the moonstone blanket around her.
He then crept out of the room with his clothes and pulled them on in the spare room, evidence of her present all around him.
Walking down into the kitchen he made a drink for himself, it was likely she would be out for hours now, and made some toast.
He was unsurprised when Harry turned up, his hair looked like he had just rolled out of bed, changed quickly, and then paced around his flat until he couldn't stand the wait anymore.
"She out of it?" He asked, shutting the door quietly behind himself.
"Yeah, do you want tea?" Harry nodded and glanced up the stairs before turning into the kitchen and sitting down.
"Bad one?" He asked.
"Yeah, nearly knocked me into the wardrobe, she can be bloody strong."
"What started it?" Fred picked up the letter from Mr Lovegood, read it quickly, sighed, and then passed it to Harry.
"Fuck, this is the last thing she bloody needs, his guilt weighing her down." Said Harry harshly after he had finished the letter. Fred passed him a cup of tea and then sat back down.
"McGonagall said you tried to talk to her about Dursley yesterday?"
"Yeah, tried being the operative word." He said, taking a sip of tea.
"Maybe when she feels better she'll talk about it, Pomfrey said the fever would have made everything worse yesterday."
"Yeah, she told me. I still don't know if she will though, Hermione reckons her problem with talking about him is that it's so ingrained in her silence, its one wall she can't break down."
"Makes sense." Fred muttered, thinking about the confession all those months ago. "Even when she told me she wrapped it in an analogy, he was the one who stopped her talking so maybe he's the one thing she just can't talk about."
"Petunia needs to know by New Year, for her court appearance. Eliza won't have to say anything, she could write something down even."
"Maybe Petunia could talk to her?" Fred suggested, although the thought of a blossoming relationship between his wife and the muggle made him feel faintly sick. Even if she hadn't known about the unspeakable things going on in the cupboard under the stairs, she was well aware of the numerous trips to the muggle hospitals.
"I could ask her, I'll ask McGonagall first though, maybe she can try first." Fred nodded, much more comfortable with the idea of McGonagall talking to Eliza than Petunia.
"How bad was she yesterday?" He asked, wondering what led his wife to attack Smith and his brother.
"I wasn't there for the fight but she was foggy all day, couldn't even hold a pair of tweezers in Herbology and…" Harry hesitated, "…don't freak out but Ron found her sitting by the wall."
"What's wrong with that?" He asked, he knew that Eliza spent a lot of time at the war memorial thinking things through.
"She was sitting on the edge of the walkway with her feet hanging over the edge, Ron thought she was going to jump again." Fred paled but tried to keep his emotions in check.
"What did she say to him?"
"I dunno but eventually Ron said he was cold and they went inside, that's when they came across Smith. He said…"
"'Where's Potter'" Fred finished, McGonagall had already told him what had set Eliza off so violently.
"Yeah. Was she alright last night?"
"She was fine, my parents came round and we had dinner and then went to bed."
"No nightmares?" Harry asked.
"Don't think so, the blanket is getting more reliable." He tried to keep is ears from going red but it didn't work.
"Alright, no details." Harry said, holding up his hands knowing full well what had helped his sister sleep so soundly. "I'm going to shoot off, tell her to let me know when she's awake." He said, pointing to his own head and then drinking the rest of his tea.
It was two hours later that Eliza finally woke up, at first she was confused as to why she was in bed with all her clothes on but then the memory of the letter and the resulting fog came back to her.
She walked downstairs and found Fred working on packaging in the basement.
"There she is." He said, holding out his arms for her to go into.
"Hi." She replied, sitting on his lap.
"Ready for lunch?"
"I'm not hungry."
"I don't care, come on." She stood up and he carried her up the stairs and literally placed her on the sofa.
"Let Harry know you're awake."
"Did he come round?"
"Yep, the fog found him." Fred said, with a sad smile. Eliza sent a message to Harry and then curled up on the sofa. Fred lit the fire with his wand and Eliza watched the dancing flames.
She always felt lethargic after what Harry had once called a 'fog attack'.
Fred returned with a tray of sandwiches and two cups of tea.
"Did you read it?" She asked.
"Of course, I wanted to try and understand."
"I don't think you can." Eliza replied, still looking at the flames.
"I understand that you all went through hell in there, I understand that not everyone is built to survive something like that, I understand that he shouldn't have sent you that letter and most of all I understand that you need to eat at least two sandwiches and then let me check your temperature." Eliza's eyes left the fire and found Fred's face.
"When did you get so understanding?" She asked, reaching out to hold his hand.
"Sometime between falling in love with you, losing you and then losing George."
"When do you miss him most?" She asked, stroking his hand with her thumb.
"When I'm at the shop, and at the Burrow. That reminds me, do you mind if we stay here on Christmas Eve night?"
"I'd prefer it." Eliza replied. "What about Christmas Day?"
"We'll go with the flow, I just hate my room there, it's too big without him." Eliza nodded and then took a bite of the sandwich he passed her.
The rest of the weekend passed quickly and then on Monday morning Eliza found herself in Diagon Alley with Hermione and Ginny. They had a cup of tea at the Leaky Cauldron and then entered the historic, and very busy, street.
"Where to, first?" Ginny asked, looking completely at home in the chaos.
"The bank, and then we can work our way back up?" Hermione suggested, they both nodded and when they reached Gringotts the Goblins saw them quickly, not wanting Hermione to spend too long in their premises, lest she plan to rob it again.
"Honestly, it's not like we stole any gold!" Hermione said as they exited the bank and went to the Quidditch shop, Ginny quickly disappeared and Eliza turned to her friend.
"Hermione, you did steal a Dragon, they can't be cheap?"
"It wasn't stealing, it was liberating! Anyway, do you know what to get the boys?"
Eliza picked out a new pair of Quidditch gloves for Ron and then found a magazine subscription he would like for his I'm-Sorry-I-Gave-You-Concussion present.
It took another half an hour to remove Ginny from the shop, the next shop Eliza needed was the fragrance shop which helpfully enough was next door.
Eliza walked to the far corner where Fred's aftershave was usually housed. It was absent. She walked over to Hermione and asked her to ask the shop keeper where it was.
Eliza waited in the corner and when Hermione walked back over to her she held her breath.
"Where is it?"
"They don't have it, the company has been having money troubles and they're closing. He said this one is similar." Hermione said, picking another one off the shelf and showing Eliza.
"No, it has to be the same one Hermione."
"I'm sure Fred won't mind…"
"It's not for Fred, well it is but it's not his Christmas present, he needs to have it Hermione, he has to smell the same!" Hermione looked taken aback by the reaction of her friend.
"Eliza, they don't have it."
"Find out if there's somewhere else that sells it." Hermione gave Eliza a worried look and then returned to the shop keeper.
After a few minutes she returned to Eliza shaking her head.
"Sorry, he said the shop in Hogsmeade has already run out…Eliza, where…" Eliza ran out of the shop and all the way to WWW's, she pushed her way through the crowds and around the counter.
"Eliza, I thought you were…"
"He's sourcing some ingredients, I'm not sure where, are you okay?"
"I need to use the Floo, I'm going to Hogwarts." Ron nodded and Eliza went into the back office and Floo-ed to the school.
She landed in McGonagall's office but it was empty so she ignored the greetings from the portraits and ran to the staff room, hoping that at least some of the teachers would be trying to get their work finished before Christmas started.
She knocked on the door and after a few moments of silence it opened, to say Bill looked surprised would be an understatement.
"Eliza! What are you doing here?" He asked, Eliza saw that behind him appeared to be some kind of staff meeting.
"I…I don't know what to do…" She stuttered, too preoccupied to care that the room was full.
"What's happened?" McGonagall asked, standing up. Behind her Eliza also saw Hagrid and Madam Pomfrey getting to their feet.
"I…He can't just use another one…It has to be the same!"
"Everyone, take a break, I'll send you a Patronus when we can continue." McGonagall walked out of the room and towards Eliza, Pomfrey and Hagrid behind her. Bill took Eliza's shaking hand and they all walked to an empty classroom around the corner. Hagrid shut the door behind them and Bill steered Eliza into a chair.
"What's wrong Eliza?" He asked gently. "I thought you were Christmas shopping with Hermione and Gin."
"I am… I mean I was but…" Eliza sobbed slightly and she heard Hagrid mention trying to find Fred and then leave the room.
"Try and explain, Eliza." Said McGonagall, perching on a desk across from her student.
"I went to the fragrance shop to get it but they've ran out and the man said they're not making anymore, the company's closing!" Her hands almost pulling her hair out with despair.
"What, Eliza? What have they ran out of?" Bill asked, pulling a chair out and sitting on it looking very confused.
"Fred's aftershave." She heard McGonagall gasp and knew she understood the gravity of the situation.
"Eliza, you called us out of a meeting in near hysterics because you can't get Fred's favourite…?" Bill started, clearly annoyed but Eliza cut across him.
"Not his favourite, it's my favourite. It has to be that one! It has to be that one!" Eliza looked across at McGonagall and saw her moving towards her. The headmistress knelt down in front of Eliza and clasped her hands tightly.
"It will be okay, we'll figure something out."
"It has to be that one! I…"
"Deep breaths, in and out…" The door to the classroom burst open and Fred ran in looking like he had just ran a marathon.
"They haven't got it! The company…" Fred moved quickly across the room and McGonagall moved back so that Fred could reach her.
"What haven't they got?" He asked, holding her head against his chest, his fast heartbeat did nothing to calm her but his smell did, until it made her cry.
"Shh, shh, someone tell me what's going on?" Fred asked, over her head.
"The company that makes your aftershave has closed, the shop has ran out." McGonagall explained.
"Fuck! Shh, it's okay…"
"Will someone explain what the hell is going on?" Bill asked, Eliza saw McGonagall move Pomfrey, Bill and the returning Hagrid to the side of the room to explain the severity of the situation.
"That's why I….I attacked Ron. He had red hair but…"
"It's okay, everything is going to be okay."
"It can't be…"
After another twenty minutes Madam Pomfrey had no choice but the give Eliza a strong calming potion that knocked her out immediately. Fred lifted her up easily and walked with his brother and McGonagall to the Headmistress's office.
"What the hell are we going to do? I told her everything would be okay but if we can't get any more of that bloody aftershave it won't be!"
"I'll come back to the cottage with you, collect a small sample. Perhaps Horace will be able to help. Raven." The office sprung open.
"Do you want me to take her up the stairs?" Bill asked.
"No, she's as light as a feather, has she been eating lunch here because I swear she's getting thinner?"
"Funnily enough we were just talking about that in the meeting, Madam Pince has noticed her in the library through lunch, not working mind you, just sitting there. We'll keep an eye on her next term. Her grades are hit and miss but Slughorn said the Head Unspeakable has said he take her anyway, he understands the situation." Bill replied, holding open the door so Fred could carry her through.
"Did she open the letter from Mr Lovegood?" McGonagall asked. Fred told her the contents of the letter and its repercussions.
"Maybe we should have checked it before we gave it to her." She replied, wringing her hands.
"We couldn't, it was for her, it wouldn't have been right." Said Bill.
"Have you seen Luna?" Fred asked, shuffling Eliza slightly so that it would be easier to Floo her home.
"I went to see her yesterday, she's holding it together, just about. She asked me to wear orange to the funeral, apparently we will all be assigned colours." McGonagall replied, failing to hide her annoyance at the colour assigned to her.
"Right, shall I get everyone back into the staff room?" Bill asked.
"Yes, I'll just collect the sample and Floo back." Bill nodded and then looked at Fred.
"When she wakes up tell her I'm sorry I was annoyed with her. It just seemed a bit weird."
"It is weird, but some nights it's the only thing that keeps her from killing me." Said Fred with no trace of humour on his face. Bill nodded and squeezed his brother's shoulder and then left the room.
Fred flooed first and place Eliza on the sofa, McGonagall arrived behind him and waited in the living room while he went to collect his aftershave.
When he returned he passed the nearly empty bottle to his former teacher.
"Do you think Slughorn will be able to do it?" He asked, as she collected a tiny sample on a piece of cotton.
"To be frank with you, no. It's not exactly a potion."
"I'm going to go to the shop, find out who owned the company and buy any stock they've got left, I'll ask Mum to come and sit with her, she said she wasn't busy today." McGonagall nodded and looked down at Eliza.
"I really think the court case is too soon. It's at times like these that I realise how close to the edge she really is."
"I haven't mentioned it yet, let's at least wait until after Christmas, please?" McGonagall nodded and then left the cottage.
When Eliza opened her eyes it was evening and Mrs Weasley was sat on the armchair next to her doing some knitting.
"Hello dear, how are you feeling?" Eliza blinked and managed to sit herself up and rub her eyes. "I bet you're getting a bit fed up with people slipping you potions?"
"I've probably slept through half my classes this term. I'll be lucky to get one NEWT."
"Well, that will make two. Don't forget you've already got one." Eliza smiled and nodded, that was true. She already had an O at NEWT Transfiguration and that was all that mattered really.
"How long have you been here?"
"Since lunch time, Fred will be back soon."
"Did he tell you what happened?"
"He did, don't worry though. Between him and Professor McGonagall I'm sure they'll figure out a solution. I've bought you some catalogues, I thought you could order your Christmas presents and I'll pick them up for you when I go in tomorrow." Eliza nodded and accepted the thick catalogue that had all the shops from Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade in its pages.
"I'll get Fred to pick up yours, I want you to be surprised." Eliza said, opening the book. Mrs Weasley laughed lightly and then walked into the kitchen to make some tea.
When she returned Eliza was just picking a present for Teddy, she chose a light display for his bedroom.
"Mrs Weasley?" She asked, putting down the catalogue.
"Do you ever think I'll be… normal again?" She asked, accepting the cup of tea.
"Normality is an illusion when you've lived through a war, Eliza."
"If I tell you something will you keep it a secret, from everyone? Except Mr Weasley."
"I can keep it from Arthur if you prefer?"
"No, secrets aren't good for marriage, Mr Weasley told me that."
"Ironic, considering all the secret contractions he's got in that shed of his. Anyway, go on dear."
"You know when I was in the coma and I heard from people?"
"Yes." Mrs Weasley replied, putting down her tea. She had never talked about this directly with her daughter in law but she had heard about it from Harry and Fred.
"Tonks told me that her mother wanted to give Teddy to me."
"That is true, Andromeda has told me. Are you worried about it?"
"I'm worried that I'll never be normal enough to have him, that people will think I'm too crazy or messed up."
"It's nothing to do with other people Eliza, it is between you and Andromeda."
"But don't the Ministry have to interview me or something?"
"No, not in the Wizarding World, private adoptions just need consent from both sides and a certificate from an approved official."
"Eliza, Kingsley would do that for you. When you're ready."
"Do you think?"
"I know, maybe you should talk to Andromeda about it."
"Does she really want to give him to me, surely he's all she's got left?"
"Eliza, Andromeda knows that you and Fred can give him a good upbringing, she wants to be a grandmother to him, not a mother." Eliza nodded, still unconvinced, and took a sip of tea.
"When is he coming to stay next?"
"Tomorrow, can they still come for Christmas?" Eliza asked.
"Of course, Charlie has almost finished painting the extension, he's left a wall blank for you, and you and Harry should have spent that money on yourselves!" Eliza and Harry had each been even a large amount of money from the ministry, Eliza found it difficult to spend it on herself so the twins had given a substantial portion to Mr and Mrs Weasley which they had reluctantly accepted.
"I thought I might paint a family tree, a nice one, not like the one at Grimmauld Place, I could add to it as the family grows."
"That's a lovely idea, I'm almost certain that Fleur is having a girl, she keeps eating sugar and I was just the same with Ginny, and Ron actually but he's addicted to the stuff still!"
The following afternoon Mrs Tonks arrived with Teddy, the toddler reached out for Eliza immediately and turned his hair chestnut-red brown to match hers.
"Hello, Teddy. Are you going to be a good boy?" She said, taking him and giving him a big kiss.
"Tea, Mrs Tonks?" Fred asked, taking Teddy's bag off the elderly witch who Eliza still had a hard time looking at. The Black family clearly had strong genes.
"No thank you, I'll get off. I'm going to a carol concert with Narcissa tonight, what a difference a year makes! Hopefully by this time next year I'll have convinced her to get a divorce."
"Stranger things have happened." Said Fred, laughing.
"Will you wish her a Merry Christmas from me, please?" Eliza asked, Fred tensed slightly but did not comment until Mrs Tonks had left.
"Before you say anything, do you really think I'd still be here if she hadn't returned that blanket?" Eliza said, holding up her free hand before Fred could say anything.
"No, but I also know you wouldn't need it if it wasn't for her husband." Eliza left the room instead of replying.
Eliza placed Teddy on his play mat in front of the fire and then cast a charm on the fireplace so that it would not spit.
Lucius Malfoy had tortured her at the Manor, not that Fred knew about that, he had also attacked her in the graveyard, that was true. Her blanket was a gift from Sirius, and it had been needed even before the tournament. Eliza had always had trouble sleeping, Dumbledore even told her that her parents had struggled with getting her to sleep when she was a baby.
"I'm sorry, I just hate them, all of them." Fred said, walking into the room and sitting next to Eliza. Teddy reached out to grab his hair, as usual.
"I don't hate Narcissa, or Draco. I know they tried to help, we even worked on an essay together last week."
"Well, I fell asleep in the library and when I woke up he was using the same book I had out, we just carried on working next to each other."
"Did he say anything?" Eliza shook her head, it had been a strange encounter now she thought back to it.
"Anyway, will you play with him for a bit while I wrap up presents in the basement?"
"Of course." Eliza left the room and spent the next hour knee deep with wrapping paper and Spellotape.
"Can we come down?" Fred asked, his feet appearing at the top of the stairs just as Eliza put the gift tag for Ron's present on the paper.
"Yep, just finished."
"I've got some good news." He said, descending the stairs with a sleepy Teddy in his arms.
"Teddy is sleepy?"
"No, even better." Fred said, looking ecstatic.
"You are looking at the co-owner of a new fragrance company that will forever produce…"
Eliza didn't even wait for him to finish, she ran up to him and threw her arms around him and Teddy, who seemed completely unfazed.
"Yep, really. I found the old man, he's about seventy but he was delighted that his wife's favourite aftershave was also Eliza Potter's favourite smell. We've gone into business and I've given him enough money to take on an apprentice to develop the range but with the condition that he doesn't change a thing about…"
"I can't believe you did it!" Eliza squealed, closing her eyes with relief.
"I told you I would, McGonagall helped and everything will be sorted out in January. He gave me a few bottles he had left so you can wrap one up for me."
"Fred, thank you so much! You don't know what…"
"Eliza I know how hard it is, I know that sometimes when you wake up you don't know if it's really me next to you." Eliza nodded, so he did know how much she relied on the smell. It wasn't just the aftershave, he also smelled slightly of gunpowder, and of the Burrow.
Fred put Teddy to bed in the spare room, which Eliza was still banished from, and they had a quick dinner and then went up to bed.
"What if Teddy cries in the night?" Eliza asked as they climbed into bed.
"Then I'll go, if I can't settle him I'll bring him in here." He replied. Eliza sighed and lay down.
She took a deep sniff of Fred's T-shirt and couldn't keep the smile off her face.
"I can practically feel the happiness, I don't think you were this happy when we got married!" Fred laughed.
"I was happy then but this…" Eliza tailed off and Fred kissed her.
"I know, I'm amazing." He said, with a grin.
"Do you want me to show you how amazing?" Eliza asked, running her hand down his chest.
"That depends." He replied, his eyes alight.
"On how you want to show me."
"I believe a precedent was set." Eliza replied, biting her lip.
"Oh, yes, I want you to…Merlin Eliza that…" Eliza giggled and leaned in to kiss him. He moved his arm and pulled off her T-shirt.
"It's not about me tonight, this is your rewards." Eliza replied, as Fred kissed her collarbone.
"Understood, I can touch though, right?" He asked, stroking her breast.
"If it helps." She replied, running her hand in circles across his chest. She pulled off his T-shirt and left his boxers untouched, for now.
"You're so beautiful." Fred said, in a strangled voice. Eliza shook her head.
"Not about me, it's about you. My amazing, charming, stunning husband." Eliza dropped her hand lower so that it was almost at the waistband of Fred's boxers, she could see his length was already hard.
She looked back up at his face and kissed him, opening his mouth with his tongue and then dipping her hand under the fabric, she took hold of him and then pulled away from his mouth and kissed her way down his chest.
When she reached his waist she pulled off his boxers and threw them on the floor, she looked up at him and bit her lip, causing him to whimper slightly.
She then threw the duvet back over herself so that he couldn't see her and ran her fingers up his legs, his muscles were all tensed.
When she was positioned exactly over his waist she stroked him and then, taking a steadying breath, she took him into her mouth.
She couldn't hear exactly what he was saying but she was glad they had placed the silencing charms on the room, he was clearly enjoying it.
Running her tongue over his head, she used her fingers to tease him, beneath her mouth. His hand found her under the duvet and he stroked her hair until he was close and then clawed the bed sheets as he came. As soon as she pulled back his strong arms found her shoulders and he pulled her out from under the duvet and almost threw him next to her. He kissed her, still breathing heavily.
As one point he ran out of breath and had to pull away, she smiled as he did.
"Eliza, that was… that was incredible. Second best feeling in the world, without a doubt."
"Second!" Eliza cried.
"When I've recovered I'll show you the first because nothing…Nothing will ever beat the feeling of being inside you, of feeling you when you come, knowing that you let me make love to you. That you choose me, that you love me!"
Eliza could feel tears prickling the corners of her eyes, Fred noticed and smiled, breaking the intensity of the moment.
"So, how long do you think it will take you to recover then?" She asked, biting her lip.
Christmas morning dawned snowy and cold. Eliza opened her eyes and rolled over and put her head on Fred's chest. He was snoring lightly and she pulled the duvet round her tighter, trying to get warmer.
"Merry Christmas 'liza." He muttered, waking up slowly.
"Merry Christmas Fred." She replied, looking up at him.
"Sleep well?" He asked, Eliza shook her head.
"I'm cold." Fred reached out to grab his wand and took Eliza's temperature with one eye still closed.
"Fuck, I'll get the potion. Stay there and I'll come back and warm you up." Eliza smiled, immediately rolling into the warm patch he left on the bed. She was pleased he wasn't making a big deal out of the reappearance of Azkaban Fever, after the potion she'd be fine.
"It's only seven." He said, walking back into the room with a small pot of the green potion. "Take this and we can have another hour, then I can warm you up." The glint in his eye made Eliza smile and she swallowed the potion and then allowed him to hug her, they slept for another forty minutes, when Eliza opened her eyes again Fred was sat up, looking down at her.
"Ready to get sweaty?" He asked, after wordlessly taking her temperature and appearing satisfied with it. Eliza bit her lip and nodded.
When they arrived at the Burrow at eleven o'clock the house was very loud, exactly how it should be at Christmas.
"And there's Auntie Eliza, let's zoom over to her! Zoooooom!" Harry said, flying Teddy over to her, Eliza put her arms out and Teddy settled into them.
"Merry Christmas Eliza." Harry said, kissing her on the cheek, she returned the sentiment and then walked around the house, with Teddy, to say Merry Christmas to everyone.
"Eliza, come and look at this wall I've left for you." Said Charlie after kissing her on the cheek. Eliza followed him out into the new outdoor dining area. It had large windows from floor to ceiling but was completely sealed and toasty warm. Charlie had painted the small parts of wall, which didn't house windows, blue but left the connecting wall white for Eliza to paint.
"Look's good, I'll starts sketching." She said, looking at it.
"How is he this morning? Mum was worried when you didn't stay last night." Charlie was now very close to Fred, much more than before the war.
"He seems alright but the mirrors are black. He doesn't like his room here now, he says it's too big." She replied, checking that Fred wasn't in earshot. "I don't think he wants to stay tonight."
"I'll explain to Mum, if she had enough wine she won't care."
The Floo alarm went off and Eliza and Charlie walked into the kitchen just as Hagrid stepped through the fireplace.
"Merry Christmas, all!" He called, in his booming voice. Teddy shrieked with delight and put his arms out to try and get to Hagrid. Eliza passed him over, amused by how much Teddy seemed to love the part-giant.
Within half an hour the Burrow was fit to bursting. Along with the Weasley's there was also Luna, Hagrid, Kingsley, Andromeda, Aberforth and Professor McGonagall. Apparently no student wanted to stay at Hogwarts this year, even the orphans had been taken in by their friend's families.
The Burrow started to get too loud and Eliza's ears began to cut out, she found Fred quickly.
"You alright?" He asked, seeing the expression on her face. Eliza shook her head and Fred muttered to his father about visiting the Orchard and dragged Eliza out of the house.
They sat on the bench in the Orchard, overlooking George's grave. When Eliza realised where they were she thought that this might not be the best place.
"Hey Georgie, having a good Christmas up there, are you?" Eliza smiled in relief but halfway through the conversation her ears cut out again. She compensated by putting her gloved hands over them tightly.
When Bill came out to call them for dinner Eliza did not hear him. Fred knelt down in front of her and then took one of her hands off her ears and put it over his heart. She looked at his face and noticing the tears she struggled through what seemed like a thick fog to return to him.
"…alright in a minute, there she is." Fred finished.
"How do you know?" Bill asked.
"She relaxes, alright 'liza? It's dinner time." Eliza nodded and allowed Fred to pull her up and escort her back into the house.
At the table she sat in between Hermione and Fred. Most of the conversation was lost to her but the food was delicious.
"Eliza, Fred told me about the aftershave. Sorry I didn't understand." Hermione said quietly as Mrs Weasley started clearing the plates.
"It's okay, I didn't tell you. Sorry I scared you."
"Ron said you went to Hogwarts, I knew you'd be okay there." Eliza nodded.
Luna was sat across from Eliza and looked rather pale. Eliza's guilt over not having spoken to the Ravenclaw doubled. It must have shown on her face because Luna smiled slightly.
"Don't carry him with you, Eliza. He wouldn't want that." She said softly, Eliza nodded knowing that Luna had not been told the contents of her letter. Eliza wondered what Penny's contained.
"I'm really sorry, Luna." She said sincerely.
"Thank you, would you wear yellow to the funeral, it's on Tuesday?"
"Hermione, can you wear pink?" Eliza chanced a glance at her best friend and saw that Hermione was struggling to think of a pink item she owned. She nodded, nonetheless. Luna turned away to talk to Mrs Tonks and Eliza turned to Hermione.
"Maybe Ginny has something you can borrow?"
"I hope so, the only pink thing I have is a bra but I have no plans to display that at a funeral."
"It could be worse, Professor McGonagall's got to wear orange." Hermione laughed and Eliza smiled.
"So, what did Fred get you for Christmas?" She asked.
"I don't know yet…"
"It is still a mystery, Hermione, don't ruin it." Said Fred, looking over.
"As if I would!" Hermione replied. "Ron and I haven't exchanged gifts yet, he wants to go for a walk after dinner."
"That's romantic." Eliza said, smiling at Ron who was looking slightly nervous next to his girlfriend.
"Will you both come to the flat on New Years Eve? We wanted to celebrate, just the six of us?" Hermione asked. Fred and Eliza nodded. It had been a long time since they had escaped the clutches of the 'grown ups'.
"Can I bring fireworks?" Fred asked.
"We were counting on it." Ron replied with a laugh.
After a delicious assortment of deserts they all opened presents.
Eliza had an impressive haul; a slow cook from Mr and Mrs Weasley (along with a jumper of course), an invitation to an upcoming Transfiguration convention in France from Professor McGonagall, a selection of books and a new calendar from Hermione, sweets and a clothing voucher from Ron, and so many other gifts that she wondered where she would store them all.
The last gift waiting for her under the Weasley's tree was from Harry. He passed it to her and then sat next to her looking nervous.
"Thanks, Harry." She said, as she took it from him. She saw him pass a cautious look to Fred and suddenly felt nervous.
When she opened it she saw that it was a new diary.
"I just thought…it might help." Said Harry carefully. Eliza nodded and tried to smile but it didn't quite make it onto her face.
"It's great, thanks." She said, hoarsely.
She waited for another moment and then stood up and made her way through the wrapping paper covered floor, past Fleur who was returning from the bathroom, through the kitchen and out into the garden.
She walked up to the pond and then stopped, thinking hard.
"Eliza, are you alright?" McGonagall asked, coming up behind her.
"I'm fine, thanks." She said, not turning around but hastily wiping the tears from her eyes. McGonagall stood next to her but she didn't look at her.
"He bought you a new diary." She said, Eliza nodded.
"Why has it upset you?"
"It's…it's not the diary, it's…the thought…"
"The thought? Him buying you a present?"
"No, not that thought." Another tears dropped onto Eliza's cheek but she didn't wipe it away.
"What thought, Eliza?" Eliza knew they all said her name more now, she had noticed it. It was a useful tactic to ensure she stayed in the conversation and didn't drift off.
"Writing…writing what's going on in here." She said, pointing to her own head.
"It helped you before."
"I don't think I can do it again, there's too much. Surely you must have noticed in my essays, all the teachers have been far too generous with my grades."
"We have noticed that your essays lack a certain…structure."
"I can't untangle it all."
"Eliza, your diary will not be read by anyone but…"
"Myself. Exactly. I can't stand to read my work back, I did once at the start of term and that's why I had that fog attack. It's all such a mess!" Eliza said, rubbing her forehead as if hoping to erase damage.
"You don't have to read your diary back to yourself."
"Just…just writing it's so hard now! I can't finish sentences on paper, I don't see things the same. When I try to arrange my thoughts for an essay it's such a mess, Hermione thought I was doodling but it was the only way I could make sense of it all! I think…I think…"
"You've gone mad?" Said Harry from behind them. Fred was standing next to him, both looking worried.
"Eliza, you're not mad." Said Fred, firmly.
"How do you know?" She asked, as they both walked forwards.
"Because we know." Said McGonagall, Eliza shook her head.
"It's such a mess, it's like my brain's been scrambled."
"You were tortured, your brain tried to make sense of what was happening for too long, now it's trying to recover, you have to let it. Make your doodles, if it makes sense to you then show it to us and we'll help you piece it all together." McGonagall said, putting her hand on Eliza's shoulder.
"What if you can't?"
"Then it just proves that you're smarter than us." Said Harry, hugging her from behind.
"Come on Eliza, let's pop home and I'll give you your present, we'll be back for supper." Eliza nodded and allowed Fred to apparate her home. He led her up into the spare room and then opened the door.
The room was a mess, there were clothes everywhere and random pictures on the wall, maps, sketches, everything.
"What the…?" Eliza began, completely bemused.
"This is your Christmas present. Follow me…" He took her hand and led her around the room "…we will start the summer in Canada and then we will go through America. By October we'll be in South America where we will meet up with Harry and Ginny in Brazil for the Wizarding Olympics, then we'll go across to Africa and explore deserts and rainforest and savannah. We'll pop back here for Christmas and then we'll be off to India and South-East Asia, we'll meet up with Ron and Hermione in New Zealand and travel with them to Australia for a month. In April we'll go up to China and Japan and then make our way through the Middle East and Europe to make it back here in time for your birthday."
Eliza stood there in shocked silence.
"We are travelling around the world for one whole year, I'd been speaking to Professor Dumbledore while you were in the land of the coma, and he was saying about what a shame it is that young people don't go on the tours of the world like they used to when he was young. He said I'd find out loads of new ingredients and ideas for the shop and you would pick up loads of Transfiguration stuff. So this term while you've been so lost I've been figuring out a way to help you find yourself again. We'll pop home loads of course and people will meet up with us along the way and…" Eliza cut him off with a kiss.
"So you like it?" He asked, pulling away from her.
"I…I can't believe it, it's amazing!"
"Great, I know how much better you felt after the honeymoon so I thought that by the end of this trip…"
"I'll feel like a new person!"
"No, you'll feel like yourself."
Eliza pulled him into another kiss and then led him into the basement where she had hidden his present.
"Of course it's nothing in comparison to yours now, I suppose I'll have to make it up to you on the trip…"
"Not necessary…" Eliza pulled out his gift and Fred stopped speaking instantly.
"Eliza…Eliza how did you…?"
"I contacted all your friends and asked for photos of you and George, and then I spoke to your parents and painted the memories they had and…" Fred silenced her with a kiss and then pulled away to look at the images with tears in his eyes.
She had spent months painting and joining up images of the twins, from different ages and in different situations, and then charmed it with Flitwick's help. In the middle was a large painting of the twins and all around them photos and images dances and grinned. Around the frame Eliza had finely painted the words that George had instructed her to tell Fred.
I love you and I'll always be with you, at the end of every sentence, at the punchline of every joke, on the final calculation of every product. I'll see you again when you've lived well enough for the both of us.
It took Eliza and Fred another hour and crying and laughing together before they returned to the Burrow. When they did they were immediately informed of two engagements, Hermione and Ron, and Harry and Ginny.
They toasted the happy couples and that night Fred was happy to stay at the Burrow, in his old room with Eliza lying beside him.
"So what did you think of our first Christmas as a married couple?" Fred asked, holding her tightly.
"It's ironic really. The first Christmas of me being locked into a contract with you is the first Christmas I finally feel…" Eliza struggled for a moment.
"Feel what?" Fred asked, kissing the back of her neck.
"Free." Eliza replied, Fred agreed and the both drifted into a peaceful, undisturbed sleep.
A/N A little one-shot Christmas catch up with the good ship Freliza! Hope you enjoyed it and have a great Christmas!