Christmas morning rang in with howling winds and swirling snow and Neville was more than happy to stay buried in his blankets, warm and cosy. His siblings though had other plans, as he was soon made aware of when they charged into his room shouting 'Presents!' at the top of their lungs, and leaping onto his bed.
"You have ten seconds to explain why I shouldn't hex you both and turn you into throw pillows."
Kestrel raised one delicate black eyebrow archly a small smirk on her face. "Well for one you're not that good at Transfiguration, not yet, and two,"
"PRESENTS!" Harry finished and bounced on the bed again, emphasizing his point.
"I take it this means you would like me to get up?"
"You know they won't let us start opening presents until we're all there."
Before Neville could think up a snappy sarcastic reply, a great black, shaggy dog came loping into the room and joined the three children on the bed. He snuffled the two alert children, tail wagging, before turning his attention to the still half asleep Neville. He only managed to get his arms halfway up before the dog pounced and began licking him all over his face.
"Ah! No, Gerrof! Bad, no, Padfoot, stop!" Or at least that was what Neville tried to say, he was laughing too hard to make much sense. Once Padfoot had deemed Neville to be awake he transformed back into Sirius and grinned just as wide as his daughter and godson. "Come on Neville, wake up, lazy bones. You can't have a lie-in on Christmas!"
"None of you are going to leave me alone until I'm up are you?" He asked, wiping the drool from his face with his blanket.
"Fine I'm up, then! I should return your presents for this. It's the holidays; I should be allowed to sleep in if I want." He said sounding annoyed, his grin betrayed him though. He threw his blanket over top of the other three and fled his room, laughing, while they tried to escape from the fabric.
Once everyone was seated in the spacious sitting room around the tree, James, Frank, and Sirius began dispensing gifts, levitating piles to each person. Neville, Harry and Kestrel were playing what appeared to be a strange hand-game that left the five pure-blood wizards confused.
"What are you three doing?" Asked Remus, setting down a copy of that mornings Daily Prophet.
"Trying to determine who gets to open the first present."
"And how will…whatever it is you're doing accomplish that, Harry?"
"It's a Muggle game called rock-paper-scissors. Each person picks one of the three options, Rock beats scissors, scissors beats paper, and paper beats rock. Who ever wins gets to open the first gift. Drat, Kes wins, again."
"It's not my fault you two suck at this game."
Deciding to err on the side of caution and not get the children to explain their strange game further, they motioned to the pile of presents in front of each child. Kestrel grabbed the first gift from her pile and immediately ripped into it, revealing a scarlet red wand holster that could attach to her wrist. She looked over at her dad, who just grinned. "Saw you eyeing one last time we were in Twilfit and Tattings. Dragonhide of a Chinese Fireball, anti-summoning and with a little drop of blood it'll make it so only you can take your wand from the holster." He was cut off from saying anything further as he was hugged, rather enthusiastically, by his now bright yellow haired daughter.
"You're welcome, luv."
Harry and Neville had each opened a gift from their respective parent while Kestrel was thanking Sirius, to find that they too had received holsters. Harry's was the dark brown of a Hungarian Horntail; Neville's was the iron gray of the Ukrainian Ironbelly. Frank and James both received overjoyed thank you's from their sons, as well.
All in all they each had a pretty good haul this year. Besides her wand holster Kestrel had received several books on the Magical History of Britain from Remus, a necklace from Gran Longbottom, Harry had gotten her some new quills as she had misplaced all but one of hers, and Neville had gotten her a Fire Orchid plant.
Neville had received a photo album of his parents from his Gran, James and Sirius had gone together and gotten him a rather large Dittany plant, and from both Harry and Kestrel had gotten him a new Herbology book that covered the discovery of new magical plants and their care.
Harry had received a Wand polishing kit from Gran Longbottom, Frank had gotten him a copy of the Aurors Handbook, Sirius gave him one of his old Marauder Journals from his first year, and Neville and Kestrel had gotten him an 'Expert Pranksters Kit' from Zonko's Joke Shop, purchased for them by Tonks.
Once gift opening was completed they moved to dining room, where the Longbottom House-Elves had prepared a breakfast meal full of their favourite foods. During breakfast Barnabas and Hedwig returned from delivering Harry, Neville, and Kestrel's gifts to their friends, and in turn returned with gifts of their own for their owners. Ginny had sent each of them some of their favourite sweets, and Hermione had given each a book, Harry had gotten a book on Muggle jokes and pranks, Neville a book on gardening, and Kestrel a Muggle History book covering from the time of the Founders until the early 1980's. They had also received the promised invite from Ginny to a party at the Burrow, to which their parents readily agreed. After breakfast the kids were sent off to find something to occupy their time with until Supper would be served.
New Years Eve arrived before any of them knew it and Neville, Harry, and Kestrel were scrambling to get ready to Floo over to The Burrow to ring in the New Year with their friends. Their trunks were packed and shrunk, each carrying it in the pockets of their robes. Since the train for Hogwarts left on January 1st, they would be leaving from The Burrow.
They had received a letter from Ginny reminding them of the time and giving her family's Floo address, as well as letting them know that Hermione would be coming too, having received permission from her parents at the last minute.
7:00pm found the three friends lined up outside their fireplace, Gran giving them all last look over, trying to keep straight faces as Sirius and James pulled funny expressions behind her back. Frank saved the three from his mother's fussing by asking her to give him a hand in the Study; he needed help with the Host gifts they were bringing to their own party.
Once Augusta had left, Sirius sighed theatrically, "Finally I thought Frank would never get her out of here."
"Why would you need Gran out of the room, Uncle Sirius."
"Because Neville, what we are about to give you would upset your Gran, mostly because she thinks you're too young." James said as he pulled out a thick book from inside his robes. The book was bound leather, obviously old and had seen some use, various papers sticking out from it in random places.
"What is it?" All three asked, eagerly trying to get a look at the book in the man's hands.
"This, children is the secret to our success." Sirius stated pompously as James presented the book with a flourish.
Kestrel tilted her head to the side in confusion as Harry took the book from his father. "I thought you weren't giving us help with making our own Map?"
"We're not, this, is something much better, I assure you. It's –"
"It's how to become Animagi!" Harry whispered the obvious awe he was feeling clear in his voice. Kestrel practically climbed onto Harry's back to see the book over his shoulder.
Neville could only stare up at his Uncle's in surprise. "I thought you said we had to wait until at least Third Year before you would even consider teaching us this?"
"We did yes, but that was before the Castle apparently interfered with your Sorting, and Harry's scar started reacting to a teachers mere presence."
"We decided, and Frank agreed with us, that it's a good idea for you guys to start learning this now. We'll be able to help you over the summer, but for now, just try and get through that book and maybe brew the potion to see what your forms are."
Sirius looked like he wanted to add something but they could hear Frank and Augusta returning from the Study. "Write if you have any questions or if anything more out of the ordinary pops up." He glanced over his shoulder and timed his farewell just as the elder Longbottom's entered the Parlour. "Have fun at the Burrow, see you in June."
They each said their goodbyes as they took turns going through the green flames, calling out 'The Burrow!' in clear voices.
Harry was the last to arrive and was caught about the shoulders by a tall, thin wizard, with a balding thatch of red hair on his head; kind blue eyes gazed at him from behind horn rimmed glasses. "Easy there young man, that last steps a wallop."
"Thanks. I've never Floo'd well. Harry Potter." He held out his hand, as both Neville and Kestrel had done before him.
"I'm Arthur Weasley. Welcome to the Burrow, Harry." Harry looked around the slightly cramped kitchen, taking in the slanted ceiling, the crooked staircase that led up, up, up in a seemingly endless well of stairs. He could practically sense the love of the family in every piece of the house, and he couldn't help but smile. A glance over at his siblings showed that they to were smiling. They looked at Mr. Weasely still grinning, "It's brilliant!"
"Thank you, I quite like it myself."
Before further pleasantries could be made there was a pounding of footsteps and Ginny came barrelling into the kitchen, slipping a little on the rug at the bottom of the stairs. "You made it!"
"Course we did!"
Ginny laughed happily and ran over to her friends, grabbing each of them by the sleeve of their robes and dragging them towards the stairs. "Come on, I'll show you guys were you're staying. Kes is bunking with me; Nev and Harry, you guys get Bill and Charlie's old room."
Once the three had been shown to their rooms and unloaded themselves of their trunks and possessions they made their way back downstairs, joining everyone else in the sitting room. While usually with this many people the small room would be to cramped, a little spell work on Mr. Weasely's part expanded the room to comfortably hold the large family and their guests.
The entered the den to the sounds of whom they assumed was Mrs. Weasely scolding Fred and George, who both had their heads ducked in apparent remorse, but when Harry and Kestrel peered closer, they could see identical small smiles on the older twins' faces. "There will be no more tricks, pranks, or tomfoolery while we have guests in this house is that understood?"
"Completely and totally crystal clear."
As Mrs. Weasley left to go back to the kitchen the Twins reproachful demeanour vanished completely and they walked over to the newest arrivals to the Weasley house. "What have you two done now?" Kestrel questioned as she dropped herself onto an empty two-seat couch, leaning her head back to look at the twins. None of her three friends had a chance to sit next to her as Fred and George hopped neatly over the back of the couch and landed on either side of the young girl, each throwing an arm over her shoulder, squishing her between them. Luckily she was small enough that she wasn't that uncomfortable.
"Well you see, little bird," said George in a conniving sort of whisper, leaning over and pointing over at Hermione. Kestrel and the others had noticed her earlier, glaring at George and Fred every so often. "We may or may not have,"
"No proof pointing either way you see." Fred added with a sad nod of his head.
"Right you are Fred. No proof at all, but any way, continuing on. We may or may not have left out a charmed bit of candy, that when ingested gives the ingester abilities similar to a Metamorphmagus."
"Only they can't control it and it's confined to a person's hair, so it's not like she has much to complain about really."
"Yes, it's not like she was changing all over the place that would just be cruel."
"Yeah, she may have gotten stuck looking like Goyle, or that one girl in your year, Parkinson, I think her name is."
"Exactly, see not so bad at all having your hair change colour for a few hours,"
"Or days, the spells kind of finicky."
"Aha! So you admit it!" Hermione pointed an accusatory finger at the twins.
"We did no such thing." They said together, clearly outraged at the insinuation.
"You just admitted to placing that spell on a piece of candy."
"Well yes, but we didn't leave it out with the intention of anyone eating it."
"That was just a bonus really," George whispered to Kestrel, causing the girl to grin, which she quickly hid behind a hand when Hermione shot her a betrayed look.
"We really had just left it out by accident." Fred admitted, trying to sound as apologetic as possible, while keeping a grin off his face.
"It really wasn't anything personal?" Hermione asked, uncertain.
The twins finally realized what the problem was. "We wouldn't prank you just because you're a Muggle-born Hermione." George assured the bushy haired witch.
"Yeah that's just plain wrong. Besides it could have easily been any other person in the house at the time that could have eaten the candy. You were just the lucky, I mean, poor unsuspecting victim."
Hermione looked between the two of them for a few moments before finally nodding. "All right, as long as it doesn't happen again."
"Absolutely!" Fred agreed, nodding his head vigorously.
"Not a problem, we will not prank, pull practical jokes, on one Hermione Granger while she is a guest at The Burrow."
"That's fine…wait what do you mean 'at The Burrow?'"
The gathered children, excluding Percy who had curled up in a corner chair to read a book, passed the time waiting for midnight by playing a variety of board games, exploding snap, and 'I Spy With My Magic Eye'. Ironically while Neville was a fantastic Seeker, he was the worst player of 'I Spy' in the bunch. When asked why by his friends Neville just laughed and told them, 'Not shiny enough!"
Between setting up various games, Fred and George took to trying to trick Harry and Kestrel into revealing the identities of the Marauders. Their long distance prank war was still on going and the Quaffle was currently in the Pranksters-turned-Aurors pitch.
Kestrel and Harry both threw their arms up to protect their faces as the pile of cards in front of them exploded spectacularly. They lowered their arms and began laughing hysterically at the soot covered faces of the older twins; Fred's hair was blasted back from his face and George was missing half an eyebrow.
"You two look ridiculous!"
"Like you two can talk." Fred and George cried together pointing at the two black haired friends who were just as soot covered as they were, looking very much like reverse pandas, with black faces and white spaces around their eyes. The game quickly degenerated into a card throwing match, seeing which of them could get the most cards inside an old leather boot before they exploded. Harry had the best aim out of the four of them, but Fred and George liked to cheat, so it came out pretty even in the end.
Mr. and Mrs. Weasley came back into the den 10 minutes before the clock was to chime midnight, levitating a tray bearing nine steaming mugs of Hot Chocolate behind them, as well as several leftover Christmas Crackers and noise makers. A few casual flicks of his wand and Mr. Weasley sent a mug towards each of the children, receiving many grateful thanks-you's in return. While Fred and George distributed the noise makers, Harry and Kestrel cleaned up the cards, shoving them back into their packing so they would cease to explode. Once finished they took their mugs over to where Neville was engrossed in a game of Chess with Ron.
Ginny and Hermione were watching on, occasionally giving Neville hints or suggestions on which pieces to move. Normally Ron would have been upset by this, but Neville had told him at the beginning that he was rubbish at Chess and that having the girls help him might actually give Ron a challenge.
It wasn't long after everyone had found a seat that the clock began to chime midnight and the children began to spin the noise makers and pull crackers, filling the small space with noise, smoke, and laughter.
"Happy New Year!"