The next morning, Harry’s eyes opened briefly, then immediately clamped shut. The skylight above the bed had been truly incredible when he’d gone to bed the night before, but now, in the bright, cheerful light of the morning…he honestly wished windows and skylights had never been created. Groaning, the teenager rolled over and pulled his pillow over his head. Not even this completely banished the morning light, but he stubbornly kept his eyes clenched shut and his body relaxed in half-sleep.
The muffled sounds of early morning activity reached his ears through the blanket. Dimly, voices spoke and answered in the distance; the vaguest noise of clattering pots and pans signaled the preparation of breakfast. Groaning once again, Harry gave up on any idea of going back to sleep, and rolled back over. He blinked his eyes furiously against the sunlight streaming down from the skylight; a flailing hand found his glasses on the side table before placing them on his face. His face screwed up briefly at the taste of morning mouth. He briefly contemplated brushing his teeth, but was by distracted his stomach rumbling rather insistently.
Hastily tossing on a pair of trousers and a jumper, Harry padded blearily off to the kitchen. When he got there, he was relieved to have a mug of coffee thrust immediately in his face. First, a breath of the caffeinated steam, then the first sip…
“He’s not a morning person,” Brethany grinned over her own cup, which was cradled protectively in both hands. “The first time I tried to wake him up in the morning, I learned that he has better reflexes than even he knows: got a foot to the face and a hex to the gut. Of course, in his defense, I did try to wake him with the Ted and Ed special…”
Her mother raised a questioning brow. “Turning the blankets and pillows into cold blue jello, or pouring apple juice down his pajamas?” They both smiled faintly at the memories the question evoked.
“The first,” the younger woman replied, smirking. “He doesn’t like blue jello.”
“Who does?” Alex wandered into the kitchen in boxers and t-shirt. The teenager snagged a sausage from the platter and a scone from the basket, then glanced over at Harry. Harry stared back with glazed eyes. “Not a morning person,” Alex observed cheerfully, grinning when the other teen managed to growl faintly in answer. “No one likes blue jello,” he returned to the previous topic. “Green and red are the best, and yellow is occasionally acceptable; blue, however, is a blasphemy unto jello.”
Harry sat with his coffee and listened with growing awareness to the discussion of jello, rude wake-up calls, and the merits of being a morning person. Morning people should die; they should die in the morning, no less, to prove how dreadful such times were. Unfortunately, he was currently surrounded by people who thought his display of bleary animosity was ‘cute.’ He should go on a psychotic rampage and kill them all.
“Occlumency shields,” Brethany reminded cheerfully. “And no contemplating mass homicide before breakfast.” Merlin’s balls, he hated Occlumency bonds… “Language,” came the amused reprimand. He scowled into his coffee, but briefly concentrated on shielding his mind. “Better,” Brethany observed approvingly.
In the privacy of his own mind, Harry called her several extremely uncomplimentary names. “Stop calling me names, and eat your breakfast, Harry,” his guardian laughed at his startled expression. “I’m an older sister; I know what you’re thinking even if you have your shields raised.” Mother and daughter laughed at the teenage boy’s grimace.
“Good morning, good morning!” Ted swept into the kitchen, Ed only steps behind. “Ooh, sausage! And pancakes! You’re going all out this morning, Mom…” Brethany smacked a hand wandering towards the pile of sausages. “Brethany…” Ed whined playfully. “Alex got one!” He pointed towards his younger brother, who waved greasy fingers at him with a grin.
“Alex makes up for it by being cute,” Brethany retorted with a laugh, grinning when all three of her brothers made a disgusted face. “Breakfast will be in a few minutes. Dad will be back from his run soon, and then we’ll eat in the dining room.”
“Running in this weather,” Alex scoffed. It was a familiar scoff, for all the occupants of the kitchen only grinned in response.
“Why are we eating in the dining room? We never eat breakfast in the dining room.” Ed grabbed Brethany’s hands in one of his own and reached for the sausage platter, then jerked away with a yelp. “Mum!” he protested, rubbing his derriere.
“That wasn’t me,” Mrs. Lewis informed with a laugh. The young man looked around the kitchen suspiciously, but saw no one with their wand out.
“You shouldn’t keep your wand in your back pocket,” Brethany informed him loftily, snagging the offending item from his pocket and handing it to him. “Especially when you’re grabbing at the person who made it…” she smirked at Ed’s groan of realization. “You might be the one who uses it constantly, but it still recognizes its maker.”
Ed looked at his wand with an expression of betrayal. “I knew I should have had my custom wand made by Ollivander-Simmons,” he muttered.
“Wouldn’t work as well as the one I made,” Brethany assured him with a grin. “We may know the Ollivander-Simmons family, but they don’t know you as well as I do, so they couldn’t customize it to the extent that I did.” She turned back to the food. “You want I should move the platters to the table, Mum?” She received a distracted nod from her mother, who was still flipping pancakes. “Ted, Ed, help carry! And no snitching!”
Harry watched in bemusement as the kitchen turned into a mass of flying plates, cups, platters and pitchers, busy siblings who still managed to hex each other at odd moments, and Mrs. Lewis, who was directing the chaos into some form of organization. Several minutes into the migration of preparations from the kitchen to the dining room, Mr. Lewis appeared, his hair still wet from a shower.
“Good morning, Dad!” a chorus greeted him. Abraxas smiled at them all as he moved to kiss his wife.
Harry watched curiously as all the Lewis children grinned at the display of affection. The Lewis family was vastly different to the Weasleys; he wasn’t certain exactly why. The Lewis siblings seemed to accept teasing amongst themselves much better than did Ron, Ginny, Percy, and the twins. There was also a lot more touching than the Weasleys; if the Lewis’ weren’t poking each other, they were resting a hand on a shoulder, propping each other up, or shoving gently back and forth. And the hugs! An arm around the shoulder, around the waist, the occasional restraining arm around the throat so as to administer a noogie…
“Good morning, Harry,” Mr. Lewis greeted him with a mild smile. Harry froze slightly as the man gathered him into a loose hug. Hugs! Brethany grinned at him from behind her father, well aware of how the constant gestures of affection were affecting him. Harry offered a small smile to the man as he drew back; Mr. Lewis returned it with a grin of his own, eyes twinkling in knowing amusement.
“You’ll get used to us,” he murmured quietly to the teenager. “Brethany is only a taste of what our family is like.” Harry’s eyes widened slightly. “You’re one of us, now, Harry.”
“Welcome to the madhouse,” Brethany muttered quickly as she swept by in the direction of the kitchen.
“Where’s Josh? And Leslie, and Chris?” Mrs. Lewis asked in concern. “They should have been up and about by now.” Nicole had her own apartment not too far away from her parents’ house, but wouldn’t be coming for breakfast; the twins normally lived in Philadelphia, and had elected to stay the night, possibly for the free hot breakfast the following morning.
“Josh is waking Leslie up now,” her husband informed her with a rather evil little grin; Harry had an instant impression that the ten-year-old girl would not be waking pleasantly. “Chris was on the computer when I came in; he was playing some video game. I told him to get dressed and come out for breakfast.”
“I’ve missed video games,” Brethany announced randomly, placing a pitcher of syrup on the table. Her siblings grinned, remembering many summer afternoons before Brethany’s double apprenticeship spent playing video games. Mrs. Lewis shook her head in amused disapproval.
“Breakfast!” Josh dashed into the dining room, skidding to a stop before running into the table. “Why are we havin’ it in the dining room?”
“I thought I’d let Harry experience a little calm his first morning here,” Mrs. Lewis told them, “Rather than toss him into our helter-skelter meals in the kitchen, with everyone grabbing for everything at the same time, and eating standing up, sitting on the counters, and perched on the stools.” The Lewis family grinned, well aware that their breakfasts were usually quite loud and chaotic. Harry nodded his gratitude to the family matron; the thought of experiencing that as his first meal with the family was a trifle intimidating.
Once all members of the family had gathered at the table, they seated themselves and began passing around the platters of food and pitchers of milk, juice, and coffee. Harry watched how everyone comported themselves; several times, he caught one or another of them standing up and half-reaching across the table to grab for what they wanted, then catching themselves and seating themselves before quietly asking for the desired items. After this had happened for the fourth time, Harry couldn’t help but speak up.
“You know, you needn’t completely behave yourselves only on my behalf,” he spoke in quiet amusement to Alex, who had just shrunk back into his seat and was impatiently waiting for the scones to reach him. The teenage boy grinned at him, but cast a watchful eye at his mother.
“Such a considerate young man,” Mrs. Lewis laughed. Harry flushed and cast his eyes down at his plate. “I doubt you’ll see another meal quite as peaceful as this during your stay here, Harry. They’ll be able to act out to their hearts’ content soon; I think they can manage one civilized meal this year.”
“Speaking of which,” Ted spoke up around a mouthful of sausage before swallowing at his mother’s mild glare. “Mm…D’you want another couple adults on your trip to the vampire colony over the New Year? Ed and I were thinking of coming along, if y’ don’t mind.” He grinned, but swallowed fully at the disgusted expression on his younger sister’s face.
“Maybe we’ll get lucky and you’ll be eaten,” Leslie teased, waving a sausage on her fork at the twins.
“Indigestion,” Ed returned with a grin. “It’s all we’d give them. Besides, Master de Sordante is scared of Mum; he wouldn’t let anyone eat us!”
Mrs. Lewis snorted in amusement once, then covered her mouth as everyone else looked at her in surprise at the sound. “Pierre de Sordante isn’t afraid of me, but I don’t worry that you two will be in a great deal of danger. If anyone’s in danger over that trip, it’s Brethany; Pierre may set his eyes on her.”
“He didn’t seem overly interested in me over my first visit there,” Brethany protested. “He liked my gift, but it didn’t seem as though he wanted me turned, like he did you.” She sent her mother a sly look. “He asked after you,” she teased. “His mate also asked after your health.” Both her parents raised an eyebrow at that. “Yes, Rosalie returned to him,” Brethany laughed. “She decided thirty years of snubbing him was sufficient punishment.”
“What’d he do to her?” Leslie demanded incredulously.
“He moved to Ireland without asking her,” Mr. Lewis answered gravely, a twinkle in his eye. His wife huffed. “You wouldn’t snub me for thirty years if I moved to Ireland without asking, would you, Mum?”
“Oh, of course not,” she answered lovingly, an answering twinkle in her eyes. “I might would make you move in with the vampires for a few years, though.” Her children shouted with laughter. Harry grinned down into his plate, inexplicably happy to hear the joking and teasing between the mother and father. As much as he loved Mrs. Weasley, she always seemed to be more involved in her children than in her husband; to see Mrs. Lewis exchanging teasing remarks and somewhat casual flirting with her husband was oddly nice. She didn’t mother people nearly as heavily as did Ron’s mother, either; that was a relief, and a nice surprise.
“She’s too many kids to smother them all,” Brethany spoke casually, before grinning at his startled expression. “You looked horribly intent on something, Harry, and you’ve only got your privacy shields; I couldn’t resist poking about.” Harry rolled his eyes; he’d done the same thing to her on more than one occasion. The bond went both ways, but he couldn’t read her thoughts intentionally, only accidentally; he didn’t have the finesse, Brethany had informed him.
“Goodness, why should I smother them?” Mrs. Lewis laughed. “I wouldn’t have any time for anything, if I did. Besides, they’re quite capable of surviving without me tormenting them every hour of every day, anyhow.”
“Here, here!” Alex cheered, raising a glass of milk in salute.
“She’d go crazy,” Chris spoke for the first time in Harry’s presence, a small grin on his face. “And there’s the children-in-law and grandkids, when they come.” Ted and Ed both whistled, pretending nonchalance beneath their younger brother’s grin. “That’s a lot of people to mother.”
“I’ll just let you take care of yourselves,” their mother spoke wryly, passing a platter to the left. “As for the children-in-law and grandchildren…they’ll come when they’re meant to, and I’ll be happy to spoil as I may; but no smothering. Now, if you’re doing something stupid, or not taking care of yourself the way you ought, I’m happy to nag you until you fix it…”
“We know!” several of her children chorused hurriedly. Harry hid his grin in a mouthful of food.
“Speaking of which,” Mrs. Lewis began, pinning Brethany with a stern look, “What’s this I hear about you and your nightmares?” Brethany dashed a quick glare at her older brothers. “Why are you looking at them? They didn’t say anything about nightmares; did they know and not tell me?” The twins froze in their seats, unsure what to say.
“It never got out of hand, Mom,” Brethany spoke quietly, her gaze on her plate. “Severus made me some extra-strength Dreamless Sleep as soon as he found out about the nightmares; I can take it once a week when I need it.”
“And the other six nights of the week?”
“I don’t even need it anymore, Mum. Occlumency training with Harry has helped a lot,” her daughter insisted. Harry kept his face blank; he knew for a fact that the training had caused the dreams to flare up to begin with, but Brethany didn’t know he knew that… the meditation sessions might be helping them both now, but the initial sessions had opened his teacher’s mind rather abruptly.
“Why didn’t you inform the nurse at the school, Poppy Pomfrey, of the danger to begin with?” Mrs. Lewis demanded. “What if you’d fallen into a coma?”
“It was on my medical transcript, Mum, she knew it could happen,” Brethany huffed. “I just…didn’t tell her that it was happening.”
“Or anyone, evidently,” Ed murmured. Brethany made a ‘shut up’ gesture with her head, eyes flashing.
“I had it under control,” she insisted. “And I know when I need to get help. It wasn’t impairing my ability to teach; trust me, if it had been, Albus or Severus would have called me on it, and dragged me up to Poppy! Besides, I knew what was causing it, and I was taking care of it.”
“Stone walls,” Harry spoke up. The entire table, minus Brethany, turned to look at him in confusion. “She doesn’t like being surrounded by stone walls.”
“Exactly,” his teacher muttered, spearing a sausage with unnecessary force. “So I asked Albus if I could add more windows to my rooms, didn’t tell him why, of course, and ended up sleeping on my balcony a couple nights out of the week. Still do, every once in a while…”
“She’s getting plenty of sleep, for the most part,” Harry spoke again. Brethany ignored him. “I can tell, you see; privacy shields only work so far,” he quoted back at her with a small smile, “And I can get the basic impression of how she’s feeling over our Occlumency bond.”
“Makes having secrets, or surprising each other with something, very difficult,” Brethany muttered aloud, a small smile appearing on her face. Mrs. Lewis looked at her daughter for a moment, then nodded in apparent satisfaction.
“It’s a good thing you two have each other,” Abraxas spoke up, looking from Brethany to Harry. “Harry seems to be doing a fairly good job of keeping track of your well being.” Young woman and teenage boy exchanged small smiles, well aware that they managed to get each other into and back out of quite a bit of trouble.