But he's mostly lost track of time as his birthday approaches, and on the day before his birthday, a Friday afternoon, he comes back from Care of Magical Creatures to find Teddy waiting in the entrance hall.
Table of Contents So Far
Teddy looked up from an inspection of an unremarkable stone in the floor near the Great Hall. "Hi. Are you packed?"
Teddy affected a martyred sort of look, rolling his eyes to the heavens. "They grow up and forget all about you..."
James made gagging noises at him.
He smiled. "Go on and get your things. I was going to see Uncle Harry, anyway--see how he's got the office. Meet me there when you're ready. We can Floo out."
James ran upstairs to get his things. It would only be a weekend, and he didn't reckon he'd need much. He stuffed two days of clothes into his book bag, along with parchment and quills to work on homework (Teddy had a good library of his own, including all of his old Hogwarts textbooks, so James left the books behind). As he was leaving, Robert came in, and James reminded him that he'd be gone for the weekend. Robert looked envious.
James ran down the tower stairs, and clambered through the portrait hole. The corridors were fairly empty, as most people had headed to dinner, so he made good progress down to the Defense Against the Dark Arts office on the second floor. The door was ajar, and he could hear Dad's and Teddy's voices coming out into the corridor.
"You don't think there's a chance it's a revenant, then?" Dad asked.
There was a pause, and James heard a chair creak. "I haven't seen anything to suggest it. Have you?"
"No. But people are talking."
"And they'll keep talking," Teddy said. "I asked Honoria Higgs about how to get the rumor to start collapsing, and she just laughed."
"All there's been is an avalanche--a completely freak occurrance--and a bit of a photograph. I think once people see that nothing's happening, they'll stop worrying about vengeful spirits."
James pushed the door open. Dad hadn't brought much there, since he wasn't living at the school, but he did have pictures of the family, just like in his London office, and a framed poster of Mum in her Harpies' uniform, waving to the crowd. Celia had been disappointed when she'd visited him to find that it wasn't filled with high level Dark detectors (James suspected she wanted to see what they'd do with her wolfish side), but James knew the reason: Dad didn't believe in depending on gadgets which you might or might not have when you needed them. He believed in keeping his head full of what he called "the important things" instead, as keeping them firmly in mind was more valuable than anything you might be carrying.
Dad noticed him and smiled. "That was fast."
"I thought you weren't worried about the picture."
"I'm not. I'm worried about how people are talking about it."
"Are you ready to go?" Teddy asked.
James nodded, and looked at Dad.
Dad grinned. "I'll be up tomorrow night for your birthday."
"Oh. Well, see you then."
With that, Teddy handed James a Floo cube while Dad lit the fireplace. James tossed the cube into the flames and called "Marauder's Roost!"
He spun out into Teddy and Victoire's family room--a cheerfully informal affair, with a braided rag rug on a wooden floor. It couldn't be more different from the formal parlor across the entrance hall from it, which was put in for more formal guests and never used otherwise. This room was full of Mira's baby things, and half-read open books. Victoire's silver comb was lying haphazardly on a low table, where she'd undoubtedly abandoned it to answer some need of the baby's, and a work table was full of scribbles that James recognized as Teddy's notes for the next book.
"Wotcher, James!" Teddy's mum said from the portrait above the fireplace. "Best get out of the way..."
James stepped aside as the flames went green again and Teddy came through. "Welcome back," he said, dusting himself off.
"Thanks," James said. "Where's Victoire?"
"Up in the greenhouses. She's been harvesting spores from Leaping Toadstools. I told her we'd take the baby with us when we got back." He grinned. "I'm giving her more Leaping Toadstools for Christmas. They've been a great excuse to take Mira to work with me."
"They don't mind that?" James asked, as Teddy led them up the stairs, toward the greenhouses on the top floor.
"They didn't when Uncle Harry used to take me," he said. "I have pictures of myself in a Moses basket on his desk, playing with puppets he made out of Wanted posters."
"Did he take me?"
"Probably not as much," Teddy said as they came to the third floor and turned toward the greenhouse section, which ran along the southern side of the house. "Granny worked at St. Mungo's, and Victoire's alone in her greenhouses. Your mum was writing from home, of course, but I'd guess it was a bit hard arguing contingency plans when there was an experienced elf there to help her."
"Oh. Have you thought about hiring an elf?"
"It's on the agenda!" Victoire's voice rang out from behind a row of large-leafed plants. A moment later, three toadstools ran across the floor, and she emerged breifly, chasing them. Inside, Mira gave a lusty cry.
"We're talking about it," Teddy said, then went in to scoop Mira up out of her basket.
While he bounced the baby and got her calmed down, James looked at Victoire's plants with interest. She had an exotic plant business going, and as he understood it, she was doing fairly well. Congolese Fire Flowers glowed from the shadows along the south wall, and some sweet-smelling vine crept up around the trellises she had around the room. Delicate frostlace from Siberia spread over a pane of glass that she kept cold for it.
"I've got you!" she yelled, and a moment later came in, clutching the toadstools tightly in her gloved hand. She had her blond hair pulled back in a braid, and was wearing trainers, a tee shirt, and a ratty pair of denim shorts. Her knees were scraped, and she looked no different than she would have during summers at Shell Cottage. She triumphantly replaced the toadstools in the dark, musty smelling box they'd apparently come from, then came over to James and hugged him, leaving a smear of the dirt her face was streaked with. "I'm glad you could come," she said. "Everyone will be here tomorrow at six o'clock for your birthday party. It's nothing fancy, just a bit of cake, dinner, presents... the usual."
"You didn't have to do anything."
She shrugged. "Yes, well, what's the point of having a ballroom of my own if I never have parties in it?"
"Maybe you should have a Yule Ball," James muttered. "If I have to have one, Al should suffer through one, too. And Lily would be happy."
"I like it," Victoire said. "And weren't we just saying last year that we ought to put some sort of cap on Christmas? I'll write to Marie at school and get her to help out." James was about to protest that he hadn't been serious, but there was a loud rattling from the toadstool box, and Victoire rushed off to keep them from escaping again.
Teddy shook his head and said, "Pick up her basket, will you, James? You can pick any of the rooms that you like to sleep in, but I thought we'd work down at the shack by the Hogboon."
"Could I try fighting the Hogboon?" James asked, getting the basket. "It could be good practice. Maybe they'll have a Hogboon at the tournament."
Teddy shrugged. "As long as you don't kill it. I like the Hogboon. But let's work on what you came for first."
They went downstairs together (James tossing his bag indifferently into the first guest room they passed), and out into the thin, late afternoon sunshine. Mira made a gurgling sound that Teddy said was laughter. The island was treeless except for a golden Bell Willow that Victoire had planted, which was ringing softly in the breeze. Long grass covered a rolling landscape that came down from the great house, then rose up again to the great burial mound on the island's west side. Beyond that, James knew, the land tapered down to the only usable dock on the island, which was mainly protected by wave-lashed sea cliffs.
Until Teddy had built the great house at the island's highest point, the only building on the island had been thin-walled shack at the base of Hogboon's Mound. It was here that Teddy's dad had lived for a year after he'd been sacked from Hogwarts, and here that Sirius Black had come to "lay low" after Voldemort had risen. There was a low stone platform in front of the door, and it had a bas relief carving of a girl and a dog that Teddy's dad had made. At some point, one or the other of them (Sirius seemed more likely) had affixed a plaque above the door with an Permanent Sticking Charm that said, "The brand new and totally ignoble House of Marauding." Behind it was a makeshift paddock where Buckbeak the hippogriff had once stayed. James and Teddy agreed that the place should be left alone. They used it as the hideout for their fictional versions of the Marauders, and it was handy to have it around for quick reference.
After Victoire had teased them last year about their care to leave it pristine, they'd gone on a wild fit of labeling each item with overblown memorial descriptions. The door bore a brass sign, written in actual Old English--no thees and thous, but actual, unreadable Old English that Teddy had picked up somewhere--describing in flowery terms all of the accomplishments of Remus Lupin, Nymphadora Tonks, and Sirius Black, which neglected the war, but included (according to Teddy) a heroic account of sneaking into Godric's Hollow to put funny hats on the statue of James's grandparents.
Teddy stopped on the stone platform and said, "It's nice enough out. Let's work out here. He Conjured a pair of chairs and a low table. James put the basket on the table, and Teddy set Mira down in it. She complained, so he turned the basket into a little play pen, and she sat up happily and goggled at them.
"So what do we do?" James asked.