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later we'll have some pumpkin pie

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The first time they take Fionn Christmas caroling, he's basically a baby. Harry's going to turn seven in February, Gemma's already ten, and Fionn is only three. Harry's not exactly happy about it. Mum said they could go alone this year, but now, because mum's supposed to be looking after Fionn too, she's decided they're all going to go together after all.

To say that Harry isn't happy about this development would not be a lie. To say that he kinda blames Fionn, wouldn't be one either.

But Fionn is a baby and Harry almost seven after all, so he helps him bundle into his snow clothes after he's slipped his own on. Mum and Gemma are looking for her hat with the sparkly bobble, because Gemma needs it for caroling, apparently.

Fionn's snow things are bright blue and make him look like a someone painted a marshmallow with arms and legs. Then he makes Fionn sit on the lowest stair to the upstairs and helps him pull on his boots.

“I can do it,” Fionn insists, but when Harry sighs and lets him try, his bundled up arms can't reach far enough. Fionn's face is bright red and he's pouting when Harry takes the boot from him, but he lets Harry help him squeeze his foot in and close the velcro strap.

“Thank you,” Fionn mumbles and takes the hat Harry hands him, pulling it over his hair. Harry reaches out to straighten it, making sure the flaps cover his ears like mum always tells him to.

Harry nods gravely.

“You're welcome,” he says, because mum says it's important to be nice to people so then they know to be nice to you. And Fionn did say 'thank you're, so Harry has to be nice back. That's how it works.

Gemma and mum finally come back, Gemma's glittery bobble hat crammed triumphantly onto her hair. Fionn's still sitting on the stairs quietly, kicking his heels against the floor.

“Did you help Fionn, Harry?” mum asks, stroking Harry's hair and then kneeling in front of Fionn to check all his buckles and zips.

“Yeah, cause he's little,” Harry says and steps into his boots.

“I'm three!” Fionn says, glowering a bit again.

“Yes, you are,” mum says, like Fionn said anything important. Then she turns back to Harry.

“Are you ready to go, darling? Can you take Fionn outside to wait, I don't want him to get too hot.”

Harry scowls, but mum gives him one of those looks, so he relents.

“Fine. Come here, Fionn.”

“He's not a dog, Harry,” mum chastises, but Fionn gets up and comes over anyway.

Harry opens the door, takes Fionn's hand in his and leads him outside.

“Can you even sing any Christmas carols?” Harry asks when the donor's fallen shut behind them again.

“Yes!” Fionn says excitedly. “Mummy and daddy taught me.

Harry nods, pleased.

“Okay. Just stick with me. If you know the sing, you can sing along, and of you don't-”

“I can try!” Fionn says.

Harry pulls a face. If Fionn sings along even though he doesn't know the sing, it won't be as nice.

“Fine. But quietly,” he allows.

Fionn nods eagerly.

Gemma's chatting to mum about the purple dress she wants to wear to grandma's Christmas lunch. Mum wants her to wear the red one, but Gemma isn't really having it.

“Why don't you and Fionn walk ahead, Harry, you know where we're going, right?” mum says.

Harry nods and then carefully leads Fionn down the front door steps. He wobbles a bit on his little legs, but he grins when they make it down onto the snowy path, rocking back and forth on his feet with a big grin when the snow crunches under him. Harry gives his hand a tug and pulls him along further down the road where they're meeting up with the rest of the group who'll go caroling together.

“It's so people are happy when they hear us sing,” Harry explains. “So it's important that we do well, okay?”

Fionn nods eagerly.

“I can sing really beautiful,” he promises.

Harry huffs. Fionn is too little, but if Harry were to say that mum would probably tell him off for being mean.

“Alright, just like we said,” Harry reminds him. Fionn's head bobs up and down enthusiastically. Behind them mum and Gemma are still arguing, and Harry makes sure to hold Fionn's hand tightly so he can't get lost and then a little more tightly still when he slips in the snow once. Mum smiles at him when he grabs Fionn and pulls him back up, so he figures he's doing well. Fionn sniffs a little and stares down at his feet as they walk on, lip wobbling.

“Are you hurt?” Harry asks.

Fionn shakes his head  and rubs at his eyes furiously, which Harry thinks maybe means he's lying, so he leans over and smacks a kiss to his bobble hat, the same way mum does for him and Gemma when they've had a fright or are only a little hurt.

Fionn sniffles once more but then he holds Harry's hand more tightly and stops, trotting along next to him. Harry tells him all about the toys he wants for Christmas, because they're pretty cool, so he figures that it'll cheer Fionn up.

They make it to the church where they're all meeting up without any more trouble. There are only two other kids, but Harry and Gemma know them both, so it's still fun. Fionn doesn't let go of his hand and kind of hides behind him when Emma and Thomas come over to talk. Probably because he doesn't know them, so Harry lets him hang on and explains that mum's looking after him for tonight. Fionn and his family haven't lived here very long yet, so Harry thinks Fionn probably doesn't have many friends yet. That's probably why mum told Harry to be nice to him and be his friend, even though Harry's already so much older than him. Six is two threes, and Harry’s almost seven.

When they finally get around to the actual singing, the kids in front and the adults at the back, Fionn stays pressed close to Harry’s side when the adults open their doors to listen to them. Most of them seem to like Fionn because they always make sure to bend down and tell him how well he did, even when he didn’t know the words to all the songs. One of the old women even reaches out to pat Fionn’s cheek, but Fionn ducks behind Harry, holding on to the back of his jacket, rather than his hand.

“Your brother’s a bit shy, isn’t he?” she turns to Harry to say.

Harry scowls at her.

“He’s not my brother,” he says. “My mum’s just looking after him.”

“I think you’re looking after him too, a little bit,” the woman says.

Harry shrugs.

“Well, I’m older than him,” he says.

The woman smiles at him and nods and then pats Harry’s cheek too. Harry doesn’t really like it either, but he’s not going to hide behind someone because of it. Instead, he braves it and scowls at her a little more until she stands up again and puts some money in the donation box.

Mum comes to find them as they move on to the next house, picking Fionn up and stroking his back over his jacket.

“How about after the next house we go home and have some pumpkin pie?” she offers.

Gemma and Harry cheer, and Fionn nods and then yawns.

Mum carries him to the next house, but then he wiggles out of her hold and toddles over to Harry to hold his hand again and stand at the front with him. When Harry pointed out at the beginning that he doesn’t know all the words, mum said that’s okay because Fionn is still only three. Harry doesn’t think that’s very fair, but now Fionn is just standing there and yawning sometimes, so that’s alright. Harry’s a little tired himself now.

Fionn falls asleep on the way home, and mum carries him the rest of the way, carefully taking his snow clothes off and putting him on the sofa to sleep.

“Harry, can you get the blanket for me?” she asks when she sees him watch.

Harry nods and grabs the blanket from mum’s armchair, bringing it over to her. She takes it from him and opens it and then tucks it around Fionn gently, making sure his toes are covered well. She puts one of the cushions next to Fionn, and then another one on the floor before turning to Harry.

“It’s so he doesn’t fall off and hurt himself,” she explains and then ruffles Harry’s hair. “Now, how about that pie?”

Harry beams up at her and cheers, pumping both his fists into the air, and then shrinks again when mum shushes him. They both look over at Fionn, but he stays asleep, so Harry smiles his best smile at mum, hands clasped behind his back.

“Alright, you rascal. You were a great help today,” mum says and leads him away from the sofa with a hand on his back. “Now let’s see what your sister’s doing and have some pie.”

Harry cheers again, but a lot more quietly, beaming up at mum.

Mum laughs, also very quietly and then copies him.

Harry beams.