Author's Note: This is a little late for Christmas, but perhaps it'll cheer up those post-Holiday blues. This piece accompanies "Just A Little Smudged" which is best read first. A hot chocolate while you read it has also been suggested as you read it. Happy Holidays everyone!
"Open your eyes and you'll soon see, It's clear as day, it's only me. I've been here forever, but today's the day, You'll open your eyes, and I'll show you the way."
The stone floor of the dormitory was cold beneath Harry's feet as he climbed grudgingly out of bed. Beyond the windowpane the sky looked leaden with the storms of winter. The trees of the Forbidden Forest were already bending in supplication before the icy wind. Clouds like that meant snow, and when you got snow you got Weasleys that just couldn't sit still.
For so many years now he had witnessed the fervour that overcame the red-headed family as December approached. It was like pressure building up in a very small space, and as soon as the snow started to fall that pressure was released in a frenzy of snowball fights and snowman construction. This year, without the twins, Harry wondered if the first snow would be treated in a more civilised manner. He shook his head ruefully, knowing that Ron and Ginny would celebrate the first snow of winter with their usual jubilation.
He drew the curtains around his bed and began to get changed, squashing the vain voice inside his head that mourned his ever-skinny frame. There were more important things in life than how you looked. Like being awake and aware for double Potions.
He pulled his robes on and put on two pairs of socks to keep his feet warm. He was tempted to wrap his scarf around his neck, but Snape would never allow that. The dungeons might be freezing, but incurring the Professor's wrath was more than Harry could bear today.
Neville began to stir, his snores getting louder before he woke himself up. He looked blearily at Harry, then at the time.
'No!' he moaned softly. 'It's Monday! How can it be Monday already?'
'That's how weeks work, Neville. Sunday comes before Monday, and breakfast comes before Potions.' Harry smiled to take a bit of the sarcasm out of his remark. 'Come on, three hours and it'll be over.'
'Are you going to wake Ron up?' Neville asked, getting out of bed and fluffing up his pillows before straightening the quilt.
Harry pulled a face and cautiously moved the hangings aside on his friend's bed. Ron was slept sprawled across the mattress, the quilt twisted around his body and his arms embracing the pillow.
'Tragic.' Dean laughed as he and Seamus came back from the bathroom.
'Hey, some of the girls thing "tragic" is cute,' Seamus said, waving his finger at his friend.
'If that's cute then why hasn't the lovely Miss Granger nabbed him for herself yet?' Dean asked, glancing at Ron to make sure he wasn't waking up.
'She's too shy,' Harry said, surprising his room mates, 'and Ron's just oblivious!'
He reached out and shook his friend's shoulder, shaking his head in disbelief when Ron groaned and hid his head under the pillow. 'Come on. Breakfast in ten minutes.'
'That's nine minutes of sleep then, isn't it?' Ron smiled lazily and snuggled down into his bed covers, before opening his eyes and sitting bolt upright. 'Hey look at that!' He pointed out of the window to the rolling clouds. 'It's going to snow!'
Dean looked up from packing his bag and Seamus stopped looking for his hat. Both boys peered out of the window, lending their own professional judgement to Ron's statement. 'No, that looks like rain.' Seamus decided.
'It could be snow. It looks quite black. Whatever it is it's going to be bad.'
'I think snow,' Neville said, opening the window and leaning out. 'It's cold enough for the greenhouses to be all steamed up but still frosty on the outside.'
Harry shook his head and ignored the conversation. Quite frankly he didn't care if a monsoon was coming. Winter had never been his favourite season. When he was younger the cupboard was cold, and Christmas had always been a non-event until he came to Hogwarts. Even now he preferred to sit back and watch those around him have fun. To them Christmas was more than just another day. It was a celebration of family. Religion seemed secondary, as though the most sacred thing was to be with those you cared for at Christmas time.
He shook the thoughts away. Christmas was weeks away, whereas breakfast was now. 'I'll meet you in the Great Hall, Ron.'
'All right, save me some bacon!'
'Okay, don't be long!'
He took the steps down two at a time, his bag weighing heavy on his shoulder as his footsteps were muffled by the rugs on the common room floor. A couple of first years ran passed. They only seemed to come up to his elbow, and he shook his head in disbelief. Had he ever been that short?
Crookshanks wound around his feet and Harry picked the ginger monster up, giving him a quick hug. If the cat wanted attention it meant Hermione wasn't down yet. After a minute or so of rumbling purrs from the feline, Harry put him down in the chair, tickling the cat's ears and looking at his robes in disgust.
'You look like some kind of horrible carpet,' a soft voice said, laughter evident in its tones.
'Thanks, you look nice too.' Harry grinned at Ginny, who had just trotted down the stairs.
'Stand still,' she ordered, waving her wand at him and saying 'Repellus!' Like magic the cat hair drifted off of him and onto the floor, leaving his robes free of slicks of orange fur.
He smiled his thanks and held the portrait open for her, allowing her to climb through first before following. The corridors were alive with people, bustling towards breakfast. The staircases swung in their ponderous, random way, switching and changing at a moment's notice. For a second he thought he'd lost Ginny in the crowd, but a tug on his sleeve caught his attention and he allowed her to drag him towards a relatively empty corridor and down toward the Great Hall.
'You think it's going to snow, don't you?' he asked, noticing the flush on her cheeks and the light in her eyes. It was like a fever. He wouldn't go so far as to call it a sickness, but there was something strange about the irrational excitement a bit of weather could cause.
'Well look at it!' She lifted a hand towards the enchanted ceiling and Harry looked up to see the thick clouds rolling in. 'Isn't it wonderful?' Ginny sighed.
'I should have stayed in bed.'
The rapturous expression on Ginny's face died, and she fixed him with a calculating stare. 'I don't understand how you don't like snow. This is the best part of the year!'
'It's winter. It's wet and cold and horrible.'
'You're a Scrooge.'
Harry was about to protest when he frowned instead. 'How do you know about Scrooge? Since when have you read Charles Dickens? That's more of a Hermione kind of thing.'
Ginny had the grace to look guilty and Harry crossed his arms, not caring that they were blocking the entrance to the Great Hall. 'Has Hermione been calling me a Scrooge?'
'No, no, not really. She just said that even she liked this kind of weather. Look, come here, I'll show you.'
She grabbed his hand and pulled him away from breakfast. His own fingers curled around hers comfortably, but he didn't let himself dwell on the thought of how well his hand fit into hers. 'Hang on! What about breakfast?'
'Forget breakfast; this is more important.'
Harry spluttered indignantly. 'It's all right for you to say. You haven't got double Potions and Divination this morning, have you?'
'You've got the afternoon off!' Ginny laughed, 'You can eat then!'
She pulled him towards the front door, letting go of his hand to pull it open and stepped out into the blustery wind. The last skeletal leaves of autumn rattled on the stone steps, crunching under Harry's feet as he followed her out.
'Right, what do you want to show me?'
'Shut your eyes and breathe in through your nose.' She followed her own instructions, a beatific smile fixed on her face. Harry tried very hard not to notice the fact that her deep inhalation drew attention to her breasts, and shut his eyes hurriedly when he found himself looking. Ron's sister and your friend. He told himself firmly in the privacy of his own head. Don't do anything that'll get you slapped or punched. Like ogling her curves.
'What can you smell?' Ginny demanded. Harry took a hesitant breath in through his nose and tried not to sneeze. The wind was bitingly cold and his nostrils stung from the chill. Other than that he couldn't sense much except a faint, sharp smell.
'Not a lot.'
'Oh come on. That's the smell of snow!'
'Oh for Merlin's sake. What is it with Weasleys and snow? It's just frozen rain!'
Ginny opened her eyes and scowled at him before moving to sit on the steps. After a moment Harry sat down beside her, noticing that she was shivering. He had thought of putting his scarf on himself, but instead he dug it out of his bag and wrapped it carefully around Ginny's neck. She smiled weakly and murmured her thanks.
'Sorry I snapped at you. I just don't like winter much,' Harry apologised, rubbing his palms together and trying to keep warm.
'Don't worry about it. I mean, I know you don't like it. It's just that it makes you the odd one, not me. A lot of people love snow, because it means so much. It means playing with siblings and mulled wine by the fire afterwards. It's just fun, and it's so beautiful. I mean, look at it now. Everything looks dead. There are no leaves on the trees, the plants look dead and the sky's the colour of ditch water. It all looks so dirty, but when it snows it's like the world's been cleaned and covered in cotton wool. It makes it seem like nothing can ever go wrong again.'
'It's just cold and wet. You walk in it, and it seems dry, and it's only when your socks are soaked in ice water that you realise how much of a mistake you've made. It collects on tree branches and falls on your head. I suppose it looks nice, but that's about it,' Harry muttered.
'I tell you what,' Ginny said, curling up tighter and shifting a bit closer to his body for warmth. 'Give me this year, just this one winter, to show you what it can be like. If you still hate it after that, after the end of this week even, I promise I'll never bother you with it again.'
Harry looked down into her upturned face. Her face was white, and the tip of her nose and cheeks were going red in the cold. The wind was dextrously undoing her plait and tendrils of her hair whipped around, tickling his nose. Despite the fact that she was an advertisement for why winter was a pain in the backside he felt inclined to give it a go. She might be sitting there shivering, looking like she was about to catch hypothermia and entirely at the mercy of the elements, but he knew if he said yes she'd smile. He enjoyed making Ginny smile, although he'd yet to work out why.
'I suppose I can, but all winter, that sounds like a lot of snow exposure…'
'Just this week then?'
He rolled his eyes and shook his head. He could sense that he was going to regret agreeing to this. Nothing could make him like the December weather. 'Fine.'
Ginny smiled and stood up, holding out her hands and pulling him to his feet. 'Right. I promise, by Friday you'll think winter is the best season of the year.' She glanced at the time and shook her head in astonishment. 'I have to get to lessons. I'll meet you in the common room later, and don't you try and escape from me, Harry Potter!'
He watched her go, her feet slipping over the smooth floor of the entrance hall before she disappeared upstairs. With a sigh of resignation he followed in her footsteps, diverging from her path to go down to the dungeons. As the shadows loomed and the walls radiated the cold he tried to calm the butterflies in his stomach. It was becoming a recurring symptom of being around Ginny for more than a few seconds. He'd only felt like it once before, and he didn't particularly like the comparison, but he'd felt like that last year, with Cho Chang.
It started off with the dry mouth and the sweaty palms (now numb with the cold), then the butterflies began and if you were really unlucky the pitch of your voice went all over the place. He turned the corner and joined the back of the queue for class, ignoring the questioning looks of Ron and Hermione. He got the strange feeling that he had a bit of a stupid smile on his face, but he wasn't really concentrating. Instead he was thinking of a pair of lips, not very far from his own. He could have just bent his head and kissed her.
Maybe that would have made her smile.
By the end of Potions his mood had taken a truly foul turn. Snape had been on top form, sneering at the Gryffindors with all his usual malice. Then, he had done the unthinkable. He'd given Hermione detention.
'I can't believe he did that!' Ron gasped for the third time in a minute. 'Hermione in detention. She's never had a detention, has she?'
'If she has she was a bit sly about it. I've never noticed.'
'She would've said she'd been in the library though, wouldn't she?' Ron pointed out, climbing the stairs and pausing for breath. 'Do we really have to go to Divination? I mean what did we take it for anyway? We could have chosen not to!'
'I think you said, "It'll be the easiest lesson ever. She laps up lies!" Besides, we only have her once a week now. Firenze is all right.'
'But Harry, Hermione's got detention tonight. All because Snape said she wasn't organised!'
'Except that she was, wasn't she?' Harry commented, taking a deep breath and continuing the harrowing climb. 'She would have finished well in time if she hadn't helped you out. You were too busy looking at Lavender. You'd never have finished the potion by the end of the lesson. Face it, Ron, she did it for you.'
There was a moment of uncomfortable silence and Harry looked back to see his friend climbing wordlessly, his eyes fixed firmly on the stairs beneath his feet. The tips of his ears were red, as though he were embarrassed by his thoughts, but in a moment he asked, 'Do you think she meant anything by it?'
'How do you mean?' Harry asked, grinning to himself. He knew what Ron was going on about, but he wanted to hear the words.
'Do you think she was just doing it as a friend, or, or was she trying to say something else?'
Harry stopped climbing and turned to give his friend a matter-of-fact look. 'Why are you asking me?'
'She's your best friend!'
'You're the one who fancies her!' Harry laughed aloud at the look of terror on Ron's face.
'You don't know that.'
'Not denying it, are you?'
'Harry, can you be serious for just one minute?' Ron said crossly, lowering his voice as they reached the top of the tower, where the other Gryffindors stood waiting. 'Did it mean something, or not?'
'I think you'll have to ask Hermione yourself. I have no idea, but somehow I don't think she'd have given me her nicely prepared roots if I'd been – distracted by the pleasant view.'
Ron shook his head wordlessly and followed Seamus up the ladder. Harry waited until everyone else had gone up and drew in a deep breath. He needed some fresh air before he immersed himself in the perfume filled world of Divination. The air in the corridor was cold, and once again he caught the sharp, cool scent of winter. Abruptly he remembered his promise to Ginny and shook his head to himself. It was all right for him to tease Ron so mercilessly, but he couldn't bring himself to look into his own emotions. All he'd been able to surmise as he slaved over a hot cauldron was that he enjoyed Ginny's company. Although whether he liked her company enough to brave a snow storm still remained to be seen.
'Mr Potter, will you be joining us today?' Professor Trelawney's misty voice asked, and he hurried up the ladder, taking his seat by Ron, who gave him an odd look. The heat was stifling, and the rapid change from the freezing dungeons made Harry feel almost sick. He leant back in his chair and swallowed hard, fixing his gaze outside the window, on the distant mountains.
'What's wrong with you?' Ron asked quietly, as soon as the Professor left them to reading their bird entrails in peace.
'Feel ill,' Harry mumbled.
'No, just this bloody room.'
Ron squinted into the bowl, trying to see the future in the pile of goo. 'Missing breakfast probably didn't help. I've got a scone in my bag if you want it.' He pulled out the small, sweet cake and handed it to Harry, who tried to eat it discreetly. 'What made you miss breakfast?'
Ron looked up sharply, only to smile when Harry shook his head. 'She's fine, Ron. She wants to teach me to like snow.'
'That sounds like a girl trick.'
'A girl trick. They try and get you to like the things they like, so they can spend more time with you.'
'Is that why you've been trying to get Hermione to support the Chudley Cannons?'
'No!' Ron hissed then smothered a small smile. 'That's a guy trick, that's totally different.'
'Aha, so you admit it!'
'Shut up, Harry, and read your entrails.'
Ron refused to comments further on his emotional frame of mind when it came to Hermione, despite Harry asking repeatedly throughout the lesson. It was only as they stood up to go that Ron looked out of the window and gave a yelp of excitement.
Harry followed his gaze and groaned quietly. The snow was falling softly. Tiny white flakes danced on the wind, catching in crevasses and tangling in the grass. It wouldn't take long until the grounds were covered in a blanket of white.
Ron half ran back to the common room. He dumped his bag on the sofa and was about to sprint to the window when Harry saw him pause. Following his friend's line of sight he smiled to see Hermione sitting at the table, working furiously on some homework.
His smile only strengthened when he saw that Ron had forgotten all about the snow. His gaze was fixed intensely on the girl at the table. Abruptly the red haired youth shook himself out of it and turned to collapse on the sofa.
'Aren't you going outside?' Harry asked curiously, dropping his bag and rummaging around for his books.
'Well, I don't think Hermione's going to come with me, and I know you won't. I'll go later.'
Harry raised an eyebrow, but didn't comment any further, turning his eyes towards his textbooks instead. Maybe if he looked busy he wouldn't be forced outside by Ginny.
The afternoon slipped away and dinner was a brief respite from the tedium of work. Hermione declined to join them, saying she had too much work to do. Harry was impressed when, having just eaten his dinner as quickly as he could, Ron gathered up some food and took it back to her. It seemed that, with girls, little things made all the difference. The smile Hermione gave Ron was radiant, and Ron's ears glowed for a good ten minutes afterwards. They played chess and talked quietly, leaving Hermione to her work. Ginny had only rushed passed twice. Both times she had grinned and told him that she'd be only one more hour.
He settled back into the sofa, keeping half an eye on Ron as the boy wandered over to talk to Hermione. There was no way he was going to complain. If Ginny forgot about it entirely then he'd be relieved. He grimaced silently, realising that it wasn't completely true. If Ginny forgot he had the strange feeling that he'd remind her, just so he could be in her company for a while longer.
A sudden commotion caught his attention ad he looked at Hermione's desk. Ron had upset her inkpot, and the essay she had been working on meticulously for hours was soaked with ink. Ron looked terrified, but Hermione looked strangely calm.
'Don't worry about it, Ron. It's just a little smudged, that's all. I'll see what I can do when I get back from detention.'
Ron stuttered in disbelief. She walked passed with a gentle smile and opened the portrait hole. Ron shared a look of confusion with Harry and collapsed on the sofa.
'You do realise if it was anyone else who'd ruined her essay she'd have killed them, right?'
The portrait hole closed with a soft 'snick' and Ron nodded mutely, his face pale.
'You know what? I think that means something.' Harry added, picking up his book again.
'I – I – I have an idea.' An expression of happiness blossomed on Ron's face. 'Can I borrow your Invisibility Cloak?'
'What for?' Seeing the expression on Ron's face Harry sighed and nodded. 'Don't do anything stupid.'
'Would I ever do that?' Ron asked before sprinting out of the common room. He came back moments later, the Invisibility Cloak folded neatly under his arm.
With great care he lifted the soggy parchment from the table where Hermione had left it, and turned to go.
'Wish me luck, and I don't know when I'll be back.'
'Good luck.' Harry smiled as his friend departed, whistling softly. He wasn't going to interfere with whatever plans Ron had. He just hoped it worked; he didn't want to have to help pick up the inevitable pieces if it went wrong.
The portrait hole opened again, and he looked up, expecting Ron to have forgotten something. Instead Ginny trudged in wearily.
'Are you ok?'
'Yes,' she said, 'just all worked out for the day, that's all. Are you going to come out in the snow like you promised?'
Harry glanced out of the window into the darkness. The sun had set hours ago. As if seeing his argument coming Ginny shook her head and smiled. 'Hagrid's put torches around the lake, and we've always got our wands. Please, Harry?'
'Let me get my scarf then.'
'Actually.' She reached up and unwrapped the scarf from around her neck. 'This is yours, remember? I sort of ran off with it, sorry.'
'Don't worry, if it's been keeping you warm all day then it's been put to good use.' He smiled and took it from her, wrapping it around his own neck. She was already halfway out the portrait hole and he had to rush to keep up, the scent of her tickling his nose from his scarf.
She'd crammed a woolly hat on her head and had another one in her hands. 'You'll need this.' She stuffed it on his head and took hold of his hand in her own mittened palm. He moved his hair out of his eyes and hoped she wasn't about to accost him with a pair of earmuffs.
'So how exactly are you going to make me love the snow?' he asked as he followed her at a more sedate pace. She had already pulled the doors open and he shuddered in the freezing wind that swept into the hallway. It'll make her happy. A voice in his head said encouragingly.
'Come on, Harry!'
He stepped out into the winter air and narrowed his eyes, burying his face in his scarf. He breathed in deeply and wondered why the clean, feminine smell was so appealing. He'd never really got close enough to Ginny to actually notice her perfume. Besides, smelling people you weren't intimate with could definitely be considered weird. Harry found himself wondering what it would be like to be intimate with the young woman in front of him. Not really intimate, but just a little. He looked down at where her gloved hand still held onto his and realised that, to some people, that alone would make it seem like they were a couple.
Ginny was looking at him with an expression of confusion on her face. He suddenly wondered if she was waiting for him to say something. 'It's cold.'
'Yes, Harry, that's because it has to be zero degrees centigrade for snow to work. Of course it's cold!'
'Aren't you freezing? Ron'd say it's brass monkeys out here! Mind you, he's probably around somewhere.'
'Of course he is. When has a Weasley ever been able to resist weather like this? And if you'll notice all the other people out here you'll realise it's not at all weird.'
He looked around and noticed that half of the school seemed to be out on the lawns, building snowmen and making snowballs. Seamus was hiding behind a tree, no doubt waiting to get a snowball down poor Lavender's top. Dean lay on his back in the thin layer of white, waving his arms and legs. Harry thought he looked like an utter prat.
'If nothing else you should like snow because other people like it.' She bent to the ground, scooped up a load of powdery white flakes and started packing it together.
'You're not going to throw that at me are you?' Harry asked, watching her. She was humming a Christmas song. Harry realised the first words were "Oh, the weather outside is frightful," and wished he could be back in the common room by the fire.
'What if this is for you?'
'I'll be forced to retaliate, and I'm not wearing gloves.'
'Wimp.' Ginny grinned mischievously and tossed the snowball up and down in her hand.
'Pardon?' Harry asked, raising an eyebrow. 'Did you just call me a wimp?'
'Definitely.' With deft aim she threw the snowball, which exploded on his shoulder, showering him with ice.
He blew snowflakes out of his face and gave her a look. Her laughter stopped abruptly and she paled. 'Harry, what are you… No, Harry, no!' She laughed again and turned to run, but the massive snowball he had scooped from the ground hit her in the back of the head. A large chunk of ice slipped down her robes and she shrieked, arching her spine away from the chilling contact.
Harry chuckled. 'See? Snow is horrible!'
'Ridiculous,' Ginny declared, pulling a face and turning to face him. 'You're having fun already.'
'That doesn't mean I like it.'
'Fine, come on then.' She beckoned for him to follow her, and with a thrill of apprehension he realised she was leading him towards the Forbidden Forest.
'Why are we going in here?' he asked curiously. She smiled peacefully and his stomach twisted in little knots.
'Are you scared?'
'Cautious is more like it.' He took his wand out of his pocket and was about to light the wand tip when Ginny held up her hand.
'Shut your eyes.'
He looked at her as if she was mad, but she rolled her eyes and shook her head. 'Please, I'll lead you. Trust me?'
He kept his wand tight in his hand but did as he was told. He heard a soft rustling and frowned in confusion before her warm fingers wrapped around his own. She'd taken off her gloves and now led him gently. Once in a while she called out instructions, warning him of obstacles in his path.
After a few minutes walking she spoke up again. 'Do you remember what the forest looks like?'
'Yes, all right, Harry, but can you remember how horrid it is?'
'Yes,' Harry replied, thinking of Aragog, and Centaurs, and things that drank Unicorn's blood.
'Well, open your eyes.'
He did as he was told and looked around in surprise. The tall spires of the pines were coated in clumps of white. All around them the soft patter of snow falling to the ground in clumps could be heard. It was serene and peaceful. The crisp, clear scent mingled with the more heady perfume of the trees. This forest was far from forbidding; it looked like a whole new world.
'And just to make you feel a bit better, we're still near Hagrid's hut, see?' She pointed out the squat little building, it's windows glowing ruddily, before she sat down on the ground and began to trace idle patterns on the sugar coated earth.
Harry joined her, his fingers gliding through the snow. This was better. Here he could be detached from the world. It felt like he was a million miles from anywhere. It would have been nice to sit here alone, but with Ginny it was even better. She seemed to understand that sometimes talking wasn't a good idea. She didn't chatter like Parvati, or giggle like Lavender. She meant every word she said, and she laughed like she meant it.
What more could you want?
'I wish we had some Butterbeer,' Ginny murmured. 'It's all this needs really, something nice and warm to drink.'
'We'll have to stock up next time we're in Hogsmeade. There's a visit this weekend,' Harry reminded her, lying back in the snow and looking up at the distant sky. The trees rose all around him, thrusting their branches to the heavens. It was sad, in a way, that they'd never reach their goal.
'Are you all right?' Ginny asked quietly as she followed his actions and lay next to him, her arms behind her head. A bit of her hair brushed against his cheek and he picked it up, placing it back close to its owner. 'You seem more brooding than usual.'
'You make me sound like Krum.'
'He wasn't brooding, he was just a grouch.'
'What's the difference?' Harry asked, propping himself up on an elbow and looking down at her face.
Her cheeks were red from the wind and the cold, and her nose was slightly runny. She sniffed and reached into her pocket for a tissue before saying, 'At least brooding suggests a thought process. Grouchy is just nasty.' Absently she reached up and brushed a bit of hair out of his eyes. Part of him was shocked at the closeness the gesture implied, but the thrill of her touch overwhelmed the moment of doubt.
'I'm fine.' Harry winced as his voice cracked horribly, and cleared his throat as Ginny tried to smother a laugh. 'It's the cold.'
'It is.' Harry stuck his tongue out childishly and lay down again with a grin on his face. 'Look, I'm sorry for being a bit fussy about the snow.'
'What?' Ginny asked, her voice laced with amazement. 'Are you telling me that I've convinced you to like winter in just an hour?'
'No, well, not really. I like this kind of snow. Quiet and relaxing and not touching me too much. The occasional snow ball fight is ok, but I don't think I'll ever be the kind of person to play in it very much.'
'You don't need to play in it. You just need to appreciate it. The same goes with every day of your life, really. If you can't appreciate it in some small way then it's a day wasted, and you can never get that time back.' Ginny laughed quietly. 'That's one of Mum's beliefs, but it really helps. If you've had what feels like the worst day of your life find something that made the day worthwhile. It'll make it all seem a bit better.'
'Does it work?'
He turned to look at her and found that she was looking at him. She smiled again, but this time it was gentle and there was a trace of sadness in her eyes. 'Well, it worked today. This is my worthwhile thing.'
'Being in the snow?'
'Perhaps.' She paused and bit her lip before ploughing on in a hurry. 'But I think that spending time with you is probably the more worthwhile part.'
Harry felt the butterflies thrash around in his stomach. When Hermione was in a philosophical mood she tended to talk about moments. She said that sometimes, there is a space of time where it is so obvious that a choice has to be made, that something must be said, or not said, that your whole body can feel it.
'It's made my day worthwhile spending some of it with you, too.'
Ginny blushed and looked away quickly, her face showing signs of confusion. Harry reached out and took her hands, which were rapidly growing cold, and sat up so he could look at her properly. She did the same and Harry had to smile at the dazzling white snowflakes that had caught in her hair. 'I don't suppose you want to make Saturday worthwhile too, and come to Hogsmeade with me?' Harry asked quietly.
His heart thumped in his chest. Please don't let me have misjudged something. Please don't let her say no.
'With Ron and Hermione?' Ginny asked.
Harry winced slightly and took a deep breath. It was now, or never. 'More just with me, but you don't have to if you don't want to. I mean…'
'I'd love too.'
Harry blinked and then blew out a sigh of relief.
'But there's one condition.'
'You have to build just one snowman with me.'
Harry narrowed his eyes for a moment, considering the proposition. All in all it seemed a small price to pay for spending his Saturday with her.
As soon as he agreed she leapt to her feet and began gathering up snow. Harry followed suit, pushing the snow towards a big pile in the middle. It was a bit thin on the ground between the trees, but underneath the wide-spread boughs there were small drifts, which were put to good use.
Harry bent to collect some snow from the base of a tree and as he stood up something caught his eye. There, engraved on the trunk were some initials, carved into a crude love heart shape.
"L.E. & J.P."
His heart thudded for a moment in his chest, before he pushed the thought aside. It was coincidence. There must have been thousands of students at Hogwarts over the years with his parents' initials. It could be Lucy Emmerson and Joe Peterson or Leanne Edgecombe and Joshua Perkins. It could have been anyone.
'Harry, what's wrong?'
'Nothing. What are you doing?' He laughed as he saw Ginny picking out a pair of roughly round spectacles in the snowman's face. She had already sacrificed her scarf in order to keep the iceman warm. Without a second thought he removed his own and wrapped it snuggly around her neck.
She looked up at him and for the second time that day he found her lips close to his. This time he didn't hesitate. He bent his head slightly and brushed his lips against hers. They were cold, but warmed rapidly under his own and he stroked his fingers along her jaw, holding her face gently as though she were made of glass.
When they broke apart they stood in silence for a few moments and Harry grinned to himself. The kiss had made him light-headed, but he didn't fail to notice that the smile on Ginny's lips was unrivalled. Without another thought he bent his head to kiss her again.