A/N: Thanks to Chreechree for the inspiration and encouragement, and to Sherylyn, my fabby new PS beta.
Harry opened his eyes and blinked up at the ceiling. Bright sunlight was streaming through the window, half-blinding him as it fell across his face. For a second, he felt disorientated and alarmed — had he slept through his first lesson?
He fumbled for his glasses on the night stand, and as the room slid into focus, he realized that he was at The Burrow – back in the attic room he shared with Ron, back for the Christmas holidays. He, Ron and Ginny had arrived the morning after Professor Slughorn’s party, via a special Floo connection in Professor McGonagall’s office.
He snuggled back under his blankets, savouring the luxury of being able to have a bit of a lie-in; no mad rushing to shower before all the hot water was used up by Seamus and Dean, no frantic scurrying about looking for books, quills and homework before flying off to classes.
A loud snore punctuated the still morning air. Apparently Ron was also taking advantage of the extra time they had by sleeping as late as humanly possible.
Harry smiled contentedly. Christmas at The Burrow with the Weasley family – with Ginny; who could ask for a better Christmas present? He hoped that the cheerful chaos that usually permeated The Burrow would take his mind off his other, darker preoccupations, even for a little while.
And maybe I could spend more time with Ginny and make her realise that it’s me she wants, not Dean, he thought lazily, half-formed plans running through his head mingling with visions of a smiling redheaded girl with bright brown eyes blowing kisses at him.
Harry was just letting the oddly soporific sounds of Ron’s snores lull him back to sleep when he heard the unmistakable sound of Mrs. Weasley’s voice, clearly audible in the relative silence of The Burrow.
“Ginny!” she hollered up the stairs. “Come down here and help me with breakfast!”
Another voice, more breathless and heavily accented, floated up to the bedroom.
“Oh, are you wanting me to ‘elp? I could make descroissants, oui? All zees Eenglish bacon et les œufs. Pah! Eet ees too ‘eavy for breakfast! Eet ees doing ‘orrible zings to ma taille- feegure!”
Harry could almost see Mrs. Weasley stiffening over the stove, probably resisting the urge to throw something large, heavy and frying pan-shaped at her future daughter-in-law, who had arrived late last night with Bill.
“No, thank you, Fleur,” she said in polite, clipped tones. “Ginny can help me here. Ginny! GINNY!”
“I’m coming, Mum!” Ginny shouted back. “Keep your hair on!”
Harry’s insides gave a pleasurable squirm at the sound of Ginny’s voice. He heard her make her way noisily out of her room, stomping across the hall with all the grace of a rampaging hippogriff, obviously not pleased at being awoken so early.
Might as well get up for breakfast, he told himself, happy to have a legitimate reason to see Ginny again as soon as possible.
He got out of bed and put on his favourite green Weasley jumper – the one with the dragon on it that he had got during his fourth year – over his pyjamas. It still fit — although the sleeves only reached up to his forearms… and it was quite tight around the shoulders… and it ended one inch above his navel.
He shivered slightly in the chilly air. It was the day before Christmas, and it was already promising to be one of those bright, clear, cold days, with the assurance of snow. He shuffled out of the room, leaving Ron muttering in his sleep. Harry thought he heard Ron say “Her-my-knee” and something that sounded suspiciously like “iluvyu”, but then Ron had gone into another round of championship snoring.
Harry yawned as he made his way down to the bathroom. Scratching his head sleepily, he pushed the door open and felt it hit someone who was apparently standing right behind it. He heard a muffled “Bloody hell!” followed by an ominous thud, as whoever it was fell to the floor.
“Sorry! I didn’t realise that anybody was there!” he said, hurrying into the bathroom. “Are you quite all–”
He stopped as he recognised who he had knocked over.
Clad in a faded blue dressing gown, Ginny lay on the floor, sprawled on her stomach, with her long red hair covering her face. From the looks of it, he had hit her just as she was bending over to pick up a fallen towel.
Horrified, Harry rushed over to help her. “Ginny! I’m so sorry! Are you hurt?” He bent down to peer at her face, feeling himself turn red from embarrassment. He had imagined sweeping her off her feet many times, but all those fantasies usually involved flowers, chocolates and a romantic dinner; none of them included him literally knocking her over like a big lummox.
“‘S’okay, Harry.” Ginny laughed, pushing her hair off her face. “Just got the wind knocked out of me.” She winced and slowly pushed herself off the floor.
“Here, let me help you.” He reached down and attempted to get her to her feet, trying to ignore the pleasant thrill that ran through him as he held both her hands. As he pulled, he slipped on the towel still lying on the floor and landed heavily on his bottom, his momentum causing Ginny to collapse on top of him, sending them both toppling backwards.
He grimaced and glanced up. Ginny had a very surprised look in her eyes, and Harry could not help but laugh. She also began chuckling, even as she exclaimed, “Harry! It’s a good thing you’re not this clumsy during Quidditch!”
She continued giggling, and he became acutely aware that her soft form was pressed rather intimately against him and that his arms had reflexively wrapped themselves around her waist when they had fallen.
It’s really rather enjoyable to be lying on the cold bathroom floor, he thought dreamily, as long as Ginny Weasley is on top of you.
Harry was not able to dwell on the pleasant warmth that seemed to be radiating from Ginny, however, as he suddenly became mindful of the fact that the monster in his chest appeared to be slowly but surely stirring from its hibernating state and was now trying to wake up other parts of his anatomy which had, until now, been used only for purely functional and practical purposes.
Alarmed that Ginny might soon become all too aware of his traitorous body, Harry quickly scrambled to his feet, hauling her unceremoniously up with him. Ginny gave a squeak and grabbed onto his arm to steady herself.
“What the–? Is something the matter, Harry?” she asked him.
“No! Nothing’s wrong!” He struggled to compose himself, excruciatingly conscious of the weight of her small hand resting on his upper arm. “I just thought I heard your mum call you again.”
As if on cue, Mrs. Weasley screeched, “GINNY! Where are you?”
Ginny sighed and rolled her eyes. “Nothing’s changed with Mum. She only wants me there because she can’t stand to be alone with Phlegm.” She pulled a disgusted face.
“Well!” Harry smiled broadly, hoping she had not noticed that he had all but felt her up. “You’d better go down and make me some breakfast then. I’m starving!”
Ginny gave another long-suffering sigh and slapped him playfully on the arm. “I’m not your personal cook, Harry!”
He shook his head in mock sorrow. “That’s too bad. I would have liked it if you made breakfast for me everyday.”
Uh-oh, I shouldn’t have said that, he mentally kicked himself. What if she thinks I’m desperate for her, which admittedly, I am, but still...
He blathered on, helpless as the words came tumbling out of his mouth.
“Ron assures me that your cooking isn’t half-bad. Actually quite delicious, for a girl. Your cooking, I mean, is delicious. Not that you, yourself, are not delicious, because you are, you know, quite delicious.”
He paused to take a breath, not really sure what he had just said.
“Well, you know what I mean,” he finished lamely.
“Thanks, Harry… I think,” said Ginny dryly, looking like she was holding back a laugh. “I’m sure there’s a compliment in there somewhere. I’ll see you in the kitchen.” She smiled at him and left the bathroom. “By the way,” she called over her shoulder as she went down the stairs, “don’t you think that sweater’s a bit on the snug side?”
Harry stared after her, still a little shaken by the memory of how wonderful her body had felt pressed against his. He looked at himself in the mirror and cringed at his appearance: his glasses were crooked, and his hair was sticking out all over the place as usual.
Great, she just had to see me like this.
Telling himself that Ginny had seen him looking far worse and that it should not matter anyway, he quickly washed his face, futilely tugged at the hem of his jumper, and went down to breakfast.
* * *
Due to the silent battle of wills that Mrs. Weasley and Ginny were determinedly waging with Fleur in the kitchen, it was nearly half past ten in the morning before any sort of breakfast was served.
Harry loaded his plate with sausages, bacon and mounds of scrambled eggs but politely took the croissant that Fleur offered him. Ginny caught his eye and Harry had to stuff some bacon in his mouth in order not to laugh when Ginny imitated the slack-jawed expression on Ron’s face as the tall redhead stacked his plate high with a veritable tower of croissants from the bread basket that the young French woman had smilingly held out to him.
Outside, snow had finally started to fall gently; powdery white drifts piled up on the ground, turning the trees and shrubs into mysterious ice sculptures and the garden into a winter wonderland. Frost traced delicate filigree patterns on the windows.
After Harry had finished helping Ron with kitchen duties (Ron’s punishment for the knife-throwing incident was to peel mountains of sprouts daily), they quickly bundled up and went outside to gather vegetables for Christmas dinner. Ginny, the twins, Fleur and Bill joined them.
To Ginny’s obvious annoyance, her future sister-in-law kept making loud comments that the snow in France was much, much whiter and much, much purer. Fleur only stopped when some garden gnomes popped out of the ground, sending her scrambling into Bill’s arms. Ginny rolled her eyes at Harry as Fleur proceeded to pout charmingly at Bill, who responded by kissing her soundly on the lips.
“Remind me to ask Mum if Bill was dropped on the head as a baby, will you?” Ginny muttered to Ron and Harry.
They both looked back at her quizzically. “Huh?” asked Ron, bewildered.
Ginny gestured impatiently to Bill and Fleur smooching noisily in the garden. “Only severe brain damage acquired very early in life can account for our eldest brother’s abominable taste in women.”
Harry quickly stifled his snort of laughter with his hand. Ron did not react; he was too busy watching the entwined couple.
“Blimey, she’s really got that tongue thing perfected,” breathed Ron, a look of awe on his wind-chapped face. Ginny rolled her eyes again as Harry struggled even harder not to laugh.
“That’s because she’s French, oh brother of mine, and that tongue thing would be what is officially called a French kiss,” Ginny sarcastically explained. “I believe you’re at least familiar with the concept even if your execution definitely needs some work.”
Harry felt a small stab of jealousy hit him when Ginny’s statement abruptly reminded him that she did have a boyfriend waiting for her at Hogwarts when the holidays ended. Trying not to think of the time he and Ron had caught Ginny and Dean kissing in the corridor, he focused his attention on what Ron was now saying.
“The French really know how to kiss sexy, huh?” said Ron, turning to address Harry and ignoring Ginny’s jab.
Startled, Harry could only look at him helplessly. “Um, I guess?”
“Yeah, Ron, French kissing is a really sexy thing to do, although you should bear in mind that the French also like to eat snails.” Ginny chuckled. “Frog’s legs too.”
Harry laughed this time around as Ron glared at Ginny, who grinned cheekily back at her brother. Ron was about to give a scathing retort when a snowball Fred and George had enchanted dumped itself into his trousers. The gnomes dived back into their holes as Ron ducked behind a snowdrift and began to fire a volley of snowballs at the twins, who in turn took refuge by the low garden wall.
Harry and Ginny joined Ron in the furious battle, laughing and shouting as they threw snowball after snowball at the twins and at each other. Glad that no one would think anything of his actions, Harry solemnly marched up to Ginny and rubbed a handful of snow into her face. Shrieking with indignation, she retaliated by stuffing snow down the back of his jumper, making him yell from the cold.
Despite having moved to the safety of the back porch to avoid getting hit, one or two snowballs somehow still managed to find their way towards Fleur, who squealed shrilly as a particularly large one made contact with her neck. Harry watched as a virtual avalanche suddenly fell from the roof onto her head, sending her running into the house, shrieking “Merde!” in a most unladylike manner. Bill hurriedly followed her, calling out anxiously to his fiancée.
Harry turned to find Ginny doubled up in laughter, clutching her knees for support. “Did you do that?” asked Harry, grinning as he inclined his head towards Fleur’s retreating figure.
“Moi? Are you accusing leetel ol’ moi?” Ginny said in a horrible French accent. She attempted to look innocent, but her lips kept twitching in suppressed mirth. “Well, all right, I’ll admit to throwing that last snowball, but as much as I would like to take credit for that fabulous avalanche, it seems the universe has also had enough of our little Phlegm and decided to show her just how pure and wet English snow can be.”
Harry chuckled along with Ginny and looked into her brown eyes which were sparkling with mischief. Her hair had come loose from her white knitted hat, a bright scarlet halo that framed her pink-cheeked, happy face.
Great Merlin, she’s lovely, he thought, fighting to keep from blushing as his mind wandered back to their encounter in the bathroom earlier that day.
The snowball fight came to an abrupt halt when Mrs. Weasley stuck her head out of the kitchen door to bawl at all of them to quit fooling around and finish gathering the vegetables.
“Wet blanket,” chuntered Fred under his breath as he turned back to the icy garden.
“Spoilsport,” George agreed with his twin. Ron sighed and picked up the basket they had been previously filling with carrots and parsnips.
“Right, I think I’ll go back in. I still have to decorate the living room for Christmas,” Ginny announced, smiling at Harry, turning his insides into mush. He wondered if the snow was melting right under his feet; he felt positively warm and toasty from that smile of hers. The creature in his chest gave a low, contented rumble.
“What was that?” Ginny suddenly asked, pausing on her way to the house.
“What was what?” said Harry, confused. He pulled out his wand and looked around warily. Were there Death Eaters lurking somewhere nearby?
“I thought I heard something,” she said, turning her head left and right to scan the frozen orchard. “It sounded like something was… purring.”
Harry could only stare at her in astonishment. Ginny cocked her head again, then shrugged her shoulders. “Must be my imagination. See you inside, Harry.” She waved and tramped through the snow in the direction of The Burrow, leaving Harry with his mouth hanging slightly open.
Before Harry could ask himself if the creature inside his chest was actually alive and audible, he was distracted by the sight of a couple of gnomes that had re-emerged. A particularly inquisitive one apparently decided that the carrot Fred was currently harvesting was something that it just had to have, and it started a crazy tug-of-war with Fred for the vegetable.
“Oi! Let go, you daft bugger!” bellowed Fred as he wrenched the carrot from the gnome’s grasp. Incensed, the gnome promptly bit him on the ankle and ran away, gurgling and cackling madly. Fred let out a yelp of pain and tore after it, while George and Ron attempted to block its progress.
After several minutes of frantic pursuit, Fred managed to catch the gnome by flinging himself bodily over it. The twins stupefied it and carried it back to the house, followed by Ron and Harry who were roaring with laughter. Fred took his revenge on the odd creature by painting it gold, stuffing it into a miniature tutu, and gluing small wings on its back. It was placed on top of the Christmas tree – the ugliest angel that Harry had ever seen.
* * *
Dinner that Christmas Eve was a highly agreeable affair. The table positively groaned with food, and Harry helped himself to third servings of everything. Fred and George were at their obnoxious best, with a thoroughly disgruntled Ron being the unfortunate recipient of their incessant teasing. Harry stole looks at Ginny’s laughing profile as she joined the twins in expertly needling an increasingly red-faced Ron. Her sardonic statement about Ron’s ability to snog Lavender for fifteen minutes straight without the apparent need for air sent the rest of the table into gales of laughter, except for Mrs. Weasley, who started on a stern lecture about responsibility and the facts of life to a highly embarrassed and murderous-looking Ron.
After the last of the enormous treacle tart was devoured – Mrs. Weasley’s pumpkin pie was strangely left untouched – the family and guests moved into the living room. Harry lingered behind in the kitchen, offering to help with the cleaning up when he saw that Ginny was clearing away the dishes.
“That’s all right, dear, you don’t have to. You’re here as a guest,” said Mrs. Weasley, patting his arm.
“I don’t mind at all, Mrs. Weasley. I’m used to it.” Harry stacked the dishes and carried them over to the sink. “You take a rest. You need it after cooking up all this food for us.” He smiled winningly at Mrs. Weasley, who had opened her mouth to protest.
“Go on, Mum. Harry and I have things under control here.” Ginny gently pushed her mother into the living room. “Besides, the broadcast will be on the wireless soon. I know you don’t want to miss the beginning of the program.”
“Oh, all right.” Mrs. Weasley smiled at Ginny and then placed a grateful hand on Harry’s shoulder. “Thank you, Harry. You’re such a nice boy. Isn’t Harry such a nice boy, Ginny?” She left the kitchen, already humming a tune under her breath.
Ginny quirked an eyebrow and grinned at Harry. He flushed self-consciously but returned her smile.
“All right, ‘nice boy’,” said Ginny, handing him a plate with a teasing glint in her eye, “time to wash dishes,”
They worked in companionable silence with Harry washing the dishes and Ginny drying them with a frayed yellow tea towel.
His arms immersed up to his elbows in warm, soapy water, Harry was struck by how peaceful he felt. He never would have thought that such a mundane chore as dishwashing could be so satisfying. By no means had he considered it a pleasant task in all those times he had to wash up at Privet Drive. He smiled, knowing that the only reason he was enjoying himself so much was because of the redheaded girl standing nearby, close enough for him to smell the faint flowery scent of her brilliant auburn hair.
When the last dish was sparkling clean, Ginny hung the tea towel to dry on a hook on the wall and stretched languidly. Harry swallowed nervously as his eyes involuntarily travelled along the length of Ginny’s body as she lazily raised her hands above her head. He hastily pulled his gaze to the window above the sink as she turned around to face him, praying that she had not seen him staring at the more delectable parts of her anatomy.
“Enjoying the view, Harry?” said Ginny, coming over to stand beside him.
“Erm…” Harry blinked at her in confusion, his mind still reeling with the electrifying sight of Ginny’s soft, womanly curves.
Get a grip, you pervert, he scolded himself, trying very hard to ignore the fact that his hip was practically touching hers.
She pointed to the snow-covered garden outside. “Isn’t it just magnificent? I love how the snow makes everything look so clean and beautiful.”
“Oh.” He glanced out the window. “Yeah. Right,” Harry agreed whole-heartedly, but he was not referring to the moonlit orchard. “Beautiful,” he said under his breath as he gazed covertly at Ginny’s reflection in the window pane.
Ginny turned, and she gave him an impish grin, as if she knew what he had been really staring at. “Shall we go into the torture chamber then?”
“What?” asked Harry, baffled by the sudden change in topic.
Ginny giggled and gestured towards the living room. “It’s a Weasley tradition, you know. Every Christmas Eve, Mum traps us inside the living room and subjects us to the most horrible form of torture known to Wizardkind: Celestina Warbeck on the Wizard Wireless Network. The Death Eaters have nothing on her.”
Harry gaped at her for a moment and then laughed along with Ginny. “In that case, I wouldn’t want to interfere with tradition. After you, my lady.” He bowed courteously and indicated with a sweep of his arm that she should precede him.
Ginny smiled playfully, a faint pink colouring her cheeks. “Why, thank you, kind sir.” She curtsied and led the way to the living room.
Upon entering, their ears were immediately assaulted by the piercing chorus of A Cauldron Full of Hot, Strong Love competing with the voluble French accent of Fleur as she chattered away to an enraptured Bill. Harry had to bite back his smile at the death glares that an exasperated Mrs. Weasley was sending an oblivious Fleur.
Ginny gave him a look that plainly said “What did I tell you?” before the twins called out to her to join them in a game of Exploding Snap. Ginny winked at him and left to sit with her brothers. Harry looked longingly over to the corner where Ginny and the twins had settled themselves before making his own way to take a seat beside a half-asleep Mr. Weasley, who was holding a Satsuma in one hand and a paring knife in the other.
Harry spent the rest of the night catching up with Remus Lupin and trying to find out the identity of the Half-Blood Prince. The evening ended not long afterwards, with Fleur doing – in Harry’s personal opinion – a rather passable imitation of Celestina Warbeck. He bid Ginny and the rest of the family a good night and trudged back up to Ron’s room. He searched vainly for clues to the identity of the Prince in his copy of Advanced Potion-Making before turning in, hoping that he would dream of Ginny, but instead his sleep was disturbed by strange dreams about werewolves and sinister figures lurking in the shadows.
* * *
Christmas Day dawned bright and clear. After making fun of Ron’s present from Lavender and yelling in disgust at Kreacher’s gift of maggots, Harry and Ron put on their new sweaters and thundered down the stairs for Christmas lunch.
At the entrance to the kitchen, they came to a stunned halt as they caught sight of Mr. Weasley giving Mrs. Weasley a lingering kiss underneath a sprig of mistletoe. Remus, seated at the kitchen table with Bill and Fleur, watched the elder Weasleys with barely concealed amusement.
Fred and George – with Ginny in between them – came in through the back door, fresh from another impromptu snowball fight in the backyard. Upon seeing their parents, the twins started making loud, gagging sounds while Ginny began to giggle.
“Oh, that’s just not right!” moaned Fred theatrically, covering his eyes.
“Oi! Mum! Dad! Give it a rest, will you?” demanded George, shaking his head in mock outrage.
Mr. and Mrs. Weasley broke apart, Mrs. Weasley wearing a flushed, dreamy expression on her face. She reached up to adjust a brand new, sparkling midnight-blue witch’s hat which had been knocked askew. The tips of Mr. Weasley’s ears were pink, but his arm remained firmly wrapped around Mrs. Weasley’s waist.
“There ought to be some kind of law, you know, against parents snogging in public,” Fred complained to no one in particular.
“You, madam,” said George, pointing to his mother, “are contributing to the corruption of a minor! For shame!” He put his hands over Ginny’s eyes, pretending to shield her from the sight of her parents.
“And you, sir, you call yourself a Ministry official?” Fred wagged his finger comically at his father, who gave a snort of laughter.
“Shut it, you two gits.” Ginny slapped George’s hands away and went over to give both her parents a hug and a kiss. “Happy Christmas, Mum. Happy Christmas, Dad.”
Still grumbling loudly about how the older generation just did not know how to behave themselves these days, the twins also moved forward to greet Mr. and Mrs. Weasley. Ron and Bill followed suit. Harry shook Mr. Weasley’s hand and took his place at the table.
Harry surreptitiously glanced at the mistletoe and then at Ginny, who was now standing directly underneath it. Just as he was wondering if there was a discreet way he could somehow manoeuvre himself over to Ginny’s side, Mrs. Weasley swept him up in a bone-breaking hug. Harry looked over her shoulder to see Remus’ eyes dart from him to Ginny, a knowing smile on his normally haggard face. Harry felt his cheeks grow warm. He had a feeling that Remus had seen him looking at the mistletoe and probably had a fair idea at what he had been thinking.
After helping her mum set out the food, Ginny took the seat in front of Harry and gave him one of her sunny smiles. His heart sped up alarmingly as she suddenly leaned towards him, an intent look on her face; for one wild, joyous moment, he thought that she was going to give him a passionate kiss and confess that she never really got over him, but all she did was cheerfully pick a maggot out of his hair. He fought down the mad urge to dash upstairs and dump the entire box of maggots on himself, just so he could feel Ginny’s hands in his hair again. Fortunately, Ron chose that moment to try and drown Fleur in gravy, and Harry managed to calm down enough to smile back at Ginny and join the happy conversation around the table.
His relaxed mood did not last long, however. Rufus Scrimgeour and Percy Weasley arrived at The Burrow and proceeded to ruin the rest of Christmas Day for him and the rest of the Weasleys.
* * *
Later that night, after tossing and turning in his bed for a while, Harry finally gave up on trying to fall asleep. He was still too riled up from his unsettling meeting with the Minister. He picked up his several-sizes-too-small dragon sweater and put it on over his pyjamas, ignoring the brand new jumper he had received that morning from Mrs. Weasley. He wandered down to the kitchen to get a glass of water.
Preoccupied with finding new and more colourful ways to curse Scrimgeour and the Ministry of Magic, Harry was startled when a quiet voice greeted him as he entered the darkened room. He turned to see Ginny sitting at the kitchen table, scribbling on a piece of parchment by the light of a candle, Errol the family owl slumped near her elbow.
Ginny’s pale skin glowed in the candlelight, a sharp contrast to the glimmering fiery locks that fell around her face. There was an ethereal quality about her that took Harry’s breath away. He took a seat beside her, hoping that he did not appear too affected by her presence.
“Hey, Ginny. Why are you up so late?”
“Just sending a last-minute Christmas message to Dean.” Harry’s heart pounded as he watched, captivated, as Ginny’s pink mouth blew gently on the parchment to dry it out. He dazedly wondered if her lips were as soft as he imagined them to be. He was brought out of his rapt contemplation when he realised that she was speaking to him again.
“Can you believe that I forgot to greet him for Christmas? I just remembered now, when I saw the card he sent me.” A rueful expression crossed her features as she looked up at him. “Some kind of girlfriend I am, huh?”
Ginny carefully rolled up her note to tie onto Errol’s leg. “C’mon, Errol, off you go,” she coaxed, pointing to an open window. “Please?” The old owl blinked blearily up at her and gave a mournful hoot, before resignedly stretching his wings in preparation for take off.
Harry looked on as Errol pathetically attempted several times to get airborne. Taking pity on the poor bird when it nearly incinerated itself as its wing came into extremely close contact with the candle flame, he grabbed Errol and threw him out the window. He and Ginny laughed as Errol narrowly missed crashing into a tree before finally flying off into the night, bobbing and weaving haphazardly through minor obstacles such as fence posts and tree branches.
“You know, you should have used Hedwig,” said Harry, turning back to face Ginny. “I mean, if you’re going to rely on Errol to deliver your post, I don’t think Dean will get your letter tonight – if he gets it at all.”
Ginny shrugged one shoulder expressively. “That’s okay. I think I’ll just greet him when we get back to Hogwarts.”
Her indifferent attitude surprised Harry. It seemed that keeping in touch with her boyfriend was not high on her list of priorities. Were they having trouble in their relationship? A tiny bit of hope blossomed in his chest.
“You’ve been going with Dean a long time,” Harry casually commented, not wanting to appear too interested in her lovelife. “Getting serious, is it?” He held his breath, hoping she would say otherwise.
Ginny looked taken aback at the question and bit her lip, making Harry wonder again if her mouth tasted as delectable as it appeared to be. “Hmmm,” she murmured noncommittally. She stood up and stowed her quill and ink bottle in one of the kitchen cupboards. “I think I’ll turn in, Harry. I’m completely knackered from Percy’s little visit. I never knew throwing parsnips would take so much out of me.”
She gave an enormous yawn, not attempting to hide it with her hand, and gave a little shiver. “It’s starting to get a bit nippy in here.” She shut the window that Errol had used and rubbed her arms through the long sleeves of her nightdress. “What about you? What’re you doing down here anyway?”
“I was just going to get something to drink,” he said, abruptly remembering the original reason he had come down to the kitchen. “Then I’ll be going to sleep too.”
On impulse, Harry pulled his jumper over his head and held it out to her.
“Here,” he offered. “So you won’t get cold.”
“That’s nice of you, Harry.” Ginny slipped it on and sighed blissfully.
“Keep it. It is a bit snug,” he said, smiling as she pulled on the sleeves to cover her small hands. Feeling very daring, he added, “Besides, it looks better on you anyway.”
She grinned at him. “Thanks. I always liked this one.”
“Yeah, that’s also my favourite.” He liked it even more now, appreciating how the dark green wool set off the red and gold highlights in her hair and how the soft material clung lovingly to her curves. Even the dragon looked content. Harry never thought that his old jumper could look so… alluring.
Ginny held his gaze for a long moment, her brown eyes gleaming and reflecting the muted radiance of the single candle. Harry felt that the world had suddenly been reduced to just the two of them as they stood in the comfortable quiet of the kitchen, the snow falling noiselessly outside the window.
A tiny voice inside his head started to chant: Kiss her! Kiss her! Kiss her!, and he found himself taking a half step towards her. However, before he could gather up his courage, Ginny gave him a brilliant smile and placed a hand on his arm, causing goose bumps to erupt across his skin.
“Happy Christmas, Harry,” she said softly.
“Happy Christmas, Ginny,” he replied, knowing but not caring one whit that a big, foolish grin was probably plastered on his face.
Giving him another bright smile, she gave his arm a little squeeze and disappeared up the stairs, her long red hair swinging gently across her back.
Harry sighed wistfully and gazed out into the snowy landscape.
All things considered, he reflected happily, this Christmas had been one of his better ones after all.