He stirred from where he was sitting with his partner, nervously looking about to make sure they were still safely ensconced in their privacy. It would simply be catastrophic for their health if someone were to discover them plotting about this. "Are you sure about this? They won't hate us for what we're going to do to them?"
He knew they could handle the repercussions. After all, they had been through more scrapes than most. His worried glance at his partner in crime was met only with the evilest smirk ever witnessed by another human being.
Harry was sitting at the kitchen table, having lunch with Ron and Hermione, when she arrived. Fred and George had picked her up from the station and brought her home.
She was framed from behind by the bright daylight. It illuminated her hair, causing it to shine back at the heavens as though the sky itself was inferior to her perfectnessesses. She was perfect. She would always be perfect. And if the Fates were kind to him, she would always be perfectly happy and always with him. That made so many perfects that she had to be perfectnessesses itself.
Harry knew his face showed his inability to react well when in the presence of a beautiful female, and she was most assuredly that. She was beautiful enough to be the centre of the world, his world, their world, every world.
Harry vaguely recalled Dudley talking about some magazine called Playboy, which was full of the world's most beautiful, albeit naked, women and how it came out every month. Harry thought Ginny was surely that beautiful. Not that he would ever share her perfection with anyone else.
He wondered if the wizarding world had an equivalent. It would undoubtedly have some truly original name that had nothing to do with the Muggle publication. Playwizard, perhaps.
But then he reflected a moment longer. According to Dudley's comments, that would be three girls each month for twelve months, or thirty-six girls per year. But there were only a whopping nineteen girls in his entire year at Hogwarts!
If that magazine came out every month of every year, that would mean they need every witch ever born to pose, and then some more!
Maybe some girls posed more than once, or maybe some used a Time-Turner and glamour charms, or maybe the publishers were just really good at necromancy and had specialists for the make-up.
Or it could be that the publishers just took wizarding pictures of Muggle girls who were posing for Playboy. Would a girl who repeatedly posed naked for cameras really be bothered if one of them belched purple smoke during the photo shoot? Even if it smelled rather strongly of half-burnt dragon dung in order for the film to develop an echo of their soul properly?
Or would the girls mind if a really excitable Colin Creevey ran around, asking for autographs and talking incessantly about how things moved when he looked at his private pictures? Then again, maybe the Muggles would just arrest him for being a pervy stalker.
When she smiled at him, though, all thoughts of girls – particularly multiple pictorials of Lavender or Parvati and Padma, and numbers like six or nine, and blood rites with cold bodies stabbed with a silver knife under the full moon at midnight with a make-up artist standing by – flew out of his head, mostly chased by a screeching Hermione in a dubiously tiny bikini. Red truly was a great colour for that woman with the deliciously bushy hair.
Ginny! She was smiling! Smiling at him!
Something cold in his lap let him know that his mind had wandered once again. Looking down in dismay, he saw that his ham sandwich had disgorged its contents all over his lap, spreading the creamy white mayonnaise and Swiss cheese crumbles all over the front of his hips. The dark pink ham was rolled up and under the mess left by everything else, poking its way into one pocket.
Looking back up in mild sorrow for the exposed meat in his lap, he could see her smile was still just for him. Her smile that meant the world to him, that made him so much more complete.
"Ginny!" he said, standing up in a rush, all other thoughts obviously fleeing his head again.
"Harry," she said in a smooth voice, one eyebrow arched as she kept her just-for-him smile on. "Are you really that excited to see me?"
"I always wind up like this when I think of you!" Harry was unable to stop himself from gushing at her.
She was there, and she was hugging him – if a bit reservedly to avoid the mess in his lap – and all was right in the world. His world, their world, it was right.
How he loved this girl! So much! So deep! So long! So… so…so fiery hot!
Without pausing to consider what he was saying, he blurted out what he had been thinking about for days now. "I've just got to marry you, Ginny!"
Harry immediately went pale as he realised he had just blurted out his Christmas surprise.
Luckily, Ginny was too focused on avoiding the thick and clingy white cream on the front of his trousers to pay any heed to what he said.
While Ron and Hermione just turned a blind eye to the scene unfolding in the kitchen by keeping their lips sealed to each other, Fred and George exchanged glances and then looked at Harry and Ginny with almost unholy glee written on their faces. Their mutual smirks said everything, even though Harry was visibly oblivious to anything but the redhead in front of him.
Dinner had been a boisterous, fun affair. Fred and George had insisted that, by sitting on either side of Harry, they were keeping him safe from too much mothering from their mum. Harry suspected that they had other plans afoot, given their occasional smirks when they thought he was looking elsewhere, but he was willing to let it slide.
Ginny sat opposite him, filling his vision with exceptional beauty, and coincidentally keeping Ron and Hermione separated, much to their annoyance. While the pair of them had made no effort to hide their budding relationship on Harry's Horcrux Hunt, they also took no pains to make a big deal of it. They just liked sitting together with their hands clasped, their ankles clasped, their lips locked, and their tongues entwined. And, of course, they tended to sulk whenever they were interrupted.
Harry, naturally, was more than understanding. He tried to give them their space. For the first two weeks after they had finally stopped battling with words and starting battling with their moist pink members… err, tongues… he had strived valiantly to treat them the way he thought Ron wanted them to be treated.
After all, eighteen inches of space between Ron's face and Harry's eyes left plenty of room for Ron and Hermione to hold hands, or talk, or do whatever they might want to do. Hermione was Harry's virtual sister, after all. He just wanted to make sure that Ron was being a gentleman and not trying to take advantage of her or any of that rot.
Ron had complained at first, but Harry had just said one word: Ginny. When Hermione had complained that she had nothing to do with that, Harry had calmly pointed out she had not helped, either. After that, Ron and Hermione had mastered the art of the petulant sulk.
But that was all water under the troll's bridge. After those first two weeks of "supervision", he even let them go out all hours of the day and night and never made a complaint. After all, if they were busy, why, then he could be too. Right?
And a troll's bridge. Talk about a silly place to hide a Horcrux. Trolls lacked the attention span to keep track of objects, and shiny objects all looked pretty much alike to their dim brains. That said, it was likely that only a troll could drink from a Horcruxified cup and not die from it, but still… Maybe that had some relation to the troll's incessant demands for more brains. Or maybe it was just a really hungry troll with an odd appetite.
Harry's mental meandering was brought to a screeching halt when he felt someone else's foot on top of his own. A new foot that was rubbing gently against his foot. Someone was sliding one triply-socked toe up his thick snowsuit trousers.
It was, after all, nearly freezing outside, and heating charms with one little fireplace in the whole house could only do so much. Especially with windows that were more than just a bit drafty. Wizards could certainly learn a thing or two from Muggles about central heating and air. Never mind proper insulation. After a thousand years, one would think that wizards would have moved past tapestries in that regard.
While Harry enjoyed the rather vague and nebulous sensation that he presumed was coming from the love of his life, the accompanying loud scrrrrtch noise as her toe moved across the snowsuit made it abundantly clear that someone was playing footsie at the table. Jerking back slightly, Harry abruptly stood up, torn between falling into the sensuously molten chocolate love in Ginny's eyes or else rushing from the room in embarrassment.
As he stood there and all eyes focused on him, Fred clapped him on the shoulder and pulled him back into the chair.
"Look at this, Harry," George said brightly, with a bit too much enthusiasm. "We've picked up on a crazy Muggle idea." Fred dropped a box in front of Harry while George kept talking. "We heard about this sweet in the States, Cracker Jack, that has a random prize in the bottom. We decided to make our own sweet, with our own mystery prize."
Harry picked up the white box with the little caricature of a small boy who had spiky black hair, round glasses, and a banana on his forehead. "Cracker Wizard, eh?" The little figure periodically let out a squeal like a stuck pig. "Why do I suspect the little guy is hitting rather uncomfortably close to home?"
Ginny's voice chased all thoughts out of his head at once. "Oooh, Harry, sweets! Hurry up and try some, I need to know if it's worth nicking later with your socks."
Harry's brain had all the power of a garden gnome on a Dreamless Sleeping Draught after hearing that Ginny wanted him to eat something Fred and George had handed him. While normally he would have protested, those pools of liquid milk chocolate spoke volumes to his heart, and he found himself stuffing the dry and crunchy material into his mouth without a second thought.
Idly, he wondered if it was possible for Veela to have red hair. He realized that the sweet was about as tasty as flobberworm mucus, but the love of his life had asked him to do this, so do this he would. Really, Veela had to have formed somehow. Some genetic anomaly must have made them. They surely did not just pop up one day and say, "Oooo! Look at me! I'm a Veela, I'm blonde, and You Can't Resist Me!" It was like screaming "I'm too sexy for my hair!" at random passers-by.
Using that logic, the Malfoys might as well declare themselves their own species. "Ooo! Look at us! We're bigoted idiots, we're rich, and we're blonde! We're Malferrets!"
Why could the same genetic variation not happen to a redhead? Ginny must be a Veela. Her powers of enthrallment over him were absolute and complete. And if the Fates were kind to him, she would be his beautiful Veela forever.
As Harry reached the bottom of the box, he realised that he had eaten all of the sweet. Ginny's eyes were flashing and a loving, caring smile was on her face. In passing, it dawned on him that the sweet had got slightly better as he worked his way through it. At the end, it tasted about as good as Acromantula spittle. He only slightly preferred getting it this way than from that nasty thing in the maze during his fourth year.
"How was it, Harry? Was it good for you?" Ginny's soft voice was a sensuous purr down his spinal column, causing him to shiver at her.
Harry's mind conjured fantasies beyond imagining at such a simple question. "Oh, my beating heart." He found himself unable to articulate anything else for a moment after that one confession. A strange sensation was creeping upon his consciousness. "The sweet was… lovely." Snickers were coming from all around the table as every conversation came to a screeching halt. "So very lovely."
In a dream-like state, Harry reached into the box and pulled out the prize. Fred was grinning openly, while George was watching with apparent admiration. It was a huge, gaudy, disgustingly bright ring. It was shaped in the pattern of a Lily, with giant faux emeralds and a cheap cut glass centrepiece to mimic a diamond. Unable to stop himself, Harry shot to his feet again and began to uncontrollably lurch around the table.
Surely there could be no better time or place to profess his undying love. He had a ring, her family was here, how could they not approve?
They always said they loved him. She always said she loved him. Sure, it had been a rocky start, but over the past four or more years, he gradually understood that she really cared so deeply for him. That she would always be there to take care of him, give him a hug, help him back on his feet, no matter what!
She simply must love him back as much as he loved her!
He dropped to his knees as everyone at the table went suddenly still. Harry noticed how suddenly tense Ginny was, as Fred and George started leaning back.
With one trembling hand, Harry pulled her left hand toward him in the most delicate, loving manner he could. Proudly displaying the vulgar and tawdry jewellery to her, Harry asked the question he just had to ask with a shaking voice.
He knew she would say what was so plainly in her heart.
Fred and George had fled screaming into the night. Literally. With giant bat bogeys hanging about their faces. Mr. Weasley had dragged Harry off to administer some secret antidote to him, leaving the others behind in a mixture of shock, sympathy, and horrified amusement. Harry was just glad that Charlie and Bill had yet to arrive.
Breakfast had been quite subdued. While Mrs. Weasley gave him a hug and told him she loved him like a son, she assured him that she was not leaving Arthur, even for such a devilishly handsome younger man. Harry had sat mortified during breakfast, but eventually Ginny smiled at him and laid one hand on his arm. Everything had been forgotten with her touch.
Her warm touch! Her touching warmth! Her loving touch! Her touching love! Her loving warmth touching him! Him burying himself in her loving warmth!
Oh, how he could contemplate naming every freckle she might have or ever receive! Of course, his memory was somewhat weaker after Slytherin's Locket tried to burn a hole through his head when he opened it, but that mattered little. It had, after all, shut up Mrs. Black's portrait rather effectively by burning through her head instead. But with a somewhat weakened memory, he would just keep renaming them when he forgot the old names. And, of course, forgetting where the freckles were meant years of time to rediscover each and every one. He could see how the nights might be filled with unbridled passion of exploring where her freckles might lead. Her Veela freckles.
Maybe he should write a small number next to each one, and make an index of names. Or constellations. Would he find the Hunter and the Bear? Or the Dog? He was sure Virgo would be there. And maybe Fornax? It would probably be near the Big Dipper, just below the Ram.
The loud crack! of people arriving by Apparition stopped all the light conversation at the table. The heavy tread of feet outside quickly revealed two more redheaded men, Charlie and Bill, home for the holidays. Fred and George were lurking uncertainly behind them, keeping one wary eye on their sister.
After a round of hugs and kisses and handshakes, Bill dropped into a chair next to Harry with a smile. "Apparently, I missed all the excitement last night."
Flushing in apparent horror, Ginny rounded on the twins with her wand out.
"We didn't tell him! We swear! It was an accident!" Both Fred and George had their index fingers rather painfully jammed up their nostrils to the second knuckle and were pleading with a most disconcertingly nasal voice.
Charlie just wrapped his arms around Ginny and turned her away from the twins. Fred let out a loud, if somewhat congested sounding, groan of relief and sank into the chair on the other side of Harry, casually wiping his fingers on his thick winter jacket.
"Harry, oh esteemed business partner, we're really sorry. We don't know what happened last night!"
Harry slunk down even further in his chair, but finally heaved a weary sigh and smiled faintly. "S'okay, guys. I guess it was a kind of a funny prank." Bill snickered a bit, but Ginny started smiling, and then they were all laughing. Ron regaled them all with a blow-by-blow of how it unfolded, including a passing attempt at mimicking the vacant, slack-jawed expression that Harry suffered whenever Ginny was talking to him directly.
Hermione, however, kept her narrowed eyes on the twins. It was clear from her expression she was suspicious of something going on.
Their Christmas Eve dinner had been fantastic. Mrs. Weasley had let Harry help her and Ginny in the kitchen, which had been somewhat educational, but mostly it had been more time to spend with Ginny. How he loved that girl. And he knew that tomorrow was It.
In a moment of visible weakness during breakfast, he had muttered under his breath when his fiery Veela came down the stairs that tomorrow was The Day he would roll the dice, and risk it all to hear her just say one uplifting positive word in response to The Question.
He was so entranced by the vision of beauty that he obviously overlooked it when Bill and Charlie grinned wickedly at each other at his stated intentions.
Mrs. Weasley, of course, had been patient and kind with them. She would gently guide Harry back to whatever he was supposed to be doing whenever Ginny had brushed up against him – always accidentally, of course – and would show him spells to make some things easier than what the Muggles did when cooking.
Ginny had been incredible. Harry thought he would never be able to get enough of her presence, the sight of her, the smell of her, the light sound of her laughter, the joy she could show in her eyes. Her eyes! How they flashed, just for him! He was sure of it, and he was sure that she would say yes when he asked her.
Her eyes were so pretty… he wondered idly if she might let him touch them. Or stroke them. Maybe he could conjure a copy of them and keep them on his dresser? Or maybe he would stick them into a photo and charm them to visually follow him about the room so they would always look upon him with that intoxicating liquid adoration. How he loved those rich chocolaty gazes!
Having enjoyed the wonderful Christmas Eve dinner, the entire family, as well as Hermione and Harry, had moved into the living room. The fireplace was roaring, and it kept the one room that could get heat from it comfortable enough for them to leave their winter jackets, snowsuit trousers, and boots in the kitchen. Several of them kept their mittens on, however.
Really, wizards just needed to learn how to do more effective heating charms without burning down their houses.
Or maybe they needed to start building everything from stone, like at Hogwarts. Harry idly speculated that transfigured furniture or curtains from cloth to stone would still be just as pretty but a lot more indestructible, even if it was uncomfortable. At least you would be warm in the winter when you suddenly became a slight pyromaniac on a cold night.
Of course, it had taken nearly twenty stone of weight to crush Ravenclaw's Sphere of Vision. Who knew that turning something into a Horcrux made an otherwise fragile object nearly indestructible? But no matter. It was over and done with. No more crystal balls to deal with. It kind of reminded him of Mad-Eye Moody's twirler, but, in the end, it was just so many crystal fragments to pick out of your skin.
Now it was just old Tommy boy and his pet snakey to deal with, but their demise was his New Year's Resolution. His Old Year's Resolution was all about a certain Veela redhead and The Question he had wanted to ask her.
George was pouring a bottle of Firewhisky into what looked liked brandy snifters. One glass for everyone. He was then floating each glass to the next person.
Harry was curious about that, since it was technically whisky, not brandy. How did one know what type of glass to use? Harry supposed if it was up to him, he would just transfigure some cheap Muggle plastic cups, the big 44-ounce variety, into granite. After adding an Impervious Charm on them, he would have a nice big, unbreakable, unburnable mug. With such a tankard, making a bonfire in the middle of the floor so essential to warming a freezing room would pose no health risk from melting plastic fumes.
The very young or very frail might not be able to lift the mug, but that was a problem for another day. Surely a Featherweight Charm could be applied on a permanent basis.
Then again, maybe he would persuade Ginny to settle in a Muggle house somewhere with central heat and air. Forget that quaint fireplace idea. And a phone. Definitely a phone, so he would not have to deal with all that Floo nonsense when he wanted to talk to Hermione and Ron. There was no chance Hermione would not have a phone, and Ron would just have to learn how to use one.
If they lived in a Muggle neighbourhood, he could have a swimming pool built in the back garden of their home once they were married. It could be in the shape of his One True Love's lovely eyes, and he was sure he could magic the water to be the exact shade of molten chocolate love she looked at him with. Then he could always drown in her loving gaze. With the proper sanitation charms on the pumps, her liquid gaze could truly be quite loving.
As Arthur toasted everyone's health and happiness on that lovely Christmas Eve, Harry could feel his sanity leave him again as Ginny leaned over and planted a warm, wet, lovely kiss on the side of his neck. All thought ceased. She was telling him without words how she was loving him.
Harry's distraction left him momentarily startled as a glass floated to him. When Harry drank along with everyone else, he paid no attention to the strange flavour. Or the fact that Ron was coughing at the effects of Firewhisky, whereas his own drink tasted rather… fruity.
Bill stepped up to Harry, a concerned look in his eye.
"Are you alright there, Harry?"
Harry felt a strange sense of euphoria descend upon him.
The room was spinning, and he was starting to have tunnel vision.
"What is it, Harry?"
Harry knew something was wrong and suspected some product of the WWW was behind it all, but the screaming stampede of Blast-Ended Skrewts inside his stomach left him feeling like the world was going to collapse if something did not happen to help relieve the pressure immediately. He could feel a compulsion toward a certain redhead. A very powerful compulsion.
Harry felt hands supporting him, and Bill's face was very close. Closing his eyes to stop the sensations, Harry had no idea what came over him. Suddenly, he planted a huge sloppy kiss on a completely frozen Bill Weasley and then fell to his knees. "I love you!" Harry nearly screamed at the top of his voice. "Marry me today or lose me forever!"
Fleur had come over the prior night, and between her amusement and outrage, she had literally flamed both of the twins for their work gone awry. Harry had never seen a Veela transform and toss around fire close up before, so he had found it quite fascinating. Fred and George had taken off into the night, twin meteors trying to get a moment to Apparate away, protesting their innocence. Harry had wondered, briefly, if Apparating while on fire would also Apparate the flames. He rather thought it would, so he had wished the twins luck.
After his proposal to a very surprised Bill, of course, Mr. Weasley had dosed him with another antidote for whatever they had put in his drink. Apparently, Mr. Weasley had spent so long dealing with his wayward sons, and their unpredictable joint sense of humour, that he had spent months developing a more-or-less cure-all to whatever they did. It was unable to fix everything, but it worked in about nine out of ten tries, and that was good enough.
The location of the antidote was a strict secret, however. And Harry refused to tell Ron or Hermione, much to their irritation, after the first dosing by Mr. Weasley.
Ginny had taken him outside when he refused to tell his best friends that were non-Veela and asked him to reveal his secret with a winsome voice and fluttering eyelashes, and he was certain she had unleashed her Veela powers on him at least once. His memory was a little fuzzy there for a few minutes. He had spilled all in a matter of microseconds and been promptly rewarded with a gentle close-mouthed kiss. The rest was… unclear.
What was clear was that the kiss had been eventually followed by a completely unnecessary snowball down his unmentionables. How his redheaded Veela did love to torment him.
The ensuing battle was short lived, as they went outside without their gloves. Since the house was so cold, of course, they were wearing their coats, winter trousers, and boots already. But there is only so much you can do when your hands are frozen. They really should have learned that lesson before then, Harry supposed. Hogwarts had the same problem inside, and his clandestine visits to certain cupboards had led to more than one screech of indignation when seeking some loving warmth.
Sitting once more at the kitchen table for the morning breakfast ritual, Harry idly compared Ginny to Fleur. Both were stunningly beautiful. Both transformed into fiery monsters when enraged. Both liked to throw nasty hexes when so worked up. Neither hex had a known counter, either – Fleur's Fireballs and Ginny's Bogeys. You just had to wait them out. And, of course, boys lined up at the mere chance of going out with either one.
Today was the day, though, as he had accidentally let slip out before. Ginny had that effect on him. Today, he would take this unique redheaded Veela off the market forever, if she answered him as he knew she would. That made him wonder… if they had any children, would they be redheaded Veela too? Or maybe raven-haired Veela?
Fred and George had apparently been so terrified of returning to The Burrow for this particular Christmas morning that they brought a peace offering.
They had even put big fat pink and metallic gold ribbons all round his head. The colours looked hideous with his hair, but he was definitely a present of some kind.
The Greatest Git, as Harry liked to think of him. After all, The Great Git was a title already taken. Maybe he needed to be more imaginative in his titles of honour. The Dumbest Git might be better for Percy. And he could always call the Minister The Slimiest Git. But then he would need a new label for that sorry bastard Snape. Perhaps The Greasiest Git. Or Night Flapping Git. Or the Grease Tosser Git. He was sure he could think of at least another dozen names if he needed to.
Ginny's fingers in his hair threw all thoughts out the window, as per usual. Harry leaned into her sensual touch, savouring every moment of the warm fingers' contact. He sighed a bit when she retracted her hand and jammed it back into a mitten, but it was bloody snowing outside. The heating charms were simply never going to keep them warm.
Ginny moaned slightly while gesturing out the window. "Look at all this stuff," she complained softly. "I'll never be warm outside of bed."
Harry thought his brain might break at thinking of Ginny and bed or of Ginny and her moans. Ginny moaning in bed. Her bed moaning at what Ginny was doing. A wide, mindless grin spread slowly across his face. This was his redheaded One True Love, and he was really looking forward to a future of nothing but her and all the mischief they could find together. In or out of bed. With and without moaning accompaniment.
Fleur's resounding slap across both Fred's and George's faces, one face with each hand, echoed through the room, jolting him back to the moment.
The Smarmiest Git stood with a frozen look on his face, and Harry wondered why the Long Lost Git had never moved since arriving. Harry would almost swear that even the Ministry Approved Git's eyes had never shifted or blinked. Not once. After nearly ten minutes, that surely was some kind of staring record. The Pandering Git would surely appreciate knowing that, later.
Fred and George were stammering apologies to all and sundry, while Mr. and Mrs. Weasley were staring at their Really Stupid Git of a child as though waiting for some sign that he was ready to talk to them, to apologize, to do anything.
It clicked in a heartbeat.
Whipping out his wand, Harry muttered a quick Finite Incantatem! at the World's Snootiest Git. Immediately, the Paper Pushing Git collapsed into a heap upon the floor like a rubber chicken and wailed as his hands covered his eyes.
Harry watched impassively, wondering how they made rubber chickens. Really, you had to have some kind of form to paint them at least, right? Did they take the bones out after they made them? Could magic make a real chicken boneless? How would it eat? Would it just kind of ooze across the ground, swallowing whatever came across its path? Perhaps it would require regurgitatory aid. Did chickens do that, or just the Party Line Git?
Boneless Chickens would be incredibly flexible. If you could strategically remove bones like that loser Lockhart did accidentally, then what kinds of things could you do with a loving partner? Frankly, that gave whole new dimensions to the thoughts about his Perfect Redhead and a game of Twister. Or maybe Operation. Chutes and Ladders might be fun, too.
Ginny's warm arms stopped all his thoughts again as they wrapped around his body. "Thank you, Harry. I'm sure Percy will thank you later. Probably all day long, too."
Harry was momentarily horrified. "All day? And do you mean all night?"
Ginny smiled brightly, rewarding him with a firm hug, and Harry's urge to re-petrify the Slowest Blinking Git faded to a distant memory.
Really, if the petrify spell stopped your muscles from having the ability to move, how could you blink? Or breathe? Or anything? Harry had faint recollections of burning eyes and light-headed sensations, but that could have just been the food he ate before he was petrified. Would you make a good vase for roses if positioned properly after a Petrificus? It seemed rather cruel and unusual punishment. But this was the Sorriest Child Git, so maybe he deserved it.
The soft and delicious kiss on his brow stopped his train of thought with a screech, possibly exploding the engine that was pulling it. Smiling up at Ginny with nary a thought in his head, Harry knew that this woman was the woman he was meant to be with. Forever. And then Some More. That molten milk chocolate gaze told him that with some marshmallows and sweet biscuits, they would be getting warm and sticky in no time. How sweet the rich creamy liquid they would make together must be!
Mr. and Mrs. Weasley were apparently satisfied that the Ugly Pompous Git would, in fact, survive the treatment of his brothers. He might even recover the use of his eyes without medical intervention. Hermione, however, had a notebook out, and she was recording something while watching the twins closely, a strange smile on her lips as she wrote vigorously.
Harry leaned back slightly, worried that his best female friend that was not his apparent Soul Mate was doing actual work on Christmas. "You think she knows something?" he asked hesitantly.
Ginny looked at Hermione and then smoothed Harry's hair with one mitten-encased hand. "Relax, Harry. There is no bloody way she could know what the twins are doing next. But she might help us prepare for the worst if we asked nicely."
Harry had no capacity to do anything other than nod vaguely, as Ginny was once again touching him. Even if it was a mitten-encased hand, it was still her hand, and that made everything special. He had to know if this woman would take him as Her Mate for all time. He had to ask The Question. Today.
Fred and George went screaming into the night. Their hair on fire, bogeys decorating their faces, and Mrs. Weasley's fine treacle tart all over their bodies. Harry just could not imagine how everything went so wrong.
Ginny had gone off to bed, tears streaming from her eyes and her hands covering her mouth as little sounds kept coming out. Harry hated to hear her whimpering in that way. Surely his lovely redheaded Veela's family knew that he was going to ask her The Question today, he knew he had blurted it out at least once. And now, it just was not going to happen.
No, the twins had seen to that.
He was unable to secure any time alone with Ginny.
Right after breakfast, Harry had disappeared with Mr. Weasley for a forgotten "errand" at Gringotts. Harry knew he had several jewellery boxes in his vaults there, and he was determined to get Mr. Weasley's permission to ask his underage daughter to marry him. He also hoped to get some solid opinions on what would please Ginny most. Harry could have kicked himself for not doing this before Ginny arrived at The Burrow, but this way was better. Arthur had the day off, and they could spend time together, Future-Father-In-Law and Future-Son-In-Law.
The collection of rings was, unsurprisingly, staggering. He had expected to find rings in his vault, as apparently all magical families kept such things forever by stripping corpses of anything that might be remotely valuable, even fillings, and the combined Black/Potter ring collection was especially impressive. At one time, each of the families must have stumbled across at least one untapped graveyard of opportunity.
They had a good time laughing and joking about the types of people that might want to wear what came from the Black vaults, but it was in the Potter vaults they found the perfect ring. It was a ring Harry had seen during his visit on his seventeenth birthday that summer, and it spoke volumes in its simplicity and elegance. Harry knew that if his Veela redhead married him, he would be so much clay for her to mould into the Perfect Mate. Her Mate. For eternity. And a little more.
Mr. Weasley's permission had been no problem, of course. Arthur had been delighted to officially acknowledge that Harry was his seventh son, even if it was not quite public yet. And he lovingly told Harry that it was no problem about the age. Mr. Weasley explained that as far as he, or apparently some three eons of Wizarding Law and Wizengamot Regulations, was concerned Ginny became Harry's unclaimed property when he dragged her from the Chamber all those years ago. Although in hindsight, Harry was unclear just who had dragged who, since it had been a rather traumatic time and he had been a bit dizzy with blood loss.
That was the last good part of the day, sadly. Ever since he got back, no matter where they went, there were the twins. Or Ron. Or Bill or Charlie or Percy.
Or Hermione and her notebook that she was always working in. His sub-Veela friend always had a disturbing smile on as she rapidly moved her rather large writing implement through elaborate motions, almost cooing at the page in her pleasure.
Oh, it all seemed quite accidental at first. Spilled food. Quidditch challenges and sudden things Ginny simply had to be doing. Food to be cooked. Broken dishes. Cleaning the house. There was something that interrupted them every time. Harry would have sworn that Ron and Hermione were getting overly involved in their snogging just to attract his attention.
In reality, he knew that cold hands would rule the days, and screeches over frozen appendages were safety alarms in the night.
But it was Christmas dinner that made it clear that something orchestrated really was going on. It seemed the entire Weasley sibling set was involved, but mostly it was apparent that the twins were the root of the overtly nefarious plans.
Bill had been talking about something that the Curse-Breakers he left behind in Egypt had brought in, a giant ruby from a wizard-pharaoh's tomb. Bill had been using his wand to conjure illusions of what it looked like, and the rare shape of it all, when Harry had reached out for his dessert spoon.
"So, anyway, this pharaoh apparently believed his blood would be saved and purified if the ruby was soaked in it. What a rube. So the ruby means…." Bill stopped talking as his eyes became wide.
Mrs. Weasley had buried the table in Harry's favourite treacle tart. That woman must love him like a son, quite aside from having told him as much a few days earlier, because she always made sure he had plenty of the stuff about when he was in the house for more than a day.
Harry had only a moment to reflect on Bill's expression. His Veela's big brother was still trying to talk, however.
"… what…" Bill's voice was nearly a whisper.
When his hand finally made contact with the dessert spoon, however, all the lights in the room went out. The spoon suddenly shot up in size and became a Ukulele that glowed like a miniature sun. Before he even knew what he was doing, Harry was prancing around the room like a fool, strumming and singing Frank Sinatra's "I've Got a Crush on You" in a voice he realised really was completely unsuited to singing.
Unless you were like the troll under the bridge. He might have enjoyed it. Although Fred and George were apparently enjoying things a little too much in Harry's opinion. The magic left part of his mind free to observe them all as the charms tried to force him into some elaborate script.
The worst moment had been when he found himself at the Unjustifiably Sanctimonious Git's feet, begging the Overweening Prideful Git to marry him. Fred and George had shot up from the table in alarm when he stopped in front of the Rule Reciting Git, but Harry knew they were just trying to make an early getaway.
Between the flying curses, flying treacle tart, and flying fireballs, he was surprised that Fred and George even made it outside alive before they Apparated away. And again he was left wondering if the bogeys, fireballs, or tarts would Apparate with them.
Harry really liked tarts, so he would have to experiment with Apparating around the countryside to see how it affected them. Maybe some tarts would become sweeter than others. To be fair, though, he would have to secure a wide variety of tarts. Otherwise he might be biased to just one tart.
Harry was sure that no matter what happened, this would be one unusual Christmas day in the Weasley Family History books.
Standing there at the landing, wistfully glancing at the door, Harry had promised himself and her parents that he would ask a question this day. Resigned that it was not going to change anything, still he bent to one knee and thought of his beautiful redheaded Veela in the room beyond. She may be in tears and may be making cute noises of distress, but she was still meant to be his. His life's One True Mate.
"Ginny Weasley," he whispered, "will you marry me?"
Silence was his only answer, as he knew it must be. Resigned, Harry tugged his coat more firmly closed and went to bed. Tomorrow was another day, and another chance to be with his beloved.
An incredibly bitter cold front had moved through the area that night. As each person in the house trudged down to the kitchen for breakfast, a plump but kindly Mrs. Weasley, wearing a jet-black ski mask with her name embroidered across the forehead, just wearily passed out ski-masks to each arrival.
Harry was amused to find his own ski-mask, which thankfully kept his face warm as the heating charms had just flat out right given up last night, was decorated with a little Hungarian Horntail flapping next to his embroidered name.
It made things a little awkward to eat breakfast while wearing mittens, ski-masks, heavy winter boots, and snowsuits, but at least they were all warm. Even if they had crumbs all over their masks and mittens.
Harry rather suspected that if the Muggles could see them, they might call the police in a hurry. But at least there were no chainsaws in the area; that really would have been disturbing.
Those lovely Christmas jumpers Mrs. Weasley always made, with the letter on the outside – Harry could appreciate them so much better now in the cold house. If you left a jacket partially open and wore a ski-mask, snowsuit trousers, heavy boots, and mittens, then you could tell who you were talking to.
Harry guessed it was because of Hermione and himself joining them that Mrs. Weasley had hastily put names on all the ski-masks.
Maybe next year she could put on nicknames. He could be Mr. Red. Ron could be Mr. Orange. Bill could be Mr. Pink, since Fleur was so enamoured of that colour.
There were so many possibilities for pairings if you just explored the rainbow!
Ginny's soft mitten was stroking the side of his face through the ski-mask, once again draining all thought from his head. This was the lovely redheaded Veela he wanted to Mate with, to be One with, to never let go of. He wanted to keep her safe from everything, even those pesky hangnails that come at you unawares. How he would do anything to have her always turn that hot loving gaze of rich chocolaty goodness on him!
"Leftover plum pudding, Harry?" Ginny's voice was fire in his frozen veins, warming him to his own triply-socked toes. Could there ever be a more delightful sound than his beautiful Veela's voice?
Ginny slid a mound of leftover Christmas pudding to him, and he noticed how it quivered. It quivered with an echo of her love! Her love for him! It was a quivering mound of love pudding that he longed to plumb! Could any plum from such a mound be ever more perfect than one she deftly guided him to with her very own two little hands? How he loved this woman, this fiery Veela!
When she handed him an extra napkin, it was all he could do to not grab her fork in haste. How lovingly she used the fork in her mitten-encased hand! How he longed for that fork that she controlled! To experience that fork with his True Love was a longing he knew like no other! And for her to place her quivering love pudding into his mouth, one delicious taste at a time! It was ecstasy all around!
The others at the breakfast table were ignoring them, which was fine by Harry. Here he had his redheaded Life Mate, her quivering love pudding, and the delicious aromas and tastes that she forked with him.
Could life be any better?
Charlie slid a glass of pumpkin juice his way and mentioned in passing that he should probably try to get his lips free of the pudding residue on his ski-mask. Was it his fault that Ginny's mound of quivering love pudding was simply too great for his mouth? Hastily using the napkin, he wiped the excess from his mouth while smiling at his Queen of the World. She was everything!
When Ginny had to stop to prepare herself for another round of love pudding that Harry would soon joyously nibble his way through, Harry unconsciously drank deeply of the pumpkin juice. He could almost swear Charlie winked at Bill, but his fiery love kept brushing against him, preventing any semblance of thought from being discernable.
Really, he was surprised that the pumpkin juice was still liquid and not frozen solid. He felt that if Ginny had not been with him, he would be frozen solid and just waiting for the spring thaw.
Harry was completely unprepared when the juice burned all the way down. He knew something was wrong and dreaded that the twins were somehow going to make him a mockery by trying to have him propose every time he turned around.
How he longed sometimes to take back those Galleons he gave them so many years ago.
Without realising it, his gaze became hot and laden with passion as he surveyed everyone at the table.
There! The object of his arousing passion was there! Demanding his attentions, his caresses, his soft yet tongue-infested kisses!
Slowly, he got to his feet, as silence once more descended upon the One Big Happy Weasley Family. Unable to stop himself, Harry knew he was in for one crazy ride.
He stalked to his target. One step at a time.
Everyone was clearly frozen in their seats, but the ski-masks blocked all expressions.
Were they feeling dread? Secret desire? Fear?
Not his target, no. He had loved this one from afar for too long, and he knew that the time was now. He had a question that he had to ask Now. Everything was Now. Endlessly quivering mounds of love pudding were in that shapely figure, those glorious eyes begged him for his attention, and that flair for sudden rule-breaking behaviour when the situation called for it was demanding him Now.
Dropping to his knees, Harry ran his mitten-encased hands up those snowsuit trouser encompassed legs, enjoying the pops of static electricity shooting off. The squeak of protest that his intended emitted spurred him on to continue his conquest.
He ran his hands up to the shapely chest. These jackets, straight lacing his target, forcing him to feel nothing despite the lush figure he knew lurked under there! How he needed to demonstrate his desire to explore every inch of this creature!
He could see some of the Weasleys beginning to react. He had to ask now, before they could stop him! He missed his chance yesterday, but today was a new day, a new hope, a strike back against the empire of evil plots!
"Hermione!" Harry screamed, as his head shot towards her upturned lips and her so very wide eyes. "I lo –"
Mr. Weasley dragged Harry off for another antidote dosing as he flailed about, the pair of them beating a hasty retreat from the room. The last thing he could see of that happy table was pure bedlam: flying fireballs, flying bogeys, Ron's flying fists, and the twins screaming their innocence as they ran for the door once again. Harry was surprised they had yet to think of bringing an emergency Portkey with them, given what they were clearly trying to do.
Harry still had yet to secure the time alone with Ginny to ask her The Question. He had been muttering about it off and on until he thought someone was paying attention to him, but Ginny kept distracting him from working out a plan to get the necessary alone time to finally get the answer he so desperately needed.
How was he supposed to compete with her Veela powers on full blast?
It left him gaping at her as he fantasized about running his fingers through her long, silken tresses. And then he could think about running his hands along her scalp, massaging as he went, luxuriating in the warmth of her love and her body. Her warm body, their loving massages and grooming, their eventual warmth together! His Ginny was beyond comparison to any other woman in the world!
They were buried under a mound of blankets, sitting on the settee near the fire of the living room. The rest of the family was spread about, although Ron and Hermione were wrapped around each other like a pair of mating snakes and the only thing stopping them from attacking each other with their, er, tongues was Mrs. Weasley sitting next to them on the sofa.
Ginny was talking to Charlie about his latest adventures at the Dragon Reserve in Romania, but Harry was content to be sitting next to his lady love, alternately holding her hand and just relaxing under the mass of blankets and fantasizing about getting her alone for some quality time. Her hand was so soft, so warm, so stroking with her loving touch, Harry was free to let his dreams run wild.
Alone with Ginny was a dream of his, a dream he knew would be real, every day, all day, as soon as old Snakeman himself was becoming one with Hagrid's fertilizer dump. Of course, Tommy may not like lying with the hippogriff droppings, but when you lose your ability to speak or move, well, it makes it hard to protest these little setbacks.
And what was with Riddle's constant hissing and lisping? Did the partial snakey look he went for at his resurrection really demand that silly lisp? Or was that an affectation in order to secure the devotion of the manly men he surrounded himself with? The effeminate hissing and all those pouts and pursed lips surely had some purpose.
Harry knew it was far from scary. Kind of ridiculous, really.
Hermione frequently wondered out loud why Harry always understood whatever Tommy had to say, while she spent several precious seconds trying to translate it into proper English. That left Harry wondering if speech impediments were common among wizards.
Well, maybe with those pureblood bigots. They inbred so much they must have some kind of deformities crop up from time to time. Like Crabbe and Goyle, except their impediment was a brain impediment, not a speech impediment.
One thing was for sure, though, his fiery Veela had no impediment with her tongue or lips. How he loved those lips! He dreamed of those ruby lips and the sweet kisses they could impart! How he never wanted to be separated from his One True Veela Love!
Harry was so enraptured with holding Ginny's hand that he never thought twice about taking the biscuit Bill held out to him. It was a giant bin of biscuits, and everyone else had been eating from them randomly, so what was the harm? A sugary sweet to go with his sweet love for the Veela at his side!
Harry was confused as to why he was suddenly in the middle of the room, holding a giant purple dinosaur that looked like a demented dragon from a diseased mind. Bill was grinning like an idiot, but most people were just staring in confusion. Vaguely, he knew this thing was called "Barney" somehow, but he was unsure exactly how.
The compulsion hit him as he stared into the eyes of the dinosaur-dragon creature. It was huge and was throbbing in his hands. Some kind of giant, throbbing, purple thing that was demanding to be released, to find release amongst all the warm, loving, touching, penetrating feelings of the room.
It was calling to him. Calling like a dragon flying through the sky, visions of a Hungarian Horntail flashing through his mind. Harry knew that this was the moment.
His love would not be thwarted this time! Too many times had his desire been ripped from him before he could clutch it to his bosom and enrapture his desires with the love he felt would burst out of him at any moment.
Shaking this newest member of the Weasley Family in the face of Charlie, Harry just somehow knew that the throbbing purple member was insisting that only Charlie could provide the release so desperately needed for these overwhelming sensations.
Harry stood there, shaking in his desire, moving in time to the throbbing sensations emanating from the huge member between his hands. And he noted absently that it had a fresh S.P.E.W. badge on it! His member wanted to be free, free to spread the glorious S.P.E.W. to others! His eyes full of love as he gazed at the strong young man with his burn scars, Harry professed everything. "Charlie! How I love you! And this thick purple member yearns for you! Join us tonight!"
Harry could no longer remain still. He had to move. He had to sing his joy and love to the heavens.
"Ride me forever, Dragon Lover!" Harry was skipping around the room, screaming his dedication to the most adventurous Weasley, his entire body throbbing as one with the giant purple member he was holding. "Love me! Never leave me! Marry me!"
Despite the screams, fireballs, bogeys, and burning demented dinosaur dragon, Harry found himself once more being dragged away for an antidote as the Weasley Family descended upon the twins, who were screaming their innocence. Charlie was staring in horror at Harry while Bill just looked hideously confused and Mr. Weasley pulled Harry out of the house.
Harry was sad to see Barney go down so brilliantly. Well, at least he was never left to rot and fester in neglect, abandoned at the back of some closet after one quick ride. At the end of all things, Barney could be thankful for going out so flamboyantly, never once needing a cupboard.
He leaned back, watching his partner in crime from beside the window. Her left hand had snaked out of the covers and was resting on his forearm, as he idly played with the platinum and emerald engagement ring that she only wore in private. "So was all that acting worth it, Ginny? You know Hermione is on the verge of figuring out our game."
His vision was filled with his beautiful fiancée's gloriously evil smirk, a perfect replica of the one she had on her face one week before when he had sneaked into Hogwarts to plan out their holiday fun. After, of course, he had already proposed to her and she had already accepted. "I think so. Oh, Mum told me she has an idea for how to directly get Ron today, which will only leave Dad and Fleur. You know, they're all convinced you're going to ask me to marry you as The Question."
Harry chuckled for a moment. "If your brothers only knew… Well, The Question is real. I wasn't making that bit up when I kept muttering about it. It's just a little different. When should the wedding be? And do you still want a white horse involved?"
Ginny flashed a bright smile at him, and the dim light was more than enough for him to see how pretty she looked. "As soon as possible, please. And of course you need the horse."
Harry shifted a bit at that, thinking of his forthcoming New Year's resolution.
"Do you still love me, Harry?"
Harry paused to think back over the past week. He had routinely doused himself with blocking potions to nullify love potions and mind-altering compounds. They had all been quite vile and nasty. Then he had deliberately acted like a love-struck fool and willingly thrown himself into one humiliating situation after another. And, finally, he had proposed marriage five times to four different Weasleys and one soon-to-be-Weasley. He had even given a rather one-sided kiss to Bill as a spur-of-the-moment thing. It had been unpleasant and rather awkward, but, really, the overall plan had been simply brilliant.
Ginny, consummate actress though she was, almost gave the game away on that first night when he proposed to her mother. After all her plotting to land payback for sixteen years of harassment upon her unwitting siblings, it almost ended right there. Not to mention her desire to see the twins put in their place as second-best in the most-nefarious-plotting competition, and to shake their confidence in their own merchandise.
The rendezvous between Harry and Ginny in the broom shed that first night after everyone else had long since sought their beds had nearly brought down the rickety building with joint laughter and tears of mirth. When Arthur and Molly had joined them about five minutes in, all four had collapsed into gales of deep belly laughs. Harry knew that whatever came in the future, Arthur and Molly would always be brilliant minds to talk to. Or to carry out revenge plots with. He even had Arthur's help in picking out the matching wedding band from his vault at Gringotts while they casually chatted on Christmas Day.
Smiling down at Ginny all wrapped up in the plush blankets, Harry knew that he was beaten, but he had no objections to losing this particular game. Moving the Invisibility Cloak away from the side of her face, Harry brushed his thumb gently across her smooth lips. "Maybe you can convince me I do?"
"Come back to bed, Harry. We'll discuss the next volley when Mum comes in to wake us up."
Frankly, this proposal should happen at the earliest during Ginny's seventh year, not Harry's. She is, after all, still under age. Well, it's the SIYE December 2006 challenge setup, so I followed along, but she's only sixteen. I understand that SIYE declined to accept this, as they thought this was too racey to post there. I think the bulk of readers would have found it to be amusing, but I respect their efforts to try and keep some types of content off the site.
Those that fail to see the many parodies in this story need to read it the most.
I hate plot bunnies. They strike without warning. And they have huge, sharp, pointy teeth… oh, and watch out for that shrubbery.
As always, a big thank you to my genius betas who have valiantly strived to make this story better despite my overwhelming sense of twisted and occasionally tasteless humour. Special thanks to Sovran for going above the usual duty, contributing some additional ideas for scenes and scene adjustments. So, immeasurable thanks to cwarbeck and Chreechree. And thanks to Sovran for a sanity check plus tweaks, and Sherylyn for her polishing touches before it gets uploaded.