Harry tugged on the collar of his new dress robes, scowling at his reflection in the mirror that hung in his room at Grimmauld Place. His robes were colored scarlet in honor of Valentine’s Day – a holiday he’d long since decided had a personal vendetta against him. He’d never once had much luck with it.
He was dressing to attend a formal gala at the Ministry, where he was to be presented with the Order of Merlin for his role in defeating Voldemort just over a month earlier. Minister Scrimgeour had decided that since love had ultimately defeated the Dark Lord, it was only appropriate to commemorate the occasion on the day honoring love.
‘Balderdash,’ Harry thought sourly. It was yet another publicity stunt designed to show the Ministry in a favorable light. He’d been perfectly blunt that he wanted no part of this ceremony, but no one had listened to him. Everyone thought it would be a wonderful way to spend the holiday. Mrs. Weasley had even insisted that everyone go out and get some stylish new dress robes.
Harry reckoned Valentine’s Day was celebrated in February to lighten up the gloom and doom of the long winter months. He also reckoned the whole thing was a load of mating dragon’s dung. He’d spent the previous Valentine’s Day apart from Ginny while hunting down one of Voldemort’s damned Horcruxes, but it hadn’t lessened his love or longing for her one iota. He didn’t need any special day to make him love her any more than he already did.
All was quiet at Grimmauld Place, although he knew Remus and Tonks were both there and getting dressed for the evening. Remus’s laughter at Harry’s distemper had only succeeded in further annoying him.
Harry had only just returned from a fortnight spent on holiday with Ron, Hermione, Ginny and several of the Weasleys. He’d been critically wounded in the final battle, and the Healers suggested some time away would do him good. Upon his return, he’d moved in with Remus and Tonks at Grimmauld Place. Its proximity to St. Mungo’s was convenient for Harry since he was still recovering and spent a lot of time at the hospital.
He’d been having the time of his life at the beach with his friends and was extremely put out at having to return for such a ridiculous occasion. He also felt very anxious over the fact that he would have to give some sort of acceptance speech in front of all those people. He just wanted to regain his strength, spend some time with Ginny after having to be apart for so long, and begin his Auror training. Was that really so much to ask?
He sighed with exasperation as he again tried to fix the collar of his robes. He wished Ginny were here; she never had any problem getting things to look the way they were supposed to look. His own renegade hair would even lie flat for her – something he’d never been able to accomplish. He remembered how she’d helped him get ready for Bill and Fleur’s wedding even though he’d been trying to avoid her at the time. Although she hadn’t uttered a syllable as she’d adjusted his hair and robes, her eyes had spoke volumes; the pain he was causing her was written all over her face.
A snort of laughter behind him caught Harry’s attention, and he turned to find Tonks standing in the doorway wearing a thoroughly amused expression.
“Where did you find that,” she asked, pointing at his uncharacteristically bright robes, “Madam Malkin’s Underground for Secret Lotharios and Cassanovas?”
“Oh, you’re one to be laughing at me,” Harry replied, scowling. “I’m not the one standing here with orange hair and fluffy pink dress robes.”
Tonks’s robes appeared as if they were filled with air and floated around her trailing little pink hearts made of tissue paper as she walked.
“One of us had to be bright and cheerful…although I suppose you are bright enough, but no one will mistake you for cheerful,” Tonks replied, cocking one eyebrow. “Those dress robes are certainly…unique, Harry. Not at all what I’d picture you wearing, but I like them. It’s not like everyone won’t know you’re coming, anyway.”
“Oh, ho,” Harry snapped. “Ginny said they reminded her of Gryffindor and that I should just play the part. I don’t know what I was thinking letting her talk me into this. I feel ridiculous.”
“You are so whipped,” Tonks replied in a sing-song voice.
“Takes one to know one.”
“I really don’t see why we all had to come back for this,” Harry grumbled, waving his arms in the air and causing more fluffy pink hearts to fly around Tonks’s outfit. “Why do they have to make such a big production about this award, and why would people want to go to something like this on Valentine’s Day? I don’t. There were plenty of other people there. Why aren’t any of you lot getting awards? It’s not right.”
“Oh, get off it, kid. This self-deprecating act is getting really old. You are the hero; we are the sidekicks. People want you to live the part of the hero. There’s nothing more romantic than celebrating the victory of the hero. Deal with it,” Tonks said, poking him in the chest on each point.
“Easy for you to say. You don’t have to get up in front of a star-struck mob to spill your guts about one of the worst days of your life when they’ll really be daydreaming and wondering how far my tan reaches,” Harry exclaimed, exasperated. He’d stopped reading the Daily Prophet altogether after seeing an article on a supposed mystery tattoo he’d received while on holiday. The speculation on where his tattoo might be was enough to make Harry’s skin burn.
Tonks squealed in delight. “How far does your tan go?” she asked, tugging at the waistband of his trousers.
“Cut it out,” he yelped, slapping her hands away.
“Don’t worry about the speech, just imagine everyone in the audience wearing their knickers.”
Harry’s eyes widened like saucers. “What?” he asked.
“It’s an old Muggle trick my dad taught me,” Tonks replied, grinning.
Harry rolled his eyes. “With my luck and my habit of performing accidental magic under duress, I’m liable to really Vanish everyone’s clothes.”
“I’m certain there’s never been an Order of Merlin ceremony like that. I think I’ll go change my knickers, just in case. I wouldn’t want to be caught in plain old white cotton,” Tonks said, biting her lip.
“Oh, shut it, Tonks,” Harry said, unable to control the blush he knew she was trying to cause.
She grinned and ruffled his hair. “Come on, kid. Hurry up and get ready. You want to look good when Ginny arrives.”
Harry slumped down on his bed and ran his hand through his hair. “I don’t think I can go, Tonks. I’m really not feeling very well. I think I might have over-done it on holiday. Couldn’t you just tell everyone that I’m ill?”
“Nice try, Potter, but if you really didn’t feel well you’d never admit it.”
Harry groaned. “Fine.”
“Yeah, that’s what you’d say.”
“If you don’t finish dressing, I’m telling Ginny when she arrives and sending her up after you. I’m going to tell her you tried the old ‘I don’t feel well’ trick, too,” Tonks said.
“You wouldn’t,” Harry replied, aghast.
“You give new meaning to the term wicked stepmother,” Harry muttered as Tonks left the room.
“I heard that,” she shouted. “Better watch your step or I’ll start calling you Harriella, too.”
When Harry finally came down the stairs, he found Remus and Tonks already waiting in the entrance hall. Remus was dressed in sleek gray robes with a deep red waist-coat underneath. He looked the epitome of style and grace next to Tonks’s over-the-top vivid color. Harry smiled at the mismatched, perfectly-compatible pair.
Ron and Hermione were also present and festively dressed, standing in a corner and chatting with Ginny, who wore white robes overlaid with a sheer red material. It was Fred and George who really caught his attention, however, causing him to shake his head to be certain that his eyes were working properly.
The twins were both dressed in short white robes baring an indecent amount of their legs. They’d strapped golden wings to their backs, and each carried an actual bow and arrow. It was as if Cupid had been cloned and the experiment had gone horribly awry.
“Harry, old chap,” George said, causing all the attention in the room to focus on Harry, “glad you decided to join us. Tonks here told us you’re in a funk about having to take part in this festive occasion.”
“What on earth are you wearing?” Harry asked, unable to wrap his mind around anything else.
“D’you like it? It’s part of our new Cupid collection. The arrows really work and are dipped in just a touch of our patented love potion,” Fred said. “Guaranteed to help you land the wizard of your dreams.”
“Because no one can tell the difference between real feelings and those brought on by a love potion,” Ginny said, crossing her arms across her chest and rolling her eyes.
“Now, while it’s true that a love potion makes one act much more obvious than normal, we’ve found desperate witches don’t care much when it comes to Valentine’s Day,” George said.
“There’s no better opportunity for an eager and available bloke,” Fred said, waggling his eyebrows suggestively.
“Too right. Someone has to offer comfort and appreciation to all these love-starved witches,” George said, blinking innocently.
“And you two are right there, out of the goodness of your hearts. Is that it?” Ginny asked, shaking her head, although her eyes sparkled brightly.
“We consider it our duty,” Fred replied.
“Good grief,” Hermione said, groaning. “I can’t believe any witch in her right mind would fall for that load of –”
“Hermione!” Ron yelped.
“Unfortunately, I could see it,” Ginny said, patting Hermione’s hand consolingly. “Just think of, say…Lavender Brown.”
Ron’s ears turned red as he suddenly found a candlestick on the mantle the most interesting thing in the room.
“All right,” Remus said, smiling patiently. “Are we going to attend this function or not?”
“Speaking of that,” Fred said, patting Harry on the back, “Tonks here tells us you don’t want to attend this evening’s festivities.”
“Wouldn’t be much of a party without the guest of honor,” George said.
“And I’d miss my dancing partner,” Ginny said, slipping her arm around Harry’s waist and squeezing gently.
“I’m going,” Harry said, grumbling. “I just think it’s rather rude of them to assume this is how we want to spend Valentine’s Day.”
“Oh, so on any other day you’d be up for it then?” Hermione asked, smirking.
“Sod off,” Harry said, scuffing his toe on the ground.
“Exactly what else would you like to be doing?” Ginny asked, arching a delicate eyebrow.
Harry felt a pleasant fluttering in his stomach as his insides seemed to bubble and churn like molten lava. Grinning cheekily, he reached into the pocket on the front of her robes, removing her wand. He waved it with a flourish, producing a bunch of perfect red roses.
“Oh, Harry,” Ginny gasped, taking the flowers.
Harry flushed, pleased. He’d remembered Mr. Ollivander doing the exact same thing with Fleur’s wand before the Triwizard Tournament.
“I’d like to spend the evening with you – alone,” he whispered, “without having to dodge the press and the rest of the wizarding world all evening.”
“Oh, I don’t want to hear this,” Ron said, groaning and causing Hermione to whack him in the stomach with the back of her hand.
“Tonks also informs us that you’re worried about your speech,” George said, grabbing a besotted Ginny by the arm and pulling her away.
“Oh, she did, did she? She’s just a wealth of information, that one. It’s no wonder the Ministry is in such disarray,” Harry said, glaring at Tonks, who promptly stuck out her tongue.
“She also happened to mention her solution,” Fred said, removing his wand from its holster, “and we’ve developed the perfect solution. This is going to make us a load of Galleons.”
“Oh, no!” Harry said, taking a step back and waving his hands in the air. “I’m not going to be a test subject for anything you two have to offer.”
“Don’t worry, Harry,” Ginny said, once again moving toward him and resting her hand on his forearm. Her feather-light touch sent tingles shooting all the way up to his shoulder. “I already know what they’re going to do, and you have nothing to worry about.”
Harry cocked his head and stared at her dubiously.
“Trust me,” she said, smiling. “I think you’ll appreciate the laugh.”
Although he really didn’t trust the twins, he did trust her, so he warily nodded to Fred.
Fred tapped his wand on Harry’s glasses, muttering unintelligibly and stepping back with a wide grin.
“What did you do?” Harry asked, blinking spots from his eyes. When his vision cleared, he shut his eyes tightly before opening them again slowly. He felt his jaw drop and his gaze swept the room, his mind refusing to believe what he saw.
He stood in the entryway at Grimmauld Place, surrounded by his friends – his family – who were all standing there in their undergarments. He felt color flooding his face as the temperature in the room began to rise steadily.
Ron and Hermione stood near the fireplace, smirking at him. Ron wore burgundy boxers similar to those Harry had seem many times before in the Gryffindor dormitory while Hermione had on a simple white bra and knickers. Feeling sweat beading up on his forehead, Harry quickly averted his eyes only to discover Tonks wearing a glaring orange thong with a pink bra made of the same floaty hearts as on her dress that barely covered everything it should. Remus stood next to her, wearing black boxers and frowning slightly.
Harry realized he was staring at the same moment he heard the twins’ raucous laughter. He snapped his eyes away from Tonks and toward them, forcing his mouth shut. The sight of the identical Weasley brothers made it drop open again.
They wore shiny gold pants – the size of which made him think they belonged to Ginny rather than Fred or George, and like Tonks, the material was barely containing them. Harry tugged at the collar of his shirt, feeling the heat from his flaming body. He knew he could easily give any Weasley a run for their Galleons with his flushed coloring.
When he finally turned his head in bafflement to look at the girl standing next to him, his knees literally buckled. Ginny struggled to keep him on his feet, giggling all the while.
“Something wrong, Harry?” she asked, blinking innocently enough to let him know she knew exactly what was wrong.
He struggled to control his breathing and keep his hands to himself while three of her brothers remained in the room. Ginny stood next to him – supporting him – while wearing a pair of lacy red knickers and matching bra. He could see the freckles that had long fascinated him on her throat and shoulders continued down into more forbidden territory and his fingers itched with the need to trace them.
Any moisture in his mouth instantly evaporated, and he was left feeling as if he was about to swallow his own tongue. The lacy edges of her undergarments tantalized his fantasies, and he suddenly found himself incapable of drawing a breath.
“All right, enough of that,” George grumbled, whipping the glasses off of Harry’s face and leaving him staring at a blur of distorted colors.
“Finite,” George muttered sourly, slamming Harry’s glasses back into his hands a bit more roughly than necessary.
“We developed this to help you with your speech, you great prat, not so you could ogle our sister,” Fred said, his arms flexed and crossed over his chest.
Harry blinked a moment, unable to form a coherent thought, and stared at the others in the room. Although the twins appeared disgruntled, the others looked amused, and Ginny was nearly bursting trying to control her giggles.
“See anything you like, Harry?” she asked.
“I – what – er…red is good,” he mumbled stupidly, his eyes still roaming hungrily over her now fully-clothed body.
“Red!” Ginny shrieked, her grin becoming gleeful as it stretched across her face. She was bouncing on her feet as she twirled around. “Harry, my dress robes are white. D’you honestly think I’d be wearing red knickers?”
Harry stared at her uncomprehendingly, still trying to reign in his scattered thoughts. The memory of those red undergarments appeared to have been permanently etched on his brain.
“Think of how the Muggle trick works,” Hermione said, apparently taking pity on him. Fred and George were still scowling, and even Ron had lost his amused scowl at the mention of Ginny’s red knickers. “You imagine people in their underwear, right? But you don’t actually see their underwear.”
“I…oh,” Harry said, his eyes flying open wide as he realized what he’d revealed.
“It’s all in your head…or what your subconscious would imagine we’d be wearing. If the spell had been cast on Ron, I’m certain he’d see me in pink knickers with the days of the week printed on them,” Ginny said, snorting. “So…you like red, eh?”
“All right!” George shouted. “Obviously this isn’t going to work.”
“We try and do a good deed to help out a mate, and what does he do? Turn around and take advantage of the goodness of our gesture by perverting our baby sister,” Fred said, shaking his head.
“I –” Harry said, running a hand through his hair, lost for words.
“Oh, leave him alone,” Ginny said, still sniggering.
“What did my knickers look like, Harry?” Tonks asked, grinning.
“All right, the fun is over,” Remus said, stepping forward and coming to Harry’s rescue. “We’ve had our fun, but it’s time we move along to the Ministry. Harry’s just going to have to muddle through his speech on his own. It appears your imagination is vivid enough to get you through it.”
Harry’s head shot up to see Remus covering a grin. He took Tonks by the arm and led her toward the door. Tonks’s laughter trailed behind them as they moved outside where they could Apparate.
“We’re going to have to work on that Charm – somehow make it anti-Weasley proof or something,” Fred said, scratching his chin.
“Absolutely. All right, we’re off to console the bitter and lonely masses of witches,” George said, his good humor returned. “Oh, and Harry…you’d best watch it. We owe you.”
Harry, who’d finally recovered his composure, raised his chin in defiance. “Is that a challenge? Don’t take putting yourself up against the son of a Marauder lightly.”
Fred and George stared at one another in that odd way they had of silently communicating with each other. Both raised their shock of red eyebrows, their eyes glinting mischievously.
“Ahh, but mate, we know your weaknesses and exactly how to exploit them,” Fred said. “Ta!”
The two moved toward the door before Harry’s words stopped them.
“And I’m on good terms with your mother.”
Fred and George stopped for a moment before getting hung up in the doorway by the bow and arrows strapped on their backs. They struggled for a moment before finally pushing their way through. They stared back at Harry for a moment, their brows furrowed, before turning and silently making their departure.
“They left without getting the last word,” Ginny said, stunned. “They don’t usually do that.”
“I think they’re still rattled by Harry’s obvious enjoyment of their prank,” Hermione said, apparently delighted to see a prank of the twins’ finally work against them.
“About that, Harry –” Ron said.
“Oh, grow up, Ron,” Hermione said, pushing him toward the door.
“Come on,” Ginny said, taking Harry’s hand and grabbing her roses with the other. “Let’s walk in with our heads held high. Love your red robes, by the way.”
“Do you really?” he asked, suddenly feeling cheeky.
Ginny furrowed her brow. “Of course, I do. I picked them out, remember?”
“Hmm. I thought you would’ve chosen a color in honor of the day,” he said, struggling to control the twitch in his cheek.
“A color… but Harry – red is the color of Valentine’s Day,” she said, baffled.
“I was thinking more of green…green as fresh-pickled toad, perhaps?” Harry said, glancing at her from the corner of his eye.
Ginny stopped walking, frozen in place. Her eyes flew open wide, and Harry suddenly feared he’d gone too far. He’d never teased her about her old crush in the past – he’d never even mentioned it, actually.
“You remembered?” she asked softly, her voice sounding more wondering than angry.
Harry’s playfulness melted into a pool of tenderness. “’Course I remembered. It was the only Valentine’s card I’ve ever got. I still have it in my trunk somewhere.”
“Oh, Harry,” she said, sniffling a little. She leaned over and kissed him softly, her eyes glistening in the candlelight.
“Are you two coming?” Ron shouted from somewhere outside.
“Nope, no green. Red is definitely our color,” Ginny whispered, taking his hand again.
Harry allowed her to lead him from the room. Suddenly, the prospect of the night no longer seemed so bad. After all, he had a lovely warm thought powerful enough to fuel a hundred Patronuses. With that thought, he could certainly handle one little acceptance speech.