Christmas was always a happy time at the Burrow. Molly and Arthur loved having their entire family there. The Weasley family always exuded a palatable joy at being together. This year, however, was quite different. There were several gaping holes, both in attendance and in the family's heart. Fred's absence weighed heavily on everyone present, especially as this was the first Christmas since his death. Looking around the room, one could also just as deeply feel the other absences. Harry was still gone; the Ministry had officially declared him a missing person. After several months with no clues at all, Ron, Hermione and Ginny had been forced to give up their search. Not for lack of spirit, but simply from a lack of leads. They literally had nowhere left to look. Ginny still disappeared from time to time, and everyone knew that she was out searching, but it was random and had been happening less and less. As time had worn on, Ginny had become less like herself and had virtually disappeared. Ron and Hermione were faring better, but only because they had each other. They had forged a new relationship, but even they were not the same as they once were.
Surprisingly, of the entire Weasley clan, George was the only one in good spirits as he moved around the room humming Christmas carols to himself.
"Deck the halls with um la la la la... fa la la la la la la," George sang as he walked into the kitchen. Ginny was sitting at the table with a mug of hot cocoa that she had barely touched, staring wistfully out the window.
"Come on Ginny, drink up!" George badgered her. "I didn't make that cocoa just to have you waste it."
A slight smile crossed her lips as Ginny lifted the mug and took a small sip.
"How do you do it, George? Don't you just want to break down and cry? Nothing is the way it is supposed to be!" Ginny finished forcefully with a challenging look in George's direction. George slowed and looked Ginny purposely in the eyes.
"Ginny, nothing is supposed to be a certain way. Life is life. What happened, happened. I realised when we lost Fred how precious life is. Fred helped me understand that, and I'm not going to waste the gift he gave me by sacrificing my life too. You know Fred wouldn't have wanted that."
Ginny sighed as she turned back towards the window.
"You're right, you know. It would be easier if Harry were here. If I didn't feel so guilty..." Ginny trailed off.
"Well," George said slowly, "I've already told you and the rest of the family what gits you were for that. If I hadn't been in the back when that first started happening, maybe I could have put a stop to it. But it has happened, and it's over. I don't know if Harry will ever come back. I'm not sure I would, but you can't control that. All you can do is live your life now."
"Did I hear someone say Harry's back?" Ron shouted as he burst into the kitchen.
"No, you goose brain," Ginny scowled, "it was a private conversation between George and me."
Ron's face fell as his momentary elation began to ebb away.
"So Ginny, Hermione and I have been talking with Mum, and well... we think we should all go back to Hogwarts in January and finish up. They'll take us back and let us make up our missed classes. We can still finish on time." Ron finished in a rush, expecting Ginny to blow up.
Ginny looked at George for a second, remembering the words he had just told her.
"You're right. I'll go tell Mum that I'm going back too."
As Ginny hopped off the chair, Ron and George both noticed tears running silently down her cheeks. Ron looked at his brother and sighed heavily, something he had been doing a lot of lately. As they sat there in silence, Mrs. Weasley called from the living room,
"Come now, children! It's time for presents."
Mrs. Weasley noticed how slowly her family gathered around for the traditional sharing of the gifts. Her children, especially Ginny, had always loved presents. As Mrs. Weasley looked at her youngest, her heart broke for all the pain that she had been through. She hoped that going back to Hogwarts would help her begin to get her life back together. Molly's thoughts turned to her other absent child, and despite the guilt she felt for what had transpired, she hoped that somewhere a messy black-haired boy had someone to share Christmas with.
Harry checked his watch for what seemed to be the hundredth time.
"Damn it, Taylor. Where is he?" Harry growled, looking very annoyed.
"Stop it, James," Taylor said matter-of-factly. "This is only our third date, and I will not have you scaring him away. He is already intimidated with you anyway, Mr. I-give-everyone-bad-looks-all-the-time."
Harry sighed and looked at his watch again, "Fine, Taylor, I'll be nice. But sooner or later I'm going to walk to Princess Street on my own."
Taylor stuck her tongue out at Harry and then turned and continued to scan the crowd.
"Oh, oh, there he is!" she said gleefully. "William! WILLIAM!" she shouted as she waved her hand over her head. A nice-looking twenty-year-old walked over to her and deftly put his arm around her waist.
"How's my best girl today?" he asked as he kissed her.
Taylor broke it off quickly, turning slightly red. "Best girl? It's only our third time out. Don't get ahead of yourself," she said playfully as she pushed him on the shoulder.
"William, you remember Harry, my roommate?" she said.
"Hey Harr --I thought you said his name was James?" William looked slightly confused.
Harry stopped for a moment, looking just as befuddled himself.
"Um, actually my name is Harry James Potter, I've always gone by James as long as I can remember though," Harry said. "Which isn't very long..." he added under his breath, quietly enough so that no one heard him. Coming out of his temporary introspection, Harry looked up to see Taylor and William lightly kissing again.
"Hey, you two. HEY! Come on, let's go shopping. Christmas is tomorrow..." Harry said with a twinkle in his eyes.
The trio walked along Princess Street peering in shops and generally having a good time. Harry realised that he felt good for the fist time in a long while. As he was thinking back on the past year, he felt an elbow in his ribs.
"So James," Taylor laughed. "Who are you going to buy presents for? You know, you never really talk about family or friends or anything."
Harry shifted uncomfortably and looked around. "Well, I don't really have any family or friends, I guess. I was planning on getting something for you, your sister, and your brother. I also have this note I wrote to myself seven months ago that says I have to buy something for Teddy Lupin. I don't know who he is, but my note says that he is around one year old and that he means a lot to me. There are some instructions on how to get my present to him, but I don't know, they don't make any sense."
Taylor looked at him for a moment and glanced at William, who was two shops ahead and peering into a rack of mobiles.
"So I noticed you haven't been taking your medicine lately... Is everything okay?"
Harry looked at her blankly. He seemed to remember something about medicine, but it was faint, and again didn't make much sense. "Um, yeah Tay. I'm good."
"Hey, Taylor!" William happily shouted. "Come look at this one. I love technology!"
Ginny, Ron, and George walked into the living room as Molly began pulling presents out from beneath the tree. Ron sat down next to Hermione on the couch just as George pushed his way in. Ginny rolled her eyes and sat on the floor next to where her mother was. For a few seconds, there was an awkward pause as everyone waited expectantly. Usually Ginny, in her Christmas enthusiasm, sorted and handed out all the presents. Ginny, however, was sitting with a far-away look in her eyes and didn't seem to notice. After a few more seconds, Molly got up and began handing out the gifts. As she bustled around the room a frantic knock sounded from the kitchen door.
"Don't worry, Molly, I'll get it," Arthur said as he got up and walked out of the room. Seconds later they heard a muffled shout. Everyone was on their feet immediately and ran into the kitchen. Molly had her wand out, and her eyes were wild as she vaulted a chair and skidded into the room. They found Arthur sitting at the table, his face white, holding a piece of parchment in his hand.
"Dad?" Ron asked hesitantly.
Mr. Weasley handed the paper to Molly as he managed to squeak out. "It's from the Ministry. They delivered it personally. They didn't want to trust an owl..."
As he finished speaking, Molly too sank into a chair and wordlessly handed the paper over to Ron.
Ron quickly scanned the letters as Ginny finally burst, "Can someone please tell us what's going on?"
Ron looked up, and with a shaken voice said, "It's Harry. He sent a Christmas present to Teddy. Mrs. Tonks owled the Ministry as soon as she got it. It didn't have a return address, but they are trying to track it. Apparently it came through the Muggle post."
The resulting shouts and exclamations filled the kitchen as everyone began talking at once. Shouts of "Let's go find him" and "What can we do?" echoed around. Finally, Arthur held up his hand and shouted, "Everyone! There is nothing we can do right now. Kingsley will keep us up-to-date. For now, all we can do is wait and try to enjoy Christmas."
The family slowly moved back into the living room. No one noticed that the presents were forgotten as the conversation all focused on their missing friend and brother. Ginny was again on the floor, this time with her eyes closed. Her soul was calling out with all her might, "Harry, please be okay. Please come back to me."
A few days later found the Weasley family, including Hermione and her parents, at the Burrow celebrating the New Year. The Ministry still had not been able to track where Harry's present had come from precisely, but they did have a general idea of the city. Arthur had just found out that day from the Minister himself. As the Weasley patriarch watched his children and family, he realised that they were in a better mood than they had been in the past seven or eight months. It was all because they now had hope that perhaps Harry could be found again. Ginny, especially, had come back out of her self-imposed exile and was much more like herself. Mrs. Weasley was happy that the children had decided to finish their education at Hogwarts for the final term. As midnight approached, Mr. Weasley called the family and guests into the living room and raised his glass.
"To a new year, a new beginning. A year free of war and death. To friends and family gone."
As Mr. Weasley finished his New Year's toast, the family all raised their glasses.
"Now," Mr. Weasley continued, "I have some good and bad news about Harry."
Everyone was immediately silent and looked at him expectantly.
"We have been able to trace Harry's package to Edinburgh, but we don't know where in the city he is or if he has moved on from there. But keep hope, because it's more than what we knew last week."
As everyone raised their glasses again with shouts of "To Harry!" Mr. Weasley couldn't help but notice a dangerous glint in his daughter's eyes. He knew that look and began to be afraid of what was going to happen next.
Ginny Weasley Apparated quietly into a close off a main street in Edinburgh and quickly glanced around. Deciding that no one had seen her, she walked out onto the intersection of George Street and Hanover. Walking down to Princess Street, she sat on her usual bench and turned to look out over the gardens. She began scanning the crowd, smiling to herself. After several months of searching all over the city, she had decided that her best course of action was to pick a busy spot in town and watch.
"Maybe", she thought to herself, "I'll get lucky for once."
She smiled secretly once more as she remembered the fit her mother had thrown when Ginny told her that the only way she would go back to Hogwarts was if she could be allowed to go to Edinburgh at least three times a week to search for Harry. It had been quite a battle, but when Ginny refused to back down, her mother had relented. Looking at her watch, she realized that she was late for practice... again.
"Too bad," she mused. "I guess they'll just have to find another Chaser for the final game."
Ginny heard a voice that sounded very familiar and jerked her head up frantically, looking around.
"Get a grip," she scolded herself. "It's not like you haven't imagined that a hundred times before."
Ginny stood up from the bench and continued searching the crowd, but to no avail. As she sat back down with a discouraged huff, a mop of black hair caught the corner of her eye. Ginny turned so fast, she nearly fell off the bench.
There, standing not ten feet in front of her, was Harry James Potter.