A/N:Written for the January challenge for the Catchmysnitch community on Livejournal. The prompt was a homework planner.
Many thanks to Sherylyn for the beta-job.
He was doomed, that's all there was to it. His girlfriend was going back to Hogwarts in three days—three days—and he didn't have a gift for her. He knew, strictly speaking, he didn't have to get her a gift. But it was her last year of school, and they'd be apart for most of it, and he just felt like he needed to get her something to remember him by.
His lack of success wasn't caused by a lack of trying. He'd been looking for two weeks and had been to every shop he could think of, and he had nothing to show for it. He had ideas, of course, but when he got to the point of actually laying his Galleons out on the counter, he just couldn't bring himself to do it. He wanted the perfect gift, and he hadn't found anything that even remotely resembled perfect yet.
A broom was right out of the question; George and Ron had beaten him to the punch when they'd heard she'd been made captain of the Gryffindor Quidditch team.
"Bloody ridiculous," he muttered as he left Quality Quidditch Supplies, his hands once again empty. The broom care kit had been an option, but it seemed so impersonal. "What kind of man can't even find a going-away gift for his girlfriend?" He kicked a rock in the street and watched it bounce towards Eeylops Owl Emporium.
An owl might work...if her parents hadn't already got her one for her birthday.
"Bugger," he said, passing the Emporium. His heart twinged a bit at the sight of the owls in the window. He still hadn't replaced Hedwig; he wasn't sure if he'd ever be able to, actually, although he knew if he were being practical, he'd have to do it someday.
But this wasn't about him, it was about Ginny, and how he was complete and utter rubbish when it came to finding gifts for her.
Janus's Jewels and Jems held potential, he'd thought, until he entered the shop and learned that all jewellery was definitely not the same. He wouldn't have given most of the things in that shop to Kreacher at his absolute nastiest. There definitely wasn't anything acceptable for Ginny in there, not if he valued his life, anyway.
She had a wand. She didn't need a cauldron or robes or shoes or anything for school, as far as he could tell. She even had her books and parchment and ink to go with her new eagle-feather quill.
He'd been up and down Diagon Alley three times, and still had nothing to show for it. He felt like a failure and was in the process of leaving the Alley and going out into the Muggle world, when he saw the tiny bookshop—a new one, he thought—tucked away beside the apothecary.
Shrugging his shoulders, he ducked into the place. He didn't want to get her a book, but maybe, if luck was on his side, he'd be able to find something he could give her.
It wasn't until he was on his way out the door that something caught his eye. It wasn't the perfect gift—yet—but he could fix that without too much trouble, he thought. He dug through the stack until he found the one that seemed most like Ginny, took it up front, and paid for it, along with a Charms book he'd found while browsing the shop in his search for Ginny's gift. Between the two, he should have everything he needed.
She was going to love it; he knew she would.
"Did you put him up to this?" Ginny demanded when she finally got Hermione alone.
"Put who up to what?" Hermione asked.
"Harry, that's who!" Ginny said. "Look at what he gave me as a going away gift." She brandished a red book with the words Homework Planner etched in gold on the cover.
"He gave you a homework planner?"
"He got me a bloody homework planner," Ginny said, continuing on as if she hadn't heard Hermione. "A homework planner. Who gives a gift like that?" Hermione's cheeks turned a little pink, but Ginny ignored her as she paced the room. "Where's the jewellery or...or the pretty dress robes or the framed photo of him and me, to remember him by?"
"It's a very practical gift, Ginny."
"I don't want practical. I want something that shows he actually cares about me." She threw the offending object down on her bed and glared at it.
"Well," Hermione said slowly, "he really didn't have to get you a gift at all. You know what they say: It's the thought that counts."
"That's all well and good, Hermione, but a homework planner? How does that demonstrate any thought on his part? All it shows is that he waited until the last minute and couldn't find anything, so he grabbed the first thing he saw and bought it for me." She sank onto the bed and frowned. "Maybe that's how he thinks of me—an afterthought."
"Ginny, you know that's not true. He's just—"
"You know what? I really don't want to talk about it, Hermione," Ginny said, standing to open her trunk and starting to put her clothes into it. "At least I know where I stand with him now."
"You gave her what?" Ron asked incredulously.
"A homework planner." Harry grinned. It had taken him a lot of work, and he almost hadn't finished it in time, but he'd managed to get it done—and without Hermione's help, for once.
"Are you out of your mind? You gave your girlfriend—my sister—a homework planner? Blimey, Harry," Ron said, shaking his head, "you really are thick. I thought I was bad."
"What?" Harry asked. "It's a great gift. Every time she opens it, she'll think of me."
"Oh, she'll think of you, all right," Ron muttered. "She'll think 'How could I have let myself get involved with the world's biggest git?'"
"But she liked it—she said she did," Harry protested.
"Uh-huh," Ron said, raising one eyebrow. "She flung herself all over you and snogged you senseless, when you gave it to her, then?"
"Well, no, not exactly," Harry said. "But she did tell me thank you."
"Mmmm," Ron said.
"'Mmmm'?" Harry looked at Ron. "What does that mean?"
"What else did she do? Did she give you one of those hugs, you know the ones, where your bodies are as close as they can be while you're wearing clothes?"
"Did she tell you it was the best gift ever, that it was exactly what she wanted and couldn't wait to use it?"
"Harry," Ron said, "did you even open that book I gave you last year, the one about wooing witches? Didn't you read chapter six? You know, the one about gifts, where it talks about the twelve gifts you should never give a witch you're trying to woo?" He stood and opened the door, turning back to Harry. "Homework planners definitely fall under the 'self-help book' category on that list, mate."
He turned to leave. "You might want to cast a CushioningCharm on your knees when you go out there. I think you're going to need to it with all the grovelling you're going to have to do to make it up to her."
"Damn," Ginny muttered, digging through her trunk. "Where is it?" She was looking for one of her Quidditch gloves—she had a practice to lead in thirty minutes, and she didn't want to have to assign herself laps because she was missing part of her uniform. After rummaging through the trunk for a third time and still not finding it, she decided to take everything out, piece by piece, just to make absolutely sure she didn't miss her glove in the midst of her school things.
She found some clothing: jumpers, robes, trousers, knickers and socks. There was the phial of beetle eyes she'd been missing from her potions kit (she'd had to borrow some from Slughorn in order to complete her assignment yesterday). Her dog-eared copy of Quidditch Through the Ages was on top of her Broom Servicing Kit. She also found a starter box of Wheezes, minus one Fainting Fancy (Ron had been a right git the night before they left, so she'd slipped it into his drink at dinner that evening).
And there was a red and gold homework planner.
"Bloody hell," she muttered, glaring as she tossed the planner onto the floor next to the trunk. "Bloody planner. Bloody Harry." She was being a childish and ungrateful prat, she knew, but she couldn't help it. She knew Hermione was right—Harry hadn't needed to get her anything at all (and it might've been better if he hadn't, she thought perversely). She dug though the trunk a little more violently than necessary, grumbling the whole time, until she finally found her missing glove, stuffed under a pile of knickers.
Gathering up her things, she threw them haphazardly back into her trunk—she'd sort them out after practice—grabbed her broom, and headed towards the door.
She stopped short, her hand still on the doorknob, and turned back towards the voice—Harry's voice—which seemed to be coming from inside her trunk.
"You've been back at school for three weeks." She let go of the doorknob and stepped closer to the voice. "Your assignment today is to go to the kitchens at half-nine and ask the elves for pudding—I thought we could enjoy the end of our meals together, even though we're apart. I'll be having some of your mum's Treacle Tart, most likely; what did you choose? Your homework is to send me a note describing your trip. Love, Harry."
Ginny stopped beside the trunk, looking in to see the homework planner sitting on the top of the pile, open to the page for the twenty-second of September. Tentatively, she reached a finger out and flipped the page, gasping when she heard Harry's voice again.
"It's Wednesday, so that probably means you've got Astronomy tonight. When your lesson is over, stand outside and look north. I'll be looking, too. Love, Harry."
She flipped several pages, into late October.
And again, into February.
"Happy Valentines Day—"
She sank slowly to the floor beside her trunk, dropping her broom and the rest of her Quidditch gear beside her, and pulled the homework planner into her lap, turning back to the first of September.
"Dear Ginny," the planner said in Harry's voice.
"I know this probably seems like the lamest gift ever—what sort of bloke gives his girlfriend a homework planner, for Merlin's sake? But this isn't a normal homework planner, as I'm sure you can tell.
"I've given you an assignment for every day, and, Ginny, I'd love for you to do them. They're nothing big or difficult, but it's a way I can make sure you're taking care of yourself and taking breaks while we're apart (all work and no play makes Ginny a dull girl, after all. Although I don't see how that would be possible, now that I think about it. You're the furthest thing from dull I've ever seen)." Ginny smiled wryly at that. Dull is exactly how she'd describe herself since she started fighting with Harry. "You can tell Hermione not to worry—these assignments won't take you away from your revising for too long.
"Tonight, your assignment is to write me a letter, telling me all about your first day back at Hogwarts. Who did you sit with on the train? What was it like to have a trip without Malfoy barging in? What barmy thing did the Sorting Hat say this year? In return, my assignment is to write to you, telling you about my first day in training. Love, Harry."
Ginny's heart sank as she touched the date for September first. This was an amazing gift, and she'd treated him horribly. She'd never even read the letter he'd written to her; it sat unopened on her desk, with the others he'd sent. What kind of girlfriend was she?
She was startled when Demelza stuck her head into the room thirty minutes later. She'd listened her way through the first week of Harry's assignments and had started a list so she could do them all. "Ginny? Aren't we having practice?" Demelza asked, lifting her eyebrow at the mess that was Ginny's trunk (not to mention the prized broom laying haphazardly on the floor beside her).
"Hmmm?" Ginny asked. She was trying to figure out if it was even possible to do her assignment for September tenth. "Practice?"
"Yeah, you know, that time when we get the whole Quidditch team together and run through the plays?"
"I think I'm going to have to cancel," she said, shaking her head. "I've got homework."