Author's Note: This is a little late for Christmas, but perhaps it'll cheer up those post-Holiday blues. This piece accompanies "Just A Little Smudged" which is best read first. A hot chocolate while you read it has also been suggested as you read it. Happy Holidays everyone!
"Open your eyes and you'll soon see, It's clear as day, it's only me. I've been here forever, but today's the day, You'll open your eyes, and I'll show you the way."
The stone floor of the dormitory was cold beneath Harry's feet as he climbed grudgingly out of bed. Beyond the windowpane the sky looked leaden with the storms of winter. The trees of the Forbidden Forest were already bending in supplication before the icy wind. Clouds like that meant snow, and when you got snow you got Weasleys that just couldn't sit still.
For so many years now he had witnessed the fervour that overcame the red-headed family as December approached. It was like pressure building up in a very small space, and as soon as the snow started to fall that pressure was released in a frenzy of snowball fights and snowman construction. This year, without the twins, Harry wondered if the first snow would be treated in a more civilised manner. He shook his head ruefully, knowing that Ron and Ginny would celebrate the first snow of winter with their usual jubilation.
He drew the curtains around his bed and began to get changed, squashing the vain voice inside his head that mourned his ever-skinny frame. There were more important things in life than how you looked. Like being awake and aware for double Potions.
He pulled his robes on and put on two pairs of socks to keep his feet warm. He was tempted to wrap his scarf around his neck, but Snape would never allow that. The dungeons might be freezing, but incurring the Professor's wrath was more than Harry could bear today.
Neville began to stir, his snores getting louder before he woke himself up. He looked blearily at Harry, then at the time.
'No!' he moaned softly. 'It's Monday! How can it be Monday already?'
'That's how weeks work, Neville. Sunday comes before Monday, and breakfast comes before Potions.' Harry smiled to take a bit of the sarcasm out of his remark. 'Come on, three hours and it'll be over.'
'Are you going to wake Ron up?' Neville asked, getting out of bed and fluffing up his pillows before straightening the quilt.
Harry pulled a face and cautiously moved the hangings aside on his friend's bed. Ron was slept sprawled across the mattress, the quilt twisted around his body and his arms embracing the pillow.
'Tragic.' Dean laughed as he and Seamus came back from the bathroom.
'Hey, some of the girls thing "tragic" is cute,' Seamus said, waving his finger at his friend.
'If that's cute then why hasn't the lovely Miss Granger nabbed him for herself yet?' Dean asked, glancing at Ron to make sure he wasn't waking up.
'She's too shy,' Harry said, surprising his room mates, 'and Ron's just oblivious!'
He reached out and shook his friend's shoulder, shaking his head in disbelief when Ron groaned and hid his head under the pillow. 'Come on. Breakfast in ten minutes.'
'That's nine minutes of sleep then, isn't it?' Ron smiled lazily and snuggled down into his bed covers, before opening his eyes and sitting bolt upright. 'Hey look at that!' He pointed out of the window to the rolling clouds. 'It's going to snow!'
Dean looked up from packing his bag and Seamus stopped looking for his hat. Both boys peered out of the window, lending their own professional judgement to Ron's statement. 'No, that looks like rain.' Seamus decided.
'It could be snow. It looks quite black. Whatever it is it's going to be bad.'
'I think snow,' Neville said, opening the window and leaning out. 'It's cold enough for the greenhouses to be all steamed up but still frosty on the outside.'
Harry shook his head and ignored the conversation. Quite frankly he didn't care if a monsoon was coming. Winter had never been his favourite season. When he was younger the cupboard was cold, and Christmas had always been a non-event until he came to Hogwarts. Even now he preferred to sit back and watch those around him have fun. To them Christmas was more than just another day. It was a celebration of family. Religion seemed secondary, as though the most sacred thing was to be with those you cared for at Christmas time.
He shook the thoughts away. Christmas was weeks away, whereas breakfast was now. 'I'll meet you in the Great Hall, Ron.'
'All right, save me some bacon!'
'Okay, don't be long!'
He took the steps down two at a time, his bag weighing heavy on his shoulder as his footsteps were muffled by the rugs on the common room floor. A couple of first years ran passed. They only seemed to come up to his elbow, and he shook his head in disbelief. Had he ever been that short?
Crookshanks wound around his feet and Harry picked the ginger monster up, giving him a quick hug. If the cat wanted attention it meant Hermione wasn't down yet. After a minute or so of rumbling purrs from the feline, Harry put him down in the chair, tickling the cat's ears and looking at his robes in disgust.
'You look like some kind of horrible carpet,' a soft voice said, laughter evident in its tones.
'Thanks, you look nice too.' Harry grinned at Ginny, who had just trotted down the stairs.
'Stand still,' she ordered, waving her wand at him and saying 'Repellus!' Like magic the cat hair drifted off of him and onto the floor, leaving his robes free of slicks of orange fur.
He smiled his thanks and held the portrait open for her, allowing her to climb through first before following. The corridors were alive with people, bustling towards breakfast. The staircases swung in their ponderous, random way, switching and changing at a moment's notice. For a second he thought he'd lost Ginny in the crowd, but a tug on his sleeve caught his attention and he allowed her to drag him towards a relatively empty corridor and down toward the Great Hall.
'You think it's going to snow, don't you?' he asked, noticing the flush on her cheeks and the light in her eyes. It was like a fever. He wouldn't go so far as to call it a sickness, but there was something strange about the irrational excitement a bit of weather could cause.
'Well look at it!' She lifted a hand towards the enchanted ceiling and Harry looked up to see the thick clouds rolling in. 'Isn't it wonderful?' Ginny sighed.
'I should have stayed in bed.'
The rapturous expression on Ginny's face died, and she fixed him with a calculating stare. 'I don't understand how you don't like snow. This is the best part of the year!'
'It's winter. It's wet and cold and horrible.'
'You're a Scrooge.'
Harry was about to protest when he frowned instead. 'How do you know about Scrooge? Since when have you read Charles Dickens? That's more of a Hermione kind of thing.'
Ginny had the grace to look guilty and Harry crossed his arms, not caring that they were blocking the entrance to the Great Hall. 'Has Hermione been calling me a Scrooge?'
'No, no, not really. She just said that even she liked this kind of weather. Look, come here, I'll show you.'
She grabbed his hand and pulled him away from breakfast. His own fingers curled around hers comfortably, but he didn't let himself dwell on the thought of how well his hand fit into hers. 'Hang on! What about breakfast?'
'Forget breakfast; this is more important.'
Harry spluttered indignantly. 'It's all right for you to say. You haven't got double Potions and Divination this morning, have you?'
'You've got the afternoon off!' Ginny laughed, 'You can eat then!'
She pulled him towards the front door, letting go of his hand to pull it open and stepped out into the blustery wind. The last skeletal leaves of autumn rattled on the stone steps, crunching under Harry's feet as he followed her out.
'Right, what do you want to show me?'
'Shut your eyes and breathe in through your nose.' She followed her own instructions, a beatific smile fixed on her face. Harry tried very hard not to notice the fact that her deep inhalation drew attention to her breasts, and shut his eyes hurriedly when he found himself looking. Ron's sister and your friend. He told himself firmly in the privacy of his own head. Don't do anything that'll get you slapped or punched. Like ogling her curves.
'What can you smell?' Ginny demanded. Harry took a hesitant breath in through his nose and tried not to sneeze. The wind was bitingly cold and his nostrils stung from the chill. Other than that he couldn't sense much except a faint, sharp smell.
'Not a lot.'
'Oh come on. That's the smell of snow!'
'Oh for Merlin's sake. What is it with Weasleys and snow? It's just frozen rain!'
Ginny opened her eyes and scowled at him before moving to sit on the steps. After a moment Harry sat down beside her, noticing that she was shivering. He had thought of putting his scarf on himself, but instead he dug it out of his bag and wrapped it carefully around Ginny's neck. She smiled weakly and murmured her thanks.
'Sorry I snapped at you. I just don't like winter much,' Harry apologised, rubbing his palms together and trying to keep warm.
'Don't worry about it. I mean, I know you don't like it. It's just that it makes you the odd one, not me. A lot of people love snow, because it means so much. It means playing with siblings and mulled wine by the fire afterwards. It's just fun, and it's so beautiful. I mean, look at it now. Everything looks dead. There are no leaves on the trees, the plants look dead and the sky's the colour of ditch water. It all looks so dirty, but when it snows it's like the world's been cleaned and covered in cotton wool. It makes it seem like nothing can ever go wrong again.'
'It's just cold and wet. You walk in it, and it seems dry, and it's only when your socks are soaked in ice water that you realise how much of a mistake you've made. It collects on tree branches and falls on your head. I suppose it looks nice, but that's about it,' Harry muttered.
'I tell you what,' Ginny said, curling up tighter and shifting a bit closer to his body for warmth. 'Give me this year, just this one winter, to show you what it can be like. If you still hate it after that, after the end of this week even, I promise I'll never bother you with it again.'
Harry looked down into her upturned face. Her face was white, and the tip of her nose and cheeks were going red in the cold. The wind was dextrously undoing her plait and tendrils of her hair whipped around, tickling his nose. Despite the fact that she was an advertisement for why winter was a pain in the backside he felt inclined to give it a go. She might be sitting there shivering, looking like she was about to catch hypothermia