Author's Note, dated01/03/04: When I started TNP, I made a promise to myself that I would not submit a revised version of any of the submitted chapters, preferring to just let them stand "as written". Because I don't have the entire story plotted out, I've run into a couple of times where something I've written before changes the way I have to approach something later (and no, I'm not gonna tell you where that's happened).
However, when I received the betaed version back from Ahmie, the changes she proposed really tightened up the fic an enormous amount, so here it is -- the revised version of "Happy New Year", once again showing that it is a writer's prerogative to change one's mind! : )
Many blessings, Ahmie, and thanks for all your help!
With a muffled popping noise, Harry Apparated at the top of Stoatshead Hill. He shivered – it was every bit as cold here as it had been up at Hogwarts. He'd fairly sprinted out the gates of the school to the designated departure point for students of age to Apparate in his rush to get to the Weasley's. He hadn't been able to spend Christmas with them as he'd planned because of his training with Dumbledore, despite earlier promises to the contrary. While he'd understood the urgency – it was clear that Voldemort was advancing towards the school – Ginny had not.
Thoughts of her became vivid as he walked down the hill to begin the long walk towards Ottery St. Catchpole.
Her first reaction upon hearing the news that he wouldn't be able to join her for Christmas had been tears of disappointment, shortly followed by tears of rage. When Ron had heard the news, which hadn't been difficult considering he'd been up in the boy's dormitory at the time (and Ginny's voice had carried very well up the tower's spiral staircase), he'd joked that Harry should have considered himself lucky to survive the encounter. But to Harry it had been no joking matter.
He'd wanted to tell her what was keeping him from joining her and her family but had been sworn to secrecy, a fact that had begun to chafe at him more often than not. For the next three days, she'd barely acknowledged his existence, further making a point of being one of the first on the carriages bound for Hogsmeade and the awaiting train.
Harry'd written to Sirius as soon as he'd broken the news to Ginny. Sirius' reply had given him the slightest ray of hope he'd had in close to two weeks:
You're right – you were a complete git. However, I think I may have just the thing to help you. Meet us at the Shrieking Shack at midnight on Christmas Eve.
Wrapped in his Invisibility Cloak, Harry had run to the Whomping Willow and, finding a stout branch, had pressed onto the knot at the base of the tree and slid through the gap in the roots (it had been much easier when he was a third year). When he'd reached the entrance to the shack, he saw the glowing eyes of the giant dog he'd come to know and love.
"Hello, Snuffles," he'd said, scratching the dog behind the ears. With a shake, the dog transformed into Sirius. "Hiya, Sirius."
"Hello, Harry," Sirius said with a grin. "You've gotten yourself into a bit of trouble, I'd say."
Harry nodded miserably. "I don't know what to do! Keeping all of this a secret from Ginny is harder than I'd thought it was going to be."
"Being in love makes keeping secrets that much harder, Harry," Remus said as he walked into the room, carrying in what appeared to be pieces of a table and tossing them into the fireplace. Harry felt himself blushing – while he'd admitted that he'd loved Ginny to his godfather, he'd yet to tell the object of his affections.
"Remus, you've made the boy practically glow in the dark," Sirius said with a grin.
Remus merely smiled. "Accendo Strigo Fumificus!" he cried, and a smokeless fire had crackled to life on the hearth. "We can't stay long, Harry, but we wanted to see you during the holidays at some point. We've presents for you."
"As I have for you," Harry said, lightness touching his heart for the first time that day. The three men sat around the hearth exchanging packages and sharing a flask of Firewhisky. Harry's first watery-eyed swallow caused Remus and Sirius to bark with laughter, all the while slapping him heartily on the back. Remus and Sirius gave Harry a portable telescope, charmed with a Shrinking Spell which would allow him to carry it with him wherever he went. For Remus, Harry had chosen a watch with a perpetual moon cycle calendar built into it. "I Charmed it so that it will warn you two days before the full moon so you can set your affairs in order." Finally, Harry gave his godfather a Master Disguise Kit, designed by the Weasley's (which had given Sirius a moment of concern until he learned it had been a prototype for the twin's Secret Weapons Division of Weasley's Wizarding Wheezes).
As the laughter subsided, Sirius' face became uncharacteristically somber as he handed Harry a small package. "Harry, this gift was left for you from your father and mother, to be given to you at Christmastime following your 17th birthday."
Harry blinked as tiny snowflakes began to fall, bringing him back to the present. He then realized he was within a quarter mile of The Burrow. Giving the small box in his pocket a squeeze, he continued on his way.
Ginny glanced at the clock as she finished up the dishes from dinner. It was close to midnight and the Weasley family had begun their pre-bedtime rituals hours beforehand. The twins, who had come over for ice skating earlier, were packing up the leftovers Mrs. Weasley had set aside for them before heading back to their flat in Diagon Alley. Percy and his family had headed home shortly following dinner, his twins fast asleep after having spent a gleeful day with their Uncles Fred and George. Her parents had had to Floo over to Order headquarters for a meeting and had told her not to expect them until the wee hours of the morning. Ron had caught the Knight Bus to spend New Years Eve with Hermione at a neighbor's party. Ginny smiled – Ron had spent hours in the bathroom, fussing with his Muggle party clothes. "A tuxedo," he'd proclaimed proudly, straightening his tie. Ginny had had to admit he'd looked amazing in his finery and knew Hermione wouldn't believe her eyes when he showed up on her doorstep that night. Bill and Charlie had headed out to the Muggle pub in town and had not returned yet. She'd noticed both of them had taken the time to neaten their appearances before walking out the door.
Those poor Muggle women are in for it now, she thought to herself.
It was only then that she realized she was alone in the house, alone for the first time in ages. All throughout Christmas and Boxing Day, she'd been desperate for some peace and quiet. She'd had to admit, however, that the chaos of the holidays had done much to keep her mind occupied, which had been a good thing.
Considering the fact that the last time she'd seen Harry she was angry enough to peel the tapestries from the walls in Gryffindor Tower, she'd thought more about him than she'd cared to admit. When he'd told her he wouldn't be joining them for Christmas she'd been heartbroken. She'd remembered how much fun the two of them had had their first Christmas as a couple last year (including the two-hour snogging session they'd had Christmas Eve in her father's work shed) and had looked forward to spending more alone time with him this year. However, with time and distance, the more she'd thought about the look of disappointment that had been apparent upon his face, the guiltier she'd felt about her response to the news.
"Dammit," she said, jamming the last plate into the drying rack. "He should be here with us instead of stuck at school." He'd had so few happy Christmases in his life and the thought of his spending his holiday alone made her heart ache. She'd had a feeling that there was something he wasn't telling her about his reasons for staying at the school, but trying to wheedle information out of Ron and Hermione had run into dead ends. If he was up to something, it was something that no one had a clue about.
She dried her hands and walked into the living room, standing in front of the fire which cheerfully crackled in the hearth. She looked at the Christmas tree, covered with ribbons, handmade ornaments and sparkling miniature fairy lights.
"I wish Harry had been able to see this," she said to herself. "I should have written him, sent him his present, something instead of leaving him with angry words and spite." A log popped loudly on the fire. "I wish he were here right now so I could take it all back and tell him I love him."
She started as a loud knock fell onto the door. A twinge of fear crept down her spine as she reached for her wand and walked slowly to the door. She squinted, trying to make out the face on the other side of the frost-covered window.
"Who's there?" she said.
"It's me, Gin," came a muffled voice. "It's Harry."
She stood frozen for a moment, then sprang into action as she flung open the door to see him standing on the threshold, cheeks rosy from the snow and wind, bundled in his Hogwarts winter cloak, an emerald-green scarf (her gift to him last year) wrapped snuggly around his neck, tiny flakes of snow shimmering in his more-tousled-than-usual hair. She leapt into his open arms, joy unlike any she'd experienced before filling her heart as she breathed in his scent.
"Harry," she said, her mouth nuzzled in against his ear, "I was just wishing you were here." She felt him squeeze her tightly against him, lifting her feet from the ground. "How..."
"We got finished a bit early," he said, his voice hoarse. "Can I come in?"
"Of course!" Ginny said, releasing the hold she'd had on his neck as he set her back onto the ground. She opened the door widely, standing to the side as he picked up his knapsack as walked in. She closed the door, turning to see him gazing at the Christmas tree. He reached out to touch one of the velvet bows.
"You know how ornate the trees are for the holidays at Hogwarts?" he said as he set down his knapsack and unbuttoned his cloak, tossing it into the nearby armchair. "I spent the holiday wishing was seeing this tree. This tree, with the ornaments you and your brothers have made over the years, with the strings of cranberries and popcorn we would have strung together." He turned to her, his eyes serious despite the smile on his face. "I'm so sorry I wasn't here on Christmas, Gin. There's..." he said, pausing as though searching for something in his mind, "there are things happening with the war that I can't talk with you about right now, but I promise I will tell you everything as soon as I can." He looked steadily into her eyes. "Trust me?"
Ginny smiled tremulously and her eyes closed as she felt his hand come up to sweep away the tear she'd felt streaking down her cheek. She nodded once, opening her eyes to his gaze only to have them drift shut as he cupped her face between his hands and kissed her.
It was several moments before she breathed again. "I have something for you," she said, reaching up to clasp one of his hands in hers and leading him towards the tree. She kneeled in front of the fire, drawing him down to sit by her. She pulled a small, gaily-wrapped package from one of the tree's lower boughs. "Happy Christmas, Harry." She watched as he gently unwrapped the present and opened the lid to the deep blue box. "I found it at a Muggle shop near Diagon Alley this summer." His eyes jerked up to meet hers and she was touched by the moisture she saw teasing his long black lashes.
She looked down and saw him cradling the heavy silver pocket watch in the palm of his hand. The man at the Muggle shop had told her the watch was from the Art Deco period of Muggle architectural history. Embossed on the cover was a peacock, although to Ginny it had looked like Fawkes. When she'd seen the watch, her mind had raced back to her first year and the time when Harry rescued her from Tom Riddle in the Chamber of Secrets.
As he opened the watch, she smiled as recognition crossed his features.
"I asked Dad if he could charm it so that you would have a miniature Weasley clock on it," she said in a rush. "If you want to look at the normal time, just press the winding mechanism." She reached over and touched the mechanism and the face of a regular Muggle timepiece appeared. He stared, enchanted at the watch and pressed the mechanism again to bring the Weasley clock back.
"Thank you, Gin," he said, his voice filled with emotion. "I'll cherish it always." He leaned forward and captured her lips with his in a kiss that brought tears to Ginny's eyes. As the broke apart, his hand remained, caressing her cheek. "I've something for you as well." He rose from where they'd knelt, tucking the pocket watch safely away and walked over to his cloak. There was a bit of rustling around until his hand stilled, withdrawing a small, red-wrapped package. He walked back over to where Ginny sat, her eyes trained upon his. He lowered himself back onto the floor and held out the package. "Happy Christmas, Gin."
She took the package from his hands and began to unwrap the paper. A black velvet jewelry box peeked through the crimson paper. She slowly lifted the lid of the box with trembling fingers and gasped aloud as the firelight struck the pendant inside. A square-cut emerald lay brilliant with green fire against the white satin lining of the box. Centered at its top were three small diamonds surrounding the golden prongs which connected the delicate gold chain to the stone. Her hands shook as she raised her eyes to meet his.
"Harry, this is..." she whispered, "this is too much."
His hand came up to take the box from her and remove the pendant from inside. "My father gave this to my mother on Christmas of their seventh year," he said somberly. He rose to his feet, extending his hand to her. "It's a stone that has been passed down from father to son for generations, and given to the women they've loved." Ginny's eyes filled with tears as she nodded, placing her hand in his and rising to stand before him. She watched as his fingers deftly unlatched the clasp and held the pendant out for her. She turned, lifting her hair away from her neck, her eyes meeting his in the mirror over the mantelpiece. For a moment, his eyes drifted down to focus on latching the clasp, rising again to meet hers when he finished. His hands drifted down onto her shoulders, and she shivered at the feel of his thumbs against the nape of her neck, her eyes closing as she felt his lips press a kiss against the side of her neck. When she opened her eyes, she found his gaze burning into hers. She turned to face him, tears shining as he wrapped his arms around her waist.
"I love you, Ginny," he said, smiling into her eyes. "I always will."
"I love you too, Harry," she said, standing on tip-toe and kissing him with all the love she'd carried in her heart for him for so many years.
A clock chimed in the kitchen, ringing twelve times. They broke their kiss, smiling into one another's eyes.
"I reckon we jumped the gun a bit. Perhaps we should," Ginny said, rubbing her nose against his and nipping his chin, "try that again, just in case?"
Harry's eyes sparkled. "Better safe than sorry. Happy New Year!"
A/N – Many, many heartfelt thanks to Sherry and Aibhinn for their speed betaing on this! A bit of New Year's fluff and nonsense for everyone here at the Song. Thanks again to all of you who have read and reviewed TNP so far. Ch 13 is on the way!