A/N: Thanks to Chreechree for the inspiration and encouragement, and to Sherylyn, my fabby new PS beta.
Harry opened his eyes and blinked up at the ceiling. Bright sunlight was streaming through the window, half-blinding him as it fell across his face. For a second, he felt disorientated and alarmed — had he slept through his first lesson?
He fumbled for his glasses on the night stand, and as the room slid into focus, he realized that he was at The Burrow – back in the attic room he shared with Ron, back for the Christmas holidays. He, Ron and Ginny had arrived the morning after Professor Slughorn’s party, via a special Floo connection in Professor McGonagall’s office.
He snuggled back under his blankets, savouring the luxury of being able to have a bit of a lie-in; no mad rushing to shower before all the hot water was used up by Seamus and Dean, no frantic scurrying about looking for books, quills and homework before flying off to classes.
A loud snore punctuated the still morning air. Apparently Ron was also taking advantage of the extra time they had by sleeping as late as humanly possible.
Harry smiled contentedly. Christmas at The Burrow with the Weasley family – with Ginny; who could ask for a better Christmas present? He hoped that the cheerful chaos that usually permeated The Burrow would take his mind off his other, darker preoccupations, even for a little while.
And maybe I could spend more time with Ginny and make her realise that it’s me she wants, not Dean, he thought lazily, half-formed plans running through his head mingling with visions of a smiling redheaded girl with bright brown eyes blowing kisses at him.
Harry was just letting the oddly soporific sounds of Ron’s snores lull him back to sleep when he heard the unmistakable sound of Mrs. Weasley’s voice, clearly audible in the relative silence of The Burrow.
“Ginny!” she hollered up the stairs. “Come down here and help me with breakfast!”
Another voice, more breathless and heavily accented, floated up to the bedroom.
“Oh, are you wanting me to ‘elp? I could make descroissants, oui? All zees Eenglish bacon et les œufs. Pah! Eet ees too ‘eavy for breakfast! Eet ees doing ‘orrible zings to ma taille- feegure!”
Harry could almost see Mrs. Weasley stiffening over the stove, probably resisting the urge to throw something large, heavy and frying pan-shaped at her future daughter-in-law, who had arrived late last night with Bill.
“No, thank you, Fleur,” she said in polite, clipped tones. “Ginny can help me here. Ginny! GINNY!”
“I’m coming, Mum!” Ginny shouted back. “Keep your hair on!”
Harry’s insides gave a pleasurable squirm at the sound of Ginny’s voice. He heard her make her way noisily out of her room, stomping across the hall with all the grace of a rampaging hippogriff, obviously not pleased at being awoken so early.
Might as well get up for breakfast, he told himself, happy to have a legitimate reason to see Ginny again as soon as possible.
He got out of bed and put on his favourite green Weasley jumper – the one with the dragon on it that he had got during his fourth year – over his pyjamas. It still fit — although the sleeves only reached up to his forearms… and it was quite tight around the shoulders… and it ended one inch above his navel.
He shivered slightly in the chilly air. It was the day before Christmas, and it was already promising to be one of those bright, clear, cold days, with the assurance of snow. He shuffled out of the room, leaving Ron muttering in his sleep. Harry thought he heard Ron say “Her-my-knee” and something that sounded suspiciously like “iluvyu”, but then Ron had gone into another round of championship snoring.
Harry yawned as he made his way down to the bathroom. Scratching his head sleepily, he pushed the door open and felt it hit someone who was apparently standing right behind it. He heard a muffled “Bloody hell!” followed by an ominous thud, as whoever it was fell to the floor.
“Sorry! I didn’t realise that anybody was there!” he said, hurrying into the bathroom. “Are you quite all–”
He stopped as he recognised who he had knocked over.
Clad in a faded blue dressing gown, Ginny lay on the floor, sprawled on her stomach, with her long red hair covering her face. From the looks of it, he had hit her just as she was bending over to pick up a fallen towel.
Horrified, Harry rushed over to help her. “Ginny! I’m so sorry! Are you hurt?” He bent down to peer at her face, feeling himself turn red from embarrassment. He had imagined sweeping her off her feet many times, but all those fantasies usually involved flowers, chocolates and a romantic dinner; none of them included him literally knocking her over like a big lummox.
“‘S’okay, Harry.” Ginny laughed, pushing her hair off her face. “Just got the wind knocked out of me.” She winced and slowly pushed herself off the floor.
“Here, let me help you.” He reached down and attempted to get her to her feet, trying to ignore the pleasant thrill that ran through him as he held both her hands. As he pulled, he slipped on the towel still lying on the floor and landed heavily on his bottom, his momentum causing Ginny to collapse on top of him, sending them both toppling backwards.
He grimaced and glanced up. Ginny had a very surprised look in her eyes, and Harry could not help but laugh. She also began chuckling, even as she exclaimed, “Harry! It’s a good thing you’re not this clumsy during Quidditch!”
She continued giggling, and he became acutely aware that her soft form was pressed rather intimately against him and that his arms had reflexively wrapped themselves around her waist when they had fallen.
It’s really rather enjoyable to be lying on the cold bathroom floor, he thought dreamily, as long as Ginny Weasley is on top of you.
Harry was not able to dwell on the pleasant warmth that seemed to be radiating from Ginny, however, as he suddenly became mindful of the fact that the monster in his chest appeared to be slowly but surely stirring from its hibernating state and was now trying to wake up other parts of his anatomy which had, until now, been used only for purely functional and practical purposes.
Alarmed that Ginny might soon become all too aware of his traitorous body, Harry quickly scrambled to his feet, hauling her unceremoniously up with him. Ginny gave a squeak and grabbed onto his arm to steady herself.
“What the–? Is something the matter, Harry?” she asked him.
“No! Nothing’s wrong!” He struggled to compose himself, excruciatingly conscious of the weight of her small hand resting on his upper arm. “I just thought I heard your mum call you again.”
As if on cue, Mrs. Weasley screeched, “GINNY! Where are you?”
Ginny sighed and rolled her eyes. “Nothing’s changed with Mum. She only wants me there because she can’t stand to be alone with Phlegm.” She pulled a disgusted face.
“Well!” Harry smiled broadly, hoping she had not noticed that he had all but felt her up. “You’d better go down and make me some breakfast then. I’m starving!”
Ginny gave another long-suffering sigh and slapped him playfully on the arm. “I’m not your personal cook, Harry!”
He shook his head in mock sorrow. “That’s too bad. I would have liked it if you made breakfast for me everyday.”
Uh-oh, I shouldn’t have said that, he mentally kicked himself. What if she thinks I’m desperate for her, which admittedly, I am, but still...
He blathered on, helpless as the words came tumbling out of his mouth.
“Ron assures me that your cooking isn’t half-bad. Actually quite delicious, for a girl. Your cooking, I mean, is delicious. Not that you, yourself, are not delicious, because you are, you know, quite delicious.”
He paused to take a breath, not really sure what he had just said.
“Well, you know what I mean,” he finished lamely.
“Thanks, Harry… I think,” said Ginny dryly, looking like she was holding back a laugh. “I’m sure there’s a compliment in there somewhere. I’ll see you in the kitchen.” She smiled at him and left the bathroom. “By the way,” she called over her shoulder as she went down the stairs, “don’t you think that sweater’s a bit on the snug side?”
Harry stared after her, still a little shaken by the memory of how wonderful her body had felt pressed against his. He looked at himself in the mirror and cringed at his appearance: his glasses were crooked, and his hair was sticking out all over the place as usual.
Great, she just had to see me like this.
Telling himself that Ginny had seen him looking far worse and that it should not matter anyway, he quickly washed his face, futilely tugged at the hem of his jumper, and went down to breakfast.
* * *
Due to the silent battle of wills that Mrs. Weasley and Ginny were determinedly waging with Fleur in the kitchen, it was nearly half past ten in the morning before any sort of breakfast was served.
Harry loaded his plate with sausages, bacon and mounds of scrambled eggs but politely took the croissant that Fleur offered him. Ginny caught his eye and Harry had to stuff some bacon in his mouth in order not to laugh when Ginny imitated the slack-jawed expression on Ron’s face as the tall redhead stacked his plate high with a veritable tower of croissants from the bread basket that the young French woman had smilingly held out to him.
Outside, snow had finally started to fall gently; powdery white drifts piled up on the ground, turning the trees and shrubs into mysterious ice sculptures and the garden into a winter wonderland. Frost traced delicate filigree patterns on the windows.
After Harry had finished helping Ron with kitchen duties (Ron’s punishment for the knife-throwing incident was to peel mountains of sprouts daily), they quickly bundled up and went outside to gather vegetables for Christmas dinner. Ginny, the twins, Fleur and Bill joined them.
To Ginny’s obvious annoyance, her future sister-in-law kept making loud comments that the snow in France was much, much whiter and much, much purer. Fleur only stopped when