Ginny sat with her hand curled around a mug of tea. It was still dark. For some reason, she had found it hard to sleep all night, and had tossed and turned relentlessly until she gave up. Needing fresh air, she made herself a cuppa and escaped to the step just outside the door of the kitchen.
Ginny pulled her cloak around her shoulders and breathed in steam from the tea. If she squinted her eyes, she may be able to tell where Harry had Apparated her home last night. She remembered how she was curled up under his arm, and how he had opened the gate for her, carefully, making sure not to disturb how nestled she was against him. She closed her eyes and remembered how he had kissed her good-night on this very step in the moonlight before they parted hesitantly, and went inside, careful not to wake her parents. Breaking apart at the end of the night was as hard as it had ever been.
The door to the kitchen opened suddenly and hit her squarely in the back, causing her to gasp and frantically scramble to keep her tea from spilling. She turned her head to see who had opened the door and found Harry’s green eyes staring down at her.
“I thought that was you,” he said softly.
“Harry, go back to bed. It’s practically the middle of the night!”
“What about you? Can’t sleep either?” He stepped down the two stairs, and faced her. He wore his pyjama pants and a hooded jumper.
“No.” Ginny sighed.
“Really? Not something I would expect from you. Are you thinking of something?”
She shifted over on the step to make room for him. He sat and huddled his shoulders against himself, trying to get warm. “I’m thinking of a bluebell flame.” Suddenly they had a nice glowing blue ball of warmth, just enough to make them comfortable. Harry rubbed his hands together against the radiating heat.
Ginny smiled. “Very nice to think of. Works much better than the tea.” She put her mug down on the lower step. “Do you want some? I’ll go in and make you a cuppa.”
“No. I’m all right.”
“Err... Okay.” She looked down into her lap.
Ginny studied the night sky. For a few moments, everything felt so still and serene. Comfortable. Silences were always comfortable with Harry. Even long ones.
“Sometimes…” he began. Ginny lifted her head up when she heard him begin speaking, “…you know, when I’m beat up after a full day in the dungeon, they make me go see a Healer.”
“Not surprising.” Ginny half grinned. She resented Harry’s line of work already for the physical toll it took on him.
“Yeah, well, a few weeks ago, the Healer noticed that I had fallen and I had wrenched my shoulder pretty badly,” Harry touched his arm, “so he offered to try massage.”
“Yeah. And it felt really good.”
“Well, who did the massage?”
“It was a bloke, actually. Which was… err… sort of strange, but afterwards, I seriously felt different. Err… have you ever had a massage?”
Ginny rested her chin in her hand, wondering what to say. “Me? I mean, no, I don’t think so.” It wasn’t true. Dean had given her a massage on her neck once and it had felt wonderful.
Harry reached out and lightly touched her shoulder. “Maybe it will help you sleep.”
Ginny partially froze. “Er…maybe.”
“Sit right here in front of me,” he offered, “Er, if you want to.”
Ginny positioned herself between his legs. Of course she wanted to, if he was offering.
Did this qualify as being physical? She wasn’t sure.
As she was pondering this, she felt Harry shift a little and heard him mutter a couple of spells. Almost immediately, the air around her felt warm. “What did you do?” she asked.
“Warming Charms,” he answered, his voice low and husky. “You’ll be more comfortable.”
“All right,” she murmured as she felt Harry move back into position behind her.
Chills ran down her neck as he moved her hair over one shoulder and helped her take off her cloak. Underneath was her blue velvet dressing gown. She closed her eyes, giddy with anticipation and uncertainty.
He began tracing light circles of pressure on her neck with his fingertips. Then, with strong hands, he kneaded the muscles of her neck and upper back. Ginny tilted her head forward and tried not to moan into the night air.
“Your muscles are so tight. You needed a massage,” he whispered, leaning close to her ear.
Ginny didn’t know what to say. Of course she was tense. She thought of telling him how nervous she was around him, or how worried she had been that Christmas hols would be wasted snogging away the days because she couldn’t control herself in his company. These were among all the things that were going through her head that tormented her mind and robbed her of her sleep at night.
He concentrated on one area of her shoulder and then moved to the other side.
“Can you take this off? I can do more, err… with it off. I mean... I’m sorry. That probably sounded really bad. Although, I could do more… with it off.” Ginny could tell by his voice that he was hopeful for something. Harry wanted to be close to her, too.
Of course he did. She had let him be close last night, and he was going to want more of that closeness, which meant less and less of the talking he was just beginning to do and more and more snogging. Last night, she had forgotten about Fleur’s advice, but now she remembered it more than ever. Ginny told herself that, after the massage, she was going to keep the physical stuff to limited periods of time where she felt she had control. Right now, she had none, but instead of fret over it, she decided to fully enjoy the moment, no matter the repercussions.
“Take whatever you want off,” Ginny answered. She heard Harry inhale sharply and she knew that his physical interest in her was very much there, and could have been classified as intense. Not that it made any difference whether or not Harry was an intense lover, but her imagination got the best of her.
Oh, Godric, Ginny thought. The dressing gown slid off her shoulders to reveal the soft brown t-shirt she wore underneath. To her pleasure and surprise, he ran his hands under her shirt and scraped his nails on her back. She couldn’t help the kitten noises she made. Harry froze at one point, and it was a moment before he began again. When he began kneading her lower back, Ginny gasped when he hit a tight muscle and began to knead it.
“Did I hurt you?” He stopped suddenly, sounding concerned.
“No. Err... yeah. Maybe. I fell during the Hufflepuff match in October… off my broom. It was a nasty spill, really, and ever since then, there’s sometimes a tight muscle there.” She stretched, trying to reach it, and then sat forward again.
“You never told me you fell.”
“I didn’t? I probably didn’t want you to know what a… ah… clumsy flyer I am… was.”
His hands were focused on the back of her waist now.
“You’re so small,” he said as if he were noticing her size for the first time, even though he had held her many times. Ginny didn’t know how to respond. What was he was really thinking about, how she felt under his gentle, yet strong, hands?
Once he had worked both sides of her lower back, he concentrated on her arms and triceps. One arm at a time, he caressed her... and it felt lovely and she focused on enjoying every moment.
When he finally helped her back into her dressing gown and finished by placing her hair from her shoulders to her back, Ginny felt so relaxed. She turned towards him on the step.
“Thank you. I feel like a puddle of flobberworm guts now. I think I’m so relaxed now, I’ll actually be able to sleep.”
“That’s good.” He took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes. “I wish I were able to sleep lately. I haven’t slept well since I moved into Grimmauld Place.”
Ginny admired her boyfriend momentarily, now that the semi-intense physical moment between them had broken. She took his glasses and placed them back on his face. After adjusting them properly, she kissed him once, on the corner of his mouth, then rested her head against his chest. He pulled his arms around her. “Harry, I told you a long time ago, when I came to clean with you, that Grimmauld Place creeps me out. You should find a new place. Somewhere fresh and bright, and sunny. With plants. And a garden. An orchard, even.”
“I don’t know if it’s the house or what. I’m still having nightmares. Yet another thing I haven’t told you for any good reason.”
Ginny looked up into his eyes. She pressed her hand against his chest. ”Why? You said you stopped having them at the beginning of the summer. I thought those were over.”
“No. They’re worse than before,” he admitted, sounding like he was very tired of having bad dreams. “But it’s not just that. Mostly, I just can’t sleep because I’m worrying about things.”
“What are you worried for?” She inched closer to him. Ginny’s heart raced. She was so excited that he was finally talking to her about real things that were bothering him. It was a wall she had managed to break down, finally.
“Training. I’m doing alright, but it’s weird. They’re giving me this Order of Merlin thing, yet I’m not… top of the training class. There’s this guy, Martin, who’s a bloody genius in accuracy, and top of the class in test scores. I’m average, mediocre, at best.”
“You have your strengths, Harry. I’m sure Martin isn’t as quick-witted, or crafty, like you are. If you’re meant to work together, you all have your strengths that you come to rely on as each other. Like, say, a Quidditch team. We know each other’s strengths and we work together.”
“Well, whatever it is, they shouldn’t be giving me this honour because I did what I did. It was something I had to do, because it was that or watch everyone I care about suffer and die. Anyone would have done that. So why am I being honoured for it?”
Ginny thought for a moment and when her answer came out, it was honest. “Because it was you who chose to sacrifice yourself for the good of our world. Harry, honestly, you think loads of wizards and witches would have lined up to walk willingly to their death? How can you say that anyone would have done the same? You were brave. You were inhumanly brave.”
Harry shook his head. “No. See, you don’t understand what it all meant. It was about… you all. You, and everything. I just wanted to end it, even if it meant, ending… everything.” He warmed his hands up against the bluebell flame. The Warming Charms seemed to be cooling off. Ginny felt a chill run through her. She took Harry’s hand, connecting him to her, which meant that, in some way, she felt she had to be close to him when he felt low. To comfort him when he needed her.
“So, let them honour you, Harry. Whatever it means to you, or doesn’t mean to you, it’s just a piece of paper that you’ll keep in a frame and a medal that you’ll wear on your dress robes at most once a year. Someday you’ll look back on it and remember what it felt like to receive it. Knowing you, you may never feel like you deserve the honour, but you’re going to have it, so what’s the use in worrying?”
Harry shrugged. “I suppose you’re right.”
“Sort of like the Triwizard Cup,” she added. “Remember? You didn’t want it because Cedric was dead. And you felt terrible. And who was it who told Ron to just tell you to take it, and take the money and do something good with it, because you had no other choice? Me.”
“Wow… I suppose you’re er… right about everything, Ginny.”
“Exactly.” Ginny took a deep breath. “Harry Potter, you’ve had quite a life, haven’t you?”
He chuckled. “I’ve… well, I suppose I have. It’s been very… eventful.”
They both giggled for a few moments. When they stopped, they fell into another silence. She studied his fingers, intertwining them with her own for a few moments, traced his scars with her fingertips, and smoothed the calluses where he held his wand.
When she dropped his hand, she got down on her knees on the bottom step and faced him. They were eye to eye.
“All I can say is that I’m very proud of you, Harry — for everything — and I always will be. I’m looking forward to seeing you get the honouring you deserve.” She kissed him quickly on the lips. “Now, let’s feed you. At least, if you can’t to sleep, you need to eat well.” She stood, and reached for his hand. “Coming?”
“Yeah. I’ll be right in. Just putting out the flame.”
“Okay.” She kissed his cheek and happily turned to go inside. “Thanks for the massage. It felt lovely. Oh, and good morning,” she said since, as they had been sitting there, the air around them was now light blue and dawn had come.
Harry stared out into the hillsides from the back steps of The Burrow as night turned to day. Ginny had just walked into the house.
He couldn’t get Ginny out of his mind as he tossed and turned, and he couldn’t believe his luck that she was sitting right here as if waiting for him. Seeing as he had just stood outside her door for nearly twenty minutes, wondering how he would have the courage to knock or just go in and wake her. Instead, thinking that he should let her sleep, he had come downstairs. And then she was right here. He had never been that lucky in his life.
The massage was amazing. His idea to get close to her, but to also do something nice for her had worked and he knew she had appreciated it. It made him feel very… er… wonderful that he had done something to make her feel good.
He shouldn’t have lied again. He should have told her that he couldn’t sleep because he couldn’t stop thinking of how lovely it felt to hold her against him again. How last night by the river was the first time in awhile that he felt happy, and whole and real again. And that all he wanted to do was hold her again.
In fact, the urge to do so was sudden and strong at the moment, and he wondered how he would act normal around her when he went into breakfast.
The dawn reminded him of what Mrs. Weasley said: That every day, and every moment, is a gift. Time they never expected to have. He shook his head, rubbing his forehead, and looked down, remembering that, although his scar no longer ached — had not ached in months — he remembered how the pain had pierced his skull, and placed a fear so deep in his heart. The memory of this pain and horror made it clear to see why he often lived in terror that it would start to again.
He watched the sun rise. He often waited for Voldemort to come back laughing; for this free life and wide open future that he was just beginning to wrap his head around to be gone in a flash of bright green. Perhaps it was why he, up until now, had not been able to truly accept that he was going to live, and move on.
The door creaked open. “Harry,” a soft, familiar voice said. There was Ginny’s face and slim profile in the doorway. “Let’s go. Come in.”
Harry cracked a smile as she reached out her hand for him, and he took it and, for the first time, he allowed himself to consider the future.
For Harry, the next few days until Christmas passed quickly. Ron and Hermione were home, which made the days torturous since he and Ginny were never alone. All day long, they basically stared at one another, and he tried to behave chastely around his friends and her parents, but it was quite trying. What’s worse, Harry had not dared any more late night soirées with Ginny. He wanted to, but was waiting for her to bring it up, to hint to him that she’d enjoyed the massage, and he wondered why she wasn’t mentioning anything about seeing him after hours, considering they had seen each other after hours every day last summer. Therefore, much to his dismay, by Christmas Eve, a week into the hols, they still hadn’t had much one-on-one time to do anything but talk since the first night.
Harry planned to fix that right now.
He shifted from one foot to the other as he hung back by the kitchen table, eating a biscuit. He sort of planned to have a few moments with her outside, now that Ron and Hermione were situated talking with her parents, and all of her brothers seemed to be occupied. Surprisingly, not a single person besides Percy had noticed he had come downstairs from his short nap. Everyone was crammed into the living room, which was slightly off from the kitchen. Percy had noticed he was there since Percy stood facing the kitchen; Harry shared a slight nod with him, but Percy didn’t say anything or let anyone know he was by the door. He knew Ginny wasn’t in there because he would have heard her by now, or she would have come to fetch him. She must still be upstairs, so he waited.
There were far too many more people in The Burrow than it could hold. Now that he was down here, Remus and Tonks not being around ate at his guts. Fred. As happy as everyone seemed, there was still gloom in many eyes. George, who had been there all day since morning, was now nowhere to be found. From where he stood, he could see Mrs. Weasley. Her eyes were red and a rather plump-looking Teddy Lupin lay wrapped in his Christmas present to his godson, a light blue cashmere blanket the very same colour as his hair. Teddy was sleeping soundly in her arms. Fleur was next to Mrs. Weasley, her round belly larger than it had been just a few weeks back. Bill was behind her, massaging her shoulders. Harry recalled to himself how he had massaged Ginny’s, and how great it had felt to make her feel good.
He sensed her. Slowly, he looked up and he immediately thought of how beautiful she was to him. She had both sides of her hair up, and the rest down on the sides. She was wearing a red jumper and dark jeans and, as she neared him, he realized that she smelled wonderful as always. She also looked wonderful, as always.
“Were you waiting for me?” Her eyes were laughing.
”Yeah. Err... want some eggnog?” He gestured towards the punch bowl that was on the table.
“Is that why you were waiting? To offer me eggnog?”
”No, I… just thought you may be thirsty?”
”I’m not. Besides, Charlie probably made it, so it’s probably pretty strong.”
“How do you know?”
“I watched him make it last year. Believe me, if you’re cold, it will warm you right up.”
“Later maybe. Can we get some fresh air?” Harry asked, feeling the urge to get his girlfriend on her own for once, and perhaps have the chance to be on his own with her — just the two of them, with none of her brothers around.
“Sure. I mean, I just came downstairs to the party, but… I suppose.”
He slid on his coat and helped Ginny into hers. He looked over his shoulder at the living room. He thought he saw Bill glance at him, but whoever did see them slip out, thankfully did not protest him leaving with Ginny.
They stepped outside into the winter night and began walking down to the garden. It was nearly dusk. Harry gazed beyond the hillsides. The sky on the horizon was a bright shade of pink, and the clouds surrounding it were all traced in a bright yellow glow. In winter at The Burrow, the end of the day always had a pinkish glow. Harry thought of how looked beautiful Ginny’s hair looked in this light. The clean and crisp air filled his lungs and Harry reached for Ginny’s hand as they made their way to the garden and he felt the stupidest, silliest grin spread over his face.
They didn’t talk at all on the short walk there. When they arrived, Harry brushed enough snow off the stone garden wall and sat, making room for her next to him.
“You’re right; it is pretty cold out here. Should have brought my hat,” she said as she climbed up next to him and sat on the wall.
“Here, have mine.” He took his own hat out of the breast pocket of his coat and stuck it on her head, and then he cast a bluebell flame on either side of them, and an extra Warming Charm by their feet.
“Oh, now I’m feeling cosy. Thank you.”
“Err… you’re welcome.”
”So, Christmas again.”
“So who were you thinking of in there?”
He gave her a strange look, but all that ran through his head was how adorably cute she looked with his hat on and how much he wanted to kiss her.
“Harry? Hullo? You were thinking of someone, weren’t you? Sorry, I was watching you from the steps for a few moments…”
Harry shrugged, thinking of the fact that he had promised to tell Ginny what he was thinking and feeling as of last week.
“I was thinking of Remus and Tonks,” he paused, “I was thinking about how this is Teddy’s first Christmas and his mum and dad are gone. Horrible, really.”
“Yeah,” she said softly. “It is. I miss Tonks as well, especially tonight. She was always great company on Christmas, used to make us laugh. Remember? Remember that Christmas fourth year — well, my fourth year — that she stuck the doxies on the Christmas tree with us, and the doxies began flying around and one bit Sirius on the nose? The whole Christmas tree fell on its side because Fred tripped George, who pushed Ron into it. Mum just about had kittens, and Tonks and I blamed Fred and George and we all began a couch pillow fight. I don’t think I had ever laughed for that long.”
Ginny laughed at the memory and he grinned, not from the memory but from the sound of her laughter. It was a nice sound. Ginny laughed often, which he had never before realized how much he liked. He never realized, until now, how he missed that sound when they were apart.
He definitely remembered that Christmas. It was cool that he and Ginny shared so many memories. She had always been there with him. How had he never noticed? It made him angry that he hadn’t, thinking of all the time they had wasted. He reached for her hand. It was cold. He linked his fingers in hers.
Harry took a deep breath. That memory pulled him back to Fred. And Tonks. His heart was feeling heavy with grief and guilt.
“Never without a laugh with those two around. Fred and Tonks.”
“No, never,” Ginny agreed. “Life is a less cheerful place without them.”
Harry nodded and looked away.
“Hey.” He felt a small, familiar hand reach out to touch his shoulder gently. “Hi. Harry? I’m here.” She touched his face gently. “You’re blaming yourself. Don’t.”
He pulled her hand off his face and wrapped his fingers around it, warming it. It felt good to hold both her hands. She had such small, gentle hands. “Talk to me, Harry.”
“I’ll probably always blame myself.” He felt himself reach up to scratch the back of his hair, and quickly pulled his arm down. It was an annoying habit that the academy was trying to break him of, as anything like this could be a signature movement, something somebody could recognize him by, even in disguise. That thought made him think of Lupin again, and he felt a rush of guilt once more. “How can I not?”
She looked at him sadly. “You’re too good a person, Harry, with too good a heart. I wish you wouldn’t blame yourself at all.”
He took another long, deep breath. “Thanks.” He paused, and then decided to say what he had been thinking, once and for all. “Even if I don’t agree, you make it easier to live with.”
Ginny was blushing. It was hard to see in the faint moonlight, but the pink tinge coloured her cheeks prettily. He looked away so as not to embarrass her, but soon enough, he looked back. He couldn’t get enough of her looking this way, or any way, really.
“Then I think we’re getting somewhere,” she muttered. He wasn’t sure what she meant by that.
“Did you know that Christmas, last year, I saw my parents’… graves for the first time.”
“With Hermione. We didn’t know it was Christmas. It just happened to be.”
“Where were you during last Christmas?” he wondered, not that he’d had much time to consider where she was last year.
“Me? I was here… Fred and George and Lee were here, and Mum and Dad. I basically spent most of my time alone in the living room.”
“I don’t know. I would just sit around all day… writing things.”
“You’ll think I’m completely mental.”
“Fine. Sometimes… I used to sit and think of you, and sometimes I would write… stories about you,” she muttered.
“You would what?”
“Well, since I knew that other people were writing it in advance, an autobiography or something of your life, and they were saying how noble you ended things and how brave you were or how much of a coward, or whatever, so I just decided to write my own ending, you know? About how you didn’t die, how you defeated… what’s-his-name.”
“What did you have me doing?”
“Loads of things. Not Expelliarmus. It was a good way, though. Not messy.”
“Well,” he cleared his throat, “in your story, was I any braver than in real life?”
“You were… different, but brave, yes. There was no way I, or anyone, could have guessed you would be as brave as you were.” Harry watched as she curled a bit of fringe around her ear. He couldn’t believe she would sit and write things about him. She must have been thinking of him a lot.
“So as I was almost dying last Christmas, you were writing a story about me getting to live. Interesting.”
“Almost dying? Is there another story I don’t know about?”
It was a horrible story that made his stomach ache. Hermione would tell it better… and leave out the foolish and pathetic parts. But he had promised her to talk about things. So they sat there in the garden and he relayed the entire story of last Christmas Eve to her, of the events one whole year ago.
Harry was pleasantly shocked by how he felt afterward. The act of retelling wasn’t as bad as he thought it would be. In fact, at the end of his retelling it, he felt three times better than just pulling memories from his head into the Pensieve. He wasn’t putting the memories into a cold stone basin, but into a person who, judging by her facial expressions, could feel what he felt, pain and all.
For the first time, he wanted to tell her more stories from the war, just to get them out of his mind.
“So that’s where this scar is from.” She ran her fingers lightly over where she knew the scar on his chest was, sending shivers down his back. “It’s a nasty one.”
“I don’t want to scare you, but if it wasn’t for Hermione and the dittany, I may not have made it.”
Ginny sighed. “You, Hermione and Ron are always saving each other’s lives, when does it ever end?”
He grinned. “Dunno. Hopefully it has.”
“Have you been back since that night? To Godric’s Hollow?”
Harry shook his head. He had briefly considered going to Godric’s Hollow on Halloween, his parents’ death day, but he had not been able to face it alone.
“Well, if you ever want me to go with you…” Ginny began.
Harry looked up into her eyes. He had not considered it, but realized that he would like her to go. It always helped to have Ginny with him when he needed the strength to do something. She had come with him to gather his things from the Dursleys’ last summer and that had meant a lot to him, because he had needed someone to hold onto, and she never cared how tightly he held on when he needed her.
“I think, if I did go back, I would take you, Ginny.”
“Good.” She smiled.
That was when it happened. A brief, jolting image of a cottage in Godric’s Hollow, and Ginny, her long red hair flowing behind her, running down the lawn after an excitable little boy with black hair. It was a brief, momentary thought, but it was etched in his mind like a photo, yet it was as if the camera’s flash had left only the outline of an image.
“You would like it, I think.” He cleared his throat, wondering what that brief thought meant, unsure of what to make of it, but unable to get it out of his mind. “There’s this… well, there’re two monuments to them, and me. One is in the centre square of the village. It’s me as a baby, but only we can see it — I mean, it’s a wizarding statue. The other is the cottage we were living in when they died, but there’s barely anything left of it. When you walk up to it, this sign on the gate comes up out of nowhere and there are all these markings that people wrote about me and how they were supporting me… it was incredible to see it.”
“Yeah. They wrote things like, good luck and longlive…me. There’s this inscription on the sign about my parents and the house being a monument to me and to them.”
“I wish I could see that.”
”There’s more to see, too. In the graveyard, I mean. My parents are buried in the same cemetery as Dumbledore’s family and my ancestors are there, as well.”
“Hermione told me about the Hallows, Harry.”
“Err… she did?”
“Yeah. I know we’ve never talked about it before, so I really don’t want to bring it up if you don’t want to, but I’ve listened to the stories from the time I could understand. I always believed in the Tale of the Three Brothers… To me, it’s a little too unbelievable to wrap my head around what you actually did; that you’re who you are sometimes… it’s strange to think that’s you.”
“Has Hermione told you every single thing that happened last year?”
“No. If she had it her way, she wouldn’t have me pestering her about it all the time. And I had not heard the story you just told me. You don’t talk to me about last year, and I’m certain that I would have waited a long time for you to explain how you became master of death…. er… master of death.”
She reached out to lightly punch him. Harry groaned and Ginny giggled.
“Master of death? Keeper of the Hallows? How can you be? You’re just Harry to me! My stupid brother Ron’s best mate, and another boy to have to share the bathroom with every summer. And the world’s best kisser, might I add.”
Harry grinned when she quickly and boldly pecked him on the lips. World’s best? Did she feel that way? Then again, he never even thought about it. Everything came naturally with Ginny, when he was close to her.
He was glad she wasn’t pushing that hard to hear his side of the Deathly Hallows story, but then again, she never did, and he appreciated that. It wasn’t that he wanted to keep the stories from her. It was just that he hadn’t wanted to think about them very much. Now that he knew how it felt to tell her, he would begin to. He promised himself he would.
You’re just Harry. He liked that. When he was around her, he was just Harry. He was himself in almost every way. Nothing he had ever done or would do really mattered to her, did it? What mattered was him. Ginny would never want anything of him, but him.
“Can I ask you something?” She twirled a lock of ruby hair around her finger.
“If I had died in the battle or sometime during the war…”
His stomach twisted at the thought. “I’m not sure I like where this is going.”
“No really, I have a question. It’s about the Hallows.”
“Go on…” he muttered.
“If I had died…” Ginny began, “…would you have used the Resurrection Stone to bring me back?”
What was she playing at? Harry glared at her accusingly.
“What kind of question is that?”
“It’s just a question.” She played with the ends of her hair. “So answer it.”
He shrugged and stared up at the stars. “I dropped it in the forest.”
“If I had died, would you have gone to look for it, after?”
“Don’t you know the fairy tale? It’s not natural.”
“I would have wanted you to,” she said softly.
“Really?” he asked, a flat sarcasm in his voice. “Why?”
“Why? Well, I dated Michael. And Luna is my friend… all I’m saying is that I spent enough time in the Ravenclaw common room to know that the Grey Lady was a sulking, horrible ghost. I wouldn’t have wanted to stay a ghost to be near you, not at all, but maybe just an apparition like the girl in the story. I would have gone back eventually, but I could have been with you a while longer. Maybe to just say goodbye.”
“No. Would have been too sad.”
“You wouldn’t have wanted to? Or done it late one night when no one was around? I would have wanted to if it were me and I had the chance to see you alive one more time,” she whispered.
He waited a long time to speak, so confused was he by her question and her statement.
“Death is strange, Ginny. It’s… beautiful. It’s nothing you would want to come back from, unless you had something really, really important to do.”
“Yes, like you did. You died, didn’t you? But you chose to come back to end the war. All I’m saying is, you‘d be important enough to me to want to have come back, even for a day.”
Harry let that sink in. Suddenly he remembered that she had been important to him at that moment of death as well, hadn’t she? He had thought of her, looking at him with that blazing look. He hadn’t thought of that in a few months. But that couldn’t possibly mean more than…
He thought of what she said again. It meant that she loved him. And he was speechless.
“No, I really wouldn’t be. You’d see, if you knew…”
Ginny looked down. “Fine, but I would have wanted to. I suppose death, then, must be something much grander than I imagine. I sort of envy you, Harry. Some people spend their whole lives fearing or worrying about death, afraid of it, and you know it already. You’ve come back. That’s the upside of what happened to you; you’re the very opposite of Tom Riddle now. You can just live your life because you aren’t afraid of the unknown. It’s like being, I don’t know, master of life instead. You never have to worry for that fear of the unknown — for yourself. I mean, isn’t that a comfort?”
“Maybe.” He paused for a long time, finally thinking of how to word what he wanted to say. “Ginny, to be honest, I would have wanted to see you alive one more time, but I probably would have regretted it afterwards. Like the fairy tale.”
“You would have wanted to?”
“Yeah, I think so.” She reached for his hand again and leaned her head against his shoulder. He would have wanted to, but who knew if he would have had the courage. Would the thought have crossed his mind? Of course it would have. What would he have done if she was gone? Life would be very miserable right now. Much more miserable than it was. He put his arm around her waist and pulled her closer to him.
“The stories you wrote about me.…” he hesitated, “…how did they end?”
Ginny glanced up at him. “Oh, they all ended well. I told you.”
“Did you ever write yourself into any of the stories?”
“What good writer doesn’t?” She smirked. “There was one where I wrote that I died. I recently read through it and I suppose that’s where all this is coming from.”
“Why did you write yourself dying?”
“Because I knew there was a chance that I would.”
“I’m glad that you didn’t.”
“Happy Christmas, Ginny.” He put his arms around her. “Let’s not talk anymore about death, all right? In fact, the reason I brought you out here is to have a moment alone with you. I couldn’t stand these past few days, not having any time to kiss you.” His voice sounded odd to his ears. Shaky and rough. He kissed her chin. He tilted her chin towards his and the best feeling tore through him. He never wanted to let go of her.
After what felt like just a few moments, they heard voices, calling out.
“OY — LOVERS! Dinner’s on the table.” They jumped apart quickly.“And everyone’s looking for you, mate!”
It was Ron.
Harry was breathing fast. He shared a look with Ginny that threw all caution to the wind. It was just Ron, wasn’t it? Instead of caring, he began kissing her again; he couldn’t stop. Yet, the crunch of footsteps on snow became much louder, so he stopped again. He and Ginny shared a quick look.
The familiar voice shouted once again.
“OY — HARRY! Percy said he saw you walk out! Where are you two?”
“Prat!” Ginny mouthed silently.
Ron’s voice was followed by another, deeper, gruffer voice with slightly heavier footsteps, which he recognized as Charlie. “Where are you, Harry, and what’re you doin’ with our baby sister?”
“Don’t scare him, Charlie!He’ll never come back inside,”argued Ron.
Harry felt a swell of affection towards Ron. Ron was his best mate, but besides that, he was Ginny’s protective older brother — Harry knew that, even though Ron approved his being Ginny’s boyfriend, it still took a great measure of trust. He hadn’t even been living up to that, not really, with how he had been acting this autumn. He was thankful that Ron wasn’t exactly nosy these days. It seemed like, when they were apart, he didn’t want to know or hear about his relationship with Ginny, but when they were together, he was trying to monitor their time together.
They would have to go in soon and he hated the idea of having to end this special moment between them for the sake of some family Christmas dinner.
Ginny was laughing silently and her eyes were smiling. Harry didn’t know whether it was the moonlight or the fact that she was still wearing his hat, which was now flecked with dusty snow, but he couldn’t care less about being found out by Ron and Charlie.
“What are you looking at me like that for, Harry?”
“It’s okay. Happy Christmas.” She kissed his cheek. “Let’s go in. I think Mum’s made Duck L’Orange. A Fleur specialty.” And just then, Ron and Charlie came into view.
Molly laughed as Arthur tipped her back in a full dip.
Celestina Warbeck’s Christmas music poured out of the wireless. The whole family sat clapping and cat-calling and watching them dance.
Ginny laughed at her parents and clapped. She loved how Dad was trying to make Mum feel better, by reminding her of days when they were young.
Mum’s eyes were red. She had cried on and off all afternoon, after the family had walked over to the cemetery to pay respects to Fred. Harry had not come, and she was glad that he had stayed out of the house and away from all the sadness. Instead, he had been in the village, to buy Teddy a Christmas gift, and he had come back with the softest, warmest cashmere blanket. It was a beautiful gift, and Ginny noticed and adored how caring and conscientious Harry was towards his godson. Hermione had helped him embroider Theodore Remus into the corner of the fabric in baby blue thread later in the afternoon. Teddy had been wrapped in the blanket all night, until Andromeda took him home.
She felt Harry’s leg against hers, and when they caught eyes, he winked at her, sending butterflies throughout her whole body. They held hands. The steady, solid feel of him beside her was so comforting.
Ginny felt better, more relaxed, and more secure than she had in months about her relationship. Christmas hols had already been so wonderful. They were getting so close, closer than they had ever been, maybe. It always happened when they were living under the same roof. And after their conversation out in the garden just now, and especially with the way he had gazed at her for about half a minute, with that same look in his eyes she just couldn’t pin, she kept thinking, Could it be true? Something that had occurred to her out there had made her so giddy it was ridiculous.
Perhaps she had never considered it being the reason, and that was why? Harry was so numb from last year that his emotions seemed turned off, but perhaps it was something about the snow, and Christmas in general, that was bringing his feelings for her to surface. The way he looked at her out there, what he had said. Perhaps he truly did love her and just plum didn’t realize it? Perhaps he felt everything she did, but it was buried under layers and layers of other negative thoughts and feelings that required peeling away.
The thought that he did feel that way for her, and just didn’t know what he was feeling, made her as comfortable as ever near him. It made her feel free to show him love, which she was doing without caring this past week. It seemed to be working. He was catching on.
At that moment, Fleur caught eyes with her and they shared a smile, like a silent joke between them. Earlier, after dinner, in the kitchen while washing up, Fleur had whispered to her that she had not realized what a beautiful couple she and Harry really were together. She had mentioned that they seemed to fit one another in every way. Did others think that? It made her feel very happy, regardless. She thought they did.
She casually moved her thumb against Harry’s hand, and watched as her dad spun her mum once more. Mum, flustered, made her way to the couch while Celestina warbled on.
“Who’s next? Next up!” Charlie rang out. “Any takers?”
As the females in the room were far outnumbered and Charlie had no girl of his own, he held his arm out to Fleur to the family’s claps and Celestina’s crooning. Fleur took Charlie’s hand and let him spin her around a few times. Laughing, she went to sit back with Bill, who was laughing as well, and who then took a turn twirling his wife. Bill looked as if he hadn’t had this much fun and relaxation in awhile.
Before she knew it, Ron and Hermione were up, and Ron was twirling Hermione around, Hermione was laughing. She had cut her hair short for the impending Auror’s gathering, and it looked great. If there was ever a handsome couple, it was Hermione and Ron: Ron, so tall with his big blue eyes, and Hermione’s tender brunette curls and beautiful olive-skin tone. Ginny admired how she always looked healthy, even in winter. Ginny thought she had never felt so much love and admiration towards her brother Ron and her friend Hermione. Just the fact that they were all together tonight made what she was feeling indescribable.
Then, Ginny’s attention turned back to Harry. He was the only one in the room now who was not paying attention to the dancing. Instead, he was staring out the window.
She leaned over to kiss his cheek, “What’s wrong?” she whispered in his ear, and he shook his head as if she had startled him.
“Harry, Ginny, oy!” Ron called. “No snogging in public.” He stood there impatiently, holding Hermione’s hand.
“Can you get off your arse and dance?”
”What, Mum? I said arse not… nevermind. Come on!” He shimmied up next to Hermione. “Everyone is doing it!”
“You don’t have to dance with me,” Ginny giggled.
“It’s not that I don’t want to. I’m awful. I’ll step on your toes, I swear.” His voice was hoarse and he looked tired. Ginny was about to defend him, but then the rest of her family chimed in.
“Oy! Harry, Ginny, your turn!” Bill, Charlie and Ron said in a chorus. Ginny glanced at her parents, who were whispering about something, both smiling knowingly.
“Get on up, lovebirds. We know what you two were up to in the garden before dinner,” Charlie called out.
Ginny ignored this, shaking her head. She knew better than to be embarrassed. Luckily Harry was used to it, too. He knew about her six older brothers before they had ever become a couple and he still wanted to be her boyfriend. Most blokes wouldn’t have been able to deal with her family the way it was. Ginny was thankful that the only boy she ever wanted to be with was as good as one of her brothers, or it would have been quite difficult for her.
Harry pulled her up by the hand and as they made it to the front of the hearth, he pulled her closer.
“You call that dancing, Potter?” George called out from his place at the edge of the couch, then pretended to yawn.
“Let’s see you do any better, George,” Harry challenged.
“Excuse me, Ron, I need to borrow Hermione.” George leapt to his feet. He pulled Hermione to him and began waltzing her around the living room.
Harry laughed, and watched for a moment, until Ginny nudged him, hoping to direct his attentions back to her. “Can you do any better?” she challenged.
Then suddenly, Harry twirled and dipped her as Dad had done to Mum, but instead, he tripped and nearly fell on top of her. The whole room burst out in laughter directed at them. Luckily, she had caught his shirt and he had balanced himself on his arm, so they hung there in midair for a moment.
Her family was hysterical, calling and shouting, “Now that you have her there, kiss her, Harry.”
Then the chant turned to “Kiss her, Harry. Kiss her, Harry.” Ginny could distinctly make out her sister-in-law’s ‘Arry and she had to laugh. Ginny was sure that Fleur was cheering for her more than anything.
They shared one very, very quick kiss to everyone’s cat-calls. Not that kissing in very public places was unusual for them. In fact, it felt quite familiar and surprisingly, strangely comfortable to kiss Harry in front of her family.
Didn’t he realize that they belonged together?
It was indeed, for both of them, and everyone else, a Christmas Eve to remember. Fred would have approved.
“Why are you smiling?” Ron looked over at him.
Harry hadn’t realized he was smiling. He glanced over at Ron. Harry thought it was interesting how, due to their busy lives, he and Ron had had more conversations this whole week than they had in three months of living together.
“Me? Nothing, I guess.”
“Did you have a good time tonight, mate?”
“Yeah. Err… how were Hermione’s parents?”
“I don’t know. I think they like me. Or at least, they’re amused by me. They’re happy though, I think, about Hermione and me. They really like Mum and Dad, at least. They’ve even invited them to dinner at Easter break. Should be interesting; Dad in their house, all the Muggle stuff around him. He’ll be pretty excited.”
Harry thought back to what it was like when Arthur Weasley had come to Privet Drive and smiled to himself. Then he imagined himself sitting at dinner with his own parents and the Weasleys and Ginny. Would his parents have liked the Weasleys? Harry wondered what they would say regarding Ginny.
Harry missed them suddenly and strongly at that moment.
“That’s nice. Should be great. I spoke to Hermione’s dad for a while. He’s easy to talk to.”
“Yeah. So you and Ginny seemed happy to be together again.”
Harry shrugged, acting cool. “Same as you and Hermione must feel.”
“So what were you and Ginny doing outside? You basically kidnapped our sister for an hour. What were you two… wait, nevermind, I don’t want to know.”
“We were talking, Ron.”
But they were talking. He loved talking to her.
“What did you get Ginny for Christmas?” Ron said through a yawn.
“I told you yesterday, you’ll have to find out when she has it, Ron.”
“Is it some thing Quidditch-related?”
“She didn’t tell you tell you she’s going to try out for the league too, did she?”
“Umm… the only league? The British Quidditch league.”
“What?” Harry sat up in the dark. “No.”
“She is, mate.”
“I don’t believe you.”
“I’m dead serious.”
Harry let out a short laugh, thinking of their pact about telling each other things, and honesty. Obviously, she was still keeping things from him, too! It made him feel pretty angry and, for a moment, he figured Ron was joking.
“If you’re serious, then why hasn’t she said anything to me?”
“Well, she’s probably afraid you’re going to freak out. Besides, she’s only told Hermione and not me.”
“Why would she think that I would freak out?”
“She’s just too nervous to tell you.”
“Dunno,” Ron whispered. “Right, I remember. Hermione explained it this way. If she goes on to play professional Quidditch next year, that means she’s travelling six weeks at a time, minimum. Sort of ruins any happy plans you might have for her in the next few years, which I’m sure she’s been hoping for as well.” Ron did another sorry imitation of Ginny.
Harry had to let Ron’s words sink in. He lay back down.
This again. Next year had always been too far deep into a future he may or may not be around for. It bothered him that she would feel this way. Why did it matter to Ginny? What was she expecting? Even if they continued to get on this well into next year, did she want to get married as soon as possible or something? He may be a bit closer to realizing how he felt for her, but he wasn’t thinking seriously about getting married to her anytime soon! He felt nervous for the first time that eventually she would want more than he could give, and he worried that he wouldn’t have enough time to decide what he wanted eventually.
“I would never want to take her away from what she really wanted to do. Let Hermione know she can tell Ginny that.”
“Will do.” Ron yawned.
But Harry had meant that, although he was still angry that she hadn’t told him something that important!
Professional Quidditch? The prospect was both amazing and annoying. Having Ginny leave him for weeks at a time after she left Hogwarts did not seem appealing. He didn’t know what would happen after she left school. but he’d expected to see her a whole lot more after her final school year was complete. If she played Quidditch, it would be like it was right now, status quo for another year. Separating again and again. Going on like this seemed like a horrible prospect.
Now he realized why Ginny was hesitating.
Yet, despite that, it was also brilliant. He thought it would be amazing to see her play professionally. He always used to admire her style when he was her captain. She was really, really talented. She couldn’t waste that. Not for him — especially not for him.
“Don’t say anything. She’ll kill me. Hermione, I mean. If she’s serious, she’s going to have to tell you eventually. Oh, and don’t be angry at her for not telling you. According to Hermione, Ginny isn’t even sure it’s what she wants at this point, so there’s no point in telling you.”
“Thanks, Ron. Now I’m never going to sleep tonight.”
“Sleep. Odds are, she won’t make the cut. She’s not all that great of a player, is she?”
“Are you mental? They’d be cracking mad not to have her.”
“Great, Harry. Maybe you can be her one fan.”
“Leave her alone.”
Ron laughed a bit sadistically. “I will never leave her alone.”
As Harry drifted off, he thought, if what Ron was saying was the truth, that if Ginny really wanted to play professional Quidditch, he would be supportive. Although, perhaps a bit jealous. It seemed like his dream. A dream lost.
He hadn’t really had the chance to live that dream, anyhow. As much as he loved the sport, it had sort of fallen by the wayside for him because of his dream of becoming an Auror. Besides having played two-a- side with Ginny and Ron all last summer, he hadn’t really been back on a broom. Living in the city, you couldn’t really. And since his Firebolt had been turned into a pile of toothpicks the night his wand had turned on Voldemort’s, he hadn’t replaced it; although, after checking out that magazine with Ginny last week, he had been thinking of it more and more.
There was no more boy’s dream of playing Quidditch, but maybe it could be her dream. Harry had a vision of himself practicing with her one day in the future, pushing her and her skills forward and then admiring Ginny from the stands and feeling really damn proud of her. He could live with that for the next few years before they… er… decided what to do with the rest of their lives.
Would Ginny really consider not entering a career in Quidditch so that she could stay near him? What if she didn’t go play, and she was waiting and waiting for things to progress a certain way, and he wasn’t ready? Would she get angry at him? Would she come to resent him? He wouldn’t let her not play if it was for those reasons. He would make that absolutely clear. If she really didn’t want to play, that was one thing, but he didn’t want her not to if all she was worried about was how he would feel.
Either way, he just wanted her to be happy, doing whatever it was she wanted to do.
Harry decided that, no matter what, he would encourage her to do whatever she wanted in this world, even if it meant waiting or not waiting. It didn’t matter. A war, endless hours apart, and many months of distance between them hadn’t stopped that. So he supposed that Ginny’ chance to play in the British Quidditch league would not stop these things from happening between them if they were to happen at all.
Soon, he was dreaming. He was flying on his Firebolt again, holding Ginny close to him above a beautiful forest in a clear blue sky. And he felt whole for the first time in his life.
Ginny was nervous. Even though the whole family had tucked into breakfast, she was waiting to begin until Harry came downstairs. She took a sip of her tea. She was sure he was opening gifts and she wanted to be certain that he had received the oddly shaped, bulky, but evenly wrapped package she had left at the foot of his bed.
Inside the package were three things. One was the copy of the confirmation of her Quidditch tryout which had been scheduled for Valentine’s Day, the 14th of February. It was the most creative way she could think to tell him of her future plans. The other was his main gift, a book of walking maps of London. Hermione had given her the idea. Ginny hoped he liked it and would use it. She had written in the margin a note about how she hoped to join him someday on one of his weekend adventures. The last gift was a tin of treacle fudge, enough to last him six months at least, if he ate one piece a day. She had made it this week during one of his afternoon naps, all curiously taken in her bed, of course. She would sit near him, talking or reading, until he fell asleep. Her mum never asked questions or bothered her about it. Ginny figured it was because her mum cared for and trusted Harry so much that she never questioned him. Ginny loved taking his glasses off for him, covering him with her blanket and kissing him on the forehead before going off to help Mum with chores.
Ginny had woken up this morning to find, among the usual Weasley jumper, books and chocolates, a small gift with a tag on it that said,
From Harry to Ginny, Happy Christmas. I hope you like this. It made me think of you.
It was in a smallish box, artfully wrapped, obviously not by him. Inside was a beautiful set of sheets of cream-coloured parchment paper and Muggle pens, which were beautiful. One was gold and one silver, each with a pointed tip like a quill.
She knew Muggles used these pens, of course. Her dad had a whole bin of them in his tool shed, but they were usually all black or blue and made of plastic. She had never had one that looked so nice, as nice as a quill. It was a pretty and thoughtful gift. She also supposed it was logical why paper and ink made him think of her these days.
“Look who’s awake.” Her mum’s voice had made her look up at Harry who was halfway downstairs. She smiled up at him, and thought what she usually did. Of how much she loved him. Not only when he was kissing her, but at times like this, at breakfast with her family. It was a thought always on her mind.
Cor! How aggravating it was to love someone so much and not be able to fully say how much.
How would she keep the love that was bursting inside of her in for much longer? But if he felt it like she thought he did, perhaps he needed that push.
He made his way to her side. As he sat down, she whispered, “’Morning.”
“Morning.” He grinned.
“So,” she reached for a slice of toast, “what do you think?”
He tipped a few sausages onto his plate. “I think there’s enough fudge there to last me six months if I eat one piece a day, which I will. Thanks.”
“Less, Harry. You know you’ll eat it all by Valentine’s and you’ll be asking for more.”
”I knew you would like the fudge, but what about the other things?
“The book or the tryouts?”
She shrugged, watching Ron shove eggs into his mouth. She was feeling too nervous to look at him. “Tryouts?”
“Brilliant.” One word as he filled his plate with eggs and began to tuck in. “You’re going to make it.”
“How would you know? You haven’t seen me play this season.”
“I just know.” He shrugged. “I have a feeling.”
“That’s all?” She nibbled on a piece of toast, feeling a bit disappointed. Should Harry have had more to say about her tryouts than he did? She had expected him to be a bit more surprised, or perhaps even a bit sullen. Ginny thought to herself that at least his positive reaction meant he was supportive of her choice.
“Thanks for the book. I do like it. Did you like the paper? That shop is all over London. You’d love it.”
Ginny shook her head. “Thank you. It’s beautiful. I love the pens. Where do they keep the ink?” she wondered out loud.
“Will it dry up eventually?”
“Refill. You can refill the ink.”
“So, no inkpots?”
“Actually, they do make a bit more sense than quills. And they write more quickly. Maybe if you do your school work with them, it will come out quicker… and easier.”
“Hermione said that pens aren’t allowed at school, but I can use them on the weekends or to write letters.”
“So the truth comes out. You enjoy my letters.”
“Yes, always.” He grinned.
“And you want me to write even more.”
”So we know where we’ll be spending Valentine’s Day. You’ll be there, right? Just promise me, no singing Valentine’s in front of the League coordinators. And wear your Cloak, so I don’t get nervous.”
“I’ll be there for you, Ginny. You know I’ll be there.”
“Okay.” She smiled and finally tucked into her breakfast, hoping for a peaceful and restful week from now until the Auror’s gathering.
Ginny knew it would be. She glanced at him devouring his breakfast. Sometimes the daft boy just needed a kick in the right direction. Sometimes he just needed a little shove. She was sure she would know the right moment to apply both. Either way, despite his behaviour in the past few weeks, he hadn’t stopped looking at her since she came home. With the way he had looked at her last night in the garden, with the way he had kissed her in front of his whole family, it appeared obvious to her. Harry still had wounds to heal from the war, but he needed her. Words of love, as Fleur would say, seemed to be on the tip of his tongue when they were alone together just as they were on the tip of hers.
Perhaps a bit of after-breakfast snogging was in order? In her opinion, he was very deserving, and she so wanted to be close to him, and sod all, she was going to give herself a present. It was Christmas Day, wasn’t it? Harry’s leg brushed against hers. Ginny boldly linked her ankle around his, and rested her hand on his leg under the table. He glanced at her, his eyes dark and curious.
Christmas day was looking very, very promising.
Authors Notes: If you are reading along here on PhoenixSong, and especially if you have left comments or feedback, thank you! In return for your kindness, I gave you my humble attempt at writing a satisfactory Christmas chapter. I hope you enjoyed this chapter and that it made you feel warm, fuzzy and festive during this holiday season. Hope to hear from some of you soon! Please let me know if you enjoyed! Cheers, Rebecca