A Christmas Like No Other
Harry Potter pulled his Invisibility Cloak tightly around his body, attempting both to shield himself against the biting wind and to remain unseen as he paced in front of Rhiannon’s Hidden Mine in the Wizarding village of Hogsmeade. A light snow had begun to fall only a short while ago, painting the landscape with a wintry brush.
Briskly rubbing his gloved hands together, he gazed dispassionately at the picturesque village. At another time, the bustle of holiday shoppers might have excited him and the decorations would have put him in a festive mood. On another day, the sight of newly fallen snow clinging to the trees and transforming the town into a winter wonderland might have caused him to smile and wish for a sled.
But not today.
Today there was nothing on Harry’s mind but a single, nail-biting, teeth-gnashing irritant – make that two, identical irritants. Irritants who had become the bane of Harry’s existence.
One might assume that the biggest irritant in Harry Potter’s life would be Voldemort, or various Death Eaters, or perhaps a vile, low-down, rat-loving former Potions master, considering Harry was the supposed Savior of the Wizarding world. Bollocks, as far as he was concerned.
No, the person – or people – creating havoc in Harry’s life at the moment were none other than Fred and George Weasley. And now, by his own actions, he was voluntarily trying to make them his family. He must have royally hacked off Fate in some other lifetime to have become such a punching bag in this one.
Harry sighed, watching the Hogwarts students as they darted to and fro, calling cheerful greetings while they bustled to get all their shopping done in the time allotted. It wasn’t supposed to be a Hogsmeade weekend – yet another reason he had to be annoyed with Fred and George. He knew they were only trying to help him see Ginny, but he really wished they’d stop trying to help him.
Harry had spent the past six months with Ron and Hermione hunting down Voldemort’s Horcruxes with limited success. They’d thus far managed to find and destroy two of the four missing Horcruxes. Harry had stuck with his plan to remain distant from Ginny throughout the entire summer. He’d done it, although it had nearly ripped his heart out in the process.
And Ginny, Merlin love her, had remained patient and resolute while he worked out his demons. She’d stayed close, but not too close, always ready to offer support if he needed it, yet completely understanding that he had to do what he had to do. It was that closeness that had nearly done him in.
He’d spent some portion of each summer with her since he’d first entered the Wizarding world, but somehow knowing how good things could be and not allowing himself to have them had been torture. It was like cutting off his own nose to spite his face. Gradually, he’d come to realize it on his own. He might be slow, but he’d got there eventually, and he and Ginny had reunited in secret.
Ginny had returned to Hogwarts for her sixth year, supplying the trio with information from the library when they’d needed it, and acting as a liaison between them and the Order. Harry had made more than the needed number of visits to Hogwarts on the pretense of information gathering, but in reality he simply felt better when she was near. At the times when he was at his lowest, she could always prop him back up and make him soar by her mere presence. He was lost without her, and he’d finally accepted it. His life wasn’t worth living without her in it.
And he wanted her in it.
Thus was the reason for his clandestine visit to Hogsmeade. Stolen kisses and brief, secretive smiles across crowded rooms simply weren’t enough. Harry wanted a goal in sight to act as an added incentive to finish this thing. Once Voldemort was gone, he wanted Ginny by his side and sharing his life forevermore. No more hiding or waiting for either of them. They’d done enough of that to last five lifetimes. No, Harry wanted a more permanent commitment to Ginny.
The trio had decided to put the war on hold for a few days and spend a relaxing and much-needed break at the Burrow for Christmas. Harry planned on asking Ginny to marry him on Christmas Eve, even if the actual event would have to wait an unforeseen amount of time. He was planning on doing it – provided Ginny’s brothers didn’t muck it all up with their exuberance.
Fred and George, who had also been acting as liaisons and supplying the trio with needed supplies, had stumbled across Harry and Ginny’s secret rendezvous approximately one month ago.
And they’d decided to help.
Nothing had gone right since. Ron, Hermione, and Harry had agreed to take a few hours that afternoon and separate so they could all do some needed Christmas shopping. Harry planned to visit Rhiannon’s Hidden Mine to select and purchase a ring for Ginny, knowing she’d be tucked safely away in the castle. There was no way he could hide something like this from her if she’d been shopping with him. When it came to presents, Ginny was even more relentless than Ron. And that was saying something.
Of course, Fred and George had got wind of Harry’s illicit visit to Hogsmeade and deciding it was a perfect opportunity to give Harry and Ginny some needed time together, they had convinced Professor McGonagall to switch the date of the Hogsmeade visit for all students.
Who would have ever thought that Professor McGonagall was such a hopeless romantic?
So, here he was, hiding beneath his Invisibility Cloak and glaring at unknowing Hogwarts students while he should be inside selecting the perfect ring. The way his luck was running, he was certain either Fred or George, probably both with Ginny in tow, would burst through the door the moment he entered the establishment.
His breath hitched in his chest as he heard the soft tinkle of her laugh before he saw her.
"Honestly, you two. He’s not here. He would have told me if he was able to make a visit today," Ginny said, stuffing her hands deeper in the pockets of her patched and worn jacket.
"Well, he said he would be," Fred insisted. "How am I supposed to keep track of him? That bloke moves around more than a Niffler smelling a pirate’s treasure."
"You’re just annoyed that he keeps you guessing," Ginny replied, lightly tracing her fingers along the shop windows.
Harry stood frozen in his spot, unable to pull his eyes away from her. A few more steps and she’d be close enough for him to reach out and touch. The tantalizing idea tickled his senses, making his skin tingle with anticipation.
At that moment, Ginny turned her head sharply, staring right at him. "Besides, if he were here, I’d know," she whispered, her eyes unwavering.
Harry stared back at her, stunned. He was still wearing the Invisibility Cloak; there was no bloody way she could know he was there.
But he knew without a shadow of doubt that she did.
The side of her mouth quirked upward, and she lowered her lashes in a way that made his blood boil.
"You two run along and buy me a nice Christmas present to make up for getting my hopes up. I’m going to do a little more shopping," Ginny said, waving off Fred and George. Her eyes never left the spot where Harry was standing frozen in his tracks.
"Er…I don’t think that’s such a good idea, Ginny. Harry’d have our heads if he knew we left you on your own," George replied, scratching the back of his neck.
"Honestly! I’m far from alone, the entire village is swarming with Hogwarts students, never mind the fact I’m perfectly capable of taking care of myself," Ginny said, two bright spots of color rising on her cheeks before her eyes took on a mischievous twinkle. "Suit yourselves, though. If you want to come with me while I search for some new witches’ unmentionables for Mum, be my guest."
"Urgh, Ginny!" Fred yelped, horrified. "What did you have to go and put that image in my head for?"
"Mum does not need unmentionables," George said, his face as bright as Ginny’s hair.
"Don’t be ridiculous, George. All witches need unmentionables. In fact, I was thinking about getting her-"
"All right!" Fred said, slapping his hand over Ginny’s mouth. "Don’t say another word. We’ll meet you at the Three Broomsticks at half three."
"You’d better not be late," George said.
"Or what?" Ginny asked, putting her hands on her hips. "I’ll be there, and if you two don’t stop acting as if you’re my minders, I’ll show you everything I buy for Mum – with commentary."
"You fight dirty," George said, scowling.
"I learned from the best," Ginny said, smirking. "I’ll see you in about an hour," she called, disappearing down a side alley.
Harry quietly slipped away from the twins and followed her at a discreet distance. Once they were a fair bit from the street and hidden in the shadows, she called over her shoulder.
"Are you going to come out of there some time today, or have you developed a new penchant for being my stalker?"
Harry whipped the Cloak from his head, feeling the static electricity making his hair stand on end and crackle slightly.
"How did you know I was there?" he asked, grinning.
"I just knew," Ginny replied, closing the distance between them and melting into his embrace.
"I missed you," she said when they finally pulled apart. Harry couldn’t be certain, but he suspected a considerable amount of their stolen hour had already passed.
"I missed you, too," he whispered, gently nuzzling her ear.
Ginny giggled and tried to flatten his hair. "I’ve heard of a windswept look, Harry, but this borders on ridiculous."
"You don’t like my hair?" he asked, unable to control the pout he knew had crossed his face.
"Don’t be silly. I love your hair – but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t stand a good combing on occasion," she replied. "When are you arriving at the Burrow?"
"I can’t tell you that exactly," he replied, wincing, "but we’ll definitely be there for Christmas Eve. I’ve got some plans for us that night."
"Oh, you do, huh?" Ginny asked slyly. "You mean all night?"
Harry’s eyes widened as he felt heat rush to his face. The December day had suddenly grown much warmer. "Not those kind of plans!" he yelped before the images in his head completely sidetracked him. Waggling his eyebrows, he added, "Or maybe, if that’s where your mind is headed, I ought to let you make the arrangements."
"Prat!" Ginny said, giggling. "What did you have in mind?"
Harry grinned, kissing her once again. "Just some quiet time for the two of us without having to worry about being seen all the time. I’m looking forward to spending Christmas with you, Ginny."
"I’m looking forward to it, too. It sounds lovely," she said wistfully.
Harry brushed a stray lock of hair from her face, reveling in its softness. "It won’t be this way forever. One day, we’ll have so much time together that you’ll be sick of looking at me," he said.
"Never," Ginny replied, smiling softly.
"Do you really have Christmas gifts that you still need to buy?" Harry asked.
Ginny shook her head. "No, I finished by owl order already. Besides, only those two dunderheads I call brothers would honestly think I’d be buying my mum unmentionables for Christmas," Ginny replied, rolling her eyes.
"Er…right," Harry said, withholding the fact that he’d believed it, too.
"So," Ginny said, biting the inside of her cheek, "any ideas what we could do for an uninterrupted half hour?"
Harry grinned, wrapping his arms around her and pulling her close as he rested his back against the wall of a building. "If your brothers only knew how devious you really are," he said, chuckling.
"Let’s keep it to ourselves," she replied, before pulling him close for another searing kiss.
Som e time later – Harry again wasn’t certain exactly how long – he found himself once more outside Rhiannon’s Hidden Mine. He’d walked Ginny back to the Three Broomsticks, and, hidden beneath the cover of his Invisibility Cloak, seen her safely inside. All students were now making the long trek back to the castle, and Harry was finally ready to make his purchase.
He slipped inside the shop, ensuring it was empty before quietly removing his Cloak whilst the clerk’s back was turned.
"May I help you?" the stiff, bespectacled clerk asked, starting to find Harry huddled in a corner. He was hunched slightly, and Harry suspected a good wind might blow him away.
Harry ran a hand through his fringe, tugging it low over the scar on his forehead. "I’d like to buy an engagement ring, please," he said, wishing his voice didn’t waver so as he said it.
"Splendid," the man replied, brightening instantly. "What sort of stone did you have in mind?"
"Er…" Harry replied, flummoxed. "Aren’t engagement rings usually diamonds?"
The man stared at him blankly for a moment before understanding dawned on his face. "Ahh, you must be Muggleborn," he said, sniffling. "No, no. While Muggles generally use diamonds, wizards generally choose a stone that suits their witch."
Harry stared helplessly at the man, feeling more and more out of his depth by the moment.
"Why don’t you tell me something about your young lady," the clerk said, smiling in an infuriatingly superior way.
"She’s amazing," Harry said, unable to fight the gobsmacked grin that spread across his face.
"Yes, I’m certain she is. Perhaps you could tell me a few of the qualities that attract you to her," the clerk prompted.
"Er…she’s fun, and she can always make me laugh. She likes to fly, and seems to know what I’m thinking without my having to say it. She’s stubborn and fiery, and she makes me think things were my idea all along even though I know they’re really what she wanted from the start," Harry said, chuckling a bit.
"She listens without judging, but always offers her opinion, and she smells really nice. She has the most amazingly soft red hair," Harry said, flushing when he realized he was getting carried away. Clearing his throat, he asked, "Can you recommend something to suit her?"
"Why, of course, sir," the clerk beamed, pulling out a tray with a wide selection of stones. There were red ones, green ones, blue ones and even diamonds glittering on display, and the clerk seemed to have a story and a reason why each one of them would be perfect for Ginny.
"But there has to be one that’s most suited," Harry said, bewildered.
"That’s generally left for the wizard to decide," the clerk said, sniffling once again.
Harry eyes roamed the endless expanse of rings. He somehow hadn’t planned on this being his biggest stumbling block. Which ring suited his Ginny? She sparkled brighter than all of them. What if he somehow chose the wrong ring? How disappointed would she be if he selected a ring that didn’t suit her at all? He’d had this whole scene envisioned perfectly in his mind, and now this ponce who wasn’t any bigger than Ginny was trying to ruin it all.
Well, Harry wasn’t going to let him. Taking a deep breath and calling upon his Gryffindor courage, Harry glanced at all the rings slowly and deliberately. After three passes, his eye had come to land on a bright red stone surrounded by smaller diamonds.
"Can I see that one?" he asked.
"Ah, an excellent choice," the man said, preening. "The ruby is of a supreme quality. I hand-selected it myself,"
"And the ruby means…what?" Harry asked.
"The ruby has a vast number of fine qualities including nobility, contentment, love, enthusiasm, and strength," the clerk replied.
Harry beamed as each word the clerk uttered fit Ginny perfectly in his mind. "I’ll take it," he said, pulling out his moneybag.
"Splendid," the clerk beamed. "I’ll just wrap it up for you and set a charm for it to size to her finger when she puts it on."
Harry nodded, watching the clerk disappear into a back room and feeling ridiculously proud of himself. Familiar voices outside the shop snapped him out of his reverie and he ducked back under the Invisibility Cloak in the nick of time.
Fred and George entered the shop, each looking from side to side and frowning at finding it empty.
"I’ll be right with you," the clerk called from the back.
"He’s not here," Fred said.
"I know I saw him come this way, and we’ve been in every other shop," George replied.
"He wouldn’t be hiding from us, would he?" Fred asked, perplexed.
"Why would he do that? We’re helping him and Ginny," George replied. "They both owe us big time."
‘Oh, I owe them all right,’ Harry thought sourly.
"Look at all this stuff," Fred said, his eyes scanning the vast expanse of jewelry. "And all designed to help some poor sod get himself tied to a ball and chain."
"Pity the fool," George said, removing his hat and holding it over his heart.
"You don’t suppose…" Fred asked, a startled expression crossing his jovial features.
"What?" asked George.
"That Harry…" Fred said, gesturing helplessly at all the jewelry.
"Don’t be daft," George said. "Harry’s a fine bloke, and I know Ginny loves him, but I don’t think there’s a romantic bone in his body."
Harry clamped his lips shut, determined not to give himself away, despite being extremely insulted.
"Too right," Fred said, chuckling.
"Come on, let’s get out of here before Angelina or Katie get wind of it and our gooses will really be cooked," George said, moving toward the door.
Fred paled at his twin’s words and hurriedly followed him out the door.
Har ry, Ron and Hermione Apparated into the Burrow’s back garden two days before Christmas. The newly fallen snow crunched beneath Harry’s boots as he trudged toward the kitchen door. Inhaling deeply, he let his gaze wander over the familiar landscape. A warm rush of fondness filled him when he saw the abundance of fairy lights that outlined the ramshackle house. Suddenly, and for the first time this season, he truly felt festive. He was finally here – to a place that felt like home, or at least what he imagined home would feel like. And his Ginny was waiting for him on the other side of that door.
Father Christmas himself couldn’t have fulfilled Harry’s wishes any better.
The kitchen door swung open wide, and Harry had a momentary glimpse of a flying mane of red hair before he was tackled head on and fell backwards into the snow.
"Happy Christmas, Harry," Ginny giggled, untangling her limbs from his and sitting upright, still perched atop him.
Harry blew some stray bits of snow from his lips, grinning madly despite the ache in his chest from the force of her impact.
"Ginny! Merlin, what a spectacle! Get off him this instant," Mrs. Weasley huffed, pulling Ginny off Harry by her arm. Despite her harsh words, Harry could see the distinct twinkle in Mrs. Weasley’s eyes. She was happy they were home, too.
"Don’t worry, Mrs. Weasley," Harry said, still grinning and pulling himself to his feet. "I really didn’t mind."
Mrs. Weasley’s cheeks colored as she fondly patted his head.
"Hi, Mum," Ron said, poking his tongue out at Ginny while Mrs. Weasley wrapped him in her crushing embrace.
"Oh, Ronnie! You’ve grown taller, but you don’t look like you’ve had a good meal since you left. Honestly, what have you been eating? I’ve prepared all your favorites, so we’ll fatten you right up," Mrs. Weasley said, pulling Ron toward the door and linking her other arm with Hermione. "Hermione, it’s so good to see you, dear. Thank heavens you’re all in one piece."
"Hi, Mrs. Weasley," Hermione said, obviously pleased with the warm greeting.
"Mum, we’ve been starving!" Ron said. "I’ve been pining for your beef stew with the potatoes smashed just right…"
Ron’s words faded as Harry stared into Ginny’s sparkling eyes. Her cheeks were ruddy from the cold, and stray snowflakes danced on her eyelashes. He was so busy simply drinking in the sight of her that he missed the slow motion of her arm as she scooped up a handful of snow and launched the ball of it. The cold impacted with the side of his face, knocking his glasses askew.
"And roast beef with Yorkshire pudding…" said Ron.
Harry’s eyes widened as he scooped up some snow. Ginny squealed and made a beeline for the door.
"And I want some Lamb Henry with mint jelly, and some steak and kidney p-" Ron’s menu was cut off when the snowball Harry had lobbed at Ginny hit him on the back of his head.
"Sorry, Ron!" Harry shouted, taking better aim at Ginny. This time, his snowball hit her before she reached the safety of the kitchen door, sprinkling her fiery hair with white flakes.
"Oh, and I’ve been dreaming about Bangers and Mash just the way you make it, Mum," Ron said, never breaking his stride and ignoring the impromptu snowball fight completely.
Ginny ducked behind a tree and threw several more snowballs at Harry. He immediately retaliated while the others entered the house. They had a good-natured snowball fight for several minutes before Harry was finally able to sneak up behind Ginny and tackle her into the snow.
She giggled as she rolled on to her back to face him. "Hi," she said, breathing heavily.
"Hi," he repeated before kissing her in proper greeting.
"Where’s all your stuff?" Ginny asked when they finally broke apart. She nodded towards his frayed backpack. "You can’t have fit everything in there."
"All I needed was a few changes of clothes. We really can’t stay long," Harry said, shrugging and pulling them both to their feet.
Ginny frowned. "Just some clothes?" she asked.
Harry smiled, knowing what she was seeking. "What else would I need?" he asked.
"Where are the presents?" Ginny demanded, running her hands over his pockets until he laughed and pulled away.
"That tickles! I reckoned I’d just pull out a mail-order catalog tonight," he said.
"Tonight?" Ginny shrieked, thunderclouds forming in her eyes. "You’ve waited until now to do your shopping, Harry? You’re going to use up some of our time on shopping?"
Harry could no longer control his grin. "Ha! Got’cha. No, my shopping is done, shrunken by Hermione and hidden safely away from any bright, prying brown eyes that might be looking for them," he said, grinning madly.
It took Ginny a moment to deflate when his words finally penetrated her indignation. "Prat," she said, slapping his arm. "What did you get me?"
Harry chortled, feeling incredibly giddy. "You’ll just have to wait until Christmas, won’t you?"
Ginny huffed and folded her arms across her chest. "Stick in the mud," she mumbled.
Harry laughed. "If you’re a very, very good girl, maybe I’ll let you open it on Christmas Eve," he said, feeling a rush as his plan was finally coming together.
Ginny’s eyes opened wide, and she started speaking in a breathless rush as they began moving toward the door. "Oh, Harry! You’ll never guess what’s happening here tomorrow night. Fred and George convinced Mum to have a Christmas party. All the Order is coming, and it’s a formal party. Mum has been cooking like mad for days! She hasn’t given me a moment’s rest. Isn’t it exciting though? I haven’t worn dress robes since the Yule Ball in my third year, and the ones I had then were really for a little girl. Fred and George gave me my present early and bought me white ones trimmed with gold, they’re beautiful."
Harry stopped in his tracks, feeling his well-laid plan begin to crumple and curl at the edges. His foggy brain was having enormous trouble grasping what she was saying.
Ginny finally realized that Harry had stopped, and she turned to him, questioning. "Harry?"
"A party? Here? On Christmas Eve?" he squeaked, hoping he’d heard her wrong.
"Yes," Ginny said, beaming and missing the look of dismay that crossed his features. "I think Fred and George are really trying to give us a romantic evening. It’s not like them to be so kind, so we’ll really have to watch out for rogue pranks. Still, the party is a wonderful idea. Mum loves it, too. Everything has been so somber and gray lately. This’ll be just the thing to brighten everyone’s spirits. Everyone’s coming."
"Everyone…will be here?" Harry asked, the vision of he and Ginny spending a quiet, romantic evening alone imploding in his mind. How was he supposed to ask her to marry him with the entire bloody Order dogging his every step? He was going to kill Fred and George. In fact, they might have just topped Voldemort on his hit list.
"Oh, Harry, wipe that expression off your face. We’ll have fun, and I promise not to complain if you step on my toes," Ginny said, misinterpreting his unease.
"Toes? I have to dance?" he asked incredulously.
"Of course you do. It’s a party, silly," Ginny said, slipping her warm hand in his and beaming.
Harry found it hard to stay angry when he saw the obvious excitement on her face.
"It’ll be fun," she said, her eyes wide and hopeful. "I think it’ll be romantic, and it’ll be nice to spend the evening with you and not have to worry about who sees us. We’ll be expected to dance and have fun at a party, and we get to be together."
Harry sighed, knowing he could never refuse her. He’d just have to make some adjustments to his plans.
Ha rry tugged fiercely at the collar of his shirt, taking out his aggression on the innocent garment. He hated putting on dress robes and simply wasn’t in the mood to get his hair to lie flat. How he’d let Ginny talk him into buying bright red robes was beyond him. He felt ridiculous, like some kind of Father Christmas popinjay. Scowling, he tugged at the robes again.
The Burrow had been thrumming with activity all day. Mrs. Weasley had baked enough delectable-looking food to feed a small army. Harry supposed that was exactly what they were. She’d set all her children along with Harry and Hermione to decorating. Even Harry – with his grumpy disposition – had to admit the place looked magical.
Judging by the frequent chime of the doorbell, the guests had begun to arrive. Harry could hear Fred and George’s enchanted mistletoe calling out the names of those caught smooching beneath it, sometimes with some rather risqué commentary. Harry made a mental note to avoid the mistletoe – he’d never had much luck with it, anyway. The twins had spent the day causing their usual mayhem until Mrs. Weasley had threatened to ban them from the party. Harry wished she had.
He hurried down the stairs, feeling the comforting weight of Ginny’s ring in his pocket and still hoping he could somehow manage to surprise her with it.
"There you are," Ron said, meeting him on the stairway. He was dressed in the midnight blue robes that Fred and George had promised to purchase on the next occasion Ron needed dress robes. "Nice robes," he said, smirking.
"Shut it," Harry grumbled.
"I was beginning to think you were going to skip the party," said Ron.
Harry shrugged. "I’m here now."
"Are you sure about this?" Ron asked.
For a moment, Harry panicked, thinking that Ron knew about the ring hidden in Harry’s pocket. Ignoring his fiercely pounding heart, he realized Ron meant being seen at the party at all. Harry had been trying to keep a low profile since they’d started their Horcrux hunt.
"Yeah, I’m sure. It’s Christmas, and he’s not going to ruin that, too," Harry said resolutely, struggling to keep his voice calm.
"That’s the attitude, Harry," Hermione said, meeting them at the bottom of the stairs. She was dressed in pale green and had piled her hair atop her head.
"Happy Christmas, Hermione," Harry said, leaning over to kiss her cheek. "You look lovely."
"Thank you, Harry," Hermione said, beaming. "You look quite dashing yourself. Very festive."
Ron sniggered as Hermione tugged on Harry’s red robes.
"Sod off," Harry said, nudging Ron with his elbow.
"Alastor and Poppy! Very chaste, but I think you can do better than that," the tinny sound of the enchanted mistletoe shouted, causing the three teens to snigger.
"There you are!" Ginny said, entering the living room and causing Harry’s breath to catch in his throat.
She looked stunning in her white and gold robes. She had her hair piled high on her head with soft curls hanging around her face. She was amazing, and he was lost.
He was jerked from his trance when Ron repeatedly snapped his fingers in front of Harry’s nose
"Real smooth, Harry," Ron sniggered before offering Hermione his arm. "Come on, Hermione. I want to show you off."
Harry was barely aware of his two best friends leaving the room. "Hi," he said, fighting the impulse to drop to his knee and propose to her right then and there.
"Hi," Ginny replied, obviously amused. "Those robes look really nice on you."
"Thanks. You, too. I mean, yours look really nice on you. Really nice…more than nice," Harry said, wondering if the twins had somehow cursed his speech. He couldn’t string two words together properly.
Ginny spun around, letting the bottom of her robes splay out wide. "Aren’t they lovely? I feel like a princess."
"You are a princess," Harry said, wrapping his arms around her and giving her a proper kiss. His conversation skills might be lacking, but his lips certainly seemed to work.
"Harry and Ginny! Leave some room for the Holy Ghost," the mistletoe shouted.
"I’m going to kill your brothers," Harry said, pulling back from the kiss and resting his forehead on hers.
"You’ll have to stand in line," Ginny said, sighing. "Come on, let’s get something to eat and mingle a bit."
"I don’t want to mingle. I want to be alone with you," Harry replied.
"Well, if we could only get an entire house full of people out of the way, you’d get your wish. But, until you can figure out a way to do that, we’ll just have to eat, drink and be merry," Ginny said, tugging on his hand. "Come on, Harry. It’s a party, and it’s kind of exciting, isn’t it?"
Harry shook himself internally. She was right. It was a party, and it could be lots of fun. So what if his proposal had to wait one more day? Ginny didn’t know about it, and the party was obviously something she wanted to enjoy.
"All right. Let’s get some food, and then maybe you’d do me the honor of dancing with me?" he asked, chuckling internally at the shocked expression on her face.
"You want to dance?" she asked incredulously.
"Only with you," he whispered, nipping at her ear and grinning when she shivered.
"Bill and Fleur! Now that’s reminding everyone you’re newlyweds," the mistletoe shouted, sounding impressed.
Harry did end up enjoying himself at the party. Lots of good food, good music and good friends helped to push all thoughts of the war away for a little while, and reminded them all exactly what it was they were all fighting to keep. The small weight of Ginny’s ring in his pocket gave Harry a giddy thrill each time he moved or danced with her and felt her pressed against him.
It was well after midnight and technically already Christmas Day, and the party was still raging. No one seemed eager to let the festivities end. Harry had pulled Ginny away from the dance floor, and they sat in front of the fire in the darkened living room, blessedly alone for the first time all evening.
He softly ran his fingers through her hair, his heart thudding painfully in his chest. Should he do it now? Should he just pull the ring from his pocket here and risk that they wouldn’t be interrupted? Ginny’s head was resting on his shoulder, and she was nearly purring her contentment. They’d both imbibed a bit more than usual on the abundance of wine and mead, and Harry suspected she might fall asleep if he didn’t say something quickly.
"Ginny," he said, clearing his suddenly parched throat while brushing one of the curls back from her face.
"Hmm?" she murmured without opening her eyes.
"There’s been something I’ve been meaning to say since I arrived here," he said, willing his heart to stop pounding.
"Remus and Nymphadora! Honestly, this isn’t the restricted section! Take it home," the mistletoe shrieked.
Fred and George burst into the living room, howling with glee, and causing Harry to clench his teeth with frustration.
"Did you see Remus’s face? I think we’d best stay away from him come next full moon," Fred said, laughing.
"Never mind Remus; it’s Mum we need to worry about," George said.
"Harry! Ginny!" Fred said, finally realizing they were there. "Fancy meeting you here."
"Don’t you two look cozy," George said, sitting on the couch beside them and grinning mischievously.
"You know, technically it is Christmas. So, what did Harry get you, Ginny? Have you opened presents yet?" Fred asked, raising his eyebrow at Harry while squeezing onto the couch so Harry and Ginny were trapped between the two.
"That’s it!" Harry said, finally having enough of Fred and George and their interruptions. Ginny’s ring was burning a hole in his thigh, and he was not going to be outmaneuvered by Fred and George Weasley.
Raising his wand, he silently flung open a cupboard door and levitated the startled and protesting twins inside. He slashed his wand in an X-shaped motion, sealing the two inside.
"Hey, come on, Harry. Let us out. We were only joking," came a muffled voice from inside the cupboard. It was a very small space, and the two sounded rather cramped inside.
"Have I told you how much I love you?" Ginny asked, raising her eyebrow while staring at the tightly sealed door.
"D’you mind if I leave them in there for a bit?" Harry asked.
Ginny’s eyes flew open wide. "Mind? I’ve dreamed about something like this for my entire life. We definitely should show Mum. It’ll be the best Christmas gift she ever had," Ginny said, giggling.
"Ginny!" came an indignant, muffled shout from the cupboard.
"Ron and Hermione! Now that’s a proper Christmas snog!" the mistletoe shouted.
"Your family is mad," Harry said, running a hand through his mussed-up hair.
"And you’re just realizing this now?" Ginny asked, smirking.
"D’you trust me?" Harry asked, locking his eyes with hers. This was it. No more stalling and no more interruptions. He was going to ask her to be his – mad family and all.
"What?" she asked, her brow furrowing.
"D’you trust me?" he asked again, raising an eyebrow.
"You know I do," she said, her sleepy eyes brightening.
"Come with me then," he said, holding out his hand.
She slipped her small hand inside his larger one, and he led her out of the living room, past a few scattered guests in the kitchen and outside into the cold. A part of the Weasley garden had been Charmed to stay warm, and most of the party was still taking place beneath a massive tent where the dance floor had been constructed. Harry quickly cast Warming Charms over them, thankful he’d been practicing his non-verbal spells.
Although confused, Ginny followed him unquestioningly as he trudged through the ankle-deep snow and led her to a small clearing well away from the noise of the party. He again waved his wand, and several floating candles traveled from the garden to their small clearing. The flickering light made the tiny snow crystals glisten like diamonds in the sun.
"Shut your eyes," he commanded, brushing the snow off a small stone bench and indicating she should sit.
When she’d complied, he transfigured the small clearing into a lush rose garden with blooming blossoms weaved throughout. The sweet scent filled the air, and he gently ran a petal along Ginny’s smooth skin.
She opened her eyes, gasping at the beauty of the vivid red roses against the crisp white snow. "Harry! It’s beautiful."
"Not as beautiful as you," he replied, unable to keep from tugging loose a curl from her perfectly-coiffed bun.
"When did you become such a charmer?" she asked, her cinnamon eyes dancing.
"When I stared dating you," he replied. "You’ve shown me more about myself than I ever knew was there. You’ve shown me how to be the man I want to be."
"Oh, Harry," she said, her eyes glistening.
Harry fought the tightness in his chest. "Let me finish, please. I can’t stand another interruption."
"All right," she said, sniffling.
"You are a beautiful person, inside and out, and you’ve made me feel important just for me – completely outside the whole Chosen One thing-"
"Of course you’re important-" she said hotly.
He waved his hand in the air, stopping her rail before it could begin. "We’re important. What we have together is important, and it deserves so much more than to be hidden away. I want to share my life with you, and I want everyone to know that you are what make me whole. I don’t want to do any of this without you."
"You won’t. You’ll never have to be alone again. Tom’ll never even see you coming," she said vehemently. Her fierce determination didn’t leave room for question. She was as determined to have that happy life with him as he was with her. That knowledge filled him with an inner peace and acceptance that he’d never known.
He dropped to one knee in front of her, pulling the brilliantly shining ruby ring from his pocket.
Ginny gasped as her hands flew to her throat. Her eyes became saucers and began to spill over.
"Ginny Weasley, will you marry me?" he asked, his voice low.
"Oh, Harry!" she gasped, throwing her arms around him and knocking them both to the snowy ground in their dress robes.
"Is that a yes?" he asked.
"Are you mad? Of course it’s a yes!" she shrieked, giggling madly. "I’ll be honored to be your wife, and I don’t care how long I have to wait. You are going to come home to me, and we’ll spend the rest of our lives fulfilling that prophecy by truly living."
Harry took her in his arms, thrilling with the knowledge that this is where she’d always be.
When Harry and Ginny finally returned to the Burrow – after an intense snogging session that Harry wouldn’t soon forget – most of the party guests had already left. The Weasley family was gathered around the tree in the living room, minus Fred and George, whose voices could still be heard from the cupboard. The rest of the family had begun opening presents
"Oh, Harry, Ginny. There you are. Come have a seat and open your gifts. Since it’s Christmas already, we thought we’d do things a bit backwards and open gifts first, then go to sleep," Mrs. Weasley said warmly. Her eyes twinkled merrily, and she her gaze shrewdly flickered back and forth between Harry and Ginny.
"Er.." Harry said, staring warily at the cupboard door. "Sorry about Fred and George, Mrs. Weasley. I’ll let them out.
"Don’t you dare! You’re not about to ruin my best present now. I’ve tried for years to find a way to contain those two. I’m going to have one un-ruined Christmas breakfast while I can. It won’t do them any harm to sit in there and stew a while," Mrs. Weasley said, taking Harry by the shoulders and leading him to an empty chair.
Ginny sniggered, taking the seat next to Harry.
"So, where have you two been?" Ron asked suspiciously, his eyes narrowed.
"Celebrating," Harry answered cheekily.
He planned on celebrating this occasion for the rest of his life. He and Ginny were going to be married, and this family would celebrate many more Christmases just like this in the years to come. For him, this one would always be a Christmas like no other had ever been, but it was the start of something. A beautiful start to something.
A/N: So, there you go. Fluffy enough for you? It was certainly fluffy for me. This story was written for the SIYE challenge, and it’s dedicated to Jaq – who I like to think is peeking down from heaven and grinning at us all since she’s already sneaked a peek at JKR’s final manuscript.
She and I used to tease each other about our fanfiction preferences. I’m an angsty drama fan, while she loved fluffy romance. I always told her she had a secret angst diva just longing to break free. I hope this one is fluffy enough for you, Jaq! I really tried.
A huge Christmas barrel of thanks go to Sherrylyn and GhostWriter for taking the time to beta this for me. I really appreciate it at this hectic time of year. You’re the best!
I hope you all enjoy a wonderful holiday season and that JKR gives us all a nice present ;) Merry Christmas!