|SIYE Time:12:00 on 16th August 2018|
Grimmauld Christmas Presents
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Category: Post-DH/AB, Holidays
Characters:Harry/Ginny, Hermione Granger, Neville Longbottom, Ron Weasley
Warnings: Mild Language
Story is Complete
Summary: It is Harry’s first Christmas at Grimmauld Place. Ginny is back at The Burrow on holiday from Hogwarts, but will he be able to give her the present he’s been saving for her after his Auror trainee assignment? Who gets an assignment on Christmas Day?
Hitcount: Story Total: 4131
Disclaimer: Harry Potter Publishing Rights © J.K.R. Note the opinions in this story are my own and in no way represent the owners of this site. This story subject to copyright law under transformative use. No compensation is made for this work.
Something different for me, but it all eventually fits into the Professor Muggle series of stories which don't quite fit on SIYE. Hopefully my stab at Harry/Ginny works out. Enjoy and Happy Holidays.
Harry Potter sat outside Gawain Robards’ office and tapped his foot nervously; the Head Auror wouldn’t have called him down for nothing, there had to be a good reason. He played with the cuff of his Auror trainee robe, pulled a stray thread off, rolled it into a small little ball and cupped it in his hand for a moment. Concentrating on the little ball he watched it quiver for a few moments, but his nonverbal spell to turn it into marble failed. His thoughts returned to Robards, why he’d been called into a meeting on Christmas Eve; he knew that it was imperative to get new Aurors out into the field as there was a critical shortage, but at least he had Christmas Day off. Christmas…the moment he thought of that he patted the pocket of his robe quickly, just to make sure it was still there. Resisting the urge to open it up and look at it again his reverie was broken but the sudden appearance of the boss; Robards stuck his head out of the door and looked around.
“Where the bloody hell is Marning? Got to get a new assistant. Ok, Potter, get in here.”
Harry stood up quickly, made his way into Robards’ office and shortly thereafter sat very quietly and stiffly in the chair in front of the desk. Robards shuffled through some papers until he found the one he was looking for, shook some crumbs off of it and looked over to Harry.
“First off you’re not in trouble. Dinkle says you’re doing better than he expected, and that’s high praise coming from him. Now, I know you probably have plans but I have an assignment for you starting tomorrow morning.”
Christmas morning? Harry’s stomach fell; so much for his plan. He knew better than to say anything, though; Robards and Dinkle, his Auror Instructor, had made it abundantly clear when he started training that he was Auror Trainee Potter, not The-Boy-Who-Lived or anyone famous, he was just another grunt who might or might not make it through the program. He had been granted no favors, not that he wanted any, and if Harry was honest with himself it was as if they were going out of their way to give him the hard stuff. Now he had to work on Christmas morning?
“Yes, I know it’s Christmas, but this was a request from Shacklebolt. Personally. When we took you on part of the agreement was that you wouldn’t be out on the PR trail, but this is different. Consider it ‘other duties as assigned.’ Tomorrow morning at eight I will expect you here in the office. You’re to help deliver Christmas presents at the orphanage, the one that opened up not too long ago. You know the one. You and two other Aurors will be handing out presents to the kids. The press will be there, but…” Robards sat back in his chair. “Harry, we need recruiting help. You know how many Aurors we lost. We need recruits. There are still a lot of Death Eaters out there and we need bodies. The paper’s been hammering us, I’m sure you’ve seen the articles.”
“Yes, sir.” Harry nodded, but his voice was flat and unemotional. He felt the weight in his pocket as if it was a paving stone.
Robards scowled slightly. “It won’t be all day. Minister promised me this would be the only thing you have to do publicity-wise, so take your lumps, Trainee. Ok, off you go.” As Harry stood up Robards looked towards his door. “MARNING! GET IN HERE!”
Harry stood still for a moment, unsure of whether to leave or wait for Robards’ assistant to enter the office. After a few seconds it was obvious that she was not going to enter. Harry took a few steps outside, looked around and, not seeing anyone, stuck his head back into Robards’ office. “Um, she’s not here.”
“Bloody hell!” Robards shook his head. “Go find Milton Lipstock and tell him I need a new assistant. Merlin’s pants, you’d think Lipstock could find me a decent one. Last two have quit. What kind of people is he getting these days? Head of the Auror Administrative team, more like Lipstock’s a…” He looked over to Harry. “What are you still doing here, Potter?” He waved towards the door. “Out!”
Once an exasperated Milton Lipstock had been informed of the assistant situation Harry made his way back down to the Auror training rooms and hurriedly took his usual place, right between Seamus Finnegan and Terry Boot. He sat down quickly and opened his training manual, thankful that Instructor Dinkle only nodded at him and continued with the lesson on proper arrest procedures.
The kitchen at The Burrow was a veritable hive of activity; Molly Weasley was in the midst of her busiest day of the year, cooking enough food to feed not only her family but several other families of the same size. Molly was not the only Weasley involved in the preparation for the Christmas meal, as Ginny sat at the kitchen table icing biscuits with her best friend Hermione Granger. The two witches had come to The Burrow straight from Hogwarts as Hermione’s parents didn’t expect her until late on Christmas Eve.
“When do George and Ron get off work?” Ginny looked over to her Mum. “Shouldn’t they be here?”
Molly wiped her hands on her apron and glanced over to the table. “Not so much icing, Ginny. They’ll be here after the shop closes. Very busy day, you know. Last shopping day before Christmas.”
Hermione looked at her watch. “Almost half eight? What time are they closing?”
“Whenever they can, dear.” Molly looked at the plate of cookies next to Hermione’s arm. “Oh, nicely done, Hermione. Ginny, dear, try to make yours like hers. Too much spoils the biscuits.”
After Molly had returned to the kitchen Ginny gave Hermione a nasty face and muttered under her breath “Of course the Head Girl does perfect holiday biscuits. Too much icing my arse.”
“You just need to apply yourself, Ginny. Concentrate.” Hermione held back a laugh and bit her lip. As a further precaution from laughing she took a finger and wiped it on the edge of the bowl, took up the stray red icing and popped it into her mouth. After a contented smile she looked over to Ginny. “My parents would have kittens if they saw all the sugar in this house.”
“Oh, I know. I swear she has it delivered by the crate.” Ginny shook her head. “And she hasn’t even started on the treacle tart.”
“Speaking of that…” Hermione looked into the kitchen to ensure that Molly was occupied and leaned over the table. “Have you heard from Harry?”
“Not since three days ago. He said that he and Ron had to do some Christmas shopping. Ron, shopping? I think they’re up to something.”
“Of course they are. Who are we talking about, again?” Hermione took another biscuit and began to methodically spread green icing. “What did you get Harry?”
Ginny rolled her eyes. “Smudge-proof notebook. Apparently all Aurors need one. Well, that’s what Dad said. Mum was with me the whole time so I couldn’t really get him anything good. She wanted to get him an ottoman. Furniture, really? I got him something else as well.”
“Well, he is at Grimmauld by himself. And Kreacher, can’t forget him. I suppose he probably does need new furniture, the things from the Blacks are so, so…”
“Horrible?” Ginny nodded. “I don’t see how he can live there.”
“Well, he did inherit it.” Hermione added some sprinkles to a cookie and set it on the plate. “And it was Sirius’ house…”
“I just thought he’d get a flat.” Ginny dropped a rather large amount of icing on a buscuit, earning a sideways glance from Hermione. “Oh stop, I’ll eat it. I just thought he’d get a flat close to the Ministry.”
“And far away from your mum?” Hermione smiled at Ginny. “I heard her talking to Andromeda by Floo. I think the two of them are going to just go over there and begin cleaning while he’s out if he doesn’t do something soon. They’re afraid he’s just living in a few rooms in that old place. And Kreacher, well, I know he wants to help and is devoted to Harry, but it just isn’t right to ask an elderly house elf to clean that place, it…”
Arthur walked into the kitchen and smiled at the girls. “Oh yes, holiday biscuits, can’t resist.” He looked at both plates and took two biscuits heavily loaded with icing from Ginny’s plate and then, after considering, took one from Hermione’s. “Ah, yes, Ginny, an owl came for you.” He handed her the letter and then walked into the other room hurriedly, as not to be caught with three biscuits by Molly.
Ginny sat down her knife and opened the letter. Her shoulders slumped as she handed the letter to Hermione. “Mum! Harry has to work tomorrow!”
Molly quickly made her way over to the table and took the proffered letter from Hermione’s hand. “Let me see this…” After reading for a while she sighed and handed the letter back to her daughter. “I suppose I can make him up a plate…Ginny, he’s an Auror now, and if he’s been given an order he has to follow…Kingsley himself, even. Can’t be helped, I’m afraid.”
As Ginny took the letter back from her Mum, Hermione took the opportunity to go get additional biscuits from the kitchen. It took her a little longer to return to the table than expected, so Ginny looked at her oddly. “What is it? Hermione, it’s Christmas, how can Kingsley expect him to work all day? It isn’t fair.”
Hermione sat down and arched an eyebrow. “That’s what your mum’s saying now. Your dad’s trying to calm her down.”
Ginny rolled her eyes. “Then why did she tell me to…”
“Don’t get stroppy, Ginny…it’s Christmas Eve.” Hermione pursed her lips. “She’s just trying to make you understand that when you’re the…”
Ginny listlessly picked up another biscuit and began icing it. “Girlfriend of an Auror, I know.”
Harry had planned on waking up in plenty of time to get ready for his ‘official duties’ but when he rolled over and looked at the clock he realized that he’d overslept by about an hour. He quickly threw off the duvet, almost jumped out of bed and hurriedly took a shower. With his hair still somewhat damp he threw on his Auror uniform, grabbed his glasses, Auror badge and wand and was almost out the door when he saw packages under his little tree. It was his first Christmas tree, a small thing that Hermione had called a ‘Charlie Brown Christmas tree,’ whatever that was, but he didn’t care. It was his Christmas tree, and even though it was not very tall he was proud of it. He had to stifle the urge to stop and look at the packages, as if he didn’t ‘shake a leg’ as Dinkle always said he’d be quite late.
When he arrived at the Ministry he had cut it close; two more minutes and he would have been late, and tardiness was something that Robards loathed. Two older Aurors stood waiting for him alongside Robards, and as soon as he arrived all three looked at their watches as if on cue.
“Close, Potter, close.” Robards shook his head. “Potter, this is Jones and MacCutchen. Follow their lead. Give me ten and I’ll be back.”
Robards left, giving Harry an opportunity to notice his partners on their little expedition. Jones was an older woman who reminded him of Molly Weasley, as she had reddish hair and a similar build. MacCutchen was a tall man, early forties, and looked as if someone had just told him some unpleasant news. He’d never met either of the Aurors, but from the looks on their faces he guessed that they weren’t too pleased that he was along for the ride. As soon as he spoke to them, though, he found out differently. MacCutchen thanked him for taking the time to help out while Jones said that she looked forward to the assignment every year. Their apparent irritation was not with Harry but with Robards, as every year before the current one all of the packages were awaiting their departure; this year, though, they were somewhere at large in the Auror office. MacCutchen blamed Robards’ assistant and Jones nodded her assent; apparently the Christmas visit to the orphanage was just the latest in a string of incidents that she’d botched.
Eventually Robards arrived, red-faced and sweaty, with several bags that he levitated in front of him as he entered the office. “Ok, you lot, pick a bag and let’s go. Don’t want to keep ‘em waiting.”
Harry knew that the war had increased the number of magical orphans; this had registered in his brain as a fact, but when they arrived at the orphanage the fact was bluntly hammered home. Children of all ages seemed to be in the main room next to a large Christmas tree, the younger ones minded by witches, and he felt the bag of packages slip slightly out of his hand.
Jones leaned over to him. “Just wait until Father Christmas comes in, they go mental.”
“Father Christmas?” Harry looked over to her. “Who’s…”
With a very loud ‘Ho, ho, ho!’ Gawain Robards walked into the room dressed in Father Christmas clothing; his normal appearance was changed to a long, white beard, his robes were bright red trimmed in white and he wore tall, black leather boots. The cap upon his snow-white hair jingled with bells, and he held the stem of a pipe between his teeth, smoke curling around his head.
As Jones had indicated the orphanage went into a frenzy as the children all crowded around Father Christmas. Harry noticed that a few of the younger children were somewhat frightened of Father Christmas, so he worked his way through the throng of children to a young boy of about six who sat on a witch’s lap.
“Hello there, Happy Christmas.” Harry knelt down next to the witch’s chair and looked to the boy. “He’s not really scary, but his is rather loud, isn’t he?”
The boy nodded in recognition of Harry’s comment but his eyes never left Father Christmas.
A moment of panic hit Harry as he didn’t know exactly what to do next; Robards had briefed him that they’d come to the orphanage and distribute presents, but that was as far as he’d gone. He’d had no idea that Robards would dress up as Father Christmas, and as for how the process would go he’d had no indication. After a deep breath he reached into the bag and pulled out the first present his hand rested upon, a package with bright green and blue paper about the size of a book. He placed the present in the boy’s hands. “Happy Christmas.”
As soon as the boy’s hands felt the package his attention moved from Father Christmas to the present and then Harry.
“What do you say, Conrad?” The witch leaned over and whispered something in his ear.
The boy’s eyes were open wide and he turned to Harry. “You’re…you’re him!”
Harry chuckled. “That’s right, I’m me. You’re Conrad, right? I think you can open that up.”
That seemed to do the trick as the little boy hurriedly ripped off the paper to reveal a box that read ‘Fierce Magical Animals’ on the top. Underneath the clear part of the packaging Harry could see small figures of a winged horse, a dragon, a hippogriff and a griffin. As soon as the top came off and the boy touched the figures the dragon, a Chinese Fireball, let out a tiny bit of smoke from his snout.
“Thank you, Harry Potter!” Conrad’s voice was loud, and it seemed to cut through the general excited murmuring of the main room. For a moment everything was quiet, and then the murmurs began, shortly thereafter followed by a crowd of children around Harry, mostly the older ones.
Jones stood next to Robards and elbowed him. “You may be Father Christmas, but he’s Harry Potter.”
It was late afternoon, almost evening by the time Harry arrived at The Burrow. He was tired, but it was a good tired. There was only one problem, though; he was truly, utterly and completely full. The children wanted him to stay and eat with them, and after hearing about some of their stories from the witches who managed the orphanage he couldn’t say no to them. Robards and MacCutchen left as well, but Jones stayed with him. Together they spent the day with the children, playing with the toys, helping set up a magical train set, playing hand after hand of exploding snap, so it was almost inevitable that he would stay to eat with them.
When he walked in the door to The Burrow Molly was the first to meet him, and she administered the usual welcoming hugs and greetings. She told him that Robards should be ashamed of himself for making Harry work on Christmas, but instead of seeing Harry’s agreement she saw something else. “Well, sit down, dear, I have your plate in the kitchen warming.”
Harry groaned and headed towards the table where he was met by everyone else. After exchanging Christmas wishes with everyone he finally found himself next to Ginny…and that’s when he realized he forgot something very important back at Grimmauld Place that morning.
“I can’t believe he made you work on Christmas, Harry. Christmas!” She took his hand and kissed him on the cheek. “Are you hungry?”
“Um…”Harry scratched his head. “Actually, no.” He looked towards the kitchen. “Mrs. Weasley?”
“Nonsense, Harry, you need a proper Christmas meal.” Molly led him away from Ginny and sat him down at the table.
Ginny looked over at her mum, then to Hermione, and then back to Harry. She ignored Hermione’s chuckle and went over to the table, sitting across from Harry. “Mum, he said he’s not hungry.”
“I’m sorry, Mrs. Weasley, it looks wonderful. I ate at the orphanage about an hour or so ago, I’m sorry, I couldn’t turn them down.”
“Oh!” Arthur nodded and winked at Harry. “Molly, it appears Harry went on the Father Christmas run this year. Very impressive, Harry. Robards is very picky about that.”
Arthur’s comments led to a general explanation, that he’d gone with Robards and two other Aurors to distribute presents at the orphanage and that Robards had dressed up as Father Christmas. Much to Harry’s shock he found out that he was the first trainee to ever attend, as it had only been Robards, Jones and McCutchen for years. It was while the explanation was in process that the Weasley women lost their righteous indignation, as they knew that Harry had been put in an impossible situation.
Molly picked up Harry’s plate. “Well, I’ll just put this away for you to take home. Speaking of that, Harry, why don’t you let me come over and help you, that place is…”
“Here you go, mate.” Ron slid around the corner and put the plate of Christmas biscuits on the table. “Always got room for these, right?”
Hermione and Ginny both watched Harry as his hand hovered above the biscuits. Much to Hermione’s chagrin Harry took one of the biscuits loaded with icing.
“Just one, I’m stuffed.” Harry took a big bite and saw Hermione and Ginny across the table; Ginny looked triumphant. He leaned over to Ron. “What’s with them?”
Ron reached over and grabbed a biscuit off of the plate, considered things for a moment and grabbed another one. Both biscuits were the lightly iced ones. “No clue. Mental, those two are.”
As the evening went on and Harry managed a small piece of treacle tart it became obvious to everyone that it had been a long day. George sat in one of the chairs, snoring, as the amount of hours he’d put into the shop lately had been staggering. Ron wasn’t much better, as he’d been working in the shop right along George, but he was determined to spend as much time as possible with Hermione. Ginny, though, could tell that Harry was spent.
“Go on home, Harry. You’re exhausted.” She sat next to him on the sofa as her mum and dad cleaned in the kitchen. “Or maybe I should come with you.” Suddenly she sat up and looked at him oddly. “You hate it, don’t you?”
“Huh? What?” Harry looked at her oddly. She wasn’t lying, he was exhausted. “I don’t know…”
“I knew it was a crap present. I’m so sorry, but Mum said that all the Aurors have one and I know it wasn’t much and…”
Harry held up his hand. “I overslept this morning. All my packages are still under the tree.”
“You haven’t even opened your presents?” Ginny pushed her hair back from her face. After a few moments of deliberation she went into the kitchen, grabbing Ron and Hermione on her way. A few moments later she returned. “Come on, Harry, we’re going to your house.” Ginny led Harry by the arm to the fireplace, and once they’d entered she took a pinch of Floo powder, threw it down and said “Number 12, Grimmauld Place.”
After they were gone Molly clasped a hand to her heart. “Arthur! She’s gone with Harry! It’s just the two of them…” She looked wildly around the room. “Ronald! Go over there. You too, George!”
Hermione nodded. “Ron, he shouldn’t be alone on Christmas. Let’s go over for a bit.”
Ron took a deep breath and looked down at his shoes for a moment. When he turned back to Hermione she hand an odd look upon her face. “Um, let’s give them a few minutes.”
“Ron…” Hermione went over to him and made him bend down so she could whisper in his ear. “What’s going on? Hurry, your mum’s about to have kittens.”
“Merlin.” Ron rubbed his forehead for a moment. “I know what her present is; just give them some time.”
“Party at Grimmauld Place!” George stepped between Ron and Hermione and put an arm around each of them. “Can’t let little Ginny be over there all by her lonesome. You two go on ahead, I’ll be along shortly.”
Hermione almost had to drag Ron to the fireplace, and after continued exhortations from Molly he took Hermione’s hand and threw down the Floo powder.
When Harry and Ginny arrived at Grimmauld the house was very, very dark. Harry had not expected to be so late; his plan was to return from his assignment, change clothes, gather presents and go to The Burrow for the day, but it hadn’t worked out that way at all. Now he stood with Ginny in the gloom of Grimmauld in his Auror uniform and her present was upstairs. How was he going to manage everything?
“It’s so dark in here, Harry. It’s like a cave.” Ginny took out her wand and lit the lamps, turning the gloom into a semblance of normality. The furniture was, as her mum had feared, still all horribly out-of-date and in somewhat ill repair, but the light did catch the few ornaments on the little tree. The moment Ginny saw the tree her heart fell; her parents had a large tree, decorated with more than a decade’s worth of ornaments, but Harry’s little tree?
“Master Harry, do you wish anything from Kreacher?” The house elf stood in front of them and bowed low.
“Um, no thank you, Kreacher.” Harry looked over to Ginny. “Um, you remember Ginny, right?”
Kreacher nodded slowly. “Kreacher remembers Miss Weasley.”
Harry’s mind raced as he tried to think of what to do next; how would he get some time to get Ginny’s present? “Ah, Kreacher, would you mind making some tea? Ginny, I’ll be right back, I need to change clothes. You remember where the kitchen is, right? Right, back in a flash.”
He left Ginny standing speechless in front of Kreacher and it took everything in him to not break into a run up the old, worn steps. The moment he entered his messy bedroom he threw off his Auror robe and started taking off his shoes by using one foot while untying his tie. He almost lost his balance completely, and after sitting on the bed for a moment he finally had his shoes off. After that he quickly threw on jeans, a jumper and a pair of slippers that he’d bought shortly after the weather began to turn cold. Hogwarts had been cold, but Grimmauld was very, very drafty. The thought that he’d need to weatherproof the house entered his head for a moment, but that was quickly banished as he realized that he couldn’t remember where he’d put Ginny’s present.
Ginny’s voice echoed from downstairs, telling him that Ron and Hermione were there, which momentarily caused Harry to stop looking through a pile of things on the small desk. Ron and Hermione? Why were they…Ron knew better, Hermione probably felt bad for him. That had to be it. He redoubled his efforts, throwing things about until he finally found it underneath the bed. How the hell did it get there?
Present safely in his pocket Harry started downstairs. He wasn’t planning on Ron and Hermione being there, but it wouldn’t be too bad. He was almost at the bottom of the steps when he heard the Floo and George Weasley’s voice.
“Ah, there he is, you didn’t think we’d leave poor little defenseless Ginny alone with you in this big house, did you?” George shook his head and winked at Harry. “About gave Mum a heart attack. Darling little daughter all alone in the big house with Harry…just glad you both aren’t starkers.”
Harry quickly took in the scene. George stood right outside of the fireplace with two bottles of firewhiskey in his hands. Ron and Hermione sat on the sofa and Ron looked as if he would rather be anyplace else in the world while Hermione looked at him as if he was a little kitten that needed attention. Ginny…Ginny was mad. She sat in one of the chairs with her arms crossed over her chest, her eyes staring daggers through George.
“Uh, thanks, George.” Harry tapped his pocket with his hand as he made his way over to the chair next to Ginny. “You didn’t need to stop over, I’m fine.”
Hermione edged forward on the sofa and put her hands in her lap. “Harry, we didn’t want you to be alone on Christmas, of all nights. You haven’t even opened your presents!”
The Floo roared to life and Seamus Finnegan stepped out. “Happy Christmas!” He handed Harry a bottle. “It’s ó Conchobhair. Me mam says it’s better than Old Ogden’s.”
“Happy Christmas. Thanks, Seamus.”
Seamus was only the first, as shortly thereafter Terry Boot, Neville Longbottom, Katie Bell, Oliver Wood and several other of Harry’s old Quidditch teammates or members of Dumbledore’s Army arrived at Grimmauld Place. A makeshift bar was setup in the kitchen and all sorts of leftover Christmas feasts were arranged on the kitchen table. Someone, probably Lee Jordan, had set up a wizarding wireless, and before long it was an honest-to-goodness Christmas party.
It was while the Patil twins were talking to Ginny that Harry finally found a moment to grab Ron. He drug Ron into the library and turned on him. “Why the bloody hell did you…”
“Oh, no.” Ron held up his hands. “Not me, mate. Mum and Hermione, and then George. Party’s his idea.” Ron took a drink, looked towards the doorway for a moment and then turned back to Harry. “You sure about this?”
Harry’s back stiffened and his eyes narrowed. “I told you at Gringott’s, I’m positive. You’re doubting me…”
“Merlin, calm down. I’m not worried about that, just…it’s bloody crowded. No privacy.”
His shoulders relaxed, and then Harry adjusted his glasses. “The garden. But I don’t want anyone to follow me.”
“Use the elf.” Ron chuckled. “Just don’t tell Hermione.”
“Ok, ok. Go get Ginny and bring her out to the garden. Tell her there’s something I want her to see. A plant or something.”
Ron laughed. “She’ll definitely know you’re up to something. You aren’t Neville, mate.”
“Fine, give me a minute.” He clapped Harry on the shoulder. “I still can’t believe you’re doing this.”
Harry sat out in the garden on a little bench. He’d used a warming charm for the seat and had built a little magical fire that hovered slightly off the ground in front of him. If his mind had been racing before it was now at light speed. What if she said no? Were they too young? They were too young. He should have talked to Mr. Weasley first instead of Ron. Why did he talk to Ron?
“Harry?” Ginny stood at the door to the house, holding two presents.
He smiled at her and patted the bench seat next to him. She shivered on the way over to the bench, but as soon as she entered the warm radius of the fire her shoulders eased. After she sat next to him she handed him the presents.
“Thanks, Ginny.” Harry opened up the first present, the smaller one. “Oh hey, is this smudge proof? Thanks!” He gave her a small kiss on the lips and then opened the second present, which was somewhat larger than the first one and much softer. As the packaging fell away he unrolled a very long, dark grey cashmere scarf.
“Your Gryffindor scarf has seen better days, and I thought this would go better with your Auror uniform.” Ginny looked over to him hesitantly. “Do you like it?”
“I love it.” He wrapped the scarf around his neck. “What do you think?”
“I like it.” She snuggled next to him. “So, Mr. Almost Auror, what’s my present?”
“Oh, so someone thinks they have a present?” Harry elbowed her slightly. “Do you think you deserve one? What would Father Christmas say?”
“That I’ve been good all year long.” Ginny closed an eye and scrunched up her nose at him. “As good as possible, I suppose.”
“Close your eyes.” Harry reached into his pocket and brought out the box. After a very deep breath he opened up the lid so that it faced her and smiled. “Ok, open.”
Ginny opened her eyes, and whatever it was she had been picturing in her mind vanished in a second. Harry sat before her with a box that held a ring. Not just any kind of ring.
“Ginevra Molly Weasley, we’ve been through quite a lot. I know that it took you some time after everything to realize that I broke up with you once to protect you. You did make me grovel for a while, but it was worth it. You are everything to me, and if you say yes I promise I’ll…”
He never finished. Ginny threw her arms around him and kissed him for all she was worth.
When they stopped for a second Harry looked at her. “Does this mean yes?”
“Of course, you idiot. Yes, yes, yes!”
Harry laughed for a second. “Does that mean you want to wear the ring?”
“Oh Merlin yes.” She moved away from him far enough to let him get the ring out, and when she looked at it she couldn’t believe it. There it was, what she’d been imagining since she was little, an engagement ring from Harry Potter. But it was different than in her imagination. Back then Harry was only an idea, a little girl’s fantasy, and her Harry was much different. Her Harry. She knew the real Harry. Always her Harry. She held out her hand and Harry placed the ring on her finger. “It’s beautiful.”
“It was my Granny Potter’s.” Harry smiled at her. “I got a list of everything in the vaults from Bill, goblin efficiency and all that. I didn’t know what it looked like until I took Ron down there the other day.”
“Ron? He knows?” Ginny fixed him with a studious glare. “I don’t see any injuries.”
“Um, yes, well…I had to have a talk with him first.”
She snorted. “How did that go?”
“About as well as you’d expect. Full bodybind. Had to threaten to leave him in the vault before he’d calm down. Then I told him everything, and…well, he said if it had to be anyone at least it was me.”
Ginny rolled her eyes. “Poor Hermione.”
“She’s been expecting a ring from Ron. After Hogwarts. Now she’s really going to wonder.” She looked down at her ring and then threw herself into Harry’s arms.
The conjured fire had almost died when Harry and Ginny returned to the party holding hands. As soon as Harry saw Ron he simply nodded. Ron sighed and raised a glass towards the couple and downed the contents. It didn’t take long for the news to come out, even though Harry and Ginny decided not to make an announcement. Ginny had one of the decorated Christmas biscuits in her hand when Hermione grabbed her arm, causing the biscuit to fly through the air and land on Neville’s lap. After confirmation the scene quickly went into overdrive, with Harry being congratulated and Ginny surrounded by her excited friends.
As Ron made his way over to Harry he tapped him on the shoulder. “Looks like you didn’t make everybody’s night, mate.” He motioned towards the corner, where Dean Thomas sat somewhat unhappily. “So you telling Mum and Dad tonight or tomorrow?”
“Tomorrow. I can’t leave everybody here. It is a pretty good party.”
Ron nodded. “True, but I’m sure everyone has Boxing Day plans tomorrow. It is a pretty good party, but maybe you should have a New Year’s party instead. Don’t worry, I’ll start clearing everyone out.” He stepped away for a few steps and then put his wand to his throat. “OI! YOU LOT! TIME TO CLEAR OUT!”
“Ronald!” Hermione shook her head, and then turned to Harry and Ginny. “I’m so happy for you two! You’d better go to The Burrow, Ginny.”
“We’ll get everybody out of here.” Ron waved them off. “Go!”
Harry led Ginny towards the fireplace and with a pinch of Floo powder they were gone.
M olly was waiting at the kitchen table in her housecoat, sipping a cup of hot cocoa. “Ginevra, I…oh, Harry?” She sighed. “I told George it was completely rude to invite everyone over. Harry, I’ll come help you clean tomorrow, dear. I’m sure…” She stopped talking and looked over to the two of them; they held hands and hadn’t moved. “Is everything all right? I’ll go get Arthur. George is going to hear about this, I can tell you…”
“Are you ok?” Ginny looked over to Harry. “Are you sweating?”
“Yes. I guess. I mean, I’m ok, and yes, I am sweating.”
Arthur walked into the kitchen while wrapping a robe over a long nightshirt and rubbed his eyes. “How much does George owe you, Harry? How bad’s the damage?”
“Mr. and Mrs. Weasley…” Harry looked over to Ginny. “Um…” He took a very deep breath. “We’re engaged.”
Molly clapped a hand to her mouth and then stumbled a bit. Arthur caught her and slowly maneuvered her to a seat at the table. Ginny sat next to her mum nervously for a few moments and then Molly reached out and gave Ginny a giant hug. When she pulled away from Ginny tears were in her eyes. “Harry…”
Harry received the largest hug he’d ever had from Molly. When they broke apart she looked over to Arthur. “Oh Arthur…”
He nodded. “I know, Mollywobbles. I know.” His smile was wide as he kissed his daughter on her forehead.
The Floo roared to life and George stumbled out of it. “What the bloody hell?”
Molly gave Arthur a quick look and turned to George. “You have some explaining to do, young man. Arthur, why don’t you help George up to his room, please.”
Once the procession upstairs was over Molly looked to the two of them. “I am very happy for the two of you, but Ginny, you will finish school. Now I’ll leave you two for a moment and then Ginny and I need to have a talk. I’ll be over to help you clean tomorrow, Harry.”
After she left Harry wrapped his arms around Ginny’s waist, pulling her close. “That went better than I expected.”
She laughed. “You think it’s over? How long have you been a part of this family?”
He kissed her softly. “I guess I really am part of the family now, huh?”
“For better or worse.”
“I like that, might have to say that sometime soon.” He kissed her again. “I guess its Boxing Day at Grimmauld, then?”
“Yeah. You’d better get some sleep. Mum will be there early. Cleaning.” She shuddered. “And with the state of your house…”
She shook her head. “More like seven.” She kissed him. “Good night, Mr. Potter. I love you.”
“I love you, too. Good night, future Mrs. Potter.”
Harry felt a tug on his arm and sleepily turned over to see Kreacher standing on his bed.
“Master Harry said half six to Kreacher wakes Master Harry.”
After rubbing his eyes Harry nodded at the house elf. “Thank you, Kreacher.” He yawned and stretched. “Mrs. Weasley and some other people will be by for Boxing Day. Sorry, I forgot to tell you.”
Kreacher nodded slowly. “Kreacher cleaned up after the messy people. Messy, messy people. Kreacher has not cleaned the kitchen yet.”
Harry held up a hand. “It’s ok, Kreacher. Mrs. Weasley will be over soon to help clean. Thank you for everything.”
As the house elf left the room muttering that he could clean everything perfectly by himself Harry reached over and took his glasses from the night stand. After making his way into the loo for the morning preparations he looked into his wardrobe and realized that most of his clothing was either dirty or wrinkled, as he’d forbidden Kreacher from tidying up his room. One morning waking up at five with the house elf moving things about had been enough, but now he was rethinking his previous position.
He dug into a pile and found a pair of jeans that didn’t look too bad, put on the only clean t-shirt he had left and made his way downstairs. As expected, there underneath his pitiful Christmas tree, was a bulky package from Molly. He unwrapped it quickly and found a deep forest green jumper, so he put that on over his t-shirt. This year the H was in a light blue color. I have a Weasley sweater now because I will be a real part of the family. Harry ran his hand along the outline of the H on his chest. And I’m going to marry Ginny.
As Kreacher headed to the kitchen to make tea Molly arrived via Floo. “Good morning, Harry, dear.” She stopped and looked around. “This seems rather tidy.”
“Um, Kreacher cleaned some last night. He said the kitchen…”
“It’s always the kitchen.” Molly sighed and headed that way, pausing only to give him a kiss on the cheek. “Jumper looks very nice.”
“Oh! Yeah, thank you very much. It’s great. I like the colors.”
“Ginny picked the colors. Ok, Harry, time for you to learn the household spells.”
For the first few minutes Harry was glad of Molly’s help, as several of the spells were quite handy. After an hour without letup, though, he began to get an idea of what it was like for Ron when he was younger, at The Burrow, and most importantly, in trouble. His arms ached, his shoulders hurt and his stomach was definitely grumbling about. Thankfully that was the tip that finally caused Molly to stop cleaning.
“Oh, I suppose it is clean enough to cook. Let’s see what’s available.” Without asking Molly began looking through Harry’s kitchen, and as she moved from cupboard to cupboard she became increasingly disappointed. “Harry, how have you been eating?”
“I mostly get takeaway or something at the Ministry.” He sat down at the kitchen table and began to rub his wrist. “Sometimes I’ll get things and Kreacher will make a stew.” At this point Harry expected a lecture from Molly on proper nutrition, but to his surprise she sat down next to him and put her arm on his shoulder.
“You can’t have learned to cook, not with everything. It’s to be expected. Well, I’ll have to give you lessons right along with Ginny once she finishes school.”
Harry almost had to hide his grin as he knew exactly what she was doing. He could play that game as well. “That sounds great. Once Ginny finishes Hogwarts maybe you can teach us how to make treacle tart.”
Apparently Harry had said the words that Molly wanted to hear as she banished him from the kitchen, saying that he looked like he needed to rest and that she’d have to have a word with Kingsley Shacklebolt the next time he was over at The Burrow about the proper Auror nutrition. Once Kreacher had brought him a cup of tea and The Daily Prophet Harry sat down in front of his little Christmas tree and settled in for some relaxation. Unfortunately for Harry, that didn’t happen. In large print on the front of The Prophet were the words BOY WHO LIVED GETS ENGAGED. Underneath the text was a picture of Ginny and him from the previous summer. It wasn’t the best picture of the two of them, as it had been taken right after a rather long, blunt and emotional conversation in a Muggle restaurant; Harry looked knackered and Ginny still looked somewhat mad.
Before he could say anything the Floo began to come to life, and the Weasleys began arriving. First, thankfully, was Ginny, who greeted him with a very large hug and kiss. Then it was Arthur, George, Bill and Fleur then Percy. It was while talking to George, who was in the middle of apologizing for the party, that a knock was heard on the front door. Harry looked over to Arthur, but when he saw Arthur’s face he relaxed. If Arthur wasn’t nervous about someone knocking on his door then he wouldn’t be nervous either. After opening the door, though, he knew Ron was definitely nervous, as he stood there with Hermione and her parents. After welcoming the Grangers in, and introducing them to Bill, the Floo once again came to life; this time once the Floo powder had settled the smiling face of Andromeda Tonks was revealed holding a sleeping Teddy. After making sure everybody was settled and had a cup of tea or eggnog Ginny took Harry’s arm and led him into an adjoining room.
Ginny leaned up and put her nose to Harry neck, nuzzling in softly. “Are you ready for this?”
Harry chuckled slightly. “Do I have a choice?”
“No, not really.”
“I wish I could have told your family some other way than it being in The Prophet, though. Bill’s going to kill me.”
“No, Harry, they all knew before the paper, Mum spent almost all night sending owls. Poor Errol’s going to need a few days off. And after the letters we had a little mum and daughter chat.”
Harry laughed. “Let me guess, the main topic is you need to finish school? She got me on that one as well. After she made me clean all morning, though.”
“You didn’t have the contraceptive spell talk though, did you?”
“Bloody hell!” Harry leaned back against the bookshelf. “Really?”
Ginny nodded. “Oh yeah. And as much as she’s on everyone about grandchildren I got the ‘you’re much too young to think about things like that’ thing. I’ve never wanted your invisibility cloak as much as then.”
The rest of the Boxing Day breakfast went as well as could be expected, as when Molly and the women retired to the kitchen to prepare breakfast Harry heard a few choice comments from the Weasley brothers. He’d managed to make it through ok, with a minimum of threats if he did anything bad to Ginny, when a knock on the door brought him out of his defensive position. He’d promised them all that he would never treat Ginny badly, and Ron had even stood up for him, so it was Arthur who had offered to answer the door. Soon Arthur returned but not alone, as Gawain Robards stood next to him.
“Potter. Next time when you tell me you don’t want publicity will you bloody well mean it? I was getting ready for my portkey to a very warm, quiet location when I got swarmed by the press. Swarmed!”
Harry made his way through the crowd to stand next to the Head Auror. “I’m sorry, sir. It was supposed to be private.”
“Yes, well…” Robards took a deep breath. “Maybe it’ll help recruiting if you’re wearing your Auror robes in your engagement announcement.”
“Still need more recruits, eh Gawain?” Arthur stood next to Robards and raised an eyebrow. “I’ll talk to you after the holidays.”
Robards gave Arthur a resigned look. “Ok, then.” He turned back to Harry, and by this time Ginny was by Harry’s side. “Potter, Miss Weasley, congratulations. Potter, I talked to Dinkle. The next week is all patronuses and things I’m sure you can do in your sleep, so you’ve got the week off. Come see me next Monday, and if you’re late again I’ll have your hide!”
Harry nodded vigorously. “Yes, sir.”
The head Auror started to walk away, but stopped suddenly and turned back. “By the way, we’re assigning field partners next week. Jones asked for you. Don’t know what you did, but you must have done something because she’s a tough old bird, hasn’t had a trainee partner in years. Don’t let it go to your head.” He leaned in close to Harry. “And you might want to watch your tongue around some bloke named Thomas. He’s the one that leaked the news to the papers.” Robards straightened back up and looked at everyone. “Happy Boxing Day.” With that he headed to the door and left.
Eventually the day began to stretch out towards lunch, and while several people left, most notably Andromeda and Teddy, as well as Bill and Fleur, others seemed to laze around the house. Molly had turned the wireless to the annual Celestina Warbeck program, which ran almost everyone out of the room except for Arthur and the Grangers. As Harry helped himself to a second serving of the treacle tart Ron sat down next to him with a plate of Christmas biscuits. After watching Charlie head out of the kitchen with a cup of tea Ron sighed deeply and looked over to Harry.
Harry sat down his fork and gave Ron a confused look. “Ten years, what are you on about?”
“If you two haven’t driven each other batty, or if you haven’t mucked it up after ten years, I figure you’ll make it.”
“Thanks for the giant vote of confidence, mate.” Harry shook his head, looked out the doorway to see if anyone was close by and turned back to Ron. “You made your decision?”
Ron licked his lips for a moment and shook his head slowly. “Yeah. I have. Not sure how she’s going to take it. Or Mum. I don’t want to tell Mum.”
Harry laughed. “What do you mean? How she’s going to take it? Every woman wants to be asked get married, Ron. Why would your Mum…”
Ron began choking on a bite of biscuit and had to take a long drink of milk. “Married? Just because you’ve gone barmy doesn’t mean I have. I’m going to leave the shop, Harry. Robards said they needed recruits…”
“Brilliant!” Harry clapped Ron on the back. “You’ll be brilliant at it; you already know almost everything they’ve covered so far. To be honest it hasn’t been that hard, well, the spell work...oh, the reading and assignments? I’ve never missed Hermione more in my life. And the Instructor, Dinkle? He makes Wood look like a big softie when it comes to conditioning. When’d this come about?”
“Robards stopped in the shop the other night to pick up a few things for his kids. Said it was a shame for someone with my skills to be stuck ringing up Wonder Witch products.” He sighed. “Haven’t told Hermione or George yet, and the shop’s back on its feet…” He looked up suddenly.
Harry followed his gaze to the doorway where Arthur stood, taking the two of them in. After waiting a moment Arthur sat down at the table across from the two of them and reached out to take one of the last Christmas biscuits. “I’m not surprised to find you two in here. Best if we stayed in the kitchen for a bit. Wedding talk out there.”
“Already?” Ron shook his head. “Mental. Girls are mental, I tell you.”
“That’s not all.” Arthur took a big bite and then swallowed rapidly. “Harry, they’re also talking about redecorating the house. Apparently you’re having a New Year’s Eve party?”
“Apparently.” Harry took his fork and began stabbing at his treacle tart.
“Yes, well, word of advice? Stay out of the way, only voice your opinion when absolutely necessary and pick your battles.”
Soon it was only Ron, Hermione and Ginny left. Arthur and Molly had volunteered to escort the Grangers home, and the farewell took quite a long time, as Molly still couldn’t believe her baby girl was engaged. Once they’d made their way out of the house the four Gryffindors sat in the living room and Harry lit a roaring fire in the fireplace. Ron and Hermione sat closely together on the sofa while Harry had taken up residence in the chair closest to the fire, Ginny on his lap. Ron had made a face when she sat down but Hermione quickly defused the situation.
The four of them sat there, Wizarding wireless playing softly in the background, and for the first time since he’d moved into Grimmauld Place the house felt his. It was no longer the Black house, it was no longer Sirius’ house, no longer the headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix, it was his house. He wrapped his arm around Ginny’s waist and corrected his thinking; it wasn’t his house, it was going to be their house.
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