|SIYE Time:4:11 on 23rd November 2017|
Characters:Harry/Ginny, Hermione Granger, Ron Weasley
Genres: Drama, Romance
Warnings: Disturbing Imagery, Mild Language, Mild Sexual Situations
Summary: The year after the war was a confusing time for the teen warriors. They had fought against the greatest evil - what was next? Follow them as they try to find out. Canon pairings.
Hitcount: Story Total: 80834; Chapter Total: 3001
Awards: View Trophy Room
Sorry it took so long to finish this chapter. I had planned to have it up much earlier, but life interfered. I'm posting this chapter unbetaed so any errors are entirely my own. Thanks to Mark for his encouragement and Brit picking skills! I hope you enjoy my version of a British Christmas - the part about the Christmas tree from Norway in Trafalgar Square is true.
Turning Harry saw Mr Weasley behind him in the festively decorated corridor. “Hello, Mr Weasley.”
“Hello, Harry. I was hoping to catch up to you. Do you have a minute?”
“Of course,” Harry replied as he guided the older wizard into one of the conference rooms. “Is something wrong?”
“Wrong? Not exactly,” Mr Weasley replied. “I’m afraid that Mrs Weasley and I will be unable to have dinner with you on Christmas Eve.
We’ve already accepted an invitation from Mr and Mrs Granger.”
“Oh,” Harry tried to suppress a feeling of rejection.
“I’m so sorry,” Mr Weasley said earnestly. “We’d already made arrangements for Molly, Ron, Ginny, and myself to have dinner there.”
“Ginny? But she didn’t say anything,” Harry protested.
“We hadn’t had a chance to tell her,” Mr Weasley replied a bit uneasily. “We didn’t want to leave her home alone on Christmas Eve.”
“She won’t be home alone,” Harry countered. “Bill and Fleur have already sent me their acceptance. George will be there as well.”
“I guess it would be okay for her to go to your house,” Mr Weasley agreed. “I’ll speak to her mother. Are you coming over on Christmas?”
Harry shook his head. “I haven’t been invited and I don’t think Ron would very much welcome me. I’ve spent many Christmases with people who didn’t want me around. I won’t willingly put myself in that same situation. Mrs Tonks invited me to spend Christmas with her and Teddy.”
“I can understand that,” Mr Weasley said, “although you will be missed.”
Harry shrugged. “Ron seems to have gotten it into his head that I’m the enemy. I don’t know why. I feel like he sees me as an authority figure to rebel against. He even told me I didn’t know anything about family pressures. I miss my best mate and wish he would realize that I’m on his side, but I can’t force him. That’s two Christmases in a row that we’ve not been together.”
“I am sorry,” Mr Weasley reiterated.
A pensive Harry returned to work.
Harry smiled as Ginny walked down the main stairs towards him. She looked beautiful in her new dark green dress. She twirled as she neared him.
“How do you like it?” she asked with a smile.
“You look amazing,” he said as he leaned over to kiss her.
She slipped her hand into his and led him into the Great Hall. It was set up for the final performance of the Christmas Pantomime, ‘The Fountain of Fair Fortune’. There were rows of chairs set up in front of the stage that sat where the head table was usually placed.
Harry grinned at first year student who was dressed up as an elf handing out programmes. At realizing who she was facing, the little girl promptly blushed bright red, but did remember to hand him the programme. Ginny laughed as she led the way over to the refreshment stand that was set up against the far wall.
Students from the newly formed drama club were staffing the refreshment stand. Harry didn’t personally know any of them, but Ginny greeted them all by name.
Turning to Harry, she said, “What do you want, love?”
“I’ll have a hot chocolate and strawberry ice cream,” Harry decided after looking over the list.
“That sounds good,” Ginny said thoughtfully. “I’ll have a hot chocolate and peach ice cream.”
The couple made their way to the second row of chairs and sat down. Harry was happy to be able to relax with his fiancée. “How did the first two performances go?”
“Really well,” Ginny said with a smile. “Demelza did an excellent job. Everyone did really. Professor Carter and Professor Flitwick are both thrilled with the way everything has gone. There hasn’t been any drama like the last time they attempted to put on the play.”
Laughing Harry asked, “Justin didn’t run off the wrong witch or anything?”
“No,” Ginny smiled. “Actually, he and Sophie went to Hogsmeade together so she was thrilled.”
Harry smiled contentedly as he listened to Ginny chatter about getting ready for the shows and working on the scenery. He loved listening to her, especially when she was happy. Harry nodded to a few friends as they sat down. Luna, Dean, Seamus, and Katie were all sitting together. He wasn’t exactly sure if Katie and Seamus were dating or not, but they all seemed to be getting along well. Hermione was sitting across the aisle from him and Ginny. She was sitting with Mandy and Lisa, two of the other returning eight year students.
The performance went really well. Harry enjoyed the story of the three witches making their way to the fountain and having to face their fears on the way. He thought all of the actors did well. All in all it was a very enjoyable night.
As the lights went up, Harry blinked as he’d become accustomed to the darkness. Ginny slipped her hand through the crook of his arm and steered him into the open courtyard. It was lit with fairy lights and decorated with greenery.
“What did you think?” Ginny asked curiously.
“It was really good,” Harry replied enthusiastically. “I wish they’d done something like that in the other years.”
Ginny nodded. “Professor Carter was talking about making it an annual event.” She glanced up at him. “What would you choose?”
“Choose?” he asked in confusion.
“What would you ask the fountain for?” Ginny clarified. The topic had been discussed several times by the students in the common room and at meal time. Ginny had been asked several times what her wish would be and she was curious to discover what Harry would wish for.
Harry smiled down at her. “I don’t really know. When I was younger, it was easy. I would ask for a family. Whenever I threw coins in
fountains or pretended I was blowing out birthday candles, that is what I wished for — a family of my own.”
He covered her hand with his and squeezed it. Lifting her left hand with his engagement ring shining in the moon light, he pressed a kiss onto her hand. “You’ve given me that. With you, I have a family now. Someday we will formally become a family, but when you accepted my proposal it was like I wasn’t so alone in the world.”
She smiled up at him, thrilled that he felt that way. “We are a family.” Standing on her tiptoes, she reached up and kissed him gently. “I’m glad I was able to make your wish come true.”
He held her to him for a moment before looking into her eyes. “I can’t really think of anything else I want. I mean I would love to have children eventually, but not right now. I guess the only thing I’d wish for right now is to be talking to Ron and Hermione again, but I figure that will happen eventually.”
He shrugged and planted another kiss on the palm of her hand. “I’m happy. What about you, love?”
Blushing, she smiled up at him. “Like you, I think that I’ve gotten what I wanted. When I was little, I always wished for a friend who wasn’t one of my brothers. Once I was older, I wanted you to notice me and fall in love with me. Last year I prayed that you would survive.” She looked up at him. “I felt so guilty when Fred died. I never prayed for the safety of my family or friends, just for you.”
She dropped her gaze from his. “I wondered what would have happened if I’d included my brothers in those wishes.”
“I’m sorry, Baby,” Harry said softly.
She shook her head. “I’m okay; logically I know that I couldn’t have changed the outcome, but…”
“Grief isn’t always logical,” Harry said with a tender smile.
Nodding she leaned against him. “Sorry for turning so serious, I didn’t expect it to hit me like that.”
“Trust me,” Harry murmured into her hair, “I understand.”
Quickly wiping her eyes, Ginny looked up at him again. “So what would I wish for now?”
“I’ve been thinking about this for a while,” she said. “People have been talking about it all week. I think I just want my family whole again. I know that it will never be exactly the same, but I want everyone happy and together. I hope that by next Christmas, we will have a real family Christmas. We’ll be spending our first Christmas as man and wife and hopefully everyone will be getting along and healing.”
“That is a perfect wish,” Harry said as he pulled her close.
“What do you think?” Harry asked anxiously as Ginny walked around the house. Kreacher was hovering in the background also eager to hear her opinion. Kreacher had gone all out with the Christmas decorating. The house was festooned with greenery and ribbons and lots of fairy lights. There were several sprigs of mistletoe sprinkled amongst the rest of the greenery. Harry hoped that he and Ginny would be able to find them all.
“It looks wonderful!” She exclaimed. She gasped as she entered further into the drawing room. It was dominated by a large, long needled pine tree that was set up in one corner.
In the opposite corner of the room, set up on a raised platform was a train set winding its way among a ceramic Victorian village. Ginny watched in delight as the train stopped at the train station and little witches exited the train and headed towards one of the houses. Snow covered the tiny gardens behind the houses and there were a variety of cats and dogs in habiting the village. A miniature horse drawn carriage cantered down the main street.
“This is brilliant! Where did this come from?”
“It has been in the attic for many years,” Kreacher explained. “Old Mistress didn’t like the village, but Kreacher thought that Master and Mistress would enjoy it.”
“It’s lovely,” Ginny said as she watched the village.
Reaching back for Harry’s hand, she smiled up at him. “This is perfect!”
Looking over at the tree, she asked, “Why is the tree not decorated?”
“I hoped we could do that together this afternoon,” Harry said a touch nervously. “Kreacher found only a handful of ornaments and we have lots of fairy lights, but I thought we could go shopping and get more ornaments.”
Ginny’s eyes lit up at the thought. “That sounds lovely!”
Soon the pair were walking hand-in-hand down Upper Street, looking in the shop windows. Laughing, Ginny pulled Harry into an antique shop.
It was fun looking at the shop’s inventory. Harry looked longingly at an intricately carved Edwardian display cabinet. “This is beautiful, isn’t it?”
“It would fit in really well in the library,” Ginny said. Glancing up a Harry, she could tell he really liked it. While she wished she had enough money to buy it on her own, she knew she didn’t. She remembered that Bill mentioned he hadn’t gotten Harry’s Christmas present yet. Maybe he would be willing to go in with her on the cabinet. She made a face. She hated not having money.
“Ginny-love, look at these.”
She joined him next to a display of Christmas decorations. Harry pointed out the hand blown glass ornaments. “Those are pretty, aren’t they?”
In the end they chose three ornaments: an angel, a Christmas tree, and a Father Christmas ornament. Satisfied with their purchases, they walked further into Muggle London. After several stops, they had a large assortment of ornaments. They’d bought several boxes of modern glass ornaments at Marks & Spenser and some handmade ornaments at a crafts store. All in all they had acquired an eclectic mix of ornaments. As evening drew near, they ended up at Trafalgar Square. Ginny was entranced by the large Christmas tree adorned with white lights that dominated the square.
“This is beautiful!” Ginny exclaimed as she looked up at the tree. “It’s so different from the trees at Hogwarts.” Looking around she lowered her voice. “How do they get lights so high up on the tree without magic?”
Harry laughed. “I think they use a big crane and lifts. I saw pictures in the paper one year. Remember when we saw the people fixing the
telephone wires? The men were lifted up on a platform or in a bucket. I think that’s what they do for the Christmas tree.”
Ginny nodded as they slowly made their way around the massive Norwegian pine. The square was filled with people admiring the square and there was a choir preparing to sing to the gathering crowd. She read the inscription at the base of the tree.
It read: This tree is given by the city of Oslo as a token of Norwegian gratitude to the people of London for their assistance during the years 1940-45. A tree has been given annually since 1947.
“What does this mean?” she asked quietly. “What did we do to help the Norwegians?”
“During the Second World War,” Harry replied as he tried to recall the details he vaguely remembered learning in school. “Remember what I told you about the Second World War?”
Ginny nodded. “It was the Muggle war fought at the same time as Grindelwald’s war. It sounds like it was pretty horrific.”
“Yes,” Harry said. “It does. Norway is one of the countries that Hitler invaded and I think their government came to London when they had to leave Norway. In gratitude the city of Oslo sends a giant Christmas tree to London each year. We learned about it in school one year, but I don’t remember all the details.”
“That’s brilliant,” Ginny said as she surveyed the tree. “What a nice tradition.”
As they wandered throughout the square admiring the statues, the choir started singing Christmas carols. Harry and Ginny joined the crowds in listening to the carols. Wrapping his arms around Ginny, Harry thought that it was pretty much a perfect afternoon.
After stopping for dinner in London, they returned to Grimmauld Place. Instead of the dark and dreary place he remembered from his fifth year, the house was now warm and inviting. There were no Santa hats on severed elf heads anymore. Instead the house was tastefully decorated.
The couple made their way to the drawing room and found that Kreacher had anticipated them. A large bowl of mulled wine was on the sideboard with an assortment of small sandwiches, biscuits and cakes.
“This is lovely,” Ginny said with a smile. Harry looked over at her. Her cheeks were pink and her eyes were shining. He couldn’t help himself; he leaned over and kissed her. “I love you.”
She smiled up at him. “I love you, too.” She laughed and pulled him closer to the low set table. “I want to decorate our tree.”
“Our tree,” Harry said with satisfaction. “I like the sound of that.”
Sitting down on the floor, they started sorting through the ornaments they’d purchased. Harry untangled the fairy lights. Touching them with his wand, the lights lit up. Together they levitated the fairy lights to wrap around the tree. It took a bit of adjustment and quite a bit of laughter, but eventually the lights were wrapped around the tree.
Harry was astonished to discover there was a spell to affix the ornaments to the trees instead of using the hooks he recalled his relatives using. Ginny also taught him spells to keep the tree upright and fireproof.
“My granny insisted on real candles in the Christmas tree,” Ginny laughed. “She said that’s how they did it when she was young.”
“I can’t even imagine,” Harry said shaking his head.
“I know,” she smiled. “That’s why Mum made sure all of us knew the spell for fireproofing the tree.”
When the grandfather clock in the foyer rang nine times, the mulled wine was gone, the food was seriously depleted, and the tree looked amazing. Harry looked over at his fiancée. “I think this has been the most perfect day I can remember.”
Ginny smiled as she leaned over and kissed him. “I agree.” Glancing at the door, she slid one hand up his chest and the other around his neck. “I hear that making love under a Christmas tree is the best way to celebrate Christmas.”
“Really?” Harry murmured as he pulled her close. After kissing her deeply, he used his wand to seal, lock, and sound proof the room. “You are always full of the best ideas.”
Ron checked his appearance in the mirror once again. His mother had cut his hair and he thought it was a bit too short, but it was too late to do anything about it now. Overall he felt he looked good. He’d used some of his earnings to buy some nice new clothes. He was happy to finally be able to purchase clothes that were of his choosing and bought for him, not one of his older brothers.
He was wearing a light blue shirt under a darker blue jumper and dark trousers. Hermione had commented once that she liked him in blue, so he tried to wear blue when he was going to see her. After brushing his hair one last time, he sat down on his bed to wait.
When the invitation to the Grangers’ house had first arrived, Ron was thrilled. Hermione’s parents were taking their relationship seriously, but he was also very nervous. What if he made a fool of himself? What if his parents did something embarrassing?
Shaking his head, he tried to reassure himself that everything would go well, but he couldn’t deny that he was nervous. He knew his table manners weren’t up to Hermione’s expectations. Silently he promised himself that he’d carefully watch his table manners and not shovel food in quickly and not talk with his mouthful. Unfortunately, it wasn’t just his manners he was worried about. His father tended to get overly excited about anything Muggle and the thought of spending an entire evening in a Muggle house had him very excited. As much as he loved his parents, he couldn’t deny that they weren’t as…sophisticated as Hermione’s parents were. He groaned. He really hoped everything would go well.
When his mum called, he headed downstairs. His heart sank when he saw his parents wearing their best robes. “Mum, we’re going to a Muggle house. Shouldn’t you be wearing Muggle clothes?”
“I’m not a Muggle,” she declared. “The Grangers know we are magical so there is no need to hide who and what we are. We were invited to a dinner party; I’m not going dressed as though I’m going to work in the garden.”
He watched as she added the witch’s hat the twins had given her a few Christmases ago. Mr Weasley spoke up, “I think your mother looks lovely.”
“Thank you, dear,” Mrs Weasley replied blushing in pleasure.
Realizing that continuing to argue would be churlish, he relented and said, “You do look nice, Mum.”
“Thank you,” she said. Seeing his expression, she added, “Don’t worry, Ron. I think it will be a fun evening.”
Hermione had given them coordinates so they could Apparate to the back garden of her parents’ house. Ron was happy he didn’t fall over as Harry had done when they first started Apparating. For the first time in weeks, he smiled at the thought of his best mate. He did miss hanging out with Harry.
Pushing that thought aside, he greeted Hermione with a hug and brief kiss before greeting her parents.
Hermione smiled proudly as her father explained the electric fairy lights to Mr Weasley. The two men were really a lot alike. Her father was as interested in the wizarding world as Mr Weasley was in the Muggle world. Her mother and Mrs Weasley had bonded over a love of cooking. She was happy to see her parents and Ron’s getting along so well.
She had to admit she was slightly concerned when they walked into the dining room for dinner. Her mother had gone all out in decorating what she called an appropriate holiday table. The table had a dark green table cloth with a gold runner. In the centre of the table was decorated with greenery and bows. There were two columns containing gold, red, and green ornaments as well as two tapered candles. Mrs Granger had set the table with holiday china.
Hermione could see Ron’s eyes widened in panic when he caught sight of the elegant table. She squeezed his hand in comfort. As they sat down, she heard him whisper softly, “Blimey.”
“What a beautiful table,” Mrs Weasley declared. Hermione had to admit she was a little surprised to see Mr and Mrs Weasley so at ease. Conversation flowed easily over dinner. Hermione told them about the Christmas Pantomime and how well it had been received by the students.
“That’s such a lovely idea,” Mr Weasley said. “Ginny said she had a wonderful time helping with the scenery.”
“It is fairly common for Muggle schools to have a Christmas Pantomime. Some schools have concerts and other entertainments put on by the students during the year,” Mrs Granger explained. “I was in band when I was in school. I played the flute.”
“I took music lessons when I was younger as well,” Mrs Weasley said in a pleased voice. “I played the violin and piano. I tried to teach my children, but I wasn’t very successful in that endeavour. Bill and Percy both learned to play violin and all of the children learned to dance, but most of my boys have been so active. Most of them would have loved to spend the time outside.”
“I didn’t know you could play the piano,” Ron said in amazement.
Mrs Weasley smiled. “I guess you were too young to remember when we used to go to my mother’s house. She had a lovely piano.”
“We still have the piano in storage,” Mr Weasley reminded her. “Maybe it is time to bring it back to the Burrow.”
Mrs Weasley’s smiled faltered for a minute. “I guess it wouldn’t be in danger of being destroyed now. Ginny always wanted to learn to play the piano when she was little. She loves music.”
“I was actually surprised she didn’t want to go out for the play,” Hermione said. “She’s so pretty and so confident.”
“Thank you, dear,” Mrs Weasley said, “that is very nice. She is very confident, but except for Quidditch she seems to like staying the background.”
“She and Harry have that in common,” Hermione commented quietly.
After their very enjoyable dinner, she and Ron helped her mother clear the table. To Hermione’s surprise, her mother was thrilled to allow Mrs Weasley to use magic to clean the dishes. It was both strange and rather wonderful to have her two worlds merging together so well. Taking advantage of the adults talking, she led Ron into the sitting room. It wasn’t truly private, but at least they could talk freely and they did manage to sneak in some kissing. It made for a memorable and amazing evening.
"No, Mum, you relax,” Bill insisted. “You prepared this amazing meal for us, the least we can do is clean up. You and Dad go relax.”
Mrs Weasley smiled up at her oldest son. “Thank you, dear.”
Leaning down, Bill kissed her on the cheek. “You’re welcome.”
Once Mr and Mrs Weasley left the kitchen, Bill organized his brothers, Fleur, and Hermione. Soon the food was being put away and the dishes were being washed.
“Where did Ginny go?” Hermione asked curiously. She knew Ginny hadn’t been thrilled that her fiancé wasn’t there for Christmas.
“She and George were talking,” Bill said. “I think they were going to the gravesite.”
“George seems to be doing better,” Hermione noted as she conjured up a dish towel.
“He is,” Bill agreed. “He’s been going to his support group regularly and I think meeting other people who have suffered similar losses has really helped him.”
“Indeed, he’s been much more focused and more like himself,” Percy observed. “We’re going to be opening our pizza parlour after the first of the year and he’s surprisingly good with the details.” Colouring slightly he added, “I think I’ve always underestimated them because of their tendency to pull pranks, but I’ve discovered that George is quite gifted in Potions and has quite a good business mind.”
Hermione looked a bit sceptical at Percy’s pronouncement, but she didn’t comment. It was Ron who spoke up. “George is really good with Potions and Charms. He’s pretty decent at explaining things too.”
Bill looked at his youngest brother. “We missed you last night. Harry, Ginny, and Kreacher had the house looking beautiful. We had a great dinner.”
“So did we,” Ron said a touch defiantly.
“’Arry was telling us about his first Christmas at ‘ogwarts,” Fleur said with a smile. “’e sounded zo ‘appy to get presents.”
Ron nodded. “I remember writing to Mum and telling her that he wasn’t expecting any Christmas presents. I didn’t know what she would do, but I was fairly sure she would send him something.” Ron smiled a touch nostalgically. “I will never forget the look on his face when he realized he had presents at the foot of his bed. He was thrilled with all of his presents — even Hagrid’s presents. He got his father’s Invisibility Cloak that year. I guess Professor Dumbledore had borrowed it for some reason. Harry was beyond thrilled to have something from his parents. His horrid relatives never talked about Harry’s mum and dad. Before Hagrid made Harry the photo album of his parents, Harry had never even seen a picture of his parents before.”
Bill laughed. “Professor Dumbledore gave an eleven year old an Invisibility Cloak. What mischief did you get up to with that?”
“That year not much,” Ron laughed. “We were trying to figure out who Flammel was that Christmas. Harry explored quite a bit, he invited me some as well, but I think he liked having something that was just his.”
“Isn’t that when you found the Mirror of Erised?” Hermione asked.
Ron nodded and told to his brothers about the mirror and his and Harry’s experiences with it. Blushing he recalled how he’d seen himself as Head Boy and Quidditch Captain. “Poor Harry,” Ron sighed. “I didn’t realize how much he really wanted a family. I never thought about it having so much family as we do. I couldn’t really comprehend not having anyone. Harry kept going back to the mirror. I couldn’t really say why, but I was glad when he stopped going back there.”
“It sounds like you had fun,” Percy commented.
“We had a great time that Christmas,” Ron agreed. “Remember there weren’t very many people staying that year — I think the five of us were the only ones in the tower. We sat around the fire.” He laughed. “We loved sitting in front of the fire — as first years we didn’t get to sit in front of the fire much. We toasted all sorts of things over the flames — toast, sausages, marshmallows. We were so lazy; we would eat until we couldn’t move. It was a great holiday.”
“I remember coming back from Christmas at my parents’ house thinking I’d missed out on all sorts of fun,” Hermione said with a smile. “The next year I insisted that I be allowed to spend Christmas at Hogwarts.”
“So to celebrate, we snuck into the Slytherin common room using illegally brewed Polyjuice Potion,” Ron teased.
Ron looked around in surprise at his brothers who were staring at him and Hermione in shock. Bill spoke up. “You snuck into the Slytherin common room using Polyjuice Potion — in your second year?” At Ron’s nod, Bill asked, “Why?”
“We were certain that Draco Malfoy had something to do with the Chamber of Secrets,” Hermione explained. “Our plan was to trick Malfoy into telling us what was happening — obviously that didn’t work. It was still a fun Christmas.”
“I thought ‘ogwarts was lovely at Christmas time,” Fleur said. “It was much colder zan I was used to, but eet was beautiful. Zat was actually my first Christmas away from home. At Beauxbatons we went home for Christmas.”
“We only spent one Christmas here at the Burrow,” Ron said. “I kept forgetting to tell Harry that he was invited for Christmas. He was a bit upset thinking he was going to have to stay at Hogwarts by himself.”
He frowned for a moment. “This is the second Christmas in a row I’ve not spent with Harry. It seems a bit odd.”
“It doesn’t have to be that way,” Bill said. “I know he would love to see you.”
“He’s probably mad at me,” Ron said. He looked down at the now empty kitchen sink. “I really messed up.”
Abruptly Ron left the room. Hermione started to go after him, but Bill stopped her. “Let me go.”
As much as she wanted to argue that she knew what Ron needed, she reluctantly agreed. Grabbing two cloaks from the wall, Bill headed outside. He found Ron in the back garden. After casting a warming charm on the cloak, he handed it to his brother before putting on the other one himself.
“Thanks,” Ron muttered.
“He’s not mad so much as confused,” Bill said quietly.
There was a long silence and just when Bill was about to give up hope, Ron spoke up. “I want to fix this, but I don’t know how. I’ve been so angry at him and it’s taken me a while to realize that it wasn’t really him I was angry at — I was just taking it out on him. What kind of person does that make me?”
“A human one,” Bill said gently. “Ron, Harry knows you’ve been grieving and trying to deal with everything that’s happened. Have you thought more about what we talked about at my party?”
Ron nodded and Bill could see the tips of his ears darken. “Charlie was right. I never really thought about how all of Harry’s losses affected him. I was caught up in the adventure of it all and I didn’t stop and think about him. The summer we went to Grimmauld Place…I was actually still jealous that Harry had this great adventure and fought off You-Know-Who again. He was a hero while I was stuck in the stands.”
He shook his head in disgust. “How shallow and immature could I be? I never thought about what it cost him. I knew about the nightmares and his seeing into You-Know-Who’s mind, but he seemed to handle everything.”
“Ron, you were just a kid and a rather sheltered one at that,” Bill said.
“I know,” Ron sighed. Glancing at the Burrow to make sure no one was looking out the windows; Ron pulled a cigarette out of his pocket and lit it. Taking a long drag on his cigarette, he blew out the smoke.
Wrinkling his nose, Bill took a step backwards, but didn’t comment on the smoking. Ron looked over at his oldest brother. “I miss my best mate. Some many times over the past couple of weeks I’ve been reminded of him or I’ll think of something I want to tell him. I just don’t know how to tell him that I’m sorry I’ve been a stupid prat.”
“Just saying that would be a good start.”
The two Weasley boys wheeled around at the quiet voice behind them. There stood Harry. He was dressed in warm Muggle clothing and his cheeks were pink as though he’d been outside for a while.
“I didn’t mean to eavesdrop or anything,” Harry said quietly. “I was coming over to say goodnight to Ginny.”
Bill nodded and drifted back to the house. When he walked in without Ron, Hermione asked anxiously, “Where is he? Is he alright?”
Nodding, Bill gestured to the kitchen window. The two best mates could be seen deep in conversation near the large oak tree. Hermione gasped, “Is that Harry?”
“Yes, he came to say goodnight to Ginny,” Bill explained.
Hermione bit her lip nervously as she watched the two friends talking. “I should go out there.”
“No!” Bill, Charlie, and Percy all yelled.
“But…but Ron might say something he doesn’t mean or…I should be out there,” Hermione said trying to persuade the brothers.
Bill put his hand on her arm. “Hermione, they need to work this out for themselves.”
“Hermione, they have been friends and best mates since they were eleven. Ron needs to be able to do this himself.”
Reluctantly Hermione agreed. She hovered near the window watching them for a few minutes before Arthur called her away to ask her a question about her parents’ house. She ended up having an enjoyable conversation with Mr Weasley until a red faced, but somehow more content Ron came back into the house.
“How did it go?” Ginny asked the next afternoon when she joined Harry for lunch.
He shrugged. “We talked. I think that was good. I think he finally realizes that I’m not against him. He’s working through everything. I was surprised to hear he was going to counselling. Merlin knows he hates talking about his feelings.”
“Bill said he practically had to restrain Hermione to keep her from going out to join the two of you,” Ginny said as she sipped her juice.
“I’m glad he did,” Harry said. “Ron would have stopped talking if she’d joined us. I know she means well, but she tends to take over conversations and if she’d done that it would have stopped ours. I’m going to stop by the shop and go out to lunch with Ron and George next week.”
“What’s wrong, love?” Ginny asked gently.
Harry turned a troubled face her direction. “Am I being too hard on him? I’ve never required an apology from him before.”
“I think he needs to apologize,” Ginny replied honestly. “I know this is hard for you, but you aren’t doing him any favours by letting him treat you the way he has been and just accepting him back into your life. Yes, he was grieving and should be allowed a bit of leeway, but he went way beyond what he should have. Yes it is fine to go out drinking with your friends, but he thought nothing of pulling you out of bed night after night and having you pay his bar tabs. He didn’t respect your no smoking rule even though he was staying rent free in your house. I think you are perfectly justified in requiring an apology.”
Harry sighed. “I hate being at odds with him and to a lesser extent Hermione.”
“I know,” Ginny said as she reached out and laid her hand on his arm. “I know this has been hard on all of you. I think he’s finally starting to come around.”
“Has he said anything to you?”
“I think he wants to, but he’s not said anything,” she replied. Changing the subject, she asked, “How was Teddy’s first Christmas?”
Harry’s face lit up as he thought about his godson. “It was brilliant!”
Over lunch, Harry told her all about Teddy’s first Christmas. “I think poor Mrs Tonks had a few crying episodes, but she tried her best to make sure Teddy had an amazing Christmas. He loved the Christmas tree with all of the lights. He’s crawling around really well now and he kept crawling around the tree. He’s babbling quite a bit as well, it’s really cute. Mrs Tonks sent pictures over this morning. I’ll show you after lunch. Kreacher has already labelled them and put them in an album for me.”
He blushed slightly. “I wanted to buy him the whole toy shop, but then I remembered how spoiled my cousin is and I don’t want that for Teddy. After talking to Mrs Tonks, I got him a rocking horse and a dragon pull toy that makes noises and lights up when you push the buttons. It’s really cool, the dragon will breath different coloured flames every once in a while.”
“That sounds wonderful,” Ginny smiled. “I’m really proud of you for not buying him everything just because you can.”
“Thank you,” he replied a bit bashfully. “I had fun playing with him with his new toys. If I’d bought him a ton of toys, he’d have been like my cousin and broken or ignored most of them.” He grinned at her. “I liked the stuffed fire-crab you sent over for him. He tried to change his hair into the different colours he saw on the shell.”
“Thanks,” Ginny said with satisfaction. “Tonks once told me that she used to look around the house and try to change colours to match various things in the house. I thought the fire-crab would be a good challenge for him. I imagine he won’t be able to change most of the colours for years, but it seemed like fun.”
“I wish I’d known Tonks better,” Harry said. “It sounds like you got to know fairly well.”
“That summer we were at Grimmauld Place,” Ginny explained. “The twins were busy with their plans for their shop and Ron and Hermione were too busy arguing with each other to talk to me. Sirius and Tonks were great. They talked to me and listened to me. Tonks and I became really close. She was so great to talk to and I think she appreciated having another girl to talk to. She and Hermione were cordial enough, but they weren’t really friendly like Tonks and I were.”
“That’s wonderful,” Harry smiled. “You will have to tell Teddy stories about his mum as he gets older. I know some stories about Remus and about the Marauders, but not much about Tonks. Of course Mrs Tonks has stories about her daughter, but having stories from a friend would be nice as well.”
“I would be happy to tell Teddy stories,” Ginny reassured him.
Hermione finished cleaning the cauldron she’d been used and after drying it, she put it away. Looking around the kitchen counters, she could see the racks of potion vials that she and Mrs Weasley had spent the morning brewing. She’d been thrilled and a bit honoured that Mrs Weasley asked for her help. The pair had spent a lovely morning brewing potions and talking about Ron.
It was a unique opportunity for Hermione. When she’d been younger, she’d spent many an hour discussing Ron and Harry with Ginny, but it was very different talking to Mrs Weasley. Unlike Ginny, Mrs Weasley was a bit more tolerant of Ron's shortcomings and more positive that Ron would continue to grow and mature. Hermione had been afraid that once she and Ron announced their relationship, Mrs Weasley would be pushing them to marry, but to her surprise Mrs Weasley was very supportive of them taking their time.
“Do you need me to do anything else, Mrs Weasley?” Hermione asked.
“No, dear,” Mrs Weasley replied cheerfully. “Thank you so much for all of your help. None of my boys have ever enjoyed making potions, so this way rather a treat for me.”
“You’re welcome,” Hermione said in a pleased tone of voice.
“I think Ronnie was headed out to the Quidditch paddock if you were looking for him.”
“Thanks,” Hermione said as she pulled on her cloak and headed outside. It was a crisp sunny day with very little wind so it wasn’t as cold as it might have been. She made her way through the garden and on to the paddock. As she approached the paddock, she smelled a faint odour of tobacco. Wrinkling her nose, she looked around.
To her shock, Ron was leaning up against the fence lighting a cigarette. While she’d heard Harry mention Ron was smoking, she thought he’d been exaggerating.
He started guiltily when he heard his name. Upon seeing her, his eyes widened and he dropped the cigarette crushing it under the heel of his boot. “Her-Hermione, I wasn’t expecting you out here.”
“What are you doing smoking?” Hermione demanded ignoring his comment.
“It’s just a habit I picked up,” Ron protested. “It’s not a big deal.”
“Not a big deal?” Hermione couldn’t believe what she was hearing. “Ron, smoking is not only a disgusting habit, it can kill you!”
He rolled his eyes. “Give me a break, Hermione. How can smoking kill you?”
“How can smoking kill you?” Hermione asked shrilly. “It causes cancer — lung cancer, throat cancer, and I know there are other types of cancer caused by smoking.”
“Cancer? I’ve never heard of it,” Ron retorted. “It’s probably just a Muggle thing.”
“How do you know?” Hermione asked. “Smoking is a horrible habit to start and I really think you need to quit.”
“Why? Because you don’t like it? Are you going to start getting on my case all the time, too?”
“Ron, please, I’m very worried about you. Smoking is dangerous. Why did you even start smoking? I’ve never seen anyone smoking in the wizarding world.”
Ron shrugged, but wouldn’t meet her eyes. “It’s just a habit I picked up.”
“With the drinking?”
“Hermione, come on, I don’t need to be hassled by you too. Yes, I started drinking probably more than I should and I started smoking. It’s not a big deal. All of the girls smoke.”
“What girls?” Hermione asked suspiciously.
Ron winced, he hadn’t meant to bring up the girls. “They are just girls who work in the shops on Diagon Alley. They are very friendly and have been going out with me and George. Please, Hermione, I don’t want to fight about this.”
“I just hate to think of you smoking,” Hermione said stubbornly. “It’s a filthy habit.”
Ron sighed. He rather knew this was coming. “Okay, Hermione. I will stop smoking.”
“Just like that?” she asked in surprise.
“Yes, I know Harry and my brothers have complained about it. I figured I would need to quit eventually.” He pulled a half empty crumpled pack of cigarettes out of his pocket and vanished it. Reaching into his pocket he found a package of peppermint creams in special Christmas shapes. After popping one in the mouth, he offered one to Hermione who refused.
“Thank you,” Hermione said softly.
“I’m sorry for upsetting you,” Ron replied as he hugged her gently. “You are my rock. I don’t know what I would do without you.”
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