|SIYE Time:4:30 on 21st June 2018|
Category: Pre-OotP, Alternate Universe
Characters:Albus Dumbledore, All, Draco Malfoy, Harry/Ginny, Hermione Granger, Minerva McGonagall, Neville Longbottom, Nymphadora Tonks, Other, Remus Lupin, Ron Weasley, Severus Snape, Sirius Black
Genres: Action/Adventure, Drama, General, Humor, Romance
Warnings: Dark Fiction, Mild Language, Mild Sexual Situations, Violence/Physical Abuse
Summary: Harry had never friends, so he imagined one: a red haired girl he kept forgetting to name. Ginny imagined a shy boy with untidy hair and bright eyes, who knew nothing of magic, so she told him. He dreamt of a world of magic and of a girl who wanted to be his friend. She dreamt of a boy who loved to hear her voice, no matter what. Then dreams become a reality when Harry met Ginny.
Rating changed for later chapters.
*Nominated for 2014 November/December DSTA for Best New Story and Best Romance* *Nominated for 2016 January/Feburary DSTA for Best Comedy, Drama, and Romance*
Hitcount: Story Total: 109803; Chapter Total: 3050
Awards: View Trophy Room
At the very bottom, the story that is inserted is parts of the Little Match Girl, originally written by Hans Christian Anderson, although the version I have was edited by Sheila Black, no relation to Sirius Black. I think. I got it from A Treasury of Childrenís Literature, which was published in 1992. The book is frickiní older than I am, so Iíve got no idea where I got it or who Sheila Black is. Anyway, story is Hans Christian Andersonís the Little Match Girl, retold by Sheila Black. And hereís another long chapter. Have fun!
Chapter Nineteen: The Goblet of Fire Part Six
The Yule Ball
Harry slept through morning classes the day after the first task, and when he panicked about it, Ginny told him that McGonagall had given him permission. Apparently, fighting a dragon qualified as a good reason to skip classes.
Despite this, his classes seemed to be getting aggressively difficult. Flitwick was pleased with Harry’s performance with the Summoning Charm and showed this by drilling them on the opposite, Banishing Charms. Divination with Trelawney got steadily worse, Transfiguration he could barely comprehend, and History of Magic only got drearier.
The last of November felt like a funeral for the students’ sense of freedom. Homework piled up, dark circles appeared under their eyes, and Harry wished for either a clone he could send to lessons or a time machine. Sometimes both at once.
None too soon, the last Hogsmeade trip of the year came, and the week before, the announcement of the formal occasion Sirius and Tonks had equipped them for came along. The Yule Ball; it would be held on Christmas Eve and was open to anyone fourth year and above, though if an older student wanted to take someone from third or second year, they could. Harry didn’t particularly worry about it, since he had Ginny. He had asked her during the summer, but asked again just to be sure. She rolled her eyes as she said yes, but she was also smiling.
While they were in Hogsmeade, Ginny went shopping with a bunch of girls from her year, what for Harry had no idea. Harry got his dorm-mates all together and they went Christmas shopping. Ron ended up asking Seamus’s advice on what to get Hermione, as Seamus had already gotten the reputation for being popular amongst the females. Seamus went on and on about how they liked to feel ‘pretty’ and ‘special’ and ‘wanted’ and therefore advised Ron to get her a really sparkly necklace, that looked like it was covered in diamonds but Harry was fairly certain that all of them were glass. Harry ended up telling Ron that Hermione would much rather receive a book than the necklace, but Ron agreed with Seamus and bought the necklace.
Seamus tried to give Harry advice on what to give Ginny, but being able to read the mind of your girlfriend has perks, such as not having to be confused and lost as to what to give her on their first Christmas as a couple. Honestly, Harry wasn’t sure how Christmas was a milestone in their relationship, but he was sure that it was important. He spent some time thinking about her gift, then decided to get two things, one more personal than the other, because he happened to see a pair of earrings that he was positive she would like. The second, more personal gift… Harry had to rack both his brains and hers to figure out what.
At the end of the day, the five of them got a drink in the Three Broomsticks and the girls’ Ginny had joined stopped by. Seamus ended up asking Lavender to the dance, and Neville, emboldened it seemed by Seamus’ success, asked Hermione.
It didn’t end well. Ron got red in the face, and Harry was sure he was going to start yelling at Neville when Hermione startled him further by saying she already had a date.
“What?” Ron spluttered. “But — but I — you can’t have —”
“Yes, I can, Ronald,” Hermione snapped, suddenly irritated.
“But —” Ron’s face went from red to pink, though his ears were still cherry colored. “Who?”
Hermione looked away. “I don’t have to tell you,” she said.
“Go on, tell us,” Harry said.
“I won’t,” she said. “Stop pestering me.”
“Why not?” Ron asked, his tone suspicious.
“Because,” she snapped again and walked away. Ron glared at her back, then turned away muttering about how he should have bought a book. Harry met Ginny’s eye from across the room, and she sighed. He glanced at Neville, who had walked away with a red flush when Hermione said no, and silently asked Ginny for aide on his friend’s plight. Ginny thought it over, then pulled one of her friends from the group’s center. Harry started towards Neville as Ginny came towards him as well.
“Hullo,” Neville said hollowly.
“I, uh, I’m sorry you didn’t beat Hermione’s date to the punch,” Harry said.
“Yeah,” Neville agreed glumly. “I was hoping to actually have a date, but she was the only girl I could think of who would consider me.”
Harry opened his mouth to say something encouraging, though he was completely clueless, when Ginny reached him, arm in arm with the blonde wisp of a girl, Luna Lovegood.
“Hello, Neville,” Ginny said cheerfully, “Luna, this is my friend Neville Longbottom. Neville, Luna Lovegood.”
Luna stuck out her hand. “Enchanted to meet you, Neville Longbottom.”
Neville shook Luna’s hand cautiously. Harry edged closer to Ginny, concealing his baffled expression with a smile.
Uh, was there no one else? He asked.
Ginny smiled at him, but discreetly she kicked him in the shin. Harry muffled a yelp and glared at her. She smiled sweetly and kissed his cheek.
Luna is a perfect match for him, she thought. Just watch.
Harry decided not to argue further.
“So, Neville,” Ginny said, smiling even more warmly, “Luna’s been telling me about how she wishes she could go to the Yule Ball, but unfortunately all the boys we know have dates.”
Neville raised an eyebrow. “Really? Are you not a fourth year, Luna?”
“No,” Luna sighed. “I had the unfortunate timing of being born in January, 1981. Had I only been born half an hour earlier, I would have arrived in 1980, but I still would be a third year.”
Neville raised the other eyebrow. “Really? That’s quite… interesting.”
“Yes, I’ve been told so,” Luna said dreamily. “Many people think it romantic to be born within the first hour of the new year, but it does make either my birthday or the holiday less important. I don’t really mind, though.”
“Oh.” Neville was looking less glum, in fact, he looked almost fascinated, but mostly bemused. “But, you don’t have a date to the ball?”
“Oh, no,” Luna said with a shake of her head. “As Ginevra said, all the boys we know either have dates or are infested with nargles, and I shan’t spend the evening with someone infested with nargles, as that would be quite unproductive.”
Neville blinked. “What are nargles?”
“They are invisible little creatures that fly into your brain through your ears or your nose, depending on the weather, and make your mind go all fuzzy,” Luna said simply.
“Fortunately for you, you seem to have a minimal amount of nargles, in fact almost none.”
“How can you tell?”
“By the whites of your eyes,” she said. “They’re quite clear.”
Neville smiled nervously. “Er, okay.”
Luna returned his smile, but rather more vaguely, and just stood there.
Neville cleared his throat and looked at his feet. An awkward silence settled between them. Harry glanced at Ginny; she flashed him a ‘be patient’ look.
“So, do you want to go to the ball?” Neville asked, his voice even more nervous than his smile.
“I would like to,” Luna answered. “I hear that Professor Dumbledore has commissioned a group of wood elves to sing Christmas carols.”
Harry frowned. Are there other kinds of elves besides house elves?
Ginny shook her head subtly. No, I don’t think so, but Luna believes in a lot of strange things; such as nargles.
Harry nodded, though he wasn’t quite sure. Neville looked equally unsure, but he kept on. “Would you like to go with me then?” he asked quietly.
Luna bestowed him with one of her rare, wide smiles. “I would love to, Neville Longbottom.”
Neville brightened considerably. “Really?”
“Why, yes, you seem to be naturally resistant to nargles, in fact.”
He looked a bit confused, but pleased that he now had a date. “Great!”
Ginny threaded her arm through Harry’s. I suspect our work here is done, she thought smugly. Harry smiled at her, then waved to Neville and Luna as Ginny led him away.
Do you know who Hermione’s going with? Harry asked Ginny. She gave him a stern look.
Do you think I would tell you?
Harry shrugged. Maybe, if you wanted any kisses between now and the New Years.
Ginny huffed. You wouldn’t survive that either.
Harry sighed. I had to give it a try.
She smirked and rested her head on his shoulder. I know.
The day ended far too soon, and they were heading back to Hogwarts with lighter purses and full stomachs. Harry and Ginny walked with their arms linked and their hands shoved deep into their pockets to avoid the cold. It began to snow as they walked through the front gates, and they were running rather than walking as the wind picked up.
The last two weeks before the end of term flew past compared to November, what with everyone talking nonstop about the upcoming dance.
The day of, Ginny insisted he not peek into her mind without her permission, to ensure he didn’t see her dress, she said. Harry grumbled about this, but let her go. He participated in an epic snowball war — not a fight, a war — that ended about an hour and a half before the Yule Ball began. Fred and George insisted on approving his and Ron’s appearances before letting them go.
Harry looked at his robes in a bathroom mirror, then looked over at Neville, who was buttoning his up to his chin. Ron was struggling with his while Fred and George pretended to help, and Dean and Seamus were wearing Muggle suits. Harry looked back to the mirror, slightly pink.
The robes were a dark shade of green and made out of a shimmery material. There was a cloak, a robe, then trousers and a dress shirt with a vest. The trousers and cloak were black, the vest was a lighter green, and the dress shirt was the same emerald color with a black bow tie. Harry had gotten on the trousers, shirt, and robe just fine, but his vest was unbuttoned and the tie sat in his hands innocently. He had no idea how to tie it.
“Oi, Harry, get these two off me!” Ron called from the other room. Harry draped the tie around his neck and left the bathroom.
“I think he’s had enough help,” Harry said.
“Oh, but he hasn’t gotten his robe on straight yet!” George said with an impish grin. Ron’s robe was anything but straight, that was true, but Fred was trying to button it upside down and backwards while Ron fought to take it off.
“Get off!” Ron snapped at Fred, waving a hand over his head at his brother. Fred ducked Ron’s flailing hand but he did let go. Ron stumbled forward at his sudden release, and into a bed post. “GITS!” Ron yelled. Fred and George laughed, Harry grabbed the robe and tugged it off Ron’s head. Ron’s hair stuck up everywhere, and he turned to glare at his brothers.
Harry shook out the robe. “Here,” he said, handing it back. Ron shrugged it on right, and started doing up the buttons.
“I’m going to murder you two,” Ron growled.
“Just don’t get the blood on your shirt,” Harry warned.
“Harry, you’re tie’s done up wrong,” Fred said.
“Here, let me help,” George added, stepping forward. Harry whipped out his wand and held it between them.
“Oh, no you don’t!” he said. “I’d rather you not choke me, thanks.”
“Oh, you wound me, Harry,” George said, clasping a hand to his chest.
“Why would we choke the Great Boy Who Lived?” Fred added, faking a starry eyed look. “The Fourth Champion!”
“Our sister’s favorite male!” George added.
“Our bodies would never be found!” they said together as a look of utter horror at the prospect of upsetting their sister crossing their identical faces.
Harry shook his head at them. He walked away, moving back to the bathroom mirror, and stared at his tie. He seriously didn’t know how to tie it.
“Need help with that, mate?” Seamus asked. Harry looked around, and noted Seamus’s perfectly knotted tie.
“Uh, yeah, that would be great,” Harry said. Seamus came over and knotted his tie.
“There ya go,” Seamus said, patting Harry’s shoulder. “Ginny’ll be speechless.” He winked, and moved back towards his bed. Harry looked back to his reflection, and nervously tried to flatten his hair. There really was no point, but somehow it made him feel better to try.
Ten minutes later, Fred and George ushered them down to the common room. The twins immediately left with Alicia and Angelina, and Seamus and Dean left not long after with Lavender and Parvati. Ron didn’t have a date — he was still sulking about it—, and Neville’s was in a different house, but they waited with Harry for Ginny.
Harry checked his watch every thirty seconds. He could hear vague giggling on Ginny’s side of his mind, but that was all he could hear.
All right, we’re coming, Ginny’s voice suddenly said.
Harry straightened up instantly and tried to flatten his hair. Ron rolled his eyes at him.
The first to step down was Hermione; she had on a pale blue robe, with a high lace collar and billowy sleeves. She had flattened her hair, and it was hanging in a straight curtain around her shoulders. She looked quite nice. Harry was impressed and wondered vaguely if she would share the secret to taming unruly hair, when Ginny followed.
Somewhere, he heard Ron laughing at him, and Neville chuckling, but Harry wasn’t quite sure he was even in his own body anymore. Ginny curled her red lips in a smirk and waved a hand.
Her dress was long and black and hugged her curves. Harry felt his ears and neck heating up as his eyes followed the cut of her dress. The fabric glimmered in the lights, and it looked like the light was attracted to her. Her sleeves were tight to her arms until her wrist, where they flared over her knuckles. She had painted her nails black to match the dress. His gaze drifted back up her arm, to where the dress slipped off her shoulders, exposing creamy skin dotted with freckles. She had curled her hair as well, and left it loose around her shoulders. She’d painted her eyelids with smoky grays and blacks, making them look larger and her older. Her eyes sparkled as she smirked at him.
Ginny stopped in front of him and closed his mouth. “You were about to start drooling,” she said with amusement.
Harry shook his head. “Uhhhh…”
Ginny smiled wider. “Earth to Harry, come in, Harry.”
He shook it again. “Uh, you are, you look, um, you’re…”
Ginny curled her arm through his, which made his tongue decide to completely fail him.
“Thank you, Harry,” she said, giving him a small peck on the cheek. Harry beamed.
Then he noticed that Ron had stopped laughing, and his gaze was fixed on Hermione. She was steadfastly ignoring him.
“Shall we go down?” Hermione said.
“Yeah,” Neville said, rising from his seat on a couch.
“Ron, close your mouth, before a fly makes it its home,” Ginny said, glancing at him. Ron snapped his jaws closed.
I think Ron’s noticed she’s a girl, Harry thought.
I think so too, Ginny replied. You owe me twenty kisses.
Happy to oblige, my lady, just say the word.
Ginny giggled. I see you have recovered your speech.
No I haven’t, I’ve just recovered my thoughts.
The two of them kept grinning as they walked down to the Entrance Hall.
The Entrance Hall was filled with noise, as students waited anxiously for the doors to the Great Hall to open. Neville found Luna standing in a corner of the hall, staring into space. Harry thought her dress was interesting to say the least: Long, layered, and soft purple. She wasn’t wearing her customary necklace of butterbeer caps, but she still wore her normal radish earrings.
“There you are, Potter!”
Harry turned in the direction of the voice, to see Professor McGonagall coming towards him in robes a similar shade of green to his. She put a hand on his shoulder, and squeezed it gently.
“I’ve been looking for you,” she said, sounding just a bit flustered, “the Champions are nearly ready to enter the Hall.”
“Oh,” Harry said. “Er, what’s special about that?”
McGonagall squeezed his shoulder again. “Because you shall enter the Hall in procession, Potter.”
Harry internally groaned. Ginny patted his hand and gave him a tender smile.
“Yes, Professor,” Harry sighed. McGonagall took his elbow and began leading him away. “Good evening, Mr. Weasley, Mr. Longbottom, Miss Lovegood.” Harry looked around, wondering why she hadn’t greeted Hermione, but she wasn’t there anymore. McGonagall steered Harry with Ginny in tow towards the doors, heading for a spot off to the side where Harry could see Krum and Fleur standing with their dates, and Cedric’s ugly mug standing beside Cho Chang. Ginny pinched his hand. McGonagall stopped Harry at the end of the group, and clapped her hands. “Please, form a line with Champions on the right and your dates on the left.”
The four complied. Krum and his date stood right in front of Harry. His date had pulled her hair off to the side, exposing her neck, and Harry saw that her ears and neck were flushed. Also, the girl had pearl droplet earrings. He had seen earrings like those before; he’d given a pair to Hermione for her birthday in September. The girl fidgeted with her skirt with the hand not linked with Krum’s arm. Her sleeve was long and billowy.
Wait a minute, that is Hermione! He thought with a gasp.
Ginny nodded vaguely as Hermione heard him and turned; she blushed.
“Hi,” she said, even though she’d seen them only a minute before. Krum glanced over his shoulder and frowned at Harry.
“Hermy-oh-ninny,” Krum said; Harry winced at the mispronunciation of her name, “you know him?”
“Yes, we’re friends,” Hermione said. “You know Harry, of course, but this is Ginny Weasley, his girlfriend.”
Krum nodded stiffly, though his expression had relaxed. “It is a pleasure to meet you officially, Harry Potter, and you, Miss Weasley,” he said, bowing slightly. Ginny smiled, but Harry heard her freaking out mentally: Viktor Krum is talking to me; the best international Seeker in the world is talking to me! Harry resisted the urge to roll his eyes, and Ginny resisted the urge to elbow him in the ribs.
McGonagall clapped for their attention again, and Harry noticed that the students were filing into the Great Hall.
“Once all the students have entered, the six — eight of you shall enter the Great Hall, walking in line, to the top table where the Heads of Schools are seated. After dinner is finished, you will be expected to open the dancing.”
Harry scowled at this. Great, more attention. Ginny squeezed his hand again.
The last of the students entered, and Professor McGonagall told them to follow after a minute as she went in. They waited one minute, then Fleur and her date, Roger Davies Harry thought, started to move, and the others followed. Harry tried to ignore all the staring faces and focused on Krum’s round shoulders. They reached the top table, and Harry saw Percy sitting next to Ludo Bagman. Percy tapped the empty chair beside him, and grinned at him and Ginny. Harry was reluctant, but Ginny led him to the seat beside her brother.
The meal was good, but Harry found himself wishing that it would be over so he could get over having to open the dancing. Ginny squeezed his hand and reminded him that he knew more about dancing than she did, but that did not help much. She was nervous too, so her attempts to reassure him only ended in increasing her nerves, which increased his.
As the plates vanished, Dumbledore rose from his seat and quiet fell over the hall. The old Headmaster smiled, and gestured to the orchestra that had set up on a stage to the left. “Music,” he began, “is truly a magic greater than we could ever create with wands. On this note,” Dumbledore’s eyes twinkled and he chuckled a moment at his pun, “I ask the four champions and their dates to stand and open the dancing for us.”
Ginny nudged Harry as the other three champions stood. Harry grumbled silently, and rose to his feet. He followed Diggory out from behind the table and to the dance floor. Harry put his hand on Ginny’s waist and held her other hand up. He inhaled, and then the music began.
Step forward, step back. Step to the left, step to the right. Harry tried to remember his grandmother’s instructions as the sound of the merry waltz filled the air. One, two, three, four, she had kept saying. Harry stepped forward, Ginny stepped back. He stepped back, she stepped forward. Slowly, they rotated in a circle in time with the music.
Halfway through the song, Dumbledore and Professor McGonagall joined the dance. Professor Karkaroff joined next, dancing with Professor Sinestra. Madam Maxime was the last of the Heads to join, on the arm of Hagrid. Harry flashed a smile at his giant friend, who grinned back. The students began to join in, and the waltz ended.
Ginny convinced Harry to dance the next song, and the next, but after the third, the floor had filled and she agreed it was getting too crowded. They found Ron, Dean, and Pavarti Patil sitting at a table in the back. Pavarti took one look at Ginny, and grabbed Dean’s arm.
“Let’s go dance,” she said, dragging him off. Dean glanced at Harry and Ron, a helpless expression on his face. Ginny smirked.
“No one to dance with?” Harry asked Ron. His friend shook his head.
“Nah, besides, I dunno how.”
Ginny rolled her eyes as she sat down. “That’s only because you never listened when Dad was teaching you.”
“Neither did you!”
“He wasn’t teaching me, he was teaching you boys!”
Ron huffed as he fell back in his seat. He eyed the dance floor with a scowl.
“Who are you looking for?” Harry asked him. Ron started, his ears turned red, and he looked away quickly.
“No one! What makes you think I’m looking for anyone? I’m not looking.”
Ginny, again, purposely rolled her eyes, but Ron was too busy studying his cup of punch to notice. Harry smiled at the two of them. He did feel just a bit jealous that he had no siblings to bicker with the way they did, but it was easily pushed aside. Ginny linked her arm through his and dropped her head on his shoulder, letting her eyes fall shut.
You can’t be tired already! Harry protested mentally. Ginny smacked his hand half-heartedly.
Dancing is more difficult than you’d think, she thought back. Besides, I was up early.
You always are. What was it this time?
Those are happening more often than not, Harry remarked. Ginny nodded slowly. What kind of weird?
Nothing bad, she thought quickly. I was just swimming again.
Again? Maybe your subconscious is trying to tell you that you’re part mermaid.
Ginny smacked him again, but she was smiling. Shush up.
Ron shot them an irritated look. “If you two keep acting like that, someone’s going to notice you’re reacting to stuff that isn’t happening,” he hissed
Ginny simply stuck out her tongue and dropped her head back in place. Harry pulled his arm out and wrapped it around her shoulders. His fingers rested on skin bared by the dress’s off-shoulder sleeve. They began to trace patterns on her skin, smooth and warm beneath his hand. Ginny shivered slightly and grasped his other hand. Harry smiled.
After a while, the crowd on the dance floor thinned and Ginny insisted on dancing again. Harry agreed, pretending to groan and moan about it, but he enjoyed the dance just as much as she did.
The evening went on. Harry danced with Professor McGonagall — Ginny’s idea —, Luna, and Hermione once. Ginny got Ron to dance with her twice, though he protested the entire time. As the sky darkened further and the crowd in the Great Hall grew louder, Harry found the noise oppressive, and Ginny agreed. While Ron found himself roped into dancing with George while Fred danced with Lee Jordan, Ginny led Harry out of the hall away from the dancing and the noise.
Harry gripped Ginny’s hand tightly. They snuck through the front doors and were greeted by a large garden lit by bobbing fairy lights. As far as he could see, there was no one in the garden.
Ginny glanced at Harry and grinned. He grinned back, though he wasn’t exactly sure why they were grinning.
Let’s go this way, Ginny thought, tugging him towards a group of bushes off to the left. Harry let her lead him forwards, until they reached a stone bench. They did pass two other people in the garden, and Harry got a pretty good idea of why the garden looked deserted; everyone in it was absorbed in snogging.
Ginny sat down on the bench and patted the seat beside her. Harry joined her, his heartbeat speeding up for some reason, and twiddled his thumbs a bit in awkward nervousness. Ginny linked her arm through his and rested her head on his shoulder. Harry glanced at her, then gently pulled his arm out and put it around her waist. Ginny inched closer.
You’re very clueless, she thought.
Ginny rolled her eyes. She reached up and set her hand on the front of his shirt, then pressed her lips to his.
Harry decided to agree with her, as long as it meant she kept kissing him. He shifted his position on the bench to pull her closer to him, his arms encircling her. Ginny’s left hand tugged on his tie, her right pressed flat against his chest. Their brains turned off mostly, with the sound of their heartbeats being the only thing they heard.
At least, it was until louder voices interrupted. Harry looked around wildly, almost panicky, while Ginny continued to kiss his face along his jaw.
Someone’s coming, he thought. Ginny ignored him; she wrapped an arm around his neck and pressed a palm to his cheek, bringing his face back to hers. Seriously, we should move!
It’s fine, Ginny protested. She kissed him harder. Harry tried to remember what it was he was worried about.
“You should have listened to me and left this corpse of a school long before now!” a man was saying.
“They pay me better here than you would ever be willing to,” a woman scoffed in reply. “Besides, I don’t have any marks. They don’t suspect a thing.”
“I have the mark,” the man growled. “And it is getting darker with every waking moment!”
Harry pulled his mouth away and looked around again. This time, Ginny did too. The voices were closer than Harry would like.
“How is that my problem?” snapped the woman.
Harry glanced back at Ginny. Somehow, he had straddled the bench, she had moved so that sat facing him with one leg tucked beneath her, and his arms had wrapped around her waist rather than her shoulders. She was very close. He blinked quickly and jerked his gaze back up to her face. We should move, he thought.
Listen! Ginny said, pressing a hand to his lips. That didn’t really help him think; his mouth decided to start kissing her palm.
“It’s your problem because if it burns, even for a second, that would mean —”
“Davies! Ten points from Ravenclaw for skulking! Get back in the castle with your date!”
There was a sound like people tripping over something, then Harry spotted fairies zooming out of the way of two laughing teenagers as they exited the garden.
There was silence for a minute, and Ginny lowered her hand. Immediately, Harry pressed his lips back to hers.
“You should watch what you say,” said the woman’s voice. Harry pulled back; Ginny’s ragged breathing fell on his face and neck as he strained his eyes to see who was speaking.
“You should too,” growled the man. Harry frowned as he focused on the voice. He knew it, but couldn’t place it. It should have been obvious. Ginny rested her face in the crook of his neck, her warm breath now falling on his collar; it felt like somehow his tie and collar had been loosened.
“I want no part of this, Igor,” the woman said, her tone final. “You should let it go.”
Igor? Harry thought.
“Let it go?” the man replied angrily. His voice had a foreign accent. Foreign man called Igor… Harry knew this, why couldn’t he place it? Ginny’s lips connected with a spot on his neck, and Harry found his attention wavering again. He lifted her chin with a finger and kissed her mouth again.
“I should like to see you try to let something like this go!” the man continued, his voice rising. Harry’s heartbeat nearly failed to drown it out.
“Please, keep your voice down!”
“The mark is darkening, Aurora! It is completely opaque, look!”
“No, don’t show me here! Someone could see, you fool!”
“You are the fool to discount this information. This can only be the beginning!”
Footsteps caught Harry’s attention. He broke the kiss, looking around, to see the bushes trembling as though someone was coming through them. Ginny pressed her palm to his cheek, turning his face back to kiss him again.
If they think we were listening, we could be in trouble, she thought. Focus on me.
Harry obliged. He tightened his grip on her waist and pressed his mouth to hers as hard as he could. Ginny slanted her mouth, wrapping her other arm around his neck again, as her lips parted and her teeth bit down on his lower lip. Harry forgot about the argument they’d been half eavesdropping on and about most everything else other than her mouth on his.
“You should dock points from them as well,” said the man’s voice, now much closer.
“I doubt they can hear anything other than each other’s moaning,” the woman said. The two voices were now much softer, not from distance but the owners of the voices controlling themselves. “Leave them be.”
“You disrupted that last couple, why not them?”
“That was because I nearly stepped on Davies. Come on, let them alone.”
The footsteps retreated, and the voices faded. Harry fought to catch his breath, his heart thudding wildly in his chest. Ginny didn’t seem discouraged by a lack of oxygen; she kept kissing him.
I need to breathe, Harry thought. Ginny sighed and withdrew her lips from his. She leaned her forehead on his, their breath mixing.
I bet Ron’s wondering where we went, she thought.
I don’t really care, Harry thought back.
Ginny laughed softly. Harry reached up and brushed a strand of hair from her eyes. She caught his hand and pressed his palm to her cheek, her eyes fluttering shut.
Did you recognize either of those voices? Harry asked.
Ginny nodded vaguely. Karkaroff and someone else.
Karkaroff? Of course! I’m an idiot.
Ginny smirked. I think I had something to do with your decreased brain power.
Harry chuckled, Of course, you always do.
Ginny pecked at his lips, then placed her head back on his shoulder. He kissed the top of her head and let his eyes close. He inhaled the scent of her sweet perfume.
Another teacher came along a minute later and ushered them back inside the castle. Harry wouldn’t stop grinning, and Ginny held onto his arm as though for dear life because her knees were still shaky from their kissing. The second they entered the Great Hall, Ron pounced on them, wanting to know where they’d been. Ginny shook him off by saying that Hermione was coming over, then tugging Harry away when Ron turned to look over his shoulder. They danced for a while longer, most of the songs slow, until the evening ended and students were sent up to bed.
Harry kissed Ginny goodnight at the door to the girls’ stairs, and kept kissing her until Ron told him that they was going to suffocate. Ginny shot her brother a glare, then stole one last kiss. Harry watched her go, a stupid grin still on his face.
Christmas morning he awoke quickly, and thought as loudly as he could:
He heard a satisfactory gasp from her side of his mind, then Ginny swore at him.
It’s six bloody thirty! She thought angrily. Why couldn’t I have slept longer?
Harry jumped out of bed and grabbed his bathrobe. Because, if we get up before anyone else we can open our presents in the common room together without any disturbance.
Ginny grumbled, but got up, gathered her gifts and donned her dressing gown without more cursing. Harry pushed his feet into slippers, pulled all his gifts into his arms, and left the dormitory as quickly as he could without dropping anything. He dumped his things onto a couch and waited, bouncing on the balls of his feet.
Ginny took more time than he did. He let her drop the gifts into a chair before pulling her into his arms and kissing her.
Sometime later, Harry released her from the kiss. Ginny was breathing heavily and her expression was dazed but happy.
“Are you awake now?” he asked quietly. She simply nodded. Harry grinned and pulled her onto the couch with him. Ginny curled up beside him and buried her face in his chest. Harry kissed the top of her head, then breathed in deeply.
“Presents?” he said.
“Right,” Ginny replied, sitting up. She grabbed her gifts from the chair and Harry lifted one from his pile.
Harry opened the gifts from everyone else first. Book about counter-curses and jinxes from Hermione, Seeker’s gloves from Ron, a new sweater from Mrs. Weasley that had a dragon gracing the front, a hat and scarf set from his grandmother, a leather bomber jacket and leather gloves from Sirius, another book from Remus, this one on dark creatures, and a box of Filibuster Fireworks from Tonks. Ginny received a book from Hermione too, a Weird Sisters tee shirt from her older brothers, an emerald green sweater from her mum, a hat and scarf that matched Harry’s from his grandmother, a chocolate frog cards display book from Ron, a set of paints and brushes from Remus, more fireworks from Tonks, and a leather jacket like Harry’s from Sirius.
At last, Ginny reached the two boxes with Harry’s gifts inside. Harry picked up the package from her, and waited for her to finish inspecting her boxes.
Together? He thought.
“Together,” she agreed.
They ripped back the paper, and Harry a simple, pine wood box beneath the wrappings. Ginny found two boxes, one larger than the other, both velvet covered jewelry boxes. Harry waited until she had lifted the lid of the first and found the earrings he’d picked out, and for her to kiss his cheek with gratitude, to open the pine box.
The box had soft cushioning on the inside, and in the center of the cushioning was a small glass box, and in each surface of the glass there rested charcoal drawings. Each of them held exquisite detail, and each had been enchanted to move. The first was of the Quidditch pitch, where the Gryffindor team was grouped together, holding up the Quidditch cup in triumph. The second was of a sleeping Hedwig, her head under her wing. The owl’s chest rose and fell slightly as she breathed within the drawing. Third was a group of people; himself, Ginny, Ron, Hermione, Fred, George, Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, Gram, Tonks, Remus, and Sirius. There was a large cake in front of Harry and Sirius was ruffling his hair. The fourth drawing was just Harry and Ginny, the same scene that rested in her locket. The fifth was just them as well, both asleep and leaning on each other in the common room. The sixth held Harry’s parents, beaming both up at him and at the bundled up baby in Lily’s arms.
“I got the photos from Colin and your gram,” Ginny said. “That last one was taken just after you were born.”
Harry reverently placed the glass cube in the pine box, then grabbed his girlfriend in a tight hug. Ginny let out a squeak of surprise, then she smiled and hugged him back. Harry buried his face in her long, silky hair.
“You’re welcome,” she whispered. Harry drew back and kissed her quickly.
“It’s wonderful,” he said. “Thank you so much.”
Ginny gently kissed his cheek. I’m glad you like them. Harry connected their lips again, trying to pour all his gratitude into that kiss. Ginny was grinning when they broke apart, and he was too.
“You should open your other gift,” Harry said. Ginny started; she seemed to have forgotten the second box.
“You do like to give me jewelry, don’t you?” she said teasingly as she picked up the second velvet box. Harry simple grinned wider and shrugged.
Ginny lifted the lid and clapped a hand to her mouth. “Oh my word!” she whispered. Slowly, she lowered her hand. “That’s not jewelry, Harry.”
“I know,” he said, rather smug at his success in surprising her. “Did you think your wish would go unnoticed?”
She shook her head slightly as she lifted the golden calligraphy quill from the box, and fingered the long raven feather. She touched the many jars of colored ink, then looked up at Harry with a grin.
“They’re beautiful,” she said softly. “Thank you, Harry.”
“The quill is goblin made, so it’ll never rust or get ink caked on it, and the tip will always be sharp,” he said. “The ink is specifically made for drawing, and they’ve got refilling and unbreakable charms on them. There’s two empty, shallow jars that you can mix inks in to make different colors, and the box is charmed so that when it’s closed, the ink won’t ever spill even if you drop it from the astronomy tower.”
Ginny kissed him again to shut him up. Harry did as told, responding to her kiss eagerly.
They took their gifts back to their dormitories, then scurried out of sight as the other student began to wake up. Ginny dragged him from the tower to the classroom they had been training for the first task in, and spent the rest of the morning wrapped up in each other.
Christmas morning was pleasant in the halls of Hogwarts and in the homes of the unassuming Wizards and Muggles across the world. Yet there was an unease that lay just above the happy air that was ushered in with the wrapped gifts, the many tellings of the Nativity story, and firm belief in Santa Claus. It was present even on Hogwarts soil.
That unease gathered in a rundown house that was barely visible in thick, English rain. The sky seemed to have sensed the hurt and sorrow filling the little house, and was now weeping for the two souls inside it.
A dark haired man sat at the bedside of a frail woman, reading aloud from an old storybook as she lay quiet. The man’s voice was even, but behind his eyes there was dread.
The woman coughed, and the man faltered in his reading. She waved a trembling hand, gesturing for him to keep going, but the man set down the book and drew a wand from his cloak.
“I am fine,” the woman insisted in a raspy voice.
“Mother, please,” the man said. The woman shook her head.
“I will not leave this world bogged down by drugs,” she said.
“Mother, you’re not going to die now,” the man said, trying to smile reassuringly at his mother but the dread in his soul seeped into the smile.
“Any day now,” she muttered. “Keep on reading, son.”
The man hesitated, then set his wand on the table beside him and lifted the book.
“It was the last evening of the year, and it was very cold and dark,” he read aloud. “Snowflakes fell thick and fast. Through the empty streets wandered a poor little girl with no hat on her head and no shoes on her feet.” The woman resettled herself on her pillows, and drew in a deep, rattling breath as she closed her eyes. “When she left home that morning she had been wearing a pair of slippers, but they had been so large that she’d lost them as she’d dashed across the street to avoid a huge carriage rolling toward her. One of the slippers had disappeared, and a young boy had picked up the other and ran off with it. So the little girl was barefoot, and her feet were not blue with cold.” The man paused as he was reading, and glanced over the rest of the story. “Maybe I should read a different one,” he murmured.
“No,” his mother said in her rough and tar-stained voice. “I like this story.”
The man hesitated once again, then sighed and resumed reading. “In her hands she carried a bundle of matches, and the pockets of her apron were stuffed with them. All day long she had tried to sell her matches, but no one had bought a single one or given her a single penny. Shivering with cold and hunger, she crept along the icy streets.”
The man’s voice continued to fill the cold bedroom, and the old woman took heart in the story. She felt rather a lot like that little lost match girl, unable to get warm or go home.
“At last, in a corner between two houses, she sank down, pulled her feet under her and huddled close to the wall. Still she could not keep off the cold.”
The old woman drew in another shallow, rattling breath.
“How much good would a single match do? thought the little match girl. Would she dare pull one from the bundle and strike it against the wall? She did. It burst into flame, and as it burned it gave off a warm, clear light like a candle. The little match girl held out her hand to the beautiful brightness.”
A very faint smile crept across the old woman’s face as she listened. The freezing child saw the best things of Christmas in the matches she lit, wrapped presents, roast goose, a Christmas tree, and most importantly, warmth.
“The lights of the Christmas tree seemed to rise higher and higher until the little girl realized she was looking at the twinkling stars in the sky. Then she saw one fall, leaving a bright trail of light behind it. Someone must be dying, thought the little girl, for her dead grandmother, who was the only person who had ever truly loved her, had once told her that whenever a star falls a soul goes to heaven.”
The old woman nodded very slowly, as her aching and inflamed bones would only allow. A falling star indeed.
“She struck another match against the wall. This time, in the center of the bright light stood her grandmother. Her face looked so gentle and loving that the little girl cried out, ‘Oh Grandmother, please take me with you. I know that when the match blows out you will go away just like the warm stove and the roast goose and the lovely Christmas tree. Please take me with you!’
“The little match girl quickly lit the whole bundle of matches, for she so wanted her grandmother to stay with her. And the matches fared with a light that was brighter than the noon sun. Never had her grandmother looked so beautiful. She took the little girl in her arms, and together, they rose far above the cold streets and the dark town to where there was no hunger and no pain, for they climbed all the way to heaven.”
The old woman let out her breath in a painful exhale. Falling stars indeed carried souls off to heaven, but if a star fell from the heavens, then where did it carry the soul that rode on it?
The man did not notice his mother’s quiet thoughts. He continued to read the last paragraph of the story. “The next morning, some people found the little match girl still sitting against the stone wall. Her cheeks were pale and her little hands were blue, but she was smiling. She’d frozen to death on the last night of the year, and in her hand was the bundle of burnt matches. ‘The poor child,’ the people said. ‘She must have tried to warm herself.’ But none of them could know what beautiful things she had seen, nor with what joy she had entered into the New Year with her grandmother.”
The man looked up from the storybook, feeling the sadness begot by the little match girl, and tried to catch his mother’s eye. She lay with her hands folded over her chest, the blankets drawn up to her chest to fight off the cold that had come from inside her.
“Mother?” he said quietly.
There was no answer for him.
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