The party in Gryffindor tower lasted well into the early hours of the morning, the last few stragglers being shuttled off to be around 3a.m. by Head Girl Hollins who was tired of the noise. By dawn, Harry regretted being one of the last people to go to bed, as Remus woke them up on schedule regardless of Harry’s pounding headache and Ginny refusing to open her eyes. Remus actually came through the Floo and forcibly removed them from bed. Tonks had them practicing with the golems again, and by the end of their training, Harry and Ginny had succeeded in getting them to fight each other without running away.
“I think you’ll be ready for bigger models,” Tonks said as they left. “Maybe mannequins.”
They went to breakfast, finding their friends already there. Seamus and Ron were arguing over Chudley Canons vs the Wimborn Wasps, and Ginny, being no fan of either, chose to sit with her other friends down the table. Harry half listened to Ginny and her friends talk, almost laughing when Anna Williams and Demelza Robbins got into an argument over their favorite Quidditch team, then did when Ginny jumped in to defend the Hollyhead Harpies. Seamus asked him what was so funny, and Harry quickly shook his head. Down the table, Anna Williams conceded to the Harpies’ greatness, saying they had much more attractive players than any other team in England.
After breakfast, however, was their first extra Potions lesson with Snape. So far, it had just been Animagus and extra Charms training, but Dumbledore had finally told them they had to report to Snape. Ron and Neville wished them luck, and Harry, Ginny, Hermione, and Luna walked to the dungeons to meet Snape in his classroom.
The room wasn’t empty when they reached it; Snape was already there, as was a student, and going from the platinum blonde hair they could just barely see through the fogged glass, it was Malfoy.
“We should wait out here,” Hermione said.
“Are you kidding me, I want to know what they’re saying!” Ginny said.
Harry suddenly checked his pockets. “Fred and George gave me these things last time they decided to report how the business was going; they’re a prototype — here!”
He pulled from his pocket a long flesh colored string, with two small, model ears at each end. Hermione grimaced.
“What is that?” she hissed.
“Extendible ears,” Harry said, shoving one ear under the door. It trembled for a second, then the string began to grow as the ear began snaking forward through the classroom towards Snape and Malfoy. “Listen,” Harry said, holding up the other ear. There was a soft murmuring coming from it, then a few distinguishable words, then:
“…you don’t get it, I can’t just let this go! Father won’t shut up about it, Mother’s stressed out of her mind but she’s pretending that it’s all fine, and…”
Malfoy’s words faded from hearing; Harry glanced up to see him pacing the room, away from them, then back. Hermione looked slightly shocked, Ginny was staring at the ear with her mouth slightly open, and even Luna looked surprised at how intense and upset Malfoy sounded.
“… it’s not like I can just ignore that, it keeps popping up in the back of my head no matter how hard I try to push it away, even though I hate the thought of it, I can’t keep pretending…”
He was pacing again. Harry frowned, trying to figure out what Malfoy was talking about.
“… it’s not like I can talk to anyone about it anyway.”
“You’re talking to me.”
Malfoy snorted, then his voice faded again.
“It isn’t as bad as you claim it is, Draco.”
“Isn’t it?” Malfoy snapped. “Father wants me to…”
“You have options, Draco.”
“… if he even knew…”
Harry met Ginny’s eye, raising an eyebrow.
Can you figure out what he’s talking about?
She shrugged. His father’s a Death Eater. But… he can’t be complaining about his father wanting him to join the Death Eaters…
“… Mother’s only letting him do this because she’s worried that we’ll all get killed if he doesn’t; if I’m told to do it, I have to do it!”
“Draco, calm yourself. Nothing will be happening soon, regardless. If a request is made of you, it won’t be for quite a long time.”
Harry couldn’t make out what Malfoy said next. Snape gave a heavy sigh, then spoke again. “Draco, I cannot help you any more than I have already. What is to come has not yet come, and you cannot torture yourself by stressing about it endlessly.”
“Can’t I?” Malfoy snapped. “I’m torturing myself already, why not make it worse.”
Snape walked away from the ear, pulling Malfoy with him. Harry peeked through the glass in the door, but he couldn’t see enough to make out what Snape was telling him. He was wondering whether or not they should keep listening when Snape’s voice came back into hearing.
“… Potter and his friends will be here in just a moment, you should leave before he gets here.”
Harry gave a sudden yank on the Extendible Ear and it shot back out from under the door; the figures of Snape and Malfoy grew larger in the fogged window and the little group of four hastily scurried away from the door where they had been crouching, eavesdropping. The door opened and Harry turned the corner, pretending they had just gotten there.
“Potter,” Snape said, inclining his head. Malfoy shot Harry a scowl and strode past them. Harry glanced over his shoulder, watching him go.
“Potter, pay attention,” Snape snapped, causing Harry to jerk his gaze back to his hated Potions professor. “Follow me,” he said, gesturing them inside. Ginny grabbed Harry’s hand, and he was grateful not only for the moral support but for the warmth; the dungeons were freezing. He didn’t understand how the Slytherins lived down here.
“Gather around,” Snape said coolly, leading them to a table at the very front of the room. There was already a wide, shallow cauldron set up over a low burning flame, as well as prepared ingredients.
“Professor Dumbledore has instructed me to teach the four of you potions normally reserved for NEWT students who have selected Magical Law Enforcement as their career path,” Snape began, speaking in a tone of voice that made it plain that he would rather be dancing naked in a volcano to NSYNC than be teaching them that morning.
Harry frowned, wondering where that thought had come from.
“This morning you shall be concocting Veratiserum,” Snape told them. “I shall be observing you, instructions are on the board.” He waved his wand, and the board was lined with neatly lettered directions. Harry resisted the urge to glower. So, it would be just like normal Potions, only Snape would be focused wholly on them and the potion would be much harder.
Great, he thought.
Over the next two hours, with Hermione in charge, the four of them performed each painstaking step to create Veratiserum. Snape hovered over them constantly, occasionally correcting them, however, he did not belittle them as he usually did. Harry noticed that even though he was always watching, he seemed distracted. He wondered if had anything to do with the talk he had had with Malfoy before they had arrived.
When the final step had been completed, the potion suddenly sprang to a boil and the liquid inside became clear. Snape waved his wand and the fire beneath the cauldron went out. He stepped closer to the table, bending over the cauldron to inspect it.
“An acceptable effort,” he said coldly. He waved his wand again, and the potion began pouring itself into vials. “I shall test these at a later date,” he said, adding with a sneer: “Dumbledore has rebutted my request to test the potions you make on the four of you, unfortunately.”
Harry felt quite glad for that.
Snape put his wand away, then gave them all a scowl. “Well, you are finished. Get out.”
They did not need telling twice; they left the Potions classroom as quickly as possible. Harry glanced at Ginny, then over at Hermione and Luna.
“So, anyone have a guess as to what we heard earlier?” Ginny asked.
“It seems to me that Draco is stressed about his father being a Death Eater,” Luna mused.
Harry frowned at her. “You know that?”
She nodded. “It seems, also, that he’s being pressured to join.”
“I wonder why he’s so upset about that,” Hermione scoffed. “He’s just as much of a blood purist as the rest.”
Harry frowned as well. She had a point.
“Perhaps he has become infested with Ukudida,” Luna mused.
The other three looked at her. She raised an eyebrow. “It is a possibility. They cause their victim to begin questioning all their life choices, especially moral ones.”
“Possibly,” Hermione sighed, shaking her head.
Luna shrugged. “It could be Schwule Tendenzen.”
“Maybe so,” Ginny said, “you never know.”
Harry shook his head. He wasn’t sure what Schwule Tendenzen was, but he doubted it was an actual possibility.
He didn’t question that Luna followed them into Gryffindor Tower; they found Ron and Neville in the common room, playing a game of chess that Neville looked increasingly regretful about.
“Where are Dean and Seamus?” Harry asked them as he took an armchair; Ginny sat herself on his lap after he sat down.
Ron looked up. “Oh, hey guys. Dunno.”
“Dean said he was going to go work on homework,” Neville said, pausing to greet Luna with a quick kiss as she joined him on the couch. “I think Seamus went with him.”
Ginny frowned. “Seamus went to go do homework? On a Sunday?”
Ron shrugged. “Maybe Hermione’s rubbing off on him, who knows.”
Hermione rolled her eyes. “Or he’s off chasing skirts again,” she said. “Move over,” she added to Ron; he shifted in his armchair so she could join him.
“I don’t think he’s chasing skirts,” Luna mused.
“Why?” Neville asked distractedly.
“I just have a feeling,” Luna said, dropping her head onto Neville’s shoulder. Neville gave a nod, then moved his remaining knight. Ron clicked his tongue and took the knight.
“Checkmate, mate,” he said.
Neville threw his fists up and fell back on the couch. “Finally!” he cried. “I’m never playing chess with you again.”
Ron shrugged. “You said that last time too.”
Ginny sniggered. “Everyone says that, Ron.”
“I only ever beat him once,” Hermione sighed.
Ron glanced at her. “Yeah, yeah, just the once,” he said, smiling and shaking his head. Hermione elbowed him in the ribs and Ron groaned dramatically. “You wound me!”
Hermione rolled her eyes. “Oh, hush,” she said.
Ginny glanced at Harry, raising an eyebrow. Harry raised his back.
“What’s so funny?” Neville asked.
“Nothing,” Harry said, smiling.
“I swear, they’re practically telepathic sometimes,” Hermione said, and Ron choked back a laugh, covering it as a cough.
“It’s a possibility,” Luna said.
They all laughed again; Neville in earnest, Hermione, Ron, Harry, and Ginny with delight at the ridiculous truth in her words.
They left for dinner around five, finding Dean and Seamus already at dinner, the both of them seeming tired. Hermione commented on the multiple essays due the next day, to which Dean groaned and Seamus dropped his head onto the table and Harry asked her to not remind them of.
Monday was indeed dull and dawned on exhausted students. There was a feeling in the air that could only be described as November, where the students were itching for the winter break and relief from their mounting load of homework and sleep deprivation. The fifth and seventh years especially were stressed, with the looming deadline of OWLS and NEWTS in May seeming to come closer and closer with every class. Harry and Ginny did their best to get to bed before 11 that night, and succeeded by about ten minutes. Tuesday was just as long, though Tonks let them sleep in by half an hour before training as they were doing mostly spellwork these days, with the exception that the night ended with their weekly lesson with Dumbledore. They walked up to his office, arriving just after eight, with heavy feet and dulled minds.
“Enter,” Dumbledore called, as he always did, when Harry banged the eagle knocker. He pushed the door open, letting Ginny go before him into the office. They took the seats that were before Dumbledore’s desk, trying not to appear too drained.
“Long week?” Dumbledore asked with a twinkle in his eye.
Harry laughed. “You could say,” he answered.
Dumbledore gave a nod. “Then you shall be glad to know that we will not be practicing your Occlumency skills tonight.”
“What are we doing instead?” Harry asked.
Dumbledore pushed back his chair and stood. “We shall be delving into the murky realm of guesswork,” he said. “You remember the information we obtained last week from using the Ouija board with Mrs. Vance.”
“Hard to forget it,” Harry said. “My — my mother said something about a warning, an attack. What did you find out?”
Dumbledore inclined his head. “On your mother’s information, not much. Her warning was very vague, to no fault of her own, apparently, the strain of contacting the living is very great.”
Harry’s gut lurched. He didn’t like the casual way Dumbledore spoke of the living contacting the dead.
“What I was able to find out concerns the information given by Merope Riddle,” Dumbledore said. “Or, by her maiden name, Gaunt.”
“What, then?” Ginny asked.
“Merope, her father, and her brother were the last surviving Gaunts,” Dumbledore began. “Marvolo perished in the early 1920’s, and Merope’s brother, Morfin, died in Azkaban in 1943. Their family was said to be direct descendants of Salazar Slytherin, and the name is listed among the anonymous publication of the same era, the Sacred Twenty-Eight Pure-blood Families.”
“Sacred Twenty-Eight?” Harry said.
Dumbledore gave a nod. “Yes, it is a list of the families determined by its author, who to this day is unknown, who are considered to be wholly magical and therefore, wholly pure.”
“Potter isn’t on it,” Ginny said to Harry. “Weasley is.”
Harry rolled his eyes. “Whatever. So, the Gaunts were descendants of Slytherin himself?”
“Supposedly,” Dumbledore answered. “However, due to this and the notion that to stay pure, one must marry within one’s own family, they were heavily inbred, and their fortune was lost long before Marvolo and his children were born.”
“What about his wife?” Harry asked.
Dumbledore raised his eyebrows. “My research indicates that she was either his cousin or his sister. She died giving birth to Merope.”
Harry grimaced; Ginny gave an involuntary shiver.
I can’t imagine being forced to marry one of my brothers… she thought.
Yeah, let’s not go there.
“Moving on, the generations of inbreeding led to Marvolo having a very quick temper, which he passed onto his son, Morfin, and not much wit, which both of his children suffered.”
“Merope’s ghost said she was abused,” Ginny said.
Dumbledore nodded. “Records show that Marvolo at the very least physically abused his daughter, if not sexually as well. Her father considered her without worth, as her magic was severely suppressed by his own abuse of her, and therefore he abused her worse. She was treated as a slave rather than a child.”
Harry said nothing. He felt like he could sympathize with her there.
“Morfin was arrested in the fall of 1925 for attacking a Muggle in the village near his home, as well as several other charges, including assault of a Ministry employee,” Dumbledore continued. “When the then Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, one Bob Ogden, went to his home to arrest him, Marvolo reacted violently towards Ogden; the both of them acted deranged, and Morfin never spoke English, rather, in Parseltongue. While Ogden was there, the very same Muggle that Morfin had attacked rode past the family’s home with a female companion, and Morfin chose that moment to reveal to his father that he had attacked the Muggle because his sister Merope fancied him. Marvolo reacted by attempting to strangle his own daughter, whose life was saved by the rapid actions of Ogden.”
“Wonder if Ogden ever knew that she would end up giving birth to the worst dark wizard in history,” Harry muttered.
A flash of emotion crossed Dumbledore’s face, not long enough for Harry to determine what it was. Instead of responding, Dumbledore merely continued speaking. “Ogden came back with back up and both Morfin and Marvolo were arrested, Morfin I have said why, Marvolo for the abuse of his daughter and obstruction of justice in the case of his son. Morfin was given three years and Marvolo six months.”
“What happened to Merope?” Ginny asked.
“What little documentation there is shows that in the absence of her abusers, Merope’s magic flourished,” Dumbledore answered. “She later married the very same Muggle her brother had attacked, Tom Riddle.”
“Voldemort’s father,” Harry said.
Dumbledore nodded. “The marriage lasted less than a year. My guess was that she initially fed him a love potion, but for some reason ceased the administering of the love potion around March of 1926, as Tom returned to his parents’ home without his wife in early April of that same year. His claim was that she had tricked him somehow, many assuming that he meant she tricked him into thinking that she was pregnant with his child.”
“Except she was,” Ginny said. “Tom was born December 31st, 1926.”
Dumbledore again nodded. “Perhaps she thought that he would stay for the sake of their child, perhaps she thought that after several months together, he would have grown to love her on his own terms. Neither proved true, however, as he left her anyway. Likely, Merope ended up on the streets after that, she was forced to sell an old family heirloom in August of that year, and in December ended up at a Muggle orphanage in London, where she gave birth and died, much like her own mother.”
“And Voldemort was born,” Harry said.
Dumbledore shook his head. “No, Tom Marvolo Riddle, Jr., was born. The boy was still a child, he would not become the man he is now until much later in life.”
Harry glanced down at his feet. “If someone gave me a time machine and told me to go kill him while he was still a kid, I wouldn’t hesitate.”
Dumbledore did not reply immediately, rather, he inhaled deeply and fixed Harry with a calculating gaze. “Regardless, time machines of such a nature do not exist.”
Harry looked away again. Something in Dumbledore’s tone made him think that Harry’s words had bothered him, but it was too faint to tell.
Dumbledore inhaled and leaned forward in his chair. “The reason I have worked so hard to establish a timeline for Merope Gaunt is so that I could make establishing a timeline for Tom’s younger years easier, and it has. Now that I now his family history, I have been able to make two guesses at possible Horcruxes.
“How many do you think he has?” Ginny asked.
Dumbledore paused. “At least three, the diary, which has been destroyed, his snake, Nagini, and another that he created prior to his first disappearance. But the research I have done gives evidence that there be many more than that.”
Ginny fixed Dumbledore with a cool eye. “I should try to look through the memories that I have to find out what his plans were.”
Dumbledore pressed his lips together in a thin line; Harry glanced at Ginny, concerned. “I have thought of that,” Dumbledore confessed. “I am worried that it would be dangerous.”
“It would be dangerous to assume that he has only a few Horcruxes and miss one,” Ginny said. “Tom left a lot of information in the diary, we should use it.”
Dumbledore glanced between Harry and Ginny, then he sighed. “I will try to find a way to safely investigate the memories that were stored in the diary,” he said. “But I forbid you to attempt looking through them by yourself.”
You’d better listen to him, Gin.
I will! Ginny thought irritatedly. I’m not an idiot.
“For now, we will stick to what outside resources we have,” Dumbledore said.
“So, what resources do we have?” Harry asked.
Dumbledore set his hand on a stack of books next to him. “Student records, mostly, as well as employment records.”
“He had a job?” Harry asked. “He didn’t just go straight to…?”
Dumbledore shrugged. “I suppose crusades require great funding.”
Harry gave a snort. “Sorry, it’s just it’s ridiculous to think of Voldemort working at a grocery store.”
“He worked at Borgin and Burke’s,” Dumbledore said.
Ginny wrinkled her nose. “That dank old shop in Knockturn Alley?”
“The very same. It is the same shop, incidentally, that Merope sold her old family heirloom to when she was pregnant with Tom.”
“What was it?” Harry asked.
“An old locket,” Dumbledore answered. “Gold with emerald stones set in the front. Burke bought it from her for ten galleons, then sold it again to a collector by the name of Hephzibah Smith for 215 galleons.”
“What?” Ginny gasped. “He stiffed her!”
“She clearly had no clue how valuable it was,” Dumbledore said.
“How was it so valuable that it was worth 215 galleons?” Harry asked.
“It was said to have belonged to Salazar Slytherin.”
“Oh,” Harry said.
Dumbledore nodded. “Furthering this, after he sold it to Hephzibah, Burke tried many times to buy it back from her until her death in 1946, when it and another item from her collection vanished.”
“Did he send Voldemort to try and convince her to sell it?” Harry asked.
“He did,” Dumbledore said.
“What was the other item?” Ginny asked, leaning forward in her seat.
“A golden goblet bearing the crest of Helga Hufflepuff.”
“He was collecting things that belonged to the founders?” Harry asked.
“It is highly possible,” Dumbledore said. “The locket, the cup; both would have been a great snub to the ideals of Hogwarts if made into Horcruxes.”
“So he probably had four,” Harry said.
“He may have had even five,” Dumbledore answered. “In the summer of 1943, Tom left the orphanage where he was still living for nearly a month, and when he returned, he had with him an old ring.”
“Why do you think that it was a Horcrux?” Harry asked.
“Two reasons,” Dumbledore said. “In the summer of 1943, Morfin Gaunt was released from Azkaban and returned to his family home. A month later, he was arrested again by the Ministry for the murder of three Muggles, Thomas Riddle, his wife, and his son, Tom. When the Ministry came to collect him, he very easily admitted to the murders, but wouldn’t answer questions as to why, when or how. His only concern was that he had somehow lost his father’s ring.”
“You think Voldemort killed them and charmed Morfin to think that he had done it?” Harry asked.
“Indeed,” Dumbledore replied. “The description of Marvolo’s ring matches very closely to the one that Tom returned to school with for his sixth year.”
“So, that’s three possible Horcruxes,” Harry said. “But where would he even hide them?”
Dumbledore patted the thick stack of books. “I have several possible locations compiled,” he answered.
“But when you find one, what will you do?”
“Retrieve and destroy it,” he said.
“Could we come with you?” Harry asked.
Dumbledore hesitated. “It would be very dangerous, Harry.”
“But we could help,” he insisted. “Please, professor.”
Dumbledore inhaled slowly through his nose and exhaled in a sigh. “I will consider it,” he said finally.
The clock atop the fireplace suddenly chimed nine o’clock, causing both Harry and Ginny to start in their seats. He hadn’t thought their conversation had lasted so long. Dumbledore rose from his chair and indicated that they should too. “We shall resume at eight o’clock again next week, barring no emergency or American crisis,” Dumbledore added with a smile. “Good night.”
“Good night,” Harry and Ginny echoed, leaving. Harry pulled the door closed behind him and took Ginny’s hand as they descended down to the exit to the fourth floor.
“I can’t picture Voldemort working in a shop,” Ginny said with a sigh. “I just can’t.”
“I can’t picture Voldemort as a teenager at all,” Harry said. “It’s like he just came into existence horrible and snakelike.”
Ginny shrugged. “He was a handsome teenager,” she murmured. “Frighteningly charming.”
Harry glanced at her. “Don’t go into those memories,” he murmured. “You know what happened last time.”
She nodded. “I know, I know, I just… we could have known about all this long ago.”
Harry squeezed her hand. “It’s not your fault, Gin. Don’t beat yourself up.”
“Hmm, thanks, that’s so encouraging.”
re welcome, love.”
“You’re not thanked,” Ginny replied snarkily, shoving him gently with her shoulder. Harry laughed, dropping her hand, and threw an arm around her waist, drawing her in and pressing a kiss to her temple.
I love you, he thought.
I love you, too.
Upon reaching Gryffindor tower and entering the common room, they parted at the dormitories to travel up separately to their room. Harry reached their door first, choosing intentionally to wait outside for Ginny. Abruptly, Hollins’s door opened and Greenley stepped out looking frazzled.
“Oh,” she said. “Erm, hi.”
“Hi,” Harry said. Greenley was wearing pajamas and a dressing gown, which she pulled tightly about herself quickly. She hesitated, then nodded and hurried through the door to the girls’ stairs, passing Ginny as she did. Ginny raised an eyebrow at Harry, who shrugged.
Hollins stuck her head out of her room. “Did Meredith go downstairs?” she asked, looking at the door to the girls’ stairs.
“Um, yes?” Harry said, not knowing what else to say.
“Dammit,” Hollins muttered and slammed her door. Harry shrugged at Ginny.
“Who knows,” Ginny sighed, opening their door. Harry followed her in, closing their door behind them. As usual, Ginny went to the kitchen to make a cup of tea while Harry dropped onto the sofa and picked up Two Towers.
“Maybe they’re fighting,” Ginny said from the kitchen.
“Who, Merry and Pippin?” Harry asked, pausing mid-sentence.
“No, Greenley and Hollins,” Ginny answered. “Greenley looked upset.”
“Are you gossiping?” Harry asked her.
“Maybe,” Ginny said with a snooty sniff. “It’s not that strange.”
Harry rolled his eyes. “Are you going to start sitting with Lavender and Parvati again?”
“No,” Ginny answered. “But I have been chatting with Alicia from time to time. It’s nice to know what’s going on around Hogwarts, y’know, especially to know what people are saying about us.”
“Good for you,” Harry said, finding their place again.
Ginny returned from the kitchen with two mugs, his Earl Gray and hers Raspberry Leaf. Harry took his from her gratefully and took a small sip as she settled herself on the sofa with him, her back to his chest and her arm resting on his knee. Harry gave his wand a wave and caused the book to levitate in front of him so he could wrap one arm around her waist and hold his tea with the other hand.
Ginny let her head fall back and rest on his clavicle. “This is nice,” she murmured, her eyes drifting shut.
“Don’t fall asleep,” Harry warned her. “I don’t want to have to re-read another section.”
Ginny waved a hand fitfully. “Hush,” she admonished him softly. Harry rolled his eyes and continued to read. Ginny finished her tea and sat up to place the mug on the coffee table, then settled back and adjusted her position. Harry paused reading again until she had stopped moving, then picked up again where he had stopped. Ginny took the book out of the air, taking over so that he could finish his tea. As Ginny read, her hand came to rest on the top of his thigh, and her fingers began to trace little patterns into the leg of his trousers. When Harry finished his tea, she took it from him and leaned away to set it on the coffee table, as she did, her jumper rode up to expose the small of her back. Harry glanced away, then back, but Ginny had already sat up again and was shifting in her position to snuggle back against his chest. When her hand went back to tracing circles on his leg, he grabbed it to stop it. Ginny glanced over her shoulder at him.
“What?” she asked innocently.
“Nothing,” he said. “Just, erm, just keep reading.”
Ginny gave him a smile. “Sure, dear,” she said sarcastically. She leaned back again and picked up the book again. Ginny tucked her head under his chin, her thumb rubbing against the back of his hand. Her voice was soft as she read, occasionally she would yawn. Harry’s eyelids began to droop and Ginny slowed in her reading.
She closed the book and set it on the coffee table, her jumper again riding up. Harry pulled her back to him and linked his arms around her waist, pressing a kiss to her shoulder. Ginny leaned her head back onto his, her eyes shut. Harry let his head rest against her forehead, absently pressing a kiss to her cheek, then one to her jaw. Ginny giggled slightly, his breath was tickling her neck.
“We should go to bed,” Harry murmured.
“No, I don’t want to move,” Ginny answered. She shifted, turning slightly to cuddle him better. “Nice and warm,” she added quietly, her voice falling on his neck and causing his skin to prick. Her hand came to rest on his chest, her fingers crossing the neckline of his shirt.
“If we, erm, fall asleep here, though,” Harry reminded her, “we’ll regret it in the morning.”
Ginny sighed heavily. Her hand patted his chest, but she stayed still. “Okay, dear.”
Harry dropped a kiss onto the top of her head, letting her remain there for a while. He figured it wouldn’t hurt if they stayed for a minute or two. Ginny began absently playing with the neck of his shirt, brushing his skin. Her breathing fell on his neck. Harry closed his eyes, enjoying the tickling sensation. Ginny pressed a kiss to the nape of his neck, her fingers still brushing his skin. She shifted, turning to face him better. Her lips found his pulse, pressing a soft kiss to his neck, and Harry’s heart sped up. Ginny pressed another gentle kiss to the side of his neck, then brought her mouth to his ear.
“Let’s just stay here a while,” she whispered, her lips brushing against his skin. Harry murmured an ascent, his hands locking around her waist. Ginny kissed his ear, then her lips closed around his earlobe, sucking softly. Her teeth closed gently on it, then her mouth moved down again, to his jaw. She kissed along it, her lips brushing gently and eliciting heat from each spot she touched. Harry felt her hands at his chest, her palms pressing against his shirt and sliding down to his waist. Harry caught her lips in a kiss, but she stole away again and kissed his neck. He felt her lips part and her tongue brush against his skin, then she began to suck gently, drawing from him a quiet sound. Her hands found the hem of his shirt, pushing up and under it; he gasped a little, her hands were cold but his skin felt very warm beneath them. Ginny moved her hands back up to his chest as she dragged her lips farther down his neck.
She pulled back, her eyes wide. Harry knew his face was flushed and he was breathing hard, but he could swear he got redder as he realized that she could feel him reacting. A smile grew on Ginny’s face, then she laughed and pressed a quick kiss to his lips.
“We should go to bed,” she said quietly, then got up. Harry scrambled to a sitting position and leaned forward as Ginny left for their bedroom. He rubbed his face and sighed. Then he chuckled, smiling. Christmas couldn’t come any faster.