SIYE Time:1:36 on 18th September 2021

Merry Mischief
By quinn

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Category: Gred & Forge Challenge (2007-6)
Genres: Comedy, Fluff, General, Humor, Romance
Warnings: None
Story is Complete
Rating: PG
Reviews: 14
Summary: ** Winner of Best Romance in the Greg & Forge Challenge **
Snowball fights and three-on-three Quidditch can only mean one thing: it’s Christmastime at the Burrow. Yet even as Christmas approaches, Ginny is depressed by how careful they all have to behave around George. With Harry, Ron and Hermione to help, she resolves to get her brother back.
Hitcount: Story Total: 5791

Disclaimer: Harry Potter Publishing Rights © J.K.R. Note the opinions in this story are my own and in no way represent the owners of this site. This story subject to copyright law under transformative use. No compensation is made for this work.

Author's Notes:
What a fun challenge! Thanks to my wife, Molly and the Emilys for your help on this one! Please review, and have a smashing holiday season!


The sun was low in the sky, making the fat snowflakes seem to glow red as they swirled around the Burrow. The beauty of the scene would cause most people to pause and drink it all in, memorizing every detail. Ginny Weasley knew better. She had not survived battles against Death Eaters by getting sentimental. She ducked back behind the barricade just in time as a snowball careened overhead.

Hermione, cheeks flushed from the cold air, looked up from her neat pile of snowballs. “Well?”

“Harry and Ron are over by the shed. Charlie threw that last one. He and George are over by the oak tree.” She nodded to her teammate, grabbed two snowballs and threw one in a high arc toward the shed. A moment later, they looked to see two faces turned skyward. Ginny and Hermione threw.

Harry’s spluttering was followed by Ron’s laughter. Ginny’s snowball had found her target, but Hermione’s snowball had just grazed Ron. He stopped laughing abruptly as a snowball from George plugged his mouth.

“Nice shot!” shouted Charlie, and the three-sided battle was on.

Harry made to dive behind a tree, but was caught by a throw from Ginny that sent his glasses to the ground. Rolling to safety, he called from behind the tree. “Where’d you learn to throw so hard?”

Ginny snorted. “Blame my Quidditch captain; he’s a slave driver!” Her snowball whizzed past him as he disappeared behind the tree again. The yard filled with taunts and shouting as the snowballs flew.

Ginny nearly jumped out of her skin as two people suddenly appeared in their fort. “Percy!”

“Hello Ginny, Hermione.” Percy grinned. “Of course you know Penny.” Percy’s girlfriend blushed a bit, fidgeting with her left mitten. Ginny raised an eyebrow, but he pressed on. “Could you call it off for a moment? We just want to get to the house.”

Ginny grinned, cupping her hands over her mouth. “CIVILIANS!”

The others shouted in response, and the yard became still. Percy’s smirk made Ginny melt. Over the summer, Percy had worked hard to be a part of the family again. While he was pompous as ever, there was now a mischievous light in his eyes that she never remembered seeing before. He rose and pulled Penny toward the Burrow, but paused as they reached the door. When he spun around, whipping his wand back and forth, it caught all of them completely by surprise. Ginny managed to clear the snow from her face as she heard the door slam, but her grin was solidly in place.

“That git!” Ron’s exclamation sounded more pleased than upset.

“Let it be noted,” came Charlie’s voice, “that we were not the first to use magic. That said... GAME ON!”

The battle took on a completely new dynamic as snowballs of various sizes and color began dancing around the yard, seeking out anyone that ran into the open. Hermione threw wards around the fort, watching as a glowing stag and terrier ran between trees passing messages. Ginny sent a flock of snow-birds after them just as an alarm went off behind her. She whirled to see a surprised look on George’s face. One of the wards had broken his disillusionment charm.

“No you don’t,” growled Ginny playfully as a pile of snowballs began attacking him. “I still owe you guys from last year.” He froze, even as the snowballs burst against him. His face became distant. He stood rigidly as wet snow dripped off his cloak. After a moment, everyone was still. George came out of his reverie, seeming to notice all of the eyes on him. Throwing on what looked like a very forced grin, he cleared his throat. “Getting cold, yeah? Think I’ll go say hi to Percy. You lot carry on.” They watched him go into the house, a few moments later appearing in the family room’s window. He gently lifted a picture from the mantle. After a moment, he sat on the floor by the fireplace, staring at the picture in his lap. Ginny sighed.

Harry leaned back into his pillow. Ron was already snoring, and Harry could not really blame him. It was hard to believe that same morning he had packed up his trunk and wandered down to Hogsmeade Station, eager to start his holiday at the Burrow. He had been looking forward to seeing Ron, who had been tied up at the joke shop all year, and Hermione, who had taken her N.E.W.T.s a week into the term, but mostly he was excited to spend time with Ginny. Being in the same year and having Quidditch practice together was wonderful, but they’d had little time to themselves since the beginning of September.

They had gone for a walk after the snowball fight. He closed his eyes, replaying their conversation. She had been a little distant, distracted. Harry had tried to get her to talk about it, but he was continually distracted by the snowflakes catching in her hair and the way the tip of her nose turned pink.

The door creaked. Harry turned his head as two forms stepped softly into the room. He reached for his glasses, slipping them on in time to see Hermione’s wand glow as she cast a silencing charm around the room. Ginny sat on the cot, leaning over Harry’s face.


“Unless this is a really good dream.”

She punched him playfully. “Do Hermione and I show up in a lot of those?”

Harry stuck out his tongue at her. She pulled him up to sit beside her as he yawned. “So what’s happening?”

“Let’s wait until the all of the forces are rallied.”

Hermione was sitting on the edge of Ron’s bed, shaking him gently.

“Hermione?” Ron yawned. “I thought you said we had to behave here, because OOF!”

Hermione turned with a smile. “He’s up!” Ron pulled himself to the bedside, hand still over his stomach, scowling at Hermione.

“Good. I wanted to talk to all of you.” Ginny bit her lip, then continued. “I’ve been thinking —”

“I’d noticed.” Harry winced as Ginny turned to him slowly, brown eyes blazing.

“You get one, Potter. Now stop interrupting.”

He winked at her. “Or?”

Ron groaned. “You were thinking, I was sleeping, let’s get on with it!”

Ginny sighed. “It’s just George.” They all became silent. “What can we do? There must be something. I’m tired of having to be careful around him.” She stared at the floor, absently toeing a wrapper that had missed the basket. “It isn’t right. Fred would hate this. George should be...”

“George,” Harry finished. She nodded.

“He’s been that way since I told him about staying here this week.” Ron shook his head. “You should see him at work, just staring at that big portrait of them by the office.”

Hermione nodded. “The first Christmas without a loved one is hard. I can’t imagine what it’s like for him. Maybe we should get him a book on grieving; I just read one that’s really quite —”

“Hermione,” Ron said firmly, “we’re not getting him a book.” She made a face at him.

“Maybe some new joke stuff?” Harry scratched at his chin. “Although he could buy any materials he wants now.”

“We’re being shallow,” Ginny stood and began to pace. “This is George. I want my brother back. He doesn’t need more things, he needs to… to realize that we need him. All of him.”

“Well how do we do that? He spends most of his time staring at that bloody painting. You could set off the shop’s entire stock of Whiz-Bangs and he wouldn’t blink.”

“The portrait.” Ginny’s eyes narrowed. “That’s it!” Three pairs of eyes looked blankly at her.

“What, do you want to have it restored?” Harry asked with a quirked eyebrow.

“No, I noticed it the first summer the shop was open. I asked Fred about it, and he said it was the guardian of the ultimate prank.” She furrowed her brow. “I asked him to show me; he said it only would open for both of them.” Ginny sank into the cot next to Harry, fire glinting in her eyes. “We’re talking something so serious that they couldn’t trust each other alone with it.”

“But how?” Ron looked lost. “It sounds great Gin, but without Fred —”

“Polyjuice,” breathed Hermione. “I still have some in my trunk from last year.”

“But Hermione, we’d still need Fred to —”

“No, Ron, we wouldn’t.” A grin spread across Harry’s face. “Two Georges should do the job.”

Ron’s mouth worked, trying to find words. “You guys don’t even know what you’re getting into. Who knows what’s in there?”

Hermione grabbed his hand, smiling. “Harry and I will do it. You just have to get us in the door.”

Ron swallowed. “Working there is one thing, but now I gotta break into their shop?”

Ginny smirked at him. “You work there, it shouldn’t be hard.”

“Well, then you do it.”

Ginny shook her head, smiling brightly. “I’ll be busy running interference. I’m going to ask George to help me shop for Harry.”

“You guys are serious about this?” They all nodded. Ron sighed, defeated. “Mental. The lot of you.”

“He’s right you know. Do you know how difficult it’ll be to put all that together?” Harry asked.

“Yeah, I do. And Gred & Forge are worth it. They’re still my brothers.”

Hermione frowned as she dropped the comb to the counter. Setting up the next day’s shopping trips had proven simple enough. George had agreed to go with Ginny at breakfast. Since Verity, the shop’s clerk, was leaving to visit family, he had planned to close the shop early anyhow. Diagon Alley would be extremely busy while the crowds took advantage of the sales and festivities traditional for the day before Christmas Eve, so Ginny would have no problem keeping George distracted.

Harry, Ginny and Ron had talked most of the family into an impromptu Quidditch match, leaving Hermione free to prepare them for the next day. Harry was close enough to George’s size to wear his own robes, and she had nicked an outfit for herself easily enough. Finding the hair for the potions was a different story. Her first thought was to check his pillowcase, but Molly had already collected the bedding. After scouring his bedroom, the comb had been her last hope.

“Why does everyone in this family have exactly the same hair?”

Defeated, she bundled up and went out to join the others.

Harry threw Ginny the Quaffle, and dove as Charlie shot over him. He glanced up, George was right on her tail. Putting on a burst of speed, he veered under her. She must have seen him, because the next moment she fainted toward the makeshift hoop on the left, dropping the ball into Harry’s hands. Percy moved to block her shot, leaving him wide open to toss the ball through the right hoop. Ginny whooped, spinning back toward Ron and their side of the paddock as Charlie shouted at Percy and their parents cheered below. He smiled and spun after her, ready to go on defense.

“That’s nippers 140, fogies 80!” shouted Arthur.

“We can count, father,” Harry heard Percy grumble.

He glanced down and noticed Hermione waving for their attention. She tugged at her hair, shrugged, and pointed at George, who was careening toward him with the Quaffle. Harry spun out of the way just in time to watch Ron lunge, snatching it out of the air. George cursed as he returned, and Harry watched Ron whisper to Ginny as he handed her the ball. She flew toward him, tossing him the Quaffle and whispered, “Weave!”

They flew back and forth, switching possession as they crossed paths.

“Get George’s hat,” she muttered as he threw it back. He glanced down at Hermione, suddenly understanding. They still needed the hair.

“How?” Harry shouted across to her, as George and Charlie frantically tried to block them.

“If you can distract him, I’ll do it,” she said as they crossed again, tossing him the Quaffle.

“On it!” Harry banked and shot straight up on his Firebolt.

“Stay on him, I’ve got Gin!” shouted Charlie. Glancing down, he saw George waiting for him below, head turned upwards. He dropped the Quaffle.

George smirked, moving to catch it. “What the —?” He spun around as Ginny ripped his hat off, shooting in a lap around the paddock. Harry watched as George decided to stay with the Quaffle, catching it and shooting toward Ron, not noticing Ginny drop his hat near Hermione.

“Potter, stop staring at my sister and get back in the game!”

“Give orders to your own team, Charlie!”

“He does, Gin, or have you been too distracted to notice?” George swore again as Ron blocked his shot.

The office of Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes was decorated in the same garish colors as the rest of the shop. Normally anyone walking into the office would be forced to squint, but it was dark as Ron appeared in the corner with a pop. He looked around, holding his breath, waiting for the caterwaul of the store’s complex alarm wards. When the room remained silent, he sighed in relief. Apparently, George had given him full privileges without telling him.

“Probably wanted to be able to send me back here on errands,” he mumbled, slipping out of the office.

The twins in the portrait greeted him. “Good evening Ronald!”

“What brings you here on this fine evening?”

“Not up to mischief, are you?”

“No, of course not!” he stammered.

“Pity,” they said in unison.

He moved quietly through the aisles to the door, waving his wand and muttering the incantations to block the shop’s wards. Satisfied, he pulled open the door. Two cloaked figures nodded at him and walked into the store. Once inside, they pulled back their hoods. Ron’s breath caught in his throat. He had not expected to react so strongly to seeing the twins again. Their hair was long, like George’s, so even the missing ear did not reveal that both were actually replicas of George.

“So, um, who’s who?”

One of the Georges grinned. The other smirked and stepped close, leaning forward with parted lips. He shoved himself away, feeling queasy.

The scorned twin scowled. “Ron, does it matter who’s who? We’re well into the hour. Honestly!” The scowling George glanced back at the door. “Did you lock the —”

He turned to look at the door and watched as two kids pushed it open, wandering into the shop. Eyes wide, he turned back to see only one of the Georges leaning on the counter. The other had disappeared. He turned to the kids. “Sorry, it’s after hours.”

“You’re here, the door’s open,” the larger boy said.

“You said come by anytime you were in the shop,” the smaller one said to the visible George, who nodded.

“If I said that, we’d better stick to my word.” The twin gave Ron a penetrating look, leaving him fairly certain that ‘he’ was Hermione. As the two boys wandered the shop, Ron locked the door and wandered over to the counter. “How much more time?”

“About twenty minutes.”

“Look,” he muttered, leaning close. “I’m sorry about earlier. Maybe after all this we can sneak off, read together, and see what happens.” He grinned, lowering his voice even more. “Maybe I’ll even make you purr again.”

The twin’s head turned, an eyebrow quirked. “Mate, you know I love you. But if you made me purr, well, I’m pretty sure your sister and Hermione would kill both of us.”

Ron’s stomach dropped, his face burning as he turned back to the shoppers. “Look kiddies, our time is Galleons. Either buy something or get out.”

“So which would you go with, the red or the green?” Ginny held the two dragon hide jackets in front of a mirror.

“The red.” George was far away again, Ginny glanced at his reflection and saw him staring at the same corner of the shop he had gotten lost in three times already. She followed his gaze, narrowing her eyes at the auburn haired witch working the jewelry counter. She turned to her brother.

“What’s her name?”

“Cailyn.” He glanced at Ginny, surprised.

“And does she know how you feel?”

George scowled. “I only know her as a fellow business owner here in the alley. No more.”

“George! Is that your sister?” Cailyn had spotted them. “Ginny, right? I hear you’re an excellent chaser, just this morning George was telling me about your match yesterday.”

Ginny raised an eyebrow at her brother. “This morning?”

“Yeah, while I was dropping off coffee before the rush.”

“And you do this for all the shops?”

She held back a wince as he stepped on her foot. “Why yes, dear sister. All part of being a good neighbor! Come on, I saw a nice watch over there."

Ron rang up the boys’ purchases and shooed them out the door without making eye contact. He watched as the windows went dark and the other George pulled off an invisibility cloak. “You shouldn’t have been so mean, Ron. What if they say something to George?”

“Can we just do it already, Hermione?” A snort came from behind him. He turned, stabbing a finger at his best friend. “You shut up.”

As they came toward the painting, Ron got nervous. “Are you sure this is going to work?”

“Of course not.” They stepped in front of the portrait. The twins in the painting banished the armchair they had set on fire, turning to look at the three people standing below them.

“If it isn’t the two handsomest blokes in Diagon Alley!”

“What can we do for you?”

“Could you let us in?”

They smirked at each other. “Give us the magic word, in unison please.”

Ron groaned. “There’s a spell to open it, we need to get out of here before they set off an alarm.”

One of the George imposters lit up. “They were brilliant. No wizard would be able to guess it.”

The other grinned. “Shall we?”

Ron was dumbfounded. “You know the magic word?”

They nodded, turning back to the portrait. “Please?”

The painting rumbled to the side revealing a small chamber. In the center of the room rested a tiny black chest.

Ginny sipped at her paper goblet of wassail. She and George were sitting on a bench near the entrance to Diagon Alley, where they had agreed to meet up. She grinned as the trio approached; Harry gave her a thumbs-up and pulled her in for a quick kiss. Her high spirits dropped a moment later as she saw another pair coming toward them.

“Look, Gabrielle! Eet eez my family!” Fleur’s younger sister sent them a radiant smile. Ginny hadn’t seen her since the wedding, and couldn’t help noticing that, for being only twelve, she was growing into herself very well. She looked a lot like her sister, only without for the bump that was Fleur’s belly. “Perhaps zey can solve our dilemma. Gabrielle eez staying wiz Bill and I, and she eez wanting to do more shopping.” Fleur paused, and for the first time Ginny noticed that she looked a little peaky. “I am needing to go rest. Could she stay wiz you?”

“Actually, Fleur, I think I’m done.” George yawned. “You guys find everything yet?” Three faces went pale. Ginny’s eyes widened. In the excitement, they had forgotten that this they still needed to buy presents.

Harry cleared his throat. “We still have a few things to pick up.”

George grinned. “You lot can stay, I’ll let Mum know you’ll be in later.”

“Merci, ‘Arry. See you tomorrow night at zee Burrow, non?”

They waved as Fleur and George made their way to the Leaky Cauldron. Then Gabrielle turned to look them over shrewdly. “Where are your bags?” Ginny tried to think of an excuse as three pairs of eyes darted to her. Before she could invent something, the twelve-year-old girl smiled and give her a very knowing look. “Ah, you ‘ave used up your shopping time in pursuits of passion, non? Well you ‘ave found zee right person for zee job.”

She paused, appraising Hermoine, who was still wearing George’s clothes. “And I am seeing, ‘Ermione, zat first we must be finding you more, ‘ow should I say, suitable clozing for shopping? Come!”

Harry sat on the edge of his cot, staring in a daze at nothing in particular. The last few hours had been like nothing he had ever experienced. Gabrielle had individually consulted them on who they needed gifts for, asked strategic questions and led them from shop to shop. She seemed to have some magical sense guiding her to the perfect thing at the best price. She was also able to keep track of all four of them, often in separate stores. He absently wondered if it was something in her Veela blood. Regardless, he knew he would never laugh at those who could think of shopping as a sport. He had just seen an Olympic class performance, and he was still in awe. He glanced down at the packages he had dropped next to his cot, realizing that he would not have done so well even if he actually had dedicated the entire day to shopping.

Ron was in a similar state, staring blankly. Harry grinned and tossed a pillow at him. He flashed a bemused smile at Harry. “That was…”

“I know.”

Ron shook his head. “I mean, I’ve never seen…”

“Me either.”



The door to their room opened and Ginny strolled in, plopping down next to Harry.

Ron threw Harry’s pillow at her. “Knock much?”

“Why?” Ginny grabbed a licorice wand from Ron’s nightstand. “It’s not like I’ve never seen you starkers, you know.”

“Sure, but Harry’s in here!”

“So I’d noticed.” Ginny pecked her boyfriend on the cheek.

“What if he had been getting undressed?”

She smiled sweetly. “Well, brother dearest, I don’t think it would quite be enough to make me purr.” She winked at him, and he shot Harry a stunned look of betrayal. Harry could not quite hide his smirk.

Ron was about to retort when Hermione walked into the room. Harry thought she looked incredible. Ron apparently agreed, he had spent most of the night completely distracted by her low-cut blouse.

She sat next to Ron. “Shall we look at the chest?”

“Chest?” Ron’s eyes widened a bit.

Hermione glanced at him, noticing where his eyes were fixed. “Yes, Ronald. The twins, remember?”

Harry snorted, which set Ginny giggling. Hermione, looking defeated, turned to Harry. “Please?”

Harry pulled the small black box from his pocket, turning it over in his hands. “What do you reckon, Hermione?”

“It could honestly be anything. I’m guessing, since we’re talking about Fred and George, that it’s something we need to be very careful with.”

Ginny took it and looked it over before passing it to Ron. “I doubt they booby trapped it. It was already protected. So how do we open it?”

Hermione tapped her wand on her palm. “I read about a charm that reveals the contents of a magical container in that book Bill gave me last year. Maybe we could —”

Hermione’s thought was cut short as blurs of blue and yellow filled the room. Harry dove to the floor, pelted by something that felt like wool. When the room was still, he lifted his head to find himself buried in jumpers.

Ron looked up with an apologetic smile. “I thought I’d try just opening it. Guess we know what’s in there now,” he added sheepishly.

Hermione sat up, lifting a jumper in front off her. “It’s their Christmas jumpers.” She glanced around the room at the dozens of jumpers in all sizes and states of wear. “It looks like they’ve put all of them away in here. With last year’s, there should be forty of them.”

Ginny tugged one off her head. “Hard to believe they were ever this small.”

Ron tossed the box aside, trying to push them into a pile. “I don’t get it. I thought some huge prank was supposed to be in there.”

Harry picked up a tiny jumper with a yellow F on it. It had little yellow pompons along the sleeves and looked like it was about Teddy’s size. He grinned. “Maybe they wanted to give it to your mum someday.”

Hermione shook her head. “That would be sweet. We’re talking about the twins, remember? Try to think like they do.”

The room became silent. Ron screwed up his face in thought and Hermione shut her eyes, but Harry was watching Ginny, who was shaking in silent laughter.

“Care to share?”

She had tears in her eyes as she looked around at them. “Can’t you see it?”

Hermione’s eyes latched onto Ginny’s, searching them for the answer. “They hid these in a place they couldn’t get to, unless they both wanted to.”

Ginny managed to nod between giggles.

“Which means they couldn’t trust the other alone with them.”

Harry began laughing as well. Ron, who had clearly given up, went back to gathering the jumpers. He reached under the bed to retrieve one.

Hermione still looked lost. “So what were they both afraid the other would do with them?”

Ron chuckled as he fetched a small jumper from his lampshade. “What do you do with jumpers, Hermoine?”

“Wear them?” Hermione shook her head, eyes widening. “That can’t be it. If one of them wanted to impersonate the other, they could just lie. Or even conjure a jumper just like these. Locking them up doesn’t make any sense.”

“We’re talking about the twins,” Harry said with a smile.

Ginny squeezed his hand. “Like you said, Hermione, think like them. Rule number one: throw sense and logic out the window.”

Hermione sighed. “So the ‘ultimate prank’ was impersonating each other.”

Ron sank down beside her. “Not sure what we’re going to be able to do with that knowledge.”

Ginny stood and knelt by the pile Ron had made. “Not with the knowledge, with the jumpers!”

Harry shook his head. “Not following.”

“We’ll show him that he’s making us miss both of them.” Ginny set her jaw. “Let’s go talk to Mum about relocating tomorrow’s party.”

After breakfast the next morning, Mrs. Weasley sealed the kitchen door and the younger crowd was banished to the family room. Hermione had sprawled out on the floor with a book, and Ginny and Ron were engaged in a particularly fierce game of chess. Percy had left to visit Penny’s family for the morning, so Harry was left alone with George on the couch watching the snow fall and feeling very apprehensive. He wasn’t sure how the job of distracting George until the party had fallen to him, but he was determined to do his best to play the part. It was just a matter of working up the nerve. Something about pranking the prankster had his stomach in knots, so he simply sat watching the chess game.

“The pieces might just get up and walk away if you take much longer to make your move,” Ginny quipped, flicking her eyes at Harry. Ron looked very confused, and understandably so. It wasn’t his turn. He started to reply, but a fierce look from Ginny stilled his tongue.

Harry sighed. “George, can we talk?”

Ron looked around the shop, amazed. If possible, it was even more festive than usual. He smiled as his mother fussed with a bit of garland that Fleur had set in place.

He checked the clock above the counter, remembering to subtract the forty-two minutes by which it was set ahead. It was almost time to bring in their guest of honor.

He swallowed. “Is everyone here?”

Hermione ran her quill along the list, standing on tiptoe to see around the shop. “I think so, all except Harry and George. Who’s Cailyn?”

“I invited her.” Ginny glanced at the clock. “It’s time.”

Ron nodded and raised his wand as he unblocked the alarm wards.

“Is that what I think it is, Potter?”

Harry had known that he would seem nervous as he kept George busy, so he had decided to give himself a reason. They had apparated to Grimmauld Place and were now standing in the master bedroom. He handed George the small box that he had just pulled from the nightstand’s drawer.

He swallowed. “I suppose that depends on what you think it is.”

George flipped the box open, and his eyebrows shot up. “Impressive. So when did you buy this?”

“Actually,” Harry took a deep breath, “I picked it up the day after the memorial at Hogwarts.”

George looked up in shock. “What? You bought this right after… right after everything?” He shook his head. “And you talk about it like it’s a bloody cheeseburger. ‘Picked it up.’ So when are you planning to ‘drop it off’, Potter?” George’s face was a mask, but Harry could sense the emotions roiling behind it.

“I’m not sure. Definitely not this year, and probably not the next.”

Confusion broke through onto George’s face. “So you bought this with no intention of giving it? I know that money isn’t an issue for you, but who buys a ring like this just to keep in a nightstand?”

Harry grinned. “I have every intention of giving it. Just not until I’m ready to.”

George shook his head. “You’re going to have to explain this one, mate.”

Harry sat on the hard bed, gathering his thoughts. He looked up at George and smiled. “That week was quite honestly the strangest week of my life. It was wonderful, because the war was over, we had won, and Riddle was gone forever. It was terrible, because we…” his voice caught as George’s jaw tightened, “because we lost so much. And on top of everything else, I suddenly realized something.” He looked at his hands, the tiny white scars catching his attention. “My life was, for the first time, my own. People had given themselves up hoping that we could live and be, well,” he locked eyes with George again, “happy.”

George snorted. “It sounds nice on a greeting card, but how do you do that in the real world?” He walked over to the window, and for a moment was silent. When he spoke again, it was in a much softer voice. “How do you get used to waking up and not seeing the person who has slept in the next bed your entire life? How do you come to terms with never saying hello to someone again? How, when in life you never had to say hello, because…” he looked at Harry, “because you never said goodbye?”

Harry stood and crossed over to George, taking the box from him. “We all miss him. And Lupin, and Tonks, and…”


Harry smiled. “Yeah. Even Snape died fighting so people could have normal lives. I never really let myself believe that I would get that chance. And then Riddle was gone.” He took the ring out of the box, turning it in his fingers. “It’s hard to let yourself be happy when other people lost that chance.”

George nodded, staring out the window again. “You feel guilty.”

“Exactly.” He tucked the ring back into its box. “People buy these rings to make a promise. When I bought this, I promised the people who gave up their lives that I would not let their deaths be wasted. I promised myself that I would keep living, and let myself be happy.”

George was silent. After a moment, he turned to Harry with a sigh. “I guess Fred would want me live enough for the both of us, right?” Harry grinned. “Fine then. But I need you to promise me one thing.”

“Name it.”

“That ring stays put until I say so.”

Harry laughed, but a shrill wail cut off his reply. Harry’s hands flew over his ears as George whipped out his pulsing wand.

“The shop!” George ran out the room toward the stairs, shouting as he ran. “What kind of wanker would break in on Christmas Eve?”

The noise stopped as he disapparated from the porch.

George burst in the door, flinging hexes madly at the people in the shop. Ginny was glad that they had thought to pass out Shield Hats. She smiled as her brother froze, slowly taking in the scene. Friends and family filled the shop, and every single person was shouting in greeting and wearing a blue jumper with a yellow F or G on it. His eyes moved across the room, stopping on Ginny. She ran to him, giving him a big hug.

“Is the G for Ginny now?”

“No,” Ginny shook her head. “It’s for George, one of my favorite brothers.”

He smiled. “How?”

Harry pushed open the door. “Good pranksters never reveal their secrets. You know that better than anyone.” He pulled off his cloak, revealing a bright yellow G.

“So what is this, then?”

“This is your present! Let’s mingle!” She pushed George into the crowd of people. Lee clapped him on the back, pulling him over to the corner of the shop where Oliver, Katie, Angelina and Alicia were huddled. They shouted in welcome.

Ginny smiled as she felt a hand on her shoulder. “Well done, love.”

“That’s what sisters are for.”

Harry was soon distracted as Andromeda handed him Teddy, who wore a jumper riddled with yellow pompons. Ginny turned and grinned as Luna waved at her. Her jumper was clearly Fred’s from the same year as the one Teddy wore. The engorgement charm made the yellow puff-balls look strange, but Luna seemed thrilled to have one of the two most festive jumpers in the room.

“Everyone?” Percy’s magically amplified voice boomed out, quieting the room. “Sorry to interrupt conversations, but I’d like to announce something. May I have the honor of your attention for just a moment?” She rolled her eyes, but noticed that Penny was once again playing with her left hand. Ginny’s jaw dropped. “I have asked Penelope for her hand in marriage,” his face broke into a crooked grin, “and she has agreed.” Ginny joined in as the room burst out in cheers once more.

“Wonder how long he kept that in his nightstand,” George mused from behind her.

She wrinkled her nose at him. “What are you talking about?”

He grinned. “Good pranksters never reveal their secrets, Gin.” George glanced toward their brother. “It’s good to see that life keeps going. Fred would want us to get on with it, don’t you think?”

Ginny smiled as her mother pulled George into a hug. “Now George, this is the only time that I’ll ever allow you to open a present early. I thought you might need this tonight.” She handed him a package, and he pulled out a blue jumper.

He grinned, pulling it over his head. “Thanks Mum. But for tonight…” he ran his wand across the wool and the G re-wove itself into an F. Ginny shook her head and he winked. “Good thing Fred never learned that one, huh?” Molly brushed a tear away and smiled as she returned to congratulate Percy again.

George looked over to the register, where Ron and Hermione were kissing under a sprig of mistletoe. He sighed. “What is it about Christmas Eve, Gin? There is something magical about it.”

“I have a thought.” They turned toward the voice to see Cailyn, who raised an eyebrow when George’s eyes lingered on her chest longer than necessary to take in the yellow G.

“Let’s hear it.” George met her gaze unabashedly.

“It’s the anticipation. Tomorrow there will be presents, games, times with family, but tonight there is only anticipation and wondering.”

“I’m not so sure. I’ve already gotten two of my Christmas gifts.”

Cailyn shot him a coy smile. “Are you planning on getting a third?”

He grinned roguishly. “I’m not really the planning type. Not to change the subject, but have you noticed that you’re standing under mistletoe?”

Ginny was impressed as Cailyn gazed at her brother, then nodded. Turning away to give them a moment, she found herself face to face with Harry. He pulled her into an embrace.

“Congratulations, Gin. We pulled it off.”

“I’ll say we did. Where did you take him?” Harry’s smile faltered for a moment. “Scratch that, I don’t think I want to know. Whatever you did, thank you.”

“Talk about a bloke behind his back, will you?” George’s arms were wrapped around Cailyn as he scowled at them over her shoulder. “I owe you now.”

“Bring it on, George,” Harry challenged.

His eyes glinted, and he raised his voice as loud as Percy’s had been. “Attention everyone, I have my own announcement. Anyone interested in free merchandise, see me later. The only condition is that it must be used on Harry and Ginny. Thank you.”

“You think he’d really do that?” Harry muttered in Ginny’s ear as the crowd roared.

Ginny beamed, thrilled to have her brother back. “I look forward to it. Merry Christmas, George!”

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