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Bring Me In From The Cold
By elaithin

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Category: Post-DH/AB, "Baby, It's Cold Outside" Challenge (2008-1)
Genres: Drama, Fluff, Humor, Romance, Songfic
Warnings: Mild Sexual Situations
Story is Complete
Rating: PG-13
Reviews: 32
Summary: ** Winner of Best Overall in the Baby, It’s Cold Outside Challenge **
A Floo malfunction strands Harry and Ginny in a cabin on Christmas Eve of their final year at Hogwarts. But all may not be what it seems...
Hitcount: Story Total: 11422

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:
My first time ever writing something inspired by a song. Enormous thanks to Teyri Jen and Geluf for being my betas - the story is SO much better from the first draft, thanks to their input.


"Bring Me In From the Cold"

"AAAAAAAAH!" Ginny yelled, and ducked as the infant hippogriff rampaged wildly through the living room of Number Twelve Grimmauld Place. This was not, after all, a common occurrence in Harry Potter's home. George somehow gaining access to slip in a new product to test (Harry suspected Ron's assistance, there), catching Ron and Hermione in flagrante delicto, (something that happened all too often for Harry's sensibilities), or Kreacher arguing with one of the many portraits that he'd hung after raiding the Potter family vault. Any of these would have been expected, normal, and even amusing to a certain degree.

A rampaging infant hippogriff was decidedly not.

"Get him, Gin!" Harry called from across the room. He was desperately keeping an antique vase he'd gotten from the Potter vault, (emblazoned with the Potter crest and motto - Vires Veneratio quod Diligo, or translated, Strength, Honor and Love), and the column it rested on from what seemed to be an inevitable fall and an even more inevitable shattering. The vase was enchanted to keep flowers placed in it always fresh and currently contained a bouquet of red and white roses that he had surprised Ginny with for no particular reason. More importantly, it was a family heirloom, something that Harry valued highly. Also, he didn't know if the charm could be repaired as easily as the vase could be - and did not want to find out.

"Just a stunner ought to do it!" Harry encouraged as the immature gryphon-horse hybrid beat it's wings frantically and tried to escape through the solid (and thankfully, charmed to be shatterproof) bay window Harry had installed the previous summer. "Come one, Ginny - hit him one more time!"

Harry had, after all, already hit the "baby" hippogriff with two such stunners. The little bugger was remarkably resilient, however, and the only result was that it's already frantic flight was just a bit more erratic than before. He also thought the thing was bobbing and weaving like a punch-drunk boxer, hence his certainty that one more stunner would knock it cold.

"I can't hex him!" the redhead protested loudly, giving Harry a look that indicated he was completely mad for even considering the notion. "Harry, he's just a baby!"

Baby, my arse! Harry thought sourly. The bloody thing weighs about three stone!

"Oh, for - " Harry muttered as he finally re-balanced the column that he'd been fighting with. Freed of that burden, he sighted his wand towards the hippogriff, which was a difficult target despite its size. This was, of course, mostly because of how energetically it was trying to escape, obviously unhappy with not being under the open sky. Harry could relate. He got a little stir-crazy when he couldn't fly sometimes, too.

Finally, he got was able to get a clean shot as the animal calmed itself momentarily, and settled on top of his telly. For just a moment, he considered letting it break that, too, so that perhaps Ginny and Ron would spend just a bit less time in front of it. Stupefy!, he thought with resignation, and was satisfied to see the familiar jet of red light shot from his wand, and the hippogriff pitch backwards after contact.

Thankfully, it did not get up.

Harry sighed, looking around at the remains of his living room as Ginny checked the "baby" over. His couch was a tattered mess - the upholstery was scattered everywhere. Every painting on the walls had been knocked down, and the curio shelves that Ginny had taken so much glee in filling were soundly overturned, with bits of shattered trinkets strewn about.

Harry sighed again as he realized that the bloody bird had even knocked a hole in the ceiling plaster - he could clearly see the distinctive orange of Ron's bedroom. "This is the absolute last time we babysit for Hagrid over the holidays, Gin. Honestly!"

"Oh, it's fine," Ginny muttered, giving him a dismissive wave. She didn't even look his way as she did so, as she was too busy rearranging the stunned beast into what would presumably be a more comfortable position. As a final touch, she smoothed his feathers down with both hands. It was, Harry thought, the most peaceful he'd seen the thing. "We can fix all this easily enough. Hagrid could hardly take Littlebeak to France with him, now could he?"

"Still don't see why we had to do it," Harry muttered under his breath, until he realized he was on the receiving end of a patented Ginny Weasley Glare. This was what he had classified as Glare #6, the 'Harry-you-know-bloody-well-this-is-y our-fault' one. Harry knew it far too well for his own liking.

He sighed again, and threw up his hands in admittance as he began to pace - stalk, really. "Okay, yes, I know I'm the one who said yes. But that's not my fault! Have you ever tried to tell Hagrid no?"

"Of course not," Ginny replied, in a tone that was so saccharine it was almost sickening. "He's such a big sweetheart."

"Which is how we have a baby hippogriff on our hands," Harry acknowledged, indirectly admitting his agreement to her description. He looked around the totaled living room once more, and couldn't hold back from repeating his earlier heavy sighs. This was not what he wanted to be dealing with. Not tonight.

Kreacher had shown up after Littlebeak was stunned, and was already beginning to repair the furniture and other assorted broken belongings. Harry was always startled whenever he noticed the wizened old House-Elf. Since his muttered curses had stopped, the elf was downright sneaky in the way he could enter a room without being noticed.

"Kreacher, you don't have to do that, we'll take care of it -" he started, but Kreacher cut him off with a dismissive wave that was remarkably similar to Ginny's. Harry wondered if she'd been giving the elf lessons.

"Nonsense," the old elf croaked. "It is Christmas Eve, and Master Harry and Lady Wheezley have many plans. Master cannot be late. Kreacher will fix this, and take care of the noisy, mewling beast." The last was said with a look of utter loathing at Littlebeak, and Harry and Ginny's eyes met as they both tried to suppress a smirk. For all his words, Kreacher really was quite taken with the little creature- Ginny had overhead the elf doing something that could charitably called 'singing' to it the night before.

Kreacher was right of course - they did have plans, and Harry very much didn't want to be late. Ron and Hermione were at the Granger's house at the moment, and they were all due to meet up with the whole family at the Burrow later. Given how understanding Molly (and Arthur) had been about Ginny's decision to come "home" to Grimmauld Place and not the Burrow when fall term had ended - well, he hardly wanted to test his luck on that front. Ginny might have been legally allowed to make that decision, but 'legal' and 'parentally-approved' could be entirely unrelated things. Harry didn't want there to be even the slimmest chance of starting a family row.

"Right then," Harry muttered, as Ginny cast quick Scourgify charms on both of them. He simultaneously cast Reparo on both of their clothes as well - Littlebeak's rampage had done its fair share of damage to their wardrobe, as well as the living room. "Let's just take the Floo, then," he said after a moment's consideration of looking out the bay window. "That's a right nasty snowstorm out there; I don't fancy trying to Apparate in it."

That had been a major topic of lecture during the Ministry-run Apparition lessons - the risks of Apparating during inclement weather. They'd spent a whole day on it, and Harry had taken the words to heart. Well, eventually he had. He didn't fancy splinching himself by Apparating right into a blown-down tree branch, or blending his feet into a snow drift. He'd seen it happen to Ron once, last year. It wasn't pleasant.

"According to the telly, the storm covers half of Britain," Ginny pointed out, indicating that she agreed that it wouldn't be worth the risk. Harry wasn't surprised that she knew that - he often considered that glowing box to be unfair competition for Ginny's attentions. Yes, many of the programs were interesting... but they weren't that good. Given that such discussions usually ended with Harry being accused of thinking with the wrong parts, he was understandably reluctant to bring the topic up. So he merely gave a small nod at her sage-like report (despite the fact that he had watched the weather report with her.)

"Well, let's get a move on then," Harry said, waving a hand towards the fireplace. He fought a small bit of nervousness as he approached - it seemed the monster in his chest was doing a nervous conga dance, and it wasn't doing much for Harry's nerves. Ginny stepped over to the oversized fireplace first and Harry surprised her by slipping his arms around her. As always, she closed her eyes and pressed slightly back against him, and the monster stopped dancing and sighed contentedly.

"Mmnnn," she purred, and snuggled a little closer back against him. It was how she nearly always responded when he came up from behind her like that, and Harry marveled at how simple it was for him to enjoy just that most basic contact. When she spoke, Ginny's voice had taken on a slightly teasing tone, "You know, of course, that there's no need for us to cuddle for warmth when we're traveling by fire?"

"Oh, I know," Harry confessed easily, and kept the same tone in his own voice. "I'd really just like to come out of a floo on my feet for once."

"Happy to be of help then," Ginny said, and Harry could feel her grin through the magical connection granted by their love. He smiled as Ginny sent a pulse of her love his direction - a warm, tingling feeling that was far better than anything Old Ogden had - and then firmly (and subtly) reinforced his own Occlumency so that she wouldn't detect anything untoward in his own feelings.

Harry reached for a handful of the floo powder that had somehow managed to maintain its proper place on the mantle, and tossed the powder into the small fire that had been crackling all day. It immediately turned green, of course, indicating that the connection to the Floo Network was active. Stepping forward in concert with Ginny, his arms still wrapped around her, he started to call out for 'The Burrow'.

Unfortunately, however, Harry was interrupted mid-word by a rather vicious sneeze that he only barely angled away from the back of Ginny's head.

Ginny whirled her head about to look at him in shock, only a moment before they felt the whirlwind pull of the Floo, taking them Merlin only knew where.

- - - - -

"Bloody hell," Ginny cursed, as Harry felt around for his glasses. She found them first, and Harry breathed easier when he felt her slide them softly into his hand. That Muggle operation to correct eyesight was sounding better and better, he had to admit. He slipped the frames back on, and the world obligingly came back into focus in order to give him a good look around.

It was abundantly clear that they hadn't made it to the Burrow after all. They were in an old house - everything was made of wood, though in decent condition. It had that same "newly-repaired" look Grimmauld Place had held when they'd finished the remodeling. Here and there were deep scars to the wood, but the new finish made them much less noticeable. The chill in the air identified the place as abandoned - or at least, empty at this particular moment in time. If anyone had been home, there certainly would have been a roaring fire.

Harry breathed easier then. They were exactly where they were supposed to be - as far as he knew, at least. Ginny hadn't a clue. The bloke he'd talked to at the Floo Network Authority had gotten the timing right, after all, and Harry thought the effort well-worth it. Or at least... it could be. He looked to Ginny, and found her warily eying their surroundings. It was clear she was very much on her guard, and Harry mentally cursed for not anticipating that. Still, he had to admit, her determined expression, the way her hand had gone to her wand, the guarded feel of her emotions that brought to mind a wolf protecting her mate and cubs, and the way she was examining every detail of their surroundings...

Well, it was attractive.

Well, okay, it made her look pretty bloody incredible, actually. Harry let that feeling reinforce him - how could what he had in mind not be the right thing, when she made him feel like this?

"Harry, where are we?" Ginny asked warily. Harry made sure that by the time she turned to see her boyfriend, what she saw was that he was examining their surroundings just as carefully as she was. Harry found that he was expending an extraordinary amount of his magical energy on his Occlumency, just to keep Ginny from feeling anything from him other than what he wanted her to feel. It wouldn't do to give the game away. He was momentarily struck with a new respect for Snape - was this, then, what the man had gone through every time he'd been in Riddle's presence? It was difficult as hell.

Harry was unable to stop his reflexive wince at the question, and he hoped that Ginny would interpret it as simple frustration. "I don't know," he lied. "I don't recognize the place," he said, offering at least some of the truth. He didn't recognize the place, even if he did know exactly where they were.

"Nor I," Ginny admitted, "But it seems... I don't know, familiar, somehow," the redhead noted, and Harry muttered a silent prayer. Okay, perhaps she was a little too observant. He'd thought Kreacher and Winky's work would have been enough...

As a distraction, he pointed to the mantle. "Bugger," he muttered, "There's no Floo powder."

Ginny sighed, and her eyebrows lowered into a look of measured consideration. "Well, we'll just have to risk Apparition then, won't we?"

"No!" Harry said a bit too sharply, and Ginny's head whipped towards him once more, her hair trailing behind as her face took on a look that was more than a bit curious.

"No?" she asked, both eyebrows raised.

"Well, it's dangerous, you know," Harry said quickly, and tried to hide the nerves in his voice and the sweat that was beginning to form on his palms. He had to distract her somehow - she was getting far too much time to think about things. "Like we said earlier, we could splinch too easily. And the wind's really bad, there could be debris blowing about."

Ginny considered that a moment and Harry tried not to make his relief too obvious when she conceded the point. "What about Apparating into the Burrow itself, then?" she suggested.

"Your Dad put up the anti-Apparition wards back up after what happened on Halloween," Harry pointed out. He had no idea if it was true, of course, but Arthur had mentioned the possibility in one of the letters he and Molly had sent them at Hogwarts.

The red-headed witch paled slightly at that reminder, and Harry bit back another curse as he realized that the statement had put her back on her guard. That was not the direction he wanted her going. Blimey, he thought, I'm absolute rubbish at this... She had to be wondering now if this was somehow a trap on the part of their enemies. It was an all too realistic consideration, and Harry felt stupid for not having considered that aspect of this plan. "Harry, you don't think - "

"No," he assured her quickly, and she looked supremely doubtful of his certainty. "No, the Floo Network's too risky to tamper with. Kingsley would know if they'd gotten someone in there."

Harry hoped that was true, at least.

Frustrated, Ginny exhaled a deep breath, and then flopped herself down onto the sofa in front of the fireplace. She folded her arms crossly, and Harry felt the sharp edges of her irritation at their apparent predicament of being trapped in an unknown place. He could also tell that more than a bit of that irritation was starting to be directed his way.

Dammit, that is not in the plan! Harry thought.

"Cold?" he asked, hoping the question didn't sound as stupid to Ginny as it had to his own ears.

Apparently, it did.

"Of course I am," she snapped. "It's cold outside, haven't you noticed?"

"Erm, right," Harry acknowledged after clearing his throat, and pointed his wand towards the fireplace. "Incendio," he muttered, and the still logs burst into much more accommodating flames. The warmth spread through the room quickly, and he settled down on the couch next to her.

"Better?" he asked as he slipped an arm around her shoulders. Ginny cuddled her body up next to his, into their favorite way of sitting - with her shoulder tucked under his and her arm around his back. She favored him with a small smile, and he felt the warm glow from her that meant her brief moment of temper had cooled.

"Much," she answered, and then her earlier frown returned. "Harry, we need to figure out how to get out of here. It's Christmas Eve. Mum will be horribly worried if we don't show - "

"I know," Harry acknowledged with a nod. "Believe me, Gin, I know." She nodded back briefly, and then Harry looked at her in that certain way, the way that guarded none of his feelings, and showed how much he loved her. Of course, it was also a look she associated with some of their more... intimate moments, but Harry would never openly admit to the fact that he counting on that as a delaying tactic. "Is it so bad, though, being stuck here with me?"

"Oh, Merlin," Ginny muttered, giving him a very familiar roll of the eyes. "You've can't possibly have that on your mind already?"

"What can I say, Weasley? You've created a monster," he said, teasingly. As he spoke, one arm slipped behind her and another to join hands with hers, and he pulled her into a position where she was straddling his lap. Harry was very aware that, despite Ginny's words, she did not protest the change in seating arrangements. "And you didn't answer the question," he pressed.

"I didn't create that monster," she shot back, and then grinned wolfishly. "I just set it free." The last word died on her lips as she captured Harry's with her own.

"Too right you did," Harry agreed after he pulled back a moment later. He looked at Ginny, and her eyes softened as she finally relented to answering his earlier question. Her words started to take on a more playful tone, at least. That was progress, of a sort.

"I suppose if I've got to be stuck with someone," she admitted mock-reluctantly, "it might as well be you."

"Good," Harry responded, and started to kiss her neck. As delaying tactics went, Harry decided, this was a thoroughly enjoyable one.

Ginny let out a soft moan as he found freckle #19. "My mum warned me about boys like you, you know," she said pointedly.

"Oh?" Harry asked, sliding his hands under the back of her shirt to caress the soft skin there. He also firmly put any mental imagery of Molly Weasley out of his mind - they were not what he wanted to consider at the moment. Still, Ginny's words did make him curious, and he couldn't help but ask, "And what did she say, exactly?"

"There's nothing more dangerous than a boy with charm," Ginny quoted, the firelight dancing in her eyes as she smiled.

"Oh? I'm charming, then?" Harry asked, giving her a look that was a bit like that of a rooster puffing out its chest.

"More than you know Potter," she said, running a hand through his hair, "though you're becoming just a bit too aware of it for my liking."

He pulled back then, far enough so that he could look at Ginny's whole face (and she his), and gave her a very solemn look. "Then I promise to use my powers only for good - "

She responded by giving him a sharp rap on the shoulder, causing Harry to laugh. "You'd best be using them only on me," she admonished, and then leaned down again to claim his lips in a fiercely passionate kiss that Harry was only too eager to respond to.

"Yes ma'am," he finally answered.

Hands - and other things - on both sides continued their explorations and ministrations until finally, Ginny reluctantly broke away. "Harry, we can't stay," she said, clearly disappointed, but her words no less the urgent for it.

"Erm, Why not again?"

"Because it's Christmas Eve!" she answered, her tone suggesting that should have been obvious. "You think Mum would believe we got stuck somewhere? You, of all people? "

"You're hardly a magical slouch yourself," Harry pointed out.

"My point exactly!" she continued. "She won't believe it for a moment."

"We can tell her the truth - we've not got any Floo powder, and we didn't want to Apparate in the blizzard," Harry offered, thinking that part simple.

"People will talk," Ginny said, and by 'people' Harry knew she meant the inevitable teasing from Charlie, George and Ron. "There's already been enough of that going about at Hogwarts."

"When have you ever been worried about rumors?" Harry asked, realizing that she was worried about something other than just her older siblings taking the mickey out of them. Doubly so when Ginny rather pointedly didn't answer, and Harry felt the sudden knot of tension that emerged, all tangled up in her other emotions.

"Somebody was spreading rumors," he realized. "The usual?"

"Something like that," Ginny admitted reluctantly, and Harry thought that she had debated not answering for a moment. They'd had this discussion before - Hermione had gotten hate mail back in fourth year just over inaccurate reporting. To say that Ginny had experienced a few... difficulties since they'd gone public with their relationship...well, that didn't seem to cover it. Not by half. "Don't worry about it, Harry. It's just people being petty."

"Romilda," he said darkly, and Harry's face set into a frown. Brilliant chaser or not, he'd had just about enough of that girl...

Ginny abruptly let out a laugh, and Harry raised his eyebrows in confusion. "You're cute when you start getting righteous, you know," she teased. "Don't worry, luv - I've already taken care of it; I'd just very much like to not be handing out more ammunition to folks."

Harry just rolled his eyes, and Ginny leaned down to kiss him again. "Come on. Let's find a way home, and I promise I'll make it worth your while later."

"Promise?" Harry asked eagerly.

"Yes," she answered, with only the faintest note of indulgence in her tone.

"All right, all right," Harry grumbled, mostly for effect. He wanted to give the appearance of being very disappointed that Ginny had stopped things, and honestly, there was very little acting necessary on his part to convey that impression. Still, that was hardly what he'd gone to all this trouble for.

He let out a brief grunt as Ginny removed herself from his lap, and she started examining their surroundings some more. "What're you doing?" he asked.

"Looking for Floo powder, of course" she answered, giving him the "don't ask such obvious questions" look.

"I don't see any," he offered, trying to at least pretend to be helpful.

Ginny snorted. "You'll forgive me if I don't leave our fate up to your eyesight alone," she shot back.

"Understandable," Harry grinned. "Not when I've got such an attractive distraction in the room with me."

"Oh, Merlin," Ginny muttered in exasperation. "There's no hope for you, you know. Don't be a lump - help me look, would you?"

"I'll check the next room, then," Harry offered, pointing towards the kitchen. It was the only room joined to the one they'd Flooed, with what looked like a hallway door near it - or maybe a loo. Ginny absently nodded, and he watched as she checked over the mantle, and then began moved towards the shelves. She wasn't near it yet, he was happy to see - he still had time to get one other thing. Quickly, Harry moved towards the aforementioned kitchen, looking for the spot Bill had said what he wanted would be. The Floo powder was in here, of course - carefully tucked away on a top shelf in the cabinets, where he could hopefully keep Ginny from it until later.

Granted, it would look very bad indeed if she came here and found it after Harry reported its nonexistence.

Grinning, Harry found and confiscated the object of his search, and brought it over to the counter bar that separated the large kitchen from the living area. "Hey, Gin!" he called, a bit excited that this part had gone as planned. She turned away from her examination of the accumulated items on the shelves, and began to head his way.

"What've you got, Harry?" she asked, coming over to him.

Harry set the wireless down on the countertop. "We've got music," he grinned, and then looked over it for a moment. "Looks like this one picks up Muggle radio, too."

"Yes," Ginny said, drawing the word out. "But does it work?"

"Let's see," Harry said, and pointed his wand. The switch flipped to the 'on' position, and the face of it began to glow softly. Harry stabbed his wand toward it, seeking a signal.

"There was dancin', and singin', and movin' to the groovin'- " blasted loudly from the speakers, filling the room with the sound of 1970s funk. Harry hurriedly pointed his wand at it again, searching for the next station. That was hardly the right kind of music for the mood he wanted.

"Why was I humming, as if I knew.-" No - too depressing. He stabbed his wand towards the wireless once again.

"If you ever change your mind, about leaving... leaving me behind-" Merlin, Harry thought, goggling at the uncooperative wireless. That's even worse!

"Oh, come and stir my cauldron, And if you do it right, I'll boil you up some hot, strong love, To keep you warm tonight- "
Harry quickly changed that one as well, and got a glare from Ginny for his trouble.

"I like that song!" she protested.

"Sorry," Harry shrugged. "Well, I sort of agree with Fleur when it comes to Celestina Warbeck," he said honestly, and turned his attention back to the wireless. Even if the words had sort of fit the situation, he just couldn't stand the bloody woman's voice.

Of course, that was probably also because Madame Puddifoot's played her music on their wireless exclusively, and that place made Harry genuinely consider suicide as a viable alternative. Not the best romantic mood-setter, by any means.

"I want something else, to get me through this, semi-charmed kind of life, ba-" No, definitely not, Harry thought again, and suppressed a sigh.

The next song was a duet between a man a woman, and sounded very old. It didn't take Harry long to determine, however, that it was exactly the right song.

"I really can't stay,"
"But, baby, it's cold outside."
"I've got to go 'way,"
"But, baby, it's cold outside."
"This evening has been,"
"Been hoping that you'd drop in."
"So very nice."

"Perfect," Harry muttered, and Ginny looked wryly at him for his choice. He knew that she thought him a little... well, corny at times, but the emotions he could feel pouring off of her also told him that she enjoyed it. Her smile also showed that, at the least, she found the lyrics apropos as well.

"You know, Potter," Ginny finally said, after the song had ended. Her voice was thoughtful, her eyes were knowing and she was tapping her chin in obvious contemplation. "A more... suspicious girl might think you set this up somehow."

Harry started, and had to move quickly to keep from dropping his wand. "Why, uh, why would you say that?" he asked. He immediately cursed himself for the momentary loss of control of his nerves.

"No reason," Ginny answered archly, her eyes dancing with amusement. She leaned forward to give him a light kiss, and then, while Harry was waiting for more... she returned to her search.

Harry sighed, but went through the motions as well, though it was certainly just an act. He was finding it ever harder to control his nerves as he surreptitiously watched Ginny out of the corner of his eyes. That monster in his chest - which Ginny had teased him relentlessly about when he shared the analogy once with her in a quiet, private moment - had full-on resumed its nervous dancing and Harry felt as though his stomach was soon going to collapse - or he was.

Sure, Harry, he thought wryly, you can face down Voldemort stone cold, but this?

He froze as he saw watched her move to the very last shelf. It was a shelf - the shelf - that contained only one thing: a small jewelry box. As Ginny approached, a soft magical glow began to appear around the box - a proximity charm set to draw attention when a particular person - in this case, Ginny - approached.

And there was a tag, with a message in Harry's barely-legible scrawl that read: 'For my Ginny'.

- - - - - -

Ginny's heart felt as though it had completely still as she reached that final shelf - or, more accurately, it froze as she realized its contents. Abruptly her suspicions were all confirmed - Harry had, in fact set this up somehow. She really didn't know how he'd managed the trick with the Floo, but she no longer had any doubts that this was his doing. Abruptly, she felt exactly as she had on her birthday, back when she thought Harry was giving her a ring. Her mind whirled and the guarded feeling she'd been getting from Harry all evening suddenly made sense. That, and Harry's apparent nonchalance about being trapped had all but given him away. With that information, she knew that there was no way she was wrong this time. That little box could only contain one thing.

Nervously, she reached out to take the box in her hand. The felt cover was soft in her skin, and felt a bit warm. Or perhaps that was just her, as her pulse was racing, her heart was fluttering. More than a small part of her - the part that was still a ten-year old girl, realizing that she had just seen Harry Bloody Potter getting on the train at King's Cross, or the eleven-year old who'd put her elbow in the butter dish... that part of her was convinced that this wasn't real at all, but was some sort of elaborate dream.

Nevertheless, her fingers slowly opened the case. She let out a small gasp as she found Harry's mother's engagement ring - the one Dudley had returned on his birthday, just a few months after his defeat of Voldemort had changed the world - glittering in the soft firelight.

A shaking hand was at her mouth somehow, and Ginny belatedly realized it was hers as she abruptly came aware of every detail in the room - the deep scratches in the floorboards, the smell and warmth of the crackling fire, the hint of a chill breeze through a not-quite-repaired window, and... everything. She knew then that this moment would be indelibly printed on her mind for the rest of her life.

Suddenly, Ginny was very glad that it was cold outside. And that she had decided to stay.

The ring had been cleaned, some oddly observant corner of her brain noted, and the gems replaced. There was still the diamond shining in the center, and a slightly smaller pair of precious stones consisting of one ruby and one emerald on either side. She saw the meaning for those immediately, of course - one to represent her, and the other to represent Harry.

Her mouth formed into a small 'o' as she turned back to face Harry, her eyes shining. She tried to speak, but could find no words. Harry was right there, his every emotion on his face, and plainly felt through their connection. Ever since her mum had explained why she and Harry could feel each other's emotions when they were together, or how they always knew where the other was, it was something she had marveled at.

But the feelings she was getting from Harry now, his nervousness, his worry, but most of all, his absolute love - for her! - and yes, his desire, simmering under the surface... feeling all of that, she had never been so grateful to be a witch in her life, to get such a gift. It was, to her mind, the greatest thing she could ever know - to know what it was to love, and be loved, in return.

Harry's hands slipped around hers, and Ginny's voice was still uncharacteristically absent as he faced the open case - or more importantly, the ring inside - directly towards her.

For a second time in scant minutes, Ginny's heart stopped when Harry lowered himself down to a single knee.

- - - - - -

Harry was astounded by the complexity of the emotions he felt coming off of Ginny in waves. This was no great surprise, really, as they often did. Ginny liked to say that it was simply because it was something Man was not meant to know about Woman. He rather suspected she was right.

He felt her joy, shining through above all else, and it gave him the courage to continue past the fact that he was utterly terrified that she would say 'no'. He'd rehearsed this part a thousand times in his mind, but now that this moment was finally here, all his well-practiced words abandoned him like a Slytherin confronted with a risk that had no rewards.

So, instead, he spoke from the heart. He didn't know what he was going to say, but knew he could only be truthful. Gin was the world to him - it was that simple. He'd slay dragons, if only she'd ask. The least he could do was be honest about something so simple as how he felt.

"Gin," he started, and had to clear his throat. "I love you. I don't know how many different ways I can ever say it, but I do. I know a lot of blokes say sappy things like 'I didn't know what that meant before you' to their birds. But... you know how I was raised. In my case - in our case, it's true. I didn't know what love was before and you - you brought me in from the cold."

He saw tears - happy ones, he hoped - begin to form at the edge of Ginny's eyes, but they were matched by her soft smile. Harry took that as encouragement to continue.

"I want to be with you," he said honestly, "I mean, blimey, it's really sappy, but you're the half of me that I didn't know what was missing. I love waking up in the morning when you're there, because I get this... this feeling that nothing could be righter with the word, because you're there, and that's all I need. That's all I'll ever need. It... well, it comforts me, because I know you've always got my back, no matter what the world throws at us. And that you'll help me with all those stupid, mundane little things that I'm absolute rubbish at remembering to do, but you always know. But mostly... you understand me better than anyone on this whole planet, and you know what that means to me. I'd... well; I'd do anything in the world just to see you smile."

He did smile then, and was gratified by the bark of laughter and the smile she gave him back.

"I promised to say I love you every day. If I'm to fulfill that - well, we need to be together for them. And I won't ever leave you behind again - I don't even think I could," he confessed. "I don't want to be apart from you ever again. I want to spend every day, every hour of the rest our lives together," he swallowed, and locked his eyes firmly with hers before asking his question - the question.

"Ginevra Molly Weasley, will you marry me?"

Ginny's face took on that familiar hard, blazing look, and she wasted no time providing Harry with her answer. She threw her arms around him, and with no invitation needed or wanted, Ginny kissed him. It was like their first kiss all over again - seconds seemed like minutes, minutes like hours, and sunlit days and moonlit nights passed in the span of a single heartbeat. It was the kind of perfect moment that rarely comes along in any lifetime - let alone twice in the same one.

Harry pulled back - eventually - and grinned. "So... that's a yes, then?"

Ginny flashed that blazing look at him. "Of course it is, you daft prat. I've been waiting for you to ask since my birthday!"

Harry grinned. "Sorry to be so slow then."

"I'm sure you can make it up to me," Ginny answered, and Harry knew that she was no longer thinking about leaving in the slightest.

- - - - -

Later, Harry and Ginny reclaimed their clothing, and she moved to look out of the frost-covered window. Her mind was still whirling at the unreality of it all, and she felt the need for some perspective. She folded her arms over her chest as she gazed outside, and was struck by the simplistic beauty of the white Christmas.

Ginny sighed in frustration as she saw that the blizzard outside was still going strong. In the distance, she could see a few faintly familiar lights, but couldn't quite place them through the haze of the falling snow. "Mum's going to be so angry..." she trailed, as Harry slipped up behind her. She placed her owns hands over his as they wrapped her stomach.

She felt Harry tense a bit, and Ginny turned to eye him sharply. "Not, uh, entirely..." he trailed. "I might have forgotten to mention something about that."

Ginny just narrowed her eyes some more. "What about it, Harry?"

"I forgot to mention one little thing," he admitted, and then moved to the kitchen. Reaching for the bag of Floo powder, he set it down on the counter.

"You had that this whole time?" Ginny asked, raising an eyebrow. "Potter, you randy git. You don't have to kidnap me in order to get some time alone."

Harry frowned. "I didn't kidnap you for that," he said, and then grinned. "That was just a...erm, bonus. I kidnapped you for that," he continued, pointing at the ring that now sat on Ginny's finger. She flushed slightly - well, more than slightly - as she remembered that when he'd finally put it on her, it had been the only thing she was wearing.

Ginny made a show of admiring the ring, holding her hand out flat. "What's that you forgot to mention, then?"

"Your Mum and Dad know we're here. I told them about it when I, ah, asked your Dad's permission."

Ginny's eyebrows rose and her expression softened. Merlin, he was unbelievable. She knew that, in the Muggle world, that sort of tradition was hardly ever observed. In the Wizarding world, though, it was practically a bloody law. And Harry had, of course, wanted to do the whole thing right. "You asked Dad's permission?" she asked weakly.


"And...?" Ginny prompted.

"Well, he said yes, obviously," Harry said, and squeezed his arms around her. "He even helped me sort out the arrangements for this place."

"Where are we?" Ginny asked, ignoring his cheek, and knew that this time, Harry wouldn't lie.

"The Shrieking Shack," Harry answered, and his eyes crinkled a bit as he explained. "Turns out Dumbledore had owned it, and then he left it to Lupin. Lupin left it to me, to hold it in trust for Teddy...well, it's complicated. "

Ginny laid a hand on Harry's chest, and then drew him into a tight hug. "I think they'd like the use you've put it to," she admitted.

"Yeah?" Harry asked.

"Yeah," she said, and then grinned again. He saw the wheels turning in her eyes for a moment, and the smile faded to a look of confusion. "So you set all this up - the floo thing, repairing the shack, all this, just to surprise me with a proposal. I can follow all that. There's just the one thing I don't quite get."

"What's that?" Harry asked.

Ginny indicated the window. "How did you know there would be a blizzard?"

Her jaw dropped as Harry flushed and she felt the deep pulse of embarrassment from him. "Oh - that... I... erm... might have overdone that a bit."

"Harry - you didn't!"

"I only meant it to be a small snowstorm!" Harry protested defensively. "It wasn't supposed to be this bad!"

Ginny laughed. Only her boyfriend - fianc! she fiercely corrected herself - could accidentally create the biggest snowstorm to hit Britain in years. Well, at least he'd given everyone a White Christmas. Harry blushed even more at her laughter, but she set him at ease with a kiss on the cheek.

"Well now," she asked honestly, "You've beaten the bad guy, and gotten the girl, Harry. What does our hero do now?"

"Now?" Harry asked.

"Yes, luv - what's next?"

Harry squeezed his arms around her once more, and she saw the soft smile in his reflection on the windowpane as they looked once more on the falling snow. "Happily ever after," he answered, and his words warmed her to her very core. Cold outside it might have been, but in here, with Harry, she was very warm indeed.

"I can live with that," Ginny said.

And they did.


Inspired by:
"Baby, it's cold outside" sung by Frank Loesser 1944

I really can't stay (but, baby, it's cold outside).
I've got to go 'way (but, baby, it's cold outside).
This evening has been (Been hoping that you'd drop in)
So very nice (I'll hold your hands, they're just like ice).
My mother will start to worry (beautiful words you're humming)
And father will be pacing the floor (listen to the fireplace roar).
So really I'd better scurry (beautiful, please don't hurry)
Well, maybe just a half a drink more (put some records on while I pour).
The neighbors might think (but, baby, it's bad out there)
Say, what's in this drink? (no cabs to be had out there).
I wish I knew how (your eyes are like starlight now)
To break the spell (I'll take your hat, your hair looks swell).
I ought to say no, no, no sir (mind if I move in closer?).
At least I'm gonna say that I tried (what's the sense of hurtin' my pride?).
I really can't stay (Oh, baby, don't hold out).
Ah but it's cold outside (baby, it's cold outside).
I simply must go (but, baby, it's cold outside).
The answer is no (but, baby, it's cold outside).
The welcome has been (how lucky that you dropped in)
So nice and warm (look out that window at that storm).
My sister will be suspicious (Gosh, your lips look delicious),
My brother will be there at the door (waves upon a tropical shore).
My maiden aunt's mind is vicious (gosh, your lips are delicious).
Well, maybe just a cigarette more (never such a blizzard before).
I got to get home (but, baby, you'd freeze out there).
Say, lend me a coat (it's up to your knees out there).
You've really been grand (I'm thrilled when you touch my hand).
Why don't you see (how can you do this thing to me?).
There's bound to be talk tomorrow (think of my lifelong sorrow),
At least there will be plenty implied (if you caught pneumonia and died). I
Really can't stay (get over that hold-out).
Ah, but it's cold outside (ah, but it's cold outside)...
Where could you be going?
When the wind is blowing,
And it's cold outside?
Baby it's cold, cold outside.

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