Fanfiction – Harry Potter – Another H/G Fanfic (16)

You can read the previous chapter here. Or start from the beginning here.

I took the name of this chapter from HBP (chapter 16)

Chapter Sixteen: A Very Frosty Christmas

Ginny woke up very early the next morning and went to Hermione’s room. Hermione was the only one awake in the six-year girls’ dormitory; her roommates were still sleeping. She was packing quite a few books in a duffle bag.

“Hey!” said Ginny from the door. “Just came to say goodbye.”

“Are you leaving just now?” Hermione asked.

“I’m hoping to get home in time for breakfast,” was Ginny’s only answer.

“Then Happy Holidays!”

“Same to you, Hermione.”

Ginny went back to her room and grabbed her backpack -she had only packed a few things to take home- and went straight to Professor McGonagall’s office. It didn’t surprise her to find her head of house awake, sitting behind her desk. She was wearing a tartan bath robe and seemed to be grading essays.

“Good morning, Miss Weasley,” she greeted Ginny when she had open the door.

“Good morning, Professor. Sorry to disturb you.”

“You did not, although it is awfully early.”

“Happy Christmas, Professor.”

“Happy Christmas to you too Miss Weasley. Please give my best to Arthur and Molly.”

Ginny smiled and nodded before she stepped into the emerald fire and shouted “The Burrow!” She had one last fleeting view of Professor McGonagall’s office before the flames engulfed her. A second later she finally stopped in the fireplace in her home’s kitchen. She stepped out of the fireplace and was greeted by the smell of breakfast. Her mother rushed into the kitchen.

“Oh honey!” Molly enveloped Ginny in a tight embrace. A much too tight embrace; she was having trouble breathing. “It’s so good to have you home.”

“It’s good to be home, Mom,” said Ginny when Mrs. Weasley released her.

“Sit. I’ll get you some breakfast.”

Ginny hadn’t finished her breakfast yet when Ron appeared in the fireplace, followed closely by Harry. Mrs. Weasley greeted them with the same effusiveness as she did Ginny. She instructed them to sit as well and proceeded to put huge breakfast plates in front of them.

“I didn’t know you were already here,” Harry told Ginny.

“I couldn’t wait to come home,” Ginny said.

Ron then started talking about his plans for the day and Ginny didn’t have a chance to say anything else to Harry, but she figured that, living in the same house, they would have time to talk later on.

But opposite to what Ginny had thought, she didn’t have many chances to talk to Harry over the next couple of days. He seemed to be always busy with Ron during the day, and in the evening the twins usually monopolized him, showing him their latest inventions, so Ginny soon gave up trying to spend time with him.

One morning she realized that if she wanted to finish all her homework before going back to Hogwarts, she had to start without any more delay. She had to write essays for Potions, History of Magic, Defense Against the Dark Arts, and –Ginny still couldn’t get out of her astonishment- Care of Magical Creatures. She decided to start with this last one because she figured Hagrid wouldn’t be as conscientious in his grading as some of the other professors. Her mind, after all, kept wandering off, usually to wherever Harry was at the moment.

She sat on the living room floor and spread her books and rolls of parchment on the coffee table. Her mind might be wandering, but she sure had all the intention of looking busy. That was, of course, if someone was to look. Because, obviously, the fact that Harry and Ron were in the kitchen, peeling a mountain of sprouts for Mrs. Weasley had nothing to do with her decision of choosing the living room for her study session. She had barely written a few sentences about the proper care of hippogriffs, though, when she heard a loud “crack” and Fred and George Apparated right in front of her.

“Hey Ginny!” said George.

“Hey,” she said distractively, flipping the pages of her copy Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

Her lack of interest must have stung the twins, who were used to be the center of attention, because a second later they were sitting on the floor; Fred to Ginny’s left and George to her right.

“So, Ginny,” said Fred. “What’s new?”

“How are things in your life?” asked George.

“Nothing to report,” said Ginny noncommittal. She realized they wanted to know something in particular, probably about Dean, but she was not going to make it easy for them.

“How’s the boyfriend?” asked George. “Dean Thomas, right?”

He knew very well what his name was, thought Ginny hotly. She was not going to let them butt in her life again. In fact, she had a very good idea of how to steer the conversation away from her.

“Oh guys! That’s old news,” she said waving her hand dismissively.

“Are you dating another guy now?” asked Fred somewhat scandalized.

Ginny bit her tongue to prevent herself from giving them a piece of her mind, and instead, she managed to smile and said, “no, I’m still dating Dean. I meant that right now there’s a juicier piece of gossip.”

“What could be more interesting that our baby sister’s love life?” said Fred scornfully.

“How about your baby brother’s love life?” Ginny asked mimicking Fred’s tone and the twins did a double take.

They stared at Ginny for a moment, completely dumbstruck, and Ginny wished she had Colin’s camera with her to preserve this moment and the twins’ flabbergasted expression.

“Are you talking about Ron?” George asked, bewildered.

“How many younger brothers do you have?” Ginny asked, rolling her eyes. She was actually enjoying this. It was not every day that she could see her brothers in a state of complete confusion. Moreover, she knew they would tease Ron about it.

“And when you say ‘love life,’” started Fred cautiously, “you mean other than his nonexistent love life.”

A wicked grin spread across Ginny’s freckled face. “Oh! You guys didn’t know?” she paused for dramatic effect before adding, “Ickly Ronniekins has a girlfriend.”

The twins’ jaws hung open in surprise. “You mean to say that…” George started, turning toward Fred with a smile of satisfaction that Ginny didn’t quite expect.

“That Hermione finally…” Fred picked up. His face perfectly mimicked his brother’s expression.

“It’s not Hermione,” Ginny cut them off and the smile vanished from the twins’ faces. She knew how they felt, but she didn’t want the conversation to go that way. Instead she added with fake astonishment, “I know it was difficult enough for all of us to come to terms with the fact that a girl like Hermione seemed to like Ron, and that it’s even harder to believe that there could be another girl who could find him attractive.”

Fred and George looked at Ginny and all three of them made an exaggerated grimace of disgust.

“Then who is it?” asked Fred and George in unison.

“Lavender Brown.”

“Lavender?” asked George. “But she’s cute…”

“And she doesn’t seem retarded or anything…” added Fred.

“A bit shallow, though…” said George.

“I’ll give you that, but still…” said Fred.

They turned back to Ginny, who had remained silent looking at them.

“And she’s dating him?” they both asked.

“Well, I don’t know if she’s dating him, but she sure spends most of her time snogging him,” Ginny said, rolling her eyes again.

“Way to go Ron,” muttered Fred, and George nodded in agreement.

Boys! Ginny thought, annoyed. If she had a boyfriend, she was a tramp, but if Ron had a girlfriend, he was the man.

“Thanks Ginny!” said Fred, grabbing Ginny and giving her a kiss on the top of her head. “This is valuable information.”

“We shall use it well,” added George, grinning.

“Just make sure he finds out was the one who told you,” she told them as they got to their feet.

“Whatever you want, Sis,” said George before disappearing into the kitchen.

Ginny tried to focus on her homework, but she was really not in the mood for that and after a while she gave up. She got up, walked over to the window, and contemplated for a moment the snow drifting past the window in front of her. She looked around. Gosh! She loved this house. To many people the Burrow was nothing but a run-down, decrepit, old house, but not to her. She loved every smell and every sound, and she cherished every memory. She loved it when it was empty and also when it was full of people… But most of all, she loved it when Harry was here.

“What are you doing?”

Ginny spun around, startled, and found Harry standing there. Apparently he and Ron had finished peeling sprouts. She regarded him for a moment. How could anyone look so good in worn-down jeans and a Weasley jumper? Well, actually, what looked best on him was the smile on his face.

“Harry!” Her voice came out all squeaky sounding and she blushed. She cursed inwardly and cleared her throat. “Homework,” she added, pointing at the roll of parchment sitting on the table, which only had a title and three lines written on it.

“Not making much progress, I see,” he said.

“Can you blame me?” she said, walking over to the table and sitting back again in front of he essay. “I just don’t seem to be able to concentrate on hippogriffs right now.”

“Hippogriffs?” Harry asked taking a sit next to Ginny. She shifted on the floor feeling a bit uncomfortable. Why was he here with her and not with Ron? She had only wished for him to say “Hi” and leave. She had never hoped he would want to sit down and talk to her. “You mean that essay is for…?”

“Care of Magical Creatures,” she finished his question. “Can you believe that? Hagrid reckons his classes used to be too soft and now he makes us write essays just like all the other teachers.”

“Does he read them?” asked Harry, visibly amused.

“I don’t think so. To be honest I think he grades by the inch.”

“That sounds like Hagrid, all right.” They both laughed.

“Now we’re studying hippogriffs. Actually, we’re studying Buckbeak… I mean…” she leaned in and lowered her voice playfully, “Witherwings.” She then added in her normal voice, “you don’t mind, do you?”

“Why should I?” he asked.

“Because he’s yours. Sirius left him to you.” The words were out of her mouth before she realized what she had said. Harry’s smile vanished right away. “I’m so sorry, Harry. I shouldn’t have mentioned his name,” she said, completely mortified.

“Don’t worry about it,” he said with a brave attempt at a smile.

Harry took Ginny’s essay and started reading as though, instead of the pathetic excuse for homework that wouldn’t manage to fool even Hagrid, it was actually a work worthy of the Pulitzer price. Ginny looked at him feeling both annoyed and slightly ashamed of herself. Everything was going so perfect and she had to open her big mouth and ruin it.

“What are you doing here by yourself?” Ron had popped his head in from the kitchen. Ginny and Harry jumped, startled, and Harry put Ginny’s essay back on the table.

“What do you mean ‘by yourself’?” asked Ginny getting to her feet and Harry stood up as well.

“You know what I mean,” Ron said dismissively. “Let’s go, Harry.”

Harry glanced hastily at Ginny before following Ron.

“Bye Ginny,” he said on his way out.

Ginny gathered her things with a sigh and went up to her room. She was not going to get any work done today anyway.

**************************************
“There you are!”Ginny looked up from the Potions essay she was working on to find Harry walking toward her.

“More homework?” he asked as he sat on the floor next to her.

“Potions,” she told him. “Maybe you can give me a hand. I hear you are quite the Potions wiz.”

“Isn’t it about time for a break?” he asked, looking intently at her as he put two cups of what looked like hot cocoa on the coffee table.

“Where’s Ron?” she asked him, fearing he would be able to hear the deafening beating of her heart.

“Dunno,” he shrugged.

“He’s probably looking for you.”

“Then I hope he doesn’t find me.”

Under Harry’s intense gaze Ginny could feel a wave of heat course through her body all the way up to her cheeks. She swallowed hard before asking, in a barely audible whisper, “why?”

“Because I’d rather stay with you,” he said with a smile that took her breath away.

Harry moved his hand up and grasped a lock of hair that had come loose from her ponytail. He tucked it behind her ear and then traced down her jaw with his index finger and tilted her chin up.

“Ginny?” he breathed, slowly leaning toward her.

But she couldn’t answer. She was not thinking anymore; her heart was racing and her mouth was dry. She held her breath and just before their lips touched, she closed her eyes.

“Ginny?”

Wait a minute. That was not Harry’s voice. Ginny opened her eyes grudgingly, realizing it had been just a dream.

“Ginny! Are you awake?” It was her mother’s voice.

She sat up on her bed and saw her mother’s head poking through the half-opened door.

“I’m awake, Mum,” she said.

“Then get up!” When did her mother’s voice become so annoying? “Remember you are in charge of decorations, dear,” Molly added cheerfully.

As soon as her mother closed the door again Ginny collapsed on her pillow, cursing under her breath. She had had the same dream every night since she was home and she always woke up when Harry was about to kiss her. It was getting very frustrating.

She got out of bed, grabbed some clothes and tiptoed out of the room to avoid waking up her future sister-in-law, with whom she was sharing her room. Not willingly, that was for sure.

After a quick shower she went down for breakfast. It was still very early, but it looked like everyone had gotten up at the break of dawn. That is everyone except Phlegm, who needed her beauty sleep and never woke up before nine. Bill and Professor Lupin –he hadn’t been her teacher for more than two years, but Ginny had never been able to call him Remus- had gone out to get the Christmas tree, which later she was in charge of decorating, and the twins had already have breakfast and were outside picking some vegetables for Christmas dinner.

Ginny joined Ron and Harry in the kitchen and Molly immediately put a large plate of eggs and sausages in front of her, before walking out of the kitchen again. Ginny started buttering a toast, purposely avoiding looking at Harry. The memory of the dream was too clear in her mind and she feared her face would turn as red as her hair if their eyes met.

Luckily a distraction soon came in the form of Fred and George. When they entered the kitchen, Fred was limping and George was carrying what looked like a big potato with feet.

“The blasted thing got me,” was saying Fred on his way in.

“And I got it so no problem,” said George.

“Easy for you to say, you were not the one who got his ankle nearly ripped off,” said George sitting at the table.

“Stop your whining, Fred,” said George, sitting down as well. “Mum will fix it.”

“What happened?” asked Harry.

“It bit Fred,” said George, showing them what he was carrying. On closer examination, Ginny realized it was a garden gnome that had been stupefied. “What’d you reckon we should do with it?”

“Can I have it?” asked Ginny, talking for the first time since she had arrived. She had just had the greatest idea.

“What for?” asked Fred.

“I think I’ll put it on the top of the tree,” she said with a grin. “Don’t you think it will make a great angel?”

“You wouldn’t?” said Ron.

“Are you daring me?” asked Ginny, gazing at Ron with a raised eyebrow.

“You’ll never pull it off, Ginny,” he said dismissively. Ginny really hated it when he treated like the least important person in the world. “Mom will flip when she finds out.”

“Watch me,” she told Ron, getting to her feet. “Can I have the gnome, please?” she asked George and he gave it to her.

“This should be fun to watch,” George snickered.

“Do you need any help?” Fred offered.

“I’ll let you know,” she said before walking out of the kitchen with a last glare in Ron’s direction.

By the time Bill and Lupin arrived with the Christmas tree Ginny had already finished with the gnome. She had painted it gold, stuffed it into a miniature tutu and glued small wings to its back. She had to admit it was the ugliest angel she had ever seen, with a large bald head like a potato and rather hairy feet. Lupin gave the gnome a shrewd look but didn’t say anything, whilst Bill commented on how cute the angel was. Ginny of course knew he was on to her.

Ginny had started decorating the tree when Mrs. Weasley came into the living room followed by Fred and George.

“What is that?” Mrs. Weasley asked, spotting the gnome-angel on the coffee table.

“That’s the angel for the top of the tree,” Ginny said. She picked it up and showed it to her mother. “Don’t you think it’s the cutest angel ever, Mum?” she asked, with her best innocent face. George and Fred were snickering behind Mrs. Weasley and Ginny was about to laugh too. Mrs. Weasley was looking at the angel skeptically. She obviously didn’t think it was cute, let alone “the cutest angel ever,” but she also didn’t seem to want to hurt Ginny’s feelings.

“Well… dear… if you like it…”

“I love it!” Ginny said and then turned to the twins. “Fred, George, you guys like it too, don’t you?”

George faked a cough to hide his snickering but Fred was able to talk with a straight face.

“It is rather cute, Mum.”

“Well, if you all like it… You are in charge of decorations, darling,” Molly told Ginny. “Whatever you like it’s fine.”

She walked out of the living room and Fred, George and Ginny immediately collapsed in helpless laughter. Once they had recovered, Fred took out his wand and levitated the gnome-angel to the top of the tree, from where it glowered down at them.

“I knew you could pull it off, Sis,” said George, holding his side.

“Now, George,” said Fred, putting his wand back in his jacket pocket. “It’s time we go collect on a bet.”

“It’s time, indeed, Fred,” George agreed.

“I want a commission,” Ginny told them as they walked away. She knew Ron had bet that she was not going to be able to use the gnome as the tree angel. She had no idea why Ron kept betting against her. She was pretty sure she had proven over the years that she always managed to get whatever she set her mind to.

With one exception…

Before she went up to change for dinner, Ginny looked around. The living room was decorated so lavishly that everyone would fell like they were sitting in a paper-chain explosion. Ginny snickered and with a last gaze at the gnome-angel –who shot her the nastiest of glares- she went to the kitchen. Her mother was busy, putting the finishing touches to what looked like enough food to feed an army.

“Do you need any help, Mum?” Ginny offered.

“No, honey. I’m already done. Why don’t you go upstairs to change?”

“Okay.”

Later, during dinner, Ginny –who had totally forgotten about it until now- asked Bill about his friendship with the members of the Weird Sisters. He told her Orsino Thruston had indeed contacted him and told him he had met his little sister. Ginny was a bit surprised he had even mentioned her. When she met them she had thought Thruston was very nice. Bill told her they had met for drinks a couple of days ago, and they even had met Phlegm. But to Ginny’s disappointment, the blond beauty seemed to have won the hairy rock stars over. According to Bill they were all in love with Fleur, couldn’t get enough of her and kept telling Bill what a lucky guy he was.

After dinner they all sat on the living room to listen to a Christmas broadcast by Celestina Warbeck on the large wooden wireless set. No one really seemed particularly thrilled about it, but Celestina Warbeck was Mrs. Weasley’s favorite singer. That broadcast had become part of the family’s Christmas tradition, and everyone had come to accept it as such with the exception of Fleur, who seemed to find Celestina very dull and was talking so loudly in the corner that a scowling Mrs. Weasley kept pointing her wand at the volume control, so that Celestina grew louder and louder.

Under cover of a particularly jazzy number called “A Cauldron Full of Hot, Strong Love,” Fred and George started a game of Exploding Snap with Ginny. She noticed Harry was talking with her father and Professor Lupin, and it looked like it was something serious. She wondered what it could be, but she never got a chance to find out.

Ginny did her best to tune out Celestina and concentrate on the twins. She was fairly good at exploding snap and later, when Ron joined them, she got the chance to beat him a few times. This, of course, gave her immense satisfaction.

She was actually surprise when with a … and now you’ve torn it quite apart I’ll thank you to give back my heart! Celestina ended her song. Her long, high-pitched note was followed by a loud applause issued out of the wireless, which Mrs. Weasley joined in enthusiastically.

“Eez eet over?” said Fleur loudly and the Weasley siblings shared a look of apprehension. Surely Fleur was not going to start tearing Celestina apart in front of Molly. “Thank goodness, what an ‘orrible…”

“Shall we have a nightcap, then?” asked Mr. Weasley loudly, leaping to his feet. Good safe! Ginny thought. “Who wants eggnog?”

Mr. Weasley bustled off to fetch the eggnog, and everybody else stretched and broke into conversation. Fred and George were talking about some ideas they had for their new line of joke products, Ron was more interested in Fleur and Bill, who were talking softly in a corner, Mrs. Weasley had started cleaning up, Mr. Weasley was serving eggnog all around, and Harry and Lupin were still sitting in front of the fireplace, talking. Ginny had remained sitting on the same spot, looking at everyone, just enjoying the moment and the company of her family.

However, there was no time for much enjoyment because soon Fleur decided to imitate Celestina singing “A Cauldron Full of Hot, Strong Love,” which was taken by everyone, once they had glimpsed Mrs. Weasley’s expression, as the cue to go to bed. Ginny said “goodnight” to everyone and went up to her room.

She sat on her bed for a while, debating whether or not she should give Harry the Christmas present she had for him. She didn’t want him to take it as something other than a gift from a friend. And honestly, it was something so silly that there was no way he could assume something else. She opened the drawer of her night table and took out a picture frame. It was a picture of the Gryffindor Quidditch team that Colin had taken after the match against Slytherin. They were all smiling and waving, looking completely ecstatic. Ginny was standing next to Harry and gazing at him with the usual look of adoration in her eyes, but what she truly loved about the picture was that Harry had his arm over her shoulders and was smiling widely at her.

When she saw the picture she had immediately asked Colin to make two copies for her; one to keep, which was on her nightstand back at Hogwarts, and one to give to Harry. She kept putting it off, though. It made her nervous to think how he would react. But it would be okay to give it to him on Christmas. After all, it was not really a pretentious gift. There was no way he was going to interpret it as something other than a present from a friend. She wrapped the picture frame and put it on her dresser; she would decide in the morning if she gave him the present or not.

Next morning, Ginny woke up once more after almost being kissed by Harry in her dream, and saw the bulging stocking lying over the end of her bed. She sat up and looked around; the window was almost completely obscured with snow and, lying next to her was Fleur; her face looked perfect, even in her sleep, and her hair was spread all over the pillow, like a golden blanket. Ginny swore inwardly. She could not help but feel a resentful admiration for her soon-to-be sister-in-law’s beauty. She was sure she must look like a scarecrow right this moment.With a scowl, and making no attempt to be quiet, Ginny took her stocking and sat on the floor next to her bed. She was always delighted to open Christmas presents. No matter how old she got, she always felt like a little girl when she sat with her stocking on Christmas morning. This year she got a light green sweater with fairies worked onto the front, hand-knitted by her mother. She had always liked the color green, although since quite some time it had become her favorite color. Lately she favored a particular shade of emerald green. She also got a large box of Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes products from the twins, a set of star-shaped gold earrings from Bill and a jeweled hair clip from Ron –he could be a prat, but sometimes he surprised her. Another surprise was Dean’s present. It was a handsome leather-bound journal. She was not the sort of person who would keep a journal, but it was beautiful.

The biggest surprise of the morning, however, lay in the bottom of her stocking. She didn’t expect anything else as all the presents she usually received were already accounted for. She took out a box-shaped gift wrapped in a blue and silver paper. Ginny held the present with slightly shaky hands, and stared at it for a while before reaching to open the card on top of it. As she did so, her mouth went dry and her heartbeat accelerated in anticipation. When she read the:

To Ginny
Happy Christmas!
Harry

…her heart stopped. She tore the wrapping paper with fumbling fingers and gasped with delight when she saw what was inside. It was a box, upholstered in a light green satin-like fabric and embroidered with star-shaped sequins, and when Ginny opened it, the sweetest melody came out of it. It was a music box! Ginny thought excited.

Ginny remained motionless for a long time. She was holding the music box with both hands, listening to the music. It was very beautiful. She then closed the lid and gazed at her dresser where still lay the present she was planning to give Harry.

“How am I supposed to give him that now?” she asked herself, embarrassed. Her little present seemed so pathetic now that she was actually glad she decided to think it over a while longer before giving it to him. Now she was not sure she was going to.

When Ginny got downstairs a while later, she was wearing her new sweater, the earrings Bill got her and she had tied up her long hair with Ron’s clip. She would have wanted to carry the music box with her, but she had contented herself with the memory of its sweet melody. She wanted to thank Harry for the present, but she didn’t feel comfortable doing it in front of the whole family.

Everybody was wearing new sweaters when they all sat down for Christmas lunch, everyone except Fleur (on whom, it appeared, Mrs. Weasley had not wanted to waste one) and Mrs. Weasley herself, who was sporting a brand-new midnight blue witch’s hat glittering with what looked like tiny star-like diamonds, and a spectacular golden necklace.

“Fred and George gave them to me! Aren’t they beautiful?”

“Well, we find we appreciate you more and more, Mum, now we’re washing our own socks,” said George, waving an airy hand. “Parsnips, Remus?”

At that moment Harry turned his head and Ginny saw perplexed that he had a maggot in his hair. She could only imagine how it had gotten there.

“Harry, you’ve got a maggot in your hair,” said Ginny amused, leaning across the table to pick it out. As her fingers closed around the maggot they brushed Harry’s hair. It felt thicker and softer than she had imagined. At its touch she felt goose bumps that had nothing to do with the maggot.

“’Ow ‘orrible,” said Fleur, with an affected little shudder, while Ginny stood up to throw the maggot away. But Ginny was hardly paying attention to her; she was letting herself indulge in a little fantasy. As she walked toward the garbage bin she pictured herself running her fingers through Harry’s unruly hair.

She came back to reality when she heard a loud thud; her mother had just set down the bowl of carrots with unnecessary force. Ginny went back to sit on her place while her mother said, “I invited dear Tonks to come along today.”Phlegm must have said something about Tonks because Mrs. Weasley was glaring at her. “But she wouldn’t come. Have you spoken to her lately, Remus?”

“No, I haven’t been in contact with anybody very much,” said Lupin and Ginny had the impression he was not comfortable with the subject. “But Tonks has got her own family to go to, hasn’t she?”

“Hmmm,” said Mrs. Weasley. “Maybe. I got the impression she was planning to spend Christmas alone, actually.” She gave Lupin an annoyed look, as though it was all his fault she was getting Fleur for a daughter-in-law instead of Tonks and Ginny remembered something Bill had told her last summer: “I know for a fact that Tonks is interested in another fellow… It suffices to say that, surprisingly enough, he’s not a Weasley.”

Of course! Ginny could have slapped herself on the forehead. How come she didn’t notice before? Tonks and Lupin. It would definitely be an odd couple, but somehow they seem to be perfect for each other.

“Tonks’s Patronus has changed its form,” Harry suddenly told Lupin. “Snape said so anyway. I didn’t know that could happen. Why would your Patronus change?”

Lupin took his time chewing his turkey and swallowing before saying slowly, “Sometimes … a great shock … an emotional upheaval…”

“It looked big, and it had four legs,” said Harry, and then he lowered his voice so only Lupin could hear what he said next.

“Arthur!” said Mrs. Weasley suddenly. She had risen from her chair; her hand was pressed over her heart and she was staring out of the kitchen window. “Arthur… it’s Percy!”

“What?” Mr. Weasley looked around. Everybody looked quickly at the window; Ginny stood up for a better look. There, sure enough, was Percy Weasley, striding across the snowy yard, his horn-rimmed glasses glinting in the sunlight. He was not, however, alone.

“Arthur, he’s… he’s with the Minister!”

Ginny recognized Rufus Scrimgeour from the pictures she had seen in the Daily Prophet. He was following along in Percy’s wake, limping slightly, his mane of graying hair and his black cloak flecked with snow. Before any of them could say anything, before Mr. and Mrs. Weasley could do more than exchange stunned looks, the back door opened and there stood Percy.

There was a moment’s painful silence, then Percy said rather stiffly, “Merry Christmas, Mother.”

The prat! thought Ginny heatedly. What about everyone else in the room?

“Oh, Percy!” said Mrs. Weasley, and she threw herself into his arms. Rufus Scrimgeour paused in the doorway, leaning on his walking stick and smiling as he observed this affecting scene.

“You must forgive this intrusion,” he said, when Mrs. Weasley looked around at him, beaming and wiping her eyes. “Percy and I were in the vicinity… working, you know… and he couldn’t resist dropping in and seeing you all.”

Yeah right! Ginny thought. She gazed at Percy, but he showed no sign of wanting to greet the rest of the family. No, that was not the reason why they had come this morning. Percy stood, poker-straight and awkward-looking, and stared over everybody else’s heads. Mr. Weasley, Fred, and George were all observing him, stony-faced.

“Please, come in, sit down, Minister!” fluttered Mrs. Weasley, straightening her hat. Have a little purkey, or some tooding… I mean…”

“No, no, my dear Molly,” said Scrimgeour. “I don’t want to intrude, wouldn’t be here at all if Percy hadn’t wanted to see you all so badly…”

“Oh, Perce!” said Mrs. Weasley tearfully, reaching up to kiss him.

“… We’ve only looked in for five minutes, so I’ll have a stroll around the yard while you catch up with Percy. No, no, I assure you I don’t want to butt in! Well, if anybody cared to show me your charming garden…” And there it was, thought Ginny, giving Harry a sidelong glance. Somehow she knew what Scrimgeour would say next. “Ah, that young man’s finished, why doesn’t he take a stroll with me?”

The atmosphere around the table changed perceptibly. Everybody looked from Scrimgeour to Harry. Nobody seemed to find Scrimgeour’s pretense that he did not know Harry’s name convincing, or find it natural that he should be chosen to accompany the Minister around the garden when Ginny, Fleur, and George also had clean plates.

“Yeah, all right,” said Harry into the silence.

Ginny could tell he was not fooled. She was sure that for all Scrimgeour’s talk that they had just been in the area, that Percy wanted to look up his family, this was the real reason that they had come, so that Scrimgeour could speak to Harry alone.

“It’s fine,” Harry said quietly, as he passed Lupin, who had half risen from his chair. “Fine,” he added, as Mr. Weasley opened his mouth to speak.

“Wonderful!” said Scrimgeour, standing back to let Harry pass through the door ahead of him. “We’ll just take a turn around the garden, and Percy and I’ll be off. Carry on, everyone!”

The door closed behind them and everyone remained silent, sharing tense looks. The only ones that didn’t seem to be aware of this were Fleur, who –as always- was only interested in Bill, and Mrs. Weasley, whose undivided attention was placed on Percy at the moment.

“Do you want something to eat, dear?” she asked him, even though she was already loading up a plate for him.

“I’m not hungry, Mother,” he said, although he was eyeing the plate his mother was getting ready for him and as soon as she placed it in front of him he started eating with gusto.

“I’m going to get something to drink,” said Mr. Weasley, getting to his feet. “Do you want something Remus?”

“Sure,” said Remus standing up as well. “Let me help you, Arthur.”

They walked over to a corner from where they could see the garden through the window and engaged in a hushed conversation.

“How are things at the Ministry, Percy?” Bill asked, giving his brother a look that openly expressed his disapproval.

“We are very busy,” he said. He had loosened up a little as he ate. He must be missing his mother’s cooking.

“I reckon,” said George. “Especially with the marvelous job the Ministry is doing controlling the crisis.”

Percy’s fork stopped half way to his mouth. He looked at George through narrowed eyes, but didn’t say a word.

“When you say ‘very busy’ Perce, do you mean busy arresting the wrong people?” asked Fred.

“Like Stan Shunpike,” added Ron. “You probably should start thinking about chucking the real Death Eaters in Azkaban and not just innocent people.” This time Percy’s fork fell on his plate with a “clunk.”

“I don’t expect any of you to understand the decisions the Minister is taking,” said Percy tartly.

“Do you understand them, Percy?” asked Bill. “Because if you do, feel free to enlighten us.”

“I’m not going to discuss Ministry internal matters,” Percy said dryly.

“There will be no talking about work today,” said Molly, giving her sons a reproachful look.

“Your mother is right, boys,” said Arthur, approaching the table again. Remus however, had remained by the window, quietly sipping tea from his cup. “This is not the right moment for that conversation.”

George, Fred, and Ginny shared a look that clearly meant the matter was far from over.

“Eat, Percy,” said Molly.

“I’m not hungry, thank you,” Percy repeated, and this time his actions followed his words. He didn’t eat another bite.

“But you are so thin, dear,” said Molly, caressing his cheek. A mischievous grin spread across Ginny’s face.

“Mum’s right, Perce,” she said standing up. “Here, have some more parsnip.” As she offered it to him, she let go of the bowl, which flew directly toward his face. “Oops!”

There was half a second of absolute confusion and Ginny saw the twins point their wands to the bowl just before it blew up on Percy’s face. Funnily enough, he was the only one spattered with mashed parsnip.

“Very mature, all of you!” exclaimed Percy, taking off his glasses and trying to clean them up with a napkin while a mortified Mrs. Weasley cleaned up the mess with her wand. “This is…”

He never got to say what that had been exactly, because at that very moment the kitchen door swung open and Harry came in. He sat back on his place silently, ignoring the fact that all eyes were fixed on him.

“Where’s the Minister?” demanded Percy.

“Outside,” said Harry coldly. “His business here is over, so I expect he will want to leave immediately.”

Percy put back on his still splattered glasses with as much dignity as he could. “Goodbye Mother.”

“Stay a while longer,” Mrs. Weasley pleaded. “I’ll tell the Ministry to come in.”

“No, we have to go,” said Percy, allowing his mother to hug him, before -with a last glare in the general direction- storming out of the kitchen.

Molly looked at all her children in turn, disappointment painted on her face. For a moment Ginny thought she was about to start yelling at everybody, but she left the kitchen without a single word. Ginny knew she was on the verge of tears. With a resigned sigh, Arthur followed her.

“Harry,” said Lupin. “Can we talk?”

“Sure,” Harry said and they walked out of the kitchen.

“We should clean up,” said Bill and they all agreed.

Molly stayed in her room for the rest of that day and Arthur told everyone to be as quiet as possible. After a long talk with Harry, Lupin left, and once everything was clean and cleared, Bill and Fleur went out for a stroll. Harry had stayed by himself in the living room. Whatever the Minister had come to say obviously upset him.

Ginny left her brothers in the kitchen –Ron and George were playing wizard’s chess and Fred was making paper planes, which he later enchanted to fly around the room and hit his brothers on the head- and walked passed the living room. Just as she expected, Harry was sitting in front of the fire, thinking. He seemed like he could use a lift right about now. Maybe her pathetic little Christmas present could be of use after all. She ran upstairs and got the present from her room.

“Harry?” she said tentatively, walking into the living room, and he raised his head. His eyes were sad when they met hers. “I just wanted to thank you for the music box. It’s beautiful.” He smiled slightly. “And I also wanted to give you this.” She thrust the present toward him.

Harry blinked several times in a bemused sort of way. “You didn’t have to…” he started, but Ginny cut him off gently.

“It’s not such a big deal,” she said apologetically. “Colin took it and I asked him to make a copy for me. Actually, I asked him for two copies. I kept one for…” she realized she was rambling and took a breath before starting again. “I’ve had it for ages, looking for the right moment to give it to you. I guess this is it.” He smiled again. “Aren’t you going to open it?”

He tore the wrapping paper and took out the picture frame. After contemplating it for a while he looked up into Ginny’s eyes. “Thanks, Ginny,” he said. “I love it.”

There was such warmth in Harry’s gaze that Ginny felt her cheeks growing hot. To avoid Harry noticing, she blurted out the first thing that came to her mind.

“So what’s with Scrimgeour? What did he want with you?” She knew it had been a mistake when she saw Harry’s features getting obscured with anger and indignation. “I’m sorry, Harry. I shouldn’t have asked you that,” she added hurriedly.

“Why not?” asked Harry. “We are friends, aren’t we?”

“That we are,” Ginny agreed softly. The truth was that she wanted them to be so much more. To hear Harry saying they were just friends it was like being poked in the heart with a hot rod. “So, what did he want?” Ginny asked, doing her best to ignore her achy heart.

“He wants me to be the new Ministry of Magic’s poster boy,” Harry said bitterly. “He reckons it’s my duty to stand by the Ministry and tell everybody what a great job they’re doing,” he added with disgust. Ginny knew it was taking all his self control to keep his voice even. It was hard for her to control her temper too.

“The nerve of that people!” she exclaimed outraged. “After all they put you through last year; especially that cow Umbridge,” she grumbled heatedly. She gazed at Harry and he was looking at her with a hint of a grateful smile. “Are they really that thick?”

At Ginny’s question, every trace of amusement disappeared from Harry’s face and, again, it looked like the weight of the whole world was on his shoulders.

“I don’t think they’re thick, Ginny,” he said gloomily. “At least not him. He knows exactly what he wants, and to be honest, I think he’s worse than Umbridge.” He lowered his gaze and fixed his eyes on the back of his hand where he still bore the scars which Dolores Umbridge had forced him to carve into his own flesh: I must not tell lies.

Ginny couldn’t believe that horrible woman had done that to him. She couldn’t believe no one had done anything to stop her. And she couldn’t believe those people wouldn’t leave him alone. She felt her cheeks grow hot again, this time with indignation.

Harry and Ginny remained silent for a long while, both lost in thought. His eyes were fixed on his hands and Ginny wished she could brush her fingers over his scar; she wished she could erase it. She suddenly felt so powerless. She couldn’t bear to see him get hurt and it killed her not to be able to do something about it. Her eyes welled up in tears and she turned away to hide them, because Harry Potter was her biggest weakness but she refused to let him know that.

“Ginny?” She heard Harry say as she walked out of the room, but she didn’t look back. She then heard Ron calling Harry from the kitchen. The match was probably over by now.

Ginny went straight to her room and closed the door behind her. The tears were already running down her cheeks and she swore. She would have to get a grip; she couldn’t give herself away. Not now that Harry was starting to see her as a friend and not merely as Ron’s little sister. She knew he now felt comfortable around her because he thought she didn’t have feelings for him anymore. He had offered her his friendship, and if that was all she would ever get from him she was not going to mess it up.

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