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SIYE Time:13:44 on 18th May 2021


No Reindeer Were Injured During The Writing Of This Story
By Spenser Hemmingway

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Category: Alternate Universe, Post-HBP, December Engagement Challenge (2006-6)
Characters:All, All
Genres: Comedy, Fluff, Humor, Romance
Warnings: None
Story is Complete
Rating: G
Reviews: 27
Summary: ** Winner of Best Humor in the December Engagement Challenge **
Are Christmas holidays always supposed to be stressful? They can be if you are Harry Potter, and you are trying to propose to your ladylove. He also gets to do so with the help of…or despite the help of friends, family, elves, crazed entertainers, dangerous decorations and faulty coffeepots. The good news is that there is plenty of pie. A one-shot written for the 2006 December Engagement Challenge.
Hitcount: Story Total: 5353



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:
I had to give some thought to this dedication. I did not know Jaquelyne, nor did we have any contact during the time I have been associated with SIYE…no direct contact that is. No writer creates a piece of work in a vacuum. It does not just Apparate into our heads, as some people believe. What I place on paper is the result of experiences, interactions, and shared feelings…beer, coffee and the occasional pie in the face. Sink into Your Eyes is a world in itself in some ways. It is a world that she helped establish, influence, nurture, inspire…I guess that I could easily go on. This Challenge is one more way that she seems to be setting all of us on the correct path. Her ideas were great, and it was a fun story to write. I understand that she was a wonderful person, and I hope that she gets a few laughs from this. Eric B., 11 December 2006




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No Reindeer Were Injured During The Writing Of This Story

By Spenser Hemmingway


“The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tinny reindeer.”

–Clement Clarke Moore, A Visit from Saint Nicholas



“One more story please…just one more!” the small redheaded boy begged. “Tell us another story about Uncle Harry and Aunt Ginny this time.”

“Hey, I’ve already read three of them kids. Our supper will be ready soon, and that roast smells so wonderful I may float to the table.”

It had been a fantastic day, and I really did not mind the imposition at all. Ron, Harry, and I had gone into the woods together on our annual trek to find the perfect Christmas trees. This year it was Ginny’s turn to host the holiday meal for the returning hunters, and she had gone all out for us.

The children from the combined families had all begun to decorate Harry and Ginny’s Hogsmeade home, the Broom Farm, at first light. Despite their young ages, they had done a remarkable job of weaving and then hanging the garlands and homemade wreaths. Glass balls, ribbons, candles, and silver bells transformed the Potter kitchen, hallways, and great room into a Christmas wonderland.

Outside, each door had a larger wreath, and along the roof edge were string after string of colorful flickering lights. Even the two barns had been decked with lesser decorations, and in the center of the yard stood a large snowman, complete with a Wizard’s hat and wand.

“A Christmas story! A Christmas story! Tell us a Christmas story!” the congregation began to chant. Smiling looks from Hermione and Luna told me that I had already lost my battle…and I didn’t mind at all. Part of the fun of our regular get-togethers was my having a captive audience. No group reading my tales made me happier than younger people did.

“What do you think Spenser? How about the one about the Christmas we explored Hogwarts?” Ron asked, trying to speak with a mouth full of popcorn.

“No…no! You read that one every year!” the chorus continued. I knew exactly what was coming next.

“You could make up a story?” Harry’s young son Albus finally suggested.

“Make something up? Me? I would never resort to something like that.” The silence in the room was suddenly deafening. “Okay…how about the story of the Christmas Uncle Harry proposed to Aunt Ginny…at the, uhm…at the Burrow. Yeah that’s right. Let’s see…lots of romance for you little girls, a little adventure…”

“Can we have a sword fight too?” little Alastor asked, sitting now on the edge of his chair.

“Only when your Grandma Molly starts battling the garden gnomes, kiddo.”

“Spense…the proposal…it was June, Paris, and…”

“Hush Ron…you’ll ruin the story,” Hermione quietly admonished her husband. She delivered a gentle smile though, acknowledging that she knew the real tale.

“Okay…let’s see. It was the Christmas of Uncle Harry’s seventh year at Hogwarts.”

“Hold on…that was the year we…”

“Harry, let him speak,” Ginny said. It was her turn to tell her grinning husband that she knew it was just a story. She curled up on the sofa next to him, ready to hear what I had come up with, and equally prepared to dash back to the kitchen if she smelled the pies burning.

“As I was saying…it was a wonderful Christmas season, with just the right amount of snow, beautiful night skies, and naturally an ample supply of sugar cookies. Since my family was across the world in Oregon, the Weasleys had politely invited me to join them at the Burrow. Luna and Hermione had agreed to come as well. Mr. Lovegood was uhm…in China, yeah, presenting a seminar about how the Great Wall was really built to keep out marauding vacuum salesmen.” I gave Luna a quick glance, almost expecting her to tell me this part was accurate. “Hermione’s folks were on safari in central Africa, hunting polar bears.”

Polar bears…in Africa Uncle Spenser?” inquisitive Angus Weasley asked. His wide eyes told me that he would only have limited faith in my reply.

“Very confused polar bears Angus. Your Uncle Charlie was not going to be able to make it home that year because of…would you believe an epidemic of heartburn at his dragon preserve?” You would? Hmm…

“Uncle Percy had to work as well, since it seems that every year parts of Great Britain, the world in fact, were flooded with surplus coal. Percy had to meet discretely with some Welsh miners, trying to come up with a plausible explanation for the sudden influx of coal lumps. Grandma and Grandpa Weasley had elected to make a quick trip to visit Uncle Bill and Aunt Fleur at her parents’ home in France. That was the Christmas they were expecting their first baby.”

“Where do babies come from?” my own daughter Jennifer asked, causing everyone (except Luna of course) to cringe in horror.

“Uh…uh…uh…storks, uhm ah…cabbage patches, watermelon seeds…ugh, go ask your mother. Sheesh! Anyway, it was three days before Christmas when we all arrived at the Burrow. The old place had no idea what was about to hit it.”


*****



Kapow!

“Oh, not again! Fred, George…will you kindly refrain from hanging that exploding mistletoe. Harry is almost too frightened to kiss me now!” Ginny howled at the brothers. The two of them just grinned back at her, taking in the absolute absurdity of what she had just said. A moment later, she was smiling as well, despite herself, realizing that it was a completely ridiculous comment. Harry, she saw, was biting his tongue trying to remain supportive. “I…give up!” she finally said, throwing up her hands, and storming off.

“Has she always been so excitable Fred?” the one twin asked the other.

“Always…and I’m George, or at least I think I am. Aren’t you sure who you are?”

“Even I get confused occasionally. It really is an excellent thing that we’re interchangeable.”

“It will sure save both of you a lot of trouble when…if you ever get married,” I commented, walking back into the kitchen for thirds on the moonberry pie (my greatest weakness).

“Right. One of you can go flying, while the other takes the wife shopping,” Harry added. He nodded his thanks as I handed him a slice of the Christmas pie. “It might be a bit of a challenge on your honeymoon though. Actually, what we need to do is find the two of you another set of twins. We would have all manner of fun until you learned to tell each other apart…”

“…and we would have still more fun with you once we did. That’s a brilliant idea Harry,” Fred (at least I thought it was Fred) told him.

“You really are a good chap,” the other twin said. “Now…what are your intentions regarding our sister mate?” Neither one of them were smiling any longer. I hunkered down in my chair at that, deciding I should concentrate on the dessert in front of me.

“I’m going to make her wear a harem costume, perform the Dance of a Thousand Veils, and cook and clean up after me as I beat her with a stick each day. When I get bored with the girl, I intend to sell her to a white slaver I know for five Galleons.”

“My buddy Max could probably get you seven or eight Harry…that is if she still has all of her teeth left,” I offered. Fred and George’s faces told me that I probably should shut up again.

“Ask him if he can get me extra money for multiple girls Spense. I could almost certainly kidnap Hermione and Luna as well,” Harry said as token of support for my own lame joke. “Speaking of whom…” On cue, Luna walked into the kitchen and toward the back door–-a large shovel over her shoulder.

“Hello Luna. Are you planning to work in the garden? The ground is pretty well frozen,” I pointed out. Wait for it… Wait for it…

“Oh, I’m not going to dig Spenser. Ron and Hermione are having an argument about the proper way to brew eggnog. I’m going to help them stop and make up.”

“Right…have fun.” I knew Luna wasn’t going to hit him with the shovel, but it was up to Hermione whether she would do that herself.

“Spenser, your girlfriend is a bit…extreme sometimes,” one of the twins whispered. I felt my eyebrows shoot up when I realized the girl had heard him.

“She is not my girlfriend! Her boyfriend is… Luna, will you quit grinning like that. It…scares me.” Still smiling though, she stepped through the door, continuing with her mission to bring romance and bruises to our friends outside.

“Fred, George, seriously…you know how I feel about Ginny,” Harry began again. “We’re hiding it from the rest of the world to protect her, but the fact is I’m…I’m really in love with her. She’s inside me and with me all the time. Ginny and I are together as if we are the same person…and we are.”

“That must be difficult when you are picking out clothes Harry,” George (I decided) said. It was his turn to cringe, realizing his own bad timing. “Sorry mate.”

“What I mean is, I know that we belong together…forever. Nothing else matters to me without her. I am going to survive this blasted war because I know it’s what she expects me to do, and I cannot disappoint her that way. I just wish there were some way I could make Ginny realize how deeply I feel about all this and about her.”

“Come on Harry. After everything that you’ve been through over the past year, she has to know how much you care for her. Granted, you were a bit dense about figuring it out yourself, but I’m certain she’s aware of everything now.” Glancing over at the twins, I saw that they agreed with my assessment.

“There is no bloody way she could know. I mean, she has to realize that I love her naturally, but not…not that I want to spend the rest of my life with her. I want to ask Ginny to marry me.”

“Harry, are you sure about this?” Fred asked. I had been told that the two Weasley brothers were rarely serious about anything, but this was clearly an exception. They loved their sister, considered Harry another younger brother, and if he truly was sure…

“Absolutely certain–-I’ve never been as confident of anything as I am of this.”

“Harry, what’s the problem then?” George asked this time.

“I’m not as confident about my ability to actually ask her. We’ve never talked about it before. She may want to wait a few years, especially with so many people wanting me dead. Something like that tends to put a damper on romantic moments. I uh…I need to go find Ginny. I promised her we could have that thimble collection reorganized before your mum gets back Christmas morning.”

Clearly wanting to avoid speaking about it any further, Harry quickly left the three of us sitting there mulling over what he had told us. Well actually, I was thinking about a fourth piece of pie. I told you moonberry was my weakness.

“He’s going to ask her. I know he is,” George said then. I could see that the wheels were spinning in his head at that moment. “He must have something planned. He’s going to propose during the holiday. At least he will if he doesn’t get cold feet.”

Just then, Luna reentered the house with the same shovel, and a very satisfied expression. She gave me another wonderful smile but kept on walking in the direction of the staircase.

“What we need to do is get them alone together, so they can have that discussion. You know…away from everyone. Just leave it to us Spenser. We need you to help Harry go find the ring though. That will spur him onward,” Fred clarified.

A moment later Ron and Hermione came through the door as well, smiling and holding hands.

“Ron is that a lump on your forehead?” Fred asked.

“Hermione, your hair is very messy this morning girl,” George added. The two just grinned all the harder as they walked past us. I really thought I heard Hermione giggle too. “Five Galleons says Ron asks her fairly soon as well. Any takers?”

“Nah. I would just rewrite that part of the story in order to win the money,” I told them. They didn’t seem to believe I could do that. The quill really is mightier than the shovel.


*****



Over the years, I had become very much a late-night person. I suppose this came from my habit of writing down the day’s events before turning in. As a result, I had acquired the skill of being able to activate a coffee cauldron while almost still asleep. That morning I was looking forward to an especially nice pumpkin-spice blend. No…I do not drink Burundian dark roast exclusively.

The previous evening had been more of a preliminary Christmas celebration than a time to record my thoughts. Actually, all those were still swirling about my head, wondering what the twins had in store for Harry and Ginny. I had no doubts, whatsoever, that two things were true at the moment. First, that in the end, Harry would come through, and propose to Ginny. Second, despite their good intensions, Fred and George were just too diabolical to effectively help the pair. They were right about one thing however. Harry would no doubt act much more quickly with the ring in hand.

As the coffee brewed, I laid my head down on the kitchen table. I was frustrated that it was taking so long, and angry at myself for not saving any of my favorite pie for breakfast. It just wasn’t a Dutch apple or three-layer pumpkin morning. Yes…a trip to Diagon Alley was definitely called for that day. Brew! Brew! Brew!

Knock, knock, came a rapping at the back door. I decided it had better be a band of Death Eaters, since I was not in the mood to be friendly to anyone else yet.

“Brew! Brew! Brew!” I called out as I plodded over to open the door. If it really had been Voldemort’s fan club, I doubt that it would have surprised as much as who was in fact there. At the threshold stood three elves in carpenter’s overalls, hardhats, and each toting an oversize toolbox.

“Toy-making elves? Shouldn’t you be getting ready for…? Uhm, what can I do for you?” I asked. I decided the coffee could wait.

“Loopy, have the boys move that lumber around to the side of the house,” the first elf said over his shoulder. He then pushed past me and into the Weasleys’ home. “You recognized us. Very good. Most people confuse us with three-foot high construction workers. Which way to the attic access?”

“Hold on a second. What are you doing here?”

“We’re here to reinforce your roof–-build a landing platform for the boss’ visit. It seems that someone here has quite a bit of pull with the big guy, and they put in a request. Here’s the work order. Hey Lindy, no we don’t need the ladders inside. Just leave them by the shed and start uncrating those landing lights.”

I looked at the paperwork he gave me, and sure enough, there was the priority requisition for the temporary structure. What was going on? Molly Weasley would have a conniption fit if the thing was there when they returned. Who would…? Oh no!

“Luna!” I yelled, taking off on a run for the staircase.

I made it as far as the second floor before the sight of the twins stopped me in my tracks. The two were just standing there outside the broom closet (all Wizarding structures seem to have at least one), shaking hands and grinning like…well like Fred and George do.

“Good morning Spenser,” one of them said. “You’re just in time to witness…”

“…the culmination of our little plan. I really must compliment George on its pure, simple brilliance…”

“…which is surpassed by Fred skillfully applying such effective wards.”

“You are too kind dear brother. Now Spenser old bean, you are here for the unveiling.”

“We are just about to release them from the closet.”

“Where no doubt they talked long into the night…”

“…and at some point, the good Harry unquestionably dropped to one knee, proposing to our young Ginny.”

“Hold on! Will you two stop going back and forth like that?” I almost yelled. I checked myself realizing there was probably someone still asleep in the house. “You trapped the two of them in the broom closet to get them to talk?”

“We certainly did,” they said together.

“You mean all night?”

“We certainly did,” they repeated, grinning even more.

“Guys, I think I know what they were talking about and…”

I stopped myself, and simply motioned for them to proceed. The first twin humbly bowed to the other, who then produced a wand, and, in a flash, released the restricting wards on the tiny room. As I expected, the door flew open and out charged Harry and Ginny.

“You take the upstairs loo Ginny, I think I can make it downstairs!” he called to her as they both darted off. Neither one took time to hurl a curse at Fred or George. That would come later.

“Do either of you recall how much eggnog, butterbeer, and hot cider we all consumed last night?” I asked the now flustered brothers. “I don’t think their minds were on matters romantic in there. By the way, did Harry ever mention the times…the many times his relatives locked him in that cupboard under their stairway? This here wasn’t what friends do to friends who have experienced that.” Both brothers were suddenly staring about, anxious and embarrassed beyond even them. I knew they understood then and would apologize to Harry later. In the meantime though…well, their hearts were in the right place…in a way. I grinned at them, and it immediately helped.”

“We really didn’t think about that. I guess the ring-buying will have to happen first,” Fred/George said.

“We have a back-up plan anyway while they’re in the Alley,” George/Fred added. I really needed to get them nametags.

“Good morning Luna,” they said together again. I turned to see her approaching us wearing a green terrycloth robe, large enough that Hagrid might have been able to wear it.

“Luna, what do you know about an elfin remodeling project upstairs?” I asked. In the distance, we could hear that the sounds of hammering had already begun. The twins suddenly gave me fierce looks, no doubt remembering the little project I had once done at…to their house.

“They’re here so quickly? That is wonderful! I just wrote Uncle Nicholas last night.”

“Uncle Nicholas?” George, Fred and I all blurted out.

“Oh yes. I want all of you to meet him Christmas Eve. The landing platform will be so much safer for him and for the Burrow. They’ll remove it before Mr. and Mrs. Weasley come back.”

The twins had to think this one over very carefully. Every few seconds they would give me that same threatening glare. I really was only trying to help last August.

“All right Luna; I guess there’s no harm. Spenser stays away from the construction though,” one of them said, with great emphasis on the latter.

“After the incident with the flying bathtub, we don’t want you near any tools. Sorry mate,” the other twin added.

Sheesh! Was it my fault that bubblegum and bailing wire aren’t as effective as they’re advertised to be?


*****



Ron and I took Harry aside after breakfast, as much to keep him from killing Fred and George as to be able to make our case in private. We were both a bit surprised when Harry agreed so quickly to the need for the ring. There was as much resolve in his eyes to ask Ginny as there was apprehension about doing it. Harry knew as well as we did that having the ring might make the difference. He even agreed to take the twins’ recommendation for a good jeweler in Diagon Alley.

Ron, Hermione, and Luna all decided to stay at the Burrow to complete the decorating. While most of the ornaments and greenery had been hung, we had quickly run out of red ribbon. Rummaging around in one of the bedroom closets, Luna promptly produced an old set of red long underwear. After laundering, it proved to be a very adequate substitute material.

I was fairly positive that Ron also wanted to remain on hand to supervise the construction process atop the Burrow. Of all the Weasleys, he was the most apprehensive about what was happening. He did seem somewhat relieved when Hermione reminded him that I wasn’t helping, and I would in fact be gone for a good portion of the day.

For some reason, the twins insisted on accompanying Harry and me, at least as far as the Leaky Cauldron. They explained that they wanted to afford us some additional protection until we were inside the heavily guarded commercial zone, and they needed to check in at their store as well. The two even offered to treat Harry and Ginny to a nice lunch to atone for the previous night.

A couple things were very evident to both Harry and me then. Fred and George had something planned for him at the café, and Harry would have one incredibly difficult time buying the ring with Ginny along. He explained as much to the brothers, who didn’t seem the least bit concerned about the matter.

“Harry, Harry…Harry, it’s the simplest thing in the world. Just leave it to Fred and me. You can take a good two hours, and then meet her at Chin Lee’s Bistro. It’s the best Mexican food in Diagon Alley.”

“Actually, it’s the only Mexican food in the Alley,” Fred corrected. “Trust us. What could go wrong?”

“Well, if Ginny and I had been in that small closet for ten more minutes, you both would still be up there with your mops.”


*****



The five of us made our way by Floo to the Cauldron where the twins immediately insisted that Ginny accompany them to a special surprise. No one could have been leerier about this than she was at that moment. Only Harry’s words of warning to the brothers, and his veiled hints that he was shopping for her Christmas gift (which was true after a fashion) convinced the girl to trust them. Ron and I had not yet agreed on how his little sister was eventually going to have her revenge. My guess was slow poison, but Ron seemed to think there would be two new white mice running from Crookshanks that evening.

As we walked along, I could tell that Harry was in no mood to talk just then. I didn’t realize how the whole matter at hand was causing him so much anxiety. Compared to this, even his minor difficulties with Voldemort must have seemed tame. I was beginning to worry about my friend, especially considering the unknown factor involving the twins. It was all the more reason to find the perfect ring.

En route to the address Fred had given us, I noted that we actually passed a number of very nice jewelry stores. We paused long enough at one of them to give the display a cursory review. While Harry nodded, acknowledging their quality, nothing seemed to stand out for him. Ten more minutes, and a number of twists and turns on our path finally brought us to the loveliest of neighborhoods. Harry softly said something about an area called Knockturn Alley, and I saw him place a hand where he carried his wand.

“This must be the place Harry.”

“Why do I have a bad feeling about this? If those two weren’t so serious about the matter, I would think they were setting us up for a prank.”

“They still may be–-just not intentionally. Here we are…funny-looking shop.” I delivered the five knocks that were in the instructions, while Harry adjusted the dead gardenia in his lapel. Yes, this did smell like the twins. A moment later a small window opened in the unmarked door, revealing the largest pair of bulging eyes I had ever seen on a human (I assumed they were human).

“Winnie sent us for the meatloaf recipe,” Harry told him. I could tell that he was at the end of his tether with all this. The widow slammed shut as quickly as it opened. Harry fingered his wand again, and this time so did I. After several seconds, the door finally opened quietly, on no doubt well-oiled hinges.

“Welcome my friends. Ah, Mr. Harry Potter…this is a genuine honor. Please come in. We’ve been expecting you.” The small man was indeed odd in appearance, and I had to wonder if we had discovered some new magical creature. A jewelry gnome?

He led us inside, and once the door closed behind us, we found ourselves in almost complete darkness. We stayed just behind our host, and it seemed as if we were going downward, but that might not have been true. I followed Harry’s lead, not pulling a wand to illuminate the path. I wasn’t sure of anything anymore, and, if Harry felt the same way, we didn’t want to tip our wand hands.

Two or three minutes of walking brought us to a medium size room. It was bare except for its torches, a large steel door, and two enormous versions of whatever our host was, each armed with a massive battleaxe. It was quite clear that they were very serious about their security. The next question was what, or who, was behind that very door.

“I am very sorry gentleman about all these precautions. In our business, you cannot be too careful.”

“What exactly is your business, Mister…?” Harry asked him then.

“Carbuncle…Julius Carbuncle. To answer your question truthfully young man, my partners and I are in the salvage trade.” He then turned, and touched his hand to the door, causing it to begin humming. “As you may know…perhaps first-hand, everyone occasionally loses things of value. A watch falls from your pocket into a lake while you are fishing. A treasure ship is sunk, never to be found again. A bank deposit box and its rich contents go unclaimed after its owner passes away. All these are rich resources just waiting to be re-circulated.”

“Don’t you mean plundered?” Harry asked, thinking of how Mundungus Fletcher had begun to loot the Black estate after Sirius died.

“No, my boy; the magic we employ in our recovery efforts is negated if we ever ignore a prior claim, or the means to find the objects’ true owners or heirs. They are, in fact, the first ones we seek out. I assure you, we are a very legitimate operation…” The door opened then, and what we saw before us left Harry and I astonished. “…and a very large operation at that.”

“Holy sled dogs Harry!”

“I don’t believe it! Look at all this stuff. It’s the world’s largest lost and found,” Harry said in quiet voice. He didn’t believe it any more than I did.

“This is just our London site. You should see what we have in Las Vegas.”

The man led us forward past pallets of artwork, tables covered in piles of rare first-edition volumes, several vintage-age Muggle automobiles and motorcycles, and naturally, display after display of fine gems and jewelry. Finally, we came to an area that held a specific exhibit, easily a hundred feet long and covered with ring sets. “I believe that this is what the Weasley brothers wrote to be your primary interest. Guido, will you please bring me that one box I set aside?”

“Sir, I really would prefer to look myself for…” Harry stopped short however when another small man, this one wearing a fez, extended a green velvet box. It was open, revealing a small but magnificent set of rings. Harry was as astonished at how they had known what he wanted, as he was at the jewelry itself.

“I realize that the diamonds are small, but I assure you, they are flawless. You will note the tiny flowered vines carved into the gold on the wedding band. They complement its diamonds and signify two lives intertwined,” the jeweler explained.

“And the ruby means…what?” Harry asked then, totally enthralled at what was before him.

“Ah yes…two of them actually, highlighting the engagement ring’s own larger diamond. When the setting was initially commissioned to be made, the patron indicated that they represented the fiery eyes of a small dragon protecting the ring and her family. It had limited success. She survived the ship sinking, but the rings, unfortunately removed at the time, followed the vessel down.”

“Who was she?”

“Your great, great grandmother…Rosemarie Potter.”


*****



Harry was once again quiet as we walked to his lunch with Ginny. His expression had changed though, and where there had been hesitation, I could now see that determination once again. I was still scared about the twins, but no longer about Harry and his own plans. Well, the Weasley brothers had done a great job steering him to Carbuncle. Maybe the couple could have an uneventful meal at Chin Lee’s Bistro. Where had a Mexican restaurant gotten a name like…oh, never mind

As we entered, I realized that the twins might really have done something good again. The place was somewhat romantic, and the smell of the food was incredible. It was no surprise when the waiter approached, undoubtedly expecting Harry. I wasn’t exactly sure I liked advertising his movements around the Alley that way, since there were still goons who would love to wreck his day. Well it wouldn’t hurt to have a bite there myself and keep an eye on them…as long as we were seated apart.

“Hello Harry…Spenser. How did your shopping go?”

“Ginny!” he and I both shouted. “Your hair!”

“Yes, isn’t it lovely?”

“It’s…plaid,” Harry whispered. His eyes were bulging the way Carbuncle’s had at the warehouse.

“It seems that Madame Medusa, the incredible hairstylist with whom Fred and George arranged my makeover gift, was the recipient of one of their jokes years ago. It was a fantastic spell where all of her robes would continually change to polyester disco costumes, a spot lit mirror globe would follow her about, and music from someone called the Bee Gees would play. She’s been waiting to get back at them since their second year at Hogwarts. I turned out to be a convenient Weasley substitute.”

“Ginny, oh wow!” I stammered out.

“If your brothers only knew… Plaid… I am so sorry. I should have stayed with you,” Harry softly told her. He took her hands and led her over to the table the waiter had indicated was theirs. We both knew their special moment wouldn’t occur that day, despite our good fortune with the rings. One person…one vindictive girl had nearly ruined all of Harry’s plans.

“Harry, you two need some time to talk…damage control. I’m not really hungry anymore, so I’ll just meet you at the Leaky Cauldron in a few hours. Okay?”

He wasn’t. Neither of them was after this attack. Yes, that was what it was. I had to go find Fred and George immediately.


*****



I couldn’t locate either twin, but I did finally reach Ron at the Burrow by Floo after several tries and two wrong numbers. I did get the fireplace of a nice Swedish Witch that I later set up with Seamus. If I had been timing him, I probably would have had a twenty-second interval between the communication and Ron’s arrival at the pub.

In the time I had known Ron, I had never seen him so angry as he was at that moment…violently angry. Hermione had finally told me he had set part of his own brothers’ store on fire once for pulling an especially nasty prank on Ginny. I wished that Hermione had come with him. By the time Harry and Ginny (wearing a large wool hat) joined us at the Leaky Cauldron, word was already circulating about a large hair salon having been buried in several tons of braided hair…plaid hair. Ron had been busy. We later heard that it took three days for the rescuers to snip the owner free, and that she then emigrated to Tasmania to raise emus.

“How was your lunch Harry…? Oops!” So much for my trying to change the subject.

“Would you really like to know Spenser?” Ginny asked me, with a completely frustrated tinge to her voice. “First, we had to deal with three different mariachi bands competing for our attention. Fred and George hired all of them to perform for us at once. A fight ensued, and a trumpeter was skewered by a bass fiddle bow shot at him. Harry barely missed being floored by a large guitar someone swung.”

“Oh no! Well after that, was the food any good?” I asked. “It smelled delicious. Which reminds me, do I have time to grab a sandwich here. I never got anything to eat.”

“Neither did we. Five minutes after the last of the musicians were carted off to jail, the health inspectors from the Ministry came in. They were shouting something about tainted wildebeest meat in the burritos. Ginny and I just wandered out of there after that.” Harry’s eyes met mine then, and I knew that they had not had the opportunity to talk about anything.

During this whole exchange, Ron hadn’t said a word. He was clearly still angry with someone, and I had to guess it was Fred and George. The only thing that was saving their hide was his knowing that it was all unintentional on their part…this time. The twins were trying to help the couple. That still didn’t help his mood.

All at once, he jumped to his feet and grabbed Ginny’s arm. “We need to get you back to the Burrow,” was all he said. Ginny wanted to hex him for it, and Harry was no doubt considering entering in, but both must have realized how upset Ron was. Their objections could wait for the time being, but I fully expected fireworks later.


*****



Over the next two days, things went from bad to worse. Ron had suddenly become very protective of Ginny despite Harry’s constant presence as well. A short visit from Tonks provided Weasley-red hair again, but it didn’t seem to help things otherwise. Every time Harry tried to be alone with Ginny, either Ron would show up, or they would stumble into one of the twins’ schemes.

Fred placed a spell on the Burrow’s willow tree, melting most of the snow at its base, and allowing Harry and Ginny to have a nice picnic together under it. At least it was nice for five minutes until Ron showed up and started to eat the sandwiches. Then the last of the snow, at the very top of the tree, gave way covering and drenching the three.

George’s idea was to provide a set of cross-country skis for the couple, which might have provided a solitary hour except that neither one knew how to ski. The same overprotective Ron was now more so when he had to help Harry get Ginny back to the house with a twisted ankle.

Ginny would get into serious arguments with her brother–-threatening and pleading with him to leave her alone. It had only been discolored hair! Harry tried to talk to Ron, as did Hermione, who we could see was beginning to feel very neglected.

I was continually running interference with Fred and George whose plots were becoming more and more ridiculous. They were even considering a plan to lock them up together again, but this time in one of the bathrooms. I shot that one down when I pointed out that there were six others there who needed those, and regardless, both would want privacy when they used the amenities. Disappointed, they wandered off, already discussing where they might find a wheelchair and several hundred helium balloons.

Through it all, the only sane one seemed to be Luna who continued to work with the toy elves on the platform. I had to admire their workmanship and speed, but only from a distance. They had placed some manner of spell on it that kept me (and only me) at least twenty feet away. It wasn’t as if I had destroyed a good portion of the Burrow that time. Oh, right…I kept forgetting. Well at least Luna was having a good holiday.

Finally, the morning of Christmas Eve, everything came to a boiling point. I woke early to the sounds of Ginny and Ron fighting in the kitchen. By fighting, I do not mean just arguing. I met Harry at the foot of the stairs, and we could hear the others close behind me. Slowly entering the kitchen, we ducked just in time as the coffee cauldron flew by and hit the wall. Enough was enough! Now it was really getting personal.

Harry rushed over, and gently grabbed Ginny’s wand arm, while Fred and George tackled an angry Ron. No, angry wasn’t the correct term. Ron wasn’t angry, and he wasn’t upset about what had happened to Ginny. He was scared about what could have happened. Madame Medusa, or whatever her name really was, could just as easily have been a Death Eater. Everyone protecting her, Ginny herself included, had let her down.

With surprising strength, he threw the twins off himself, and, after glaring at Ginny for a moment more, Ron stomped out of the house. I was feeling desperate. The twins and Ginny were seething. Hermione was almost in tears. Harry…Harry was trying to suppress a smile. He gave Ginny a warm hug, a quick kiss on the forehead, whispered something in her ear, and then motioned for me to join him in the other room.

“Spenser, I need your help to dodge one of Fred and George’s plans.”

“Which one Harry?”

“The one I want you to put in their heads.”

“Ah, I see said the blind man. Now, if we could only get him out of the way,” I said, jerking my thumb back in the direction of the kitchen and Ron.

“Don’t worry Spense. He is exactly why this is going to work.”


*****



“I think you two finally have a winner, and it is about time. You’re sure that the room at the Ottery St. Catchpole’s inn has its own bathroom, and the Muggles can’t bother them?”

“Naturally mate. Fred and I made all the arrangements; it’s room seven. They’ll be stuck there until sunrise tomorrow, and we’ll have them both back before Mum and Dad return. It’s foolproof.”

“Okay, but don’t tell Ron about any of it. You saw how he was feeling this morning,” I warned the two. How he was feeling at the moment, I could have said. I knew Ron was in his bedroom just then wrapping presents, and, no doubt, he was listening on the other side the door. It was risky, but I had carefully guided the twins down that one hallway as we spoke to ensure Ron heard me. I was setting a trap, but not the type you might be imagining.

“No worries. We plan to lock him in that same broom closet all night. Have you seen Hermione?” Fred asked.

“She’s doing me a favor right now. I need to go find Luna. Will you two knock it off. We’re really just friends. She and I just need to get ready for tonight’s guest. Good luck you two.” I had made it all the way to the top of the next flight before I heard the double stun bolts behind me. Looking from an upstairs window, I saw Ron run into the yard, and then Disapparate away. I could go back downstairs now.


*****



Harry, Ginny, Luna, and I finally could have a peaceful dinner. It was agreed that we would wait to let Fred and George out of the closet and, in fact, Luna insisted that we hold off until her Uncle Nicholas had left later. Giving Harry a mock salute, I escorted her into the parlor leaving Ginny and him to have that talk and to wash the dishes. All the obstacles were finally gone, and there could be nothing but smooth sailing ahead.

“So, Luna, why didn’t you ever tell me that Santa Claus was your uncle?” I started breaking out the poker chips and cards, hoping I could finally beat her at the game.

“He’s not my real uncle. I’ve just known him since I was a baby. Daddy accidentally caught him in a bear trap one Christmas.”

“A bear trap? No, I won’t even ask if you are kidding. You set out to capture Santa…I mean Father Christmas?”

“Of course not, silly. Our house had a terrible yeti infestation that year. Uncle Nicholas was just an accident. I understand that Mother was very cross about the incident, and she insisted Daddy finish delivering the toys for him. Naturally, everyone became fast friends once they were able to laugh about the whole thing.”

I did not have a single reservation about her story. If nothing else, the appearance of Santa’s elves at the Weasleys’ door the one morning confirmed the tale. It really was too bad that Mr. and Mrs. Weasley had been gone. No, actually, things may have been worse with the two of them there.

“Luna, there is something that you might want to know. Harry is in there right now trying to propose to Ginny. Full house; beat that.”

“Yes, Spenser I know. I’m afraid he won’t be able to go through with it. That’s why I invited Uncle Nicholas to dessert before he continues on with his journey this evening. Straight flush.”

“What?”

“Which what Spenser? The one about my poker hand, or the one about having a sleigh land on the roof in a few seconds?”

“What?” I repeated. A moment later, the whole house began to shake, and we heard the distinct sound of hoof beats above us. Just as Harry and Ginny burst into the room, we felt a soft swoosh from the large fireplace. Luna immediately got up and rushed to hug the bearded man.

“I don’t believe it. Well I should say I only half-believed that he would actually come,” Harry stammered. Nicholas was apparently not at all offended by our doubts, and he proceeded to offer us his famous laugh to erase the last of them.

“I’ve been looking forward to meeting you young Harry and you as well Miss Ginny. Ah, this must be the Spenser that you’ve told me so much about Luna…well, well, well.”

“What did you tell him Luna?” I asked quickly.

“Not to leave you a lump of coal Spenser,” she said, again smiling and obviously avoiding the question.

“We need to save those for the Death Eaters,” Harry told everyone, smiling himself.

“Actually, my lad, I left Tom Riddle and his friends frozen reindeer dung. Father Christmas does not like Dark Wizards. Now Harry, I’m afraid that I don’t have much time. I can stay just long enough for a piece of pie, and for you to take Miss Ginny here for a turn in my sleigh.”

“Excuse me…what did you say?”

“Keep a firm hand with Rudolph. He’s had an extra portion of brandy this evening. It’s how I keep his nose so red. We’re expecting a heavy fog over the southeastern United States tonight. That’s actually a good thing considering all the deer rifles in that region.”

“But…but…”

“It’s just like flying a broom Harry. Off with you now.” Nicholas touched a finger to the side of his nose, and in a twinkle, Harry and Ginny were gone.

“Uncle Nicholas, I’m afraid that you will have to settle for something other than moonberry. Spenser finished the last of it off days ago.”

“Really? Well that will put you back on the naughty list young man.”


*****



“I don’t think we should buzz Windsor Castle again Harry. I believe that was a surface-to-air missile back there.”

“I know it was. Well the way this thing flies, I doubt that anything the Muggles have could take us down.” Ginny snuggled up closer to him, apparently cold despite the heavy red coats they found themselves wearing when they appeared in the sleigh. Guiding the reindeer was far easier than he had imagined, and he attributed it more to their good training than to any skill he might possess. The two had traded the reins back and forth a couple times, and they agreed that it was the flight of a lifetime.

The sleigh did feel very much the same as the ride of a broom. That much was true. The craft had immensely more power than his Firebolt however, if not the maneuverability. Ginny’s favorite part was when they came within feet of the top of a cloud, and they could see the reindeer’s hoofs stir it as they went. It was a magical time…it was just the right moment Harry thought.

“Ginny, there has been something I’ve wanted to talk to you about since we arrived at the Burrow.”

“You want to discuss our getting married, don’t you Harry? Keep Rudolph’s head up. I think he wants to swoop down on that distillery again.”

“How did you know? No wait…how could you not? Fred and George have been trying to set up the perfect opportunity, and I’ve been tripping over them trying to carry out my own plans. Ron’s anxiety has been interfering with all of us.”

“He’s been infuriating Harry.”

“I know, but we think the long talk that he’s having with Hermione tonight will finally set things right. Ginny I…”

“I love you too Harry. Perhaps more than you know, considering how much trouble you’ve had talking to me.” They both laughed at that.

“I don’t suppose you’d be willing to spend the rest of your life with me. It won’t be easy, and I don’t just mean the war. We’ll argue, and get scared…”

“We’ll wonder sometimes what we are doing, especially at first. You may not like my cooking.”

“That will never really happen Ginny–-you’re a Weasley. You may not like mine though. We haven’t even talked about children, or where we’ll live, or… We will work it all out, won’t we?”

“Yes, we will Harry.”

“Ginny, dependent upon your family’s blessing, will you marry me?”

“Of course, I will Harry, and my mum and dad gave their permission a long time ago. They will… Harry dive!”


*****



Harry and Ginny returned safely, just about the time Ron and Hermione did. She didn’t tell Ron for several hours, but Hermione had the means to open the enchanted hotel room door any time she wanted. He immediately went to his sister, and they exchanged a long embrace that superseded any possible apology he could offer. Ginny made one however, promising to bring a bodyguard the next time she had her hair done.

Speaking all at once, the four revealed that both couples were now engaged, although Ron obviously hadn’t selected as exciting a setting for his proposal. As he was leaving, Nicholas promised him a chance at the reins one day himself, which sent Ron grinning, and almost put Hermione into a panic.

Luna delivered one last hug and whispered something to him that caused Santa to look my way, and to laugh again. I just shook my head and smiled back. After everything we had all been through, all it had taken was a simple invitation to someone from my friend to help Harry attain his goal. He winked at Harry, touched his nose, and was gone.

“Now Ron, I’m going to have to go back to Diagon Alley and show you where that jeweler is. I wonder if they have an after-Christmas sale.” Both he and Hermione looked at me with pleased curiosity, but Harry’s face suddenly displayed blind panic. He dashed out the door, and onto the snowy lawn with Ginny in close pursuit.

“Stupid! How could I be so bloody thick! Ginny, I meant to give you the ring in the air, but that near miss with the Muggle airplane interrupted me. Ron, I need a broom now!”

“Harry…no, it’s okay. There’s not a broom on the planet that could catch his team. We can have Luna message him, and he can send the rings to us after the holidays. Really Harry…”

“I’m so sorry Ginny.”

“Harry, I may not have the ring yet, but I do have the boy. Should we release Fred and George from the broom closet now?”

The consensus was that we should, but first to hide the toilet paper.


*****



Christmas morning brought a fresh dusting of snow, more than a few presents at the foot of our beds and under the tree, and surprisingly the smell of still more pies being baked downstairs. I was so tired that even the aroma of warm moonberries didn’t stir me. I imagined that the coffee would later, and merely rolled over again into my nice warm blankets. Just as I was going back to sleep, I heard the loud squeal of a very surprised Weasley mother. They had told her. Well, there was that Guatemalan mountain roast that I had wanted to brew.

The day was really wonderful, even without a Bing Crosby album anywhere in sight. When we did dance, it was to Ron on his rosewood recorder, accompanied by Luna on her fiddle. We played parlor games, flew the Weasley brooms when the weather cleared enough, helped cook mountains of food and slowly devoured the same. The one downside was Ginny and Ron’s absolute moratorium on talk about the weddings. Molly Weasley would not listen at first, but, at some point, Arthur reminded her that they would undoubtedly be long engagements.

Everyone was in great spirits, including Harry regardless of worrying about the rings. We all noticed how Ginny and he (Ron and Hermione as well for that matter) were continually finding excuses to go off alone together. George and Fred refrained from most of their pranks because of the occasion, but we knew better than to open any of the packages without a thorough examination.

By half past four, we pretty much started to wind down. We had received a number of guests throughout the day, but none staying longer than it took to enjoy the pie and a bowl of Christmas cheer. We were all tired now, but extremely happy. Molly had been passing on news about Bill, Fleur, and the coming baby as she prepared the evening meal. We were quizzed in return about school and what we had been up to while they were away. We told them all about school.

Just before we sat down to supper, there came a rapping at the back door, which startled everyone. Mr. Weasley seemed to be mentally going over the list of those who hadn’t yet visited but could still get past the Burrow’s protections. Before he could react, the door slowly opened admitting a large man in a gray tweed suit, red scarf and matching hat. Luna was out of her chair like a shot.

“Uncle Nicholas! You came back!”

“Of course, I did child. I was passing through and realized that you had replenished the supply of moonberry pies. Yes, my dear, I finished hours ago…and I did take a quick nap before I cleaned up and changed.”

“Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, I would like to introduce you to Father Christmas,” Luna told them. Molly Weasley looked as if she would faint, but quickly took a seat instead.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you again–-yes, years ago when you were both just small children. Harry, I believe that you left something in the sleigh last night.”

It was Harry’s turn to jump from his chair, and quickly retrieve the green felt box. He knelt down before Ginny as the room grew silent, and then retrieving the engagement ring, carefully slipped it onto her hand. The only sound for several seconds was that of Molly Weasley once again softly crying.

Finally, she caught herself, and then stood up. “How rude of me sir…”

“Call me Nicholas.”

“Nicholas, I know how tired you must be, but would you care to stay for supper? We are having a large goose and a cured ham.” The embarrassed expression that appeared on his face then prompted a concern that she had said something wrong.

“Actually, I promised some of my work crew…those without families that is…that I would treat them to a celebration meal to end the work year. I like to do it for them every year, and not just because of their union contract. We were all on our way to a restaurant somewhere.”

A restaurant on Christmas Day? I won’t hear of it! You go outside and tell your employees that they are all about to enjoy Weasley hospitality.”

“Molly you don’t understand,” Nicholas tried to explain, starting to look nervously out the door.

Realization suddenly appeared on Harry’s face. He rose and walked to the window to confirm his suspicions. When his mouth dropped open, I knew I was right about what all of us were beginning to surmise. Everyone got up from the table and went to join him there. After a moment, our faces matched Harry’s. There must have been five hundred elves outside. Mrs. Weasley was the first to say anything.

“Harry, if you are going to marry a Weasley, you are going to have to learn that there will always be room at the table. It is just that some occasions require a larger table than others.”


*****



“Is that a true story Uncle Spenser…really, really true?” James asked.

“I am…I’m not sure I believe it either,” little Arthur added.

Looking over at the two, Harry and Ron’s respective first-borns, I saw that they were indeed approaching the age where doubts begin to arise. I knew that it was essential that I say something to them then. Ron however beat me to it.

“Boys, believing in something is absolutely just as important as your striving to know if it is true or not–-very often, more so. That is one of the important things about Christmas especially.”

“Believing in the other person…in yourself as well…it is the basis of all real love,” Hermione added. “That believing led to certain marriage proposals, weddings, and eventually to all you children.”

“There is one thing in the story that we clearly need to discredit. Albus, how much mistletoe did you children gather this morning?” Harry asked his son.

“I think about a bushel of it–-a large basket at least Dad. Why?”

In lieu of an answer, Harry gently pulled his wife to himself, and proceeded to deliver a very intense kiss. Naturally, this elicited applause, gleeful laughter, and cheers from the assembled children until…

Kapow!

Just as in the story, the mistletoe blew up, scattering its greenery for several feet in all directions. Breaking apart, but with an arm around each other still, the two merely smiled back at the quizzical looks.

“Uncle Fred and Uncle George never put a spell on our mistletoe. They don’t know how. There is no such charm that I am aware of,” Ginny explained. “It’s just that some kisses provide an intense magical feedback, which causes…well you saw. James could you go fetch us some more… Harry? What…mmmm.”

“Never mind James,” Hermione quietly told him. “In a home such as yours, mistletoe is entirely redundant.”

Mischief managed!
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