|SIYE Time:9:06 on 16th May 2021|
A Helping of Weasley Fluff
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Category: December Engagement Challenge (2006-6)
Story is Complete
Summary: Written for the December Engagement Challenge. Harry realizes he wants to spend the rest of his life with Ginny. Can he find a way to propose during a very chaotic Weasley Christmas?
Hitcount: Story Total: 6901
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.
When I first read this challenge, I thought it sounded like fun, especially for the Fluff-lovers like me. I didn’t have much of an idea to work with though, so I decided to just enjoy reading the terrific stories the challenge was sure to generate.
After SIYE posted the news of Jaq’s passing, however, I found myself extremely touched by the outpouring of support for Jaq’s mom and for her friends. As a relative newcomer to the site, I didn’t know Jaq, but I found it remarkable that one woman had so touched this community of people from all over the world.
I have been constantly impressed by the supportive nature of this site. The encouragement offered, the willingness to help, and the extended sympathies during a time of loss represent, to me, the best of what any community has to offer those who dwell there.
So, I decided to work on a contribution to this challenge as a tribute to Jaq and her mom and as a thank you to the terrific members of this site. This is what I came up with – a story so fluffy it’s even in the title. I hope you enjoy it.
Thanks to Cwarbeck for her last minute editing. I really appreciated it, Cel. You are a prime example of the good people that are a part of this community.
Bright, dancing rays of autumn sunshine filtered through the forest canopy overhead, stained russet, gold, and burnt orange by the brilliant fall foliage. The October day was unseasonably warm and still. Peaceful, Harry thought as he lay on his back, hands folded behind his head, staring at the leaves overhead.
He sighed contentedly as a bright orange leaf released its hold on the tree high above and drifted lazily to the forest floor. A draft of a breeze, as lacking in ambition as the leaf it influenced, caused the wayward leaf to change direction with a twirl and a flourish. Instead of landing on the solid ground by Harry, it was gently urged out over the open water of the small lake by which they had camped, landing lightly on the placid water and floating, just as aimlessly, on its surface.
Here, for the first time in months, Harry felt safe and relaxed. Peaceful, he thought again, as he allowed himself another deep, satisfied breath and shut his eyes. With his eyes closed, the glowing colors of firelight that were the autumn woods were shut off from his sight, but the same warm colors of red, gold, and auburn swirled on the canvas of his mind as he pictured the whirling fire of Ginny’s hair as she had waved goodbye to them from The Burrow’s porch several months before.
He knew that, even if he had lifetimes to spend with her, he would always picture her in his heart exactly as she had looked that morning. He, Ron, and Hermione had left notes for their loved ones, expressing emotions too often left unsaid, asking for forgiveness and understanding, hoping to escape without a heartbreaking good-bye. As they had walked down the lane from The Burrow, Harry had chanced a glance back at the first real home he had been able to remember. There, leaning against the porch railing, was Ginny, the soft blue afghan from the end of her bed wrapped tightly around her shoulders in an effort to stave off the chill of the cool summer dawn.
The rising sun had reflected the tears on her cheeks but its glow had paled in comparison to the light that had shone on her face as she saw him turn. It was as if all the love in her heart had managed to shine through her eyes. She had lifted her hand in a gesture that conveyed so much more than he would have thought possible. It was as if she had been sending all her love with them on the journey.
One simple wave.
He had raised his hand in return, hoping she would receive the same message from the gesture. A morning breeze had suddenly blown from the orchard, raising her hair into a fiery sunrise that had simultaneously warmed him to his core and broken his heart.
Ron had reached out to Harry then, put his right arm around Harry’s shoulder as he laced the fingers of his left hand through those of Hermione’s right. The three of them had drawn strength from each other as they walked away from The Burrow and into what would be their greatest and most dangerous adventure.
Harry sighed again as a single tear escaped his dark lashes, rolled down his face, and nestled in the hair behind his ear. They had been through so much since then, had accomplished so much. The remaining Horcruxes had been destroyed. They had battled powerful Dark magic, bands of Death Eaters, and heart-rending homesickness and had managed to come through each of these battles alive. Not always unscathed, but alive, and together.
The rustle of fallen leaves indicated the approach of his friends just moments before Hermione’s soft laughter reached his ears. Ron’s deep baritone joined her feminine giggle as they entered the clearing. Harry opened his eyes and smiled at them. He wondered if they knew the comfort he took from the loving looks they shared with each other.
Before this quest, he had not been the most emotionally aware man in the world. True, he had begun to evolve somewhere in the middle of that earth-shattering kiss in the common room, but his transformation had been completed by one farewell wave from a wool-ensconced Ginny on a cool July morning. Since that morning, he had rejoiced in each loving gesture between his friends, satisfied that they would be everything the other needed in case anything happened to him. When they had nervously told him that they planned to marry when Voldemort was vanquished, he had been as surprised as they when he had crushed them to him in a hug that spoke the words he could not force past the lump in his throat.
He pushed himself to his elbows and smiled at his friends as he wiped the tear tracks from his face. He did not miss the look of concern that passed between his friends.
“I’m fine,” he said quickly, “just missing Ginny.”
It was amazing to him how readily these words came to him now. After all they had faced, he no longer had any trouble giving voice to his feelings. Ron and Hermione were much the same. He found that, after months of traveling together, they spoke less, but said much, much more.
“I know, mate,” Ron said as he pulled Hermione onto his lap. “Can you believe that by this time tomorrow, you’ll be with her again?”
Another tear traced its way down his face, this time finding its way to the stubble on his jaw. He nodded mutely as more followed. He didn’t even bother to wipe them away.
Hermione moved to comfort him, but he gently shook his head. “I’m fine,” he managed to croak again. “Or I will be tomorrow.”
The trio reverted to comfortable silence as they watched the sun set over the lake.
After several moments, Ron spoke.
“You know, we’re so close to finishing this. I almost feel like it’s safe to dream again.”
Harry smiled at his friend’s sudden romantic turn. “And what do you dream about Ron?” he asked with a wink.
Harry was surprised when Ron’s ears failed to turn the red of the setting sun.
“Seriously, Ron, if you could have one dream come true, what would it be?”
“For so long, it has just been for all of us to make it through this alive,” Ron replied without hesitation. “It almost seems selfish to ask for more.” Hermione and Harry nodded their agreement.
After a long moment of silence, Hermione cleared her throat and spoke so softly they had to strain to hear her. “If we allowed ourselves to be selfish, I would wish for a home filled with as many red-headed babies as it could hold.”
Ron looked up, clearly startled by this. “Really?” he asked as he searched her eyes.
“Yes, Ron. And a garden full of gnomes where they can play with their cousins, and a crazy clock that tells me every day that they are safe.” She paused and looked at the ground. “Because they will be safe.”
When she met their eyes again, her resolve was so awe-inspiring that the boys were rendered speechless. Harry felt another tear follow the well-worn trail down his face.
“Perfect,” Ron said, his voice raw with emotion. He leaned into Hermione and placed a gentle kiss on her forehead.
As he leaned away, he added, “But it wouldn’t feel quite right unless we had great neighbours.” He looked meaningfully at Harry and smiled. “We could build a Quidditch pitch between our houses.”
Harry smiled. He found himself lost in the world his friends had described. It would be more amazing than his wildest dreams. A home with children, Ron’s children, his children, surrounded by family… it was so far from the cupboard under the stairs that it did not seem like it could possibly belong to the same lifetime.
He was surprised when Ron asked, “What about you, Harry?”
He tried to add something to their dream, but found that he could not allow himself to wish for anything that magnificent. It was just beyond his wildest imaginings. So he said what was in his heart.
“I just need Ginny.”
“Ouch, mate,” Ron replied jokingly, earning him a shove from Hermione.
“The picture you both painted is perfect, Ron,” Harry continued. “I can’t even imagine being lucky enough to live the life you two described. But it wouldn’t be right without Ginny. And any life, even one filled with Death Eaters, could be perfect if she was a part of it.”
He sighed and stared out over the lake. “When we get back, I want to spend entire days just listening to her voice. I want to watch her walk, and read, and fly. I want to watch her eyes flash when she’s angry — she’s dead sexy when she’s angry, you know.” Harry ignored the disgusted noise that came from Ron. “And I want to hear her laugh. Merlin, I miss her laugh.”
He rubbed his hand over his eyes.
“I want to run my fingers through her hair. I want to hold her when she sleeps.”
“When she sleeps? You mean all night?” Ron interjected. Harry didn’t fail to notice that Ron’s ears coloured this time.
Harry chuckled softly. “Yeah, Ron, all night - all day, too, for that matter. Any time she’ll let me. If I get the chance, I’ll never let her go.”
Ron smiled at his best friend. “You want to marry my sister,” he said. It was a statement, not a question.
Harry looked up at his two friends, their arms casually embracing each other, and smiled back at them, “Yeah, I do.”
“Oh, Harry!” Hermione beamed. “When are you going to ask her?”
“I don’t know, I guess I haven’t planned that far ahead.”
“This is great!” Ron said. “You should ask her as soon as we get back.”
“I couldn’t ask her until I have your parents’ permission.”
“Like you need that,” Ron scoffed.
“I do need it, though. It wouldn’t feel right otherwise.” Harry exhaled a nervous, shaky breath at the thought of having that particular conversation with the Weasleys. “I hope it’s just a formality.”
Harry’s face clouded as his thoughts took a more serious turn.
“And I don’t think I can promise to live for her forever until I know whether or not I’m going to live at all.”
Professor McGonagall neatly stacked the Transfiguration papers she had just finished grading, rose, and crossed to the window of her office. She rubbed the bridge of her nose under her glasses, appreciating the way the fall colors blurred together without the required aid to her vision.
She could not remember ever feeling so tired at the start of a term before. The job as Headmistress was definitely taking its toll. First, there had been the unbelievably difficult search for a Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher. None of the qualified candidates seemed to think it was a good idea to openly teach the younger generation methods of defying the once again powerful Dark Lord.
After weeks of traveling all over the country conducting pointless interviews, she had called together the Board of Directors to beg them to reappoint Remus Lupin to the post. After a heated discussion and several Floo calls to urge other candidates to reconsider, the Board had agreed that there was no other choice.
The search for the Defence teacher had taken so much of her time that she had been unable to locate a qualified Transfiguration teacher. She had been forced to continue on in that role, as well as fulfill the duties of Headmistress. Even with fewer students to both teach and discipline, the dual workload, coupled with her position in the Order, was forcing her to get by with very little sleep.
As always, when she thought about Hogwarts’ declining enrollment, her thoughts wandered to Harry Potter and his friends. She had no idea where they were or what they were doing, but she could not help but feel that it was indescribably wrong that they were not in school.
As she pondered the mission of her former students, she noticed three black robed figures cresting the hill before the front gates. She blinked hard and tried to focus on the unexpected guests.
Could it possibly be?
Minerva McGonagall, all sense of decorum and propriety forgotten, turned from the window and sprinted out of her office and toward the front gate.
“So, how do you think we’ll get in?” Ron asked as they approached the gates.
At that moment, the trio was surprised to see a very un-McGonagall-like Professor McGonagall hurtling toward the front gates, her hat held to her head by one hand, her other lifting her robes slightly to prevent her from tripping on their hem. She stopped, breathless, on the other side of the gate.
“Mercy, children,” she managed to gasp as she struggled for breath. “Are you a sight for sore eyes.”
“So are you, Professor,” Harry said with a genuine smile.
Professor McGonagall raised her wand to unlock the gate.
“Wait, Professor!” Hermione shouted. “You should make sure it’s us before you let us in.”
Professor McGonagall’s shoulders sagged slightly in disbelief of what she had almost done. “Very well,” she said as she nodded to the children to continue. The three were suddenly silent as they could think of nothing of a personal enough nature to grant them entrance.
At last, Ron spoke, “During my second year, you sat with me in the hospital wing after Hermione was petrified. I fell asleep on your shoulder.”
Hermione gasped at Ron’s words and her eyes filled with tears. “Oh, Ron.”
“I guess I knew even then,” he said with a shrug.
Professor McGonagall nodded curtly. “That will do, Mr. Weasley,” she said as she waved her wand to open the gate.
As the friends entered the grounds, Professor McGonagall gave voice to one of the millions of questions flying around her head. “Where on earth have you been?”
Harry spoke first. “I’m sorry, Professor, we can’t tell you. Please be satisfied knowing that our first mission is complete. We think we’re one step closer to taking down Voldemort.”
“Are you here to stay?”
“As long as we can,” Harry continued. “Is it possible to continue with our classes?”
“We should be able to work something out. I, for one, will be happy to have you back. I’m sure Professor Flitwick will allow you to join his Newt-level Charms class, and I believe our new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher will be even more thrilled to see you than I am.”
Harry detected a hint of a smirk on his Professor’s stern features, but she revealed nothing more.
The group started walking toward the castle. Hermione spoke next, “Professor?”
“There may come a time when we have to leave again.”
“Well, if we’re students here, will that be possible?”
Professor McGonagall stopped walking and turned to look at her prodigal students. “No one in this institution will do anything to prevent you from completing your mission. We only hope you trust us enough to let us help.”
Harry nodded, too touched to speak.
“Very well, then,” Professor McGonagall said briskly, “let’s get inside and get you settled in.” She continued walking toward the school.
“Um… Professor?” Harry asked hesitantly.
“Yes, Mr. Potter?”
“You wouldn’t happen to know where I could find Ginny Weasley, would you?”
Professor McGonagall could not stop her smile from forming. “I believe she should be in the library working on a particularly difficult Transfiguration assignment.”
“Thanks!” Harry said as he took off running toward the library.
Professor McGonagall sighed and turned to Ron and Hermione. “I think I know one Transfiguration essay that won’t be finished tomorrow.”
Harry ran until he reached the doors to the library, ignoring the surprised looks and questions that were directed his way. He opened the door slowly as he tried to catch his breath. He took a step through the doors and scanned the tables full of students, searching desperately for the red-haired beauty that had haunted his dreams for the past three months. His breath caught as he saw her bent over a stack of books at the far table, absently chewing on her quill as she pondered her assignment.
He felt himself drawn to her as his legs moved of their own accord and transported him across the library. She was so engrossed in her studies that she did not notice she was being watched.
He tried to speak, but instead found himself overcome with the reality of seeing her again. He could think of no words to say to her, nothing that could possibly convey the emotions roiling inside of him. He realized, however, that he had to say something to get her attention; she was not likely to hear him standing behind her grinning like a lunatic.
“Ginny,” was all he could manage, but it was enough. She turned quickly, mouth and eyes wide with shock.
When she saw him, she launched herself out of her chair and into his arms. His senses were overwhelmed with all things Ginny - the sweet smell of wildflowers, the feel of her arms around him, the beat of her heart against his chest, the wetness of her tears as they mingled with his own - the sensations were almost more than he could bear.
After several moments, several hours, or perhaps several sunlit days, they broke apart. Harry wordlessly gestured to the door. She giggled, hugged him again, then took his hand and led him from the library.
Her Transfiguration essay was, indeed, forgotten.
“So, Professor Lupin is actually back?” Ron asked Ginny as the four friends lounged in front of the fire in the deserted Gryffindor common room later that afternoon. Ginny had skived off Herbology to spend time with her returned friends.
“Yeah,” Ginny answered. “It’s been really great. We’re actually learning something useful and we don’t have to put up with Snape. Professor Lupin will be so excited you’re back.”
“We’ll have to stop by and see him tonight after dinner,” Harry said without taking his eyes from Ginny’s beautiful face.
“And you’ll have to send an owl to Mum and Dad. Mum went spare when you left. She read your notes so many times the paper actually fell apart. Dad had to charm them to stay together.”
She reached up casually and brushed the hair back from Harry’s forehead. “You have no idea what it was like to get those letters,” she said softly. Her face clouded and her eyes filled with tears.
Harry clasped her hand gently in his own. He brought it to his lips, hoping she could read his apology in his eyes.
Ginny shook her head slightly and smiled sadly. “Needless to say, Mum wasn’t the only one that shed a few tears in the Weasley household this summer. Dad spent most of his free time puttering around in his shed. When he’d come inside for meals his eyes were always suspiciously red. Of course, he never cried in front of Mum or in front of me, afraid of setting us off, I think.
“Mum spent all of her time either cooking or crying. At first it was mostly crying. After a few days, however, I think she decided it would be better to be productive.” Ginny chuckled wryly. “I think she cooked enough to feed a small army. Professor Lupin had to have gained ten pounds before school started.”
Ginny paused and lapsed into silence, her eyes fixed on a spot somewhere over Hermione’s shoulder.
Ron broke her reverie. “What about you, Ginny?” he asked.
Ginny blinked hard and turned her attention to Ron. Harry noticed that she was wearing the same blazing look he remembered so fondly from the common room last spring.
“When I watched you walk away, I thought I my heart was broken. I knew what I was losing.”
She looked at Hermione. “I was losing my best friend.”
She looked at Ron. “I was losing my dearest brother.”
She swallowed hard and looked at her hands again. After picking at a hangnail for several seconds, she swallowed again and looked at Harry. “I was losing my everything.”
Harry, overwhelmed by her honesty, put his arm around her and pulled her close. He placed a tender kiss in her hair.
She looked into the fire. “To be honest with you, I didn’t do very well for a few days.” Ginny sighed again. “But I decided that I wasn’t doing anybody any good sitting in my room. I decided to do whatever I could to prepare myself for the war effort. I wanted to be ready when my time to help came.”
Harry finally found his voice. “What did you do?” He was amazed at her courage. If he were in her place, he would have been a moping, brooding mess.
“Well, I owled Fred and George, Tonks, and Professor Lupin. I asked them to give me some work, some studying, anything to keep me busy. Thankfully, they seemed to understand what I needed and came through.
“Mum wouldn’t let me out of earshot, so they had to send the work to me. Fred and George sent me plans for several of the products they had in development and asked for input. Tonks sent an Auror physical fitness program. Professor Lupin sent books and offered to help me study.
“He actually came to the Burrow once a week. At first we spent all of our time together studying- he’d quiz me on the reading he’d sent, we’d discuss basic Defence theories- that kind of thing. After a few weeks, we just talked. Well, I talked. He just listened.” She sighed again.
The group fell into silence, each pondering all that had happened during their time apart. At last, Ron spoke. “I hope we never have to be apart again.”
Ginny looked at him, surprised by this new, emotional side of her brother.
“I’m sure it was hard for you to be left behind, Ginny. But if you thought it was rough on you, you should have seen Harry. I hope I never have to see him without you again.”
With that, Ron stood, took Hermione’s hand in his, winked at his sister, and led his fiancée through the portrait hole.
Ginny turned to stare at Harry. He blushed and took a sudden interest in a spot on the carpet.
She smirked and nudged his shoulder playfully, hoping to lighten the mood. “So, you didn’t do too well without me, eh, Potter?”
Harry met her gaze. “No,” he said seriously, “I didn’t.”
Ginny had expected him to joke with her. His sincerity surprised her.
“I spent most of my time thinking of you. Every time I closed my eyes, I saw your face. I kept picturing you on the porch the morning we left–that blue afghan around your shoulders, your hair mussed by sleep and the wind, the tears on your face, the love in your eyes. I missed you more than you can imagine.”
Ginny gently stroked the side of his face. “Oh, I think I can imagine.”
She leaned in and kissed him. They kissed tenderly at first, relearning the feel of each other. Eventually, Harry, his body charged by the energy that flowed between them, felt his hands wander up her back and into her hair. Merlin, she feels wonderful.
He leaned back on the couch pulling her on top of him. He felt her breathing quicken as her hands found their way under his t-shirt, over the muscles of his stomach, and up to his chest.
“Harry?” she questioned, her eyes wide with fear.
“Wh — what?” he asked dazedly, clearly confused as to why her lips had stopped their ministrations to his own.
She looked down quickly to where her hands were on his chest and brought her eyes back to his questioningly.
Understanding suddenly dawned on his features and he gently pushed her away from him, away from the damaged skin her wandering hands had encountered.
“I’m sorry, Ginny. I understand if you don’t want to…”
“What happened, Harry?” was all she asked, her concern flashed in her eyes.
Harry took a deep breath and said, “One night, we were traveling through the countryside not far from here, traveling by night to avoid unwanted attention. We were ambushed by a group of Death Eaters.”
“We were outnumbered about four to one. Thankfully, they had been drinking and we were able to battle with them pretty evenly. We disabled several of them and were able to Apparate out of there, but not before one of them caught me with a Sectumsempra.”
Ginny’s eyes were again drawn to the wound under Harry’s shirt. Her expression was unreadable.
“Let me see,” she said softly.
Harry felt himself blush under her scrutiny. He knew he was lucky to be alive, but he was not exactly excited about having another scar to testify to his battle with the forces of Darkness, especially one as long, and angry, and red as this one was.
“Ah, Gin… it’s not too pretty. Hermione was able to stop the bleeding after we escaped, but I’m afraid the scar will always be there, hopefully not this bad, but-“
“I need to see,” Ginny interrupted, gently pulling at the hem of his shirt.
Harry panicked slightly and grasped her hands tightly in his, effectively stilling them. He gripped her hands and struggled to control his ragged breathing. He knew she had never seen his bare chest when they had been a couple. Had she before that? Summers at the Burrow? He was embarrassed that this moment of intimacy would be brought about solely by her need to examine a scar that had almost cost him his life.
“I need to see,” Ginny implored again. “Please.”
He met her gaze then. In her eyes he caught a glimpse of the fear she must have felt for them over the past several months. He caught a glimpse of the desire she had been feeling as they kissed on the couch moments before. But mostly, he saw her love and acceptance, her need to share this with him.
He nodded slightly, let go of her hands, and allowed her to lift the hem of his shirt. Slowly, ever so slowly, she inched the soft cotton of his t-shirt up — up over his navel, up to the bottom of his rib cage, up to where the first of the puffy, jagged scar was visible.
She swallowed hard as she slid the material up, up, up and over his head. Once her hands were free of his clothing, she moved her hands to his shoulders, gently squeezing them. “Thanks,” she said huskily.
Her small hands slid down from his shoulders to his chest. Harry felt his eyes close as she began examining the damage left by the Death Eater’s curse. Ever so lightly, she traced the wound with the fingers of her right hand. Harry was surprised to find his pulse racing again, not from embarrassment, but from excitement. Her fingers were barely touching him, but they left a trail of electricity in their wake.
And then, her fingers were gone. He could not stop the groan of frustration at the absence of contact. He was surprised when her fingers were replaced by her lips. She gently kissed the top of the scar and worked her way diagonally across his chest to the bottom.
He groaned once more as she kissed her way back to the top of the scar, up his neck, and back to his lips. She crawled into his lap and pulled him close to her. Her hands on the bare skin of his back felt more incredible than anything he had ever felt before.
“Too close,” she murmured against his lips. “Way too close.”
“Yeah,” he agreed, willing to say anything to make her lips return to his.
“Once more, Potter,” she said softly before parting his lips with her tongue.
Harry, lost in this mind-blowing kiss from the most amazing woman he had ever known, struggled to make sense of her words. After a moment of pure bliss, he forced himself to break the kiss. “What?” he asked breathlessly.
“I said once more. I’ll let you leave me once more to finish Riddle. After that, I’m never letting you leave me again.”
He smiled at her. “Deal,” he said. It was quite some time before either of them spoke again.
The crisp fall days seemed to fly by. Harry spent his time doing exactly the things he had told Ron and Hermione he dreamed of doing. He spent all of his free time watching Ginny. He watched her read, study, and eat. In fact, for the first several days after their return, he was so distracted by her that he had to be reminded to eat during meal times.
He listened as she told stories about the end of summer and the start of term. He tried not to focus on the pain he had caused her, but let himself enjoy getting to know her all over again. He intentionally asked her questions about Luna and the twins, hoping to encourage her laughter. She did not disappoint him and he found himself laughing more than he had in months.
He had even managed to enlist Ron’s help in angering Ginny just so he could see her eyes flash.
“Are you sure about this?” Ron asked after Harry had finally convinced him to cause a row with Ginny.
“Oh, yeah,” Harry responded. He could not believe Ron was going to go along with this.
“Mental,” was all Ron said before he crossed the common room and engaged an unwitting Ginny in a make-believe argument.
Harry sat back and watched with a vacant grin on his face. Dead sexy.
After a few moments fighting with Ron, she caught sight of him grinning in their direction. Her eyes narrowed, her hands went to her hips, and she stalked across the room to confront Harry.
Seeing her anger directed at him, but knowing he was in no danger that it would last longer than the next few minutes was more than he could take. He grabbed her and kissed her. Hard. When they broke the kiss, he found that a flushed, half-lidded, swollen-lipped Ginny was even sexier than an angry Ginny and he found himself kissing her again.
He had even had the opportunity to hold her through the night. They had fallen asleep on the couch in the common room many nights since his return, having talked into the wee small hours. Surprisingly, Ron didn’t protest this. Maybe he felt his sister’s virtue was safe in the relatively public, if deserted, common room. Maybe, now that he knew Harry’s intentions, he did not care.
As the November days gave way to the shorter, colder days of December, plans were made for the friends to return to The Burrow for the Christmas holidays.
“There have been extensive wards erected around the property,” Professor Lupin told Harry as they enjoyed tea in his study one evening. Ginny had invited Harry to join their weekly study sessions soon after he returned. She said she was both unwilling to spend any more time away from Harry than necessary and hoping he might learn something from Professor Lupin that would save his life when the time for the final battle arrived.
“Of course,” Remus continued, “the Weasleys would do anything to ensure your safety and Mrs. Weasley wouldn’t hear of the three of you spending another day away from her.” Lupin paused.
“I don’t know if you realize how much your departure affected her…well, both of them.”
Harry, not knowing how to respond to this, said nothing.
“They love you and Hermione like their own children, Harry. To lose three of their children at one time…well, it was devastating for them.”
Harry found his voice. “I can only imagine.”
“Was it worth it, Harry? Worth all the heartache?”
It was the first time Lupin had brought up the quest the trio had undertaken. Harry could tell that, while he was curious to know what they had left to do, he wouldn’t press. Harry decided to trust him with a little information.
“Yeah, Remus, it was. When I meet Voldemort next, he will be mortal once again.” Harry chuckled mirthlessly. “Oh, he’ll still be powerful and evil, but, if I’m really lucky, he’ll be able to be killed.”
Professor Lupin released the breath he had been holding and shook his head. “Hagrid was right. You three do beat all.”
The two enjoyed a companionable silence before Professor Lupin spoke again. “So, Harry, might I ask why you requested to see me tonight without the company of Miss Weasley?”
Harry felt his face warm under his Professor’s twinkling gaze. He struggled to find his voice, but at last said softly, “I was hoping you could help me with something.”
“I assume this ‘something’ pertains to Ginny?”
Harry mustered his courage and said, “I want to ask her to marry me.”
“Congratulations!” Remus beamed. “However, I don’t think she’d be too pleased if I helped you with the actual asking.”
Harry chuckled. “Yeah, that might not go over too well.”
“I was hoping you could help me get a ring. We aren’t allowed to visit Hogsmeade anymore and I can’t risk her finding an owl order catalog. I figure you know her better than anyone else and would know what she’d like.”
Harry picked at a stray thread on his robes. Lupin, sensing that Harry was not finished, remained silent.
“And…you know what kind of ring my Dad gave my Mum. Maybe you could pick out one that reminded you of theirs?” Harry looked expectantly at his teacher and friend.
“I’m touched that you would trust me with such an important decision, Harry.” Lupin smiled. “I remember all of the thought James put into choosing a ring for Lily. He poured over books about the significance of different stones and dragged us to store after store searching for just the right ring.
“Of course, Lily would have been happy with anything; that’s the way she was. She would have loved anything James picked out. Just as I’m sure Ginny will love anything you choose.”
Lupin lapsed into silence. He rubbed his chin absentmindedly as he thought. After a moment, a smile lit his features.
“Come with me, Harry. I have an idea.”
Lupin led Harry out of his office, through the castle and to a familiar stretch of the seventh floor corridor.
Harry grinned at Professor Lupin. “Brilliant!” he exclaimed.
Together, they paced up and down the corridor with their eyes closed, both wishing for the same thing.
When they opened their eyes, a door had appeared in the previously vacant stretch of wall. Harry glanced at Lupin, who nodded, opened the door, and stepped inside.
The sight that greeted Harry was beyond his wildest imaginings. The Room of Requirement was filled with hundreds of jewellery display cases. Each case held hundreds of rings. The cases flashed with silver and gold, red, green, purple, and blue.
“Wow,” Lupin said as he entered the room.
The two of them meandered around the room, trying to get an idea of where to begin their search.
“Well, what do you think, Harry?” Professor Lupin asked.
“It’s amazing!” Harry said excitedly. “The perfect ring has to be here. I know it.”
He moved to the case to his right. It was filled with sparkling purple rings.
“I’m surprised there are so many different stones in these rings. I guess I expected to see a lot of diamonds.”
“Ah, a difference between Muggle and Wizard engagements,” Lupin said. “In the Wizarding world, the stone has a special meaning for the couple. The groom-to-be chooses a stone that he feels is significant - one that fits his bride, fits their dreams for the future, or fits their relationship in general.”
Harry’s eyes widened as he realized the enormity of the task before him.
“What do the different stones mean?” he asked.
As soon as the question left his lips, a giant book appeared on the counter in front of him.
Harry read the title aloud. “A Young Man’s Guide to Precious Gems.”
“Helpful, but it could take me all year to read through this. It would be nice to have a shorter version.”
As Lupin nodded his agreement, a pamphlet appeared on top of the book. The pair smiled at each other as Harry picked it up.
“The Ring-Shopper’s Ready Reference. Better.”
Harry randomly chose stones from the list and continued to read.
“’Amethyst: A dreamer’s stone. For the fanciful, the romantic.’ I don’t know about that.”
“’Pearl: A stone for the constant, the even-tempered…’” Harry snorted and stopped the description short. “Um, how can I say this delicately…Definitely not for Ginny.”
Lupin shared in Harry’s laughter. “I wouldn’t say so, no,” he agreed.
Harry picked up the pamphlet and crossed the room to a case filled with brilliantly red rubies.
Lupin smiled, “Ah, rubies. James, too, was drawn to the Gryffindor colors in his search for the perfect ring.”
Harry waited as Lupin wandered through his memories of his lost friends. Eventually he cleared his throat and spoke, startling Professor Lupin from his daydream. “And the ruby means… what?”
“Love. Passionate, all-encompassing love.”
Harry blushed. Yes, that was definitely what he felt for his Ginny. But was it all he wanted to say with her engagement ring?
Several hours later, the two exited the Room of Requirement. Harry tried to keep the smile from his face, but failed miserably.
“You’ve done well, Harry. She’ll love it.”
Harry smiled at Lupin. “I think she will, too.”
Harry found it incredibly difficult to keep his secret during the last two weeks of term. He caught himself smiling at inappropriate times, earning him questioning looks from his friends and from his beloved.
At long last, the final day before the holidays arrived. Harry, Ginny, Ron, and Hermione were gathered in the common room, waiting for the Portkey to activate that would take them directly to The Burrow. They were startled to see an unfamiliar brown owl outside the window.
Hermione opened the window and helped the owl through the window. She reached down to untie the package that was tied to the owl’s leg. As soon as it was freed from its burden, the owl flew back into the afternoon sky.
“It’s for you, Harry,” Hermione said as she handed him the package.
Harry took the plainly wrapped package and opened it quickly. Inside was a picture of his Mum and Dad. They smiled at him and held their hands up for all to see. On his Mum’s finger was a sparking silver engagement ring.
Harry smiled at his parents and silently read the brief note Lupin had included with the picture. “Harry–I thought you might enjoy this. Good luck.”
Harry blushed hotly and looked up at his friends.
“Well,” Ginny asked, “what is it?”
“It’s, uh, it’s a picture,” Harry stuttered lamely.
“We can see that, mate,” Ron said. “What’s it of?”
“Um, it’s a picture, you see, a picture of my Mum and Dad.”
“Oh, let us see it!” Hermione exclaimed.
Harry turned the picture toward his friends.
“Oh, Harry. They look so happy!” Ginny said.
“What does the card say?” Ron asked.
Harry froze. He could not read the card, they would know. Ginny would know.
He continued to stammer as Ron looked carefully at the picture for the first time. Comprehension dawned on his face and he looked questioningly to Harry.
Harry caught his friend’s gaze and nodded.
Ron reached up and took the card from Harry’s hand. “It says, ‘This was taken the night James proposed. I thought you might like it. Professor Lupin.”
Ron turned his back on the girls when he returned the card to Harry. He rolled his eyes at his tongue-tied friend.
The girls ‘oohed’ and ‘aahed’ over the picture.
Ron took pity on Harry and said, “Let’s go to the Kitchens and get some food. I’m starving!”
“Ron, we’ll be leaving in less than an hour!” Hermione objected. “You know your Mum will have cooked more food than even you can eat. Why do you need to get something now?”
Ron shrugged, “Because I’m hungry. Come on, Harry.” He grabbed his friend and steered him through the portrait hole.
As soon as they were in the hall, Harry began pacing. “Oh, I’m an idiot,” he muttered. “She’ll know. She’ll know. I’ve ruined everything.”
“Come on, Harry. There’s no bloody way she could know.” Ron grabbed Harry’s shoulder to stop his pacing. “You just got emotional about seeing a picture of your parents. We can fix this. Trust me, she’ll have no idea.”
Harry took a deep breath. “You think?” he asked hopefully.
“Yeah,” Ron said with a smile. “Now, let’s go get something to eat.”
The two friends set off to find a snack.
Harry heard the scream the moment his feet touched the ground. Before he had fully recovered his equilibrium, he felt himself wrapped in the surprisingly strong arms of Mrs. Weasley.
“Easy, Mum,” Ron protested, although Harry thought his objection sounded half-hearted.
“Oh, children! I can’t believe you’re home!” Mrs. Weasley squeezed them all again before shepherding them inside. “Oh, come in, come in. We can’t have you catching your deaths of cold.”
She ushered the kids onto the porch and into the kitchen. Harry and Ron froze when their eyes fell upon the Weasley table.
Ginny pushed her way between them, struggling to get out of the cold. “Honestly, you two. You think you could let us in…Whoa, look at all this stuff.”
The Weasley table was literally groaning under the weight of all the food heaped upon it. It was so full that, even when magically enlarged, there was no room for anyone to actually eat at it.
Ron dreamily said, “Mum, you’re the best,” as he crossed to the table and began filling a plate.
Hermione tutted disapprovingly, but turned to smile at Mrs. Weasley who was practically bursting with happiness.
“See, Fred. Not so much has changed after all. They may think they can save the Wizarding world, but all it would take to distract them from their goal is a table laden with Mum’s specialties.”
“Ah, yes. We’re doomed, dear brother, doomed.”
George crossed to Ginny and pulled her into a one-armed hug, rumpling her hair with the other hand. “Hey, little sis. Thanks for your help on that last project. You were right about the detonators.”
“Detonators!?!” Mrs. Weasley shrieked. “Ginny, what does he mean?”
Ginny just rolled her eyes as George moved on to Hermione. He grabbed her hand and kissed it. “And aren’t you looking lovely this evening, Miss Granger. Made an honest man of our brother yet?”
Hermione blushed prettily, but refrained from comment.
“That’s enough, you two,” Mr. Weasley laughed. “Go on, everyone, fill a plate and take it to the living room. Believe it or not, I don’t think we’ll run out of food.”
Mrs. Weasley playfully swatted his arm as everyone moved to load a plate with their favourites.
After dinner, Ron asked, “Are you going to make Weasley Fluff tomorrow, Mum?”
“Of course I am. We’ll all be together, won’t we?” Mrs. Weasley seemed about to burst with happiness. Apparently, even Percy had conceded to come home for Christmas dinner. It was only dinner, but it was a start.
Hermione and Harry exchanged a confused look. Hermione shrugged and asked the question that was on both of their minds. “What’s Weasley Fluff?”
“What’s Weasley Fluff?” Fred exclaimed. “What’s Weasley Fluff?!? Weasley Fluff is only the most delicious, most delectable, most tantalizing treat known to human kind.”
Ginny took over the explanation. “It’s a Weasley Christmas tradition, but Mum only makes it when we’re all together.”
“It’s like everything good in every dessert you’ve ever had, all combined in one bowl,” Mr. Weasley added, unconsciously licking his lips.
“And the best part is the wishing sprinkles,” Ginny added enthusiastically.
“Wishing sprinkles?” Harry asked.
“Yeah, Mum makes this coloured sugar that we each sprinkle on the top. Whatever you wish for is supposed to come true.”
“Actually, Mum,” George said, “could Fred and I make the wishing sprinkles this year? We think we have just the thing.”
It surprised Harry when, without hesitation, Mrs. Weasley agreed. His shock must have registered on his face because Mr. Weasley leaned over and whispered, “Even Fred and George wouldn’t mess with Weasley Fluff.”
The family spent the rest of the night telling stories from Christmases past, laughing at old family jokes, and just enjoying being together. Harry spent most of his time smiling at Ginny as he idly played with her hair.
One by one, the Weasleys rose and went to bed. After a time, just Harry and Ginny were left in front of the fire.
“Do you realise, Mr. Potter,” Ginny inquired seductively, “that you haven’t kissed me once since we’ve been home?”
She leaned over him and kissed him sweetly on the lips.
Harry grinned, “Well, I guess that fixed that, didn’t it?”
“No,” Ginny replied, “that was me kissing you.”
“Oh? Well then,” Harry said and he pulled her to him. He kissed her passionately, hoping to pour every emotion he was feeling into that kiss. He had no idea how long the kiss lasted, but when they broke apart he was breathless.
“I suppose we should go to bed before your brothers come back down and kill me.”
“My brothers love you, Harry.”
“Maybe they do now, but if your brothers only knew what I think of when you kiss me,” Harry shuddered, “I think they’d like me a whole lot less.”
Ginny giggled as she pulled him to his feet. They walked up the stairs, hand in hand. He kissed her again when they reached her room and then headed upstairs alone.
When Harry entered Ron’s room, he found Ron had waited up for him. “So, you’re really going to do this, huh?”
Harry nodded, unable to keep the grin from reappearing on his face.
“How did you manage to get a ring?”
Harry told him all about the Room of Requirement. “Now, I just need to ask your parents and, assuming they say yes, ask Ginny and I’ll have the best Christmas ever.”
“I’m telling you, mate, you don’t have to worry about Mum and Dad.” Ron launched into a remarkably good impersonation of Mrs. Weasley, “Oh, Harry, dear! This is wonderful!”
“I hope so,” Harry laughed nervously. “I just need to find some time alone with them tomorrow.”
Ron smiled. “With The Burrow bursting with Weasleys, that may be easier said than done.”
Harry felt the butterflies in his stomach come to life once more as he pictured himself asking the Weasleys for permission to marry their only daughter.
“I hope I can actually speak when I manage to get them alone.”
Ron laughed as he turned out the light. “Good night, Harry,” he chuckled. Ron rolled over and before long his snores filled the room.
Harry did not find it so easy to fall asleep. He spent several hours thinking through different proposals and wishing harder than he had ever wished for anything that everything would go smoothly with Mr. and Mrs. Weasley tomorrow.
Harry awoke the next morning to the sound of presents being ripped open.
“Happy Christmas, Harry,” Ron asked as he tossed a package to Harry.
“Happy Christmas,” Harry said with a grin. He looked to the pile of presents at the foot of his bed.
He grabbed a lumpy one he thought was his annual Weasley jumper. He was surprised to see it was from Ginny. He ripped through the paper to reveal the pale blue afghan that had become permanently attached to his mental image of Ginny. He buried his face in the soft blue material, inhaling the smell of her the yarn brought with it.
“Wow, you’ve got it bad, mate,” Ron laughed from the next bed.
“Yeah,” Harry agreed with a sigh. “Do you know what, Ron?”
“Today’s the day I’m going to ask Ginny to marry me.” He beamed at Ron, wrapped himself in his new blanket, and went back to the pile of presents at the foot of the bed.
“This is impossible!” Harry exclaimed as he flopped backward onto his bed several hours later. He glared at the Chudley Cannons zooming overhead, currently upset with all things Quidditch. He shut his eyes and forced himself to take a few deep, calming breaths.
He heard the bedroom door open slowly and peeked through one eye to see a grinning Ron. He angrily pulled his pillow over his face, blocking his smirking friend from view.
“If you’ve come to convince me to join the Quidditch game, Ron, I’m just not in the mood.”
“I can imagine,” Ron said, his smile evident in his voice.
“Honestly, those two!” Harry growled.
Ron could not contain his laughter.
Harry sat up and glared at his friend. He then gave vent to the frustrations that had plagued him all day. “At least the Quidditch game is a Weasley tradition, I can’t claim conspiracy with that one. But an indoor snowball fight? A Catch the Canary Creams competition? A triple elimination Exploding Snap Tournament complete with a flashing, cheering scoreboard? Who even thinks of those things?”
Ron opened his mouth to comment, but Harry continued his rant. “Your maniacal brothers, that’s who. Every time I got your parents alone, those lunatics barged in to announce some new, ridiculous game they’d planned. It’s like they were trying to sabotage my talk with your parents.”
Ron, through his laughter, managed to choke out, “Oh, they didn’t want you talking to Mum and Dad, that’s for sure.”
“That’s right, they… what?” Harry’s expression of anger changed to one of hurt. Although it had felt as though the Weasley twins were trying to keep him from asking for Ginny’s hand, he did not really believe they would actually object to him marrying their sister. “They didn’t? Really?”
Ron laughed again. “No, they didn’t. Fred and George, ever the romantics, felt sorry for you — and for Ginny — whenever you ‘got cornered’ by Mum and Dad. They thought that you shouldn’t have to spend time away from Ginny and plotted to bring you two back together.”
Harry, struck by the irony of the situation, managed a watery chuckle as Ron again dissolved in a fit of laughter.
“They’re quick plotters, I’ll give them that.”
“Dead helpful, aren’t they?” Ron asked with a snort.
“Yeah, that’s the word I’d choose,” Harry agreed sarcastically. “Those two have been about as helpful as a room full of Death Eaters.”
Harry suddenly felt better than he had all day. He rose from the bed. “Well, I guess I can’t blame them for trying to help me spend more time with Ginny. Let’s go play some Quidditch. I’ll talk to your parents later.”
“No, Harry. I think you should talk to them now. And Hermione and I have figured out how you can do it.”
Harry paused by the door.
“That’s why I really came up here.” Ron tossed a small capsule to Harry.
“Nosebleed Nougat?” Harry asked, clearly surprised.
“Yeah,” Ron said. “We’re going to have a fake collision during the game. You take the Nougat and start bleeding all over the place. You know Mum will dote all over you. Hermione will offer to take your place in the game”
“But she hates flying!” Harry interrupted.
“But she loves you,” Ron continued. “Anyway, she takes your place in the game, the game involving every other person in this house goes on, and Voila! You’ve got Mum and Dad all to yourself for as long as you need them.”
Harry smiled at his friend. “That’s brilliant!”
Ron smiled back. “I know. Hermione thought of it.”
Ron slung his arm around Harry’s shoulder and the two friends headed outside to join the game.
Everyone else was waiting on the pitch by the time Ron and Harry arrived.
“It’s about time, you two,” Bill said with a smile. He was standing by Ginny. Fred, George, Charlie, and Fleur were huddled together on the other side of the Pitch. “Ginny and I will be Chasers for our team. Ron, you’re Keeper. Harry, you’re Seeker, of course.”
“Sounds good,” Harry said, stealing a glance at Mr. and Mrs. Weasley who were sitting at the picnic table with Hermione. Hermione waved at Harry and mouthed good luck.
As they took to the air, Harry was almost disappointed that he was going to have to leave the game early. Almost.
After a few moments circling the pitch trying to calm his nerves, he decided it was time to put the plan into action. He placed the Nosebleed Nougat in his mouth, flattened himself to his broom, and propelled himself into a headlong dive toward the corner of the Pitch.
Things couldn’t have worked better. Just as he was about to pass the hoops Ron was defending, Fleur fired a shot on goal. Ron could have just raised his hands to deflect it, but instead threw his body forward at the Quaffle, putting himself squarely in Harry’s path.
Harry, already decelerating, had a moment to see the grimace on Ron’s face before they collided. The crash both looked and felt astonishingly real. Harry bit down on the Nougat and was surprised by the fountain of blood that erupted from his nose.
He reached up to pinch his nose as he lowered his broom to the ground. He heard Ginny and Mrs. Weasley scream as they rushed toward him.
“I’m all right, I’m all right,” Harry said as he waved them off. He managed a wry smile for Ginny’s benefit. As soon as she saw Harry was okay, Ginny rounded on Ron.
Harry blocked out her tirade, however. He was focusing all of his attention on Mrs. Weasley.
“Oh, Harry, dear. Are you all right? Oh, of course you’re not. Arthur, help me get him inside and get him cleaned up.”
As she led him back toward the house, he heard the complaints of the older Weasley brothers. Bill’s voice rose above the others. “Well, it wouldn’t be fair to play one short. We’ll just take a break and wait for Harry.”
Ron spoke up then. “Hermione can play Chaser with Ginny until Harry gets back.”
Harry was sure that statement would be met with an argument, but was so relieved to have Mr. and Mrs. Weasley to himself for a moment that he could not bring himself to care.
As soon as they reached the house, he popped the other half of the Nosebleed Nougat in his mouth, chewed briefly, and swallowed. The flow of blood stopped immediately.
Mr. and Mrs. Weasley shared a confused look before looking back to a blood-drenched Harry.
“Why, Molly, I think we’ve been snookered,” Arthur said with a smile.
Harry blushed, but said, “I’m sorry if I worried you. I’ve been trying to talk with you all morning.”
Mrs. Weasley surprised Harry by chuckling. “We kind of realized that, dear.”
“The question is, why?” Harry could have sworn that the Weasley’s were laughing at him, even though their expressions were serious. “I know we are incredibly interesting, but I didn’t know our company was worth risking life and limb for.”
“I…I…” Harry stuttered. Now that he found himself with the chance to ask them about proposing to Ginny, he found that his carefully rehearsed words had flown from his mind.
“It’s all right, Harry. Take your time.” Mrs. Weasley handed Harry a warm washcloth. “Get yourself cleaned up.”
Harry took the washcloth and wiped at his face. He knew that Mrs. Weasley could have had him magically clean in a trice, but was thankful for the opportunity to collect his thoughts.
“Mr. and Mrs. Weasley,” Harry began, his voice shaky, “I love Ginny more than I ever thought it was possible to love another person.”
He chanced a look at Molly’s smiling face.
“She’s amazing. Perfect.”
Arthur snorted at this. “Oh, she’s amazing all right, Harry, but I’m sure even you have to realize that she’s not perfect.”
“Well, she’s perfect for me,” Harry continued.
“What I wanted to ask you…I mean what I was hoping for…” Harry took a deep breath and ran his hands through his windswept hair causing it to stand up in almost manic peaks. “I would like to ask Ginny to marry me and I was hoping you would give me your permission to do so.” He released a nervous breath and looked to the floor.
The Weasleys remained silent for what felt like an eternity to Harry. He cautiously looked up from the floor to find them watching him intently.
“Marriage is a big commitment, Harry, and not one to be entered into lightly,” Mr. Weasley said, appraising Harry carefully.
“Of course, we’d love to have you as an official member of our family,” added Mrs. Weasley.
“Oh, of course,” Mr. Weasley agreed with a smile. “Normally, your age would be a concern. Ginny’s only in her sixth year of school.”
“Oh, I would want to wait until Ginny finishes school,” Harry interrupted.
“I’m not worried about that,” Arthur said, still smiling. “As I was saying, normally your age would be a concern. After getting to know you as we have the past few years, and knowing all you’ve been through, we find you to be a very responsible, mature young man.”
Harry sighed with relief.
“That being said,” Molly continued, “we would like to be sure that you are ready for the commitment level a successful marriage requires.”
“Oh,” Harry stammered, “there wouldn’t…couldn’t…be anyone else for me.” He felt himself blushing. Merlin, even his ears felt hot.
He was surprised, and a little offended, when Mr. and Mrs. Weasley started to laugh. “Anyone with eyes can see that, Harry, dear.” Mrs. Weasley continued to giggle as she dabbed at her eyes with her handkerchief.
Arthur, eyes twinkling with amusement, said seriously, “I think what Molly and I would like to know is: what does a committed marriage mean to you?”
Harry’s gaze darted back and forth between the smiling, supportive Weasleys. When he had pictured this conversation, he had hoped for the enthusiastic approval Ron had described to him the night before. He had feared an outright refusal. He had not expected anything remotely close to this…this encouraging inquisition. He felt surprisingly like he was taking the practical portion of a Courtship O.W.L exam.
He was not sure where to begin his description of what marriage meant to him, so he just took another deep breath and began. “Before I came here, I had no idea how happy a family could be. This home…well, it’s just bursting with love, and laughter, and support, and everything a home should have. Sure there are fights, but even with that it is obvious to everyone who sees you that you love each other and would do anything for each other.
“When I watch the two of you… you give each other room to be yourselves, but you turn to each other for help with the big things,” Harry chuckled, “like this, but also to enjoy the little things, like the Quidditch game this afternoon.
“That’s what I want with Ginny. I want to make her laugh and to hold her when she cries. I want to take care of her when she needs it and to let her take care of me when I need it, which will probably be more often. I guess I want to share my life with her, whatever that life may hold.”
Mrs. Weasley interrupted him here. “And when were you going to start this, dear?”
Harry looked at the Weasleys in confusion. When was he going to start this?
And then it hit him. His eyes filled with tears as he realized how miserably he had failed Ginny when he had abandoned her this summer.
“I…I…I’m so sorry. I didn’t realize. I just wanted her to be safe.”
Mr. Weasley laid his hand on Harry’s arm. “We know, Harry. But if you want to make a life with someone you have to trust them enough to let them both take care of themselves and take care of you. Like you said, you have to let them help with the big stuff. That’s what makes the little stuff so special.”
“You’re right. I’m sorry.”
“It’s not us you need to apologize to, Harry,” Mrs. Weasley said with a smile. “Now come over here and let me hug you.”
Harry wiped the tears from his eyes as Mrs. Weasley pulled him into an embrace.
“We couldn’t ask for a better son-in-law,” Mr. Weasley said as he shook Harry’s hand.
The rest of the day seemed to pass in a blur for Harry. He went back and joined the Quidditch game. Truth be told, he spent more time grinning at Ginny like a lunatic than watching for the Snitch. When Charlie caught the Snitch to end the game, he was the first to congratulate him. He then grabbed Ginny and twirled her in a circle, laughing like a loon.
At the twins’ encouragement, he asked Ginny to fly with him. They flew as far as the wards would allow, and talked about everything and nothing. She accepted his apology graciously and, just as he wished the afternoon would never end, Hermione called them in for dinner.
He laughed heartily at the twins’ pranks during dinner, glad to be at peace with them again. He even intercepted one of the pranks the twins had intended for Percy, a dollop of Mamba Mashed Potatoes, and gleefully danced around the table until the effects of the charm wore off.
When the food was gone, or more accurately, when all the food that could physically be consumed was gone, Mr. Weasley dimmed the lights and stood.
“And now ladies and gentlemen, may I present my wife’s world famous Weasley Fluff.”
Everyone cheered as bowls filled with the most amazing smelling dessert Harry had ever seen appeared on the table.
“Fred and George, the wishing sprinkles please.”
“Well,” Fred said sheepishly, “we weren’t able to perfect the sprinkles in time for dinner.” A disappointed groan arose from the table.
“Never fear, never fear,” George continued. “The sprinkles will still work. They just need to be dropped a little further than 6 inches in order to achieve the desired result.”
“Exactly how far boys?” Mrs. Weasley asked, clearly upset by this turn of events.
“According to our calculations…at least 25 feet.”
“No worries, though,” George said, interrupting the new groan that erupted. “Fred and I will just go up to Ron’s window and drop the sprinkles onto everyone’s Weasley Fluff. We think you’ll find it’s worth the slight inconvenience.”
“You heard my dear brother. Outside with the lot of you.”
The rest of the family grabbed their bowls of fluff and headed out into the crisp winter evening.
Fred called down, “Okay, Bill and Fleur, you go first.”
The newlyweds held their bowls aloft and looked up at Fred and George.
“You have to close your eyes and make a wish,” George yelled to them.
As soon as their eyes were closed, the twins released what appeared to be pinches of coloured sugar. Shortly after it left their hands, however, it seemed to come to life, twinkling like the sparks from a large firework. It glittered brilliantly, bright blue and silver, before alighting on their bowls of fluff in the shape of two cradles holding two swaddled bundles of blue.
Bill and Fleur gazed lovingly at each other and kissed tenderly. The rest of the Weasleys, Harry, and Hermione cheered. Mrs. Weasley cried as she hugged her son and daughter-in-law.
“This isn’t exactly how we’d planned to tell you,” Bill said, “but there should be another set of Weasley twins sometime next July.”
“Oh, that’s wonderful! Wonderful!” Mrs. Weasley exclaimed as she hugged Bill and Fleur again.
“All right, Charlie, you’re next,” George yelled.
Charlie closed his eyes and the twins again sprinkled the sugar. This time it turned brilliant scarlet and gold as it swirled around Charlie. The picture of a beautiful dark haired woman standing in front of a Chinese Fireball appeared on his Fluff. Charlie blushed the same crimson as the sprinkles when his brothers wolf-whistled and Mrs. Weasley said, “We’ll talk later, dear.”
“All right, Perce, step lively,” George called.
Percy stepped forward stiffly, closed his eyes, and held out his bowl of Fluff tentatively as though expecting an ambush. The twins behaved, however, and he was showered with lime green sprinkles that reminded Harry of Fudge’s bowler. Harry was surprised by the picture that had formed on Percy’s Fluff. It was a picture of the entire Weasley family, together and smiling. Percy turned and smiled at his parents.
Fred called down again, “Ron, Hermione.”
They closed their eyes as the sugar rained down in a shower of purple and yellow stars. They were surprised to see the picture of the home they had described to Harry that day by the lake, complete with Quidditch pitch. Ron waggled his eyebrows at Hermione. She giggled.
“Alright, Harry, Ginny, you’re next.”
They stepped forward, joined hands, closed their eyes, and made their wishes. The shower of sparks they were expecting didn’t come. Instead, Hedwig flew down from the upstairs window, a small package clutched in her talons. She landed on Harry’s arm, held out her leg, waited for him to take the package, and then flew back upstairs.
Harry and Ginny looked up at the twins in time to see wink and pull their heads inside. When Harry and Ginny looked back at each other, they discovered the rest of the family had gone back into the kitchen.
“I don’t know about you, Harry, but I suspect a conspiracy,” Ginny said as she grinned warmly, albeit a little nervously, at Harry.
Harry found his mouth was suddenly extremely dry and his hands were extremely wet. He tried to speak, but blushed when his voice cracked on her name. He swallowed hard and tried again.
“Ginny,” he grabbed her hand in his. “You are the most amazing person I’ve ever met. Every day when I wake up, I can’t wait to see your beautiful face, hear your wonderful laugh, watch your brilliant mind at work. Every night when I go to bed, I dream of you, of what our future could hold. You…you make me better, make my life better than I ever thought it could be.”
Harry dropped to one knee on the snow covered ground, opened the ring box, and gazed up at Ginny. “It would make me the happiest man in the world if you would,” he paused, suddenly more nervous than he’d ever been in his life. “I mean would you…would you bmarry me?”
He hung his head as he heard the word leave his mouth. Bmarry me? Be my wife, you idiot! Marry me, you miserable excuse for a man! But bmarry me???
He looked to Ginny as her tinkling laughter met his ears. She tugged on his hand and pulled him to his feet. “Smooth, Potter,” she giggled. He blushed as she wrapped her arms around him and pulled him close.
“Harry, I’d be honoured to be your wife…or marry you…or bmarry you if that’s what you really want.” She giggled again as she kissed his cheek.
“Really?” Harry asked in amazement.
“Really,” Ginny said. She kissed him for the first time as his fiancée.
He held the ring out to her. Her eyes fell upon the brilliant oval, opal set in the swirling, delicate, silver filigree.
“Oh, Harry, it’s beautiful!” she exclaimed as he slipped the ring on her finger. The multitude of colors found in the opal’s depths swirled and sparkled in the warm light shining through the kitchen window.
“I was drawn to it when I saw it. It just reminded me of you — a whirl of colors and sparkles - delicate and fiery at the same time. Then I read about the opal. In ancient times it stood for a uniqueness of spirit — and you certainly have that. In modern times it came to represent depth of character, intense loyalty, and an enormous capacity to laugh and to love. That is what I see when I look at you…when I think of us.”
“It’s perfect,” Ginny sighed as she stared at her new ring. “You’re perfect.” And she kissed him again.
Harry saw lights dancing through his closed eyelids. He opened his eyes to find himself and his love surrounded by a myriad of dancing, sparkling wishing sprinkles that glowed with all of the colors found in Ginny’s ring. They leaned against each other and enjoyed the show.
“Let’s go inside and have some of this famous dessert,” Harry said as he looked at his bowl of Fluff. He grinned when he saw what was pictured there. On the surface of his dessert was the same scene that had been pictured on Ron and Hermione’s Fluff with one small addition - a charming two-story cottage on the other side of the Quidditch Pitch.
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