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SIYE Time:11:08 on 18th January 2022


Why Didn't I Think of That?
By Arnel

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Category: Holidays
Characters:None
Genres: Romance
Warnings: None
Story is Complete
Rating: G
Reviews: 7
Summary: Harry tells James a personal story that helps him learn from his mistakes.
Hitcount: Story Total: 1338



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:
This story was written for the Incognito Elf 2019 story exchange on Discord. My recipient requested an AU story that showed Harry and Ginny as parents as well as a situation in Goblet of Fire. I was stumped for what to write until I heard Doug Stone's song "Why Didn't I Think of That?" while driving in my car. I suggest you read this story with the song playing in the background.

Many thanks to my friend and editor Melindaleo for her help with this story. Her comments made me think about several elements and the changes she suggested helped make the story better.




ChapterPrinter


Why Didn’t I Think of That?

Harry found James sitting on the bank of The Burrow’s pond. The sixteen-year-old had a sad, faraway look on his face and Harry instantly knew what had probably brought his son out here. Too many relatives in too small a house didn’t give anyone any privacy and it looked like James needed some time to himself, Christmas holiday or not.

“Planning on skating without your skates?” Harry asked as he sat down next to James.

James shivered and pulled his cloak closer. “It’s too loud in there with Uncle George demonstrating his latest Wheezes,” he said. “I don’t feel much like celebrating anyway.”

“Care to let your old dad in on your troubles?” Harry asked. He gazed out over the frozen pond, remembering how a bit of detachment from the adult talking to him had sometimes helped him gather his thoughts.

James was quiet for several minutes. Finally, he nearly whispered, “There’s this girl at school. She and I went to Hogsmeade together in October and I thought maybe she’d agree to be my girlfriend, so I asked her.”

“And…” Harry prompted when James stopped talking.

“It lasted about eight weeks,” he said. “We did our homework together, ate together and did things with each other’s friends in the common room. I thought we were doing fine and made plans to take her to Hogsmeade again to do our Christmas shopping, but a week before the trip, I saw her kissing a seventh year Ravenclaw in an alcove on the third floor. Later that day, she broke up with me and she said the other bloke treated her better. What’s that supposed to mean?”

Harry smiled, thinking back to the winter of his fourth year. “Let me tell you a little story, son,” he said.

*

“I’m l-l-leaving,” Cho announced tearfully, getting up from their table in Madam Puddifoot’s tea shop so abruptly that her chair fell over. “Don’t b-bother f-following me out, Harry Rotter!”

“Cho, sit down, let me explain!” Harry cried. “I do want you to help me with my egg! It’s just that the Tournament rules say I have to figure it out on my own.”

Cho ignored him and stomped to the door, threw it open and marched into the gently falling snow that was slowly turning the village of Hogsmeade into a white wonderland. Harry stood up, tossed a couple of Galleons onto the table and sprinted out into the storm.

So much for asking Cho to the Yule Ball, he thought dismally.

He caught up with Cho as she left the village. “What did I do?” he asked desperately.

Cho planted one hand on her hip, the other she wagged in front of his nose. “Not a thing,” she hissed angrily. “You don’t know how to treat girls right, Harry Potter. You think I’m a friend, so you treat me like one of your mates. You have a task that I can help with, but do you ask? NO! Let me give you a clue… girlfriends like to be treated differently from your mates.” With that, she stomped off in the direction of the castle.

Harry was stumped. He had no idea what “treating a girl right” meant other than being polite and listening to what she had to say or sometimes doing what she wanted instead of what he wanted to do. How could he “treat her differently” when he had no idea what that meant. Sadly, he turned back towards Hogsmeade. He was due to meet Ron and Hermione in a half hour at The Three Broomsticks and he didn’t want to be late.

Several minutes later, Ron greeted him, “You look like a kid whose pet Puffskein died.”

Harry set his Butterbeer down on the table with a sigh. “I still don’t have a partner for the Yule Ball,” he mumbled.

Hermione asked, “I thought you were going to ask Cho. What happened?”

“She said I treated her like one of my mates and didn’t know how to treat girls right, so she stomped off in a huff. I didn’t get a chance to ask her to the ball,” he confessed without meaning to. He looked up at Hermione. “Do I treat you alright?”

Hermione smiled at him, then looked at Ron, then back at Harry. “You treat me just fine,” she said and Harry relaxed a bit. “However, Cho probably wanted some special attention that set her apart from your other friends and I don’t think you did.”

Harry pushed his Butterbeer towards Ron as he admitted, “You’re right, as always, Hermione.” He stood up. “You finish this, Ron. I’m going back to the castle.”

At dinner, Harry sat watching Cho, still puzzled about what she’d said. He was just about ready to go back to Gryffindor Tower when Cedric Diggory sat down next to Cho and the two put their heads together. Harry watched as Cedric whispered something in Cho’s ear that made her giggle and blush. Then he handed her a small piece of parchment. She opened it and after reading the note, she murmured something and kissed his cheek. Cedric stood up as Cho finished her dinner and somehow, Harry knew the two had made plans to do their homework together in the library. He moped the rest of the evening, eventually going up to bed early because Hermione kept shooting him inquiring looks that he didn’t want to acknowledge.

The next morning at breakfast, Harry watched as an owl swooped down and deposited a long, thin box in front of Cho. She opened it and all the girls around her began talking at once, edging closer to the box and blocking Harry’s view of what was inside. With the way they were all acting, he reckoned that whatever it was had been a present from Cedric. Was sending presents and making a girl blush “treating her right?”

Well, no matter what, time was slipping away from him as the Yule Ball drew nearer. He needed to start thinking about whom to ask, since the ball was just two weeks away and he couldn’t ask Cho now. Who would be a good partner? Who did he want to spend an evening with? What girl liked the same things he did?

“Hermione,” he said, turning his attention on her as she sat next to Ron, “would you go to the Yule Ball with me?”

At his question, Ron sprayed the table with pumpkin juice and Hermione slowly put down her fork. She glanced at Ron and then turned back to Harry. “I’m sorry, Harry, but I’m already going with someone,” she said apologetically.

“Who are you going with?” Ron demanded before Harry could respond to Hermione’s answer to his question.

“Someone special,” was all she said, blushing. “You’ll find out if you can get a partner for the ball.”

“You’re probably going with someone from another school. Why would you want to go with someone from another school?” Ron asked sourly. He abruptly stood up from the table and stomped out of the Great Hall.

“What’s wrong with Ron?” Hermione asked.

It was Harry’s turn to feel his face heat up. “Er, I think he was going to ask you to go with him later on today,” he said sheepishly.

“Oh,” Hermione said, “that does complicate things a bit, doesn’t it?”

“A little,” Harry agreed. “Do you know who is going with whom in our year? I’m getting a bit desperate.”

“Let me think,” Hermione said. “Lavender’s going with Seamus, Dean is taking Parvati, Neville asked Padma, Pansy’s going with Draco, Millicent is going with either Crabbe or Goyle, and all the Hufflepuffs have paired off. Oh, I see your dilemma.”

“I’m not going with a Slytherin,” Harry said, frowning, “even if she is the best-looking girl in our year.”

“Who’s the best-looking girl in your year?” Ginny asked as she plopped down next to Hermione. “And what’s got Ron’s pants all twisted up? He looks like a thunder cloud.”

Harry let his mind wander a bit as Hermione caught Ginny up on the drama of the last few minutes. He perked up when Hermione asked Ginny if she was going to the ball yet.

“Nope,” she said ruefully. “I can’t go even by myself. I’m not a fourth year. I could go if someone invited me, but no one has yet.”

The girls kept talking as Harry made his excuses and left the table. Something was stirring in his brain and he needed some time to himself to think things over.

Monday morning brought the usual parliament of owls flocking into the Great Hall at breakfast. Harry kept his head down as one of the school owls landed in front of Ginny and stuck out its leg. She relieved the bird of its burden and absently gave it some of her bacon, a smile on her face. Harry knew what was written on the note she held: it was a simple message saying,

“I hope your day is a good one. Your friend, Harry.”


He knew Ginny would have guessed that the note was from him because his handwriting was nearly as messy as his hair and she had seen him writing his essays often enough. Besides, the last penmanship-changing quill he’d owned had misspelled so many words that it had created more problems than he’d bargained for.

Ginny read the note, then tucked it in a pocket and smiled in Harry’s direction. He nodded and the two went back to their breakfasts.

“What was that with Ginny?” Ron asked as he, Harry and Hermione left the Great Hall for their Herbology lesson. “She was practically floating all through breakfast.”

“Someone sent her a note,” Hermione replied. “I don’t know what it said, but she certainly seemed pleased.”

“Who would want to do that? She’s a third year!” Ron asked. He shook his head. “They’re barmy, that’s what they are!”

Harry didn’t say anything.

*

“Why would Uncle Ron say the person who sent Mum a note like that was barmy?” James asked.

“We were fourteen, your mum thirteen, and your uncle wouldn’t get a clue about how to treat girls right for a very long time. Besides, your mum was his sister and Uncle Ron still thought of her as a little thing who should be coddled and kept safe from big, bad blokes,” Harry said with a chuckle. “Even me.”

James looked mildly disgusted. “If Al and I did that to Lily, we’d be fighting Bat Bogies,” he said, shaking his head.

Harry chuckled. “Don’t you think your uncles knew that? Only Ron was daft enough to imply his sister was fragile and needed protecting to her face,” he said, smiling.

“I don’t think she liked that,” James said.

“Nope, and he paid for it, too.”

“How?”

“Your mum figured out how to make all of the Bertie Botts Beans he got for Christmas taste like vomit and ear wax.”

“Oh, that’s disgusting!”

“I agree.”

*

Harry watched Ginny carefully that evening as the four did their homework at different tables in the common room. When she went up to her room to get something, leaving her things on the table, he levitated a couple of Chocolate Frogs onto the top of her book bag. Hermione caught him at it and raised an eyebrow, but when he shrugged, she nodded and went back to her essay. Ginny looked pleased when she discovered the sweets a few minutes later. Harry finished his own essay quickly and said good-night to Ron and Hermione.

The next morning, Hedwig was amongst the flurry of owls that descended upon the Gryffindor table. She settled in front of Ginny, stuck out her leg and let her take the note Harry had tied there. She then flew the short distance between them and landed on Harry’s shoulder. When he reached up to stroke her breast, she nipped his fingers delicately, making him nearly miss Ginny’s tight smile and raised hand with all her fingers crossed: Harry had wished her good luck on her Potions test.

A couple of hours later saw Harry loitering in the Entrance Hall, waiting for Ginny to emerge from the Potions dungeon. She was amongst the last to emerge and she looked visibly upset. He hurried over to her.

“Do I dare ask how your test went?” he asked. “What happened?”

Ginny took a deep breath and sighed through her nose. “I did all right on the written part,” she said. “When we finished that, Snape had us make a Shrinking Solution. I was doing all right when Lucinda’s cauldron began belching blue smoke. Snape comes charging over and blames me for the fact that she stirred in her rat spleens and leech juice in the wrong order. Now I have detention tomorrow night and I was going to write my Defence essay after dinner tomorrow. Oh, it’s just not fair!”

“No one ever said Snape was fair,” Harry commiserated. “Would you like some help tonight with the essay? What’s the subject?”

“Red Caps,” she replied, looking relieved. “You’ll really help me?”

“Yeah, I got a high mark last year on that essay from Lupin. I still have it because Hermione insists I need to keep all my essays for revision for OWLs next year. I know Professor Moody is likely to be looking for different things, but we could compare what you write with what was acceptable in mine, if you like,” Harry offered.

“I’d like that, Harry,” Ginny said.

Harry grinned at her. “Would you like to join us for lunch?” he asked.

Ginny shook her head. “I can’t. I promised my friends I’d sit with them so we can talk about what happened in Potions,” she said. “Maybe tomorrow?”

“Yeah, that sounds good,” Harry said. He turned towards the Great Hall. “I’ll see you later, then.”

Ginny smiled and followed him to the Gryffindor table. Harry took his place across from Ron and Hermione while Ginny continued further up the table and sat with the girls from her year.

The next few days fell into a pattern. In the mornings, Hedwig would fly into the Great Hall with a “little something” for Ginny, objects or notes that would bring smiles to her face and curious looks from her friends and Ron and Hermione. When morning lessons were over, Harry rushed from his classroom to escort Ginny to lunch and they would choose which group they’d sit with. Then, it was off to afternoon classes followed by a bit of free time in their common room before dinner, and then it was back to the common room to do their homework before bed – unless Ginny had detention, and then Harry would stay up to keep her company while she finished her homework. By the end of the week, Ginny was sitting with Harry, Ron and Hermione to do her homework. Harry stifled a laugh when Ginny plopped her bookbag down in front of her brother and proceeded to make herself at home, spreading out her books just like Hermione did.

“Do you have to stake your claim on our table?” Ron asked in an irritated tone.

“I have as much right to use this table as you do, Ron, so get over it,” Ginny told him.

“I’ll grant you that,” Ron said, “but do you have to take up so much room?”

“I’m taking no more or no less than I need. If it bothers you so much, go to another table,” she told him coolly.

“I’m glad she’s sitting with us,” Harry piped up.

Ron glowered at him, but said nothing, going back to his own Herbology essay as Ginny began scanning her astronomy. Harry thought she looked pleased by his remark.

The next morning, Friday, Hedwig caused quite the stir at the Gryffindor table. In addition to the usual small scroll, she carried a long, white box, the kind single flowers were transported in. The box was a bit ungainly and Hedwig flew in tight circles above Ginny’s head until Ginny stood up and extended her arm. A moment later, Hedwig landed lightly and allowed one of Ginny’s friends to relieve her of the box, while Ginny worked on the scroll.

“Open it!” several of Ginny’s friends begged.

Ginny smiled and took her time sitting down. She seemed to be enjoying having Hedwig inch up her arm to her shoulder where the white feathers warmed her ear. She stroked the owl’s breast feathers, then opened the scroll. A moment later, she asked her friends for something and one dove under the table and came up with quill and ink. Ginny thanked her friend and quickly wrote her reply on the bottom of the scroll, rolled it up and handed it to Hedwig. Hedwig took it in her beak and flew down the table to Harry.

“Thank you, Hedwig,” he said as his owl landed in front of him. “You did a splendid job, as I knew you would.”

Hedwig chirruped as she took a small piece of bacon from him, then launched herself into the air and followed the last of the owls out of the Great Hall. Harry watched her go before turning to watch the commotion a little way down the table. The other girls sitting with Ginny had succeeded in getting her to open the box to reveal what Harry knew to be a single yellow rose that the florist had told him symbolized friendship.

Exclamations of “oh, how pretty,” “who’s your friend,” and “is someone jealous” drifted down the table to him. He watched as Ginny deflected the last, proclaiming that the sender was a very good friend and turned back to the scroll he held. Written at the bottom under his signature Ginny had written,

“Yes, I’ll meet you in the courtyard after last class. See you then.”


His lessons seemed to drag on and on while the clock simply refused to move at more than a snail’s pace. He was so distracted in Potions that afternoon that he absentmindedly stirred his potion in the wrong direction and had to start over again. He just barely finished in time to bottle his potion and take his sample up to Snape’s desk for grading. Snape had scarcely dismissed the class when Harry grabbed his bag and sprinted out of the room, up the stairs to the Entrance Hall, down the corridor to the last door, and out into the courtyard.

Ginny was sitting on a bench in the middle of the courtyard. She smiled when Harry skidded to a halt in front of her.

“Sorry I’m late,” he gasped, trying desperately to get his breath under control.

“You’re not late,” she said, patting the bench beside her. Harry sat down as she continued, “I’m a bit early since Professor Sprout let us go as soon as we’d harvested our Puffapods. It’s been nice having a few minutes to myself in the quiet.”

“We don’t often get that, do we?” Harry asked.

She shook her head. “Thank you for the rose. You left the Great Hall before I had the chance to thank you,” she said, “so I used the spell included in the box and found the rose in a vase beside my bed when I went to exchange my books after lunch.”

“How…” Harry suddenly found his tongue was stuck so tightly to the roof of his mouth that he couldn’t say a thing.

“Your note said you wanted to see me,” she prompted.

Harry nodded and took a deep breath, which he let out slowly. “Ginny,” he began, turning to look at her and suddenly feeling quite nervous, “wouldyougototheballwithme?” Instead of the slow, confident delivery he wanted, the words came out in a rush.

Ginny looked startled as she asked, “Did you just ask me to go to the ball with you?”

“I did,” he affirmed, feeling relieved now that he’d managed to ask his question. “I’d like it very much if you’d go with me.”

A huge smile graced Ginny’s face as she answered, “Yes, Harry, I’ll go to the ball with you.”

Harry smiled back. “I was hoping you’d say yes,” he said. “Thank you.”

“Not at all,” Ginny replied. “Is that what all the notes and sweets were about this week?”

“Yeah, they were. I wanted you to know I’d noticed you and thought we’d have a good time together,” he admitted.

Ginny looked off into the distance as she asked, “You won’t mind that my dress robes come from the second-hand shop? I don’t want you to be embarrassed that I’m not wearing the latest fashion.”

Harry watched her as he said, “It’s not the robes I’m taking to the ball, it’s you, my friend and dance partner.”

“Thank you for saying that,” she said, now looking at her hands which she had placed on her knees.

“I mean it, Ginny. Of all the girls I could have asked to the ball, you’re the one who is easiest to talk to. It’s going to be a long evening if we can’t talk to each other,” he told her.

She blushed in the growing twilight. “I’m glad you think so,” she said quietly.

Harry stood up. Now that she’d accepted his invitation, he couldn’t sit still. “Want to go for a walk before dinner?” he asked.

Ginny stood up, too. “Sure. Lead the way.”

*

“You mean to tell me that Mum didn’t act all girly and squeal out her answer?” James asked.

“You know she’s not the squealing type,” Harry chuckled. “That’s why I asked her in the first place. She calmly answered my question and a week later we went to the ball and had a great time together.”

“Yeah, I can see her doing that,” James said.

“Good. Now, I have to ask… why do you think I told you this story?”

“Well, you made Mum feel special, paid attention to her,” James said thoughtfully. “Should I have done stuff like you did with that girl?”

Harry smiled. “What do you think?”

James shook his head. “I think I took Lucy’s friendship a little too much for granted and didn’t work hard enough to keep it,” he said ruefully. “I won’t do that next time.”

“That’s a good lad,” Harry said, standing up. “Shall we go join the ruckus?”

James stood up, brushing at the snow that clung to his trousers. Harry took out his wand and dried the wet spot that had formed there.

“If Uncle George sees that, you’ll be in for a bad time the rest of the holiday,” Harry smirked.

“Tell me about it,” James groaned and began walking back towards the house.

Harry followed, a thoughtful smile on his face. He and Ginny had had a great time at the ball that year with the evening turning out to be one of the best parts of the entire Triwizard Tournament.

*

Ginny Potter was thankful Christmas Day was over. Her brother, George, had been especially annoying while demonstrating his latest inventions and getting into people’s faces when they wouldn’t participate in his fun. She couldn’t blame Jamie and Harry for escaping the chaos and noise. She’d wanted to do the same, but Mum had needed her to help get dinner on the table as well as enlist Angelina’s help in reining in her enthusiastic husband.

Ginny smiled as she made herself a cup of camomile and peppermint tea and took it to the sitting room. If her headache didn’t go away in an hour, she’d add some feverfew leaves to the infusion, but she doubted they would be needed; the headache was already ebbing with the thought of her conversation with Angelina…

George had been in the midst of demonstrating his newest indoor firework when Ginny had sidled up to his wife. “Hey, Angelina, did George overdo a Cheering Charm this morning? He’s been bouncing off the walls all day,” she remarked.

Angelina grimaced. “No, not that I know of, although he could have cast one when my back was turned. As far as I know, he had nothing but his normal morning tea… which I made! I swear, Lily and Hugo are more mature than my husband right now,” she groaned.

Ginny had to agree with her sister-in-law. “Don’t you think it’s time he calms down? Dinner’s almost ready and Mum’s worried he’s going to do something during the meal,” she said.

“I’d speak to him, but it won’t do any good,” Angelina despaired. “You know, pick your battles and all that… If I take away his fun, he’s going to be all defensive and grouchy for days, blaming me for ruining his holiday. It’s been over twenty years, but the depression from losing Fred has stayed with him and surfaces on major holidays, you know that.”

“I do.” Ginny thought for a moment. “Erm, I have a suggestion,” she hedged. “How about I wait another minute or so to let him finish with this Wheeze, then take him back to our childhood with the threat of a Bat Bogie Hex?”

Angelina’s resigned expression turned into an evil grin. “You’ll take responsibility if it backfires?” she asked.

“Absolutely, but I don’t think it will. It may not completely stop his pranks, but at least he’ll think twice before escalating the chaos again, at least that is what happened when we were little,” Ginny said, pulling out her wand. “OK… here goes…”

Ginny walked over to where George was putting together his next demonstration. She stood with her wand pointed at him while the family members around him gradually fell silent. Finally, George looked up, his eyes widening at the sight of Ginny’s wand.

“Hello, George,” Ginny said conversationally. “I suggest you put your toys away. Dinner is almost ready and I’d hate for you to miss the meal because you were dealing with bat bogies.”

“You wouldn’t,” George hissed, but he hastily complied with her request and began boxing up his creations.

“Why shouldn’t I?” Ginny asked sweetly. “I need a good reason not to.”

“I-I put everything away and behave myself for the rest of the day?” George asked, sounding hopeful.

“That sounds reasonable, especially if you take the pranking spells off the children’s chairs, plates, cutlery and glassware. Lily and Hugo don’t want their hair turning green and Albus and Rose won’t think it’s fun to burp the alphabet, not at their age. James has already escaped your noise once and Harry doesn’t blame him. I think the two of them just might go home if something unexpected happens during the meal,” Ginny told him. “Oh, and you’d have to deal with Mum if that happens.”

George sighed and looked rather deflated as he raised his wand and cancelled the spells he’d surreptitiously put on the table.

“Thank you,” Ginny said, putting away her wand. “Now, will you gather your audience and proceed to the table, please?”

Christmas dinner had been pleasant this year, to say the least, but her brother’s noise earlier in the day had triggered her headache, so now Ginny was dealing with it the best she could without resorting to potions. She took her cup to her favourite place on the sofa and sat down, gazing at the dying fire.

A few minutes later, she identified her daughter’s soft footfalls coming through the kitchen and a moment later, Lily poked her head around the door frame.

“What are you doing up?” Ginny asked as Lily came into the room. “It’s nearly eleven.”

“Can’t sleep,” Lily complained. “Would you tell me my favourite story?”

“The one about the Yule Ball?” Ginny asked, knowing full well which story Lily wanted. The magic of that story always made her daughter smile and dream of someone like her father making her feel as special as Harry had made Ginny.

“That’s the one,” Lily said, coming to curl up next to her mother.

Ginny pulled a knitted afghan off the back of the sofa and spread it over them. “Where do you want me to begin?” she asked.

“The Hogsmeade visit,” Lily answered. “That’s what started the whole thing, right?”

“Yes, darling,” Ginny said, gathering her thoughts. “You know I’d been secretly watching your father that entire day…”

*

“Earth to Ginny, Earth to Ginny,” Amanda teased, clicking her fingers in front of Ginny’s face as she sat watching the door for Harry Potter.

“Huh? What?” Ginny asked, feeling rather wrong-footed for being caught staring at the door to The Three Broomsticks and hoping Harry would enter soon, rather than following her friends’ conversation.

“Oh, girl, you’ve still got it bad,” Theresa commented. “Don’t you know older blokes don’t look at younger girls?”

“I know I do, but I can’t help it,” Ginny sighed. “It’s not something I can turn off easily.”

“You do know the Harry is a real boy, don’t you?” Mary asked, “a real boy with real feelings.”

Ginny scowled. “Which aren’t directed at me.”

“Well, it’s Christmas and anything could happen this time of year,” Amanda said optimistically, patting Ginny’s arm.

Ginny opened her mouth to respond, but the door opened at that moment, admitting a rather glum-looking Harry Potter. He scanned the room as he walked up to the bar and ordered a butterbeer and Ginny knew when he found Ron and Hermione’s table. Once again, Harry wasn’t giving her the time of day.

I give up, she decided. Harry isn’t going to notice me, so I’ll just have to make the best of things. Maybe I’ll even ask a boy to the ball…

For the rest of the afternoon, Ginny pondered who would be the best partner for the ball, putting aside her feelings for Harry and finally deciding to ask Neville Longbottom. They’d become friends when she’d asked him for help with her Herbology homework at the beginning of the year and Ginny thought her over-protective brothers would approve of her choice.

On Sunday afternoon, she sidled up to where Neville was sitting alone in the common room reading a book on magical water plants of the Mediterranean and sat down on the low table next to his propped-up feet. She took a calming breath and let it out slowly. She could do this…

“Hi, Neville,” she said, waiting for him to glance up. “I want to go to the Yule Ball and was wondering if you would like to be my partner.” She felt pleased that she had managed to control the pace of the sentence so well.

Neville looked up, looking apologetic. “I’m very sorry, Ginny,” he said, “but I’ve already asked Padma Patil. She’s accepted and it wouldn’t be right for me to accept your proposal.”

A bit startled by how formally Neville had spoken, Ginny shoved away her disappointment and replied in kind, “I hope you have a good time at the ball, Neville,” she said a bit stiffly. She stood up.

Neville put down his book. “Erm, Ginny, I really do hope you’ll find someone to go with,” he said, slipping back into his normal speech pattern.

Ginny smiled sadly. “I probably won’t get to go, but that’s all right, I suppose. I am a third year after all.”

They talked for a few more minutes and then Ginny went to the library to finish her homework.

*

“Mummy,” Lily interrupted, “Why was Uncle Neville so formal?”

“Uncle Neville lived with his grandmother, a witch who had impeccable manners and she taught her grandson the proper way to accept or decline an invitation,” Ginny explained. “Your grandmother tried to teach me and your uncles the same thing, but the manners never really stuck.”

“I can’t see Uncle Ron behaving like that, nor Uncle George,” Lily commented.

Ginny laughed. “Oh, heaven, no! You know what?”

“What, Mummy?”

“When your grandmother received my letter telling her that Uncle Ron had a date for the ball, she sent Uncle Ron a letter with a list of things not to do on a date!”

“You mean, things like ‘don’t eat with your mouth open’ and ‘actually dance with your partner’?” Lily asked.

“Those two were at the top of the list!”

The two Potter witches lapsed into giggles. When their laughter subsided, Ginny continued with her story.

*

An unfamiliar owl landing in front of her breakfast plate on Monday morning woke Ginny better than her morning cup of tea. Who would be sending her a letter if the sender wasn’t someone in her family? She took the scroll from the bird with trembling fingers and it flew off after she rewarded it with some bacon from her plate.

Curious now, she opened the scroll and immediately, without having to look at the signature, realized Harry Potter was writing to her. Why would he do that? She had no idea, so she read the single sentence that wished her a good day. Pleased at the attention, she tucked the note in her pocket, smiled in his direction and went back to her breakfast.

Across from her, Mary asked, “Who was the note from and what did it say? You look awfully pleased.”

“The note was from a friend and it wished me a good day,” Ginny said vaguely, deciding to keep the sender’s identity to herself, at least for now.

“You’re no fun,” Amanda complained.

“Maybe she’s got a secret admirer,” suggested Theresa.

Mary scowled at Theresa. “It’s obvious she knows who sent it, you pillock. Didn’t she just smile at someone sitting down the table?”

“I didn’t see that. I was watching the owl,” Therese pouted.

“All right, you two, Ginny will tell us when she’s ready,” Amanda cut in. “Come on, we need to get to class.”

The next few days were really fun for Ginny because she found herself at the centre of her little group’s conversation every morning when Hedwig brought Harry’s notes and small gifts, like the Chocolate Frogs or a small bar of Honeydukes dark chocolate, her favourite. Tuesday’s wish for luck on her Potions test boosted her confidence, even if Snape’s unfair detention made her mad. She really enjoyed going over her Defence essay with him that night, mostly because she no longer was in awe of him and their conversation flowed quite easily. Wednesday’s note expressed his delight that she would be eating lunch with him, Ron and Hermione, much to her friends’ chagrin. They were somewhat mollified when she told them she had reserved dinner for them. Hedwig brought a short poem on Thursday morning that said,

“The sun shines bright when you smile at me,
Even if the day is dreary.
I really enjoy spending time with thee,
Since I don’t need a spell to make me cheery.”


Harry definitely wasn’t a poet, but just knowing he’d taken the time to compose something special for her meant a lot. That evening, she plopped her bookbag down on the table next to Harry in the common room and spread her belongings out, deliberately irritating Ron. She felt inordinately pleased when Harry expressed his pleasure that she was sitting with them.

Friday, Hedwig’s package caused quite the stir at breakfast. Amanda, Theresa and Mary all knew what was in the long, skinny box and immediately demanded that she open it before she read Harry’s note.

“Come on, Ginny, don’t keep us in suspense,” the three demanded, nearly in unison. “Open it, open it!”

“Absolutely not,” Ginny said, wanting to savour the moment. “My mum always insists on us opening the card first, so that’s what I’m going to do.”

“Gin-ny!” the three whinged.

However, Ginny just smiled and opened the scroll.

Ginny, please meet me in the courtyard after last class. Harry


Ginny knew Harry didn’t need a reply, but Hedwig seemed to think he did. She communicated this with a piercing glare from her beautiful amber eyes and Ginny felt compelled to write an answer.

“Does anyone have a quill and ink handy? I can’t reach my bag,” she said.

Mary dove under the table and came back up with the required items. “Here you are,” she said, handing them over.

Ginny quickly jotted down her response and handed the quill and ink back.

Yes, I’ll meet you in the courtyard after last class. See you then.


Having given her reply to Hedwig, Ginny finally turned to the flower box. Slowly and carefully, mostly to sustain the suspense, she untied the ribbon that held the box together, then lifted the lid to reveal a single, yellow rose. It was a Muggle flower because there were no sparkles or twinkles along the borders of the petals. (Her Great Aunt Muriel grew twinkling yellow roses and had won several prizes for the blooms. Ginny had been tasked on several occasions to weed the rose beds when her behaviour was less than stellar during a visit, so she knew the difference between the Muggle and magical flowers.)

“Oh, Ginny! Does Harry want to be your special friend?” Mary asked.

“Is someone jealous?” Amanda countered.

“I like the modern meaning,” Ginny replied. “Friendship is definitely better than jealousy.”

She looked down the table for Harry, but his place across from Ron was empty. Somewhat disappointed, Ginny read the card enclosed with the rose and discovered a specialized Banishing Charm that would send the flower to her designated spot. She concentrated on the empty space on the floor next to her bedside table and performed the charm. Later that day, she found the rose in an elegant glass vase full of water.

Hedwig continued to bring her notes after she accepted Harry’s invitation to the ball. Sometimes he inquired about her lessons if she had revised with her friends the night before, sometimes he reported on Ron’s half-hearted effort to secure a partner for the evening (he finally asked Eloise Midgen), and sometimes he asked about things like whether she could help him learn to dance so he wouldn’t look stupid when he and the other champions opened the ball.

Ginny had replied to the last query by suggesting they find an empty classroom far away from Fred and George’s usual haunts so they wouldn’t be bothered or teased. They spent several hours locked in an unused classroom near the West Tower over the weekend.

*

“Oh, Mum, was teaching Daddy to dance romantic?” Lily asked.

Startled, Ginny stopped her story. “Whatever makes you think teaching your dad to dance was romantic? He stepped on my toes quite a lot the first day, so I wore a pair of Uncle Charlie’s Quidditch boots the next because they had a steel-toe charm on them the second,” Ginny giggled.

“Just like Al stepped on mine when you were teaching us last summer?” Lily asked with a giggle of her own.

“Just like Al.”

“Did Daddy step on your toes on the night of the ball?”

“Only a few times, and only because he didn’t like being the centre of attention. Once everyone started dancing, he relaxed and we had a great time. So many people came up to us that we spent half the evening talking with friends from all three schools and the other half out on the dance floor.”

“Tell me about what Daddy said when you met him in the common room,” Lily requested. It was one of her favourite parts of the story, so Ginny told her.

“I’ll never forget the look on his face when I came down the stairs…”

“What, Mum, what did he say?”

“He said, ‘Wow, Ginny, you look beautiful!’”

“Did you feel beautiful?”

Ginny hugged her daughter. “Oh, Lily, I did because a very special friend had complimented me without someone prompting him,” she said.

“Do you think someone will ever say something like that to me?” Lily wondered.

“I’m sure of it, darling. Shall I finish the story? It’s getting awfully late.”

“One more thing… was Daddy a gentleman at dinner?” Lily prompted.

Ginny smiled at the question. “He was! I wasn’t expecting your dad to pull out my chair when we reached the table, but he did and he helped me order my meal, and talked mostly to me while we ate. He even talked back to your Uncle Percy when my prat of a brother told him he should have chosen a partner in his own year.”

“Uncle Percy said that?” Lily looked rather angry. “I would have Bat Bogeyed him right then and there!”

“I bet you would,” Ginny chuckled, “but if I had, I would have had to leave the ball and I was having too much fun.”

“Good. Now what about Aunt Hermione? Who was her partner?” Lily asked, changing the subject.

“Her partner was a champion named Viktor Krum. He was from Durmstrang and your Uncle Ron was so incredibly jealous that he picked a row with your aunt in the common room after the ball. Apparently, he had spent the entire evening glaring at Aunt Hermione, wouldn’t dance with poor Eloise, and sulked when she left him to dance with her other friends.”

“Uncle Ron can be a bit mean sometimes,” Lily observed. “But he’s better than Uncle George when he’s in one of his moods. I’m glad you made him stop his pranks tonight, Mum.”

“Me, too,” Ginny agreed. She looked at the clock: one minute to midnight. “Why did you want this story tonight, Lily?”

“It’s the best Christmas story ever,” Lily said with a yawn. “Mostly because it’s how you became really good friends with Daddy, just because he watched that other boy make that Cho girl smile.”

“Yes, your dad learned from his mistakes with her and our friendship was all the stronger for it,” Ginny said. “You know from other stories I’ve told you that a loving relationship has to start somewhere and the Yule Ball was where it began for your dad and me. Your special friendship might not start until after you leave Hogwarts, but someday, Lily, you will find someone special. In the meantime, you’ll be invited to Hogsmeade many times or work with someone for several years before you go out and discover there’s something about him that makes your heart pound every time you see him. Then, you’ll start making memories for stories to tell your own children.”

Lily was silent for a long time and Ginny thought she’d fallen asleep when she said, “I can wait for that, Mum. Thanks for telling me my favourite Christmas story.”

“My pleasure, Lily. Good night,” Ginny said as Lily slipped from beneath the afghan and headed for the stairs.

Ginny picked up her mug and her wand and warmed the cold tea inside. Then, she sat staring at the dying fire while she finished it. That’s how Harry found her when he brought his own tea into the sitting room.

*

“Hey, Gin, I heard you telling the Yule Ball story to Lily,” he said as he settled next to his wife.

“She asks for it every Christmas,” Ginny said as she set her mug down and snuggled into Harry’s embrace.

“What do you think of the odds that both of us would be telling that same story to two of our children on the same day?” he asked.

“If that’s what you and Jamie talked about when you escaped George’s demonstrations, I think they’re rather good,” Ginny said. “Why did you need to tell the story?”

“James just broke up with the girl he liked and couldn’t stop thinking about it. He wondered what he did wrong. I told him my side of the story and he came to his own conclusions that he needs to be more attentive, more supportive, and more willing to compromise than he was with his previous girlfriend,” Harry said.

Ginny tilted her head to the side. “That makes sense. If he learns as well as you did from his mistakes, he’ll have grown up just that much more.”

“I agree,” Harry said. “And Lily?”

“Oh, she wanted to hear the story because to her, it’s a romantic Christmas story that really came true. I think she wants something like that to happen to her,” Ginny said.

“It will,” Harry agreed. “She just needs to stop looking so hard!”

“Yeah, you noticed me when I stopped mooning over you.”

“I did, and I realized that I needed to give sometimes instead of always expecting to get my way.”

“Is that why you started sending me notes at breakfast?”

“Partly, but I was trying to figure out if you were interested in being my friend before I asked you to the ball.”

Ginny patted his knee. “You did all the right things, Harry, and I think I’m the lucky one because I got to marry an incredibly considerate, kind and loving man who makes the best father in all of England,” she said, and Harry could feel his face heat slightly.

He kissed her on the cheek and stood up, offering her his hand. “Care to join me upstairs, luv?”

“I thought you’d never ask,” she said and put out the light with a flick of her wand.


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