The Sugar Quill
Author: Splatt & Ada  Story: Burrow Brotherhood  Chapter: Default
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

Burrow Brotherhood: by Ada & Splatt

Summary: It’s Boxing Day in Harry Potter’s 6th year at Hogwarts, and Harry enjoys a brief respite with the Weasley family at The Burrow

Rating: PG – very mild language

Classification: H/G, hint R/H

Disclaimer: All characters and names used in these fics are the legal property and creative work of JK Rowling and/or Warner Bros. We are making no profit from these stories, merely having fun. In other words, please don’t sue us!

~~~

Ottery St. Catchpole was blanketed in a thick coating of frost, so severe it looked like a dusting of snow. A few woodland creatures poked cold noses out into the morning air, sniffed and retreated into the shelter of their dens and burrows. Two particularly persistent robins pecked ineffectually at the frozen ground, hoping to rouse a tasty earthworm from its slumber.

Nestled in the trees, tucked away down a lane from the main village, The Burrow resembled a rather haphazard piece of confectionary, its wooden structure glistening within its icy coating, its crooked rooftops and chimneys thickly glazed with white.

Inside The Burrow, however, all was warm and comfortable. Harry Potter, still trying to accept that he’d just experienced the best Christmas of his life on the previous day, was stretched out on an old, over-stuffed sofa in front of the sitting room fire, flicking absent-mindedly through “Quintessential Quidditch”, his gift from Hermione Granger, one of his best friends.

With a contented sigh, he raised his gaze from the page in front of him and looked around the room. Cluttered as always, with festoons of holly hanging from the fireplace, banks of ivy liberally draped along the staircase and all available shelf space crammed with candles, he didn’t think he’d ever seen a more beautiful home.

Over to the right of the fireplace, where a huge fire roared merrily, stood the Weasley Christmas tree, not dissimilar indeed to the Weasley house - tall and titling perilously to one side, with branches sticking out at all angles, it was a mass of glittering white lights and cluttered with ornaments of all descriptions, some clearly home-made. The overall impression was that this tree represented the family and years of tradition.

Harry grinned to himself: Ron and Ginny Weasley were over by the tree now, sweeping fallen pine needles from the floor, and the sound of Ron’s complaints kept drifting over towards him.

“I still don’t see why we couldn’t wait for Hermione to get here later … she’s of age, she could have done this with magic.”

Harry swung his feet to the ground and leaned back against the squashy cushions, the book resting in his lap. All the Weasleys, except for Percy of course, had come home for Christmas, and none of them seemed particularly keen to leave the comfort and ease of The Burrow this Boxing Day. Somehow, yesterday had managed, despite Percy’s absence, to create an illusion that all was right with the world, and that there wasn’t a war brewing and stirring outside their walls.

Mr. Weasley had not been as fortunate as the rest of them. By early this morning, he’d received two calls via the kitchen fireplace to assist in a couple of Muggle-baiting incidents: an exploding box of mince pies, and Christmas stocking that swallowed people’s hands.

Harry glanced towards the window that looked out over the back garden. Bill and Charlie were sitting outside, playing chess, laughing occasionally and smoking long pipes of Harry knew not what. All he did know was that Mrs. Weasley had banned them from smoking them inside The Burrow, and even the heavy frost outside hadn’t been enough to deter them from enjoying a chance to light up.

Aware of the warm glow in his insides, Harry pondered on Mrs. Weasley. He could hear her now, bustling around in the kitchen, preparing yet another huge meal for numerous people expected that afternoon. Boxing Day visitors were a tradition in the Weasley family, but this had been Harry’s first experience of a big family Christmas, and he felt a sincere gratitude to Mrs. Weasley for making him so much a part of something that he’d never participated in before. As always it was so easy to fall into the Weasley way of life. There was always enough going on to cover any missteps or awkwardness, so Harry had the luxury of feeling at once included in the family, yet still a part of the background.

“Ron, it’s none of your business ...”

“I’m not upset, I won’t make a fuss. I just think I ought to know!”

“Well, I don’t think you ought to know, I don’t think you need to know, and therefore I am not going to let you know.”

Harry suppressed a smile and turned his attention back to his book, trying to shut out the bickering that was taking place on the other side of the room. Ron had been badgering Ginny on the same topic since yesterday morning.

“Ginny, what is the big deal?”

“I don’t know - that’s a great question. What is the big deal with who sent me a gift?”

“That wasn’t just a gift … it was a piece of jewelry … and it looked expensive.”

“And if it was?”

“Well... that means something serious is going on.”

Ginny gave a mock shudder, “Oh no, not something serious. Something serious could only lead to something scary!”

“Does Mum know you have a boyfriend?”

“Do I have a boyfriend?”

“I’d say that’s exactly what jewelry like that means.”

“Or it might mean I have a really nice friend. Either way, I must repeat, it’s none of your business!”

Harry cast Ron a discreet glance: his friend was getting red in the face, never a good sign.

“How ‘bout we play a game of chess,” Ron suggested suddenly. “Winner gets to ask one question, loser has to answer completely truthfully.”

“I’m not sure you want to take that gamble, Ron. It might lead to something scary for you.”

Harry had a feeling the implication behind Ginny’s words had gone straight over Ron’s head.

“Come on Ginny, stop playing around.”

There was a brief silence, and Harry turned a page of his book without looking at it and surreptitiously glanced over at Ginny, waiting.

“Oh, I’m sorry, it looks like we’ve been having a communication breakdown all day - I was never playing around. I know you tried to get Pig to give you my letter, I know you’re still thinking you’re going to get it somehow and I can’t believe you are being such a prat about this. No!” Ginny cut Ron off with a swift broom to his shins. “I swear Ron, one more question and I’m getting out my wand.”

There was a sudden loud ‘crack’, and Fred and George apparated onto the sofa either side of Harry, causing Harry to jump and drop his book on the floor with a loud clatter. Old habits died hard with the twins.

“Better mark her words little bro’,” Fred warned with a smile, stuffing the string of an extendable ear into his front pocket.

“She may look nice and sweet and calm,” George muttered under his breath to Harry, “but she doesn’t make idle threats.”

George nodded at Fred. “What do you say, Fred? I’d say from the speed and efficiency of her sweeping she’s on what ... level eight? ”

“Of ten?” Fred shook his head, “No, no, note how the broom and needles are getting ever closer and closer to Ron’s head every time he bends down. I’d say we’re approaching eleven.”

“In that case, I’d say we should take ourselves elsewhere.” George said smartly.

“Yes, we don’t want anything to happen to our new coats.” Fred agreed, brushing his hand reverently down the purple suede of his sleeve.

With another sharp crack Harry was alone on the sofa again.

Two slightly less sharp cracks later had Harry turning towards the window again. Fred and George had just appeared on the table between Bill and Charlie, and judging from the indignant shouting from the chess pieces, right into the middle of a crucial stage in their game.

Harry laughed to himself, and then stooped down to pick up his book. There was silence over by the tree now; Ron and Ginny were working without speaking, gradually reaching around and under the tree. He was certain that there wouldn’t be quite so many needles to sweep up if Fred and George hadn’t made quite so many gifts explode in their recipient’s faces. Harry let out a gentle sigh, wishing the day could last longer; he knew that after tonight the festivities would be over. The time for putting real life on hold would be finished and they’d be back to facing the reality that was out there.

Shaking off the edges of the mood that threatened to swamp him, he turned his attention back to his friends. He noted that Ginny was indeed working with what appeared to be a calm air, but extremely fast. Ron, on the other hand, was begrudgingly holding the dustpan and casting sharp looks at Ginny every time she got near him with the broom.

This whole fiasco had started yesterday at breakfast, when Pig had flown in carrying a parcel for Ginny. She’d started to open it, and there had been a glimpse of something silver, something heavy, when Ginny had glanced up, becoming aware of the number of pairs of eyes on her. With half a smile, she’d got up and left the room. Despite all Ron’s nagging, she’d refused point blank to say what exactly the gift had been, or whom it had been from.

“Harry!”

Harry blinked rapidly and looked up: Ron was standing up now, holding his back and stretching. With a forced air of nonchalance, he called, “I reckon I’m going to get cleaned up, ready for lunch.”

Harry nodded, resisting the urge to roll his eyes, “All right, Ron, “ he called, then under his breath muttered, “You do that, mate.”

Ron nodded and strolled across the room, the picture of ease, but the subsequent sound of him taking the stairs two at a time betrayed him.

Harry caught Ginny’s eye at that moment; she smiled and raised her eyes to the ceiling, before grinning at him. She picked up Ron’s discarded dustpan, dumped the last of the pine needles into the bin and propped the broom against the wall. Then she crossed the room to join him, picking stray needles from her clothes and, Harry noted, casually dropping them on the floor as she went.

“Ron’s going to try to find that letter in my room,“ she said, sitting down next to him on the sofa. Harry was as surprised as he always was at how easy it seemed for Ginny to switch from one emotion to another. She leaned across him to study the page he was reading. “Do they have any stories on that Chaser from Scotland? Sandy ... something or other?”

Harry cleared his throat, “Err … aren’t you going to stop him?”

Ginny shrugged, “Oh yes, I would think so.”

Harry raised his eyebrows. Ron must have reached her room by now. “So how come you’re sitting here calmly? What are you doing down here still?”

Ginny tilted her head on one side, as if giving the matter some serious thought. “Well, I’m smaller than him you see, so I’m not going to try to wrestle him out of there.” She smiled at Harry again then said, “Look, can I see the index?”

Harry surrendered his book and watched Ginny calmly flicking through the pages until she found what she was looking for.

She glanced up at Harry. His air of puzzlement must have shown on his face, for she added, “You ever wonder what could happen if Hermione’s brilliance was used out of context … perhaps with mischief in mind?”

Harry pondered for a few seconds, then shook his head seriously. “What, like Hermione partnering in Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes? No, no I don’t think the world could handle that.”

“Well, I haven’t unleashed the idea on the whole world yet, but I do think I can safely say Ron will be sorry he went into my room without my permission.”

Harry grimaced and wondered if he should warn Ron that at some point in the very near future he was going to be on the wrong end of a jinx.

“Perhaps I should...”

Ginny shook her head. “No, Harry, don’t bother - you’ll never make it in time... However, seeing as this might cause … a bit of a surprise … I’d better ...” She shoved the book back towards Harry, stood up and crossed the room to the window. With a fierce shove, the pushed it open and yelled, “Bill - you lot - something’s about to happen - don’t worry about it.”

Just as she sat back down on the sofa, a muffled explosion rocked The Burrow. Harry started, but Ginny didn’t even jump. Mrs. Weasley could be heard shouting, “Fred! George!” from the kitchen. Fred, George, Charlie and Bill all threw a glance over their shoulders at the window: Ginny waved to them and with a combined shrug, they turned away again.

Harry stared at Ginny, who continued to read from where she’d left off moments earlier. He tried but couldn’t manage to remain still. ”Err, Ginny, I’m just going to go check on...”

“I wouldn’t actually hurt him, Harry.” Ginny murmured, still deeply engrossed in the book.

Harry sighed and sat back in his seat. He didn’t know why he was so concerned, no one else appeared to be – and to be perfectly honest, Ron had brought whatever it was upon himself – he just couldn’t let things be sometimes.

He turned his attention back to the book where it lay in Ginny’s lap and focused on the page heading, trying hard to ignore the muffled thumps that were now emanating from the upper levels of the house.

“So - Sandy McDougall was the first Scottish woman Chaser to foul both opposing Beaters?”

“Yeah. She’s a legend, Harry. She gained the highest penalty scores at the …”

The bumping noise appeared to have attracted Ginny’s attention at last. She broke off what she had been about to say and looked expectantly towards the staircase.

Seconds later, Ron appeared. He seemed to be experiencing some difficulty getting down the stairs, and Harry suddenly realized why: he was unable to part his legs above the knees, and the only way of getting from one step to the next was to jump. Harry suppressed a grin: that would account for all the thumping noises.

Carefully concealing his amusement, Harry watched as Ron negotiated the final stair with a stumble and turned to face them. His face was flushed from his exertions, and what was more, he had what appeared to be small green things sticking up on his head; Harry could see them in sharp contrast to his flaming red hair. Although he couldn’t be sure from where he was sitting, Harry had a feeling they looked suspiciously like … plant life.

“Ginny!” Ron yelled. “You take this bloody jinx off me NOW!”

Harry turned to look at Ginny, unsurprised to see the smirk on her face.

“Ginny, I’m warning you …”

“You are? Oooh, I think …” Ginny tilted her head to one side and studied Ron thoughtfully, “Yes, I think I’m scared.”

Ron gritted his teeth and started towards them. The only problem was, he could only move each leg forward from the knee down and the sight of his knock-kneed gait as he made slow progress across the room was so in contrast with the determined and angry expression on his face, that Harry struggled to repress a snort of laughter.

“You tell me the damn counter-curse NOW, you cow!” he shouted.

“Ronald Weasley!” Ron froze in his awkward pose. Mrs. Weasley was standing in the kitchen doorway, hands on her hips, glaring at him. “Outside with you, NOW!”

Ron’s mouth opened and closed twice, but nothing came out.

“Outside with the others, Ron! Perhaps the cold air will help cool your temper. I won’t have language like that, not in my house, and certainly not at Christmas!” and when Ron remained where he was, “OUT!” and Mrs. Weasley swept back into the kitchen, slamming the door to behind her.

“But Muuum,” Ron followed her, his loping steps making his head bob up and down as he moved. “It’s Ginny, she hexed me. Tell her, tell HER off.” He turned as he went through the door into the kitchen and hissed over at Ginny, “I’m writing to Hermione RIGHT now. She’ll know how to cure this, and then you just watch out! She’ll be here later, don’t you forget it …”

Harry stared after Ron as the kitchen door swung too again. If he wasn’t mistaken, he was sure the green shoots on Ron’s head had grown taller. Before he could mention this, Ginny caught his eye again.

“Luckily, Hermione is too level headed to hex me for using what she taught me on Ron – and too wary of pushing him too far to tell him it was her invention.”

Harry stared at her, uncomprehending. “What?”

“Well, I mean I’d be worried if it were any other couple.”

Harry frowned. “Couple?”

“Well, not really couple but ... never mind...”

“No, what do you mean?”

“No, really, never mind, I shouldn’t joke.”

“Ron and Hermione?”

Ginny shrugged. “I honestly don’t know if anything will ever come of it, my brother being the clueless pillock that he is... but... well...” Ginny shrugged again. “You can’t tell me they don’t remind you of an old married couple?”

Harry could indeed not deny it. And something Hermione had said to him the previous year... that he was as bad as Ron... almost. And then there had been last Christmas, Ron had given Hermione … perfume? Harry sat up a bit straighter – and this year, Ron had Hermione’s gift under his pillow … he’d said it was to stop anyone jinxing it before she arrived later today … Harry suddenly saw his best friends’ behavior towards each other outside of their relationship with him. His eyes widened, and he laughed. “I’m not sure who I feel sorrier for...”

Ginny started to laugh too, then choked it back as Harry nudged her. They both stood up as a bobbing Ron appeared outside the window. He was obviously trying to enlist the help of his brothers to remove the spell, and judging by the way he was waving his arms about - arms that had started to look suspiciously like branches - not achieving much success. Fred and George were both walking round him as if he was a museum exhibit, nodding at each other, prodding the growth on his head and eventually conjuring up a quill and parchment, which began to take detailed notes on Fred’s instructions.

Bill was drawing on his pipe with some contentment and appeared to be listening with sympathy to Ron’s tirade, but was making no comment, and Charlie’s face was hard to see from where Harry stood, but the fact that he was clapping his hands together in appreciative applause was very clear.

Harry was in two minds about going outside too. He wasn’t sure whether he was being as loyal as he could be, staying here with Ginny. Shouldn’t he be with Ron, trying to help him out? Although he had to say, it really was an impressive bit of magic. Ron was a nice bright shade of green now and those shoots on Ron’s head definitely had buds on them; nice, purple buds …

“Want to know a secret?” Ginny whispered next to him.

Harry turned to look at her and nodded. Perhaps he’d leave Ron to cool off a bit first.

“The counter curse is written inside his Christmas card from me - if he'd just let it sing its song in full, he'd be out of this by now. I’ve been waiting all week for him to make me mad enough to jinx him. I knew he’d need a remedy close to hand.” Harry grinned at her. Ginny was close to being in a class of her own where pranks were concerned. Then he realized that something she’d said had triggered a distant memory, and he narrowed his eyes at her.

“Hey, have you been experimenting with card cures for things for a while?”

Ginny met his gaze openly.

“Yeah, I have. Why?”

“I … er …,” Harry could feel a faint blush steal into his cheeks. Perhaps that hadn’t been such a wise memory to revoke.

“Harry?” Ginny prodded him in the arm. “What? You can’t not finish like that - what made you ask?”

Harry swallowed and cleared his throat.

“I … er, well, I was thinking of the card you sent me – couple of years ago. When I fell off my broom …” he watched Ginny’s expression carefully. She was frowning in remembrance, then her forehead cleared and she smiled.

“Ah, yes. Well, that was one of my very early attempts. I take it it didn’t work?”

Harry shrugged. “Well – it made such a noise I didn’t actually listen to it all the way through … sorry.” Suddenly he felt extremely foolish. He’d had no idea that the card actually had a purpose; he’d just assumed it stemmed from that crush. Talking of which, how come Ginny didn’t seem to have a shred of embarrassment over that, yet he couldn’t think of it without coloring up? Hard on the heels of that thought, another arrived, and before he could stop himself, he’d asked: “Who was the necklace from anyway?”

Ginny returned to the sofa, ensconced herself in the corner and pulled the book back onto her lap. She started leafing through it before answering, “Michael Corner.”

To Harry’s surprise, he found this answer unsettling, almost a shock. He knew that his memory of events just after the Ministry of Magic debacle was unreliable, vague even. But one thing he seemed to have registered and filed away neatly was something said on the train home: Ginny was no longer dating Michael Corner; Cho Chang was dating Michael Corner. For some reason, this had been a comfort at the time, an ending. He’d felt satisfied with that solution … why?

“I’m sending it back of course,” Ginny continued, still perusing the book. “Can’t accept something like that from him.”

“I thought he was with... er... wasn’t with you … any more?” Harry faltered, unsure if the mention of Michael dating Cho was a sore subject.

“He’s not with anyone right now, certainly not me; but the thing with Michael is... he wants what he hasn’t got. It must be a Ravenclaw thing. It’s like a puzzle he wants to solve... right now, I’m his puzzle.” Ginny smiled ruefully, “Only he’s not about to solve me, I can tell you. Did you know Viktor Krum has his own chapter in here?”

“Err, really?”

“Yeah – look! He even talks about his time at Hogwarts! Hey, I wonder if he mentions Hermione … ha! Not by name, but he mentions ‘his fondness for the library’!” Ginny smothered a laugh, “Mustn’t let Ron know or they’ll be back to square one.” She chuckled to herself, continuing to browse the current chapter.

Harry stared at the top of her head, chewing thoughtfully on his bottom lip. What was he doing? Why was he hanging around in here with Ginny – having fun let’s be honest – when his best mate Ron was outside suffering? What was happening to his loyalties?

“Wait! Harry - he mentions you by name - “Harry Potter is an exceptional flier and someone I had the honor of competing against in the Tri-Wizard Tournament. It was a privilege to meet him and his friends.” Oooh, do you think that’s another covert mention of Hermione? Harry?”

“What?” Harry blinked and tried to focus on what Ginny was saying. “I – er – hold on, there was no Quidditch that year, how does he know how good a flier I am?”

Ginny pulled a face at him. “Yeah right, Harry, that stunt with the Hungarian Horntail was pure fluke - it didn’t say a thing about your flying ability!”

Harry stared at her. He was experiencing a strange glow inside and a rare warmth at Ginny’s words. It wasn’t what she was saying, so much as what it was implying: she thought he was a great flier. Why did that make him feel so good?

Suddenly, they were both distracted by a yell from outside and a burst of laughter and applause. Ginny leapt up from the sofa again and they both dashed to the window. The four Weasleys were stood in a circle round Ron, who was now sporting a glorious bunch of colorful flowers on long green stems from the top of his head and out of the tips of his fingers, while his feet seemed to be burrowing into the ground in search of water. The twins were almost crying with laughter.

Ginny sighed happily. “I do love Bill.”

Harry followed her gaze. Bill looked like he was trying to help out - shouting suggestions to Charlie, who was using his wand to prod Ron with great relish.

Ginny continued, “He knows exactly what I’ve done but he’s not letting on.”

“Is Bill your favorite then?”

Ginny smiled mischievously as they watched the Weasley brothers through the frost-speckled panes of glass. “Yeah... but then … only in one way. Most people think that because we’re such a large family we don’t have individual roles or relationships with each other - like we’re a big den of wolves or something. But actually... each of my brothers treats me differently and they all have different … I don’t now … ways of just ‘being’ around each other. Bill, for example, treats me like I’m precious. He’s the only one who does. He’s so much older, he was much more involved in actually looking after me and that hasn’t worn off. Charlie ... well Charlie loves me like a brother…”

Harry laughed. “You’ve lost me …”

Ginny smiled at him. “No, you idiot! He loves me like I’M a brother, like I’m a boy! Charlie was the one who first let me fly his broom. He’s the only one who knew I stole everyone else’s brooms to practice on. The only time he’s ever uncomfortable with me is when my girl-ness is somehow in play. Percy …”

A brief shadow passed over Ginny’s face as she paused briefly. Harry waited.

“Percy tried too hard. He wanted to protect me, he loved me... but ultimately thought he was better than me. Well, let’s face it, Percy thinks he’s better than all of us.” Ginny sighed and pushed a hand through her hair.

“Fred and George – what don’t I owe them? After my first year, they were the ones who were there for me, you know, gave me someone to hang around with ... they took me in without making it look like that’s what they were doing. They probably know me the best.” Ginny’s face was shining with pleasure, watching them through the window. She threw Harry a quick glance. “And Ron – well, Ron and I ... we used to be the closest, but that was more in play than anything else ... Ron would go rounds with Fred and George for me, but we didn’t do a lot of, well, talking ... and that year after he left for Hogwarts and I was here alone …” the glow was fading from her expression.

Harry felt a tightening in his stomach - he knew that feeling, being left behind. He hadn’t realized it, but he’d felt its emptiness all his life – as if he’d been left somewhere else, like he was missing from where he should be – lost. He’d only been able to account for what it was after he found friends and Hogwarts – now it was how he felt every summer, when he was stuck back at the Dursleys.

Ginny had gone silent, staring out into the garden, and he found he didn’t want her to stop talking. He liked listening to her, enjoyed hearing her talk about her family and how she felt about them all.

“What about me?” With horror, Harry realized that the thought that had been foremost in his mind had manifested itself out loud. Nothing he did now could unsay the words and he watched in apprehension and not a little embarrassment as Ginny turned her head to look at him.

“You, Harry?” Ginny studied him in silence for so long Harry wished he hadn’t asked, feeling desperate to divert her attention away from him. “You’re a mix of all of them …” Ginny turned back to the window. “Yet … yet there’s a part of you that’s none of them, at the same time.”

Harry wasn’t sure if that was a comforting response or not. It seemed she meant it kindly, she certainly wasn’t concerned about having to answer such a pointed question - she was casually drawing circles in the condensation on the window. He thought carefully back through what she’d just said about each of her brothers, but then he asked with a grimace, “Even Percy?”

Ginny laughed gently. “Sorry, but, yes... even Percy - sometimes.”

Harry felt stunned. “I don’t think I’m better than you!”

“No? What about when I took over as Seeker.”

“I … I …” Harry mouthed, but Ginny interrupted him before he could say anything.

“You’re right... it’s different because you are a better Seeker - but what about that day when we all wanted to come with you to the Ministry, Harry?”

Harry swallowed to cover up the fleeting rush of guilt that hit him and stared blankly at his feet. She was right. Hadn’t that been one of his first thoughts? ‘Oh no, not Luna, Neville … Ginny’? He was so damned arrogant at times. She was right; damn it, Snape was right.

“It’s okay, Harry. Really.” Harry was aware Ginny had turned round to face him. “Look, perhaps what I mean is, you sometimes don’t give people a chance to prove themselves… which, funnily enough, is also exactly like some of my brothers, trust me.”

Harry followed her back over to the sofa, frowning. He wasn’t sure why the idea of being like a brother to Ginny troubled him, but it did. He sighed; didn’t she have enough damn brothers to be going on with? How did that make him important to her? Harry stopped in his tracks: did he want to be important to her?

He adjusted his glasses, which had a habit of sliding down his nose, and looked down at where Ginny was sitting, back in a corner of the sofa again, flipping through his book - this time with what seemed a distinct lack of interest. But she thought he was like her brothers. That’s all he was to her, yet another brother … at least... that’s what he thought she’d said... sort of. Harry sat down in the opposite corner of the sofa.

“Thanks for letting me look through your book.” Ginny was handing it back to him. Harry gave himself a mental shake and took it from her.

“Oh - it’s okay. Any time.”

“Well,” Ginny started to get up. “The guests will be arriving soon, I think I’d better go and fetch that card for Ron … Mum won’t be too pleased if he’s become a garden fixture by the time everyone gets here!”

“Ginny, wait!” For some reason, he didn’t want her to go yet, and he cast around for something to ask, pulling her back down into her seat. “What did you mean earlier, when you talked about Michael Corner? That it must be a Ravenclaw thing?”

Ginny studied him thoughtfully for a moment. Then she sighed. “Well, Cho … you were her puzzle, too. She didn’t know whether she did or she didn’t want you. So there she was, trying to ‘solve’ you as her own particular puzzle. Only she never could. She doesn’t see you … not the way I do.” And with that she stood up.

Harry frowned and stared at his hands. Not the way Ginny saw him? So how did Ginny ‘see’ him? He felt something against his cheek, and glanced up to see Ginny drawing away from him: she’d kissed him on the cheek. Harry was aware he raised a hand to his face, touched his skin where her lips had pressed.

Ginny grinned at him and pointed above his head. “Mistletoe. I’d move before the twins notice you’re sat right beneath it – you had a lucky escape earlier,” and she headed for the stairs.

“Oh, and Harry?”

Harry turned to look at her, standing with one foot already on the bottom step. He could see she was still grinning, the air of mischief returning.

“Just so you know, I never kiss my brothers under the mistletoe.” And with a wink, she started up the stairs.

THE END
//
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