After the warmth and cacophony of the Burrow's kitchen, it was a
bit of a relief to duck out into the chill and silent night. So Harry
was dismayed to find that his refuge was already occupied. Ginny was standing
on the porch, her elbows on the railing.
"Sorry," he said, backing up. "I didn't know you were
out here. You must want to be alone."
"It's all right," she said. "You can stay if you like.
Did it get to be too much in there?"
"A bit." He had been invited to the Burrows for the holidays.
The invitation, rendered in you-are-coming-so-it's-really-no-use-arguing
fashion from Mrs. Weasley, had come as a relief. He hadn't been looking
forward to the long weeks wandering about Hogwarts on his own. It wouldn't
have been any fun without Ron or Hermione.
He loved the Burrows--its warmth, its constant energy, its overflow
of people and affection. Sometimes, however, the oppurtunity to be alone
He thought for a moment of retreating back inside the house--perhaps
to Ron's room--or wandering out into the yard, but he found himself cautiously
approaching the railing. Ginny's silence was tacit permission.
Somewhere between her first year and now, she seemed to have gotten
over her red-eared, wide-eyed crush on him. She'd apparently figured out
he was no larger-than-life hero, but just Harry. That was a definite relief,
in some ways--no danger of Valentine dwarves for instance--but it was
also faintly depressing, for some reason Harry didn't want to examine.
She smiled at him, not the reserved smile she'd been using lately,
but open and friendly as her brothers'. He liked it better. "I love
"Even better than Christmas?"
"Even better." She propped her chin in her hands. "It's
a new start, don't you see? A fresh year . . . with no mistakes in it
yet." She wrinkled her nose, and her smile was now wry.
"Why does your family--" He gestured back over his shoulder
into the kitchen.
She glanced back. "Oh. The kissing." She shrugged. "We
always have. It's luck, I think. The twins have an unholy amount of fun
"They seem to have an unholy amount of fun with everything."
"Yes, that too." She slid him a sidelong look. "You've
been complimented, you know. Mum never invites anyone but family for Christmas
and New Year's. Of course, with the Weasleys, that's not as exclusive
as it sounds."
"I feel a bit left out," he told her. "I'm the only
one in there without red hair."
"That can be fixed."
"Oh, no. I've already had an offer, thanks. The--"
"--twins," she finished, and laughed.
Her laugh broke out into the silent newborn hours of the year, as
if it were the first sound. Her hair, so brilliant in the sun, was silvered
in the moonlight.
Impulsively, he leaned over and kissed her on the cheek.
Or he would have, had she not turned her head at the last moment,
her mouth already opening to say something. Their lips met instead.
Their noses bumped, and Harry's glasses slid down, and it was over
in half a second, and Harry wondered wildly if the world would be able
to tell that his brain had melted and run out his ears.
Had a choir of holy angels wafted out of the clouds at that very
moment and started caroling the Hallelujah chorus, Ginny would
not have so much as blinked.
Harry had kissed her.
She stared at him, and he stared back--her romantic cavalier with
shining armor and crooked glasses. After a moment, he opened his mouth,
and she waited breathlessly for his words. Ginny, I need to tell you
something . . . something I've been feeling for such a long time . . .
"Oh, god, I'm sorry."
The angel choir hit a sour note.
Harry backed up, fumbling at his glasses. "I--I didn't mean
that to happen, honestly I didn't . . . I'm sorry . . .
The angel choir gave up in disgust and went back into their cloud.
Ginny felt sick. "It's all right," she said hollowly.
"Are you sure?" He looked at her anxiously.
She made herself smile, but it was a tight, ghastly little smile.
"Yes, of course. I've already forgotten it." Liar. "Why
don't you go in." Before I start screaming.
"Are you going to be all right out here alone?"
"I'll be fine."
He escaped into the house, and she let her head thump down onto the
He stood leaning against the door, breathing as if he'd just escaped
from Voldemort again. Congratulations, Potter, you great prat. That's
got to be a record. Half an hour in and you've already gone and ruined
the girl's perfect New Year.