Chapter 23 : Early Mornings, Packing, and Presents
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I stifle a yawn and try to get the words on the page to make sense. But it’s not use, as the most they do is blur together, as if they are one big blob of ink. Shaking my head, I blink a couple times. The words appear back on the page for only a few moments before they become a blob again. I sigh, realizing this is the consequence to staying up late on a Friday night and being forced out of bed at some ungodly hour in the morning.
“Morning Hail Storm.”
The voice startles me out of my attempts to decipher the words in my textbook, almost making me drop it onto the floor. My eyes immediately shoot around the mostly empty common room until they focus on George as he drops onto the couch next to me.
“Morning,” I say in response to his chuckle, immediately close my textbook and pushing it aside.
“You seem nice and alert,” He murmurs as I curl into his warm side, resting my head on his shoulder.
“Hmmmm,” I say in agreement, closing my eyes as his lips press against the top of my head.
“How long have you been up?” He asks, putting his arm around my waist.
“Uhhh…what time is it now?” I ask, pushing my hair out of my face.
“Almost 10:00,” He says.
I groan. “Two and a half hours.”
“Why?” He asks when he realizes I’m not going to explain without prompting.
“My dorm mates hate me, I think,” I say.
His body shakes as he chuckles. “They got up early to pack.”
It’s more of a statement than a question, but I feel the need to answer. “Yes. Of course they did, especially at some god awful time in the morning.”
“And the silencing charm you could have put around your bed?” The way he says the question really makes me want to smack him.
“I’m stupid enough not to think of something as smart as that,” I say, opening my eyes and sitting up enough to glare at George.
He can’t help but laugh at my expense. “You are a student at Hogwarts, which is a school or magic, correct?”
“Shut it,” I say, poking him in the chest. “You would have never thought of that after only sleeping for 5 hours.”
“Yeah, because I would have done the charm before I went to sleep,” He says, the smirk on his face telling me he’s not just going to let it go.
“Why don’t you go back to sleep? I can go back to suffering through transfigurations,” I say, sitting up and trying to scoot away from him.
He laughs, wrapping his other arm around my waist so I can’t move. I try to wiggle free, but he just adjusts his hold on me so his lips are mere inches from mine.
“Would you really want me to do that?” his eyes glitter mischievously which counteracts the innocent tone he’s trying to uphold.
Rolling my eyes and still trying to find a way to get free, I say, “Yes. You’re being mean.”
He lowers his lips to mine, kissing me. His lips move gently against mine and he waits until I start kissing him back before he pulls away. “You really think so?”
“Yes,” I say breathlessly, instantly realizing what game he’s playing.
He hesitates for only a second after I say yes before kissing me again. “Hmm, I think you’re over exaggerating,” he says, his lips moving against mine as he speaks.
“Definitely not,” I respond, shaking my head slightly to try to clear my thoughts, which has the opposite effect because he’s so close.
“Well,” He pauses for no more than a second before his lips are against mine, moving roughly, clearing even the simplest thought from my mind.
By the time he finally pulls away, I’m gasping for air and my head feels like it’s spinning in circles at ninety miles an hour. He doesn’t seem quite as breathless as me as his lips slowly move up my jaw, until they’re pressed right below my ears.
“Still feel the same way?”
Goose pimples explode down my neck and back as his hot breath caresses the skin behind my ear.
“Yes…no…I don’t know,” I say, gasping for air as I try to figure out what he’s talking about.
He brings his lips back to mine and kisses me again, before resting his forehead on mine, smiling as I struggle to get my breathing back to normal.
“You cheat,” I say after I catch my breath.
“Just following rule number four,” he grins.
“Yeah, use my own rule against me,” I say with a smile.
“It worked, didn’t it?” He laughs when I glare at him. “I’m also hoping that rule will be enough to get you to help me.”
“Help you?” I ask, raising an eyebrow as he kisses the tip of my nose before leaning back.
“I have to pack still,” He says, and I groan.
“What makes you think I’m going to want to help with that?” I ask, crossing my arms.
“Because you love me. And would like to spend more time with me before I leave for the next two weeks,” He says, smiling because he knows he won already.
“You don’t play very fair, do you?” I pout.
“Oh, perfectly fair,” He smiles, touching a finger to my lips. “As long as you’re talking about my rules.”
“Your rules are called cheating,” I say as he gets to his feet and offers me a hand.
“If you say so,” He says as I take his hand.
He pulls me to my feet and I grab my transfigurations textbook off the couch. I follow George up the stairs to the boy’s dormitories and a small ball of anxiety twists in my stomach as we make it to the 5th year boy’s dormitory.
I take a deep breath as I follow him into the dormitory and to his bed. I plop down on the end of his bed and feel his eyes on me as I glance around his room.
It’s exactly like I figured it would be: disastrous. Clothes and books are scattered all over the floor; Pillows and blankets are haphazardly laying on the edge of the other three beds, which are covered in different gadgets. Boxes line the far wall and I can’t help but wonder what’s in them.
“Sorry about the disaster,” he says, glancing around as he sits down next to me.
I shake my head smiling. “I honestly sort of expected it.” He looks at me as if I’m insane, causing me to giggle. “I’m not kidding.”
“Well, then it’ll be no surprise that I haven’t even started packing,” he says.
“Pretty much,” I say, glancing around again before looking back at him. “Where would you like to start?”
“Hmmm.” He looks thoughtfully around the room. “Over there?” He indicates the biggest pile of clothes in the room.
“Kay, have fun. I’ll sit and watch.” I smirk.
He gives me a mock-outraged look. “You’re not helping?”
“Of course not.” I shrug, as if it’s obvious.
He crawls closer to me. “You’re really funny.”
“I know.” I can’t help but smile.
He brushes his lips past mine. “You packing or folding?”
“You can pack. I’ll fold. It’s less work.” I smile as he gets up and crosses the room to the pile of clothes.
He picks up a huge armful of clothes and brings it back, dropping it next to me on his bed. “If you say so.” He smiles, starting to collect text books from around his room.
“Is this the last of it?” I ask half an hour later as I hand him the fourth pile of clothes I’ve folded.
He glances around the room, his eyes pausing at every pile of clothes still on the floor. “Yeah, I’m pretty sure that’s it for my stuff. The rest is Fred’s.”
“How do you guys even know whose is whose?” I ask, falling back on George’s bed. “It’s all over.”
“Oh, we just strategically place our piles. My shirts are in the same pile as his school robes, his shirts are in with my pants. It’s really not that complicated.”
I sit back up, looking at him skeptically. “Seriously?”
He holds a straight face for another two seconds before a grin spreads across his face. “Of course not.” He laughs.
“I was hoping you were kidding,” I say, shaking my head even though a smile is on my face.
“Oh, I’m totally surprised you bought that response in the first place,” he says as he puts the last shirt into his trunk.
“Shut it,” I say, my eyes narrowing slightly. He just smirks, causing me to shake my head again. “Anything else you need packed?”
“I’m pretty sure that was it…unless the red book is sitting over on that bed,” he says, pointing towards the bed directly across from us.
I look at where he points and see the red book half tucked underneath the blankets. “It’s definitely over there,” I confirm.
“Can you go get it?” He asks, and then adds when I raise an eyebrow at him, “Please?”
I roll my eyes. “Yeah, I’ll go get it.”
I sigh as I get up off of his bed. I stretch, raising my arms above my head while stifling a yawn. I then carefully pick my way across the room, avoiding all of Fred’s stuff on the floor.
I glance towards the box on that bed, noticing the brightly colored wrappers in the box. I then pick up the red book, which I now realize has writing on the front. Schematics. In bold, black letters.
I throw a questioning look at George as I make my way back to his bed. I stop at the foot of his bed and lean against the bottom bed post, examining the front and back covers of the book. I see George hold his hand out for the book from his position on the floor, but don’t make a move to give it to him.
“What’s this?” I ask, trying to keep my voice innocent.
“Stuff,” he says and I know instantly he doesn’t believe my innocent tone.
“What kind of stuff?” I ask, smiling innocently as I look up at him even though I know he doesn’t buy it.
He opens his mouth and then hesitates. I can tell he’s trying to find out a way to get the book away from me without telling me what it is. “Boring stuff,” he finally replies.
“Hmmm…I didn’t know schematics were boring,” I say, a smile creeping on my face as I run my fingers along the pages of the book.
“Hailey,” George says, warning clear in his voice.
“George,” I say sweetly as he slowly gets to his feet.
“Give me the book,” he says, taking a half step towards me.
I take a half step back. “Why?”
“Because you don’t need it,” he says, rolling his eyes as he realizes I’m not going to give in so easily, especially when I have a bunch of prank ideas in my hands.
“I have to disagree,” I say, flipping open the cover to reveal the first page. Disappointment threatens to flood my system as a blank page could mean he has a charm on it so I can’t read. But that feeling quickly disappears as I can make out the blank ink on the next page.
“Hailey,” George says as he takes another step towards me with his hand outstretched.
I back up and side step, so I’m standing in between Fred and George’s bed. I then flip to the next page, which has something written on it about fake wands.
“You know what’s highly entertaining about this?” I ask with a smile.
“You’re going to give me the book back?” He asks hopefully.
I shake my head no. “You didn’t put a charm on the book so I couldn’t read it.”
I can’t help but giggle as his eyes narrow, realizing I’m using his own tactics against him. I then take another step back and turn another page. I barely have enough time to glance at the page before I’m knocked backwards onto Fred’s bed with George on top of me.
I barely manage to keep the book in my hand as I snap it closed and hold it as far over my head as I can. George reaches for it, but surprisingly can’t quite grab it.
“Give me the book,” he says sweetly, shifting his weight slightly.
“Ummmm…no?” I offer with a slight smile, knowing this won’t last long.
“I’m not asking,” he says.
“I don’t take well to commands,” I say, and proceed to laugh from the half-shocked look on his face.
He takes a moment to recover, in which I try to wiggle free, but fail.
“You’re not going to give me the book?” He asks, and I can see the plotting going on in his head.
I cautiously shake my head no.
“Then you leave me no choice,” he says, leaving me wonder for a second what he means before he starts tickling me.
I shriek and squirm, trying to get out of his reach at the same time as keep the book away from him. The problem is, he doesn’t let me move more than an inch AND he doesn’t let me gain enough ground to even attempt to tickle him back.
“Stop, please,” I giggle pushing one of his hands away from me.
“Will you give me the book?” He asks, pausing for a moment with a smirk on his face.
“No,” I say, cueing him to start tickling me again.
Just as I reach the point of giving up because I can’t breathe from all the tickling, a voice sounds from the doorway. “Bloody hell! You couldn’t put a warning on the door or anything?!”
George stops tickling me and both our eyes shoot towards the door. I can’t help but laugh breathlessly at Fred, who is all but jumping up and down in the doorway rubbing his eyes furiously looking like a four year old. Then his words run through my head again, momentarily confusing me.
I mean, it’s just George and I in the dorm room. Alone. On Fred’s bed. With George straddling my waist and tickling me while attempting to get the book out of my hand. While I’m trying to break free. Which is probably not what it looks like….
“It’s not what you think,” George says, following my train of thought almost exactly as he moves off of me.
“What the bloody hell should I be thinking?!” Fred says, still keeping his hands over his eyes.
“That I may have stole the prank schematic book,” I offer, holding the book up as I sit up.
“And I was attempting to get it from her before she read it. And figures out all of our…plans,” George says, easily snatching the book from my hand as Fred peeks through his fingers.
“You honestly want me to believe that?” Fred asks, looking between the two of us with one eye skeptically.
“Would you like to believe what you were thinking we were doing on your bed?” I ask, causing him to smack his hands over his ears.
“Shut up, shut up, shut up! I don’t want to hear it!” he says loudly, shaking his head.
“Hailey,” George grumbles under his breath, sending a warning look my way. I just shrug with a small smile, causing him to roll his eyes.
“Did you need something from us?” George asks, getting up and putting the Schematic book into his trunk before closing and locking it.
Fred hesitates, looking suspiciously at me, before taking his hands away from his ears. “I was going to pack. But I can come back later an-”
“Go ahead and pack. We were actually just leaving,” George says, looking back at me.
I smile innocently as I get up and slip my hand into his. He shakes his head and rolls his eyes before pulling me towards the door.
“I’m sure that’s just what you were doing,” Fred mumbles under his breath as he takes a couple steps into the dorm so George and I can get out of the door.
“Remember…your bed,” I mutter, quiet enough for only Fred to hear before I follow George willingly out the door.
Fred makes a gagging sound and I can’t help but laugh as George leads me down the stairs to the common room. I push my Transfigurations textbook onto a table by the portrait hole before George leads me out of it.
“Should I ask what you said to deserve that?” George asks, starting down the left corridor.
“Probably not,” I smile when he give me a look.
“Why doesn’t that surprise me?” he shakes his head as I fall into step next to him, our fingers intertwined.
I shrug. “It shouldn’t.”
“Good. Because it didn’t,” he assures me as he stops midway down a corridor to enter a secret passage way I didn’t even know existed.
At the other end of the secret passage way, he turns right and then takes another secret passageway before the end of the corridor. Which I also didn’t know existed. Which is really unsurprising, since Fred and George both seem to know how to get to one place a million different ways.
At the end of this passage way, George turns right again. He follows the corridor as it curves left and then stops in front of a clear window. I hesitate at his side too before releasing his hand and taking a couple steps forward. I place my hands on the window sill and look out over the grounds of Hogwarts.
The Quidditch pitch is farther off in the distance to the left. The stands and goal posts each have a fresh layer of snow on them, as it snowed pretty much all day yesterday. But the pitch has some indents in the snow, which I can surprisingly see from here. Off to the right more, the Black lake, partially ice covered, is visible. The giant Squid broke the ice closest to the forest, where he’s splashing the icy water towards the forest. I presume he’s launching the water at some creature, but from this angle it is impossible to tell.
Looking around the grounds themselves, miniature looking students dot the white ground closest to the castle. Every once in a while a blur of white is visible, telling me where snow ball fights are going on. But past the small area right in front of Hogwarts, the snow is untouched. It looks so delicate and even more beautiful when it glimmers from the sun peeking out between the clouds.
As I take in the beauty of the Hogwarts grounds, George comes up behind me and wraps his arms around my waist. I put my hands over his and lean back against him.
“It’s so pretty,” I murmur, entranced by white world outside the window.
“I figured you’d think so,” George says softly, pressing his lips to the side of my head.
“What floor are we even on?” I ask after a couple moments of silence.
“That’s classified,” He says, a smile clear in his voice.
“There’s no way I could convince you to tell me?” I ask, turning in his arms to face him.
“Hmmm, no,” he says thoughtfully.
“Well it was worth a try,” I shrug, smiling softly.
“It wouldn’t be you if you didn’t attempt it at least once,” He chuckles softly, lowering his lips to mine.
He kisses me softly, his lips moving slowly over mine and I can’t help but notice how warm his lips feel against mine. This warmth quickly spreads throughout my entire body, followed by small waves of electricity that come from every place his body touches mine.
I bring my arms up around his neck and pull him closer, mixing the scent of my flowery shampoo with the strange but enticing smell that surrounds him; a combination of freshly mowed grass, rain, and a slight hint of peppermint.
Just as I start to feel as if I could continue kissing him forever, he breaks his lips from mine, though not moving more than an inch away from me.
“Do you really have to leave?” I say breathlessly, as soon as I gain my mind back.
“Yeah. I do. But it’ll only be two weeks. And the time will fly by,” he assures me for what has to be the billionth time.
“I sure hope so,” I murmur, playing with the hairs on the back of his neck.
“It will,” He says, pausing for a moment before continuing. “And since I’ll be gone for Christmas, I have your present.”
“Not going to make me wait?” I ask, raising an eyebrow and smiling as I withdraw my hands from around his neck.
He lets go of my waist and pulls a small box from his pocket. He smiles softly at me before sitting down with his back against the wall of the corridor. I don’t even hesitate as I sit down next to him.
“I wouldn’t get to see your reaction otherwise.” He smiles, putting his right arm around me.
“Well…if you’re allowed to give me something early,” I reach into the pocket of my hooded sweatshirt and pull out box that is just a little bit smaller than the one he has.
“Sounds fair. But you first,” he says, handing me the small box.
I place my boxed gift for him next to me, before taking the one he hands me. I look at him as I start tipping the box in different directions, getting an idea at what could be wrapped inside. I know it’s something small, because the box is pretty light. It also sounds like there could be another box inside of it.
“This isn’t a box inside of box inside of box thing, is it?” I ask, raising my eyebrow.
“No, but thanks for the idea for next time.” He laughs when I roll my eyes.
I flip the box over and tear the paper away from the box. The box itself is white with very elegant green and red designs on it. After a couple moments of examining it, I realize the lines of color actually move to where they spell out Merry Christmas on the top of the box. I can’t help but smile as I peel the tape off of the box so I can take the lid off.
On the inside of the box is a black velvet jewelry case. It’s bigger than what would be used for a ring, but not quite as long as the one with the bracelet I got for my birthday was in. I hesitate for a second before carefully scooping it out of the box, which I set aside. I then slowly pull open the case to reveal a delicate gold chained necklace with a clear stone loosely shaped like a heart, with millions of different ridges on it.
“This is beautiful,” I say softly, brushing my fingers over the stone.
George stays quiet for a couple moments. “It made me think of you when I saw it,” he says softly.
“What type of stone is this?” I ask, glancing at him before returning my eyes to the necklace.
“It’s not actually a stone at all,” he says, smiling when I look at him. “It’s an actual piece of hail that has a charm on it so it’ll never melt. It also wasn’t shaped; it was found and made into a pendent as is.”
“That is…” I shake my head at a loss for words.
I carefully remove the necklace from the box, and hold it in my open hand. As I tilt my hand back and forth, the piece of hail moves back and forth across my palm. I’m surprised it doesn’t feel cold, yet I wouldn’t really figure it would be with the charm on it.
“You wanna help me?” I ask, offering him the necklace.
He carefully takes it and undoes it. I pull my hair up off my shoulders and he quickly clasps it. I touch the pendent before turning towards George.
“Thank you,” I say, pressing my lips against his.
“It’s just as beautiful as you,” he smiles, twisting a lock of my hair around his finger and back out of my face.
“You’re amazing,” I say, kissing him again before picking up his present. “You’re turn.”
He takes the box from me and shakes it lightly. I can’t help but giggle at the confused expression that shows on his face when no noise comes from the box. He starts turning the box in different directions and then holds it up to his ear as he shakes it.
“You know it’s not a bomb?” I giggle after a couple moments of watching him.
“You’re sure of that?” He asks, looking serious for only a couple seconds before smiling.
He then flips over the box and tears the paper off of it. I lean back against the wall as he fights with the tape. I watch him suffer for a couple seconds and just as I’m about to offer help, he manages to get it off.
“Careful, I heard tape is mighty tricky,” I tease lightly.
He turns towards me and sticks the piece of tape he got off the box on my forehead. He proceeds to laugh when I glare at him, and it takes me only seconds to start laughing with him as I pull the tape off my forehead. I stick the tape to the wrapping paper beside me as he turns his attention back to the box.
I watch as he pulls the lid off the box and pulls back the piece of cloth, exposing a military style dog tag. I can’t help but smile as he pulls it out of the box and examines both sides, finding his name on one side and the number four on the other.
He glances at me. “How’s it work?”
I smile, impressed that he actually knew there was more magic to it then what he could see. “Trace the four with your finger.”
He does so, and the second his finger leaves the metal, an image of a tree with the words Merry Christmas on it appears. He glances at me and then looks back at the metal in his hands.
In a second, the image transforms from the tree to George and I in the hospital wing, back when JeNaski hit me with a bludger. Our voices can clearly be heard, though they’re very quiet, of a conversation about some summer adventure George had. The talking continues and then my laugh rings out from the image in the metal.
And as my laugh fades, the picture swirls out of sight, quickly replaced by George and me standing in the trees in Hogsmeade in the pouring rain. We kiss, and both pull away smiling widely at each other.
I look at George’s face to see he’s completely fascinated by what I created. I continue to watch his eyes light up as the image fades to him twirling me around in the Room of Requirement after my birthday party. I hesitantly let my eyes go back to the metal in his hands as it again fades to show flashes of memories of the times we’ve used rule number four [more snogging] against each other.
This fades into George plowing me over in the snow just a couple weeks ago. Both of our laughs ring out from this little piece of metal, making it seem as though it was happening again right now.
After this image fades, another one of me smiling in the common room comes up. I pick up a piece of paper from outside of the viewing range and unfold it in front of my face. It reads I love you, with a small smiley face drawn next to it. At that point, the image fades and the number four reappears on the military dog tag.
I smile as he turns to look at me, amazement clear on his face.
“You like it?” I ask.
“It’s amazing. I don’t know how you did it, but it’s just….thank you,” He murmurs, slipping the chain over his neck.
“You can also add more memories to it, which I can teach you how to do,” I say, as he turns towards me, placing his hands on either side of my face.
“You’ll have to….later,” He says, and then his lips connect with mine, making any further conversation unimportant.
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