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Chapter 27 : Year 3: New Year
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Ginny was a morning person; she loved those quiet moments when it felt like the rest of the world was still asleep, and she was the only one up. She loved strolling down the streets of Holyhead and seeing nothing but closed blinds and dark windows. She loved the frosty air in the autumn that never seemed to be quite as fresh later in the day, as if she was the first one to breathe in the new air of that day, and the little drops of dew glittering in the grass as the sun rose in the summer. Even on a day like this particular one, when she wouldn’t even step outside because of the weather, she liked the feeling of waking up before her alarm rang, while Harry was still sleeping silently next to her, and how she could almost feel the opportunities and chances of the day poke her toes, waiting for her to get up and grab every single one of them.
In a minute, she would get up and fix breakfast. Perhaps she’d bring it upstairs and have it in bed – after all, it was the twenty third of December, which was sort of worth celebrating. Then she’d get dressed, drag Harry to Diagon Alley and find Teddy the perfect gift (because Harry still hadn’t done it, even though she had told him to a million times). She was responsible for getting Hermione and Ron something, and he was responsible for Teddy. That had been the deal, but Ginny feared that the poor little boy would end up without a gift if she wouldn’t step in. Not that she minded, of course. She loved an excuse to go to Diagon Alley, especially just before Christmas. All of the storefronts would be beautifully decorated, everyone would be in their best festive moods and even though it would surely be overcrowded with last minute shoppers, there was a chance that they’d run into some of their old friends.
Excited about the prospect of a perfect winter’s day in London, Ginny was just about to get up on her feet and sneak downstairs to prepare breakfast when Harry mumbled something next to her, turned around and put an arm around her. She giggled as he pressed his cheek against hers, and then he opened that pair of eyes that she loved so much and smiled.
“Good morning,” he whispered.
He kissed her cheeks, her chin, and then her mouth. Ginny wrapped one arm around him, and allowing the other one to stroke his hair, she closed her eyes and pressed her body against his. He let out a moan of satisfaction before suddenly pulling away from her.
“What?” she asked, her brown eyes twinkling. “Didn’t enjoy it?”
“Of course I did,” he said. “I was just thinking… I think you should sell this place.”
“Sell it?” Ginny furrowed her eyebrows. “What’s wrong with it?”
“Nothing’s wrong with it,” Harry answered. “I just… I want this. Every morning. I want to wake up to you every morning.”
Ginny rolled over, so that she was closer to him. Wrapping her arm around his waist, she lifted her head and looked up at him. Her heart fluttered as she said:
“Are you asking me what I think you’re asking me? I mean… are you asking me to move in with you?”
“Yes. I think I am.” Harry smiled nervously. “Unless you think it’s too soon. I mean, I feel like we’re ready, but if you think it’s too soon, you can just ignore–“
“I would love to.”
“What?” said Harry foolishly.
“I would love to move in with you.”
Harry laughed, as if he couldn’t believe that she had agreed to do it. Then, he pulled her closer again and began kissing her, even more passionately – she could feel the heat spread from him and onto hear, throughout her entire body, and he slid his hands under her nightgown… There was something so magical about the way his hands felt on her skin, and she wanted it go on forever…
But she interrupted him. “It’s the day before Christmas Eve,” she said reluctantly. “Diagon Alley closes early, and we have to get Teddy something.”
Harry sighed as he nodded. “I knew I’d regret not doing that after work yesterday…”
“We should have breakfast.”
Harry glanced at her alarm clock. Then, he placed one hand next to her head and the other one on her other side, and he lunged himself over her. Her heart pounded in her chest as he grinned at her.
“I think breakfast can wait for just a little bit longer,” he said.
She grinned back at him, grabbed the collar of his pyjama shirt and pulled him closer to her. “Yes, I think you’re right…”
It was snowing in London too. Hermione literally took a leap out of bed when she realized this, and then she clapped her hands together in delight. She had never grown out of wishing for white Christmases or getting that special, magical Christmas spirit as soon as the calendar read ‘December’. Now, she rushed past the bed to look out, grinning widely as she rested her elbows on the windowsill. Large snowflakes were whirling slowly to the ground, and a thin layer of white covered the cars that were parked down on the street. A man walking his dog passed by on the sidewalk, leaving dark footprints in the fresh, glistening snow behind him.
Hermione glanced over her shoulder at Ron, who was still sleeping. A faint smile pulled the corners of his lips upwards, and she was just trying to imagine what he might be dreaming about when a thought hit her. There was one gift hidden downstairs that she had yet to wrap. They would leave for the Burrow early next morning, so she wouldn’t have time for it then. And besides, she thought as she stuck her feet into her slippers, it would be best to do it before Ron woke up.
A few minutes later, as she sat down in the kitchen and cut off a piece of the dark red wrapping paper, Hermione though of her relationship. She and Ron had fought a lot lately, more than they ever had. But it was Ron’s fault, she thought as she rolled up the rest of the wrapping paper. He was the one who couldn’t stand the thought of her being friends with Draco Malfoy. It was Ron who was being narrow-minded, unreasonable and stubborn, who refused to believe that Draco had the ability to change. Sometimes, Hermione found it hard to believe that he was the same Draco as the one they had grown up with. She didn’t get along as well with any of her other co-workers as she did with Draco – he was actually nice, and he was so committed to their work. In fact, he had done nothing to indicate that he still believed in the use of the dark arts or oppressing the weak – he was doing the exact opposite by helping form a better life for house-elves. Hermione often thought of him as the living proof of the fact that second chances were worth it, that sometimes, people did change. If only Ron could have seen it too…
Hermione nearly fell off her chair, and the scissors she was holding slipped and cut into her finger. She grimaced as she felt the stinging pain, and she grabbed the silvery blue, knitted scarf she was wrapping and threw it under the table. Then, she turned her head to meet Ron’s eyes. He looked so tired that, for a moment, Hermione thought he resembled a zombie – a zombie with red hair, even messier than Harry’s, dressed in a dark brown dressing gown, of course.
“Did I scare you?” Ron said. “Sorry. Look, you’re bleeding!” He grabbed her arm and examined her index finger. Then, his eyes swept over the table – the wrapping paper, the golden satin ribbon and the rusty scissors. “Oh. Were you wrapping my gift?”
“No, it’s not for you,” Hermione said. “Will you get me some Essence of Dittany? From the medicine box in the cabinet…”
Ron nodded. A while later, after he had dabbed the brown, cold liquid on her finger and watched as fresh, pink skin grew over the wound, he straightened up and looked at the table once again.
“This is why you shouldn’t use Muggle scissors,” he said and waved his wand to make the small blood stains disappear from the tablecloth.
“You know what I’m like,” Hermione said. “I want to wrap gifts the proper way, not using Magic. It’s tradition – that’s how I’ve always done it.”
“Yes, but they’re like bloody weapons,” Ron said, glaring at the scissors as if they had deliberately hurt her. “Who was it for, anyway? The gift. I mean, since you didn’t want me to see it…”
Hermione hesitated, but deciding that she didn’t want to give him another reason to be angry with her, she stuck to the truth. “It’s for Draco.”
“He’s the only Draco we know, isn’t he?”
Ron bent down and pulled the scarf out from underneath the table. “Did you knit this yourself?”
“Yes,” said Hermione calmly. Suddenly, she was nervous – not because she had done anything wrong, but because she really didn’t want to fight just before Christmas.
“A blue one? Don’t you think he’d prefer green or silver?” said Ron jeeringly.
“Well, if you must now, I chose this colour because it matches his eyes!” said Hermione irritably and leaned forwards to tear the scarf from his hands.
Ron pulled it out of her reach. “It matches his–? Hermione, are you hearing yourself? How can someone go from hating a person all of their life to knitting scarfs that match that person’s eyes? Why don’t you just go ahead and leave flowers by Voldemort’s grave while you’re at it?”
Hermione’s eyes narrowed; how did he always know what buttons to push to make everything worse? “Ronald Weasley,” she hissed between her clenched teeth. “Don’t you dare compare Draco to Voldemort!”
“Why not? They fought for the same team, didn’t they?”
If Hermione’s eyes had been narrowed before, they were only thin lines now, and they had never been as dark as they were when she shot her boyfriend one final dark look, tore the scarf from his hands and stormed out in the hall. Completely ignoring Ron’s voice, suddenly soft and pleading (“Hermione, wait! Don’t go, I didn’t mean–“) she walked out the door and slammed it close before hurrying down the stairs and into the beautiful, cold December morning.
Ginny skipped from her seat in the kitchen and over to the hall after hearing the doorbell ring. Harry, who remained sitting at the table, laughed at her good-humour while stirring his cup of tea, and she smiled.
“You’re the only one I know who’s ever this cheerful this early in the morning,” he said.
“It’s Christmas Eve tomorrow,” Ginny answered over her shoulder. “How can I not be happy?” She opened her front door. “Hermione!”
“Can I come in?” Hermione looked like she was going to burst into tears any minute. Little, white snowflakes were already melting in her hair, and the cold had coloured her cheeks red. Ginny stepped aside to let her in.
“Who was it?” Harry called from the kitchen. He sounded like he had his mouth full of food, and Ginny rolled her eyes while dragging Hermione inside.
“Is something wrong?” she asked. “I mean, what happened?”
“Your brother happened,” Hermione sighed.
The two of them walked out into the kitchen, and Harry lit up before noticing the look on his friend’s face, whereupon he became serious again. Ginny mouthed “Ron,” and he nodded quickly.
“Do you want me to take out another plate, Hermione?” he asked.
Hermione’s eyes swept over the table and the feast that they had laid out on it – pancakes, waffles, bread, fruits, bacon and fried eggs… She smiled. “It does look pretty good,” she admitted.
While Harry stood up and started poking about in the kitchen cabinets, Ginny and Hermione sat down. As she poured tea in her best friend’s cup, Ginny asked:
“So what did he do this time?”
“The same thing he always does nowadays,” Hermione said. “Which is getting angry at me for being friends with Draco. This morning, he walked in on me wrapping Draco’s gift…”
“You’re giving him a present for Christmas?” asked Harry, his eyebrows furrowed. Then, noticing the look Ginny shot him, he added: “I mean… go on.” He placed an empty plate, knife and fork in front of her before sitting back down.
“I’m not asking Ron to forgive him too,” Hermione said. “But how can he tell me that I can’t? Really, you should see how different Draco is… we’re actually having fun together. And he seems passionate about what we do, for real. I think it’s his way of making amends… you know, helping those who are helpless – the house-elves, I mean – to make up for what he did, in a way.”
“I see what you mean, Hermione,” Harry said. “It’s just… think about what the Death Eaters took from Ron.”
He was right, Ginny thought. How could Ron ever accept a Death Eater, when it was the Death Eaters who had taken Fred from them? In all honesty, she had no idea why Hermione had decided to believe that Draco Malfoy had gone through a complete personality makeover since the war. It just didn’t seem real. She knew that Harry spoke of him in a friendlier tone since then too, but Ginny didn’t buy it. How could anyone who had been raised by Lucius Malfoy be anything but evil?
“I’ll talk to him,” Harry said and took a last sip of his tea. “You two can’t be fighting this close to Christmas. Of course, it’s not up to him who you choose to forgive and not, Hermione, but just… try to see where he’s coming from too, okay?”
He bent down, gave Ginny a quick kiss, patted Hermione’s shoulder, and disappeared.
Christmas passed in a blur of happy faces, Mrs Weasley’s ever so delicious food, and glittering decorations. Hermione and Ron managed to stay clear of the subject of Draco Malfoy, and other than Percy, who was moping around because Audrey had decided to spend Christmas with her own family, everyone was full of joy and cheer (and food). Teddy was absolutely thrilled over his gift from Harry and Ginny – an entire miniature Quidditch team, complete with a small Quidditch pitch, Quaffle, Snitch and Bludgers. The players flew around just like in the real version of the game, and the Chasers passed the Quaffle between each other. In fact, it was hard to tell who was more fascinated by it – Teddy, Ron or Angelina.
The week after Christmas rushed by, and then it was New Year. The Ministry of Magic arranged a huge party for all of the employees, and Ron and Hermione were going, Harry was bringing Ginny as his date, and if Mr Weasley’s retelling of previous New Year parties there were true, they were all looking forward to a magical night.
Once Hermione had thrown her pinch of Floo Powder into the fireplace of the Burrow and disappeared, Ron followed her example. A thousand fireplaces, all over England, flashed before his eyes before he spotted Hermione from behind and stepped out into the arrival hall at the Ministry. She was just disappearing from his sight behind a couple that rushed by; Ron had time to notice the open back of her dress that revealed her soft, pale skin just enough to nearly drive him crazy. He smiled to himself and took a quick step to the side as flames flared up only inches behind him and an old woman stepped forwards. Then, his gaze swept over the hall again; he couldn’t remember it ever looking so amazing before. Flickering candles floated in the air, spruce twigs hanging on the walls spread their lovely scent, and the floor was covered in a thin layer of glittering, fake snow. Each fireplace was decorated with stockings, golden bells and candy canes. Again, Ron smiled to himself – it was almost as magical as Christmas at Hogwarts had been.
People were billowing out from the fireplaces – women dressed in beautiful gowns and men in their finest dress robes, much like the one Ron was wearing. Each time someone opened the door into the ballroom, the sound of music, loud voices and clinging silverware hinted at the cheerful atmosphere of the party that had just begun in there.
Ron searched the room with his eyes yet again. Where had Hermione gone? He stiffened at the sight of a tall, skinny and very blond figure. Melting snowflakes glittered in his fair hair, and a silvery blue scarf was wrapped around his neck. Ron frowned. He was not surprised that Hermione had already found him. Just as Ron approached them, she and Malfoy burst into laughter. Ron quickly placed an arm around Hermione’s shoulders.
“Hello,” Malfoy said. Ron suspected that he was trying to sound relaxed, but if that was the case, he failed miserably.
“Malfoy,” Ron responded with a short nod. “Hermione, shouldn’t we go inside? I’m sure we’ll see you later,” he told Malfoy.
“Actually,” Hermione said, “we were thinking that maybe Draco could sit with us?”
“So no date tonight, Malfoy?”
“No.” Malfoy lowered his eyes. “The girl I wanted to take is with someone else tonight.”
Hermione smiled encouragingly at him, and he met her eyes. Ron took a step back as a thought hit him – but, no, it couldn’t be… Malfoy, who had always hated…
Then he remembered Snape. Snape had been a Death Eater, but he had changed, because he was in love with a Muggle-born. It was just another proof that people didn’t choose who they fell for–
“I need to talk to you,” Ron said suddenly, grabbing Hermione’s arm and pulling her away. “Malfoy, we’ll meet up with you inside…”
Malfoy shrugged and turned around to walk into ballroom while Hermione turned to Ron, with a not-so-happy look on her face and her hands on her hips. She raised her eyebrows and waited for an explanation to his rudeness.
“I just realized something!” Ron said. “Hermione, you’re his Lily!”
A wrinkle formed on Hermione’s forehead. “I’m whose what?”
“Malfoy! He is Snape, and you’re his Lily!” Ron sounded impatient, as if he simply couldn’t understand why she wasn’t following. “He’s in love with you?”
Hermione snorted. “That’s ridiculous, Ron,” she said. “Draco is not in love with me.”
“But it all adds up, doesn’t it?” Ron said. “Snape was a Death Eater, right? But he changed because he fell in love with Harry’s mum, who was a Muggle-born. And then there’s you and Malfoy – you claim that he’s changed, you’re a Muggle-born… Aren’t you the one who always says that history repeats itself? Besides, you heard him just now! He said that the girl he wanted to take was with someone else tonight – she’s with me!”
“Ron, Draco isn’t in love with me,” Hermione repeated. “We’ve talked about this girl he likes, and believe me, it’s not me!”
“Who is it, then?” Ron demanded to know.
“I said I wouldn’t tell anyone,” Hermione said. “It’s none of your business anyway.”
Suddenly, Ron froze. “It’s not Ginny, is it?”
“No!” said Hermione. “Of course not. Can we please just go inside and eat?”
And part of the frustration that had dominated her facial features over the last minute changed into relief as Ron, after a moment of considering his options, nodded and came with her.
Harry reached out and grabbed Ginny’s hand as they squeezed themselves through the crowd that blocked the entrance to the ballroom. She turned her head to meet his eyes and smiled, making his heart take a small leap in his chest. She was, if possibly, even more beautiful than usual in her midnight blue dress and her hair swirling around her shoulders as she moved.
“Harry!” Suddenly, Gawain Robards was standing in front of them, his thick, grey hair combed to the side and his beard carefully trimmed for the special occasion. He shook Harry’s hand before turning to Ginny. “And this must be the lovely Miss Weasley, of course! You look absolutely stunning!”
Ginny smiled. “Thank you. It’s so nice to meet you, Mr Robards.”
“Likewise. And I’m Gawain to you, dear,” he said before letting his gaze wander past her. “Oh, I think that’s my wife over there, talking to… I think I have to go and save her. Bertie’s a good man, he is, but he’s incredibly boring. Excuse me…”
Harry and Ginny exchanged an amused look as he rushed away, and then they moved along. Suddenly, Ginny stopped and grabbed Harry’s arm tightly. “Am I going blind, or is that Malfoy sitting at Ron and Hermione’s table?”
Harry turned his head while preparing to tell her that she must be going blind – but no, she wasn’t. He spotted Malfoy’s blond head almost immediately, and quickly noticed that Hermione was sitting in between him and Ron. Seamus and his date were sitting across from them, and neither one of them seemed to be engaged in any kind of conversation. Harry sighed at the prospect of an awkward, uncomfortable evening and sharing a table with Malfoy.
“I’m guessing Ron isn’t exactly thrilled over those seating arrangements,” he said and reached for her hand again. “Let’s go, then.” When Ginny raised her eyebrows, he turned towards her and grabbed her shoulders. “Gin, I understand that you won’t forgive him. But you are one of the kindest, most loving people I know. I’m sure you can find it in your heart to be… at least civil.”
Ginny sighed heavily and nodded. As they made their way to the table, she leaned towards Harry and whispered: “This is so like you, Potter – making me feel guilty so that I can’t be rude to him…”
Both of them grinned as they stopped by the table. “Hello, everyone,” Harry said.
Seamus stood up to introduce his girlfriend – “Martha Stroope, the most beautiful woman I’ve ever met!” – while Malfoy mumbled his greetings without meeting their eyes. Harry didn’t know if he was acting his normal, snotty self or if he was ashamed. Surely, he knew that he wasn’t exactly warmly welcomed by anyone at the table, aside from Hermione.
All over the ballroom, people were in their best moods and on their best behaviours – they were chatting, drinking, dancing, eating, socializing, and having a wonderful night. It was as if the sun was shining over the entire room, and there was only one cloud, hovering over the table at which Harry and Ginny had just sat down. Harry tried to start a conversation by asking Martha about her work, what house she had been in at Hogwarts, and if she was enjoying the food. However, she was terribly shy and kept her answers very short and very squeaky, and Harry quickly gave this up. Ron and Hermione both acted like they weren’t aware of each other’s presence, and Malfoy stared at his plate without ever lifting his gaze, his lips pursed and his arms crossed over his chest.
Seamus cleared his throat. “So, Ginny,” he said, attempting to break the silence once again. “I heard about your match against the Kenmare Kestrels the other week. What was it that they wrote in the Prophet? ‘An outperformance,’ I think. Congratulations.”
“Thank you!” Ginny said. “It was quite a sensation – I don’t think anyone thought we’d win.”
“Actually, I bet on you. It earned me a handful of Galleons.” Everyone turned their heads towards Malfoy, who blushed and lowered his eyes again. “So thanks for that. I mean, for playing that well.”
Ginny smiled. Harry knew her too well not to notice how strained it was, but at least she was trying. “You’re welcome,” she said, managing to make it sound more like a question than anything else, and everyone fell silent again.
As soon as they had finished their food, Seamus and Martha headed out to the dance floor. Harry and Ginny followed, and the remaining three sat in silence during two very long songs. When Harry and Ginny returned, both Ron, Hermione and Malfoy seemed to simultaneously sigh in relief. Ginny gave Hermione an encouraging smile, and the latter sighed again and turned to her left.
“Ron,” she said. “Would you like to dance with me?”
Ron met her eyes. “You know I don’t like dancing,” he said dryly.
“I’ll dance with you,” Malfoy said.
Hermione nodded, allowed him to pull her to her feet and followed him over to the crowded dance floor. Ron pouted as he followed them with his eyes, which narrowed as Hermione and Malfoy grabbed each other’s hands and began moving to the beat of the music.
“What’s wrong with you, Ron?” Ginny asked her brother as she sat down across from him.
“Isn’t it obvious?” Ron asked. Seeing the uncomprehending looks on both Harry and Ginny’s faces, he continued: “Malfoy is in love with Hermione!”
“What?” Harry exclaimed.
“No,” Ginny said, upon which she burst into laughter. “I really don’t think so, Ron. You’re imagining things.”
“But I’m not!” Ron spat out. “I can tell that he is. And she’s expecting me to just be okay with it… with the fact that she works with him, alone, every day… that’s she’s out there right now, dancing with him–“
“She did ask you first,” Ginny pointed out, but he pretended not to hear her.
“–instead of spending New Years Eve with me, her actual boyfriend,” he continued.
Ginny leaned forwards and smacked Ron’s arm. As he let out a sound of surprise and pain, she crossed her arms over her chest. Then, with a voice so similar to her mother’s that it was almost scary, she began lecturing him.
“Oh, snap out of it, will you?” she said. “Hermione would have loved to spend this night with you, if you weren’t being such a git! You haven’t said a word since we got here, and don’t expect the whole jealous boyfriend act to make things any better! It’s your fault that she’s out there dancing with him, and it will be your fault if they do fall for each other, because you’re driving her away!”
“Here they come,” said Harry quickly as Hermione and Malfoy made their way back to the table.
Ron stood up. Walking past Malfoy with a determined look on his face, he grabbed Hermione’s arm. “Let’s dance,” he said.
“I thought you didn’t want to.”
“Am I not allowed to change my mind?”
Hermione shrugged and walked with him back out on the dance floor, just as they music slowed down. Placing one hand on his shoulder and the other in his hand, she looked up into his eyes.
“Ron, I’m…” she began to say, but he interrupted her.
“Look, I know I haven’t been the best company tonight. And I’ll be better. I just… I don’t want you to spend any more time with him.”
“Excuse me?” Hermione looked shocked.
“I know that he’s tricked you into believing all those good things about him,” Ron said, “but I can tell that he’s not being honest. And I can tell that you’re the one he’s in love with… so I don’t want you to be friends with him anymore.”
“Last time I checked, you weren’t my owner, but my boyfriend!” said Hermione angrily. “And this might be news to you, but that doesn’t give you the right to decide who I get to be friends with or not!”
“Yes, when it comes to him, I do!” said Ron loudly, making quite a few of the dancing couples around them turn their heads towards him. “You seem to be completely blind when it…” He fell silent and stared at her for a few seconds before adding: “Don’t tell me you’re… you love him too, don’t you?”
Hermione’s eyes filled with tears as she let go of him. “How can you even say that?” she asked. “You know that you’re the one I’m in love with!”
“So you say,” said Ron dryly. “But the way you act around him… the way you… you want to break up with me, don’t you?”
Now, tears were streaming down Hermione’s cheek. She tried to wipe them away with the back of her hand, but new ones kept coming, and she let her hand drop to the floor as she shook her head.
“You can’t go on like this,” she said. “You have to stop. Draco and I are friends, and if you can’t deal with that… if that means that you don’t want to be with me anymore…”
“Yeah, you’d like that, wouldn’t you? If I stepped out of the picture, made things a bit easier for you?” Ron’s ears had gone red, and a few people around them had now stopped dancing and were staring shamelessly at them. “I’m sorry,” he continued. “But I’m not going to do him that favour.”
And he turned around on the spot, squeezed himself through the crowd of people and left. Soon, Hermione had lost track of him, and she hid her face in her hands and began running towards the exits, desperate to get out of there as soon as she possibly could.
A/N: Okay, so I didn't plan on leaving the chapter there, but it was getting really long, and I decided to save the rest for the next one. (Don't worry, I won't leave you hanging for too long). So, Ron is sort of messing things up for himself, isn't he? But he's always been insecure, and he's always loathed Malfoy...
Thank you so much for all the support you are giving me and this story! Honestly, it means the world to me. If you've got a moment to spare, just know that it would make my day if you'd take the time to leave a review and let me know what you thought of this chapter.
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