Hogwarts and all associated characters and concepts are the property of J.K. Rowling. This is a work of fanfiction. No infringement is intended.

~For  the one woman I really wish I could spend Christmas with. May this be our last Christmas apart. ~

Invitation

"Don't you want to spend Christmas with me?" Cho could feel her lips, normally thin, begin to press outwards in a sullen line. She consciously relaxed them, trying to set them together gently and normally.  She could not do much about the tears pricking the corners of her eyes.

She sat up, concentrating on neither scowling nor crying.  She could feel how cold the ground was, even through the rug she had brought.  There was no snow, but the ground itself was nearly frozen. Both girls were rugged up over their robes, thick cloaks drawn tightly around them, and Cho suspected she was not the only one who had tried to see how many petticoats she could fit underneath.  It was really far too chilly to be outside, let alone by the lake, with the air streaming off the icy water even more freezing than the general outside temperature.  Snuggled up in a dip in the banks, the girls were protected from the wind, but the air still hurt her lungs. 

It had to be endured. It was certainly better than going back to her common room alone.  There were not many places in Hogwarts that students could be entirely alone, and at least in one of the secluded hollows by the lake you the other students did not realise you had sneaked off for a romantic tryst. 

Well, you could fool yourself they did not know, at least.  Maybe they would think you had a passionate attachment to the Giant Squid or something.

"Of  course I want to spend Christmas together." Ginny puffed air upwards, sending just one strand of hair dancing across her forehead.  Cho's fingers ached to wrap themselves in it, to see the orange glowing against her black gloves. She folded them tightly into her fists.  It would not be an appropriate action to take mid argument. She was quite determined not to give in, even if Ginny was being quite maliciously adorable, blowing her hair around and flushing with cold under her freckles.  "I just don't see why it has to be at my house.  You have no idea what a small house filled to the brim with brothers is like at Christmas."

"I wish I did," Cho said, with carefully calculated wistfulness.  She saw the other girl's eyes soften into melted chocolate, and felt a moment of passing guilt.  She knew playing up to the other girl's compassion was a dishonourable trick, but after all, she had to win the argument.

"Oh, Cho."  Ginny obviously had no scruples about appropriate behaviour during arguments, judging by the sweaty hand slipped into Cho's and the sweet pressure of lips on hers.  When they drew apart, Ginny actually had tears shimmering on her lower lashes. Cho's guilt redoubled.

Maybe it was money, after all. Ginny never mentioned money, but her possessions tended to have a distinctly second-hand look to them. Perhaps Cho was being unreasonable and demanding something that would bring the Weasleys real hardship.

But then, Ginny had mentioned Hermione and Harry staying at the Burrow, and Cho had needed to force down her nauseating surge of jealousy. So that, at least, was not the reason.

She wondered how much Molly and Arthur Weasley had been told about Ginny's love life.

"You know," Ginny said eventually, stealing another kiss mid-sentence, "siblings are not all they're cracked up to be.  Especially brothers."

"You adore Percy," Cho pointed out stubbornly, and a little jealously. Terrific, she was insecure about Ginny's brothers now.

"I adore them all, really. But… you know…"

 "I don't." Cho ventured on a pathetic little pout.

It was less than successful. Ginny just laughed and said, "Cut out the pity party right now, Miss Chang."

Cho looked up at her round face, the skin around her eyes crinkled with laughter, and abandoned her histrionics.  It was far easier and more natural, and incalculably more pleasant, to pull that not-quite-pretty face down to hers, and plant kisses on that laughing mouth. Ginny's arms wrapped tightly around her in response. She could not feel their warmth through all their clothes, but the pressure felt good, holding her secure against coldness and doubts. There was nothing she could do but pull her closer in response, crossways against her lap, as kiss melted into kiss, becoming longer and more clinging.

She sighed against Ginny's lips, and almost instantly she felt the brush of a tongue, feather light and sweeter than cherries, against her own. Her heart was beating so hard it felt it tearing itself from her chest, and she desperately needed air, but could not leave the kiss. She opened her mouth wider instead, sucking Ginny's tongue into her own. She felt rather than heard a faint cry from the other girl, then Ginny's mouth redoubled in passion. Cho could feel herself fall into liquid and fire…

She drew sharply away, pushing Ginny in a tumbled heap off her lap.

There was a long silence. Cho cravenly stared at her own hands, noting each  flaws in the dragonhide leather. After all, she told herself, she had no duty to be brave. She was no Gryffindor.

Unfortunately, her beloved was.

"Cho, look at me." A gloved hand tilted her chin, to look into a very serious face. "We were just kissing."

"We were kissing… inappropriately." She could hear her mother in her own voice.

"Meaning that you think I'm too young to kiss properly." There was frustration in her tone, but also acceptance. They had been through this so many times before.  "Cho, we agreed we could kiss."

"A kiss isn't always just a kiss." Ginny was shorter than Cho, but her figure was soft and full, just right for wrapping arms around her neck and snuggling in. Ginny exhaled sharply, and then put her own arms around her girl once more.

"Idiot.  We're out in the middle of the grounds, in broad daylight, and if we took off our robes, we'd die of pneumonia before anything happened." Her tone was lecturing, but she cuddled Cho close. "You don't need to worry."

"I know." Cho bit her lip, trying to find the words for what she wanted to say.  She had never really expected this to happen. When she first noticed Ginny, had been amused and fond of the other girl, in an absent-minded way.  She had such an endearingly childish manner about her, a plump little redhead with a shy, earnest expression, following Cho around in what she obviously thought was a subtle manner. 

Cho's friends were painfully aware of her grief and loss.  They stepped so carefully and tactfully around the subject of her friend… her dead friend. No use in mincing words.  And in their silences, in their concern, Cedric's name had echoed constantly in her ears.

They treated her like a widow.  Sometimes she wanted to scream that Cedric had been her friend… her friend.  Someone sunny and courageous and good, who made her feel happier and stronger in herself.  The perfect Hufflepuff, in fact.  Somehow, the assumption that they had been together in another sense seemed to degrade her precious memories of him.

Ginny had regarded her as if she was a fairytale princess, not a tragic heroine.  It had been a pleasant change. And it wouldn't hurt, she thought, to flirt a little.  If this was Ginny's first same-sex crush, then it was very important that she not be too brutally rejected, Cho rationalised.

And the Weasley girl was such a cute kid.  So naïve and sweet. She had never suffered like Cho had.

It hadn't been Cho's fault.  The rumours about the Basilisk had been so carefully controlled that there was no fault in knowing Ginny's part in it, until the girl had cried so hard on Cho's shoulder that she had ended up retching helplessly.  Cho had held her, stroked her hair, and felt fierce protective love burn within her.

Her grip tightened around the younger girl now, dizzied by a rush of protectiveness.   She promised herself once more that no one, no one at all, would ever be allowed to further tarnish Ginny's precious innocence in any way, ever again.  Especially not herself. 

"I don't want to hurt you," she eventually said.

"You won't." Lips touched Cho's hair.  "How many times do I have to tell you I trust you before you believe me? I trust you more than I've ever trusted anyone."

"Dear girl." Cho smiled against Ginny's cloak. "Does that mean I'm invited to the Burrow for Christmas?"

"Cho!" Ginny gave her a little shake. "Cho – is this why? Are you afraid to be alone too much with me?"

"At the Burrow, we'd never be alone – not really. At least, not from what you've described. And if we're sharing a room, it's safest, dear, to know we'd be overheard if… anything."

"I said I trusted you."

"There's trust and trust." Cho lifted her head to give her a sidelong smile. "Do I trust you?"

Ginny cupped her face in her hand. "This is really important to you, isn't it?"

"It's the only way I can be with you." Cho tilted her face to kiss the gloved hand.  "And I don't want to give you up just yet," she added lightly.

Ginny's face crumpled, folding in on itself. Cho, horrified, pulled her close as the younger girl began to cry, loudly and unprettily. She rocked her and made wordless, crooning noises. After a long while, they seemed to take some effect, and Ginny quietened.

"Ginny? Is it me? Did I say something?" Cho asked once the sobs had diminished.

Ginny's eyes were as red as her skin, and her face was swollen. She was just a somewhat chubby girl with a very ordinary face.  She was so beautiful she broke Cho's heart.  "When are you going to give me up?

Cho blinked at her, taken aback. "Whatever do you mean?"

"You're going to get bored with hanging around with a stupid kid. I can't help being younger. And I know I'm not pretty enough or you wouldn't care how old I was. You won't even m-make-out…" She began to choke on her tears again.

"Oh, Ginny.  You idiot. I promise I won't get bored with you, angel." She wiped away her girls' tears with the edge of one sleeve. "I just don't want to spoil things by rushing you into something you're not ready for."

"I'm not as young as you like to think.  Mum was married as soon as she left school."

"You're not her, and I'm not your father.  I just need to… protect… you. And you know, love, I'm not exactly the most experienced girl in the world, either."

Ginny smiled somewhat uncertainly at her. "You'll wait?"

"As long as you need me to.  And you wait for me, too, you hear? We'll figure things out together."

"I can't imagine figuring them out with anyone but you."

"Me neither." They kissed again, more carefully this time, but very sweetly.

"Ginny?"

"Mmm?"

"Do you want your Christmas present now, or do you want to wait?"

"Now!" Ginny collected herself. "I want it now, please."  

Cho giggled.  "Won't that destroy your faith in Father Christmas?"

"Give it to me right now!"

"I thought, somehow, you would say that." She released Ginny and sought the pockets in her bottommost layer of robes.  Truth to tell, she had carried this present about with her for weeks, worrying about whether it was appropriate, and had half decided to hide it and buy Ginny something less… binding.  It seemed a ridiculous worry, now.

Ginny fumbled with the scarlet paper and ribbons, finally managing to free the little box from its wrappings.

The ghostly figures rose from the music box as she brushed the activating panel. As the music rang out, the two figures took each other's hands and began to revolve in a complex dance.  Laughter hovered on the edge of hearing, as the dancers pirouetted and dipped each other.

"I didn't know you could get these with two witches." Ginny's voice was thick.

"I had to have it enchanted specially. Do you like it?"

"I love it."

"Wait."

The dance came to an end, the little figures curtseying and slipping back into the box.  Slowly, in its place, rose a word, that glistened in the cold air.

"Forever," Ginny said softly. She tried to brush the letters with a  finger tip, but they had no substance. Still… the word was there.  "Cho, thank you. Thank you so much.  And Cho?"

"Yes, Ginny dear?"

"I'll wait as long as you think we need to.  After all, if we have forever…" Her voice caught. "I love you." It was the first time she had ever said the words, and her voice was just as gentle and true as Cho had imagined.

"I love you too, little Ginny," she whispered back.  The kiss was sweeter than sweet, so sweet there were no words for it.

Cho, absurdly, wanted to cry.

"Does that mean I'm invited home for Christmas?" she asked.

~end~