**Author's Note: Just a bit of D/G fluff for the holidays. I don't own any of these characters, and I was most fantastically inspired by the sight of lovely Tom Felton blowing a paper crane from those long-fingered hands in the trailer for PoA. ;-) Happy reading, and happy holidays.**
CHAPTER ONE- The Barrage Begins
It flew into the room alone just after midnight and alit on the windowsill, symmetrical wings rustling softly as it roosted in the single shaft of moonlight gracing the stone sill. Though it was unseeing, it watched over her, its sleeping mistress.
It had been sent.
He didn't know when it had started, only how, with creeping, curious glances he couldn't keep himself from taking, with grudging respect for her less-than-savory magicking skills, with covert observations. She walked down the corridors, hardly ever alone, with a bouncing step and eyes bright with laughter; he was forced to consider his own silent companions, brooding and sneering, no laughter among them, and nothing shared.
Occasionally she was with a boy, and after a bit, one boy changed to a new one, and he wondered what it would be like to kiss someone who wasn't thinking about power, to press lips and tongue with someone who wasn't only needing to scratch an itch.
He didn't know when it had started, this longing for something normal.
She was rudely awakened by the sound of Pig cheeping (for that noise really wasn't dignified enough to be a hoot) and fluttering his wings madly in what sounded to be his best imitation of the Snitch.
"Oh, bother, Pig, can't you just be peaceful for once?" Ginny groaned, burying her head in her pillow. "Go up to the Owlery," she said through several inches of down-stuffed cotton, glad her roommates were early risers and already gone. But Pig continued to peep and screech and flutter and click his beak, forcing Ginny to sit straight up in bed, her wavy masses of red hair sticking in all different directions, her brown eyes wild with annoyance.
"For Merlin's sake!" she said sharply, sounding a great deal like Molly, and the rest of the chastisement died on her lips.
Pig appeared to be fighting with another bird—only it wasn't a real one. Occasionally the small, obviously frightened owl would reach out his beak and take a snapping peck at the paper crane on the windowsill, and to Ginny's amazement, the paper crane was fighting back. With every retreat Pig took, the crane would launch into the air, where it would flutter its wings in Pig's eyes and lower its folded paper head to peck at its adversary.
"Pig, here," Ginny commanded breathlessly, and Pig gratefully took a roost on her shoulder, glowing eyes narrowed at his tiny enemy. "Behave," she added absently, bending down to look at the carefully crafted origami bird.
It stretched its neck as though studying her, just for a moment, then tucked its precise little head under a precise little wing and seemed, for the moment, to go to sleep. Unable to help herself, Ginny reached out a finger and stroked it over the straight line of its back, marveling at it. Someone must have lost it, she thought, knowing many people animated inanimate objects. But deep down, she knew it didn't seem likely—the animation spells lost their strength and detail as soon as the wizard or witch forgot or lost their creation. This bird very nearly had a personality of its own.
"Well, then." Ginny straightened and worried at the corner of her lips with her teeth; clearly she had a bit of an enigma on her hands. "It's just a paper bird," she said, meaning to scold Pig but directing the comment at herself more.
By the time Ginny had gotten ready for classes, however, she was running late, and the small, sleeping bird on the windowsill was the last thing on her mind.
"I can't believe it's December already," Hermione said over lunch in the Great Hall. "It's so exciting."
"Don't know what you think's so bloody exciting about the first day of a month," Ron groused, looking longingly at a fruit tart on Harry's plate. "'Specially when all it means is that exams are getting closer."
"That's what Hermione likes," Harry said, laughing. When Ginny didn't even crack a smile, he leaned over the table and rapped her knuckles with his own, pleased when she didn't shy away from the contact.
It was nice to be able to talk to someone normally, without them bolting from the room or turning red in the face.
"Everything okay, Gin?"
She started a bit, then grinned sheepishly. "Yeah, of course. Tired a bit, I suppose. Pig woke me up this morning…" She trailed off, ready to tell them about the odd thing she'd found, then inexplicably decided against it. Telling the trio anything mysterious was like showing a Niffler a Galleon.
"That owl is a bloody nuisance," Ron exclaimed, switching his complaining gears so fast it made Hermione roll her eyes.
"Cheer up, Sir Negativity," Hermione said coolly, preparing to gather her things. "Before you know it, December will be over and you can report more bad grades home." Perking her nose into the air, Hermione walked away from the table, leaving silence but no surprise.
"'Swhat you get, mate," Harry said honestly, tossing his tart onto Ron's plate. "There. You definitely need it more than I do."
"Men are such prats," Ginny said, but she was laughing a bit. Patting Ron on the shoulder, she stood up and followed Hermione. Hopefully she was right—maybe December would just fly by.
He folded them by hand, never with magic. They had been his first real toy, before he was old enough for brooms and magical figures and warriors who would actually fight each other to the death.
His mother had taught him with reserves of patience, guiding then-pudgy fingers over smooth paper, gently pressing down creases and making up small rhymes and songs to help him remember where the folds went. He'd been too small, those first few times, to remember well now how he'd reacted when she'd blown the first one into flight, but it never failed.
It always made him smile, at least a little.
He didn't know why he was doing it—it just seemed like a good idea. And wouldn't it be a laugh, he thought, if he could get the Weasley all worked up for nothing, only to bring her down on her freckled nose?
Make her quit that infernal laughing and constant, sickeningly cute smiling?
But his fingers were gentle as he made the folds, and his mind was far from vengeance.
The next day, more came.
They had to have come through the window, she thought as she tapped her toe and stared at the second bird that had joined the first sometime during the night, and the third that had joined the first two sometime after noon.
They were crowded together on the windowsill, rustling their wings and situating themselves, getting, to Ginny's way of thinking, all chummy. The first one had slowed down a bit and taken to sleeping more, but still…
It was weird, and moreover, it was just… purposeful. It was no longer likely that someone had lost a magical creation, much less two or three. They'd been directed to her room. She couldn't close off the windows, for Pig did need to get in somewhere, nuisance or no.
And really, they were kind of pretty.
So she lied to her roommates and told them the cranes were Transfiguration homework.
"How hard are animating spells?" Ginny asked Hermione that night over dinner, trying for a casual note. Ron and Harry were so engrossed in a Quidditch mag, they never even heard her.
"Animating an object isn't hard at all," Hermione said, falling easily into a lecturing tone. "Sustaining your animation is the hard part. In Charms for Chuckles, Martha Murkleson says average animations last for a few hours; however, a talented wizard, a fairly powerful one, can sustain animations for up to a few weeks, but that what it all comes down to is dedication."
A few hours, Ginny mused. The first crane had lasted a great deal longer than that, and still hadn't been stationary when she'd come down for dinner, and the second two had been frolicking from the moment they'd perched in the windowsill.
So who could—and would—do such a thing?
"What were you planning on animating, Ginny?" Hermione asked interestedly.
Quick on her feet, Ginny grinned maliciously. "Ron's brain. It's obviously not doing anything else."
Hermione slipped a hand over her mouth, stifling the laughter that wanted to come, but Ginny laughed aloud, shooting sidelong glances at her oblivious brother.
And across the Great Hall, someone watched that laughter and wondered what it would take to make some of it his own.
She tried to make herself forget about it—O.W.L.s were coming up, and though Ginny considered herself a fair student, she was no Hermione Granger. Studying had to be done, and lots of it.
But how was she supposed to study when there was an ever-growing flock of paper cranes in her room?
Her roommates had been tactful so far, even though by the end of the week she had twenty-eight of them, all gathered in the windowsill and perched on the headboard of her bed. Ginny may not have been Hermione, but she wasn't daft—she'd spotted the pattern almost immediately. One crane on the first day, two on the second, three on the third, and now at seven days she was ready to start hiring them to carry letters.
Studying had clearly taken a backseat.
Ginny sat in a corner of the library, big brown eyes casting about suspiciously—would they come in here? Little folded cranes floating through the library—despite her better judgment, a smile flitted over her lips. She could just see Madam Pince's face now.
"Get those birds out of my library! I don't care if they're not real! Shoo!"
Ginny giggled and opened the volume in front of her, more than a little sorry; she didn't completely want to learn what was going on with the cranes. Snow had started to fall somewhere around mid-week, and now that the grounds were white and gleaming, the mysterious birds coming in her windows at intervals through each day, the whole thing was lent an air of mystery, of romanticism.
Someone was sending her presents, and it was hard to dislike that. But they were a nuisance, and her curiosity was near to killing her, so Virginia Weasley decided to do some research.
Hogwarts Honors, Inception to Present.
The book was thick and dusty, rarely used by students. So far as Ginny knew, the only person who read it regularly was, unsurprisingly, Hermione. And it was Hermione's words that Ginny heard as she flipped through the massive tome.
"…a talented wizard, a fairly powerful one, can sustain animations for up to a few weeks."
Talented. Ginny stopped at the section titled "Headmaster's List: 1992" and started glancing down the subdivisions. The pages detailed the top five students in each category at Hogwarts in the year surveyed.
"Potions," Ginny read aloud. "Hermione Granger, Draco Malfoy—" At this, Ginny rolled her eyes a little. Of course Malfoy would be at the top in Potions, what with that greasy cretin teaching it. "Michael Corner, Padma Patil, Theodore Nott."
Ginny moved through the lists quickly, noting with some pride that Hermione had taken top honors in nearly everything but Divination and Defense Against the Dark Arts, where Harry had edged her out by a nose. But to think Hermione was sending her the cranes was nothing short of ludicrous, and the only other person making consistently high marks was—
"Malfoy?" Ginny said aloud, snorting derisively. "Well, since none of the cranes has exploded or turned into a giant bloody Dark Mark, fat chance on that one." She skimmed her fingers over the lists once more and found Seamus Finnegan tied for fifth place in Charms.
But Hermione had also mentioned dedication, and Ginny didn't know anyone flightier than the flirty Irish sixth-year.
So, it was with a heavy sigh of resignation—and a heart lightened by her persistent mystery—that Ginny replaced the book and went back to her room, for once walking through the corridors alone.
Floors below, eyes intent and hands patient, a persistent but confused young man prepared eight more cranes for the eighth day of the last month in the year.