For Sirius,
As a gift to take to the other side

Seventeen Minutes Till Midnight in Casablanca

This is the best New Year's I've had in fifteen. I've always liked this holiday better than Christmas. On New Year's I never have to feel guilty about running away from home and disowning my family. Not that I should, mind you, because my family tree is filled with bigoted, chauvinistic old pigs. I'll never regret running away and living with James and his parents, except on Christmas, when a little part of me still misses my mum.

When I was really small, things were good. Cold-hearted and awful as she was, Mum loved babies and toddlers. Children who were beginning to think for themselves; not so much. Even people like my parents could be good to a baby. When you're a baby, they protect you from contact with the dirty Mudbloods, but they never tell you about it. They never tell you about racism or anything else that's hateful and nasty. Somewhere deep inside their icy chests are tiny, faintly beating hearts, hearts that don't revel in hatred. Granted, these barren, cowardly pieces of moral flesh are not enough to save them, and in the end, the prejudice and contempt win out. But by some miracle of Merlin, something in them knows that hate is a nasty concept to force upon a baby, and for that I wish I had never grown up.

As soon as I realized what it meant to be a member of my family, I ran away and I never looked back. I'm not sorry I disowned them, I'm only sorry that I had to. I'm sorry that my mother, whom I loved so dearly, screamed at me that Mudblood lovers had no place in my childhood home. After that, regret had no place in me and I left that house with my sense of right and wrong still intact. But whenever Christmas Eve rolled around, I'd fall asleep and I'd forget about everything that had ever made me hate my family, and in my dreams I'd be a little boy again as Mum tucked me into bed.

But then one stormy night in October, James and Lily were murdered and twelve years in Azkaban beat every happy memory from me, leaving me with nothing but the knowledge that I didn't deserve any of this shit. It's not as comforting as it sounds, trust me. Dementors, oddly enough, held the power to strip away not only my happy memories, but all of my resentment and loathing of my family, making me scream and writhe on the floor, begging for my mummy. Whoever said that Azkaban never unhinged me was wrong; no one in their right minds would beg for the company of my yellow, drooling wench of a mother. But I digress. The point is that I've got Harry now, and I'm happier than I ever thought I could be. He's a good kid, and he's not fucked yet. Though if things keep going the way they are, he'll be a wreck like me in no time. But it's the New Year, and it's a time to be hopeful, if that's feasible...

...Good Godric but he looks like James. Damnit, I know he's not James, but let a bloke dream will you?

Where is he anyway? I'm alone in the kitchen with a glass of gin, watching the clock; it's seventeen minutes till midnight... Casablanca that is, which means that it's well past midnight here at Grimmauld Place and Molly has ordered her children to bed (this doesn't necessarily include Harry). Please tell me he's not sleeping already. What would James say if his fifteen-year-old son fell asleep completely sober before midnight (in Casablanca) on the New Year?

I know, he'd smile and be glad. I guess having kids does that to you; makes you responsible, and wish for ridiculous things like safety and health. Maybe if I wasn't a thirty something wreck of a man with more than a few bad habits I'd be a suitable Dad. But, let's not dwell on the maybes and the could-haves. One must embrace his faults. And one can only do this by getting completely and irretrievably pissed.

I hear someone at the doorway into the kitchen.

"Hi Sirius."

"Hello Ginny."

She's come through the doorway in the kitchen wearing a big red t-shirt and tiny pink boxer shorts, both of which she must have inherited from Tonks. She surreptitiously eyes the alcohol in my hand and looks somewhat nervous.

"Don't worry, I'm sober. Much to my dismay."

She laughs and sits down at the table with me and watches the clock in companionable silence. I like this kid. Maybe it's because I feel safe with her. I've heard her story and I've watched her closely for quite some time now, and I've come to the conclusion that I could not possibly disturb her any more than she already is; it's a comforting thought. Well, I suppose I could, but let's not get carried away here. She's twisted, but there's still something about her that's innocent. Or at least not guilty, because she never meant for any of it to happen and she's still warm inside. Like me. After a few minutes I feel her gaze shift to me.

"Can I have a sip?"

She's looking at me with this maddening, questioning look. That's another reason I like her company; she's beautiful. It's just a fact that rings true universally, nobody could deny that sitting with a pretty girl isn't unpleasant by any means.


I hand her my glass and watch as she tips it back and takes a swig that probably seems pretty generous to her sober little tongue. She winces, but swallows bravely. I watch her closely now, gauging her reaction to the liquor.

"Well," she can barely talk and she feels it spread throughout her insides now like powerful anaesthesia, "You don't beat around the bush much do you?"

She wants more, I can see it in her eyes.

"No. I don't think tonic really makes it any better, and this way is much more efficient. Would you like a glass?"

Her eyes meet mine and she nods. I pull out the bottle and a glass from underneath the table. Oh, if Molly could see me now! But I'm not feeling the guilt. This girl spent nine months of her life being possessed by the maddest fucking psychopath in history, forgive me if I say that a little gin isn't going to kill her. And Molly, I don't care how wonderful your biscuits are or how well you love your children; there are some demons that don't vanish with a hug from Mum.

"What is this stuff?" she asks, taking the glass from me.

"Gin," I answer. I flash her a roguish grin that used to be my trademark, but is now saved for only a select few, "Keep drinking and the pun will be as funny as hell in no time."

She smiles and takes as big a swig as she can manage, and winces again as she swallows it down.

"It tastes so awful," she says, tears welling involuntarily in her eyes "And it burns," she's looking utterly bewildered and laughs uncertainly, "Why am I still drinking it?"

"It's like giving birth; the process is no picnic, or so I've been told, but the aftermath is so bloody drugging that you keep coming back for more."

Her eyebrows dart up as she takes another, smaller sip,

"It's funny then, how Mum so obviously approves of one and not the other."

A give a good genuine laugh and Ginny smiles into her glass.

"I take it she doesn't know you're down here then?"

She shakes her (pretty) head. There's a very long silence, but it's not uncomfortable. I'm curious to know something however, and I look over at her as she sips her alcohol complacently.

"So Virginia-"

She looks back at me in a deadpan.

"You know, that's not actually my real name."

Not offended-like, merely stating a fact. I cock an eyebrow in surprise,


"It's Ginevra."

This really throws me for a loop. "Ginevra? Where the hell did that come from?"

She shrugs and takes another sip from the glass, which is nearly empty now.

"It's Italian."

That's absurd.

"Don't I look Italian?" there's that maddening half-smile again. let's see. Those big, mud-pie eyes... are those Italian? What about that white, slender, graceful neck, is that Italian? And those hands... I think I've seen three-year-olds with bigger hands, would that be the Italian in her? She's noticed by now that I'm staring at her, and a lovely flush rises in her cheeks, though she doesn't look embarrassed.

"You look beautiful, but I'm not so sure about Italian."

A rueful expression crosses her face as she drains the glass.

"I just wish someone my age thought that," she says.

My stomach twists at the sickening thought of what other old letches are lusting after her. I'll take a wild stab from reading between the lines of what I've heard: Lucius Malfoy and the memory of Tom Riddle both seem to have a tiny bit of a fixation with her. Of course, that's all classified information that no one's told Harry or the rest of the Holy Trinity about, but according to Snape, Malfoy is clamoring incessantly to use her somehow, just for his own sick amusement. I can only hope that somehow it's okay for me watch her as intently as I am without being a Certified Lascivious Bastard. With a wave of what can only be described as glorious, sweeping relief, I realize that I'm not a CLB, I'm just noticing that she's pretty. Really pretty. Makes me wonder why Harry hasn't snogged her already.

With a funny little jolt of my stomach, I get a good idea of whom she was referring to when she wished for someone her age.

"Harry's going to figure it out someday."

I take her tiny hand in mine and give it a gentle squeeze. For the first time in our conversation, she looks truly sad.

"You fancy him a lot more than you ever let on, don't you?"

She nods, and whimpers, "Yeah."

I'd rather like to wring his neck right now, for putting that look on her face. I don't know, but I've got this feeling- call it a hunch- but something tells me this gorgeous, baby in red sitting next to me could wind up saving that kid somehow, and if he doesn't hurry up and pull his self-absorbed head out of his arse...

"Don't worry Gin, he's a bit insane but he's not blind; and if he doesn't open his eyes sometime in the near future, I'll just have to knock some sense into him."

I pause and crack my knuckles for comedic effect, but it really isn't that funny. Being the good sport that she is, Ginny giggles anyway.

"Lord knows he can be an utter prat, but we love him anyways- odd isn't it?"

She nods again, but this time she's really smiling. Oh how I wish she'd do that more often; it's enough to make a wretch like me curl my hair and do a jig. The Grandfather clock strikes one o'clock, startling us both from whatever conversation we were having. Our little bubble has been popped, and we both know it. With a sigh and an air of resignation I stand from my chair and look down on her,

"Well, you know what that means."

"No, what?" she stands as well, stretching like a cat.

"It's a New Year in Casablanca."

She's no Hermione Granger, but she catches on to the time difference thing surprisingly quickly, considering the amount of alcohol in her bloodstream. I sit back down, having no idea why I stood up in the first place: she's the one that has to go to bed. I meet her eyes and am about to order her to sleep when her visage kills the words in my mouth. She's paused, and seems to be contemplating what to do as she gives me an appraising stare.

"Happy New Year, Sirius," she says, and she leans down and kisses me squarely on the mouth.

Oh sweet mother of Merlin she's graceful. It's perfect. It's too intimate and lingering to be a daughterly kiss, but it's nothing that either of us could ever be ashamed of come morning. It's just... a kiss. I don't remember the last time I've been kissed like that. She tastes like Gin, and as predicted, inwardly, I'm laughing hysterically at the pun. My doggish nose detects the smell of chamomile lingering with the alcohol and all I can think is that Harry's a goner.

When she breaks away she averts her eyes to the floor and bites her bottom lip with a small smile before straightening with an air of confidence and satisfaction.


"Happy New Year, Gin," I say, glad that I'm far past the age where a kiss can make me stutter.

She steps away and walks out of the kitchen and up to bed. She's going to be here for another week before she goes back to Hogwarts, and she'll tag around the Holy Trinity for years to come, I'm sure, but something, call it a hunch, tells me that that was the last time I'll ever really see Ginny Weasley.

Creepy premonition aside, New Year's in Casablanca is better and sweeter than Christmas in heaven.