Author's Notes: Originally written for Checkmated's 2004 Holiday Challenge, The Woes Of Christmas Parties has been slightly edited to fit Half-Blood Prince canon more efficently. The story in itself did not change, but you will find new little sentences here and there, as well as many errors made in the original draft corrected. The sequel, The Perks of Morning-Afters, will follow soon, though that will probably have to go through a lot more editing than this one to make it HBP-friendly. After that, the third installment, The Trouble With Keeping Secrets, should be making its debut. Thanks, and let me know what you think!
The Woes of Christmas Parties
by: Bee Daily
"JAMES HARRY POTTER! Let's go! NOW!"
Quick scampering footsteps thudded from upstairs. I groaned internally. We were late. So, so late.
So what else was new?
Rushing through the holly and ribbon infested hallways, bending down to pick up another stray piece of wrapping paper—in the hallway? How could it have possibly gotten in the hallway?—as I went, I fought off the impulse to yell again to my five-year-old son, who was probably not even dressed yet, even though I'd told him several times to—
I stopped frozen.
Oh, Merlin. It's happened. I've finally cracked.
"Did you finish wrapping up all of those presents, Gin? Ginny? What? What's wrong?"
I turned around slowly, seeing my husband—looking quite adorably perfect, dressed in his best black trousers and pathetically usual emerald sweater—standing in the doorway. He stared curiously at my crestfallen features. I let my shoulders drop in pure depression.
"Forgot to wrap the gifts?" he asked with an understanding wince. I shook my head. Presents were really the least of his worries right now.
"Harry," I said, my voice filled with remorse. "You've done something very very bad."
Harry leaned his shoulder casually against the doorframe, crossing his arms across his chest and throwing me an amused look. "Again?" he asked flatly.
I sighed dramatically, nodding my head.
"Well," he started, walking out of the doorway and over to me, draping his arm around my shoulder as we continued walking slowly down the corridor, "what did I do this time?"
I sighed loudly again, leaning my head dejectedly in the crook of his neck. "The worst possible thing," I informed him with mock-sadness. I could practically feel him rolling his eyes.
"Yes?" he prodded.
I sighed one last time, burying myself deeper into his neck. "You've married my mother," I muttered miserably with a groan, this time completely serious.
I felt Harry's body shaking with laughter beside me as he gently pressed a kiss to my forehead, leading us through another doorway and into our large living room, stopping just under the foot of the staircase that led to the bedrooms upstairs. I didn't understand why he found this so amusing. Did he not see the situation he had put himself in? First, it was the yelling, then the constant nagging, and before he knew it, he was going to be stuck with several billion offspring and an overweight, yelling, nagging, complaining, saggy-breasted wife.
It wouldn't be so funny then, now would it?
"I'm glad you find this so amusing," I bit out, giving Harry a good dirty look. "Trust me, give it a couple of years and the situation won't be as comical. You can go ask my father what it's like to live with Mum. He'll tell you."
"Tell me what?" Harry shot back with a grin. "That he gets to spend every day with the woman he loves, not despite, but because of all her faults? Is that what he's going to tell me?"
"No," I scoffed, though really, that's exactly what my father would've said. "He's going to tell you about how she takes up all the blankets at night."
Harry let out another laugh, and even though the situation wasn't in any way comical, I couldn't help but bite out a smile as well. With another soft sigh, I let my eyes roam around the room we had just spent all morning in, looking at the big Christmas tree and the large amount of recently unwrapped gifts residing under it. It had been a nice morning. A perfect Christmas morning.
"Can I bring your broom, Daddy?"
I turned my head slightly, looking up the stairs without leaving Harry's embrace. James stood at the top of the stairs, a pleading look on his face, his dark hair messily tousled as usual, his emerald eyes shining brightly. He was the spitting image of his father, clothes and all...save for one thing. My eyes narrowed at my son's sock-clad feet.
"James Harry, where in Merlin's name are your shoes?"
"In my room," James answered quickly, not even remotely caring that I had asked him to be fully dressed—shoes included—over twenty minutes ago. His emerald eyes darted back to his father. "Please, Daddy?"
Harry's arm slipped slowly down from my shoulder to my waist as he eyed our son with a curious stare. "My broom?" he asked. "You just got a perfectly new broom this morning, Jay. Why not bring that one?"
James's eyes strayed over to where the small, red training broom was laying under the Christmas tree. His face fell at the suggestion. "Ron says he was gonna get a real broom!" he cried, shaking his head. "His'll be the best!"
I rolled my eyes, glancing up at my husband to see how he was going to handle this one. Harry's face was thoughtful, which made me believe he was probably trying to come up with a way to decline James's request and still stay in his good-graces. I watched him with a smile.
"Well," Harry answered a few moments later, "do you promise to be careful?"
James's face instantly brightened as he began nodding furiously, nearly jumping off the floor in excitement. I looked up at Harry in disbelief.
"Harry!" I cried.
Harry glanced down at me, a small smile playing at his lips. "What?" he asked innocently.
I glared at him. "What are you doing?"
Harry threw me a look of mock-offense. "We can't let him go there with an inferior broom, Gin!"
I held back a groan of frustration, and chose instead to roll my eyes at my husband's pathetic tactics. "Oh, and I'm sure everyone's bound believe that Father Christmas brought our five-year-old a fifteen-thousand galleon broom?" I asked him flatly.
"Father Christmas don't buy the presents, Mummy," James told me matter-of-factly. "His elves make 'em!"
"Yeah, Gin," Harry teased. "His elves make them."
I ignored Harry's comment and shifted out of his embrace. Placing both hands firmly upon my waist, I regarded both father and son with heavy glares. "Well, I'll just have you know, James, my love, that I happen to be in very close confidents with Father Christmas and his elves, and just so happen to know that Ron received the very same broom that you did this morning."
Or very close confidents with Hermione, anyway, which really could be considered the same thing.
James's eyebrows furrowed and he scrunched his nose in distaste. "You mean, Ron lieded?"
"Yes, Ron lied," I corrected, giving him a smile. "Just as you would've been doing had you brought Daddy's broom along. And what did Mummy and Daddy tell you about telling falsehoods?"
James winced as he realised his mistake. "But Daddy said if I was careful..." he argued slowly, looking towards his father. I threw Harry an annoyed look. He simply shrugged, smiling.
"A falsehood is a falsehood," I scolded lightly, "no matter what Daddy says."
James looked as if he was ready to argue back, but at the last second, stopped and nodded in defeat.
"Fine," he grumbled, slowly dragging his feet down the stairs and towards the Christmas tree. He grabbed the small training broom from a pile underneath the tree and eyed it critically, muttering quietly, "Daddy's Windspeed's still better."
"Maybe next year, Jay," Harry said with a smile, placing a hand on his disappointed son's shoulder. I held back a laugh just looking at the silly picture the two of them made. I could just stand around all day looking at the both of them... all day...
The clock struck four.
"Oh! We have to go!" I jumped, resuming to the state of chaos I had been in a few minutes ago. I sighed, watching as both James and Harry hid gleeful smiles. "Well, I'm glad you two find this so funny!" I said, giving a good glare to both of them. "James, go put on your shoes and your coat! Harry! The presents! Now!"
James scampered off up the stairs again, giggling to himself as he went. I watched him go, mentally counting in how many ways I had just imitated my mother. Harry came up behind me, snaking his arms around my waist, gently pressing his lips to my temple. I leaned into his chest, trying to force myself not to think of all the swears my mother was probably applying to my name at that very moment.
"I hate Mum's bloody Christmas parties," I grumbled.
Harry laughed, nuzzling my neck. "They're not so bad," he responded, still chuckling.
"Not so bad?" I snorted, looking disbelievingly at my husband. "Are we talking about the same party, love?"
Harry smiled as I continued to laugh at him. "Well, I don't know," he said, softly placing his lips on mine. "I have a vague memory of a rather cheerful time at one of those Christmas parties."
I felt a small grin creep onto my face as I recalled exactly just what Christmas party Harry was speaking of. Merlin, had it really been nearly eight years? Time traveled so quickly.
Harry pressed one last kiss to my lips before detangling himself from my embrace. "Presents," he said. "Our room?"
I nodded silently, watching as Harry smiled once more before climbing up the stairs, leaving me alone in the big living room. I walked quietly over to the coat stand by the front door, my mind wandering to that crazy Christmas night eight years ago. Merlin, I'd been young. And late. Oh so very late. I smiled at the memory, wrapping myself firmly in my black sturdy coat and grabbing my scarf as well.
That had been one crazy night.
Christmas Day, 2004
There used to be a time when just the thought of Christmas Day made me an instant insomniac. I'd be up all night waiting for Father Christmas, anticipating the brilliant things that he would leave me the next morning. Everything about Christmas excited me—the snow, the decorations, the carols and the food...I didn't want to miss even a second of any of it.
Merlin, how things changed since then.
With a moan that could only be made in that state of half-sleep and half-awake, I rolled over in my small bed, the freezing cold air waking me from my pleasant slumber. I groaned again, burying myself further into my blankets. Stupid cold. Where was the heat when you needed it? I cracked open an eye, then instantly closed it again as I was met with the burning white light shining through the windows of my flat. Another groan escaped. I hate snow. I hate cold.
Rolling over again in an attempt to get away from the devilish windows, my eyelids slowly slid open and my eyesight began focusing slightly. My glance moved towards the clock on the bedside table. I squinted, trying to depicter the blurry blotches of red.
Hm. Afternoon. Pity.
Then the clock changed, revealing a new message. I squinted some more.
Up, up, up! Very very LATE!
I frowned. Up? Late? I had to get up? Late for what? My eyes flickered over to the calendar on the wall. What was today again? Right, Saturday. I thought for a moment. I don't have classes on Saturdays. My eyes scanned the days of the week. Saturday...the 25th? Ah, Christmas. I shut my eyes again.
I tumbled out of bed, my blankets still huddled around me like a firm stocking. I winced as my bare feet met the cold surface of the floor as I started to make my way towards the loo to quickly shower. Mum was going to murder me. Groggily, I fumbled my way into the toilets, tripping over my blankets as I did so, slamming the door behind me on my way in.
Oh, I hate Christmas.
An hour or so later, I found myself standing in the front yard of my childhood home. It was no surprise to see that The Burrow was all dolled up in a very Christmassy fashion. Mum was always like that—very into the whole Christmas thing. I sighed, walking slowly down the path towards the house, watching as my boots left footprints in the newly made snow. I could tell the Christmas party was already in full swing, and I prayed that with all the hustle and bustle, Mum had yet to realise that I wasn't present. I seriously doubted she hadn't, but a girl could dream, couldn't she? It was Christmas after all.
I slowed my pace, practically stopping as I neared the house. I really didn't want to be here. I hated these stupid Christmas parties. Perhaps I could go in, make my rounds, and then silently slip out afterwards. I doubt anyone would miss me much, anyway. I could be out of here in an hour, tops. Then I could go home to my flat and catch up on some seriously needed sleeping. I smiled just thinking about it.
With that pleasant thought pushing me forward, I covered the small distance between me and the front door, and taking one last deep breath, finally entered the house.
I opened the door slowly, cringing as it quietly squeaked in protest. I gently tiptoed my way into the house, looking around to see if anyone had noticed my entrance. I closed the door silently behind me, shaking my damp head, trying to extract the incriminating snowflakes out of my hair. The house smelt of that pungent aroma of evergreen and my mother's cooking that was forever infamous at these sorts of gatherings. The familiar scent made me smile. I took a quick glance around the room, removing my scarf and my coat, hanging the damp articles on the rack beside me. As I expected, the house was packed, and chaos ensued everywhere. My smile grew deeper. Perhaps no one had realised my absence after all. Perhaps my Christmas prayers had been answered.
"GINEVRA MOLLY WEASLEY!"
I turned around slowly, not surprised in the least to find my very red-faced mother stalking over to me, a large wooden spoon being held threateningly in my direction.
"Happy Christmas, Mum," I said, kissing her cheek when she'd quickly reached me.
"Oh, don't you 'Happy Christmas' me, young lady!" she scolded, giving me a good glare and still waving her spoon about. "I told you to be here at one, Ginny! ONE! Have you any idea what time it is now?"
I shrugged, lifting my bare wrist towards my mother. "I don't wear a watch, Mum."
"FOUR, Ginny!" she seethed. "It's FOUR O'CLOCK!"
I scrunched my nose. Yeah, four seemed about right.
"Everyone else arrived hours ago, all asking where you were!" my mother continued, the wooden spoon now being waved very close to my face. I had to hide back a smile. Everyone was asking about me? I had never felt so popular in all my life. "Do you know what I had to tell them, young lady?" Mum demanded, stirring me out of my momentary reverie. "I had to tell them I didn't know where you were! Can you imagine what they must have—"
"Oh, let her be, Mum," came another voice from the busy doorway to my left. Both Mum and I turned around, watching as Ron made his way over to us, a familiar small blob of red being carried in his arms. "It's Christmas!"
"Oh! Abby!" Forgetting my rather furious mother for the moment, I rushed over to grab my niece from her father. Ron chuckled as Abigail easily slipped into my arms.
"Gigi!" the one-year-old gurgled, giving me a sloppy kiss on the cheek. I tried not to cringe at the nickname. I can't wait until she's older and can properly pronounce names. I laughed anyway, though, looking the little girl over. Her pretty pink party dress was spotted with curious looking—were those paint stains? It seemed as if Abby had had a bit of a misfortunate run-in with a set of watercolours. One small white shoe was also noticeably missing from her left foot.
"Nice to see you too, Gin," Ron said flatly, watching as I cooed over his daughter. "Things have been great, thanks for asking."
"Anytime," I answered with a smile, pecking him on the cheek. "Where's—"
I turned around at Abigail's cry, wincing slightly as I watched my rather disgruntled-looking sister-in-law make her way through the crowds of people and over towards us (though thankfully, no large wooden spoon was residing in her hand). Nevertheless, she did not look pleased.
And they honestly wonder why I don't like coming to these things?
"Well, finally, Ginny!" she cried, her tone frustrated. "Where on earth have you been? Do you know it's already—"
"Four, yes, I know." I rolled my eyes, shifting her daughter onto my other side and kissing her on the cheek as well. "Happy Christmas, Hermione."
She ignored my greeting. "Where have you been?"
"I…I was studying late last night," I answered, going for the easiest way out. "I overslept."
Hermione gave me a disapproving look, but nodded. She was always a sucker for education. "How are those Healer classes at St. Mungos going by the—"
Suddenly, she stopped. Her eyes shifted away from me and over to the little girl residing in my arms, her eyebrows shooting up as she took in her daughter's current state of dress. "What on earth happened to your dress, Abigail?" she asked, lifting Abby out of my arms and into her own. "And where is your shoe?" I stifled a laugh as Hermione's stern glance moved from her daughter to her husband. Ron nervously scratched the back of his head. "Ron?"
"Er…she was, er…having a bit of fun with the other kids," Ron muttered, giving his wife an uneasy grin, rubbing away at some of the paint on Abigail's dress. "'Reckon this one's gonna be an artist, eh?"
Hermione glared at him. "You were supposed to be watching her, Ronald!"
"I was!" Ron insisted quickly, holding his hands up in defense. "It was all Uncle Witler's fault! One second I'm watching her and then the next thing I know, BOOM! Mad Uncle Witler's got me engaged in some bloody argument—"
"Just ask him!" Ron cried, pointing his hand in the direction of the other room. "He had me cornered! The next thing I know, I find her down in the basement painting with the all the others, looking like this!"
"Oh, don't give me your—"
Hermione stopped again, her eyes narrowing further as a loud stampede of small rushing footsteps could be heard coming in our direction. I bit back a snort. What seemed to be a pack of every single one of my nieces and nephews came rushing through the crowds and right towards us, Bill and Fleur's three-year-old son, Cole, in the lead, holding up what appeared to be a small white shoe.
"Look what Cole found, Uncle Ron! Look what he's found!" Bill and Fleur's oldest child, Madeline, said, ushering her brother towards Ron. I held back a laugh as my own brother's face grew red.
"I win! I win!" Cole chanted, bouncing up and down, holding the shoe up expectantly towards Ron. Hermione looked skeptically down at the children.
"Win what exactly?" she asked, throwing another look at her husband.
Ron loosened his shirt collar nervously. "Well...erm...you see, love—"
"Uncle Ron said whoever found Abby's shoe got 10 whole sickles!" came a shout from one of the children. Charlie's daughter, Laurie, I think.
Slowly, Hermione turned to face her husband, placing their daughter upon the floor as she went, her glare so fierce even I took a step back.
"Ronald Bilius Weasley!" she growled, looking at him with such venom, I surely thought Ron would wet himself, "you bribed these children into finding your daughter's shoe?"
"No! Well, yes! But..." Ron grew pale at his wife's facial expression and tone of voice. "It was a game!" he insisted. "They wanted to!"
I winced. This wasn't going to be good. Hermione was obviously in some sort of homicidal mood today. Probably too much exposure to the extended Weasley clan. They're enough to drive anyone mad.
"Listen," I said, placing a hand on Hermione's shoulder, which she efficiently ignored, "I'm just going to go mingle now. You know, places to go, people to see...I'll catch up with the lot of you later, all right?"
Hermione continued to ignore me. Ron threw me a helpless look. The children all laughed.
"Uncle Ron's in trouble!" Laurie snickered, laughing with her cousins.
I snorted. She had no idea.
Moving as far away from Hurricane Ron and Hermione as possible, I weaved my way through the many crowds of people—some I knew, some I didn't—and made my way into the kitchen, which seemed to be slightly less crowded than any of the other rooms. I sighed, grabbing a glass of what I prayed to be very strong alcohol off a floating tray and plopped myself down at the kitchen table. I took a sip of my drink and then sighed again. Apple cider. Damn.
"Try some of this instead."
I looked up and grabbed the glass out of Fred's hand without hesitation, but paused before I drank it, remembering just who I was grabbing things from.
"What is it?" I asked, glancing at the yellowish liquid curiously.
Fred thrust out his chest smugly. "Why, me and George's newest brew, of course! Bloody brilliant stuff, it is. Everyone thinks so. We like to call it, 'Weasley's Obliviater'. Go on, take a waft!"
My gaze moved from Fred, to the 'Obliviater', to the groups of people in the room, many whom I found to be holding Fred and George's creation. I looked back at Fred, who was looking at me expectantly.
"Fine," I agreed, moving the glass closer to my mouth. "But if there's any funny business involved with this stuff, I'll hex you so hard you won't need this to "obliviate' yourself."
Fred nodded, watching with gleaming eyes as I lifted the glass to my mouth and took a tentative sip. It tasted sweet and sour at the same time, a strange sort of mix that seemed to work. Thankfully, it also gave the familiar burn of strong alcohol as it slipped down my throat. I sighed contently. This was just what I needed.
"It's good," I told him, taking another sip. Fred looked delighted.
"We're gonna make millions off this stuff, Ginnykins!" He clapped his hands together excitedly, his smile huge. "Millions!"
I grinned back at him. "That's nice, Fred," I said, draining the rest of the glass. "Now exactly how many of these little buggers do I have to drown down in order to completely slosh myself?"
Fred patted my back affectionately, winking at me as he said, "I think I'll let you figure that one out, sister o'mine!"
Then he plopped another full glass in front of me, and with a sly smile, waltzed off, handing out more glasses to various people as he went. I shook my head, smiling after him as I took another sip. My eyes strayed back over to the crowds of people moving throughout the house. Well, I suppose it's unavoidable, isn't it? I might as well just start with the horrific mingling now before someone sits down and I don't have a choice. I had to remind myself that the sooner this was all through, the sooner I could leave. With that slightly comforting thought, taking my drink with me as my crutch, I quietly rose from my seat at the table. I was surprised to feel a slight wisp of dizziness as I rose, leading me to believe that perhaps I wouldn't have to wait too long until Fred and George's concoction succeeded in doing what its name promised.
With one last deep breath, my mind protesting furiously at what I was about to do, I entered the living room, determined to get this done and over with as quickly as was physically possible.
"Ginevra? Is that my little niece?"
I had barely just entered the living room when I heard the familiar screech of my relatives from beside me. I turned to my left, holding back a cringe as my large, frumpy, Aunt Vesta made her way over to me, her arms thrown open wide, her deep red lipstick smudged apparently on her teeth. I forced a smile, and let her hug me.
"But where's your husband, love?"
I cocked an eyebrow. Husband?
I could already tell this was going to be a very long night.
An hour later, I had been hugged, kissed, pinched, shoved and insulted to my ultimate maximum. I know they say that Christmas is a time for family, but I'm pretty sure that my life could have more-or-less remained complete without some of mine. I sighed, mentally forming my escape plan as Uncle Artie and Aunt Helen continued jabbering on.
"So no bloke at all, Ginny dear?" Aunt Helen asked, pinching my cheek as she spoke. Internally, I was remembering every single swear word Fred and George had ever taught me and forcing myself to keep them down. Externally, I shrugged.
"My life's just so busy with training and everything," I explained for what seemed to be the millionth time that night. 'Where's your boyfriend/husband/significant-other/newest-boy-toy?' seemed to be the question of the night where I was concerned. "I just don't have time."
"Well, no worries!" Uncle Artie laughed, giving my shoulder a shove. "You're a decent enough bird, Ginny! The blokes will bite!"
Decent enough? The blokes will bite? Oh, if only I had a knife…
"And even if they don't," he continued, giving me a wink, "you could always be one of those working dams. My good aunt was one of them broads, and no one can tell you your dear old Aunt Sally ain't a happy one!"
I smiled and nodded, my gaze shifting over my uncle's shoulder to the mad, 90-year-old woman sitting alone at a table on the far side of the room. Her gray hair was a fuzzball atop her head, and she had more make-up on her wrinkly old face than an entire cosmetics store, but she was smiling, laughing to herself as she fiddled with her fork, looking around as people passed by her, hoping they'd stop by and come share in the joke with her. I gulped. Oh, yes. Aunt Sally. My role model.
I had to get out of this place.
"Well, I'd better go find Mum," I said, my eyes moving back to my aunt and uncle. "I told her I'd help her with something. It was lovely speaking with you, though."
"Of course," Aunt Helen cooed. "Always a pleasure, Ginny, dear." She turned to Uncle Artie, threading her arm through his. "Come along, Artie. Vesta said she had some splendid little photos to show us of her new grandson."
The pair waltzed off to find Aunt Vesta and a small sigh of relief escaped my mouth. Before anyone else could ambush me into another conversation, I darted from the living room, making my way as quickly as I could to the front hall where I could grab my things and make my escape through the front door.
I made it into the front hall simply enough without much interruption. Charlie's wife, Whitney, stopped me once and asked if I'd seen Laurie, but after a quick response in the negative, she'd walked off to continue in her search for her daughter. I held back a girlish giggle as I made it to the front door and casually glanced around to see that no one was watching. With a sense of triumph blazing through my skin, I reached for my coat and scarf and put them on quickly. I couldn't believe my luck! Finally out of this dreadful party! With dreams of a long peaceful slumber playing in my mind, I reached for the doorknob, anxious to get out of the hellhole.
"Ginny Weasley, you better not be doing what I think you're doing!"
I froze in my place, cringing as my hand slowly dropped from the doorknob in defeat, all my hopes and dreams instantly squashed by my sister-in-law's stern voice.
"Just getting some fresh air," I told her innocently.
"Don't you 'fresh air' me, Ginny Weasley!" Hermione scoffed, sounding ridiculously like my mother at that point. "You were trying to leave!"
I sighed, looking pleadingly at Hermione.
"Oh, come on, Hermione! I have so much work and I really have to catch up on a few things—"
"No, no, no, no, no!" Hermione snapped, striding purposely over to me, quickly removing my scarf and placing it back on the rack beside the door. She started unbuttoning my coat as well, but I pulled back from her with a glare. Hermione glared right back at me. "Don't make me get your mother!" she threatened, pointing her finger towards the kitchen. My mouth dropped open in disgust. And I thought she was my friend!
"You're being ridiculously unfair, Hermione!" I argued, when my coat was off once more and Hermione had begun dragging me back towards the party. She just grunted in response.
She pulled me through the kitchen and back into the living room, where the party was still going strong. I groaned aloud. Why, oh why, the living room? I was afraid she was going to stick me back with Uncle Artie and Aunt Helen, or perhaps, even worse, my mother, but instead she just kept on dragging me until we reached the tables at the very far side of the room.
"Sit!" she snapped, pulling out a chair from one of the tables. "And don't you dare even think about getting up, Ginny Weasley! I want to know exactly where to find you when I need to! Understood?"
I sat and nodded, only because she was fixing me with the same glare she'd been sticking Ron with earlier this afternoon. Not for the first time, I pitied my brother for marrying such a madwoman. Then with one last glare, Hermione stalked away from me, disappearing into the crowds.
I groaned again, fighting the urge to bang my head several times against the table. I was so close! So close!
"Dearie me! Have you come for a bit of a chat, Ginevra, love?"
I turned slowly to my left, grimacing as I realised just what table Hermione had sentenced me to. Aunt Sally's buggish eyes looked expectantly at me, her smile growing wider as she once again began to twiddle with her fork. I fought back the urge to cry.
I hate Hermione.
45 minutes, 3 glasses of Weasley's Obliviater, 4 rolls of bread, 6 crossword puzzles and far too many conversations with Aunt Sally than were absolutely necessary later, my legs were asleep, I was half drunk, completely starving and more than a bit on the irritated side.
About halfway through my second glass of Fred and George's concoction (and in the middle of my third roll of bread) my cousins, Paul and Roman, came and sat down at the table (not because they were sentenced there or anything, of course. Just out of their own free wills). They both watched me curiously out of the corner of their eyes as they talked. They didn't talk to me though. Paul and Roman never did have any sort of liking for me. They just continued on with their debates about which Weird Sister's album was the most brilliant (they were both wrong), as I continued to put up with Aunt Sally, her buggy eyes, her crackling laugh and her odd fascination with my mother's silverware.
After Roman and Paul finally waltzed off together, I somehow managed to get a hold of an old crossword puzzle book that had been conveniently stashed underneath the table. So instead of continuing trying to avoid being stabbed by Aunt Sally and her wayward fork, I started to do those, wondering just when it was that I could leave. I'd see Hermione walking through the crowds occasionally, and she would watch me, looking to make sure I was still here, but she never gave any sort of inclination as to when I could finally leave my prison. When I found myself looking for a fourth glass of alcohol, and when the crossword puzzles were actually starting to become fun, I knew I had to get out of there. My sanity was depending on it.
"A five letter word for 'misery'," I muttered to myself, scanning my brain for some new synonyms.
"Party," a familiar voice chimed behind me. I whipped around in my chair, my alcohol influenced head throbbing as I did so. Clad in a simple pair of blue jeans and one of his horrible emerald sweaters my mother insisted on knitting him, I watched as an obviously aggravated Harry Potter was being dragged by an equally aggravated Hermione towards my table. With a piercing glare at Harry, Hermione shoved him into the seat previously vacated by Roman like a small child being put on time out. I grinned as Harry sulked. Me and the bloody fucking Boy-Who-Lived. On time out. Life is rather ironic, no?
"Crossword puzzle?" I asked, offering the book over to Harry. He smiled and took a swig of my drink instead.
"You two are insufferable!" Hermione snapped, glaring rather venomously at both of us. "Honestly! Trying to sneak out of the party? How immature can you get?"
I glanced at Harry. "You tried to sneak out?"
He nodded with a grin.
"Front or back?"
I shook my head in mock-disappointment. "Guarded like Buckingham, that is. Should've gone for the front."
Harry cocked his eyebrows. "Oh, like you?"
I winced slightly. "Fair point." I took my drink back from him and took a swing myself. "A window, then."
Harry nodded. "Next time."
"Will you two quit it!" Hermione snapped again, her face growing redder as Harry and I started cracking up. Honestly, what did she expect from two obviously drunk fools? "You are both completely ridiculous!" she continued, waving her hands about. She fixed her wicked stare upon Harry. I started laughing even harder as he leaned back into his seat, obviously startled. What a coward.
"Stay here!" she warned him, pointing furiously at the table. Her gaze switched over to me and I gulped involuntarily through my giggling. "I'll be back to deal with you two later!"
Both of us nodded, though more out of fear than anything else. With one last glare at the both of us, Hermione stormed off, her bushy mane whipping behind her as she disappeared into the crowds.
It only took a few seconds for Harry and me to burst out laughing again.
"She's mad," Harry said, wiping at his eyes underneath his glasses. I could only nod, so consumed by my own endless giggles. I knew then that it was about time for a good, old Sobering Charm.
"I can't believe they wouldn't let you leave," I told him through my laughter, leaning back in my chair. "Are they planning on locking you up and keeping you in the cellar? How long have you been here for?"
Harry shrugged. "An hour or so, maybe."
My mouth dropped open.
"An hour or so?" I cried, looking at him in disbelief. "You tried to leave after a bloody fucking hour? At least I had the decency to stay for two! No wonder Hermione attacked you!"
"Hey, I thought we were on the same team!"
"Not any more, Hour-Boy," I muttered. Harry snorted, taking another gulp of my drink. I glared at him as he emptied the glass. "Get your own!"
"What is it?" Harry asked.
"Fred and George's newest concoction." I answered.
Harry's eyebrows shot up. "Is it safe?"
"Sure. Don't you trust them?" I teased. Harry shook his head, pushing the empty glass away from him. I rolled my eyes. "It's fine," I insisted, waving off his worries with a flick of my hand. "Or at least I hope it's fine, anyway. I've had like five."
"Five?" Harry asked, impressed. "Pissed yet?"
"No," I answered, though my throbbing head suggested otherwise. "Weasleys hold their drinks well."
"You adopted then?" Harry asked with a teasing grin.
I threw him a face. "Are you suggesting that I'm drunk, Potter?"
Harry shook his head, the smile still playing at his lips. "Of course not."
"Good." I watched his emerald eyes sparkle with laughter in a way I hadn't seen in quite a while. "Hey, do you know what?" I said, a thought suddenly coming to me. "I haven't seen you in quite a while!"
Harry nodded. "Yeah," he said, "it's been, what, a few months?"
I searched my brain for the last time I remembered seeing him, but the fuzziness and constant throbbing of my head made it rather difficult. "At least," I answered finally, giving up on trying to pinpoint the exact date. "So how have things been? Still an Auror?"
"For now," Harry shrugged. "Just got back from a mission, actually."
Harry smiled. "The French Riviera."
I snorted, just then noticing the slightly tanned tone of his skin. "Oh yes," I drawled, "what a stressful life you lead."
Harry shrugged again. "It wasn't really all that glamorous," he insisted. I could hardly imagine it being otherwise, though. "And what about you?" he asked. "Still studying at St. Mungos?" I nodded. "How's that going?"
"Same old things," I answered. "Lots of work, no sleep...you know, the usual."
Harry smirked. "So you were sneaking off to get some sleep then, I'd presume?"
I nodded, a dreamy smile plastered on my face. "Sleep," I muttered. "Is there really such a thing?"
Harry laughed, nodding his head in an understanding way. "I know how that feels."
I smiled, watching him as he laughed. He hadn't changed much since the last time I'd seen him, whenever that had been. Sure, he was a slight bit tanner, and perhaps a bit more on the cheerier side (no doubt because of the large amount of alcohol he'd consumed already), but he was still the same hard-working, slightly talkative, and (as my flustered hormones always took notice to) ridiculously good-looking Harry. The same gleaming emerald eyes, the same unruly mass of hair...the same Harry.
"So," I said, shaking myself out of my reverie, "how does your girlfriend feel about your trip to the Riviera? Or did she go?"
I didn't know why I'd brought it up. Our love lives were the one topic Harry and I had made a silent pack to stay clear of ever since his sixth-year. I didn't know why it was still so uncomfortable after all these years. So we dated a few months? Who cares? So we'd never actually gotten around to reinstating our relationship when the war was over? It probably wouldn't have worked out, anyway.
Or so I always told myself.
Harry was obviously too drunk to realise that I had just posed the unaskable question. "You mean my nonexistent girlfriend?" he replied, a silly grin on his face. "She stayed home to take care of our nonexistent dog." I laughed, shaking my head, blaming my jumping stomach not on the word 'nonexistent', but on the insane amount of alcohol I'd consumed. "What about you?"
"What about me?"
"What about your boyfriend?" Harry asked. "How does he feel about you wanting to sleep rather than shack up with him on Christmas?"
I shrugged my shoulders, knowing that it was only fair for me to reply considering I was the one who had brought the topic up. "No boyfriend," I answered.
I had never wanted to lie so much in my entire life.
Harry frowned, eyeing me curiously. "Girlfriend, then?" he asked.
My mouth dropped open as I swatted him with my hand. "No!" I cried. "I think you of all people would know that!"
Harry laughed, rubbing at the spot on his arm where I'd just hit him. "Well, I'm sorry," he said, throwing me a grin. "It's just hard to imagine you don't have a significant other."
"Why, because I'm so old?" I asked, rolling my eyes.
"That's what everyone else says," I told him simply. Harry snorted disbelievingly.
"Well I'm older than you are," hesaid. "So I guess we're in the same boat, then?"
"I suppose," I answered with a smile. "A lonesome pair of unattached old buggers, eh?"
Harry smiled as well. "Yeah, I suppose."
"A pair of Aunt Sally's," I added, beginning to laugh.
I motioned my head to the half-asleep form of Aunt Sally across the table. Harry snorted, then started laughing as well.
"I guess that makes me Uncle Sally," he said, shaking his head ruefully.
I started laughing harder, once again letting the alcohol affect my behavior. Before I knew it, the pair of us were cracking up like a bunch of hyenas, getting curious glances from the people surrounding us. This of course proved to be a mistake, when our untamable laughter seemed to reach such a volume that it succeeded in waking up Aunt Sally from her state of half-slumber.
"Oh! Ginevra!" she cried, her heavy eyelids fluttering open. Harry and I stopped laughing long enough to turn our heads and share a silent groan. Aunt Sally looked up at Harry, then made a noise of delight, pointing her fork in his direction. "A friend?" she asked. "Is this your husband, Ginevra, dear?"
The previously awkward question just seemed to make me giggle more. I glanced at Harry, whose eyes were fixed uncertainly upon the fork being held rather close to his face.
"It's..." I stopped, throwing Harry a wicked grin. "Why, yes, Aunt Sally," I continued. "This is my husband."
Aunt Sally clapped her hands in delight. Harry looked at me, shocked. I winked at him.
"Oh, you sure are a looker!" Aunt Sally cooed, pinching Harry's cheek. "And what's your name, young man?"
Harry opened his mouth to respond, but I was quicker.
"John!" I lied, throwing Harry a look. "John...er...Smith!"
Harry cracked a grin as Aunt Sally continued to look delighted.
"That's lovely!" she said, still smiling. "Well, Johnny—may I call you Johnny, dearie?"
Harry nodded. I held back a snort.
"Well, Johnny," Aunt Sally continued. "Do you know you look exactly like a young bloke I saw in the paper one afternoon? What's that bloke's name, Ginevra? The one dear Johnny looks like?"
'Dear Johnny' threw me a look as I smiled, pretending to give him a stern look-over. "Hmm," I mumbled, stroking my chin thoughtfully with my finger. "Minister Moody, perhaps?"
Harry glared at me.
"No, no," Aunt Sally answered, shaking her head. "You know who I'm talking about, don't you, Johnny dear? The bloke in the paper! The one that looks a bit like Harry Potter!"
This time I couldn't hold back a laugh. Harry looked like the bloke in the paper that looked a bit like himself? This woman was absolutely mad.
"Yes, I see the resemblance now," I answered, still laughing. Harry threw me a dirty look, but I just continued on, teasingly, "You do look a bit like that bloke that looks like Harry Potter, darling."
"Really, love?" Harry answered flatly. "I never really thought so."
"Oh, young love!" Aunt Sally clapped, smiling brightly at Harry and me, revealing a spot of lipstick on her teeth. "You must be newlyweds!" she proclaimed with a nod. "I can tell!"
I bit my lip to hold back another laughing fit.
"You're right, Aunt Sally," Harry answered, throwing an arm around my shoulders.
"I knew it!" Aunt Sally cried. She sighed in contentment. "What I wouldn't do to be young and in love again!"
I nodded, sharing a look of pure amusement with Harry. Aunt Sally? Young and in love? The thought made me shake with glee.
Suddenly, inspiration struck.
I threw Harry another wink before slowly leaning closer to Aunt Sally's make-up clad face.
"Can you keep a secret, Aunt Sally?"
Aunt Sally's buggish eyes popped out of their sockets in interest as she began nodding her head furiously. I smiled.
"You see," I continued, sneaking a glance up at Harry, who was watching me curiously, "Johnny's been away for nearly a month on business for work and I haven't seen him in the longest time, and we'd really like to go home and—"
"Shag like rabbits?" Aunt Sally offered, her face completely serious. I bit my lip hard, trying desperately not to laugh. I nodded my head, not trusting my mouth at the moment.
"But you see," Harry continued, seeing that I was unable to speak, catching up on my game quickly, "Hermione says we're not allowed to leave yet."
"Oh, bollocks!" Aunt Sally cried, waving her fork in protest. "Off with the both of you! I'll simply tell Hermione that the lot of you are in the loo!"
I shared a triumphant smile with Harry as Aunt Sally shooed us off.
"Thank you, Aunt Sally!" I cried, kissing her quickly upon the cheek before hastily grabbing Harry's hand, giving the room a cursory scan for any sign or Hermione or my mum. Neither was in sight. Perfect!
"Have a lovely evening!" Aunt Sally called, waving her fork in farewell. Harry and I laughed quietly, gave the old nutter a wave back and quickly scampered out of the room.
"Brilliant!" Harry whispered into my ear as we quietly made our way through the house, skimming our way easily through the crowds. "That was bloody fucking brilliant, Gin!"
I smiled smugly. "I know."
Harry laughed and we quickly found our way into the front hall. When I didn't stop at the front door, Harry tugged on my hand, causing me to stop momentarily to turn around and face him.
"Where are we going?" he asked.
"My room," I answered softly.
Harry cocked his eyebrow. "We don't actually have to shag like rabbits, Gin."
I shot him a sideways glance, my eyes rolling. "I know that, prat. We're using the window!"
Harry's eyebrows remained in their place. "The window?" he choked out. "I didn't think you were actually serious about that, Ginny!"
I stopped and turned on him, my eyes narrowed in annoyance. "What do you suggest we do then, Harry? Use the front door and get caught?"
"I didn't mean that," Harry said. "I just...the window, Ginny?"'
"Come on," I said, my hands on my hips. "You're an Auror! You do the whole climbing and sneaking around thing all the time, don't you?"
"No," Harry answered flatly.
I threw him a look. "Do you want to get out of here or not?" I asked. Harry's silence was answer enough. "Well, let's go then!" I snapped. When Harry still gave me an uneasy look, I rolled my eyes again, wondering how in the world the bloke had managed to defeat the greatest Dark Lord of our time when he was afraid of climbing out of windows. "It's safe," I finally assured him, pulling him up the stairs. "I used to do it all the time."
This caught Harry's attention as we started making our way up the stairs. "What for?" he asked curiously.
I smirked. "You really don't want to know."
"Well, I don't know," Harry said, eyes twinkling as we stopped at my doorway. "It rather makes a bloke wonder what sorts of things his wife gets up to, you know?"
"Ginevra! What in Merlin's name are you doing up here?"
I jumped, my head whipping around as I turned to face the scolding voice. I held back a groan, closing my eyes slowly as the sight of my Aunt Vesta filled the doorway of my childhood bedroom. This couldn't be happening, not again. We'd come too far.
"What are you doing up here?" I asked, stalling for time, trying to form some sort of plan.
Aunt Vesta motioned back towards my room. "I was putting something in the coatroom," she said.
My mouth dropped open. Coatroom? COATROOM? They were using my bloody room as a fucking coatroom? Is this the respect my parents show for their ONLY DAUGHTER? The very same daughter, who is wasting PRECIOUS SLEEPING TIME AT THEIR BLOODY PARTY?
That's when I snapped.
"Are you two leaving?" Aunt Vesta continued, unaware of the raging storm that was filling my head at that precise time. "Because maybe I should get your mother if you're thinking of leaving..."
Oh, Merlin. She did not just go there.
"Listen, lady!" I snapped, glaring fiercely at Vesta, throwing all reason aside and going with the only asset I had at that particular moment. I pointed to Harry, who was standing innocently behind me. "Do you know who this is?" I asked.
"Well, of course I know who Harry is!" Aunt Vesta huffed offensively, obviously put off by my hostile tone. "I've had the pleasure of speaking with him quite a few times, Ginevra!"
"Good," I said, still glaring. "Now that we clarified that Harry Potter is standing behind me, let me ask you this...do you know what he can do to you if you don't let us pass?"
Aunt Vesta looked horrified. "Excuse me, young lady?"
I just glared harder. "He knows more curses than this entire house put together! He single-handedly took down a Dark Lord, Vesta! A measly fifty-year-old woman is like a piece of cake to him."
Aunt Vesta turned pale. "Ginevra..."
"Move," I snapped. "Now!"
Aunt Vesta continued to grow paler, and with a startled cry, she quickly moved out of my doorway and practically ran down the stairs. I didn't look back at her. I simply grabbed Harry's hand and dragged him into my room, closing and locking the door behind us.
"Wow," Harry said flatly, watching as I quickly stalked over to the window and shoved it open. "Apparently I'm not a very nice person."
"Sorry," I said, wincing slightly as he glared at me. "You don't want her to like you anyway. She's a devil of a woman."
Harry rolled his eyes.
"Well it got her to move, didn't it?" I asked helplessly.
Harry shook his head. "Have you even thought this mad plan of yours through, Gin? Once we climb out your window, what do we do? Walk three miles in the freezing cold without our coats to town?"
"Of course not," I answered. "We'll apparate to my flat. The wards are complete bollocks. We'll get right through."
Harry frowned. "That's not safe, Ginny. Why aren't you wards secure?"
"Relax, Harry," I said, motioning for him to come towards the window. "I've lived there four years and no one's raped me yet." Harry made a face, obviously not taking this as a reassuring comment. I sighed. "I'll let you fix them if it makes you feel better," I said, hoping he would just let the subject drop so that we could get the hell out of there. Who knows how long Aunt Vesta would actually keep her mouth shut before telling Mum? Chances were not long.
"You bet your arse I'll fix them," Harry grumbled, coming to stand next to me. He stuck his head out the open window and looked around. "All right," he said, coming back inside, "how exactly are we doing this, Indiana Jones?"
Harry rolled his eyes. "Never mind," he said. "What are we doing?"
"See those vines?" I asked, pointing towards the vines on the side of our house. Harry cocked his eyebrows.
"Vines?" he asked flatly.
"Yes, vines," I answered. "We climb down those, step on that pipe, then jump to the ground. Any questions?"
"Yeah," Harry said. "Are you mad?"
I glared at him. "Do you want to get out of here or not?"
"Yes, but I'd also like to make it out alive!"
"Quit being such a baby! I'll go first if it will make you feel better!" I stuck my foot purposely out the window, ready to climb out, but Harry pulled me back.
"I'll go first," he told me, a displeased look still on his face. "Then at least when you fall to your death I'll be there to catch you."
"How considerate of you," I told him with a teasing smile.
"Yeah, yeah, yeah," he grumbled, sticking his foot out the window just as I had previously done. After a few awkward moments of twisting and bending, Harry managed to climb through the small space. I stuck my head outside and watched as he safely made his way to the ground.
"See?" I said, trying to keep my voice down. "You didn't die!"
"Just get down here!" Harry replied in an equally soft voice. "I'm freezing my arse off!"
"All right, all right," I mumbled, sticking my head back inside. Before I started to make the familiar climb out the window, I hurriedly pulled out my wand and preformed a quick Sobering Charm. Even though I'd made the climb more times than I could count throughout my childhood, I didn't fancy falling in my practically drunken state. With a small smile as the throbbing in my head slowly decreased, I moved my feet out the window as well, almost laughing at the ridiculous of the situation. With one last quick look at my bedroom-turned-coatroom, I maneuvered my body out of the window and quickly made my way to the ground...and to my freedom.
I'm not really sure how it happened. Everything transpired so quickly I couldn't be sure when or how we'd gotten from one point to the next. One moment we were in my living room, sitting on the couch, talking about the ridiculousness of Christmas parties and who we'd talked to for the small amount of time we'd been there, and then the next thing I know, I'm shoved up against my hallway wall, my feet clamped securely around Harry's waist, snogging my brother's best mate—and the one man who had never really left my mind—like there was no tomorrow.
There were so many things wrong about the situation, and yet so many things that were right. The magic that had been there from the very first time he'd kissed me in a common room filled with people eight years ago was still there, and yet, it had somehow escalated to nothing I had ever known, or even imagined before. And I would've stopped—should've stopped—because I knew that he was drunk, and that I, being the slightly sober one of the group, was now in the 'taking advantage of' position in the whole mess. But I just couldn't help myself. He just kept on kissing me, his tongue all over the place, his hands even more so. He was intoxicating.
But even more so than that, I knew that this was right. Sober or drunk, sixteen or twenty-four, this had always been right—would always be right. And that's why I didn't stop. It was why I couldn't stop.
"Fuck," Harry swore, dragging his lips from mine for but a second, before capturing them once again in another bruising kiss. My heart was pounding against my chest and my breath was coming out in short, rugged gasps, but I hardly cared. I was too far gone for anything to matter anymore.
"Wait," Harry gasped, prying his lips from mine once again. I waited, but my entire body protested furiously. Harry's eyes were dark with desire, and the realisation made my body ache more.
"You're drunk," he whispered hoarsely. "We can't do this. You'll regret it in the morning."
"I'm not drunk, Harry," I told him softly, my lips grazing his once more. Harry shook his head, unloosing my legs from his waist.
"You are," he said almost bitterly. "I'm not going to do this to you, Ginny."
I looked him over, watching his emerald eyes continue to flame and his body shake, his breathing as rugged as mine.
"Harry," I whispered, my hands dropping from around his neck to where his lay at his sides. "Shut up and kiss me."
And with that, I pressed my lips to his again, slowly dragging him backwards into my bedroom, slamming the door shut behind us.
"Gin? Ginny? You all right, love?"
My head snapped up to see both Harry and James standing at the foot of the stairs, both fully dressed with coats and scarves already on. I smiled.
"Sorry," I said, shaking my head. "Daydreaming."
"'Bout presents?" James asked with a grin.
My smile grew wider, and I nodded. James nodded understandingly in return.
"I love presents," he told me matter-of-factly, walking past me and out the front door. I watched his small form disappear outside, a smile still on my face.
"So yet another Christmas party?" Harry asked, coming up beside me and grabbing my hand.
I sighed, brushing my lips against his.
"Meet you by my window in an hour?" I whispered.