Summary: Harry, Ron and Hermione break from the Horcrux hunt to come back to The Burrow for a couple of days before returning to the search.
Looking out of the window of The Burrow she could see a fresh coating of snow covering the icy pathway and garden. The dying sunlight was offering a certain glint to each droplet of snow as it fell. Yet the idealistic Christmas scene looked cold and bare. There were no snowmen wearing a strange mixture of fruit and old clothes, no cries of laughter from snowball fights, not even a single person wrapped up and making their way towards the house bringing Christmas wishes. Instead it was just a white nothingness; it was almost as if the weather was reflecting the dampening hope in the wizarding world.
It was Christmas Eve and The Burrow was empty.
Christmas was Ginny's favourite holiday, and it always had been. It wasn't because of the gifts, but because it was the one time of the year, her family would get together and just have fun. Yet this year that was not going to be the case and that was becoming one of the many reasons that she wasn't looking forward to tomorrow at all.
Like last year her dad was going to be working so late that he would be exhausted by the time he arrived home for his day off. This meant that instead of encouraging his children's mischievous behaviour, he would be battling to keep his eyes open. The level of Percy's estrangement had grown since last year's disastrous meal, while problems with travelling between countries since Voldemort's expanded power had made it impossible for Charlie to return. While Fred and George were doing something 'highly secretive' which would keep them occupied until much later, as she had been told yesterday with a small wink, and with Bill and Fleur due to arrive in the morning, this had left her at home alone with her mum.
The two Weasley women seemed to be bringing out the worst in each other as the day progressed. Since she had returned from Hogwarts for her Christmas holidays, lively discussion had echoed round every floor of The Burrow. Raised voices had bounced off the walls as a series of arguments between mother and daughter had been flying around the Weasley family home at every opportunity, over the most trivial of things. As the last week had shown there was no doubt to anyone who passed through the house that Ginny had inherited her mum's fiery temper and passionate nature. Nerves were fraying on a very fine string and instead of offering support to each other; the mother and daughter were both uttering the very comments that would set the other off into a variety of very strong opinions in increasingly loud voices.
With the return of Ron, Hermione and Harry imminent, her mother's overprotective nature had been turned up to full throttle, determined that her underage daughter would not be leaving school to find horcruxes. To say that her mum had not been happy when Ron had made that decision was a vast understatement. Molly Weasley had done everything in her power to stop him, which had proved not to be very much after Ron had passed his Apparation test. However, Ginny was a different case. In the summer she had been an under age witch, who couldn't Apparate and due to the postponement of the exams, had not even taken all her OWLs. Not much had changed since the summer and although she had now taken all her OWLs and was studying for her NEWTs, she was still underage and had yet to have an Apparation lesson.
Ginny let out a large sigh. Her mum's worries about her were fruitless, at least for another few months anyway. She was not going to risk the Horcrux hunt with her lack of experience, skills and knowledge. All her mother's words had done were to remind her, that while the rest her family were able to fight, she was useless, as well as to bring the rest of her worries and concerns to the front of her mind. Her concerns lay with Harry and his safety. Despite what had happened in June after Dumbledore's funeral and at the world's most awkward wedding where they had spent the whole day avoiding each other, only to bump into each other at every turn, she still loved him. Their time apart had only helped her to realise, how much she really did love Harry.
Her nerves had been set onto tenterhooks for the last six months. She was far from stupid; at times she wished that she was so that she could set up her own delusions in her mind. Each day she was facing the very real possibility that Harry would die and as she sat in a Transfiguration lesson or something, powerless to do anything about it. And the one thing she hated being was weak and powerless, since she had spent a year of her life being told that on a daily basis, through that cursed diary. She was no longer the little girl that would allow anything or anyone take control of her actions. As she was constantly told, she was growing into an increasing powerful and opinionated woman and someone who would not be belittled by anyone.
She couldn't just sit around the house doing nothing.
Grabbing her wand, and sticking it in her jean back pocket, she strode through the living room and into the kitchen where Molly Weasley was preparing food for tomorrow. Before Ginny could give her mother a chance to say anything and have the possibility of starting another argument, she pushed open the door, letting a mixture of cold air and snow into the heart of the house.
There was bound to be an argument masked as a heated debate if they spoke to each other. She had only been up for three hours and they had already fought over the fact that she was sure that her mother had had members of the Order of the Phoenix keeping watch over her at Hogwarts, the fact that her mother thought she had been losing weight and the fact that her mother thought that she was not applying herself in lessons at school. Also Molly Weasley had not missed the opportunity since her return to comment about the fact that she had been driven to a state of permanent anxiety with the number of Owls arriving from Hogwarts, when her daughter should be her one child that she should not be driven crazy with worry about. Although a very small part of her, knew that her mother had a very valid point, she was not willing to let her know that.
She really did not have the energy for the fight that would follow so she stepped outside for a walk and a break from her mother.
Ginny needed that break; in fact they both needed a break from each other. She was sick of the watchful eye that had been placed over her every move and she was positive that her mum was sick of her explosive and sarcastic retorts. She would face the consequences of her actions when she got back, just as it had happened so many times already this year. Besides, if other members of the family were in the house, her mother was less likely to be so vocal in her objections to her daughter's actions. And the safe return of her brothers would defuse the tension that was bubbling within The Burrow.
"I'm going out for some air, I'll be back soon," she called over her shoulder.
"Ginny!" Mrs Weasley started, however she didn't wait for any further comments before walking out the house and letting the door slam shut behind her.
There would be an argument later, but just now she really wanted some air and to get out of a house where she was locked inside her thoughts. Her mother was bound to explode at her doing what she had been wanting to do for days and walking out of the house without regard to the consequences, just as she had done at Hogwarts three times in the last term.
The cold air hit her as she walked through the garden and out the gate. She instantly wished that she had thought to bring a coat with her, but now that she was out the house, she was not turning back. Hugging last year's Weasley jumper closer to her, she headed up the bendy two track lane towards the village.
Her pace quickened as she walked through the boarded up village of Ottery St. Catchpole, as she made up her mind where she was heading. The normal festive decorations that adorned the houses and village shops were missing as the occupants had chosen to protect themselves not only from the danger of the weather, but also the threatening climate of the wizarding world. Her moves were more purposeful as a shiver ran down her spine which she was sure was not only brought on by the freezing temperatures. The empty streets far from offering their usual openness and celebration felt as cold as the air and gave the impression of a ghost town.
Leaving the village she strode out over the deserted farmlands to the river Otter. She felt her feet crunching on the crisp snow across the long field and towards the river bank. In the inter-war years, she had spent so many summers in this very spot as her mum would bring them all down to go fishing and search through the weeds and lilies for frog spawn, which would be put to a variety of uses once they had returned back to The Burrow. Carefully she climbed down from the frostbitten grass to the stones at the edge of the river.
Despite the coating of ice over the river, this place never changed. It wasn't boarded up like so many other places in her life had become.
Taking her wand from her back pocket, she cast a drying spell on the top of one of the rocks. Picking up a handful of small stones in her left hand, she melted the ice across the river with a warming charm and positioned herself on the rock. Ignoring the cold and her shivers, she pocketed her wand as she took each stone out of her left hand in turn and held that stone in between two of her fingers and her thumb in her right hand. Her eyes focused on the lake as she watched the ripples on the water and with a flick of her wrist sent stones skimming across the river, just like they had as kids in competition until someone got bored and dunked the others into the water.
"Ginny," Harry's voice called to her.
She blinked as she turned her head to look at him, hardly daring to believe that he was actually there. Ginny felt a shiver run down her spine that was a lot colder than any wind that was blowing as she turned round. Looking at him for the first time in months, she studied every feature of his body, without staying anything. She wanted to bask in having him back before she spoke. He looked thinner and paler; he must have lost as least as much weight as she had. His face had a slightly gaunt look to it and there were dark bags encasing his eyes.
"Ginny," he said again in a softer voice as he made his way closer to her.
"Hi," she said with a small forced smile.
Harry smiled back at her as he took off and offered her, his cloak, "You look freezing." Their hands briefly touched, before she quickly pulled hers away as she took the cloak off him and wrapped it round her shoulders. "Your mum's worried about you."
"So she sent you out to find me," she said looking downward and sending another stone across the river.
"She was going frantic when we got there, you'd been gone two hours and with the clock saying mortal peril, you can't blame her," Harry said. Making his way closer, he sat besides her before tipping her head upwards so she was forced to look at him. "She was saying how you weren't looking after yourself, and look at how thin you've got. She thinks you're going to either do something stupid or careless."
"I'm watched every second I'm at school, I can hardly do anything remotely stupid or careless even if I wanted to. I've got half the staff reporting my every move in and out of that castle to my mum. I swear if she could, she would have had Aurors taken off their jobs to watch me." She explained in a soft tone that was almost lost in the cold air. "I know, I can't run around the country chasing Horcruxes; I'm not old enough, I don't know enough, so I'm hardly going to run off and do something stupid."
Harry shrugged his shoulders and she noticed his body shake in the freezing December climate, "She just gets worried when you walk off, like you did today. And you can't blame her. There could have been Death Eaters waiting just outside The Burrow. Anyone who comes out of The Burrow has got to be a target for them and you've got to be pretty high up on the list of people that Death Eaters want."
"I know," Ginny explained reluctantly, feeling slightly guilty about her rash action of storming out. She hadn't paid any attention to the possibility of Death Eaters hiding behind trees ready to pounce. She had wanted to get a break from the house so desperately, she had not thought about the possibility that something might go wrong nor viewed herself as a target for Death Eater activity. "I guess I just needed some air, a break." She let out a large sigh. "You have no idea, how hard it is to be locked up all the time."
"The Order has spent years trying to protect me and stop me from doing stupid things. They were determined that the best way to keep me safe was not to tell me anything and to keep me prisoner at Privet Drive." Harry offered her a small smile. "I get how frustrating it is, trust me, especially when all you want to be doing is fighting."
"So despite understanding and deep down agreeing with the reasons you're not involved, you can't help but feel slightly bitter," Ginny continued his trail of thought. "And then there's the daily worries of watching from the sidelines as the war develops. I just wish we could glimpse into the future and check that everything works out." The edges of her lips curved into a smile as she took his hand and gave it a small squeeze. "Promise me, we'll make it through this and in ten years, we will be laughing over any worries we had."
Harry smiled at her. "You know I can't promise that."
She let out a small sigh as she returned his smile. "Well, just this once, lie to me."
"I could never lie to you."
Ginny let out a small laugh. "Still noble til the end, Potter."
"As always, Weasley," he said placing a soft kiss on her forehead, "but if we make it through this, there's nothing that will be able to stop me coming back to you." His smile grew, as she gently rested her head on his shoulder and wrapped the cloak over both of them. "That's if you'll still have me."
"I may just have to think about that."