The fire on the hearth blazed merrily, casting a warm glow over the Burrow and all of its inhabitants on Christmas Eve. Hermione sat curled on one end of the couch, feeling isolated from the traditional Weasley family raillery. Despite the warm fire and the twinkling fairy lights on the tree this Christmas felt dark and gloomy.
It wasn't because of lack of trying, though. Mrs. Weasley had cooked an enormous meal and had even agreed to open presents on Christmas Eve instead of waiting for the following morning. The entire family was now gathered in the magically enlarged living room, and when Mrs. Weasley took a seat in her usual chair the present frenzy began.
Ginny had the task of sorting through the monstrous pile of gifts and passing them out to their intended recipients. Her own presents formed a substantial pile at her back, but she didn't open any until all the rest were sorted.
Hermione opened her gifts slowly, savoring each one. Her parents had owled her presents to the Burrow, and she was delighted with the cherry red cashmere jumper and the bottle of Magical Mood Ink, which changed color depending on the user's mood. She also received a traditional Weasley jumper, hand-knit in a beautiful shade of blue with a silver snowflake on the front. From Harry came a box of deluxe Sugar Quills and from Ginny a leather-bound journal.
But it was Ron's gift that puzzled her the most. It was a beautiful peacock feather quill, enchanted to always stay sharp. But it was the note tucked in the box that made her wrinkle her brow and wonder.
This certificate entitles the bearer to one additional gift from Ronald B. Weasley
it said, and scrawled on the back in Ron's messy handwriting was the following:
Meet me in the kitchen at 2 a.m.
At five minutes to two Hermione crept down the main staircase of the Burrow. She hoped that Ron wasn't pulling her leg, but she was too curious not to follow through. She was a little bit scared, also, because of what she knew she wanted as her additional gift.
The kitchen was dark but still warm from the glowing embers in the stove. She pulled out a chair and sat down, glancing at her watch. It was now three minutes after two and Ron was nowhere to be seen.
"I'm not that late."
Hermione started and turned towards the door. She could see a silhouette she recognized as Ron's outlined by the remaining light of the fire. Slightly irked that he had surprised her, and by his ability to read her mind, she stood up and crossed her arms. "No, not that late, but late nonetheless," she said.
"Fair enough," he said. "But I had to collect the last piece of your present." He stepped forward so she could see his face and waggled his eyebrows. "Do you have your gift certificate?" he asked.
Hermione pulled it out of a pocket of her dressing gown. "Yes, but. . ."
Ron stopped her question by laying a finger on her lips, and Hermione shivered slightly at his touch. He plucked the certificate from her hand. "What would you like for your extra gift, Hermione?" he asked, his voice a soft rumble that sent a thrill up her spine.
"I. . . I don't know," she managed to whisper as he bent down slightly, bringing his face closer to hers. "What do you plan on giving me?"
"This," he breathed, and brought his other hand from behind his back. In it he held a sprig of mistletoe.