The strains of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" floated out into the courtyard, where George, alone for once, was striding across the sparkling white snow, his head bowed, perhaps with apprehension, perhaps just against the cold. It was hard to tell. A thick white blanket had carpeted the courtyard for almost a week now, but no one was tiring of it. Snowflakes still fell from the sky, holding with each flake a magic that couldn't be found in any wand, but rather was felt more strongly by simply standing still, letting the cold wind brush against your face and staring out at the frozen lake. Or by being the first to taint the perfectly smooth surface of newly fallen snow by printing an angel on it's surface. Whatever students were doing, the magic in the surrounding air was infectious, and even the Slytherins seemed to be smiling more lately.
How ironic then that George Weasley, who didn't know the meaning of the word serious, let alone have practice implementing it in his life, seemed to be the only somber figure at Hogwarts today. He shook with cold as he approached the back of a young woman sitting alone on the edge of a frozen stone fountain in the center of the courtyard, staring into the distance lost in thought, a smile on her pretty face. But on closer examination anyone could see that George was shaking not with cold, but with nerves, as uncharacteristic a change as his serious demeanor. His footsteps crunching in the snow stopped abruptly as he reached her. He stood behind her for a minute, as still as the stone fountain she perched on, at a loss for words for once.
Alicia Spinnet's eyes sparkled with surprise as she spun to face George, the wind catching her dark hair and blowing it in her face.
"Hi, George," she greeted him enthusiastically; then, catching sight of his face, "What's wrong?"
"Nothing!" Too quick of a response. He cleared his throat. "Nothing. Can I sit?" he asked, gesturing to the spot next to Alicia. Her eyes still held surprise as she looked down at the edge the fountain where she was sitting, as if asking its permission for George to sit down. She looked back up at him and said, "Of course."
He came around the edge of the fountain and took a seat next to her. He looked at her for a minute, still unsure what to say. Unknown to most, they had dated for the past year, keeping it a secret so they didn't have to deal with questions and speculations and because both agreed that what happened between them was simply no one else's business. He hadn't even told Fred for the first couple of weeks. But a few weeks ago, they had broken up, and after struggling with it silently, George had finally decided that he couldn't deal with this, that he had fallen in love with Alicia, and simply breaking up and going on with their lives as if nothing had happened was just not an option for him. But the fact that they had broken up made what he was about to do infinitely harder. A couple more seconds of silence, and then, finally, a smile tugged at the corner of his mouth. "Happy Christmas."
She smiled back, a smile so genuine it made him feel a little warmer in the freezing weather, like the snow was beginning to melt around him. "Thanks. You too." Silence again. George wanted to kick himself. Silence. It was a foreign concept to him, and he didn't like it.
"So, I, uh—I got you a Christmas present."
"George, you didn't have to do that. You shouldn't have done that."
"Well…what is it?"
"I'll get to that in a minute."
George wasn't looking at her, instead was facing forward, watching the sun beginning to set, sinking low behind a section of Hogwarts that made up one wall of the courtyard, the sun casting a golden glow on the snow.
He took a deep breath, releasing it and watching it turn to frost on the cold air. "Do you remember the last time we sat here together?"
He didn't know if she remembered or if she'd blocked it from her mind, but he certainly remembered. How could he forget? A few months before, after curfew, he'd asked Fred to cover for him. He had sneaked out of the boys' dormitories, met Alicia in the common room, and grabbing her by the hand, he'd led the way as they had sneaked out of the portrait hole. They'd raced down the empty corridors together, jumpy, afraid of getting caught—well, Alicia had been afraid of getting caught. George was used to it—but that made it so much more fun. They'd tried to be quiet, but couldn't help laughing every once in a while. Finally, they'd emerged into the dark courtyard. He remembered how she'd laughed as he'd pulled her over to the fountain. They'd sat down, and he'd pulled her into his lap, wrapping his arms around her. They'd sat there for hours, alone in the courtyard, talking about anything and everything, even wondering aloud what could possibly happen in the future. Wouldn't it be funny, they'd thought, if they ran off and got married, then shocked everyone, considering no one even knew they were dating. It was the first night he'd told her he loved her.
"I remember." Her voice was small, quiet, lost on the wind or in her own memories.
Finally he turned to look at her. "You know, Fred and I were thinking…we may not come back next year."
"Yeah, I've—I've heard that." They stared at each other for a minute, and in that minute he tried to gauge her reaction to the idea of him leaving, of never seeing him again, she tried to figure out where he was going with this.
"So…what do you think?"
"I think it's great that you're acting on your dream. If anyone can run a successful joke shop, it'd be the Weasley twins. And I think you were born to make people laugh, to bring joy to people's lives. It's a great gift to have."
Was that it? No tears, no regrets, no sadness…?
"Is that what you think?" he asked quietly, looking down at his hands.
She laughed, a bewildered, slightly frustrated laugh. "What do you want me to say, George? That I think it's a terrible idea—?"
"That's a start," he cut her off. "How about, 'That's a terrible idea because then you wouldn't be here?' How about, 'I want you to stay because I love you and I miss you and I don't even remember why we broke up, some stupid fight over nothing—"
"George, we both agreed—!"
"Forget what we agreed! I lied, I take it back, I don't agree!" George slid off the fountain and knelt down in front of Alicia.
"Alicia, look at me. You are…the one person in the world who can make me be serious. And you're the one person who takes me seriously. And at the same time, I'd rather make you laugh more than anyone. And when you do, I hear it in my head for days. I want to hear you laugh again, Alicia. And when I leave Hogwarts, I want you to come with me."
She stared down at him, her mouth slightly open.
"Look at me! I'm on my knees—I am on my knees, in the freezing cold snow, trying to make you listen to the most serious thing I've ever said. And I don't do serious well, so you know I've got to mean this. Alicia, I love you and I always will…" he pulled something out of his pocket. A black velvet box. "Will you marry me?"
Alicia just stared, incredulous, for what seemed like an eternity.
"Are you out of your mind?"
"See that's the beauty of being me, I never had a mind to be in."
A small smile began to pull at the corners of Alicia's mouth, and it grew and grew until it was brighter than the snow around them. Slowly, with a shaking hand, she took the box in George's outstretched hand, set it on the fountain beside her, then looked back at George. Time seemed to freeze as they stared at each other, George waiting desperately for an answer. Then, all of a sudden, Alicia threw her arms around George, nearly knocking him to the ground, and the kiss she gave him was so intense he thought it could have melted the snow. They hadn't noticed the small crowd that had slowly begun to gather around the courtyard, watching them, as people caught on to what was happening. But they did notice the applause that erupted around them then.
"I'll take that as a yes."
A/N: Pleeeeaaase review! You hear that little voice in your head? Come on, admit it, you know you do. Yeah, it's actually that little button on your screen. Yes, it can talk. And I, I mean it, really wants you to submit a review. Might as well make it happy. :)