I really meant to get this posted on Christmas Day, but ff.n has this annoying new policy about not letting you upload anything until two days after you've created a new account. Oh well, at least it's not New Year's yet. Anyways...
This is a random little oneshot born of insomnia and anticipation for Christmas. It came to me at 3:00 in the morning and wouldn't let me go till I got up and wrote it. I had a lot of fun with this one, and I hope you like it too. Please read and review!!
Disclaimer: All characters, places, etc. belong to J.K. Rowling. Only the plot is mine.
Snow lay thickly across the grounds and the peaks of the castle, shining in the pale winter sunlight like a diamond-studded blanket. The smell of woodsmoke from Hagrid's cabin drifted through the crisp, cold air, and students' breath lingered in wispy clouds as they laughed merrily, heading to the village with their friends.
Inside, the common room fire crackled warmly. Its light reflected off the garlands of tinsel that graced the walls. The smell of pine wafted from the corner where a gigantic fir tree was decked out in ornaments of shimmering gold and blazing scarlet.
Fred Weasley sat sullenly in an armchair, halfheartedly perusing a Zonko's catalog and occasionally scribbling in the margins with a quill. Every few minutes he looked up, glanced around at the cheery decorations, scowled, and returned to his magazine, grumbling under his breath. Finally he closed the catalog and placed it and the quill on the floor. There was no use in pressing on, even though he'd promised George that he'd take note of all the advertising techniques; his concentration had disappeared.
Fred had a lot of trouble getting work done this time of year. He, one of the most jovial, carefree students Hogwarts had ever seen, had a terrible secret: He hated Christmas and everything that went with it.
Well, that wasn't quite true; not everything about the holiday was bad. He definitely appreciated the break from school, and getting gifts was certainly nice. And there was the food – that was always excellent.
So he didn't hate everything about Christmas, just half of it. The playful strolls through snow-covered hills, the cozy chats by the hearth, the mistletoe hung above doorways, the overly-cheerful sentiments of happiness and love – those were the things Fred couldn't stand.
Avoiding those things was what kept him at the castle on the last Saturday of the term. He knew his time would be better spent in Hogsmeade, finishing his Christmas shopping and at least getting some fresh air. He knew he had been spending too much time indoors lately, but since Quidditch had been taken away, there was very little motivation for him to be active. George and Lee had invited him to come to Hogsmeade with them, but as they were going on a double-date with Katie and Alicia, Fred felt it might be awkward. Also, he really did not want to run into Angelina.
Fred and Angelina had hardly spoken since the night of the Quidditch game against Slytherin. He knew how much the Captaincy meant to her and how devastated she had been at the loss of half her team. He couldn't bring himself to face her, and it had been weeks since she had approached him.
In truth, Fred missed Angelina terribly. They had been friends since their first year, when Fred and George had decided in the second week of school to prove their intention to become the supreme pranksters of Hogwarts. They had played some kind of trick on a different classmate each day until only Angelina was left. One afternoon at the end of Transfiguration class she had discovered she was glued to her chair, but she had laughed uncontrollably as the twins simultaneously realized their seats had been dusted with Ichabod Ingles' Incredible Itching Powder. All three of them had made the Gryffindor Quidditch team in their second year, and they had been nearly inseparable ever since.
As their sixth year began, Fred had suddenly discovered his feelings for Angelina ran deeper than friendship. Much to his twin's amusement, Fred's suave, devil-may-care attitude failed him for the first time. Though he finally asked Angelina to the Yule Ball with typical bravado, it had taken him weeks to work up the courage.
Hopeless romantic he was not, but in his heart of hearts Fred had to admit the Yule Ball had been the best night of his life. Angelina had been breathtaking in robes of gold silk. They had enjoyed a comfortable, witty rapport during dinner; they had glided, light and easy, across the dance floor; and Fred had seriously entertained the idea of kissing her as they strolled through the garden, until Percy found them and tried to strike up a conversation about the importance of international regulations on the proper age for marriage.
After that night, Fred had felt confident that she shared his feelings, and George and Lee had urged him to ask her out. Something had kept him from doing so, however, and eventually it seemed that her affection had waned. Fred chalked their almost-romance up to the unrealistic influence of Christmas spirit, but he could not rid himself of feelings for her. Inexplicably, infuriatingly, he liked her even more.
Bloody Christmas magic, he thought bitterly as he surveyed the decorations again. "Christmas magic," what's that anyway? There's plenty of magic around here all the time. There's nothing special about Christmas that made her like you. She probably never even liked you in the first place.
As Fred sat brooding, someone burst through the portrait hole and slammed a stack of books down on a nearby table, interrupting his thoughts. He looked up. It was Angelina.
"What are you doing here?" he asked, instantly regretting it. He had not meant to speak to her, but he was so surprised to see her that he couldn't help it.
Angelina started. Apparently she was surprised to see him too. "I'm working on my Quidditch plays. Is that alright with you?" she asked coldly.
"Fine by me," Fred said. "I just didn't expect to see you here."
"Where should I be?"
Fred shrugged. "I don't know. I figured you'd be in Hogsmeade with everyone else who has a life. Why are you working on plays? You've had a whole book of them for two months."
"I'm not in Hogsmeade because I have no life these days. All my time is now spent trying to whip this miserable team into shape," she snapped. "Half our plays don't work anymore, since I've got a new Seeker and two new Beaters. But I wouldn't expect you to know that, since you're not on the team anymore."
"I didn't ask to be banned, you know," Fred said angrily. "You think I like sitting in this godforsaken common room while the team is out practicing four nights a week? You think I'm happy that my broom is chained to a wall in the dungeons? You think I'm glad you have to do all this extra work?"
"Look, Fred, I really don't care right now. I have to finish this so we can at least get a few decent practices in before Christmas. I don't even want to think about how much we'll have to work on when we get back in January." She turned her back on him and buried her nose in a well-worn copy of Quidditch Through the Ages.
Fred stood and marched to the opposite side of the table from where she sat. He leaned down so his face was even with hers and said, "Angelina, I've known you a long time. I know how much you love Quidditch; in fact, that's one of the things I've always liked best about you. But this is ridiculous. You care more about winning a game than you care about your friends. I've really missed being around you, but if this is how you are now, then I guess I'm not missing much."
She looked up, tears welling in her eyes, but he turned away and stormed out of the common room.
Once in the corridor, Fred realized he had nothing to do. He had left the Zonko's catalog on the floor by his chair, and anything else worthwhile was up in his dormitory. However, he was determined not to return to Gryffindor Tower, so he jammed his hands into his pockets and began to walk, not caring where he ended up.
The hallways of the castle were decorated just as brightly as the common room, a fact which did nothing to help Fred's mood. Passing a particularly well-adorned suit of armor, he pulled out his wand and transfigured its wreath of holly into a collection of charred twigs. He knew it was a childish thing to do, but it somehow made him feel a little better.
Ahead, Peeves was zooming toward him, singing a rude version of "Good King Wenceslas."
"What's wrong, Weasel?" the poltergeist asked, spotting Fred. "No Christmas cheer to share?"
"No. Now bugger off," Fred growled with such ferocity that Peeves, shockingly, obeyed.
Of course I've got no Christmas cheer. Why the hell should I? I've just lost the girl of my dreams, not to mention one of my best friends, Fred thought savagely. Happy bloody Christmas to me.
As he meandered down the main staircase, Angelina's voice called out, "Fred! Wait!" She sounded as if she had been crying.
He continued down the stairs, not bothering to turn around.
"Fred, please! Let me explain!"
He shook his head, still walking. "No, I already know where I stand with you. No need to say anything further."
"Frederick Gideon Weasley! Listen to me!" The sound of her footsteps told him she was hurrying down the stairs behind him. As he reached the bottom, he realized his only option was through the tall, wooden front doors, so he went outside.
Immediately he knew it was a foolish idea, as it was several degrees below freezing and he was wearing only blue jeans and a jumper. This thought barely had time to register, though, before something collided with his body and he flew through the air, landing ten feet away in a snow bank.
The "something" was Angelina; she had landed on top of him, pinning him to the ground.
"Now you're stuck," she began, but Fred scooped up a handful of snow and flung it at her face. She shrieked and tried to brush it away, giving him just the moment he needed to shove her off. She was clearly not going to give up without a fight, however, and they became a rolling, tumbling, cursing mess of arms, legs, and flying snow until they both sat up, facing each other, wands drawn.
They stayed frozen for a few moments, the wind whistling in their ears, until Fred lowered his wand and said, "All right, I'll listen."
Ordinarily, Angelina would have given a cry of triumph, but now she silently stowed her wand and took a deep breath.
"There are two things in this world that I can't live without. One of them is Quidditch. I'm not pretty, or popular, or smart, but I can play Quidditch, and I like to think I'm fairly good at it."
"You're brilliant at it," Fred interrupted, but she hushed him and continued.
"When McGonagall told me I'd been named Captain this year, I couldn't believe it. I was sure you and George would be co-Captains. It's our seventh year, our last at Hogwarts, and I've never done anything really extraordinary. I vowed I'd lead Gryffindor to another championship, and it started out looking like it was going to be easy. Sure, Ron wasn't as good a Keeper as Wood, but everything else was going really well. Even when Umbridge tried to disband the team, we didn't let her stop us.
"Then came the game against Slytherin. We won, and I was so happy – until you, George, and Harry got banned. Of course it wasn't your fault, it was that miserable woman –"
"It sure as hell wasn't my fault I got banned; you and Katie and Alicia kept me from doing anything! If you'd at least let me take a swipe at that bastard Malfoy –" Fred interjected.
"What good would that have done?" Angelina asked exasperatedly. "The minute Malfoy opened his mouth, I knew there was going to be trouble. I was most worried about you, you've got a worse temper than George. The very last thing I wanted was for my team to be in jeopardy.
"When I found out you three were banned, I was in shock. Deep inside, I knew why you went for Malfoy. I knew it wasn't really your fault, and I admired the courage and loyalty you showed for your family. But I was so furious at Umbridge that it drowned all my other emotions. I was so stupid! I felt like she'd taken away the most important thing in my life, and I let my anger drive it even farther away."
"But you haven't lost it," Fred said. "You're not banned. You've still got Quidditch, even though it isn't how you hoped it would be."
Angelina shook her head, and her eyes filled with tears again. "It's not Quidditch, Fred. It's you. It didn't take me long to realize that Quidditch means nothing to me without you. I know we've been friends for a long time, but I've always felt that it's our most important connection. How much of a mess were we last year without it? If we'd had Quidditch to keep us busy, maybe we wouldn't have played that stupid game, running circles around each other and never getting anywhere. I thought we were so close at the Yule Ball, but I was wrong."
"Angelina, we were. The Yule Ball was the best night of my life, and I went to bed that night dreaming of all the things that lay in store for us," Fred said, hardly daring to believe what he had just admitted. "But then you changed. I didn't think you were interested in me anymore."
"Fred, I changed after three months!" she cried. "I liked you before the Yule Ball, but I fell for you so hard that night, and I spent the next three months wondering if you were ever going to ask me to be your girlfriend. I finally decided I was wrong, you didn't like me, and I needed to stop acting like an idiot. If you liked me so much, why didn't you ask me out?"
He sighed. "I couldn't. I think my heart knew how you felt, but my head kept getting in the way. What if I was wrong? What if I asked you and you didn't feel the same way and it destroyed our friendship, everything we had? I couldn't take that. I was so scared."
Angelina's eyes widened in amazement. "Fred, have you ever been scared ofanything before?"
He thought for a moment and then said, "No. I've never been scared of anything except losing you."
"You never lost me. I've always been right here," she told him. "Maybe I've found something else I'm good at: acting. I guess I had you fooled, but I feel the same way about you that I did last Christmas."
"Christmas," sighed Fred. "I can't believe it's that time of year again."
"I can," Angelina said with a shiver. "It's freezing out here!"
Snowflakes began to fall lightly as Fred slid over and wrapped his arms around her. "You know, we wouldn't be so cold if you hadn't tackled me like that," he pointed out.
"How else was I going to get you to listen? Besides," she said with a little grin, "you've got to admit it was kind of fun."
He laughed. "Yeah, it was."
They sat in silence for a few minutes, leaning against each other, knowing the intelligent thing to do was go back into the warm castle, but neither of them attempted to get up. Finally Angelina said, "So, where do we stand? What do we do now?"
Fred turned to look at her. "Well, I know what I'd like to do. First, I'd like to help you in whatever way I can with the Quidditch team." He studied her face, which was beautiful, but much more tired and careworn than he'd ever seen it. "You're really not getting much sleep, are you?"
She shrugged. "A few hours a night. Even if I don't have work to do, I lie awake and worry about the team."
"You can't do that. At least not alone. The next time you can't sleep, come get me and we'll sit in front of the fire in the common room and talk Quidditch or admire the decorations or whatever you want to do."
Angelina smiled. "All right." She paused. "You said that was the first thing you wanted to do. Was there a second?"
Fred took a deep breath. "Yeah. Angelina, I wanted to ask – will you be my girlfriend?"
Her smile turned into a grin that lit up her whole face. "Yes. I'd love to."
With his free hand, Fred reached into his pocket and pulled out his wand. Waving it behind her back, he muttered something under his breath.
"What did you say?" Angelina asked, and she looked up as he pointed toward the sky. Above them, suspended among the snowflakes, was a sprig of mistletoe. She looked back at Fred, and he grinned mischievously.
Then, suddenly, she was kissing him, her arms looped around his neck as his hands became lost in her hair. A year of suppressed passion poured out into their kiss, and as they held each other among the snowflakes, everything was warm and blissful and perfect.
As they finally broke apart, Fred glanced up at the mistletoe and realized his feelings toward Christmas were permanently changed.
"What?" Angelina asked, catching a twinkle of amusement in his eyes.
"I love Christmastime. It's so magical," he whispered, and he leaned in for another kiss.
Thanks to my betas Jordan, Emily, Carie, and Tawni, and special thanks to you, my reader! Please drop me a review...I'd love to know what you think!!
--A Chocolate Frog