Harry was finally done with work at the Ministry. It was December after Voldemort's defeat at Hogwarts, and every month was getting less and less stressful as Death Eaters were being captured. However, that didn't mean there wasn't an enormous amount of work to be done. Harry had spent every day for the past month trying to hunt down Greyback, and finally- this morning- he and the other aurors in his department had caught him. It was his last night of work before Christmas break, and he was headed to the Burrow for dinner. He would spend Christmas there along with Hermione and the rest of the Weasleys. Hermione and Ginny had returned from Hogwarts yesterday, but he had not been able to see them. It had been a month since he had been able to stop by Gryffindor tower and see them, and he missed them terribly, especially Ginny.
Not bothering to stop by Grimmauld Place before leaving, he apparated right outside the front gate to the burrow. He remembered when Dumbledore had taught him never to apparate directly inside. Pulling his cloak to him in the frigid air, Harry walked up to the front step and knocked on the door. He saw a red head poke through the curtains- Mrs. Weasley.
"Harry!" he heard her yell, and then he heard the sound of lots of locks turning and dishes being put down.
"Harry! Welcome," Mrs. Weasley said. "It's freezing out there, you must come in!" She let him in and closed the door before holding him at arms length. "You are so thin! At least you'll be here for the next week so I can make sure you're eating." She pulled Harry into a tight motherly embrace, and he couldn't help but feel a bit suffocated. He saw Ron over his mother's shoulder and exchanged a glance of exasperation with him, though secretly Harry liked the motherly doting.
"You'll be bunking with Ron, dear, I hope you don't mind."
"Of course not, Mrs. Weasley. Thank you so much for having me." Harry answered.
"Oh, pff," she grunted. "It's no trouble. Hear, come into the living room, I'm sure everyone is excited to see you!"
She pushed him off toward Ron, who laughed. Harry saw Ron quite frequently, who he was both helping out in London with the joke shop and dropping in and out of the order. They usually made their trips to Hogwarts together, and Ron stopped by Grimmauld Place often for dinner (though Harry was beginning to wonder if it was his company Ron craved or Kreacher's delicious soups).
"How are you, mate?" Ron asked. He and Harry walked to the living room talking excitedly, as they were both glad to be off of work and back with their family.
"Hermione's here, she got back last night with Ginny," Ron said.
"Yes, I know, Ginny wrote me about that," Harry answered.
"Of course," Ron rolled his eyes. "But I cannot believe that Hermione's gone back to school! As if everything we've seen in the past year hasn't helped us enough!"
"Ron!" Harry heard an angry female voice from the other room. "How many times have I told you not to harp on about my going back to school when I'm not around?"
Ron's ears turned red, and then Hermione Granger popped out from behind the doorframe, bushy hair and all.
"Sorry, Hermione," Ron said, looking ashamed.
"It's alright. Harry. How are you? I haven't seen you in so long!" Hermione reached out and hugged him, and Harry smiled. He had missed his other best friend. Hermione filled him in on everything he was missing at Hogwarts, and he tried to ignore all the hints she made about how useful it is to go back to school. He, in turn, let her know all about the ministry, and she was really interested.
"That sounds like the perfect job for you Harry. But really… don't you miss Hogwarts?" she wondered.
"Of course I do! But I've come back a few times, haven't I? I'll miss it more when none of my friends go there, and I have no reason to visit!"
"That's true," Hermione mused. Just then Harry heard the sound of many doors slamming and many people pushing their way down the huge staircase.
"Harry's here!" he heard someone yell.
"'Arry is 'ere?"
"Get outta my way!"
"Move! I want to see him!"
"Calm down, we'll all get there…!"
"I haven't seen him in a month!"
"So? I never see him!"
George, Ginny, (definitely the main sources of all the yelling), Mr. Weasley, Percy, Charlie, Bill and Fleur appeared at the foot of the stairs. "HARRY!" They all yelled, and Ginny ran forward and threw her arms around him. Harry hugged her back, until they both got embarrassed, remembering everyone watching them. They released each other, but remained holding hands.
Soon everyone else came and shook his hand (or, in Fleur's case, kissed him on both cheeks), and once everyone had said hello, they all sat down and chattered about work and school, and how happy everyone was to be together. However, Harry could feel the emptiness and slight heaviness to the atmosphere caused by Fred's absence, especially around George. Every time Harry had been at the Burrow for dinner since his death, it had felt like this. Everyone knew he had died in the only way he would have wanted, but it did not take away from the fact that he was gone. He knew that, come dinnertime, they would leave his usual seat empty. Harry shook his head, trying to clear these thoughts from his mind. Ginny looked at him he knew she could tell what he was thinking about; he felt her squeeze his hand.
Harry had a plan for Christmas Eve, which was in three days. He would have to stop by Grimmauld Place, and first he wanted to talk to Ron and the rest of the Weasleys, besides Ginny. He looked at her and smiled.
"Do you want to see if your mum needs any help in the kitchen?" he asked.
Ginny sprang up so fast it looked like she might have been burned. They both knew (as did everyone else, probably) that they were only leaving so they could have a minute to themselves.
On the way the to kitchen, Ginny chatted with Harry about Quidditch, and talked about how she was going to try out for the Holyhead Harpies after graduating from Hogwarts.
Mrs. Weasley gave them materials to set the table with, and though they were both of age, they decided to set it manually.
"What do you want for Christmas, Ginny?" he asked her, even though he had already gotten her something: her surprise. Hopefully she would be pleased.
"Nothing really. I know it sounds cheesy, but everything I want is right here. You, Mum, Dad, the rest of my family, Hermione… I'm fine just like this. What do you want?" Harry smiled at her answer.
"I want time off from work. But I guess I already got that!" Ginny smiled. They returned to the kitchen and got instructions to peel potatoes as Mrs. Weasley went into the living room to have a few minutes to talk with her family.
"Hermione's parents are coming on Christmas Eve," Ginny said. "It's going to be a wakeup call for them!"
The memory charm had been lifted, and though the Grangers knew all about the wizarding world, the Weasley house would be a shock to any who hadn't been in it before.
"That'll be fun," Harry answered.
"Harry, you are an awful potato peeler," she remarked, looking at his half-peeled potato, jagged and messy, while she had four cleanly peeled ones already done. Once again, they weren't using magic.
"Ooh, well, Miss Perfect-Potato-Peeler," he said sarcastically, "How should I do it?"
She laughed. "Well… you could start by taking the skin off the potato."
"Really? Wow. You know, Ginny, I wasn't raised by a cooking genius like you were. I guess I just don't know these things." They laughed. He picked up a piece of potato skin and flicked it at her. She gasped.
"Oh, no, you did not just do that."
"I think I did."
She responded by throwing one at him. He caught it and threw it back at her. Soon a full-blown potato skin fight was born. Ginny shrieked as a particularly large potato skin hit her in the face.
Mrs. Weasley appeared in the doorway. "Apparently you too don't get much done. You see, if you use magic, the potatoes actually get peeled," she looked exasperated.
"Sorry, Mrs. Weasley," Harry answered, slightly ashamed. He aimed his wand at the ground and the potato skins were swept into the wastebasket. Ginny giggled at his morbid tone.
"It's alright, dear. Dinner should be ready soon anyway. Why don't you go back into the living room?"
They did, but when Ginny turned around, Harry noticed a piece of potato in her hair. He stifled some laughter.
"Uh… Ginny? You've got something in your hair." He picked out the potato and dangled it over her face. They both started laughing so hard that Ginny almost collapsed.
That evening, the Weasleys, Harry, and Hermione all sat down to eat. They had a magnificent time, and George presented a new sweet from the joke shop. Soon everyone was covered in purple spots, and very angry with him. They faded soon, though, and Harry went to bed feeling warm and happy.