Prompt: Ice Skating

Word Count: 878

Gradual Exposure

"Have you ever done this before?" Ron asked, moving carefully onto the ice.

Gaby, still standing on the snow, said, "Um, not since…no."

He looked back at her. "Since what?"

"Ah, not since ze tournament." Her accent was faint most of the time, but when she was nervous, it became more pronounced—like right now.

That bothers him. He knows why she's nervous, so it's not like a surprise, but it still makes him scowl. It's not fair that being held captive by mermaids fifteen years ago still makes her terrified of water. He can't blame her—why would he? He's much more upset at whoever decided it was a good idea to even make that a task! He'd probably be scared out of his mind, too, if he hadn't gone through much worse wit Harry and Hermione immediately after that. For example, he refused to set foot in the Department of Mysteries.

That could be fixed, of course. And so could this…slowly. Which was why he'd brought her out to ice skate instead of taking her to a beach, or worse, a lake.

"It's frozen," Ron said gently. "Do you want me to skate around it, first?"

Gaby blushed, though it might have been the chill in the air. "Eef you do not mind."

He nodded and made a circuit of the small pond. It was a shallow pond and she'd only fall a few feet if the ice cracked. He had told her as much when they'd walked out to the pond from The Burrow, but she'd still seemed nervous.

When he stopped in front of her and offered her a hand, she took it, smiling, but didn't get onto the ice. "You are very graceful," she said.

Ron flushed. "Ah, no. Well, not normally, but I'm okay on the ice."

"You will catch me if I fall?" she asked, still obviously nervous.

He grinned and tightened his grip on her hand. "I'm not going to let go of your hand all night."

Gaby relaxed a little more, and slid onto the ice—and promptly slipped onto her bum. "Oh," she said, looking up at him. "Help?"

He did his best not to laugh, and pulled her up. "Slowly."

So they skated slowly around the pond once. Her hand was shaking in his, probably expecting mermaids to rear up out of the water and tug her down. But Ron had never seen a mermaid in the pond. He was certain they were safe.

In any case, Gaby got the hang of skating pretty quickly. Not that Ron was letting go of her hand—he'd promised, after all.

Gaby collapsed into a snow bank next to the pond after a few minutes, but Ron was pretty sure she'd done it on purpose, especially when she rolled over and motioned for him to lie down next to her.

The looked up at the grey sky and the drifting snow. It wasn't snowing hard and the flakes were small, but it was still pretty beautiful.

He looked over at her, saw her smile, and smiled himself. "Next summer we can go swimming."

"No," she said, shaking her head. "I have not done that…in years. As you say, why start now?"

"Because it's fun. And not all water is bad," he reminded her gently.

"No," she repeated stubbornly.

They lie still for a long time, until Ron has to cast a warming charm over both of them to keep the cold from setting in too deep.

"Ice is not so bad, however," Gaby said, her nose wrinkling. "And ze snow…"

"So we could do this again sometime," Ron said, smiling.

"Maybe. I think eet is not so bad."

"It helps that the pond is shallow."

"And frozen solid," she confirms. She props herself up on an elbow. "I think you are cute in the snow." She kissed him before he could protest being called something so emasculating as 'cute'.

And well, he didn't really remember what he was upset about when she pulled away. "Skate again?" he asked, because he wants her to be happy and unafraid.

She looked across the ice. "Okay." She pulled him to a standing position, somehow maintaining her balance. "But then we go inside. I think your mother did supper."

"Made supper," he reminded her, and started skating, tugging on her hand. "Keep up, little friend."

She giggled at him. "Okay, okay." They skated for a few more minutes, until Gaby abruptly pulled her hand out of his grasp, transfigured her skates back into shoes, and yelled "Race you to the house!"

He stood on the ice, briefly stunned, before doing the same. He, having the advantage of height, caught up to her about 20 feet from the house. He wrapped his arms around her from behind, spun her around, and kissed her soundly. "You made me break my promise," he said, pretending petulance.

She wiggled her eyebrows at him. "No…"


"You still love me," she said, and it wasn't a question.

Of course not.

"Duh," he answered and kissed her again. "Think about swimming," he murmured afterward, resting his forehead against hers. "You know I'd be there, just like last time."

"I do," she answered, and smiled. "You'll always be there."

He will.

Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter.

A/N: What what! Six days. Written for 25 Days of Ficmas (link on profile). This is a sequel to Brother Knows Best, but can stand alone. This was fun to write, so I hope you enjoyed it.