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stole out to the backyard

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Ginny stood alone on the back porch of the Burrow, watching snow fall slowly and silently from the grey sky. The wireless drifted from the cracks and the seams of the windows and doors, her mother’s favorite station for holiday music. She could hear George laughing with (or at) Ron, her mother cooing to one-year-old Victoire, the familiar comforts of home. It was a soft and quiet Christmas, Ginny’s first year out of Hogwarts.

Last year, she’d come home only for the day itself, up to her ears in studying for N.E.W.T.S. and strategizing for the final two Quidditch games; Charlie had been abroad, but everyone else had been there. There hadn’t been any snow on the ground, and the whole house had seemed dark and glum, unable to escape the specter of a brother lost, the sadness so thick she couldn’t breathe. She had been glad to escape quickly, to go back to a Hogwarts that still bore scars and smoke marks from the battle not so long ago, but felt more like home than anywhere else.

This year, though, was better. George didn’t seem quite so unhinged, her parents were well and content, and instead of dreading the memory of Fred that lingered in every room, they’d all seemed to take a silent promise to honor it, to embrace it. The distance had soothed all their rough edges and allowed them time to find words none of them had had a year ago.

It was still odd to be home, surrounded by people all the time. Her single flat on the outskirts of London was cozy and small, but all her own, and she was used to the solitude now. Between her Quidditch practices, helping a bit at the joke shop with George, and Harry’s schedule, she was alone at night more often than not, and after years of hearing her brothers through the walls and roommates at Hogwarts, she liked it.

Inside, the music grew louder, high voices harmonizing smoothly over the piano melody. She curled her arms around herself and leaned against the railing, breathing in the sharp cold air. The snow floated on the breeze, carried across the lawn and towards the trees, over the hill towards’ Luna’s home. She would visit Luna tomorrow, she promised herself.

Behind her, the kitchen door opened and shut. “Trying to freeze to death out here?”

She glanced back at Ron, tall and broad in the light pooling out from the kitchen. “Don’t be silly, I’ve been colder during practices. This is nothing,” she said, her fingertips catching on the rough wool of her chocolate brown pullover.

He stuffed his hands in his pockets and came to stand next to her, shoulder to shoulder, looking out across the snow-blanketed garden. “Mum wants to wait until he gets here to serve dinner.”

“He told her not to,” she said. “He’s not going to rush his visit with Andromeda and Teddy.”

“You know Mum,” he said with a shrug. “It’s tradition.”

“And you’re too hungry to wait, am I right?” she teased.

His face scrunched up for a brief moment. “Don’t tell Hermione, she already complains about my appetite,” he muttered. “Mental, all the time.”

She laughed at that, nudging his shoulder with hers. “You love it.”

“Yeah, I do,” he said, abruptly sincere and quiet.

Smiling slightly, she leaned her cheek against his shoulder for a moment. “You’re such a daft softie.”

“Oi, that was sweet!” he grumbled, looking askance at her. “You staying out here to wait?”

She turned her gaze back out to the snow and the night. “Maybe. I haven’t seen him in a few days.” Harry had been sent up to Wales just as her holiday from the Harpies had begun, so there had only been time for a brief night and too-early breakfast before he’d disappeared, and she wanted a moment of him all to herself, before her family descended.

“I can’t figure out how you two do it,” Ron said after a long moment, the silence filled with the sounds of bustling and music from indoors. “It’s hard enough for me to see Hermione, and she works in the same building I do. Hell, I share a flat and a department with Harry and I hardly see him.”

In front of them, the bare tree limbs rustled in the wind, oddly pale in the sparse grey moonlight. Ginny sighed silently, tossing her hair back from her shoulders. “It works for us right now,” she said easily. “If I could see him more, I would. And since when did you become our little guardian?”

He grimaced slightly. “Hermione was concerned, and—I don’t know, I just—I want to make sure you’re happy, Gin,” he muttered. “And Harry, too.”

She smacked his arm, eliciting a wounded ouch, and then kissed his cheek lightly. “That female charms book has come in handy for you, has it?”

His freckles disappeared as he reddened, visible even in the dim light. “Harry wasn’t supposed to tell you about that.”

“As if I wouldn’t sniff it out,” she shot back.

Groaning, he dropped his chin to his chest, and she nudged his side with the point of her elbow and laughed. “You’re a terror, even more so than when you were younger,” he said, voice pitching towards a whine.

“Surprised?”

“Not a bit,” he muttered. “You and Fred and George were always up to something.”

She smiled softly at that, remembering the small pranks from her childhood, the summer at Grimmauld Place when she helped Fred and George terrorize nearly everyone. For a moment, they stood in the quiet, listening to the wind and the faint sound of snow falling against the eaves of the house. The cold air curled through her pullover, through her fingers, and in that moment she wanted Harry to appear, just to see him, to reassure herself that he was there and hers.

“It’s been a nice Christmas,” Ron said quietly.

She nodded. “It has. Everyone looks good. George looks especially good.”

“Yeah.”

After another moment, he ruffled her hair and pushed away from the rail. “I’m going back. See if I can’t convince Mum to let me have a pasty,” he said with a grin.

Smiling, she watched as he went back inside, shutting the door with a quiet click behind him. Her fingertips curled over the cuffs of her pullover; she leaned heavily against the post, looking off towards the trees. She breathed in the ice and sweet fresh snow smell, the chill prickling her every nerve. Inside, the song changed, a slower, softer melody, and she shut her eyes, humming along under her breath.

The air shifted then; she heard a soft pop, a crunching of the fresh and old snow under feet, and she opened her eyes with a smile. “Hi, stranger.”

Cloaked in black, Harry stood snow-dusted and slightly rumpled in the yard, steps down from her. He pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose, put his wand in his pocket, and looked up at her with a small smile. “Hi,” he said, coming up the stairs to her.

As he approached her, she took stock of his face, checking for signs of injury or little sleep. But apart from looking cold, he appeared just fine, content. “Wales went well?”

“Very,” he said, standing just a breath away from her, his head bowed towards hers.

She reached out and curled her fingers into his cloak. “And how are Andromeda and Teddy?”

A small smile curved his mouth, reaching up into his eyes. “Great. He’s getting so big. I can’t believe he’s nearly two. His hair was red when I left, so I reckon that means he wants me to say hi to you.”

Warmth settled in her middle. “I’m glad you got to see them.”

“Me too,” he said with a sigh. “But I am sorry I’m late.”

“Explain it to Ron, he’s the one starving to death inside,” she teased, hesitating only a moment before she pulled him close and kissed him hello, just a soft, warm press.

A broad, warm hand cupped her hip as he kissed her in return; he was still warm from Andromeda’s home, and she leaned into him. “Everything good in there?” he asked, mouth still very close to hers.

She nodded. “Very good. Bill and Fleur are showing off Victoire, Charlie made it home, and George is torturing Ron and Hermione. It’s a normal Weasley holiday,” she said with a smile.

In the background, the music shifted once more, and she couldn’t help but sway to it; it was one of her favorite Christmas songs, the Weird Sisters covering I’ll Be Home for Christmas. Her father had brought home a whole collection of Muggle Christmas songs when she was younger, and she’d played them all on repeat, driving her brothers nuts, and her love for this particular song had never died.

The hand on her hip moved to the small of her back, resting heavily. He pulled her close, still looking at her face, and began to sway with her. His other hand found hers in his cloak and twined his fingers in hers. “I’m glad I saw you first,” he said after a moment, the porch creaking under their movement. “I’ve missed you.”

She smiled, letting him set the pace of their motion, keeping her eyes on his. “I may have planned it this way.”

“What if I had come in the front?” he asked, eyes quite green in the dim snowy light.

“You always use the back. You’re quite predictable, Potter,” she teased.

He ducked his head, pressing a glancing kiss to her cheek. “Are you staying here tonight?” he asked after a moment.

“No,” she said, sliding her free arm around his neck, her fingers sliding in the hair at the nape of his neck. “I’ll just come back in the morning for breakfast.”

He didn’t say anything for a moment, and she bit the inside of her lip, still nervous to ask even though it’d been over a year since she’d kissed him and asked him to come up for a Hogsmeade weekend for a proper first date. “Want to come back to my flat tonight?” she asked finally, voice soft and thin in the cold air.

Smiling crookedly, he nodded. “Yeah. I reckon Ron and Hermione will be at ours, and besides, I like your flat.”

“Do you like anything else?” she asked archly, as they swayed in wide swoops, their bodies close together, his warming her through.

He kissed her then, warm and wet and full of promise. “Definitely,” he murmured against her mouth, cheeks red from something other than the cold, his gaze intense on her.

Laughing, she kissed him again, until he decided to twirl her rather awkwardly, and she laughed into the snowy air. Bright red, he pulled her back in, and she pressed her cheek to his warm face and kissed his temple. They remained that close, and that quiet on the porch, until the kitchen door opened and Ron poked his head out.

“Are you dancing? Damnit, Harry, I’m starving here and you’re trying to dance? Unbelievable,” Ron muttered, glowering at them both.

From inside, the sounds of dishes clattering and her mother calling for them to sit at the table warmed Ginny right through. Harry took a step back from her, grinning sheepishly as he looked at Ron. “We’re coming in right now, Ron,” he said.

“Good, I was about to bloody well faint,” Ron said, disappearing from the doorway.

“Such a little baby,” she said lightly, squeezing Harry’s hand in hers.

Harry grinned, tugging her along as he pulled her towards the door. “Happy Christmas, Ginny,” he said softly, the light from the kitchen reflecting against his glasses.

In the doorway, she kissed him softly, running her thumb over his knuckles lightly. “Happy Christmas, Harry.”

*