"I can't believe we're the only ones here," Harry frowned, looking around the empty common room. Ron glanced up from the pile of Chocolate Frog cards he was sorting through and nodded, thoughtful.
"Everyone's gone home. Mum wasn't happy at all about me staying here." He sighed. "And Hermione..."
Harry nodded. "She wanted to make sure her ... they were okay."
Ron launched himself up from the nest of cushions and knelt by Harry's armchair. "She'll be alright."
"Yeah." Harry smiled, but it was tight. "We're alright here, aren't we?"
"Fine! Dumbledore'll be back, soon. And we've got McGonagall and the rest. We're safe." Ron wished he sounded more sure. He wished he felt more sure, but Harry didn't seem to mind. They both needed the words, no matter the waver in them.
It snowed that second day of the Christmas holidays. Draughts shivered through the castle, and Harry wore three of his five Weasley jumpers to keep warm. Ron wore four, including his new maroon 'R'. Not a word was said by either about the missing Weasleys, how empty the common room had felt all term, devoid of Fred and George's mayhem since they left. Of course, pretenders to their crowns had sprung up all over the place and it was hardly quiet, although all activity anywhere in school seemed a little muted now. Muffled, as it were, by the urgent press for news, just under the surface.
Harry took Ron outside that afternoon, and took his Invisibility Cloak with him. "Not fair, not fair!" Ron cried, as they pelted each other with snowballs until their fingers were frozen and there was so much snow on the Cloak it was easy to tell where Harry was. Not that Ron had missed many of his snowballs' target - he never missed where Harry was - but still, the game was over. Flushed and laughing, they stumbled to Hagrid's hut, stamping their numbing feet as they waited by the door, Fang's barking reverberating inside.
The door opened. "Oh! It's you two. Come in, then, come in, don't just stand there in the cold." Hagrid ushered them inside, glancing around and shutting the door. Harry fancied for a moment that he spotted the last of a whip of hair disappearing from the fire, but dismissed it. Hagrid's wasn't a magical fire, was it?
There was tea on the table, and was that a second mug Hagrid was blocking from view? Harry shook his head to clear it, and gratefully accepted the offer of hot chocolate. "I've got some of those marshmallows somewhere," Hagrid muttered, rummaging through his cupboards. Ron was trying hard not to let Fang slobber on his cheek.
Harry woke on Christmas morning, slowly, and rather ... okay, kind of wetly, and --
"Ron!" He sat up a little, nearly choking Ron, who gently pushed his hips back down to the mattress. There was a wet mwap sound, and Ron grinned sheepishly at him.
"I couldn't help it, Harry. It's not often we get to sleep in the same bed, without people noticing. And you looked all ..." He blushed a bit.
Harry smiled and kissed him. "I was just startled," he murmured. "Go back to what you were doing, okay?"
Ron smiled. "If you insist." So he did.
"I do, I aaaah, Merry Chr-Christmas," Harry gasped out.
They emerged into the common room mid-morning, glowing, carrying their unwrapped presents. Both wore jumpers from the knitting needles of Molly Weasley, and were sucking toffees that had come with a simple note written in familiar writing. While they had no idea what Dumbledore was up to - nor where, exactly, he was - Harry felt rather comforted to know that he was alive and well, enough to send sweets to his students at least.
"Wish we could go to Hogsmeade," Ron sighed as they made their way downstairs for a late breakfast.
"Yeah, but. Best for us not to," Harry echoed Professor McGonagall's words.
"Quite right, Mister Potter," agreed her voice, a little above them. Ron turned, nearly dropping his toffeebox.
"Merry Christmas, Professor," Harry smiled awkwardly at her. She descended the few stairs between where she had been and where she was now, near enough for them to see a tartan tin tucked under her arm, and she smiled genuinely at them.
"Merry Christmas, Potter. Merry Christmas, Weasley." She indicated their toffeeboxes. "I see you received Professor Dumbledore's gift." She patted the tin. "Never too busy to give, that one."
Harry and Ron shared a glance.
"Uh. Yeah." Ron nodded encouragingly at her, and the three of them found the Great Hall with barely any difficulty, tripping, shivering or speaking. "D'you think she's alright?" Ron asked Harry as they settled at the Gryffindor table, piling food on their plates and watching Professor McGonagall make her way to the staff table. "I mean. Did she seem a bit ... off, to you?"
"Yeah, a bit." Harry shrugged. "Maybe she misses Dumbledore." I know I do.
"Yeah." Me too.
"So," Ron grinned, chewing a large potato and swallowing before he went on - but only after an attempt at speaking with it still in his mouth - "what do you fancy doing today?"
There was a flurry at the staff table, and Harry looked up. All the professors, even Hagrid, were standing, and from the middle of them a figure appeared and sat down. They all followed suit.
"Merry Christmas," the figure called out to the Hall in general.
"Merry Christmas, Professor Dumbledore," Harry and Ron called back, chorusing with the three or four other students in the Hall. Harry turned to Ron, beaming, and slipped his arms around his waist.
"I think, today," he began, "we should do absolutely nothing."
Ron's eyebrows raised. "If you're thinking of the kind of nothing I'm thinking of, I bloody love you and yes please."
Harry chuckled. "I am." He nuzzled Ron's nose with his own. "I love you, too." And kissed him. "And alright."
Harry was quite amazed that neither of them got indigestion, the rate they finished their breakfast and headed out of the Hall.
Dumbledore smiled to see them leave. "Youth, Minerva," he said, turning to Professor McGonagall, "is a wonderful and beautiful thing. Most especially, young love."
Professor McGonagall pursed her lips, but nodded. The smile in her eyes didn't reach her mouth, and she took a bite of her turkey.