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A Very Gryffie Holiday by Gryffindor Collaboration

Format: Short story collection
Chapters: 17
Word Count: 35,753
Status: COMPLETED

Rating: 15+
Warnings: Mild Language, Mild Violence, Scenes of a Mild Sexual Nature, Contains Slash (Same-Sex Pairing), Substance Use or Abuse, Sensitive Topic/Issue/Theme

Genres: Drama, General
Characters: Harry, Ron, Hermione, Lily, James, Bill, Percy, Neville, Fred, George
Pairings: Harry/Ginny, James/Lily, Remus/Tonks, Ron/Hermione, Other Pairing

First Published: 11/24/2010
Last Chapter: 02/24/2011
Last Updated: 02/24/2011

Summary:





Ever wanted to know what your favourite Gryffindors get up to during the holiday season?  Well, wonder no more, as we explore the many and varied antics that the silly season can inspire.

The Gryffindor House holiday collaboration 2010

Awesome banner by Sarah_Bee at TDA!!
 
 


Chapter 16: A Very Gryffie Holiday: Breaking Even

Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter, nor anything affiliated or associated with it. No copyright infringement is intended.

A/N: Though it’s a bit late, Merry Happy Christmas and New Year, everyone!
Bill was being very stubborn when I wrote this. Sorry to any Bill/Fleur fans out there but I soon realised that if I wanted to finish this some time in the next century, I would have to write Bill as a teenager.
- Joop (blueirony)



 

 






“Families are like fudge – mostly sweet with a few nuts.” – Author Unknown


“I’m sorry, you want me to what?”

In any other situation, he would have cringed at the high-pitched squeak that his voice had just resembled, but all seventeen-year-old Bill Weasley could do was stare at his mother in dismay as she buttoned her thick winter coat. It was a joke. It had to be a joke. His mother, the woman who cried more than she laughed at the comedy programmes she listened to on the Wizarding Wireless, The poor dear. She has no mother! Oh, her poor father!”, had suddenly discovered her sense of humour overnight because there was no way, no way she was taking her father and leaving him alone.

Alone. On Christmas Eve. In a house full of younger siblings.

No. This was a joke.

“Oh, don’t look at me that way, darling,” Molly said as she pulled on her gloves. “It’s just for one night and your father and I will be back tomorrow morning in time for breakfast.”

“But... it’s Christmas Eve,” Bill protested. “And I had plans! You can’t just leave!”

“And what plans would those be?” asked his mother.

A pair of dark brown eyes and a crooked smile flashed across his mind but Bill kept his mouth closed as he thought furiously of a bargaining chip he could play.

“Just... plans,” he said, lamely.

But it appeared that Molly was not listening as she rummaged around in the old wooden closet for her scarf.

“Yes, dear. That’s nice. Now, where is your father?” Molly drew her head out of the closet to face the stairs. “Arthur! Come now, we’re going to be late!”

The sound of footsteps sounded through the hall and Bill turned around to see his dishevelled father appear in the doorway and Bill felt a flicker of hope. He had confessed to his father that this night was the night, the night he had been hoping for ever since Mary O’Sullivan smiled at him across the hallway all those months ago. Surely his father would understand.

“I’m here, Molly,” said Arthur as he pulled on his coat that Molly offered him.

“Dad, I-” began Bill but Molly cut him off.

“Now,” she said, turning to her eldest son. “Remember that there is a bottle of milk in the cellar and a bowl of fresh fruit next to the sink. Dinner is ready, you just have to reheat it. You remember the heating charm, I taught you, don’t you? If you need to floo us, there is extra floo powder in the cupboard, help yourself to it. And I’ve left the sack of presents next to the Christmas tree, though you should probably wait until everyone is asleep. And do keep an eye on Fred and George, they gave your poor father a dreadful fright last year when they-” Molly continued her tale but Bill stopped listening as horror washed over him.

“Wait a second, what’s this about presents?” he asked, his gaze flickering between his parents as they stood in the cramped hallway that led to the front door.

Arthur suddenly busied himself with tying the belt around his waist and avoided his son’s eyes.

“The presents, dear,” said Molly, staring at her son with a furrowed brow.

Bill fought the urge to roll his eyes, instead closed them briefly and exhaled.

“No, no, I know what the presents are, but what am I supposed to do with them?” he asked.

Bill suddenly had a feeling that he knew where this was going but was praying that his mother would prove him wrong.

“Why, wrap them and place them under the tree. And do remember the charm that I taught you, won’t you, dear? Ginny was awfully upset last year when her presents weren’t on her bed and I couldn’t bear it if-”

Bill shook his head and cut his mother off mid-sentence.

“You want me to play Santa?” he asked incredulously.

What happened to this being a joke? Where was the punch line?

His mother looked affronted for a moment before she spoke once more.

“Well, I suppose when you put it like that, you-”

Bill tuned his mother out once again and appealed to his father.

“Dad, are you hearing this? You can’t be serious! You and Mum are going out when you know I had a date. And I’m stuck at home wrapping gifts? This is so unfair, I can’t believe that-”

Bill’s voice trailed off as his mother let out a gasp.

“Oh, darling, you had a date? How wonderful!” She reached out a hand and cupped his cheek. “Do bring her to dinner one day, won’t you? I’m sure she is a lovely girl. Now, remember to cast the locking charm before you go to bed and your father and I will see you in the morning.”

As she turned to the door, Bill made a sound of disbelief and looked at his father once more. Arthur shrugged apologetically at his son before reaching for Molly’s hand and opening the front door.

“Hold on just a second, but what about...” Bill’s words were drowned out as the door slammed shut in front of him.

He stood there for a few seconds, stunned at what had just happened, before a tiny voice broke the silence of the hallway.

“Bill?” He turned and saw his tiny sister padding towards him in her worn slippers holding a doll that looked like it may need a few more charms cast on it (Bill was still struggling to understand how the twins had managed to turn it into a lizard).

“Bill, will you play with me?” she asked sweetly, leaning her head far back so she could look into the eyes of her towering older brother.

Though he fought it (he knew that Ginny’s sweetness was all an act ever since she had discovered around the age of three that there was very little she could not get in her male-dominated family if she acted cute enough), Bill felt the anger at his parents melting away at the sight of his sister’s smiling face. He adored his sister (a fact that he went to great lengths to hide from his friends) and he was well aware that she had him wrapped around her little finger (a fact that the other Weasley boys, too denied). Sighing, he knelt down so he could look her in the eye.

“Not now, sweetheart,” he said, gently. Ginny’s face fell and, knowing that she was liable to sic one of the twins on him for turning her down, he quickly continued. “But why don’t you ask Charlie? I’m sure that he’d love to.”

A grin spread across her face as she turned and ran back down the hallway calling out for her brother.

Bill smirked as he stood up. Though he knew he would to deal with a furious Charlie Weasley later, he figured that it was only fair he wasn’t the only one in misery that night.

 

 






An hour later, Bill stared at the ceiling from where he lay on his bed, repeatedly catching and throwing an old tennis ball leftover from when Charlie had gone through a muggle sports craze a few years earlier. The part of him that insisted that he was an adult and needed to man up tried its best to fight it, but the part of him that was crushed at his failed plans for that night won out. Usually confident around girls, it was unfamiliar for Bill to lay so much weight in one date. But Mary O’Sullivan was different from the other girls. She was the only girl he knew who could speak without laughing after every third word. And that was not to mention that feeling he got in his stomach when she smiled at him.

“Dear Diary,” a mocking voice interrupted his thoughts.

Bill glanced to the right and inwardly groaned as he was met with the sight of Charlie leaning against the door, his arms crossed.

“Dear Diary,” Charlie repeated, his voice high-pitched and obviously mimicking one of a girl’s. “I’m so upset!” Glancing over at Bill, Charlie sighed dramatically as he stepped into the room. “Today, I was going to go out with this girl who makes my knees weak but I can’t! Oh, diary, what if she doesn’t like me anymore? What if I never see her again?” said Charlie, raising a hand to his brow before letting out a loud sniff and dabbing at his eyes. “I don’t know if I could stand it if she ever-”

Bill caught the tennis ball one last time and hurled it at his younger brother who caught it with ease.

“Come on, that the best you got?” asked Charlie, grinning at him. “First rule of throwing something at a seeker. Don’t expect it to hit anywhere that hurts. Of course, I could throw it back at you where it hurts,” he continued, lightly tossing the ball up and catching it. “Not like little Bill’s going to need a workout soon, eh?” he said cheerfully and dodged the pillow that Bill threw at him.

“Do you want something?” asked Bill, not amused by his brother’s antics.

“Not really,” said Charlie, throwing himself onto his bed on the other side of the room. “Just wanted to pay you out.”

Bill looked at his brother in confusion.

“For what?”

Charlie stared at him.

“For having my shins bruised by a seven-year-old’s feet, no thanks to you. You know, most girls just want to play dress up. Ours convinces me to take her up on my broom and then kicks me and calls me a coward because I’m not going fast enough. Bloody hell, Bill,” Charlie said, rolling his eyes, “why couldn’t we have had a sister who just wants to have tea parties, eh?”

Bill laughed.

“What, is the star seeker scared of a little girl?” asked Bill, smirking.

Charlie looked at him for a moment before shaking his head.

“You know, you should leave the insults to the pros. Yours just make you sound pathetic,” said Charlie, throwing the tennis ball out the open bedroom door, only to have it collide with the head of an unsuspecting Percy as he walked past the hallway. Bill winced as the ball made a resounding thunk on the side of Percy’s face.

“Oops, sorry, Perce!” yelled Charlie as Percy stuck his head inside the door to glare at him, sporting a red spot on his cheek.

“Charlie, you should know to keep your... toys to yourself,” looking at the tennis ball in his hand with distaste. “Don’t throw things around the house, you’re setting a bad example,” said Percy, stiffly, before continuing down the hallway.

Charlie made a rude gesture with his hands at his retreating back.

“Future Minister, that one,” Charlie muttered, turning to Bill.

But Bill wasn’t listening. He was busy straining his ears at the unmistakable whooshing sound of a floo call.

“Charlie,” he said, slowly. “Did you hear that-”

Bill was cut off by a giggle that floated up the stairs followed by the sound a voice that Bill recognised. But... why would she of all people... that couldn’t be possible, because surely...

“Do you love Bill?” came the innocent voice of Ginny (an innocence that Bill didn’t believe for a second).

Apparently it could be possible.

“Is that...” Bill’s voice trailed off as he tried to process the fact that the girl who made his hands sweaty was in the fireplace downstairs.

“Your future wife, yes,” said Charlie. “Go on,” he continued, jerking his head towards the door, “you don’t want her to tell you to sleep on the couch tonight, do you?”

Rolling his eyes and throwing the nearest object within his reach, an old Transfiguration textbook, in the general direction of Charlie, Bill leapt of his bed and down the stairs, ignoring both Charlie’s cry of, “Oi, Bill, that one hurt! Since when did you stop throwing like a girl?” and the thuds and muffled yell that came from behind the twins’ closed bedroom door.

Skidding to a stop in the doorway of the living room, Bill was greeted by the sight of Ginny kneeling in front of the fire. Looking past the small form of his sister, Bill could make out the dark hair of Mary O’Sullivan and resisted the urge to bolt out of the room. What was it about this girl that made him act like he was thirteen years old again?

“Ginny, why don’t you go upstairs?”

“But Mary was just-” protested Ginny.

“Now.”

Bill’s stern tone left no room for argument and Ginny sighed loudly before walking out of the room, making sure to step on Bill’s toes on the way out. But Bill paid no heed. His eyes were fixed on the face of the girl in front of him. Discreetly running his and through his hair and trying to act composed, Bill slowly made his way to the fire and kneeled down.

“Hi,” she said, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear. Bill stared, transfixed, for a moment before remembering that he had to answer.

“Erm... hi,” he said, inwardly cursing himself for his voice showing his nervousness.

“I got your letter,” she said.

“Yeah, about that,” Bill shifted uncomfortably as he spoke. “I’m really sorry to cancel but my parents are out, our neighbour is sick and they need someone to take care of the kids and even though my mum could have gone by herself, my dad is a bit of a pushover and he went too and I’m really sorry because I know we had a date but my siblings are...” Bill realised he was rambling and forced himself to calm down. “And... I’m really sorry,” he said, softly.

Mary laughed.

“No, it’s fine, I completely understand,” she said.

A brief moment of silence descended upon the two and Bill steeled his nerve and tried his best to clear the awkward air between them.

“So, not that I’m not glad to see you, but...” Bill paused for a moment as the logical part of his brain tried to figure out whether his use of a double negative was accurate. 'Now is not the time, Weasley, snap out of it!’ “But did you have something to ask me?” he asked, praying that the answer to his question was in the affirmative.

Mary brightened at his question.

“Yes, I did! I had this crazy idea. See, I was thinking. Instead of us going out next week, why don’t I just come over tonight? My parents are going out after dinner, too, so it’s not like I have to be at home or anything,” she said.

Bill’s heart thundered in his chest. She, the girl around whom he was likely to forget his name, wanted to come over? To his house? On Christmas Eve?

Mary obviously must have sensed his hesitation, because she quickly added, “That is, if-if you want me to... I mean, I don’t have to, I just... thought it might be nice.”

Bill blinked a few times and stared at the fire for a few moments. Of course he would love her to come over, but ten minutes with the twins would be enough to drive anyone away. For that matter, ten seconds with the twins would be enough to drive anyway. And Bill had been hearing some suspicious noises from their bedroom throughout the holiday (where two ten-year-olds had managed to get their hands on wands, Bill didn’t know – nor was he sure he particularly wanted to know) and did not trust them to be well behaved at the breakfast table, let alone in front of a girl that he liked.

Mary watched him closely before furrowing her brow.

“You don’t have to. I mean, if you don’t want me to, that’s okay, I’ll just take you up on your offer of going out next week. But I’m warning you,” she added with a grin, “you’re paying.”

Her carefully composed tone did little to hide the obvious disappointment in her eyes. Bill allowed himself a few seconds of triumph that she was upset at not spending time with him before he realised that she had taken his moments of silence to mean he did not want her to come over.

“No!” His voice came out a little louder than he had intended and Bill cringed before continuing, “no, of course I want you to, I just...” Bill did not know how to continue. What he wanted to say was, ‘I’d love you to come over but I’m genuinely scared that Charlie will make you realise I’m a total knob, Percy may interrogate you and start taking notes as you talk once he discovers you’re a prefect, the twins might accidentally kill you and claim they were just trying to turn you into a hippogriff, Ron might steal your wand to try and hex Ginny to which Ginny will throw her dinner at him and start The Great Weasley Family Food Fight of 1987. Somewhere in the middle of this, you’ll realise that you hate me, dump me in front of my family even though we never really went out in the first place and go back to school and start dating Gregory Stuart, despite the fact that he’s a total wanker. And then he’ll be really happy because, let’s face it, you’re the most gorgeous girl in the school, so his Quidditch will improve and Ravenclaw will win. And he’ll hold it against me for the rest of my life and I may not ever be able to look at a broomstick ever again which would not go well with the family because I’m a Weasley and we’re sort of Quidditch-crazy. Once I’m disowned from the family, I’ll have to drop out of school so that I don’t end up living in a shoebox on Diagon Alley, selling fake talisman gems. So I won’t get my N.E.W.Ts and I’ll have to become the conductor of the Knight Bus because no one would want to hire someone as pathetic as me. And because I will never stay in a place for too long, I won’t be able to meet anyone so I won’t get married. And then I’ll have to die alone as an old man surrounded by my twenty cats. And even though I know that it’s normally the women who get a billion cats when they go senile, I wouldn’t put it past myself to buck tradition and do something stupid like that.’

Bill decided to settle on something a little more subtle.

“Are you sure you want to?” he asked.

Mary looked briefly surprised.

“Of course I do,” she said.

“It’s just that... I have six siblings,” he said, unsurely. “Six younger, annoying siblings. And we can’t really do much and my parents are sort of... counting on me playing Santa this year.” Bill said the last bit in a rush, praying that she wouldn’t laugh at him and never talk to him.

To his surprise, Mary grinned and the sight of it made Bill’s stomach turn over pleasantly.

“It’s okay!” she said, laughing slightly at the look of disbelief on Bill’s face. “Really, it is! I have a little sister and had to do the same thing last year. Trust me, it sounds like fun.”

Bill looked at her doubtfully. Somehow, he was sure that Mary’s sister was more of the will-you-help-me-tie-the-hair-ribbon-on-my-doll? type rather than the what-do-you-mean-I-can’t-come-with-you-because-I’m-a-girl?-Muuuuuum! type. And that was not to mention five boys that had Bill convinced that only one sane male Weasley can be born in every generation. Bill was, by no means, ashamed of his family but he knew how overbearing the Weasley family could be at the best of times. Coupling that with the fact that Christmas was just hours away, Bill knew that he had his work cut out for him that night and was not sure he wanted to subject Mary to that just yet.

“You’re sure about this?”

She sighed and rolled her eyes playfully.

“Yes, I’m sure. What’s the worst that could happen?”

Bill didn’t know how to answer her question without terrifying her. Sighing once more, Mary looked at him in the eye.

“Look. I know it’s not what we originally planned, but trust me. I want to come over. I really do.”

Bill could see the sincerity in her eyes and nodded slowly.

“Okay,” he said, fighting very hard to keep from smiling like an idiot. “Well, do you want to come by after dinner, then? Say eight o’clock or so?”

“Sure, sounds great,” she said, beaming at him.

The two smiled at each other before Bill cleared his throat and moved to stand up.

“Great, so I’ll see you eight, then,” he said.

“Yeah,” Mary said, nodding. “See you then.”

With another quick smile and a whoosh, the fireplace swirled and Bill was left kneeling in front of it, staring at the grate. Resisting the urge to jump up and let out a yell of joy, he stood up and brushed some soot of his knees.

Softly smiling to himself, Bill didn’t realise that Charlie was leaning against the wall of the living room with a smirk on his face until he almost tripped over him. Looking into the grinning face of Charlie, Bill sighed and prayed that his younger brother had missed most of the conversation with Mary.

“Not one word,” Bill warned.

Charlie held his hands up in mock surrender.

“I didn’t say anything,” he said. He waited a few moments before quickly saying, “so does this mean that little Bill might get a workout? Because I can always give you tips on how to...”

Bill let the slamming of the door drown out the last of Charlie’s laughter.

 

 






Torture. Pure, raw and unadulterated torture. His siblings had been put on this Earth for the simple act of torturing him until he had finished school and was old enough to get the hell out of there and let Charlie handle the tiresome task of being in charge of the Weasley siblings.

Bill had a newfound appreciation for his mother. He had no idea how she had managed to deal with this for years.

It was now almost seven o’clock, Mary was due in an hour and Bill was seriously contemplating flinging himself out of the attic window.

Pinching the bridge of his nose, Bill tried to get the attention of his siblings once more. Ever since dinner and washing up had finished half an hour earlier (Bill had been genuinely surprised as to how smoothly it had gone; he had been expecting a lot more food and broken dishes on the floor), all of his siblings had been lost in their own worlds, and had all but ignored that Bill was even in the room.

“Guys, can you listen to me for just a sec... ow! Ron! What the bloody hell is your...”

Bill looked under the table and chose to not attempt to identify the questionable object under the table that he had seen Ron with earlier that day.

“Okay, this is ridiculous,” he muttered to himself.

“Oi, you lot! SHUT-THE-BLOODY-HELL-UP!

Not used to hearing his voice that loud, all of his siblings stopped what they were doing and turned to face him, wide-eyed. All of his siblings, that was, except for Charlie, the tosser, whose face was still twisted in the smirk that had not left his face since he caught Bill running Sleakeasy’s Hair Potion through his hair earlier that evening.

Letting out a sigh of relief that they had listened this time, Bill mentally prepared himself for the onslaught of questions that would no doubt follow what he was about to say.

“Okay, I know it’s Christmas Eve and I know that Mum and Dad aren’t home but I need you all to please, please just work with me, okay?” Looking around to make sure they were all listening to him, he was pleased to note that even Percy had lowered the volume to the nightly programme he listened to on the Wizarding Wireless.

Opening his mouth to continue his plea that they all not embarrass him, Bill hesitated before glancing around.

“Wait a second,” he said, frowning. “Where are Fred and George?”

Bill turned at a noise behind him to see the twins walk through the kitchen door, hands in pockets and looking a little bit too pleased with themselves.

“Why, Bill, old boy, how nice of you to notice we had gone!” said George.

“Yeah, Mum will be so proud of you,” added Fred.

“You’re really living up to your role of a big brother-”

“A role-model-”

“A person to look up to-”

“An upstanding citizen of the Weasley family-”

“A real ol’-”

Bill, running low on patience, narrowed his eyes at them both and cut off what could easily turn into an hour-long worth of them trading adjectives (adjectives he was sure that no normal ten-year-old would use in everyday conversation, but he had long since given up on trying to figure the twins out).

“Where were you?” asked Bill.

Fred placed a hand on his heart and gasped dramatically. “Do you not trust us?” he asked as George stared at him open-mouthed, blinking owlishly.

“No,” said Bill, tersely.

“Right you are, Bill,” said George, thoughtfully. “Well, we could tell him, couldn’t we, Gred?” he asked, turning to his twin.

“That we could, Forge-”

“Only, we’d have to kill him-”

“Mum wouldn’t like that-”

“Not to mention Dad-”

“-so we won’t!” The two of them finished in unison before grinning and heading through the kitchen towards the stairs. But before they could get very far, Bill’s sharp voice cut through the air.

“Hold it, you two.”

The twins, sensing that he was not in the mood to be teased with, turned around and glanced at Ron who only shrugged in turn. Sighing for what seemed like the umpteenth time that night and swearing to give his dad hell for not defending him in front of his mother and leading to this situation, Bill faced his siblings once more.

“Look. As I was saying, I know it’s Christmas Eve but I...” Mentally rolling his eyes at how pathetic he was about to sound, Bill ploughed on. “I need you guys to please stay upstairs for the rest of the night.”

Prepared for the volley of protests, Bill raised a hand but it was no use.

“But my programme doesn’t finish for another hour!”

“It’s Christmas tomorrow!”

“Geez, Bill. Throwing your weight around a bit, aren’t you?”

“But you said that you would help me with my present for Daddy!”

“Gred, are you thinking what I’m thinking?”

“Of course I am, Forge, but where can we get a baby penguin on such short notice?”

Bill rolled his eyes.

“Merlin help me... blimey, will you just... ugh, will you lot please calm the sodding hell down?

Silence fell upon the small kitchen.

“Look. It’s just  for one night, I have a friend coming over and I really, really like her and I will not have you lot ruining it.” Bill decided that desperate times called for desperate measures and chose to leave his dignity behind as he all but pleaded with his siblings. “So, will you all please just do this for me? Please?”

Looking around at the raised eyebrows and slightly murderous looks, Bill realised that none of his siblings were having none of it.

“Okay, okay, how about...” Bill thought furiously before closing his eyes briefly as he thought of the one thing that would be sure to bring his siblings over to his side. Carefully stowed away in the back of his sock drawer was a small box containing six hard-earned galleons that Bill had saved from the odd jobs he had managed to procure over the last week and in the previous summer. Bill had been eyeing a multipurpose knife that a store window in Diagon Alley had boasted could open any lock. It came with its own beautiful dragon leather case and cost exactly six galleons. Knowing that it was a little over his parents’ budget, Bill knew that it was unlikely it would be in one of his parcels tomorrow.

Heart sinking and mentally saying goodbye to the knife, Bill nodded once before asking, “How about a galleon each?”

Eyes popped open and jaws dropped. The Weasley children had become used to carefully counting every knut they spent and the thought of an entire galleon to themselves was almost overwhelming.

“You’ve been holding out on us,” said Charlie, letting out a low whistle.

“One galleon is a lot, isn’t it?” asked Ron, uncertainly. “How many more Chocolate Frog cards d’you reckon I could buy with that?”

“So do we have a deal?” asked Bill, ignoring Charlie as he answered Ron’s question. “One galleon and you lot stay upstairs, out of trouble and out of sight?”

The younger Weasley children looked around at one another and a silent agreement passed through them all.

“Bill,” said Fred, standing up, his voice taking on an insufferable tone. “On behalf of us young’uns, I would like to accept this gracious offer of yours. Thanks to you, we can now-”

Bill rolled his eyes.

“Just get upstairs! She’ll be here soon,” said Bill.

“Oh, so it is a fair maiden, is it? I thought you said that before just to get us to agree with you,” said George. “Well. In that case, have you considered that-”

The rest of his words were cut off as Bill physically pushed him through the door and looked expectantly at his other siblings. Grumbling slightly under the breath, one by one, they packed up their things and slowly made their way through the doorway.

As he watched Charlie playfully shove Percy into the wall at the bottom of the stairs, Bill allowed himself a few seconds of guilt at essentially buying his siblings out for a night of peace with a girl he hoped would be his girlfriend in the near future.

“Bill?”

He turned to see Ginny smiling at him from the foot of the stairs.

“Yes?” he asked.

“Have fun tonight. You can help me with Daddy’s present tomorrow,” she said before smiling an impish smile and running up the stairs.

Bill let out a laugh and his guilt eased slightly as he watched his sister’s retreating form. But all thoughts flew out his head as he glanced at the clock on the wall and realised that he had less than an hour before Mary would arrive.

 

 






At five minutes to eight o’clock, Bill was sitting on the couch in front of the fireplace, nervously fiddling with the dress shirt that he had pulled from the back of the closet he shared with Charlie (never one to have a problem with lying to himself, he was telling himself that his beating heart was from excitement, not nerves).

Resisting the urge to look at his watch for the fifth time in as many minutes, he busied himself with admiring the Christmas tree that stood in one corner of the room. Slightly lopsided, overflowing with decorations that horribly clashed with one another and so sparkly that it was almost blinding, Bill thought that it represented the Weasley family perfectly. A little rough around the edges, but very loving and warm the same. He only hoped the Mary would have a chance to experience that warmth tonight. The Burrow at Christmastime had always seemed magical to Bill ever since he could remember and he always found it difficult to describe in words the feeling he got in his chest every year, but it was easy enough for someone to understand when they stood in the much worn but much loved living room of The Burrow.

A soft whoosh came from the fireplace and Bill immediately straightened up and waited a few tense seconds before the slim form of Mary O’Sullivan materialised in front of him. She came to a stop with a stumble and, sensing that she was about to fall, Bill jumped up and strode toward her, holding out a hand. She grabbed it, but it was too late and she stumbled into him. Not expecting it, Bill found himself falling backwards and the two fell onto the floor with Mary on top of him with a small shriek.

Bill hastily untangled himself from her (though he did allow a second or two of bliss as he felt her body pressed up against his) and rolled out from her. Jumping up and holding out a hand to her, she took it and hauled herself up, giggling.

“Well, that was graceful,” she said, still laughing and brushing soot from her clothes. “Sorry about that,” she said, her eyes twinkling at him. “I must have missed my calling in life as a dancer.”

Bill laughed and watched as she took her scarf off. He held out a hand and she gave it to him with a smile.

“It’s okay, I never manage to stay standing after coming out of one of those things,” he said, as he placed her scarf on the hatstand that levitated in the corner of the room.

He turned around and found her curiously taking in The Burrow. For a split second, he was terrified that she might think it too humble (much as he loved The Burrow, even he was not blind to the well worn furniture and mismatching curtains), but his fears were alleviated when she turned to him with a look of wonder on her face.

“This place is... I love it,” she said.

“Yeah, it’s not much but it’s... home,” he said, as he took a moment to take a good look at her. She was not conventionally beautiful and was certainly not one of the busty blondes that his friends sought after but, to Bill, she was gorgeous. It was her aura, her persona. It drew him in and when she smiled, it was like the whole world smiled. Her simple attire of dark jeans and a cream jumper (which Bill had not failed to notice hugged her figure perfectly) made her all the more attractive to her. Not wanting to be caught staring, Bill moved to stand beside her, his shoulder lightly bumping into hers.

Bill turned his head to the right and caught her eye. The two looked at each other for a second or two before Bill cleared his throat and thought of something to say before awkwardness settled in.

“So...” ‘“So?” That’s the best you could do, Weasley? Say something, quickly! Think!’

“Where are your siblings?” Mary asked, thankfully saving him from more uhming and ahhing.

“They’re... around,” Bill said. ‘And they had better stay where they are if they know what’s good for them,’ he added, silently.

Mary gave him a knowing look.

“What?” he asked, a smile creeping on his face.

“You convinced them to stay out of sight, didn’t you?”

Bill opened his mouth in mock horror.

“Are you accusing me of doing something like that?” he asked, grinning.

Mary narrowed her eyes at him playfully.

“So how’d you do it?” she asked.

“What do you mean?” asked Bill, confused.

“Well there are six of them, right?” She looked at him for confirmation and continued when he nodded. “Well, you can’t just expect them to stay upstairs. You had to have done something.”

“They’re good kids.”

“Blackmail.”

“They are!”

“Threats.”

“Angels, I’m telling you, absolute angels, they are-”

“Bribery.”

Bill sighed.

“Okay, so some money may have exchanged hands...” he let the sentence trail off as he took in her thoughtful face.

“Huh,” was all she said.

Mary looked at him for a second before trotting across the room to the door that led to the kitchen.

“Wait, where are you going?” asked Bill, quickly following her.

“It’s Christmas Eve. What’s Christmas Eve without a mug of hot chocolate?” she asked, wrinkling her nose at him. “Kitchen, right?” she asked, pointing at the door in front of her.

When Bill nodded, she opened the door and walked through.

“Come on, Bill. You don’t expect me to bring you a cup out there, do you? Get your arse in here if you want some,” she called over her shoulder.

 

 






An hour and a few mishaps in the kitchen later (he probably could have paid more attention that day the previous summer when his mother had taught him cooking charms), the two of them were back in the living room, sitting together on the couch.

Bill was surprised at how easy it was to talk to Mary. In the past, he had always approached first dates with trepidation. They were normally filled with awkwardness and stilted silences as he struggled to keep the conversation flowing. But with Mary, it was like he had been friends with her for years, not at all like he had only talked to her for the first time a few weeks ago.

“And then Snape gave us three weeks detention,” she said, curling her legs up beneath her. “Can’t say I blame him, though. He may be a greasy git but even he deserves his privacy, I guess.”

Bill shook his head and looked at her in frank admiration.

“I can’t believe that you were the ones who managed to get into his study and cast the Transparency Charm,” he said. “You know we spent ages trying to work out who did that? I don’t think I’ve ever seen Snape look that pissed when he realised how much we all got to see.”

Mary looked at him and raised an eyebrow.

“Surprised?”

“Impressed, actually,” he said, raising an eyebrow of his own.

“So, what about you?” she asked, taking a sip of her hot chocolate.

“What about me?”

“What do you mean ‘what about me’? I’ve just spent the last hour talking about the many reasons why Hogwarts should have expelled me and I’ve gotten nothing from you. So, come on,” Mary said, waggling her eyebrows. “Out with it.”

Bill thought for a moment. In reality, his stories about his time at Hogwarts could probably see hers and raise them one. His teachers and parents thought he was the epitome of the model student but there was much that the halls at Hogwarts could spill about him, were they able to talk.

“Okay,” he began, after a moment or two. “Now I’m going to ease you in, O’Sullivan,” he teased. “I don’t want to scare you from the start.”

Mary rolled her eyes.

“Seriously? You’re talking to the girl who tried to stick Filch’s cat to the ceiling in second year. If at all, I should be the one teaching you, Grasshopper.”

“Grasshopper?” Bill asked as he raised an eyebrow.

“Grasshopper,” she said, nodding.

Mary looked at him as though she expected him to understand. When all she received was a blank look from Bill, she sighed exasperatedly.

“Grasshopper! You know, like you’re learning from me, you’re the student, I’m the master and... you have no idea what I’m talking about, do you?”

Bill shook his head and Mary laughed.

“Okay, we’ll leave that lesson for another time. In the meantime, however, I believe you owe me a story. Or ten of them. Shoot.”

“All right. Now you have to realise that I took an oath about this so I can’t give away too many details... but do you remember that time in fourth year when that chimaera got loose in the Forbidden Forest and everyone thought that Hagrid had brought him into the forest?”

Bill looked at her and saw the now familiar gleam of mischief in her eyes as she nodded and allowed himself a smirk.

“Well, let’s just say that, while Hagrid was probably the most obvious suspect, he may not have been the most accurate.”

Mary’s jaw dropped open.

“You didn’t?”

Bill laughed at her.

“I didn’t do what?”

“You didn’t let that in? How did you do it anyway? Merlin, how did you get your hands on one?”

“See, O’Sullivan, that’s where you’re wrong,” Bill said. “I never said I did anything. I just said that it would be a horrible misjudgement to place the blame on someone who was innocent, which,” he paused to take a gulp out of his mug, “I never said happened.”

Mary looked at him for a second or two before nodding.

“I’m impressed. The shoo-in for Head Boy next year has skeletons in his closet. I like it,” she said.

Bill scoffed.

“Please, that’s nothing compared with what you’ve done over the years. You have a talent for trouble,” said Bill.

“I have a lot of talents, Weasley. You just don’t know what they are, yet. But if you’re good, you can stick around and you may just learn a few of them,” she said, batting her eyelashes at him and leaning close to him.

Bill looked at her and gulped as she leaned in very close to him. She held the position for a few seconds, gazing at him coyly and Bill felt the temperature in the room skyrocket and he closed his eyes, breathless with anticipation. He could feel her warm breath on his face and his pulse quickened. A burst of laughter broke the moment and he opened his eyes wildly to see Mary leaning back against the cushions, laughing.

“Oh, you are so easy to tease, I almost feel sorry for you,” she said, laughing.

Bill shook his head.

“You are something else,” he said, shaking his head.

A small part of him was annoyed with her for what she had just pulled but it melted away at the sight of her slightly mischievous smile.

“You don’t know the half of it,” she said, winking at him.

 

 






Some time later, Bill found himself struggling with a box, a sheet of wrapping paper and a roll of Spellotape that seemed to have a mind of its own. Determined to not look a stereotypical guy who could not wrap gifts (and vehemently disregarding the incident the previous Christmas where the Spellotape had attacked him and mummified him as a fluke), Bill continued to struggle to hold the paper down while Mary sat on the other side of the table, watching with interest and amusement.

Bill knew that she could easily have offered her help, but he couldn’t help but think that her silence and lack of help was a test of sorts.

A test that he was failing miserably.

Exhaling sharply, Bill tried once more. He placed the box in the centre of the paper, folded it over with one hand, pulled the Spellotape out with his teeth and tried to use his other hand to tear it before a pair of small hands entered his vision, taking the roll away from him.

“Okay, stop, stop. I can’t watch this anymore,” said Mary.

Letting out a loud sigh that Bill knew was fake from the twinkle in her eyes, she stood up, leaned over the table and heaved the remaining pile of gifts and paper to her side of the table.

“I can’t believe how bad you are at this,” she remarked after some time, tossing the seventh gift onto the neat pile next to her (Bill had no idea how she had wrapped the first six so quickly).

“Hey, I’m not that bad!” he protested.

Mary paused for a moment before raising her eyebrows.

“Bill, that box there looks like it belongs in the trash,” she said, nodding to the crumpled mess on the floor next to him.

Bill sighed and decided to concede defeat.

“Okay, so maybe I am that bad.”

Mary laughed.

“Hey, I’ll try not to hold it against you,” she said. “But, haven’t you done this before?”

She looked up and Bill shook his head. She nodded thoughtfully.

“Hmm, maybe it’s a girl thing,” she mused, continuing to wrap gifts at breakneck speed. “I’ve been wrapping Annie’s gifts ever since she was born. Me and my Mum normally do them together a few days before Christmas, it’s sort of a tradition between us.”

“How old is your sister?”

“She’s six. Little scamp. Always tries to get me in trouble and, of course, Dad takes her side because he can’t resist her and her cuteness,” said Mary, shaking her head.

Bill laughed at that.

“Sounds like my sister,” he said.

Mary looked up, surprised.

“You have a sister?”

“Yeah, Ginny. She’s seven and uses every situation to her advantage. Can’t blame her, though. Must be hard for her with six older brothers. But I’ll be the first to say that she can hold her own with the rest of us.”

“Huh, I thought you just had brothers.” Mary said, taking another unwrapped gift and placing it in front of her. “So that’s where it comes from,” she said, almost speaking to herself.

“Where what comes from?” asked Bill, curiously.

“Oh, nothing, it’s just that... it makes sense that you have a sister,” she said.

“O... kay?” he said, uncertainly, not understanding what she meant.

The sentence came out more like a question and Mary laughed.

“No, it’s not a bad thing or anything,” she said.

“So then it’s a good thing?” he asked.

Mary looked up at him and Bill was delighted to see a blush forming across her cheeks for the first time that night.

“It might be,” she said and the two locked eyes for a moment or two before she bit her lip and looked down at the last few remaining gifts left to be wrapped.

“Come on, Santa, let’s get these finished,” she said, a small smile returning to her face.

As she turned her attention back to the task in front of her, Bill was amused to see that the blush did not leave her face for several minutes.

 

 






“You and I make a good team, you know that, Weasley?” she said, patting his leg as they sat on the couch once more.

Night had settled in and the two were enjoying the last warmth of the fire and the lights that reflected off the Christmas tree and danced around the room as the firelight flickered and swayed. Bill had bravely rested his arm on the back of the couch behind her and, after a moment or two, she had slid across to close the gap between them and rested her head on his shoulder. They had sat in this position for a while now, and Bill was perfectly happy to stay with his arm wrapped around her shoulder forever.

“And why’s that?” he asked, his voice soft.

“Well. With your horrible kitchen skills, pathetic attempts at gift-wrapping and near death experience when you tried to put more wood on the fire, we’re still here and we didn’t die,” she said, matter-of-factly.

Bill laughed.

“So, in other words, you’re just saying that I have a lot to learn and if you weren’t here, I’d probably be dead?” he affirmed.

“See, Grasshopper. You’re learning already,” she said, grinning and turning to face him.

The two stared at each other as their smiles dropped from their faces and the moment turned serious.

“It’s getting late,” said Bill, softly, his voice husky as he leaned in close to her.

The firelight danced off her face and he reached up with his left hand to brush a stray strand off her face and tuck it behind her ear.

“Yeah, I should probably getting home,” she said, her voice just as quiet, and leaning in so that her nose brushed against his.

Looking into her eyes, Bill detected the slightest hint of a challenge in them and he couldn’t help but smile before he leaned in the rest of the way, closed his eyes and let his lips brush gently across hers. He lingered there for a few moments before she sighed and allowed him to press his lips more firmly against hers. Her arms came up to wrap around his neck and his hands gently slid across her back. Bill fell back against the couch and Mary followed him willingly, gently resting her weight on top of him.

He didn’t know how long they lay there, but when Bill slowly pulled away from her, his mind hazy, the fire had completely died and the room was bathed in darkness.

Glancing down at the girl lying on top of him, he couldn’t resist kissing her softly once more before leaning back and smiling at her. He opened his mouth to speak but stopped when she placed the tip of her index finger on his mouth.

“On Monday,” she began quietly, “you’re going to wake up and, after having spent the entire weekend thinking of me,” she said, grinning, “you’re going to write to me and ask me out for dinner.”

Bill smiled at her and let a finger run down her cheek.

“And what are you going to say?”

She leaned in close to him so her lips touched his with every word she spoke.

“Well, I can’t tell you now. That would ruin the fun,” she said, before tilting her head and kissing him once more.

After a few moments, Mary pulled back and Bill, not expecting her to, followed her lips as she sat back up and she laughed softly.

“Come on,” she said. “You can’t walk me to the door, but you can walk me to the fireplace, hey?”

She stood up and Bill followed. He glanced at the hatstand but before he could move to get her scarf, Mary spoke.

“Keep it,” she said, winking. “Give it back to me next week.”

“So that means you’re going to say yes?” he asked, reaching for her hand.

“Oh, very good, Grasshopper. Soon I’ll have to promote you,” said Mary, grinning.

“I’ll look forward to it.”

The two smiled at each other before Mary glanced down and Bill smirked to himself at the blush that graced her cheeks for the second time that night.

“Happy Christmas, Bill,” she said, softly.

“Happy Christmas, Mary,” he replied, his voice equally soft.

With a last smile and squeeze of his hand, she turned, reached for the floo powder and was gone in a flash of light.

 

 






Three days later, Bill ran down the stairs, entered the kitchen, kissed his mother good morning on the cheek and slid into his seat next to a bleary-eyed Charlie.

“Good morning, everyone,” he said, cheerfully, reaching for a piece of toast.

Charlie took one look at him and whimpered before letting his head hit the table with a thud.

“Look, I know that you’re in the honeymoon period and you’re probably planning the wedding and all that but, for the love of Merlin, it is not normal to be that happy this early on a Monday morning,” came Charlie’s groggy voice, muffled by the table.

Bill rolled his eyes and chose not to answer but busied himself with spreading jam on his toast. A sound of hurried footsteps came bounding down the stairs and the kitchen door flew open to reveal an excited Ginny who flew at Bill. He just had time to place his toast back on his plate before he intercepted the red blur that flew towards him.

“Did you like it, Bill?” Ginny asked, her eyes shining. “Did you, did you, did you?”

Her eyes were shining but Bill was confused.

“Did I like... what?” he asked.

Ginny looked around and saw Fred shaking his head slightly at her before she jumped off Bill and slid into the seat next to him.

“Nothing,” she said, unconvincingly.

Bill narrowed his eyes at her. He had been witness to too many lies of hers to know when she was up to something. But before he could ask her, a tapping at the window behind him distracted him. He looked up and saw a large brown owl at the window, holding a package wrapped in brown paper. Assuming it was for his father, Bill stood up and let the owl in but was surprised when the owl did not drop the package in front of his father but followed him to his own plate. The owl gently dropped the package to the left of his plate, ruffled its feathers importantly before letting out a hoot and flying back through the window.

Someone closed the window but Bill did not notice. He stared at the package in confusion. What could it possibly be?

“Um, Bill? It’s not going to start singing the Dyxie,” said George from across the table.

“Yeah,” Fred chimed in, “Go on and open it.”

Looking around the table and seeing the carefully nonchalant expressions on his siblings’ faces, Bill hesitantly tore the package open, half expecting something to jump out at him. Peeling the paper off, Bill nearly dropped the package when he realised what was inside.

The carving in the handle of the knife was exactly how it had been in the shop when he had seen it months ago and when Bill ran his fingers over the dragon leather, it was every bit as soft as he had imagined it to be.

“This is...”

Bill looked up and saw a beaming Ron and Ginny looking at him. Even Percy was glancing sideways at him with a half-smile on his face.

“Did you... did you do this?” he asked, unable to believe that his siblings had done this for him.

“Don’t know what you’re talking about,” said Fred, with a wink.

“Must be a belated gift from Santa... though I’m not sure why it’s so late,” said George.

“Maybe he got lost,” said Fred.

“We do live in the middle of nowhere-”

“I knew you should have written directions in that letter to him-”

Me? You wrote the second half, you should have done it!”

“Really, Bill, maybe all the fumes from the inkpot that you were staring at this morning got to your head,” said Percy with a grin.

Bill was still too shocked to tease Percy about making a joke and ran his fingers over the lettering on the case.

“And even if we wanted to do something nice, why would we do it for a poor sod like you?” asked Charlie, punching him on the shoulder.

Bill slowly looked from his siblings to the knife he held in his hands and back to his siblings.

“I can’t believe that-”

“Bill,” cut in Charlie with a roll of his eyes. “Stop sounding like such a girl and do your gushing somewhere else. If you’ve finished with breakfast, you and me, outside, Quidditch. Now that you have started throwing like a man, maybe I can actually get some decent practice in,” he said, standing up.

When Charlie reached the door, he turned around and grinned at Bill.

“Of course, I’m probably doing you a favour. Now that you’re probably going to be getting workout very soon, you probably need to get your fitness up, old man,” he said, waggling his eyebrows.

Charlie ran out the door, laughing, before the empty jug that Bill threw at him could reach him.

 

 
 
 


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