The entire Weasley family had gathered around the dining table and was eagerly talking to Ron and Hermione as Ginny entered the room. The room smelled like fresh tea and biscuits, which combined with the aroma of sweet sugar to create a heavenly scent.
"So," Harry began, "tell us, Hermione. What did the Healers say?"
"The baby is in good health," Hermione started, "and it is going to be due in less than two months!"
"Two months?" Athena exclaimed. "Only?"
"Well," Hermione said. "It’s like I told you. Witches and Muggles have babies at different rates. For a Muggle it’s nine months, but for a witch it can be any time frame."
"This is so exciting!" Mrs. Weasley squealed. "Did they tell you if it’s a boy or a girl?"
"I think Ron wants to answer that," Hermione said as she looked at Ron, who was blushing slightly.
"Um…" Ron started softly. "It’s a…it’s…"
"Oh for heaven’s sake, Ron," Ginny exclaimed. "Just come out and say it!"
"We’re…" A smile broke out on Ron’s face as he made his announcement. "We’re having a baby girl."
The entire dining room erupted in cheers while Mrs. Weasley started crying and hugging Ron and Hermione. Everyone went over and hugged the couple, showering them with kisses and praises. Ginny noticed that Ron always had one hand placed on Hermione’s stomach, as if protecting his daughter even before she was born. She kissed Ron on the cheek and ruffled his hair, talking excitedly. Just as she had moved away from them, Ginny noticed Draco standing in the corner of the room, hidden within the shadows.
She walked over to the figure and smiled at him as she placed her hand on his shoulder. "What’re you doing out here, Draco?"
"This is a family moment," he said pensively. "I’d hate to ruin it."
"Well, Mum always says that anyone in this house is family, and you are living here in this house, so technically for the next few weeks you are family."
Draco considered her comment for a moment and nodded slightly. He looked into Ginny’s chocolate brown eyes as she looked back into his pale ones. For a moment, he thought about kissing her, about feeling those soft, luscious lips on his own. It took him every ounce of self control to stop himself from pressing his lips to hers.
He placed his gentle hands on her temple and tenderly brushed away some stray hairs that were falling on her face. He could feel her warm skin under his fingers as well as her smooth hair. His eyes fluttered a moment, taking in the sensation, the sensation of beauty and brains all combined into one divine being.
Ginny tried her best not to close her eyes and revel. Draco’s soft fingers were pressing against her temple, and she couldn’t help but feel a tingling sensation all over her body. She saw Draco lean in slowly towards her, and all of a sudden a mixture of thoughts jumped into her head.
Oh my God! He’s going to kiss me!
Should I let him?
Yes! He’s so romantic, and you know he is going to kiss you tonight anyway.
But…but…it’s Draco Malfoy!
Ginny, you've said it yourself, he’s changed.
At the last moment, Ginny stepped back slightly and Draco got the message. His eyes reflected some understanding and embarrassment, while Ginny’s just contained the latter. Just as Ginny opened her mouth to explain to Draco why she did pull away, Mrs. Weasley came bustling over and joined the two of them.
She turned to Draco and said, "Draco, dear, did you get that letter that came for you this morning?"
Draco smiled and nodded. "Yes, thank you."
"The owl that delivered it was most unusual," Mrs. Weasley remarked. "It didn’t even wait for water or some owl pellets. I suppose it was in a hurry, but I guess you can’t expect more from a Ministry owl."
"How did you know it was from the Ministry?" Draco asked.
"Well, the red seal of the Ministry, of course! And didn’t you tell me that you were expecting a letter from a friend of yours?"
"Er…yes," Draco said shortly. "Thank you."
"No problem, dear." Mrs. Weasley started to walk back towards the rest of the Weasleys when she turned to Ginny. "Ginny dear, come along now. I’ve got some tea in the kitchen… go ahead and serve everyone."
Ginny rolled her eyes and followed her mother, leaving Draco standing there alone. He stood, watching that flaming head of hair get smaller into the distance until he could no longer see her.
After the celebrations about Ron and Hermione’s daughter had died down and everyone had returned to their own chores in the house, Harry sat in his room, writing to Remus Lupin. He’d been keeping in touch with his ex-Professor after his graduation and saw him as the closest father figure he’d ever have other than Sirius and James. He read his letter to check if it made sense, and called out to Hedwig, who was sitting peacefully in her cage, sipping some water. She made an irritable hooting sound, but nonetheless, came over to Harry and started to nibble on his finger.
"Here you go, Hedwig," Harry said as he tied the letter to her leg. "I’m sorry to be sending you out in this weather, but when you return, I’ll have a special treat for you." He smiled at his faithful owl as she spread her wings and flew out of the window, disappearing into the afternoon sun.
Snow had started to fall and was covering the Weasley’s backyard. Harry looked down from his window and saw the gnomes in the garden trying to escape the cold weather. Harry saw Fred and George walk into the backyard and call out to Harry from below.
"Oye, Harry! Come on down here…let’s play some Quidditch!"
"In this weather? Are you serious?" Harry yelled back.
"The snow isn’t even close to being brutal yet. This’ll be our only chance all winter!"
"No thanks…you two can freeze by yourselves!"
Fred and George huffed and mounted their brooms. Harry laughed at them while they tried not to slip off their icy Comets in the cold weather. He heard a knock on his door and saw Hermione come in from behind.
"Hey, Hermione," Harry said cheerily. Harry quickly conjured a comfortable chair for her, which she gladly sat down on.
"Are you okay?" Harry asked.
"I’m fine," she said, "but the morning sickness is killing me."
"Even thinking about it makes me sick," Harry said, slightly grossed out.
"Harry…" Hermione started. "You’ve got to tell Ginny."
Harry was taken aback. He had no preparation time, and was in no way expecting to hear that. "W...w-what?" Harry stammered.
"Oh for heaven’s sake, Harry! I already know."
"That you love her."
Harry’s jaw dropped. "L...love…who?"
"Ginny," Hermione whispered.
Harry took a considerable time to adjust to the shock. He sat down and sighed. Hermione placed her hand on his shoulder and smiled. "I’ve always told you, Harry…you can never hide anything."
"How did you know?" Harry asked.
"It’s not very hard, you know. I’ve seen the way you look at her, the way you laugh at her jokes…catching glances at her."
Harry sighed again and ran his hand through his hair. "You want me to tell her?"
Hermione nodded silently. "She needs to know how you feel."
"I…I can’t tell her, Hermione. What if she just rejects me?"
Hermione laughed. "That’s what you’re afraid of? Rejection? Harry, this isn’t Hogwarts where you’re worried about the pretty girl not liking you…this is love... Ginny’s your friend, she’ll understand."
"That’s just it," Harry said solemnly. "Even though she doesn’t know how I feel, we’re still friends. Hermione, I remember our seventh year, the night we defeated Voldemort. She came to me and I pushed her away…I scared her. We didn’t speak for weeks, and only I know how I spent those weeks. It was bad enough not to have my girlfriend speaking to me, but it was worse not to have my friend talking to me either."
"Harry, you can’t hide the truth…not from yourself and not from Ginny. You love her, and if you don’t tell her now then you’ll regret it for the rest of your life."
"I’m not hiding it from myself. I accept the fact that I love Ginny, but I can’t tell her. Not now…"
"Harry, you’re holding on to the past. You’re holding on to your sixth year, and you’re afraid of making the same mistakes again. Harry, trust me. Let go of the past for one day, and you’ll wake up and find that you have nothing left."
"I…I don’t know…" Harry’s mind was clogged with emotions. Should I tell Ginny? Should I just get on with my life and find someone new? That’s impossible…I'll never love anyone more than her.
Ron’s voice came from the downstairs. "Hermione!" he called out. "Come on down here!"
"Coming, Ron!" Hermione called back to him. She looked at Harry one last time and kissed him on the cheek.
"Promise me that you’ll think about it," she said quickly as she headed out the door.
"Yeah…" Harry said absentmindedly as Hermione closed the door behind her. Harry sat there for a while, reminiscing about the days in his sixth year with Ginny. He’d always thought that when he had defeated Voldemort, he’d be able to settle down, get a job, get married to Ginny, and then have the perfect life. When did things get so complicated?
Thoughts swirled around Harry’s mind, and he was far too preoccupied to notice Draco Malfoy sneaking past his room, trying not to be noticed.
Ginny threw clothes from one end of the room to the other. There were dresses, skirts, scarves, shirts, pants and shoes sprawled all across the room. On the bed, there lay Witch Weekly magazines with pictures of Draco and his dates, while an array of hats were scattered around the tiny beside table. Ginny was staring intently into the mirror; she was wearing an emerald green sweater with a black pencil skirt and leggings. Behind her, a small wobbly figure kept running back and forth with clothes in its hands. It was Faellia, Ginny’s house elf. Ginny, though she lived in an apartment, had a house elf who kept the place neat and tidy while she was out working. Ginny had just summoned Faellia here to help her pick out clothes for her dinner with Draco tonight.
"Do you like this one?" Ginny asked her house elf as she held up a white scarf to her neck.
"Yes, Mistress looks very pretty," the house elf squeaked excitedly.
"Ugh," Ginny said. "I look like a radish. What color do you like, Fael?"
"Faellia likes red for the mistress; it looks nice with her hair."
Ginny giggled and rummaged through her piles of clothes for something red. She found a sparkling red halter top and put it up against her body. She squinted from each angle and finally got a sour look on her face.
"This is all wrong. I want my look to say ‘Smart and Stylish’ not ‘Trashy and Available’." She flung the red halter onto the growing pile of rejected outfits. She then reached for some black fishnet stockings and groaned.
"Why did I ever buy these? I'll look like a hyperactive teenager if I ever wear these…I’m 25 for God’s sake!"
"Mistress did not buy these," Faellia squeaked. "They were given to her for a Christmas present."
Ginny tossed the stockings aside and picked up one of the Witch Weekly’s magazines. On the cover was a dashing Draco Malfoy arm in arm with the beautiful Pansy Parkinson. Pansy was wearing a sleek, low cut black dress that barely touched the tip of her knees. The thin straps hung tightly on her weak shoulders, and her neck was decorated in a glamorous jade necklace.
Ginny looked at the picture and sighed. "Faellia…why can’t I look like that?" She gestured to Pansy’s picture and flung it onto the bed.
"Mistress is much prettier…she is not to worry."
Ginny smiled reassuringly at her house elf, but could feel her insides tingling. Of course there was much to worry about. In about four hours she’d be sitting across from Draco Malfoy in Diagon Alley on her first date in six months, and she had nothing to wear. Plus he tried to kiss her today and she was sure he’d try again tonight. Adding all that up, Ginny sighed; there was definitely something to worry about.
Draco quietly strode across the wooden floors and arrived at the fireplace in Weasley’s dining room. There seemed to be no one around as he surveyed the room and knelt down on the floor. He took a handful of Floo Powder, threw it into the fireplace, and stated the name of the person he wanted to see.
The fireplace erupted in green flames and Draco stuck his head in. He could feel himself being spun at a fast rate, and he started to feel a bit nauseous when all of a sudden, it stopped. He looked and saw the lavish office of the Minister of Magic, decorated with huge paintings and rich fabric draped over the walls. A huge oak table sat in the middle of the room, surrounded by large chairs, all made of rich velvet.
Draco looked around the office to try and spot the Minister of Magic. He couldn’t see much because it was only his head that was in the fireplace and not his whole body. Soon, however, he spotted a tall figure standing near one of the windows, staring out into the sky. He wore thin wire rimmed spectacles and had streaks of grey in his tawny hair.
The man looked over and saw Draco in the fireplace. He quickly walked over and knelt down in front of him.
"Malfoy, I told you not to contact me," he hissed.
"This is important, sir," Draco urged. "I received your letter a few days ago, and…"
Scrimgeour seemed impatient. "Listen Draco, and listen well. I told you specifically not to contact me. You know the consequences..."
"I think you’re making a mistake with Arthur Weasley, sir."
"This…this? This is the important thing you wanted to say?"
"It’s a mistake, sir. I think we should stop this and let the Weasleys get on with their holidays."
"Draco, you are not senior to me in any way, shape, or form. This will not stop until I say that it is time to stop. Until then, do what you have to do...the letter has expressed all details, I assume?"
Draco opened his mouth to argue, but saw the iciness and obstinacy in Scrimgeour’s eyes. He silently nodded and closed his eyes, readying himself for his journey back to the Burrow. He pulled back gently and could feel that familiar spinning sensation as the lavish office of Rufus Scrimgeour dissolved itself back into the Burrow.
He dusted himself off and headed back upstairs as he thought to himself, What have I gotten myself into?
Draco checked his watch again and again to make sure his time was right. He was in Diagon Alley, waiting in front of the Witch’s Brew for Ginny. He was wearing black pants and a dark overcoat that shielded him from the bitter December winds. Under his coat, he wore a smooth, white button down shirt. His hair wasn’t sleek and pulled back like at Hogwarts, but a bit loose and slightly messy in a very adorable sort of way.
He cursed himself for not waiting for Ginny at the Burrow who, according to Percy, had gone to pick something up from her apartment. He checked his watch again, and it read 8:39 P.M. this time.
Why didn’t you just wait for her, you stupid git?
She’s not ten years old; she can find her way here easily.
Yes, but how impolite does this look… you didn’t even wait for her.
Well…we said we’d bump into each other…
Maybe she stood you up…
You were kind of mean to her at Hogwarts…maybe this is her way of getting back at you.
Draco couldn’t stand it anymore. He cleared his mind and looked at his watch again, which read 8:52 P.M. He sighed and started to make his way towards the Leaky Cauldron. The snow was lightly trickling down from the sky and lightly sprinkling on pedestrian's heads. Just as he started to turn a corner he heard a soft voice call his name.
He quickly turned and there she was. Ginny was standing near the entrance of the Witch’s Brew, looking more radiant than ever. She was wearing fawn pants and an emerald green, low cut sweater under her darker green coat. Her hair was let down and fell lightly on her face, while the fiery red color contrasted the emerald green beautifully. She looked so perfect that even Draco Malfoy couldn’t stop staring at her.
She walked up to him quietly and looked at him bewilderedly. "Where were you going?"
"I…I…" Draco was at a loss for words. "I was…it doesn’t matter."
"Um…okay…" Ginny smiled at him and Draco held his arm out to her.
"Shall we?" he said smoothly. He grinned as Ginny took his arm, and the two of them walked towards The Witch’s Brew.
Harry was immersed in a game of wizard’s chess with Ron. Currently, he was on the verge of losing, and had to think of some clever way to outsmart Ron. Before he could start, Ron made his move and the game ended with Harry losing very badly.
"Face it, Harry. No one can beat me at wizard’s chess," Ron said proudly.
Harry laughed as Mrs. Weasley brought over some apple cider for everyone. She looked around the room and sighed. "Would you look at this?" she said huffily.
"What is it, Mum?"
"It’s two weeks before Christmas and everyone still has work to do. We should be spending time with each other, not gallivanting around the city doing work. Fred and George have to go check on some shipment of joke products, Ginny has something to pick up from her apartment, Bill has to go look over some accounts, and even Draco has to go do some Ministry work."
"Oh, that reminds me, Mrs. Weasley. I’m going to be gone for three days in two weeks," Harry said.
"For what reason?"
"Well, there were a couple of reported dark magic cases that the Ministry wants me to review before the New Year. It’ll take me a few days to go to Azkaban to get the reports and such…so I’ll be gone."
"Wow," Ron remarked. "I always thought being an Auror would be fun, but that sounds just plain boring."
"Ron, don’t be rude!" Mrs. Weasley scowled and turned to Harry. "It’s alright, dear. Just make sure you’re home in time for Christmas."
Harry nodded and smiled at Mrs. Weasley, and then he turned to Ron. "By the way, there was another owl for you," Ron remarked.
"From who?" Harry asked.
Harry groaned loudly. "Again?"
Ron laughed. Harry had been receiving owls from every witch around the world asking for dates, but none was more persistent than Padma Patil. She kept owling him, sending him flowers, and asking him on dates. Harry had always politely refused, but for the last few days, he had just resorted to ignoring her.
Harry sighed. Every eligible single witch wanted to be with him…all except one. And that one was the one he loved the most.
Ginny and Draco had been sitting at their table for over an hour just talking and eating. The Witch’s Brew was a cozy, warm restaurant with beige walls and a huge chandelier in the middle of the ceiling. There was some half eaten chicken lying on Draco’s plate, while there were some vegetables lying on Ginny’s. The two of them had been talking about so many different things that neither noticed that a waitress had taken their plates away.
She returned after a while and cleared a throat to get their attention.
“You guys want anything for dessert?"
Draco shook his head. "No dessert for me, but I’d like a glass of crystal wine." The waitress noted down his order and then turned to Ginny.
"I’ll have a small slice of pecan pie," Ginny said. The waitress jotted that down too and waved her wand. The paper quickly disappeared and suddenly a glass of wine and a plate of pie appeared. She placed both on the table and walked away.
"This is very good wine," Draco commented.
"See, I told you this was a nice place," Ginny pointed out as she took the small piece of piece of pie into her mouth.
"How’s that pie of yours coming along?"
"It’s lovely, thank you very much."
"Well, seeing as you’re done with the pie and I’m done with my wine, we’d better pay and go home."
Draco called for a waitress and paid the bill. Then he and Ginny walked out of the restaurant and into the chilling December winter. The night sky was dark, and the snow seemed to shine against it as it gently trickled down from above. Ginny just stared at the stars in the clear sky and looked mesmerized.
She seemed to be in her own thoughts when she heard a whisper in her ear, "Thinking about me?"
"Yes…What? Wait, no…no…no… I wasn’t thinking about you, Draco," she said quickly. "I was just thinking of how beautiful the sky looks tonight."
"It does look stunning, doesn’t it?" Draco said tenderly.
Ginny suddenly turned and looked at the beautiful blonde boy beside her. "Speaking of stunning…you haven’t said a word about how I look tonight, Draco Malfoy."
Draco gazed into her deep chocolate brown eyes and ran his fingers against her soft cheek. He lightly put his hand against her ear and drew her closer. Before Ginny knew what was happening, Draco’s soft lips were against hers. She could feel his hand stroking her hair as he melted her with his kiss. She decided she could no longer resist him, and let herself get swept away like a lone leaf in a raging storm. After what seemed like an hour, they broke apart. Ginny was still in shock, while Draco gave her a soft smile and whispered into her ear, "You look gorgeous."
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