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“You do not look ridiculous!” Ginny Weasley snapped, making sure her voice could be heard into the next room. She stood before the open doorway, her hands pressed into her hips firmly and her chin locked, as though she was preparing for a battle. If he didn't get his bum out here in a second, she was going to go in there and drag him out.

Not that she hadn't known that he would give her problems. When it came to a fight, Neville was bold, but when it came to everyday stuff, he was embarrassed easily. It was why she had come over to his flat to make sure he showed up at the Christmas party she'd worked so hard to organise. Without her, he never would have come, because she knew well that when he got embarrassed, he got flustered, and that made him do strange things – like stepping on her feet at the Yule Ball or hiding in the room, just like he was now.

“Yes, I do, and you know it,” came Neville Longbottom's voice from inside of the room. He wasn't whining, just anxiously stating what he thought was true.

Ginny drummed her fingers against her hip impatiently. They were going to be late. “We'll all be wearing costumes,” she tried to reason. “Even I'm wearing a costume.”

“But you look good in everything.”

Ginny felt a touch of heat rush to the insides of her check as the unexpected compliment surprised her. There; he had done it again. He had unconsciously complimented her, not because he wanted anything out of it, like some other boys had done to her, but simply because he earnestly believed it was true. Sometimes Ginny doubted that he knew he was doing it, but that didn't mean that she appreciated her friend any less for it. In fact, she wished that Harry would do that more often. Harry's idea of a compliment was telling her she had played a good game of Quidditch. But that was just Harry, her boyfriend, and she was not going to compare him with Neville.

“Just get out here,” Ginny called back.

“No,” Neville said, trying to sound as firm as possible.

Ginny's hands fell off her hips, falling to her side and becoming fists. It took all her power not to charge into the room and drag him out by his pointed shoes. “Now, Neville.”

“No, I'm not going to make a fool of myself.”

Ginny was starting to get desperate. She was going to be late for her own party. She thought about leaving him behind, but they were friends. They'd gone through a lot together during her sixth year and built a bond of friendship that she wouldn't easily forget. Nor would she ever get the images of his protectiveness of her out of her head. He would never let any of the Carrows touch her, even if it meant that he would turn their anger to himself. Even if it meant he took her punishment. She'd jumped down his throat so many times about it, but he still protected her. She couldn't help but smile at the memory. As always, she couldn't stay mad at Neville for long.

But for goodness sakes, couldn't he just get out of the room?!

“Please, Neville,” she pleaded, adding a bit of sweetness into her tone. Their argument was not going to go anywhere. “I really want you to come to my party.”

There was a moment of silence, and Ginny held her breath, unsure whether he was thinking of coming out or quietly sneaking out the window. Then after a moment, Neville stepped into the doorway.

“All right, I'll go,” he said, still sounding reluctant as he twisted his green pointed hat around in his hand. “For you.”

Ginny smiled in satisfaction, then eyed him from head to toe. The elf costume that he now wore consisted of green velvet pants and shorts, with red and white stripped stockings, and of course, pointed shoes. In it, the round-faced, pleasant-looking boy genuinely looked like a too-tall elf. She couldn't help the giggle that escaped her lips.

Colour poured onto Neville's cheeks turning them a nice, hot crimson, embarrassment darkening his wide eyes. “See,” he said, half-accusingly, half-horrified, “I knew you'd laugh.” He took a step backwards, half-turning, as though to dart back into the room and perhaps out that window, but Ginny quickly snagged his wrist.

“Don't,” she said quickly, feeling a bit guilty that she had laughed. She hadn't been laughing at him, but she should have known he'd react this was. She didn't want to hurt him. He peeked his head over his shoulder so he could look at her, his eyes still a bit wide. She smiled encouragingly at him, hoping he understood how sincere she was. “You look great.”

For a moment, Neville didn't seem certain. Sometimes Ginny wished she could get a hold of whoever it was that had made Neville so self-conscious, so embarrassed to do what so many others found natural. Whether it was Malfoy or the old crone Neville called a grandmother, Ginny would have something to say to both of them—and they could bet it wouldn't be pleasent. Neville was a brave boy; he fought like no one else she knew, except perhaps Harry, and if Ginny had any say in it, he would lose the last bit of the self-consciousness that Neville had left.

After a moment of studying, Neville gave a little smile, though he didn't look convinced. “All right.” Then he studied her again, but this time not just her eyes. Innocently, he eyed her from her head to her toe, while Ginny didn't feel the least bit uncomfortable. His was nothing more than a friendly observation, even if his eyes lit up at the same time as a smile played on his lips as though he enjoyed what he saw.

She was dressed in a Mrs. Clause costume, only with a younger, fresher taste. Instead of a white wig, she only had her red hair, hanging straight to her shoulders. Matching her brilliant red hair, was the velvet, white fur-trimmed outfit that ended at a skirt near her knees. And of course, on top of her head was a Santa hat.

“You look beautiful,” he said genuinely, without a hint of surprise but a great amount of fondness in his voice.

Once again, Ginny felt that feeling of both her heart growing large and the colour trying to tint her cheeks at Neville's sweet, impossibly innocent compliment. She wasn't sure how to respond, so she only smiled slightly and said, “Thanks, Neville.” She then cleared her throat, pressing the thoughts of how amazingly kind Neville was to get back into action. “Now,” she pressed sternly, “we have to go, or we'll be late.”

“All right, but...” Neville hesitated looking down at his body length, looking from his green coat to his red pointed shoes. “Are you sure I look all right?”

Ginny rolled her eyes in annoyance and gritted her teeth to keep herself from snapping at him. This again! She took a deep breath, forced herself to give a tight, but hopefully reassuring smile, and then nodded. “I'm sure, Neville. And if you ask me again,” she couldn't help but add, “I'll give you something to be embarrassed about. Now, let's go!”

Before he could protest, she stepped forward, seized Neville's wrist, and yanked him toward the front door of his flat. On the way, she sidestepped a plant, only to come close to running into another one. Plants were always littering everywhere in his home, making it look slightly like a greenhouse, but Ginny was used to finding her way around the pots. Her stride was long and brisk and her hold was confident as she dragged Neville along behind her. Her hand was swift as it knocked the head of a snapping plant away from her hip and her mind was running wild. She still had to make sure the food was set out, and the last of the decorations were up. Of course, Neville could help her, but...

As they reached the door, Neville froze so abruptly that Ginny's arm was jerked behind her and she was snapped rudely from her thoughts. Annoyance ripped through her, the tickling sensation of it spreading all the way from her curling fingers to her roaring brain. What now?

She turned around to look a him. His eyes were fastened to the roof above him, his eyes peering so far upward that his irises had almost disappeared into his eye sockets. Ginny gritted her teeth. They didn't have time for him to be staring blankly at the ceiling.

“Neville,” she pressed warningly, “we have to go. We don't have—”

At that moment, Neville took her chin sternly, but gently, between his thumb and forefinger and raised it upward so that her eyes saw what he had been staring at. The next word, 'time', slipped from her lips breathlessly as though a fist had landed into her diaphragm at the exact moment it escaped from her tongue. It was fitting, for just as if she had been punched, she suddenly felt very winded, as though she would never breath again, and her heart gave a solid 'kuh-thunk'.

Because there about their heads, hanging on the door frame, was mistletoe.

Ginny felt like she had been Lang-Locked. What was wrong with her?! Yet her mind was unable to think enough to even answer the question. It was frozen from motion, silent and dark. All she knew that she was supposed to kiss Neville, her friend. Why did that not sound so bad?

However, Neville was clearly not frozen. He stepped back anxiously, bumping into a snapping plant that aimed its jaws at his bottom. Neville leaped forward to avoid the sharp teeth and found himself back beneath the mistletoe, closer to Ginny than he had been before. He was sucking in great breaths, his eyes wide.

“I didn't don't have to...” He glanced back up at the mistletoe, narrowing his eyes slightly as though the mistletoe had done something cruel. He then gazed back at her, and though something in his gaze seemed reluctant and almost looked like he was in pain, he spoke firmly, “You don't have to kiss me. It's only a stupid decoration.”

Yet, Ginny knew what he was thinking. Not that mistletoe was a stupid tradition, not that he would die before kissing her. He was thinking of one thing: Harry. She had a boyfriend, and he would not take advantage of any situation, because he would not only be hurting her, but Harry as well, and the loyal boy would never do that. Yet, right now, Harry was the farthest thing from Ginny's mind.

Her mind was spinning, picking up random images, and all of them featured Neville. Neville stepping on her feet at the Yule Ball, seeing her when she was an invisible third year. Neville fighting with her at the Ministry, protecting her every time he could. Neville in his seventh year becoming stronger each and every day, becoming a man before her eyes. Neville complimenting her, being her friend, caring about her more than it seemed anyone else ever had.


Now there was a deep longing in her heart, warm and wonderful and growing stronger by the minute. She knew she could walk away; Neville would let her, but she also knew that somehow, she didn't want to. And by that tenderly wanting look in Neville's eyes, she could tell he didn't want her to walk away either.

“It is tradition,” Ginny pressed softly, giving him an invitation before she could think beyond what she wanted, not even to consider why she wanted it. Besides, it was just a kiss. It couldn't hurt anyone.

Neville searched her eyes, as though unsure if the invitation was real. Then, after finding no deceit in her beautiful brown eyes, he agreed tightly, “Right.”

Then, with the slowness of someone who had wanted something for so long and now that it was here, they weren't sure how to act, he stooped downward, hesitated so close that his breath caressed her lips, and then, with painfully sweet tenderness, fitted his mouth to Ginny's.

His mouth was soft and warm and tasted of vanilla and eggnog. The sweetness was unexpected, and though his lips lingered for little more than a second, it was enough to make her mind heady as though intoxicated with the strongest wine. She closed her eyes, feeling as though the world was spinning around her, but it didn't feel awful. It felt good – very, very good.

Neville started to pull away, and she felt his warmth parting her like a splash of cold water pouring down her spine. She didn't want to feel cold, didn't want him to leave her so soon. So quickly, without any sane thought, she covered his mouth with hers, moving her lips across his in a deep, loving kiss. Neville sucked in a harsh breath of surprise through his nose, his entire body stiffening. Her hands brushed against his tense shoulder, working their way around his neck, and slowly, feeling her arms about him, he relaxed. His hands stretched forward, resting tenderly on her hips before stretching onward, around her waist in a delicate embrace. Their lips moved across one another's in an excited adventure, their hearts bounding in unison, their happiness overflowing.

Forgotten were things like 'parties', 'boyfriends' and promises of being 'just friends'. They were just two people who had stumbled upon something wonderful.

Just an elf and Mrs. Santa Clause kissing beneath the mistletoe.

When they were quite out of breath, they stumbled away from each other. Neville grinned goofily as though drunk, a quaint smile appeared on Ginny's lips and neither of them knew what to say. So instead, each of them mumbled strange, one-worded sounds.




Ginny's eyes sparkled as she wondered how she had managed to feel as awkward, well, Neville. But she forced her mind back to focusing. “Better get to my party.”

“Yeah,” Neville agreed steadily, though it took a moment before either of them believed he had wiped away the intoxicated feeling of the kiss and was really thinking about the party. When she was sure he had was when a mischievous glint crossed his eyes. She'd only seen a mischievous look in Neville's gaze when he had been a seventh year about to tell them the plot he had planned to steal the sword of Gryffindor. “But...” he added, looking down at himself and the costume, and though not a flicker of embarrassment crossed his eyes, he spoke uneasy, “Are you sure I look okay?”

Ginny knew what he was doing, and she went along. Besides, both of them remembered her threat and she did not often give empty threats. This time the threat wasn't empty. Ginny lifted her wand upward, pointing it at Neville's head. There was a shrill squeal, like a tea kettle boiling, and then a fog-like screen appeared before his hair. It lingered for only a second. When it was gone, Neville's hair was no longer black, but a lovely shade of bright, hot pink.

Ginny giggled, and Neville turned around to look at himself in the mirror that hung on the wall close by. He eyed his reflection, seeing a brown-eyed elf with pink curls, and then, quite unexpectedly, he laughed. It was just what he needed. To laugh at himself.

They both laughed, their guffaws meeting musically in midair. Yet somehow Ginny didn't feel as jolly as her laughter suggested, because she knew what they were doing. They were trying to pretend the kiss had never happened, trying to get back home to Just Friends since they had flirted so dangerously on the border to Something More. Their friendship was too precious for them to risk, and it was seeming more and more precious all the time.

Yet, as Ginny fixed Neville's hair and then Apparated to her party with Neville, Ginny wasn't sure that 'forgetting the kiss' was quite so simple. She wasn't sure of much of anything at the moment and that, despite her pasted smile, infuriated her. She was a strong, confident woman. She should be sure! Yet she was confused. She was confused of why she had longed to kiss Neville, or why when he had kissed her, she had felt so safe, warm, loved. She didn't know why, when Neville had been so near, she had forgotten about Harry, the boy she had dreamed about marrying since she was ten. Nor could she understand what that kiss meant for her relationship with Harry or her feelings for Neville, for whatever that moment with Neville had been, it had been more than 'just a kiss'.

The million questions ran through her head and she contemplated them as she stood in the corner of her party, talking half-heartedly with Hermione, and as she thought, Ginny found her eyes sending furtive glances toward Neville. She would watch him laugh and chat in his elf costume, looking almost handsome. Hours passed, and yet she had come no closer to answering her mountain of questions.

And then Neville turned to look at her and from across the room, their eyes met. Ginny felt her heart warm, feeling beautiful beneath Neville's smile, and she knew that if she let herself, she could so easily get lost in his eyes. And suddenly she was sure of one thing, one thing that she would cling to despite the confusion it cast, because she knew there had never been a moment of time when she had ever felt so wonderful.

Yes, one thing was certain about her relationship with Neville. She would never, not in a million years, forget their kiss under the mistletoe.

Written for Caroline/dancingwithneville for the Ravenclaw Secret Santa challenge. Thanks to Alison/R_Ravenclaw for beta-ing this for me.

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