Hermione and Ron tramped through the winter wood, cold stinging their faces. Ron's cheeks were scarlet and Hermione's fingers were curled inside her green wool gloves. They were less than a quarter mile from the Burrow, and Ron knew every inch of this country, but the white silence of the listening trees made Hermione shiver under her coat. She followed Ron's crimson head, bright against the snow, through the woods.
Early this morning, when she stumbled downstairs after a rough night (Ginny kicked in her sleep), Ron fixed her a cup of tea, his fingers brushing hers as he handed her the warm mug, and spoke, his voice low and intimate, "Come with me?" And she went. She always did.
Ron stopped, so sudden that she stumbled into him, and he grinned as he helped her right herself. His hand lingered on her back though, and she shivered again, warm where he touched her.
She looked. They were in a small clearing, the ash trees pulling back a respectful distance to allow the thin shafts of sunlight to reach the ground. In the center of the white ground, a small flower, ivory petals almost invisible against the snow, struggled upward. Hermione moved closer, kneeling, and removed a glove. She trailed a finger over the delicate veins of the flower, tracing the soft peach and gold at the center, the only patch of color, save for themselves, in the sleeping wood.
"It's a Christmas rose."
Ron nodded. "I wanted you to see. I. Well." He flushed, though not from the cold this time.
II. Of all the trees that are in the wood
Harry was a tentative eater, almost as if he were afraid that the food would be taken away if he appeared to want it too much. He closed his eyes whenever he took a bite, savoring, trying to make the meal last. Mrs. Weasley, used to the ravening bottomless pits that were her sons, was positively gleeful that someone took the time to linger over her cooking. Ron found himself slowing down, too, but that was because he was watching Harry.
Harry was smaller than all the Weasleys, except Ginny, and he only topped her by a hair. The twins flanked him, identical bodyguards, though the effect was somewhat ruined by the fact that George had just turned Percy's baked potato into a very bewildered frog, and they were trying to suppress their snickers. Percy, oblivious, was gesturing with his fork, arguing heatedly with Bill, while Charlie looked on bemusedly. Ginny was dividing her attention between a conversation with Hermione (about Muggle books, as far as Ron could tell), and gazing at Harry. And Harry sat in the midst of all this, eating quietly, giving a shy smile to Mrs. Weasley when she pressed more food on him.
Then Percy noticed the frog, and lunged across the table at Fred, who tipped over in his chair, and George spilled his juice accidentally-on-purpose on Charlie's robes, Ginny shrieked with laughter, Hermione rolled her eyes, Mrs. Weasley squawked indignantly, Bill and Mr. Weasley tried to sponge Charlie off, and Harry and Ron ducked under the table to avoid Percy's flailing arms. Harry's eyes were bright with laughter, and his hand found Ron's in the darkness. Ron swallowed and grinned back.
III. The holly bears the crown
Hermione knelt by the fire, wrapping presents. She folded the paper precisely, lining it up perfectly with the edge of the box. Harry studied her deft fingers, her curved back, the wild tangle of her hair. Ron sat next to him, his leg pressed warm against Harry's, his eyes dark as he, too, watched Hermione. She glanced up at them, and her cheeks colored. She quickly turned back to the packages, but there was a smile in her voice when she spoke.
"It's the solstice, tonight. Longest night of the year."
Harry lay awake in bed that night, heart in his throat. Ron was breathing shallowly next to him, counterfeiting sleep. The sun returned tomorrow, the days got longer. But now, it was dark and almost silent.
There was a tap at the door, and Ron whispered the unlocking spell. Hermione stood there, uncertainty evident in the set of her shoulders, but Harry and Ron sat up as one, and Ron held out his hand.
She came to them. She always would.
Back to Fanfiction