Chapter 5: Meeting the Family

Christmas Eve, Harry picked Ginny up at eleven o'clock so they could grab a burger before heading down to Ottery St. Mary. Traffic wasn't as heavy as Harry feared it would be, so they were driving up the dirt lane leading to Ginny's family home shortly after five. On the trip down, Ginny tried to prepare Harry for The Burrow, but no amount of description would do the unusual sight justice.

He thought, listening to her, that the additions to the house would make it a haphazardly sprawling home. Instead, it went up three floors, and none of them were exactly centered above the one beneath. Gobsmacked by what he saw, he stopped the car and just stared. "Did no one tell your father that burrows go underground?" he finally managed to say.

"I tried to tell you."

"Honey, you could have tried for three days to tell me and still missed what this building is." He looked over at her. "You said your Dad and his brothers did the additions?"

She nodded, warm inside at the appellation he'd called her. "Uncle Bilius – we actually call him 'Bill' – is an electrician and Uncle Alex a plumber." She lowered her voice conspiratorially. "Don't repeat this, but I have a feeling a lot of whiskey went into the construction of it."

He blinked but said nothing further; anything he said could be misconstrued to mean he didn't think much of the builders. Nothing could be further from the truth. Finally, he looked at her again and with a smile said, "Brilliant! It's just – brilliant! It's not a biscuit-cutter home, that's for sure!"

To his relief, Ginny laughed. "No, it's truly one of a kind."

He took his foot off the brake and they continued up the lane. Ginny instructed him to pull around to the far side of the house, near her father's work shed, and park there. Hand-in-hand they climbed the steps to the long back porch and walked almost to the other end of it where the door to the kitchen was located. Ginny pushed open the back door and walked in.

"Hi, Mum," she greeted, pulling Harry in behind her.

Molly Weasley was bustling around the kitchen. Wonderful aromas filled the room and tantalized Harry's nostrils. He could pick out the mouth-watering smell of onions and garlic, and beef roasting in the oven. On the bench next to the sink several pies sat cooling. He recognized a mince pie, and judging from the juice spilling through piercings in two others she had baked apple pies as well. His stomach grumbled appreciatively, embarrassing him greatly. Fortunately, his hostess either didn't hear it or was gracious enough to ignore it.

Mrs. Weasley whirled around at her daughter's voice, dropped the kitchen towel with which she was drying her hands onto the bench near the pies, and held out her arms as she started toward Ginny. "Hello, love," she welcomed the younger woman and gave her a tight embrace. Over Ginny's shoulder she spied Harry. "This must be your young man, then."

Harry could tell just from his girlfriend's voice that she was rolling her eyes. "Yes, Mum. This is Harry Potter. Harry, this is my Mum, Molly Weasley."

Harry extended his hand. "Pleased to meet you, Mrs. Weasley."

Flustered, she glanced at his hand before taking it in hers. "Welcome to The Burrow, Harry. We're very glad you could join us."

"Thank you for having me," he replied. He was relieved when Ginny spoke up again.

"Where's Daddy?"

"Where else?" Mrs. Weasley replied with a huff. "Out in the work shed. I'll go out there in a few minutes and bring him in. Dinner's almost ready."

"We'll go, Mum," her daughter offered. "We'll be right back so I can help you."

"That's a dear," was her Mum's reply, distracted now that greetings were finished.

Arthur Weasley's workshop was the sprawling building Harry had expected The Burrow to be more like. It had two space heaters, one at each end, and a wood stove in the middle to warm it. Ginny's father was at a workbench not far from the stove, wielding a screwdriver. A radio set to an oldies station was playing a sixties' tune, and Arthur was whistling along. Because of it, he didn't hear the squeal of the door being opened.

"Daddy!" Ginny raised her voice, and her father started badly enough that he dropped the screwdriver.

Spinning toward the couple, he smiled. "Hullo, Pumpkin! Mum send you out for me?"

Ginny nodded. "She says dinner is almost ready. Daddy, I'd like you to meet Harry Potter. Harry, this is my Dad, Arthur Weasley."

Harry and Arthur shook hands and exchanged pleasantries. "What are you working on, Mr. Weasley?"

"Oh, I've an old MG that I'm trying to get back on the road. It was in a junkyard, wrecked, when I found it, but I've got the body work done. Now it's the engine giving me fits. Come see it." The older man led the way to a tarp-shrouded hulk at the back of the shed.

"Harry, I've got to get back. You want to stay here or come with me?" A hand on his arm kept him next to her.

"I'll stay here, if you don't mind."

"That's fine." She went up on her toes to kiss his cheek but he turned his head to catch her lips with his in a short kiss. "Not too long, now – I don't want to have to come back out in the cold to get you two." She raised her voice. "Hear me, Dad? No more than ten minutes!"

Arthur nodded absently, busy pulling the tarp off his treasure. Harry smiled encouragingly at her, so Ginny left the two men, though not without misgivings. Then she poked her head back into the shed.

"Harry, would you please bring the bags in when you and Dad come back?"

His nod was the only answer she got as he headed toward the MG.

Fifteen minutes actually passed before the back door opened, allowing cold air to swirl inside along with Arthur and Harry, Ginny's and Harry's bags in hand. The two men were still talking about the MG, and Ginny could tell Harry was impressed with her Dad's progress with the former junker. After the newcomers washed their hands the four of them sat down to dinner.

To make sure they got seats, an hour before the midnight service Harry, Ginny, and her parents traveled to St. Augustine's church in town. Already the car park was filling up. Mr. Weasley maneuvered his Anglia into a space in the circle of a street lamp. Ginny and Mrs. Weasley sat in the car and waited for Harry and Mr. Weasley to open their car doors. Even if Ginny and Harry had not had a conversation a year earlier that, yes, he knew Ginny was perfectly capable of opening her own door, but she should let him pamper her, she would have sat, knowing that her Mum wouldn't budge until her husband came to her door and showed her the same courtesy. Mrs. Weasley put her arm in the crook of her husband's whilst Ginny and Harry held hands. His were bare, and with the biting cold she was glad she'd gotten him the gloves, even though he wouldn't receive them until the morning.

Only whispers and the sounds of fabric rustling and shoes softly hitting the carpeting of the center aisle marred the quiet until fifteen minutes before midnight when the choir filed into their seats to one side of the altar and the organist played the opening notes of 'O Little Town of Bethlehem.' At the edge of the organ keyboard stood a board with the hymn numbers selected for the evening's service. Pages fluttered as books were opened. When the choir began singing, the congregation joined them.

After the opening carol the choir segued into 'Hark the Herald Angels Sing,' followed by 'It Came upon A Midnight Clear.' Harry's and Ginny's voices blended so well that the woman on Harry's other side stopped singing and just listened to them. Privately Harry thought it was a blessing that she had stopped.

As Mr. Weasley drove them back to The Burrow later, Mrs. Weasley commented, "You two sing very well together. You've obviously sung together before."

"We go to church together every Sunday, Mum, and share a songbook there."

"Molly, Harry tells me he's a recording artist," Mr. Weasley informed her.

Molly's head swiveled sharply to peer into the back seat. "A what?"

Harry took a deep breath. "I'm, erm, a singer. Professionally." He could tell Ginny was stifling a laugh. He poked her lightly with his elbow.

"What do you sing, dear?" she asked.

"Pop, mostly. Ballads are what my voice is best tuned for, but I do on occasion get the feet stomping."

"And are you famous?"

"Erm, a bit."

"He sings under the name of Harry James, Mum," Ginny finally interjected and then held her breath.

"Harry …" her Mum's voice faltered then picked up again, "Harry James?"

"Yes, ma'am. Have you heard of me then?"

Ginny covered her eyes and bit her lips, but her shoulders were shaking. Harry James was one of her Mum's favorite contemporary singers.

"Ginny, dear, why have you never told me this?"

Harry was too relieved to be off the hotspot that he missed the steel in her mother's voice.

"Erm, it never came up?" was Ginny's weak reply.

"You said you met him at a concert."

"I did, Mum. I, erm, I was called up from the audience to sing a duet with him."

"And she charmed me from the first note," Harry added gallantly, which garnered him a return elbow in the ribs from Ginny.

Thick silence reigned the rest of the trip; it was obvious that Molly Weasley was digesting what she'd been told. Harry thought it was lucky that everyone was ready to turn in when they arrived back at The Burrow since it precluded any more questions or comments.

The Weasleys' bedroom was on the first floor; Ginny's was on the second, and Harry was ensconced in the twins' old room on the third floor. The loo was on the same floor as Ginny's room, and her door was open when he went back down for his ablutions. He poked his head into her bedroom when he finished cleaning up.

"Do you think your Mum will pick up questioning me where she left off in the morning?"

Ginny grinned. "I doubt it, but only because she'll be too busy, what with getting the turkey going, getting breakfast for us, and then enlisting my help with the rest of the Christmas meal."

Harry was enjoying the sight of her in her light green dressing gown, a pair of lavender pajama pants sticking out beneath it, and especially the bunny slippers on her feet, and struggled to keep a grin from showing on his face. "What time is breakfast? Maybe I can help her."

"Eight, but if you help her, she'll have the time to grill you again," Ginny warned as she walked to the door and him. "Thank you for being so good natured about it tonight."

"For you, anything," he replied softly. Standing in the doorway, he bent his head and captured her lips. Ginny forgot that she was at her childhood home, Harry's tongue precluding any thinking. She could only feel … his arm holding her tightly, his fingers tangled in her hair, keeping her face close to his, her heart threatening to come out of her chest, and her blood singing throughout her body.

Neither was sure how much time had passed when they heard a throat being cleared. Very loudly. Dazed, both glanced around. Ginny's father was standing two steps down from the second-floor landing. "I hate to break this up, but I think it's time you go inside your room and shut the door, Pumpkin, and let Harry find his bed upstairs."

"Right, Dad," she replied, and it was a testament to how affected she was by their kisses that she didn't show her father any irritation but still pulled Harry's head down for another, much shorter kiss.

"See you in the morning, Love," Harry said before turning to trudge up the stairs.

Arthur glanced at his daughter. "I like the lad," he told her, "if that means anything."

"It does, Daddy, it does." Father and daughter embraced briefly.

Ginny shut her door and Arthur went on to the loo. He'd witnessed a rather heated snogging session, and ordinarily he would be concerned, but talking with Harry in the work shed had somewhat put his mind at ease

The following morning, the smell of bacon wafting up the stairwell and beneath her door beckoned to Ginny, causing her eyes to flutter open and her mouth to water. Perhaps it was watering even before she awoke; she wasn't all that sure. Grabbing the green dressing gown, she donned it and slid her feet into her fuzzy slippers. After a short trip to the bathing room she quickly went down the stairs to find Harry already up and helping her Mum, who was apparently quizzing him about his career.

The soft patter of her feet on the steps drew his head around, and he smiled when he saw her. Like a needle to a magnet she went right to him. He set a lid over the fry pan and wrapped his arm around her waist, drawing her close. Mindful of Mrs. Weasley's presence, the kiss they shared was short but no less sweet.

"Ginny, dear, please set the table. Harry's just about finished with the bacon, and the eggs are almost done, too. Daddy's in the lounge checking to make sure Father Christmas came for all of us who are going to be here today." Though she rolled her eyes, she seemed to Harry to be tolerant of what she apparently considered a foible of her husband's.

Ginny set to immediately, and a few minutes later her Mum sent her to fetch her Dad.

After grace was said over the meal, Arthur picked up his fork and looked around. "Well, the Jolly Ol' Guy has remembered us again. If Bill, Fleur, and our granddaughters were going to be here, Molly, I believe we would have trouble getting everyone in the lounge for all the gifts."

"We had no trouble last Christmas," his wife reminded him.

He reminded her that they had another grandchild this year. Molly and Ginny shared a look before rolling their eyes simultaneously.

At noon the slamming doors of a car could be heard outside. "Percy, Marianne, and Amy are here, Molly," the Weasley patriarch called to his wife in the kitchen.

Harry was sitting in the lounge with Mr. Weasley, having been shooed there by Mrs. Weasley earlier. Ginny, however, had been conscripted to help with the preparation of what food had not been able to be made the night before.

Ginny had complained that Harry got to go sit with her Dad whilst she had to help out. Molly merely gave her a smile and reminded her that Harry, "the good lad," was out of bed and helping with breakfast whilst Ginny was still burrowed beneath her duvet and motioned for Harry to go on to the living room. She turned away from the couple to resume preparing the asparagus.

Harry rubbed his fingernails on his jumper in a preening fashion and gave her a 'butter wouldn't melt in his mouth' smile. Ginny eyed the dish towel that was slung over the back of a nearby chair, thinking she could use it to pop him on the bum; her Mum was still in the kitchen, though, and she knew the sound would draw her Mum's ire, so she contented herself with sticking her tongue out at her boyfriend. Harry, who'd followed her gaze to the towel, waggled a finger at her and then blew a teasing kiss at her before heading to the drawing room.

The babble of new voices drifted into the drawing room and presently a tall, slender redheaded man, his slim brunette wife, and a redheaded toddler who otherwise resembled her mother entered the room. The little girl expressed herself the way Harry had wanted to: she stopped and stared at the tree, the angel on top of which brushed the ceiling, the lights twinkling madly, and pointed. "Oooh! Mummy, 'ook!"

Politely, Harry stood up when the woman entered the room.

Marianne knelt beside her daughter and was coaxing the coat off the little one. "I see, Amy. Granma and Grampa have a pretty tree, don't they?"

"P'itty," Amy repeated, trying to escape her mother to explore the brightly-wrapped boxes beneath the tree.

"Amy," Percy, who Harry guessed was close to thirty, said warningly, "we don't touch the presents underneath the tree. They're not all for you."

"Mine!" she insisted, placing her hands on her hips.

"No, there are some for Mummy and Daddy, Auntie Ginny, and everyone else in the family. We have to wait until after dinner to open them."

Amy's little bottom lip started to quiver. "Pease, Da?" Harry would've given her every box under the tree at that point, but Percy was made of sterner stuff. "Do you want to go into time out?"

She turned to her mother and raised her arms. "Up!" Her parents shared a smile as Marianne lifted Amy into her arms.

Percy greeted his father and then saw Harry for the first time. "Hello, I'm Percy, the third of the six brothers. I wasn't aware we were going to have company. Please excuse our ignoring you."

Harry stood and held out his hand. "Not to worry," he told Ginny's older brother. "You have a cute little girl there."

"She's a steamroller masquerading as a little girl, eh, Marianne?" Percy replied. "She gets her way much too often, I'm afraid. That'll change when the new little one arrives."

"That sometimes happens," Harry agreed politely. Ginny hadn't said much about her brothers, only that they needed to be experienced rather than described, so he wasn't sure if Ginny knew that her sister-in-law was expecting a baby again. Mr. Weasley didn't appear surprised, though, so perhaps it wasn't new news to the family. "I'm Harry Potter. Ginny took pity on me and brought me along."

He was saved from further small talk by the arrival of another redhaired man. This one was stocky, shorter than the first, and by himself. Amy launched herself at "Unca 'arlie," which Harry took to mean 'Uncle Charlie.' Ginny did tell him that Charlie was the second born.

This was proven by the man himself who, Amy on his hip, shook Harry's hand. "Charlie," he said. Like his body type, his voice was more substantial than his younger brother's and his grip tighter. "You with Ginny?"

Harry nodded, expecting to be interrogated by the brothers, but Amy claimed Charlie's attention once more. He was just resettling himself on the sofa when more new voices joined the din. The redheaded man who entered next was taller than Percy and just as thin. He was looking over his shoulder saying, "C'mon, 'Mione. Mum said there are biscuits in the drawing room."

Charlie immediately snatched the plate of shortbread biscuits and put it on the floor between his chair and the sofa before what had to be Ginny's youngest brother entered. The newest comer looked at the now-empty tea table and then around the room to see who had the plate of biscuits. Not seeing it, he focused on Charlie. "Charlie, where are the biscuits?" he asked suspiciously.

Charlie took umbrage at this. "Why are you looking at me? They," he pointed at his other brother and his wife, "were here before me, and Dad's been here all afternoon."

Mr. Weasley continued his examination of the bookshelves, searching the tomes for a particular Weasley holiday favorite and spoke up in a voice free of inflection. "I'll thank you to leave me out of this."

"See, Dad said you did it!"

"I didn't hear Dad say anything of the sort. Now stop being rude and say hello to Ginny's guest." Charlie turned and winked at Harry who was somehow able to keep a straight face. "This is Harry Potter."

"Oh, sorry, didn't see you there. I'm Ron, Ginny's youngest brother."

A short, bushy-haired brunette came in behind Ron. "You're being rude again, Ronald?"

"Why is it me always in the wrong?" he whinged.

"Because, unfortunately, it is always you in the wrong." The woman smiled at Harry. "I'm Hermione Granger-Weasley, Ron's wife."

Harry had again gotten to his feet when she entered the room. "Harry Potter. Nice to meet you."

"And you." She turned her dark brown eyes toward Charlie. "Charlie, did you hide the biscuits from Ron?"

Charlie gazed at her stonily, but she stared him down and eventually he crumbled. "Never seen a woman like you, Hermione Granger-Weasley, and that's not necessarily a compliment," he grumbled as he handed the dish of shortbread biscuits to the younger of his sisters-in-law.

"Thank you," she replied sweetly. Ron was trying to get the plate from her, but she was holding fast to it. She turned her stare on him. "There are other people in the room, Ronald. Be sure to share." At those words she allowed him to take the plate from her, cheeks flushing a bright pink when Ron smacked a kiss on her cheek. Spinning on her toes she went back to the kitchen.

Ron lifted his first biscuit to his mouth and groaned in pleasure when the initial bite went into his mouth. Harry noticed that despite his wife's strictures Ron was holding onto the laden plate. He also noticed that Arthur was allowing his adult children to decide their own actions, though he had no doubt that the man was well respected by his sons – and daughter – and would step in if need be.

The noise in the kitchen suddenly became a cacophony. "Ah, yes," Mr. Weasley murmured. "The twins."

"They always make enough noise for there to be six of them," Percy sniffed.

"Bite your tongue," Charlie admonished him. "Let's give thanks that it is just two of them."

After several minutes Mrs. Weasley had seemingly had enough and everyone in the lounge heard her raised voice. "OUT! Go to the lounge or we won't be eating until midnight! Demelza, Leanne, get them out of here, please!"

Loud laughter pealed out in response but footsteps approached the lounge. Harry was still standing and was immediately noticed by the two identical young redheaded men who entered, being pushed from behind by laughing women.

"I say, Gred, there's a black-haired man in here. Obviously not one of our brothers."

"Too true, Forge. Plus, he's a scrawny, speccy git. Definitely not one of ours." The speaker raised his voice to call over his shoulder. "Gin-Gin, is this one yours?"

"Harry's with me, yes, Fred," she called back. "You and George play nice. You don't want to upset your favorite sister on Christmas."

Harry wasn't insulted by the appellations given him but took a good look at the brother who spoke last. Fred. George must be the other. He grinned. "Harry Potter. I've heard a lot about you."

"Hear that, Gred? She says she's our favorite sister."

"I did indeed, Forge. She must've forgotten she's our only sister. But we must be her favorite brothers since he's heard a lot about us."

"That, and she'd be in here already to enforce her word if it wasn't true."

Fred nodded, looking as if he was impressed with his twin's powers of deduction.

Harry was definitely amused by these two. None of the other three gainsaid the twins but did look long-suffering; this was apparently not the first time they heard the routine.

"Oi!" one of the women in back of the twins said. She was the tallest of the women in the room, though that wasn't saying much. Her hair was light auburn and pulled back in a French twist.

"Oh, sorry, dearest." Turning to Harry he commented, "I have the pleasure of introducing to you my fiancée, Demelza Robins." If Harry remembered right it was George who was engaged to Demelza.

Fred didn't need prodding. "And this lovely lady is my significant other, Leanne Dupree."

"Hi, Harry," Leanne, a dark-haired brunette, said with a smile. "Don't pay these two any mind."

Harry grinned. "It's a pleasure to meet all of you," he said as he shook hands with one of the twins, noticing as he did that he was taller than them and probably their other siblings with the exception of Ron.

"Did you hear that?" Fred crowed, glancing at George. "It's a pleasure to meet us!"

"Bet he didn't say that to the other blokes," George replied.

Harry wisely kept his mouth closed.

"Tell us about yourself," Fred invited.

"Like, how long have you been with Gin-Gin?"

Now here was a dilemma: did he say 'a couple months,' counting since they reconnected; 'eleven months,' totaling their time together; or 'eleven months altogether,' and confess to having broken up with her until she came and rescued him from his folly?

Fortunately, Ginny came to his rescue. "Fred, George, Ron, go wash up. We're just about ready to sit down. Perce, Marianne, Mum suggests you put Amy in the highchair before everyone else goes in. She thinks it will make it easier on Amy."

Marianne picked up the toddler and headed for the dining room.

Harry approached Ginny. "Is there anything I can do to help?"

"Need protection from my brothers?" she smirked.

He bent slightly to drop a kiss on her nose. "Not at all. I think they're funny. But I miss you."

"Barf," Ron, overhearing his sister and her boyfriend, commented.

"When I want your opinion, I'll ask for it," Ginny snapped at him. Turning back to Harry, she said, "If you want to help put food on the table, I'm sure Mum – and I – will be glad for the help."

Their fingers intertwined and they went to the kitchen together. The Weasley matriarch, looking a bit frazzled, handed both of them a plate or bowl for each hand whenever they returned to the kitchen until she handed the platter holding the turkey to Harry, the last item to go on the laden table.

"Trying to make us look bad, Harry?" George called.

"I didn't think that was possible," Harry responded blandly.

"Oooh," Fred said, looking at his twin. "I think that was a compliment. I like that." They burst out laughing.

One side of Harry's mouth twitched up, but it was the side away from the twins so it wasn't seen.

"Hey, Gin-Gin!" George called.

Fred continued, "Harry just dumped you for us!"

Ginny appeared and kissed Harry on the cheek. "Now that truly is impossible!" Harry commented as he slung his arm around her waist and gave her a side-ways hug.

Again, the twins showed their appreciation of Harry's comeback.

With thirteen adults and a little one at the table, it didn't take long for food to start dis-appearing. But once everyone finished eating and got up, Harry was shocked to see there was still plenty of food, most of which would be divided between the unmarried offspring to take home with them.

Ginny and Harry sent her Mum into the lounge to relax. He cleared the table whilst she filled the dishwasher with the first of several loads. Knowing that no one would be able to open gifts until Ginny and Harry joined the rest of the family, Hermione and Marianne helped.

Before long the quartet rejoined the family and Demelza and Leanne were given the task of handing out all the gifts under the tree. Harry learned that Leanne was a year younger than Fred and George whilst Demelza was the same age as Ginny; both had been dating their twin for three years and thus been considered part of the family for some time. Their choice as the gift distributers was understandable in that light – close enough to be trusted with such a weighty task but unbiased. .

There were so many gifts to pass out that it took quite a while to accomplish. Harry was surprised not by the two gifts handed him that were from Ginny but by the gift from Mr. and Mrs. Weasley. He opened that one first and found a thick, green, hand-knit winter scarf that looked like it would be very warm. Immediately he thanked his host and hostess and was glad he had the foresight to get gift ideas for her parents from Ginny. Next, he opened the lighter of the two gifts from Ginny and was delighted with the gloves.

"You noticed," he laughed.

"I did. There have been times I thought your hands were colder than mine!" Ginny was opening a gift from her Mum and Dad and shook out a hand-knit, turtleneck jumper in a light shade of gray embellished with a galloping black horse, mane and tail flying. She held it to herself and beamed at her Mum. "Thank you so much!" she called across the room. "You've outdone yourself this year, Mum."

"Thank you's" were being called across the room from recipients to givers, raising the noise threshold to almost uncomfortable levels. When Harry looked around, he noticed that most of the family members either had a hand-knit jumper near them or were opening up a gift with a jumper in it. Even Amy received a small yellow jumper sporting a white sun – for "Gramma's and Grampa's little sunshine," Molly explained. He wondered almost wistfully what emblem she would put on a jumper for him if she were to knit one for him.

Remembering the last gift in his lap, he made short work of opening it and found the tin of treacle goodies. "Thank you, Ginny! There're so many I'm going to be able to freeze some of these so they'll last. And don't tell Neville what you gave me or he'll hound me for some!" He kissed her cheek and she smiled.

At last Ginny had opened all her gifts save one, the one Harry bought for her. She read the tag, "To Ginny, Love, Harry," before turning the wrapped cube, about three inches by three inches, around in her hand and looking at him speculatively.

"Go ahead, open it. I promise there's not a baby dragon in it."

She laughed. "Well, that wasn't on my list of possibilities, but it's good to know it's not that," she allowed. All her other gifts she had opened with the finesse of a tiger disemboweling its prey. She treated this gift differently. Slowly, carefully, she lifted each piece of tape from the green foil paper. When the last bit of tape was released, she slid the box from the wrapping and carefully folded the shiny paper. Then, her lower lip caught between her teeth, she lifted the lid. Her hand flew to her mouth as a gasp escaped from it. "Oh, Harry, it's gorgeous, but you shouldn –."

"Don't say it," Harry ordered her softly. "I don't deserve you, but you do deserve this."

"Harry," she whispered, "love isn't deserved. Love just is." She raised a hand to caress his cheek before touching her lips to his. It wasn't a passionate kiss nor a long one, but it was full of meaning, and both understood it. No one else in the room existed for that moment. She pulled back and held up the open box. Inside was a rose gold double-heart pendant, one heart partially stacked atop the other. The outside edge of the top heart was set with diamonds. The outside edge of the bottom heart was set with emeralds. "Put it on me?"

At his nod she extricated the pendant and fine chain from its bindings and lifted it. She gave him the chain and then swept her hair off her neck. Harry was holding the chain ends ready to clasp them together when he looked down at her bowed nape. His mouth went dry and he realized he would much rather place his lips on that luscious bit of flesh than the chain.

Someone cleared their throat and cleared the haze in Harry's brain at the same time. He glanced around and realized that he'd been caught by Fred, who was smirking at him. No one else seemed to have noticed, until his gaze clashed with Charlie's. Don't mess with my little sister, Charlie's eyes sent. Understood, Harry's replied.

"Harry? Are you having a problem?" Ginny inquired, unaware of the silent communication between him and Charlie.

Harry blinked. "No, there, it's done." He let the delicate chain rest on her skin, and she allowed her hair to fall back to its usual place, effectively removing temptation from Harry.

"Oh, my!" Mrs. Weasley exclaimed. "What a beautiful piece!"

The eyes of every other woman in the room were drawn to Ginny's chest. One "ooh" or "aaah" after another sounded through the lounge. The men were silent, all but Mr. Weasley and Charlie, and Harry, of course, wishing they had thought to get something like that for the woman in their life.

Ginny lightly touched the two hearts with her fingertips and smiled at Harry. Since they reconciled Harry was constantly making her feel that she was precious to him.

Music had been playing softly in the background. Mrs. Weasley reached over to turn the volume up. "Harry, traditionally we sing Christmas carols as we clean up from gift giving and for a bit afterward. Would you like to lead us today?" She gave him a mischievous look.

He was surprised but not unwilling – and then with horror he recognized the CD that was playing. It was one he'd released for Christmas last year. Looking at Ginny, he asked her help by raising his eyebrows. She shrugged. Her brothers were going to find out sooner or later, the shrug confirmed. He listened for a moment; 'God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen' was the cut playing, and finally he joined in with his recorded voice. "O, tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy," and then Ginny joined her voice to his, "O tidings of comfort and joy…."

Around them mouths were falling open. "Bloody hell!" Ron exclaimed.

"Language, Ronald," his mother chided him.

"He's a bloody millionaire!"

"Language, Ronald!" Hermione joined Mrs. Weasley in remonstrating him.

"No wonder he can bloody well buy her a bloody diamond and emerald necklace!"

"Language, Ronald!" boomed Mr. Weasley's voice over his wife's and Hermione's.

"What?" Ron asked in bewilderment. "How are the rest of us supposed to compete with Harry Bloody James? Flashy gifts and the voice of an angel."

"Oi!" Ginny, totally out of charity with her brother, yelled, glaring at him. "Shut it!" She brushes her fingers along Harry's arm. "He does have a lovely voice, though."

Hermione glanced at her husband in disappointment. "Christmas gift giving is not a competition!" She crossed her arms in front of her and turned her back to him, ignoring his playful whinging.

"So how long have you known?" George asked his parents.

"About Harry's talent? We found out after Midnight Mass," his mother replied. "Harry sang along with the carols last night, and we talked about it on the way home. Now, Harry's been kind enough to lead us. The least we can do is join in."

Their voices filled The Burrow, some of them tunefully, some of them not, and covered the sounds of wrapping paper being crumpled and thrown into rubbish bins. When the last bit of paper was off the floor Ron was relegated with taking the near-to-overflowing bin to the backyard whilst Mrs. Weasley asked for pudding orders. Besides the mince and apple pies Harry noticed Christmas Eve evening there were also Christmas pudding and cherry pies. A queue was formed by age with Mr. Weasley going first. Ginny, the youngest in the house with the exception of Amy, decided to help her mother with the cutting and serving. The first order of business, though, was flambeeing the Christmas pudding. This wasn't the first time Harry watched a Christmas pudding put to the flame, but it seemed more spectacular because it was in a home setting. He decided he would have a small slice of that and a slice of the mince pie.

Later that afternoon Ginny looked outside and noticed that it was growing dark; the hill behind the house was lined with the last of the golden sunshine. Harry followed her gaze and then sighed. A glance at his watch confirmed the time. "It's five o'clock, Ginny. If we're going to get home before midnight we should get going."

"Home?" Ron pounced on the noun. "As in, you two are shacking up?"

Hermione clamped her hand over her husband's mouth. "What is wrong with you, Ronald? Get your coat!" Rolling her eyes in commiseration with Ginny, she ushered Ron toward the front hall, "We're going home before you do any more damage – or incite your sister to kill you and me to help her!"

Ginny huffed. "Both of us live in Manchester, you git!" she enunciated slowly. "So it's 'home' as in 'Manchester is where each of us live'." Her hand was holding onto Harry's tightly as if begging him to keep her from going to her brother and doing just what Hermione predicted she would. Since she'd already given Ron a gift this year, the fact that she was resisting the urge to throttle him should at least count for his birthday. "I'll go get my duffle – I packed as I was changing this morning. Mum will give us some bags to carry our gifts in."

Harry nodded. He, too, was packed, so it was no time before they were back in the lounge. As promised, Mrs. Weasley had bags waiting for them, their gifts inside. Ron and Hermione were gone.

"Mrs. Weasley, I can't thank you enough for allowing me to join your family for Christmas. I was an only child, and my parents died in a plane crash when I was very young, so I don't remember a Christmas like this one."

"Oh, Harry, you are welcome any time. We always have room for one more, in our home and in our hearts." She enveloped him in a tight bear hug.

In his throat there was a lump as big as the piece of pudding he had eaten. He repeated his thanks to Ginny's father and was assured that he would be welcome to join them any time.

Then Harry helped Ginny with her jacket, though Ginny rolled her eyes as he did. A flurry of good-byes and hugs were exchanged, and Fred assisted them taking the extra bags to Harry's car. With Ginny on the other side of the vehicle so she couldn't hear, Fred shook Harry's hand and clapped his free hand on Harry's shoulder.

"All I can ask is that you treat Ginny right. All six of us get riled when she gets hurt – Ron's just a bit trigger happy when it comes to protecting the family. I like you and hope you're around for a long time."

"Thank you, Fred." He cleared his throat. "About that hurt part. I've done that already, but I'm doing my best to never do it again." To his surprise Fred nodded.

"George and I had heard about that, and we knew when the two of you got back together. That she's still putting up with you tells us you're doing all the right things – well, that and the pretty sparkly item that's around her neck. I doubt the others know, and that's probably a good thing."

"Thanks again, Fred. Anytime you want to attend one of my shows, let me know and I'll get you tickets. George, too, of course."

"Hey, Potter! Get your bum in the car and shut the door! In case it's escaped your notice, it's freezing out here!"

The two men stared into the car. "Yes, ma'am!" Harry replied chuckling. Fred smirked and stepped back, and Harry slid behind the wheel. When the car backed away, Fred waved at his sister and her boyfriend and returned to the warm house.

AN: As always, my thanks to gryffindormischief for Betaing this story for me. Thanks, too, to all of you who read and especially review the chapters. I hope you all enjoyed this chapter.