AN: For context: this takes place the first winter after the war. Harry's an Auror, along with most of the rest of the DA, and Ginny is finishing her seventh year. A lot of the DA took the chance to join the Aurors immediately after the war—that's canon, and this is early enough that the ones who I imagine—headcanon—leaving after a year or two to pursue other things (i.e. Neville, Ron) haven't left yet. The ones of age who are still in Hogwarts (like Ginny, Luna, and Hermione) still have the ability to join the Aurors thanks to their part in the war, but have decided not to.
This fic could be said to be canon-compliant, although I really don't care one way or the other. Any follow-ups will likely deviate.
"You're not spending Christmas alone," Ginny said sharply.
Harry knocked the snow off the bottoms of his boots. Winter had started early this year, a bitter cold settling in come October and that had yet to leave. On this particular morning, before the stars on Harry's treasured wrist watch could twirl their way to the gleaming, worn number eight on its face, an icy mist had seeped into the stones and the air. Harry's lungs burned when he breathed it in.
Ginny, as usual, didn't seem to notice the cold, and was practically daring it to choke on her warm, pointed words.
"Harry," she said, close enough he could feel the heat of her breath coast across the back of his neck. "Don't think we're not talking about this. Harry!"
The front door of the flat shared by Harry and Ron was an old, creaky wooden thing that had swelled alarmingly in the summer and now left a gap on either side of the frame large enough for several pairs of curious extendable ears to wriggle through all at once, although the hinges had a poor-tempered tendency to sleep in. Harry struggled with them for a moment before the aged metal groaned ominously and finally caved in their warfare, allowing Harry a hasty entrance into the interior of the flat, which was, unfortunately, only slightly warmer than the exterior.
"Merlin's balls, Harry," Ginny said, hot on his heels. "Stop ignoring me, or you're getting hexed, you brat."
Harry, just to show that while he might finally be in a settled, long-term, and usually very happy relationship with the fiercest, quickest witch Harry had ever had the good fortune to meet, he was still an eighteen year old wizard living independently with his best mate in civilization for the first time, waited until he had shed himself of his outer robe, his boots, his scarf, and his hat to acknowledge her; and even then, just to prove that he truly was independent, he waited a heartbeat longer to jab his wand at the ash-filled fireplace. (Both boys had forgotten to renew the spell to keep the fire going before they retired to bed the night previous, which Harry guiltily assumed would be the reason as to why the sud-filled water in the kitchen sink had somehow managed to freeze into a solid block, despite both the soap and the anti-freezing charms.)
After thoroughly asserting his independence at this point, he turned to his girlfriend, whose face had often brought Harry great happiness, although now made his knees quiver from a different reason all together, and it was not one that he found he enjoyed.
"I told you, the Ministry doesn't have enough wands for me to take Christmas off," he told her, already short-tempered.
(Ginny had started this exact conversation four times already, and Harry had been with the understanding they had finally managed to finish it. Since Ginny thought otherwise, that meant Harry had been wrong. Harry was slowly learning that's how things usually went.)
Ginny crossed her arms, which always reminded Harry of her mother, Molly Weasley, whenever she had been in a fearsome temper, and that was never something Harry, who loved Molly Weasley in a very similar manner as he would have loved his own mother had he ever been able to in person, wanted to be reminded of when he looked at his girlfriend. Alas, fate did not love Harry Potter one bit, especially not when it was cold outside.
They made their way into the kitchen without continuing the conversation, so Harry could light the kettle for tea and Ginny could pull out a chair at the little two-seater table Ron had accidentally transfigured from a playing card and decided he preferred it in its new, infinitely more useful form.
It was at that point, Harry knew, when Ginny would break the silence first to remind him of how the Ministry never did anything nice for Harry, and had, on several times, done things exceedingly mean towards him, such as call for his death, and Harry really shouldn't feel the need to cater his entire life towards the Ministry just because they had turned a new face this time around.
Then, Harry would point out how everything seemed to go to shit every time he took a day off, or sometimes simply just before he clocked in for the day, and you can't really trust the Ministry to look after itself, so someone has to do it, don't they?
Then, Ginny would say that it was about damn time someone else did it, for a start, and let Harry be in peace. Harry would inevitably respond that no one wanted to be available for the Ministry on Christmas, and it was, at this particular time, the fact that it was almost Christmas, and not the Ministry being the Ministry, that caused this current seasonal lack of devotion from its employees. Ginny would naturally reply how of course no one wants to work on Christmas, and Harry should be no exception to that, so what exactly was his problem?
Harry, then growing very tired and on the defensive, would explain for the umpteenth time how he did want to stay home for Christmas and celebrate with Ginny's family, whom Harry would have rather celebrated every single day with as opposed to going to the Ministry for yet another day of tedious paperwork, name-calling, bribery, and the now less-occasional arrest of a very rich and influential member of the Ministry itself or, perhaps, simply a very rich and influential member of society who contained the strings to several influential and bothersome Ministry employees who would invariably try to ruin Harry's day, but it simply wasn't possible.
Ginny would say—"why not?"
Harry would remind himself, internally, where Ginny couldn't hear him but probably knew very well anyway what he was thinking, that he loved her very much and getting into futile fights with her at home was far, far worse than getting into futile fights with idiots at the Ministry, where at least he was usually offered some galleons to have a miserable day. Externally, Harry would not even have time to respond before he had already lost the argument, again, but he was still working on Christmas, and that was that.
Until, at least, Ginny decided to bring it up again.
Harry prepared himself for yet another round of this while he reached for the kettle, and then found that the kettle was already on, and that the protective piece of fabric that was supposed to sit on the handle to keep unwary wizards from burning themselves first thing in the morning was missing, and the kettle was very, very hot.
He reacted in a very loud and unheroic way, and Ginny stepped around him to levitate the boiling water into their cups.
"Ron left already?" Ginny asked, setting the kettle onto the counter-top to cool with a practiced flick of her wand. "I'm surprised he's even up. Is he at work, or with Hermione?"
Harry shrugged, nursing his hand. It was at this point he noticed the little scrap of paper stuck to the wall above the stove stop, where Ron's messy writing scrawled across the parchment.
Going out. Be back later. Kept water hot for you.
Lovely. Good for Ron. At least Harry was nice and warm, now. Bit of a pity Ron hadn't thought to keep the fire lit, too.
Ginny pressed a steaming cup into Harry's hands and wrapped her fingers around his.
Harry felt like he was supposed to say something. His mouth wouldn't work.
Ginny left him with his tea and went fussing about in the cabinets, looking for who knows what. Harry expected she would find nothing that had been edible for at least several weeks.
Harry glanced down awkwardly at his tea, which swirled and steamed in the cup.
"It's the first Christmas since Riddle died," he said into the cup. Somehow, he managed to say it in a way that made the death of the first most terrifying and second most lethal dark wizard of the century sound insignificant. "I have a…I have this feeling the rest of his lot that have managed to evade the Aurors so far are going to try something. They're growing desperate, with nothing left to fight for. And everyone is so focused on the holiday, on moving on, they're being stupid."
Wizards and witches liked to forget bad things quickly. Most people do. Things had been quiet lately, and people wanted things to stay appropriately quiet until after the holidays, and so naturally assumed the world would take their wishes into its consideration for the season.
Harry, ever the one who had to clean up other people's messes, assumed the opposite.
Ginny pursed her lips.
The steam had slowed its swirling around Harry's tea, which had cooled enough he could lift it to his mouth without scalding himself. The little fire from the front room must have won the battle this morning against the cold, finally, as Harry couldn't see his breath announcing itself in front of him any longer. His fingers were sticky against the cup.
"I'll try," he said, hollowly.
Ginny didn't move.
The wind rattled against the shutters, leaking icy whispers into the small room. They pinched at Harry's ears and nose and fogged up his glasses.
"I'm not taking it off, not until Flint and the others are all locked up in Azkaban," Harry told his mug. "But I'll do my best to make it to dinner, at least."
Ginny sighed. "You really think that won't be the most likely time for something to go wrong? If there really are enough of them left to do anything, I mean."
Harry fidgeted for a moment before remembering Ginny wasn't always awash in grey droplets, and wiped his glasses off with his sleeve. The only thing this accomplished was to further smear the moisture across the decrepit lenses. Harry put them back on regardless.
"Ron's off," Ginny snapped.
"Neville's not," Harry retaliated, a surge of angry fire billowing up from his chest and nearly snapping out of his mouth with enough furor to heat the entire flat. "Neither is Dean Thomas or Susan Bones. They see it too."
"Of course they see it," Ginny said. "I never said I don't. Just that it's not fair. Anyway, that's why I'm coming with you."
The neurons in Harry's head abruptly stopped firing as their tracks froze over. "You don't work at the Ministry," he said, feeling rather stupid.
Ginny rolled her eyes. "Nobody will stop me from volunteering for one day. Especially not when they all want to be home for Christmas, too."
"You don't need to," Harry said, having absolutely no clue how this conversation had so suddenly lost its way. "I thought you were going to catch up on your charms studying."
Ginny ignored his mention of her charms homework. "Since you need the extra wands that badly, I'll volunteer to help patrol or whatever for the day. No one's going to tell me no; they keep trying to recruit me anyway." Her expression was smug now, as she warmed to the idea. "Who exactly is working then? Is it just DA members?"
"Um," Harry said eloquently. "Yeah, I think."
"Then it's a plan," Ginny said victoriously. "I'll come in with you on Christmas to help beat Flint's arse if he manages to work up the nerve to try anything, and I'll make sure you aren't too unreasonably late to dinner."
"Er," Harry said. The kitchen seemed almost unbearably warm again all of a sudden, red and soft and suffocating him in every direction as it shrunk down around him until it was just him and Ginny. "All right."
"Which means I have to do my charms homework today." Ginny pushed her mug onto the counter and gave Harry a cautious look. "It really sucks having Hermione in the same classes as me this year, you know? She has all these planners."
"I never did charms at the NEWT level," he reminded her.
"What a shame," Ginny said, not missing a beat. "There's that plan down the drain. I wonder what else we could possibly do together on this cold, snowy day before you have to go work."
Sometimes, especially when the two of them were alone and there wasn't anyone or anything else to get in the way or interrupt, Ginny's mere existence was enough to remind Harry how very much he loved her.
He grinned at her and set his tea down carefully on the table. "For some reason, I think you have loads of ideas."
It was at that moment that a silvery blue light showed through the dusty panes of the window, illuminating right through the shutters. Harry sighed, unfortunately familiar with the sight, and moved to refill his tea.
Ginny watched with dark eyes as the light danced and twirled its way fully inside and finally formed the shape of a large, translucent bear floating in the kitchen. It looked at her and Harry with large, white eyes.
"No," she said, as Neville's patronus began to relay its message.