Christmas Eve 1998
For some reason that Ginny suspects she will never understand, they are having a Christmas party. At Grimmauld Place. Sirius and her mother planned it together, of all things, and maybe that’s why everyone comes - the shock of collaboration. The whole of the Order and the DA are there.
What’s left of them.
“We have to carry on, I suppose,” Hermione had said sensibly when Ginny questioned why they were doing this. “We can’t just pretend like Christmas isn’t happening.”
And that, Ginny was forced to accept, left little room for argument.
The party is a disaster from the start.
Her mother brings loads of food, but it’s all just a bit wrong - the lids on the mince pies are crooked, she forgot to add orange to the orange biscuits, there is cheese but no crackers, and the apple tarts are burnt.
Baby Teddy won’t stop crying, and Andromeda spends half the night pacing around with him upstairs, but the poor thing got his lungs from his mother and the sound carries. (Ginny is of the mind that Teddy is the only one among them reacting honestly to the state of the party.)
And George is blending into the background like a ghost, and bloody Ron drinks far too much, and so do Hagrid and Dean, and Mrs. Black’s portrait gets set off no fewer than six times, and also Kingsley and McGonagall are there and Ginny doesn’t understand how anyone is expected to have fun with the Headmistress and the Minister in their midst, but anyway.
She would like to remind everyone that her opposition to this has been consistent and on the record.
Instead, she grins until her lips hurt, and laughs when she’s supposed to, and plays along with the gift giving and forced merriment until she can’t stand it anymore and escapes to the upstairs bathroom.
She sits on the aging yellow tile and debates whether to fight or give in to the tears. She’s cried in this bathroom before, Ginny vaguely recalls. Back when they were staying at Grimmauld before her fourth year and the tears mostly had to do with how Harry would never like her back.
She was wrong then, of course. Harry did like her, eventually. But she’s quite certain she’s not wrong now: things will never be as they were.
Her whole family will never be together for Christmas again. They’ll never be together at all again. Because they’re not all alive anymore.
She’s never again going to know a world that is just joy, without loss creeping up around the corner. Without fear threatening to take just one more thing away from her.
Ginny sighs shakily and comes to a decision. No tears, no red eyes. The last thing she needs at this party is a swarm of people demanding to know if she’s okay.
No, she’s bloody well not okay.
She takes a few more breaths. Deeply in and deeply out, until her breathing is very nearly steady.
Ginny stands, splashes water on her face, and spells her skin dry.
She goes back downstairs, dawdling. At the end of the hall, she can see that everyone’s moved into the drawing room. Hermione, ever the face of bravely carrying on, seems to be explaining the rules to some sort of game.
And Ginny can’t. She cannot.
There’s a light on in the library, down the other end of the hall. The door is open ajar and it’s quiet. She’ll go, just to see.
She pokes her head round the door and Sirius is there, cradling a glass in the far shadowed corner, just beyond the reach of the golden lamplight.
“Hiding from your own party?” she asks, as she steps across the threshold.
Sirius’s head snap’s up. “No! I —” he pauses, shaking his head. “What’s the point? Yeah. I — I needed a minute.”
“Shall I go then?”
“It’s alright,” he says, motioning her in. “I can share my hiding spot.”
Ginny sits, settling down on the creaky sofa. She stares across at Sirius who’s still glowering, cocooned in the dark.
“Do you reckon this Christmas or last was the worst one ever?” she muses, laying her head back and staring up at the flaking, water-damaged ceiling.
“Worst?” Sirius replies. “Nah. One of my top five at least.”
Ginny has no response to that. She forgets, sometimes, about the life he’s led. What it’s cost him.
She rocks forward in her seat. “What’re you drinking over there?” she asks instead.
He wordlessly hoists a crystal bottle of rich amber liquid. “Want some?” he asks. “Wait —” he pauses, drawing the bottle back. “How old are you?”
“Seventeen,” Ginny answers. “Plenty old enough for firewhisky. And most things, actually.”
He looks at her sharply, narrowing his gaze.
She grins, letting a bit of laughter reach her eyes. He passes her a drink.
“You’ve all grown up too fucking fast,” Sirius says, topping up his own drink.
“It feels slow.”
“It’s like everyone else moved on, and here I am, still going to Hogwarts. Last to start, last to leave… I got left behind, left in the dark on everything for so long. But I fought anyway! I did everything that everyone else did — with less information, mind you — but still, even now, it’s like my opinion doesn’t matter because I’m what, eleven months younger than Harry? Sorry,” she says, realizing she’s dumping all this on Sirius, “but it does not feel fast to me.”
She drinks deeply from her glass, and quickly. There is a small, petulant part of her that wants to prove she can handle her alcohol like an adult - which, while accurate, is perhaps not very grown-up of her.
“You know,” Sirius says after a moment, “I lost twelve years. One minute I was twenty-one, and then I blinked and I was practically middle-aged. With nothing but a slightly addled brain to show for it.”
“So what you’re saying is it could be worse?”
“I’m saying, if time feels slow, that’s better than the alternative.”
Sirius drains his glass.
Ginny does the same. He fills their glasses again.
“What were the other four? Christmases, I mean,” she asks, just to change the subject.
A grin lights up Sirius’s face. His teeth are shockingly white. They should be faded and yellowed, like his house, like everything about him was when he first got out of Azkaban. But his teeth are perfect. His smile, his face, all of him is perfect in a way that Ginny has been aware of before, technically, but had never really noticed.
“1976,” he answers, numbering it off on his fingers. “That was the best. That was the first year I spent with the Potters, my first proper family Christmas. Then 1977, same reasons. 1980, just after Harry was born, that was a great one. And 1995 — when Harry and all of you were here, but before things got to be too bad. Every other year had Azkaban, war, or my mother. ” He shrugs, almost cutely.
“Is that why you wanted to have everyone over this year?”
“To give it a shot at top five status?” he laughs, short and barking. “Maybe that’s part of it. I really just wanted to help out your mum — though she ended up taking over everything anyway.”
“Thanks for trying,” Ginny says quietly. “She’s not been herself. Though she does a decent job pretending most days.”
“It shows up in her cooking,” Sirius observes.
“Yes,” Ginny agrees.
“Grief does that,” Sirius says. “Takes away the parts of people that make them who they are.”
Ginny sighs. “Yes,” she says again, more quietly. “I’ve noticed that.”
Sirius lurches to his feet and lays a gentle hand on her shoulder. “Shall we face the hoard?”
She breathes in. She breathes out. “If we have to.”
Christmas Eve 2002
Another year, another impending Christmas Eve party. Ginny’s enthusiasm is… minimal, at best.
There’s a lot of fucking mistletoe in Grimmauld Place. A lot of candy canes. Mulled Wine. Crackers. The elf heads on the wall are wearing honest-to-Merlin Santa hats.
Sirius is running around with Teddy on his shoulders and her mother is levitating tray after tray of biscuits and mince pies onto a card table in the drawing room and Ginny is supposed to be helping but she’s actually getting a drink.
A large one.
It’s not that she’s not, like, merry or whatever. It’s Christmas. It will be lovely. All of her friends are coming, all of her family. And it’s been four years. No one’s died lately. It’s been ages since anything bad happened at all. This will be fine.
It’s just. Family. Friends. Everyone is bringing partners.
And that’s great. Awesome. Except that Ginny is not bringing a partner and her mother is driving her mad and the holidays still make her miserable and she’ll positively ache with loss if she lets herself think about it and all together these are not exactly the ideal conditions for her to be her best self.
It’s honestly not surprising that she wakes up the next day in the wrong bed.
Sirius runs up behind her in the kitchen, Teddy still on his shoulders.
“Grab us a biscuit, will you?”
“Didn’t you just come from upstairs?” she laughs. “Between Mum and Andromeda there are like 800 trays up there.”
“‘Those are for later, Sirius, for your guests,’” he mimics her mother.
Ginny snorts. “I think there’s still a tray or two down here.”
She digs into one of Molly’s knitted tote bags and comes up with the jackpot. Chocolate-peppermint shortbread.
She holds the plate out to Sirius, who immediately grabs three. He passes one up to Teddy and shoves the other two into his mouth.
“You’re our hero, you are,” Sirius sighs, barely pausing to swallow. “Right Ted?”
Teddy nods, crumbs of biscuit spilling out the sides of his mouth.
Sirius swings him off his shoulders and he takes off running. Teddy is a reckless ball of energy, nothing but scrawny limbs and endless movement.
“He seems happy,” Ginny remarks.
“I think so,” Sirius agrees. “Mostly. High highs and low lows, Andromeda tells me.”
“Ah,” Ginny hums. “I knew there was something relatable about him.”
Sirius chuckles and leans back against the counter, running a hand through his overlong hair. The bit of grey coming in around his temples hasn’t made him any less attractive.
Ginny finds herself watching this display with the oddest urge to bite her lip.
She raises her glass to her lips instead.
“Starting without me this year?” Sirius says with a mock gasp.
Since that first year after the war, it’s become something of a tradition - sneaking away from the chaos to have a drink (or several) in peace. It’s the only bearable part of these things, truly.
“Yes,” she says unapologetically. “Did you know I’m the only one of my friends without a date this year? Because Mum sure does.”
“In that case,” Sirius says ruefully, “carry on.”
He slips past her and out of the narrow kitchen, his hand brushing her hip as he does. The touch is so light she’s sure it must have been an accident. Although, she wonders - is it okay if she hopes that it wasn’t?
Eventually, Ginny gathers her fledgling Christmas spirit and emerges from the kitchen and decides her contribution to helpfulness will be best represented by setting up the bar. And if she happens to sample some of her wares, well that’s really nobody’s business.
The other guests arrive and Ginny tries, she really does. She spends nearly half an hour chatting with Hermione and the ferret hanging off her arm. She’s polite and pleasant and she’s pretty sure they can’t even tell that she’s already drunk. She calls him Draco and everything.
Ginny talks to Harry and Theo after that. And if her mother is glancing over every twenty seconds just to check if she and Harry have magically rekindled their bond and he will be summarily leaving his boyfriend, that’s just fine. Ginny can ignore it. She can rise above. She can enjoy a party.
Several hours pass in that same vein. She mingles, she eats, she sips her red wine slowly. Just enough to maintain an acceptable level of intoxication. Which honestly, isn’t even that drunk.
Eventually, she sees Sirius slip out of the drawing room. She follows him into the library.
This year, he sits on the couch instead of an armchair. Ginny sits next to him and he wordlessly passes her a tumbler of firewhisky.
“Thanks,” she murmurs. He raises his glass in silent toast and they both drink deeply.
She closes her eyes for a moment, sinking deeply into the couch and relaxing for the first time all evening.
“That bad?” Sirius asks.
“Not really,” she sighs. “But that makes it worse somehow?”
Sirius nods. “Yeah,” he agrees. “It’s the pleasantness more than anything. The blandness.”
“Exactly. Like, it’s fine. I’m not supposed to hate it this much, so that fact that I do just makes it so much worse.”
“Ah yes,” Sirius says. “That’d be the guilt.”
“Oh of course. Can’t forget the guilt,” Ginny laughs. “You get me, Sirius.”
At that, Sirius bursts into laughter, that loud familiar bark of his.
“What?” Ginny demands.
“It’s just,” Sirius says, “I was about to say the same thing. You get me.”
Ginny lets out a brief laugh and shifts her weight on the couch so she’s looking at him, her knees drawn up. “Why do you keep hosting these things?”
“Well, you know the first year. And then the second, Molly wanted to do it again, and she was still so sad I couldn’t say no. And then by last year it had become a tradition — no escape.”
“No escape,” Ginny echoes.
“And I suppose,” Sirius continues, “I always hope that it’ll be better. That I’ll be able to be, I don’t know, present. That I’ll get over myself and be able to enjoy a party one of these fucking years.”
“Oh, see, you’ve lost me there,” Ginny says lightly, taking a sip of her firewhisky. “I don’t hope.”
Sirius grins. “Now that’s just too damn sad.”
“Change the subject then,” Ginny says, teasing. “Tell me something good.”
Sirius takes a long time to answer. Ginny gives him a look at his silence, narrowing her eyes.
“I mean, you don’t have to if you don’t want,” she says.
Sirius toys with the edge of his glass, his eyes cast down at his hands. “No, no. It’s just… The first thing I thought of, I wasn’t sure if I should say. If it was appropriate.”
“When has that ever stopped you before?”
Sirius tips his head in acknowledgment. “Alright, fair enough. When you said something good, the first thing I thought was how you look in that dress.”
Ginny feels a blush spread over her face. And a grin.
“Yeah?” she says.
Sirius finally looks up, meeting her eye. “Is that okay?”
“Yeah,” she says again, biting her lip. “It’s great.”
She traces a finger along the edge of Sirius’s hand, where he’s still gripping his glass.
“And I agree actually,” she continues. “I do look fucking amazing in this dress.”
Sirius gets overtaken by another one of those loud, barking laughs that Ginny loves so much and between the laugh and the whisky and golden light in the library and the Christmas desperation of it all, she can’t help herself. She kisses him.
He’s firewhisky and warmth, firelight and spices, and it’s like something inside her wakes up.
She shifts closer, absently setting her drink down without breaking the kiss, so that she can run her fingers into his hair. Even just this feels so good that she moans into his mouth.
Sirius leans in, kissing her fiercely, and places a hand on her thigh, just below the edge of the dress he likes so much. She shivers.
“Ginny,” he whispers, pulling back just barely. “We can’t.”
She sighs, resting her forehead against his. “Why not?”
“The door is open. We’re at a party with literally everyone we know, including your mother.”
“Oh thank god,” she says. “I thought it was going to be some stupid, noble reason.”
Sirius laughs a little, and pulls away from her properly.
“So,” she says, picking up her drink again as she catches her breath, smirking at him. “If I were to stick around tonight, say, after everyone else leaves?”
“You’d be welcome,” he says, gaze smouldering. “Highly encouraged, really.”
Ginny laughs, and it’s like she can’t take her eyes off him as she stands up. “I’d better get back out there,” she says, leaning in to say the last bit low in his ear. “Otherwise, I won’t be able to wait.”
Technically Christmas Morning 2002
Ginny spends the rest of the evening horribly, delightfully distracted. She can’t help but track Sirius’s movements, subtly catch his eye. She also, not so subtly perhaps, encourages the rest of the party guests to move along, to minimal success.
In the end, it’s well past one o’clock when Sirius waves Harry and Theo through the floo and they are finally alone.
Ginny loiters in the kitchen feeling suddenly terribly awkward. Are they really going to go through with this? This is weird, right? She tucks a hand around her elbow, hugging herself close as she leans against the counter.
She’s half prepared to leave, ready to make her excuses and walk out. It would be for the best, definitely. She should be sensible.
And then Sirius comes back in, brushes his hair out of his face, and meets her eye. She’s flooded with that same sense of want and certainty as before. The sense of waking up.
Okay, yeah, she's not going anywhere.
He strides forward and tucks a strand of hair behind her ear. He trails his fingers down, cupping the side of her face. “Hi,” he says softly. “You stayed.”
“Yeah,” she replies breathily. “Merry fucking Christmas.” And she closes distance between them.
Sirius kisses her with nearly-aggressive desperation, like he’s been aching for it. She matches his intensity perfectly, each motion a relentless mirror.
The tension she’s been carrying around twists and snaps and breaks, releasing her thoughts and letting her body take the lead. It feels impossibly good, simply to feel at all.
Sirius’s hand drifts over her back and then lower, finding a fistful of her dress and using it to draw her forward against his hips. Ginny rocks her body against his without shame and he grips her tighter, his hand leaving her dress and reaching under it instead.
“Ready?” he asks.
“Hm?” she replies dazed.
And then he spins on his heel, arms still tightly around her, and then they’re standing in his bedroom.
Ginny laughs. “Stairs too slow?”
“Much too slow,” Sirius insists, and throws her, still dizzy from the apparition, backward onto his bed.
Later Christmas Morning 2002
Far too soon, Sirius shakes her awake. She groans.
“Sorry,” he murmurs, “I just don’t want you to be late for Christmas with your family.”
“Oh right,” Ginny says, sitting up and rubbing her eyes. “I’d forgotten about Christmas.”
“I was rather distracted,” she says, letting her voice lilt up playfully. She slips out of bed and pulls a red t-shirt off his dresser. “Can I borrow this?”
“Sure.” Sirius pulls on a pair of joggers and tosses her some shorts and her balled up-dress.
His bedroom looks different by the light of day.
They walk downstairs, Sirius’s hand pressed gently to her back as she goes through his door.
In the front foyer, they stop.
“So, er,” Ginny says.
“Yeah,” Sirius says. Then he sighs. “Listen, Ginny, I —”
She cuts him off, recognizing his expression. It’s one she’s worn herself a time or two. “Last night was great, but it doesn’t have to mean anything.”
Sirius looks relieved. “Yeah?”
“Yeah,” she confirms. “It would just be too…”
“Complicated?” he supplies.
“Exactly,” she says. “I’m telling you, you get me.”
Sirius laughs and wraps her in his arms, a sort-of goodbye hug. She lingers for just a moment then she’s out the door and he’s yelling “Merry Christmas!” after her, and the next thing she knows, she’s in the Burrow’s back garden, contemplating how to best sneak in unnoticed.
It’s been a good Christmas already, not top five perhaps, but certainly close.
Christmas Eve 2007
Ginny has gotten rather good at playing the role of spinster aunt, and what’s more, she enjoys it.
If her siblings have all decided to take after their parents and go the large family route, well that’s simply wonderful. She’ll leave them to their nappies and tantrums and sleepless nights, thank you very much, and will instead delight in her nieces and nephews in small, controlled doses.
The guest list at Sirius’s annual Christmas Eve parties has gotten exponentially larger in the under-five crowd, which actually makes the parties much more bearable. While Ginny may not want children of her own, she appreciates the life they bring to spaces that previously reminded her only of death.
At present, she’s sat on the floor in the library assisting a troupe of mostly red-haired toddlers as they apply glitter to pinecones and tie ribbon around the ends. The results may be rather uneven and hideous, but she suspects they will become Granny Molly’s favourite tree ornaments.
Hermione pops her head in, baby on her hip. “Having fun?”
“The most,” Ginny replies truthfully.
“Think you can handle one more?” Hermione asks, only the slightest hint of pleading desperation in her voice.
“If it’s Rosie? ‘Course I can,” Ginny smiles.
“You’re an angel,” Hermione says, passing Ginny the baby and rushing off down the hall, presumably in search of wine.
Ginny enjoys a single moment of contentment, snuggling close to little Rose Malfoy and watching the rest of them play. And then Percy’s twins, Freya and Grace, start arguing over a piece of ribbon and a bottle of glitter gets knocked to the ground. Utter chaos ensues.
Ginny manages to restore just enough semblance of order to send the children out of the library and back to their respective parents, then sits back on the floor against the couch, baby Rosie still in her lap.
She takes a moment to breathe deeply and let the baby settle sleepily against her chest. She agrees with Rosie - children are exhausting.
She’s just contemplating the likelihood that the baby will wake if she stands up or whether she will have to live on this floor now, when Sirius arrives.
“I’ve been replaced, have I?”
Ginny grins up at him. “Yes.”
“I don’t blame you. She looks like excellent company,” Sirius settles himself on the couch beside where she sits on the floor. “Drink?”
“Oh please,” Ginny says and accepts a firewhisky from him.
They’ve kept up their Christmas Eve tradition over the past five years, though nothing remotely like 2002 has happened since.
In many ways, that night solidified a friendship between them that’s only become closer in the intervening years.
“I still can’t believe it,” he says, gesturing to Rosie. “A Malfoy baby, part of the family.”
“I suppose that’s literally true in your case, isn’t it?” Ginny muses. “Some sort of cousin. Though I can’t quite figure out that math.”
“First cousin, twice removed is the technical term, I believe.”
“Ah,” Ginny says, stroking a hand down Rosie’s back. She feels quite content. “Did you ever want any of your own?”
“Children?” Sirius says. “I assumed I’d have some when I was young, though I don’t know if I ever stopped to think about it. But now? I’ve got Harry and Teddy. That’s plenty for me.”
“Me too. I’ve got enough nieces and nephews and godchildren to last a lifetime.”
They lapse into comfortable conversation after that. About Ginny’s work with the Harpies and Sirius’s latest motorbike restoration project and Hermione’s upcoming Wizengamot election bid and, briefly, the upcoming 10-year battle memorial at Hogwarts. Ginny thinks she’ll go, Sirius thinks he won’t be able to stand it.
Eventually, conversation circles back around to Christmas rankings.
“How’s this year feeling?” Sirius asks. “Top five? Top ten? Or does it not rank?”
Ginny pauses for a moment, considering. “You know,” she says. “It might just make it to top five. I never thought anything could outpace my childhood Christmases, but this year’s been one of the best of my life. At work and with family and friends… it’s everything I ever wanted. Just about, anyway. And whenever I think about how Fred’s not here to see it, it still shatters me, but we’ve got all these little ones now and it’s not the same, but maybe it’s okay if this is good too, you know?”
“I know,” Sirius murmurs. “This is a good one, for me too. Top ten, maybe. There’s been some good contenders the past few years.”
“Mmhm. Remember 2002?” she asks.
“All the time.” She catches his eye and he winks at her.
She bites her lip in a little grin. In truth, she thinks about that night often as well. Sometimes, she wonders if —
Before she can properly finish her thought, Rosie squirms. The infant coos, content for a moment as she wakes, but then the realization seems to dawn that Ginny is not her mother or father and she lets out an ear-shattering wail.
“Ah,” Ginny says, bouncing and making soft soothing noises as she gets to her feet. “I’ll just deliver this one to Malfoy, shall I? Pour me another drink while I’m gone.”
After she returns, having enjoyed yet another opportunity to reflect on the perks of aunthood over parenthood, she settles in next to Sirius on the couch. She sighs comfortably — her back had not appreciated her sitting on the floor for so long.
She takes up her now refilled drink and thinks about what she ought to say, if there’s a way she can work the conversation back around to that night in 2002.
They’ve mentioned it occasionally, over the years. Mostly in light, joking ways, and there’s never been the suggestion from either side that they should repeat it. But Ginny is beginning to wonder more and more if they haven’t been incredibly stupid. Sirius is older than her, sure. Her parents would be wildly unimpressed. Harry too, likely. But.
Don’t they fit well together? Isn’t there chemistry and shared interests? Common values and goals? Isn’t Sirius incredibly fucking attractive and hasn’t she never met anyone she likes quite so much? Doesn’t he get her?
And, if all that’s true, doesn’t the rest of it not matter?
“I think about it too,” she says softly.
“That night?” Sirius asks.
“Do you ever wonder —” She cuts herself off, not quite brave enough.
“You can say it,” Sirius says gently, like he knows what’s coming.
She closes her eyes as she speaks. “If we ever decided to be more than friends, do you think it would work?”
“Yes,” Sirius says.
Ginny’s eyes snap open.
“I don’t think it would have worked five years ago,” he continues. “But now?”
Sirius shrugs, leaning just an inch closer on the couch, his eyes intense on hers.
“I suppose there’s only one way to find out,” Ginny says. She presses her lips against his and the kiss feels impossibly familiar, hopelessly right.
It only lasts a moment.
Sirius runs a gentle hand around her face, cradling her chin. “I don’t want you to stay tonight,” he says, and for a moment she’s confused. “I’d quite like to ask you out properly this time.”
She smiles and stands up, resting a hand on his shoulder as she does. “I’ll wait for your owl.”
Technically Christmas Morning 2007
Ginny arrives back at her flat just after midnight, her heart full and her mind abuzz with the events of the evening.
Just before she turns out her light to go to sleep, an owl arrives at her window.