Jimmy and Ritchie were just about the only people awake so early on the Sunday following the game against Slytherin, covered from head to toe in thick woolly clothing, they were ascending to the dizzy heights of the castle, to the room at the very peak on the place, the Owlery. Snow was swirling against the freezing cold windows of Hogwarts yet again and with Christmas fast approaching, it almost certainly meant the end of any good weather left before the holidays.
Jimmy was very annoyed with his friend for dragging him out of his warm toasty bed so early in the morning and forcing him to go walk through the freezing cold castle, with no explanation, and no evidence that he couldn't have just done whatever it is they were doing on his own.
'I did not wake you,' Ritchie pointed out, 'I was quiet, you woke up all by yourself - I was about to walk out the dormitory - you're the one who asked where I was going, and the one who insisted in coming along when I would not tell you-'
'Yeah, well,' Jimmy decided that he didn't have a counter-argument to this, because it was literally true, 'what are we doing, anyway? You never told me-'
Ritchie let out a long sigh as they ascended the narrow steps into the Owlery, which was much more opened to the elements than the castle corridors, and made them both shiver upon entry.
'I'm just sending an owl, nothing special,' Ritchie said, hoping Jimmy would not interrogate him much further.
'To whom though?' Jimmy demanded, making Ritchie grit his teeth as he looked up and searched for an owl amongst the brown and grey that were awake and ready for a journey.
'No one important,' Ritchie snapped back, 'it's just a Christmas thing, alright?'
'Oh,' Jimmy nodded and fell silent.
They both watched as a random barn owl came fluttering down to sit on the perch beside them, and offered it's leg unceremoniously.
'But you're going home for Christmas,' Jimmy said after suddenly remembering this. Ritchie was having a hard time tying the scroll of parchment to the owl, giving Jimmy more time to talk. 'And I don't see any packages- so what could you possibly-? Wait a minute-'
Ritchie continued to stay silent and stare down at the owl, just as he finally managed to tie a fairly acceptable knot.
'Is that-?' Jimmy pointed to the owl, which Ritchie picked up and carried over to the window, 'a mail order?'
Ritchie let the owl fly off into the sky, poor visibility meant that it disappeared from view almost immediately, and Ritchie turned around to face Jimmy who had an expression on his face that said "I don't believe it".
'An order for two boxes of Chocolate Frogs, yes,' he said shamefully, making Jimmy shake his head.
'You definitely have a problem.'
A noise behind them made them both turn on the spot to see someone else had ascended the steps into the Owlery and had stopped at the sight of them.
It was of course Ginny; she looked a little windswept, her face was pink, her silky red hair was sticking out in places it ought not to be and just like them, about every part of her body was covered in thick woolly clothing.
'Are you OK?' Jimmy asked curiously, and he even took a semi-step forward in concern, 'you don't look-'
'Oh I'm fine,' she ensured, smiling and moving past them to beckon an owl down for herself, 'just a little tired and a little cold, but I'll be alright. What brings you two to the Owlery so early?'
Ritchie had been hoping to avoid telling Jimmy about the frogs, he definitely wanted to avoid anyone else knowing about it - though unfortunately, before he could open his mouth to deflect the conversation, his best friend, who had no sense of humility toward anyone except for himself and perhaps more recently Ginny, beat him to the punchline, seemingly determined to let the rest of the world know of his addiction.
'Ritchie's out of chocolate frogs,' Jimmy said flatly, putting his hands in his pockets and biting his lip.
'So you're sending for more?' Ginny asked him in disbelief, 'Ritchie, you know you have a serious problem, right?'
Ritchie felt his face go red in embarrassment, any warm blood he had left filled his cheeks and he began to feel lightheaded; he waited for Ginny to turn her back on them before punching Jimmy in the arm.
'Ouch! Hey, what was that-?'
'And what brings you here?' Ritchie asked Ginny quickly, giving Jimmy a reproachful stare of warning before focusing back on Ginny, who had noticed nothing.
'My mother,' Ginny said flatly, a real tone of inconvenience in her voice, 'I continue to make the mistake of promising her at the start of every term that I would owl her, at least every now then, about how I'm going-'
'Personal stuff,' Ritchie nodded and Ginny shrugged.
'Boring stuff,' Ginny corrected him, releasing the owl out the window, it disappeared almost immediately just like Ritchie's owl had.
Ginny stood at the window staring out of it anyway, whilst Jimmy was still rubbing his arm and giving Ritchie filthy looks.
'So have fun at the party last night?' Ritchie asked her casually, keen to get the subject as far away from Chocolate Frogs as possible.
'I suppose,' Ginny shrugged, turning back to face them, 'honestly I think the win was better than the party- which reminds me, where were you two hiding last night? I wanted celebratory hugs from each of you, what gives?'
'Oh,' Ritchie and Jimmy looked at each other, 'you noticed we weren't there then-?'
'We thought maybe you'd be too busy celebrating with the others, like Harry, and your brother and... and Dean...' Jimmy trailed off cautiously, wondering if he would get some sort of response out of her.
Ginny let out a derisive laugh that made the hairs on the back of Jimmy's neck stand up.
'From what I saw, he had too many shots of Firewhiskey and spent the night trying to hit on some second-years,' she said in a voice that sounded very judgemental.
Ritchie looked positively scandalised at this piece of information, Jimmy tried to look alarmed also, but inside he was suddenly laughing maniacally.
'Let's not talk about Dean,' Ginny requested, as she lead them out of the Owlery, 'come, you're both to sit with me at breakfast, I'll grow bored otherwise.'
'If you say so,' said Jimmy merrily, bounding after her, he was suddenly enriched with the energy of a toddler on sugar.
He looked back at Ritchie positively beaming, he seemed to have enjoyed the way Ginny had reacted to him bringing up Dean. He was in high spirits all the way down to the Great Hall, where they talked freely and loudly along the deserted corridors - they discussed the game, Ritchie was pleased to hear that Ginny too had noticed how weird the day went and how lucky they had all been. Though her expression changed a little when he began to talk about conspiracy theories, and Jimmy had to kick him in the shin to shut him up and move the topic back onto Quidditch.
Though it was still early, their long walk through the castle meant that when they arrived in the Great Hall it was not completely empty; many of the teachers, mainly Hagrid, were placing the usual twelve Christmas trees around the Great Hall. Professor Flitwick and Professor McGonagall were adding the usual decorations to the trees, as well as the rest of the hall, whilst other teachers had been sent throughout the castle to add garlands of holly and tinsel to ever stairwells and pillars they could reach.
As Jimmy, Ritchie and Ginny sat at the empty Gryffindor table, they watched in amusement as Peeves grabbed an end of one of the tinsels and began to wrap it around the short stature of Professor Flitwick, cackling madly as his did it; Professor McGonagall ran over to help just as Peeves finished placing a glowing star on Flitwick's head and whisked away, singing his version of Christmas Carols that were littered with rude words.
'I forgot how close it is to Christmas,' Ginny said on the back of this, once Professor McGonagall had managed to free the Charms teacher. 'Are you two staying or going home for Christmas?'
'Going home,' they said in unison, but Jimmy added, 'but I'm subject to change - what are you doing?'
'Going home,' Ginny nodded, 'mum has practically insisted this year, most of my family will be at home, anyway.'
Jimmy nodded but looked a little disheartened - he would probably have stayed at the drop of a hat if she had been too.
'I'm looking forward to it, actually,' Ginny told them, smiling, 'but I'm definitely not looking forward to Slughorn's Christmas Party.'
'He's having a party?' Jimmy asked, looking interested again suddenly.
'For those of us in the Slug-Club, yes,' Ginny told him.
'Slug-Club?' Ritchie repeated, looking confused.
Ginny sighed. 'That's what he calls it,' she said, 'it's basically made up of students who are famous, like Harry Potter, or know someone or are connected to someone who are famous, like that idiot Zabini from Slytherin and his mother-'
'Who do you know that's famous?' Ritchie asked curiously, attempting to think on the spot of someone famous with the last name Weasley.
'No one,' Ginny said flatly, 'he saw me hex Zacharias Smith at the start of the year - so I suppose he also takes on students that he sees has a potential for talent.'
'Oh well that's why he hasn't asked you to one of these parties yet, Ritchie,' Jimmy said smartly, forcing Ginny to stifle a giggle.
'And I suppose your invite was lost in the post?' Ritchie snapped back, making Jimmy roll his eyes.
'I'm a gentleman,' he said proudly, sitting up straight, 'I do not hex and tell, Rich.'
'When is this party, then?' Ritchie asked Ginny, ignoring his friend.
'Last day of term,' Ginny groaned, putting her head in her hands. 'I don't really want to go,' she said, 'you're suppose to bring a guest, and after breaking up with Dean, I now have no one to go with me-'
'I'll go with you,' Jimmy said automatically without thinking.
Ginny peered at him through the gaps of her fingers, looking rather taken-aback; Ritchie sat up straight suddenly in his seat, looking from Ginny to a slightly horrified Jimmy, knowing well and good that this was a moment to recognise in their growing friendship.
'You will?' Ginny asked, pulling her hands away from her face and looking at him expectantly.
'Certainly I will,' Jimmy said, although a little more shakily than what he had said previous to that, he tried to stay calm as he continued talking. 'Ritchie could always take a break from me... and I mean...' he did not want to be too forward with her, 'we could go just as friends... but if you don't want me too...'
Ginny raised an eyebrow, looked from Jimmy, to Ritchie (who was holding back a smirk) and back to Jimmy.
'No, I do,' Ginny said, still looking rather discombobulated at this arrangement, 'I mean, yes I would love for you to go with me- but I think, just as friends-'
'Just as friends,' Jimmy repeated, nodding and smiling, 'absolutely.'