|Love and Crackers
Author: aprilhope PM
Sequel of sorts to my Five Senses of Draco & Ginny series, but could stand alone. Christmas fic for any time of year lol. Features DracoGinny, RonHermione, and HarryPansy in near equal parts. Now complete!Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Romance/Humor - Draco M. & Ginny W. - Chapters: 2 - Words: 10,186 - Reviews: 10 - Favs: 8 - Updated: 12-23-07 - Published: 10-25-07 - Status: Complete - id: 3854991
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Love and Crackers: a Harry Potterverse Christmas story for any time of year
(sequel to The Five Senses of Draco/Ginny series)
"Eat up, Weasleys!… Oh, and… guests."
Draco could hardly miss the death of enthusiasm in Mrs. Weasley's voice. But her face lit up once more as she surveyed the large wooden table. Except for Percy, who was off sucking up to Scrimgeour, and Ron, who was off sucking up to Muggles, all the children were present. Even Charlie was there, telling dragon tales to Mr. Weasley. Bill had brought his fiancée, Fleur Delacour, which didn't thrill Ginny, but it did mean Draco's wasn't the only head of pale blond marring her mother's vision of the picture perfect family red.
"Zair is only one guest, 'ere!" Fleur declared, seemingly unaware of this, as she showed off her ring again. "I am familee! I am soon to be Weasley!"
Ginny made a small retching sound beside him and covered it with a cough. Not that he could commiserate with his fellow outsider, even if Fleur saw herself that way. If he looked at the Veela for more than two seconds without rolling his eyes, his girlfriend would apply a sharp pinch to whatever area of his skin she could most quickly locate. This time it was the top of his left thigh, and he quickly returned focus to his overflowing plate.
"Mum's cooking is really good, don't worry," Ginny whispered to him. "But… I know I told you to ask for seconds, but maybe you should go easy…"
"Darling, I'll be fine. It's just a meal. People have them every day."
"You don't. Not with my family."
True enough, it was more similar to a Hogwarts feast… in both quantity of food and company… than to any "family meal" Draco had ever had. He'd never quite gotten the point of seating three people around a table twice as big as this one that fit all the Weasleys. Rather than shouting to be heard, they just didn't talk, and the food always looked better than it tasted. Whereas, the food on his plate now… looked positively disgusting. But he was willing to bet it was delicious.
"Mmm, that's…" He chewed, tasted. "That's…" He tried not to choke. "Gin, what is that?" He pointed to the first pile he had sampled.
"Oh, that's Mum's favorite. She calls it her Ottery St. Casserole."
"Does it have otter in it??"
"Is there a problem?" Molly Weasley's voice rang out faux sweetly.
"Pardon? Oh, no, not at all. I was just saying to Ginny how marvelous this is."
Mrs. Weasley's smile was forced, but she seemed appeased for the moment. Draco sighed silently in relief, felt Ginny squeeze his knee supportively, and resolved to finish every bite of the mysterious dish. And he did.
But once he did, and made the mistake of calling attention to the fact, his plate was somehow full of food again, leaving Mrs. Weasley thinking he was a liar (not like she hadn't thought that already). This happened three times, though it hadn't taken more than the first for him to figure out it was the work of those blasted twins. Draco could think of a few choice spells he'd like to send their way… wipe those matching goofy grins off their goofier faces… but he felt, or imagined, parental eyes constantly on him, so he just kept eating.
Ginny realized what was going on, and he could see daggers flashing in her eyes, aimed at Fred and George. He thought how near impossible it must be to adhere to the pesky no magic outside of Hogwarts rule living with those two. But just that look from her was enough to put fright in their expressions, and his plate was left alone. How Draco loved that girl.
Unfortunately, he couldn't even properly enjoy the moment, because he was so unnaturally stuffed that he felt like the poor turkey on the table. Except that the turkey had been lavished with attention to the point of having its bones picked clean. Draco had come to the Burrow fully expecting to be ripped apart, and he was ready to withstand it for Ginny. But her parents seemed content to simply ignore him as much as possible. The twins were a couple of plonkers, but at least they acknowledged his presence.
And they acknowledged him with a too gleeful unison shout that he was "a lovely shade of Slytherin green" when Draco had to make a run for the toilet and be quite sick for the next several minutes. Once he allowed Ginny to get near him, she smoothed a cool hand over his forehead and made him drink a tonic that worked quickly. And, after he insisted on brushing his teeth twelve times, she further proved her magic touch with a soothing dessert of kisses.
"Are you not enjoying your celery, Ron?"
Ron, Hermione, and Mr. and Mrs. Granger sat around the dining table. All were full from a delicious supper… made by Hermione's dad, actually, which Ron had thought was a joke at first and had made the mistake of laughing about… but there would be no mince pies or treacle tart or custard for dessert. What you got when your girlfriend's parents were dentists was a tray full of apple slices and celery sticks.
"Oh, no, it's… great!" Ron managed, taking another loud bite of the vegetable… that even tasted green… and getting that stringy stuff caught in his teeth. "It's like… food and dental floss all in one."
Howard and Melanie… who'd insisted that Ron call them by their first names, which he tried to pretend didn't make him extremely uncomfortable… burst out laughing, and soon Hermione even joined in. Then she slipped him a packet of Chocolate Frogs under the table and whispered that she had more for him later. He had to hold himself back from snogging her right there.
It had been a really good day. He'd beaten Melanie at chess once and "lost" to Howard… after coaching from Hermione that her dad hated losing (unless it was to her) and her mom hated someone letting her win… and it had been fun, even if Muggle chess was rather boring, the way you had to move the pieces around yourself and then they just sat there. Similarly, even though he thought Muggle photographs were weird, how people didn't move in them, almost like they'd been petrified, he sure got a kick out of all the pictures of Hermione as a little girl. He was treated to album after album of them. She scowled at first and looked away, embarrassed, but started to beam with pride when she was shown holding ribbons earned in spelling competitions and such at her old school.
The idea of Hermione at a non-wizarding school was kind of sad to Ron. Sure, she was a good, old-fashioned, academic brain, but more than that, she was such a talented, powerful witch. As much as she seemed to show off at Hogwarts, he'd always got the sense that she actually forced herself to hold back a bit. He couldn't imagine how much she must have had to hold back living as a Muggle, unable to use magic.
Soon, it had gotten late, and Hermione's parents were saying goodnight and heading to the stairs.
"Sweetie, I'll knock on your door in the morning as soon as breakfast is ready," her dad said. "And Ron, I certainly hope you find the guest bed comfortable."
Ron's ears flamed as red as his hair at the man's attempt at subtlety. Did he really think…? There was no chance he was going to try anything like that with Hermione in her parents' house… well, not much, anyway. Not even as much as what they'd already done… which was far from everything… but was still… really nice…
"Ron," she whispered urgently from behind him. "Nod your head."
"Oh." He didn't realize he'd kind of glazed over, remembering some choice evenings alone in the Gryffindor common room… and that little-known closet Nearly Headless Nick had introduced them to… Oops, there he went again. He quickly closed his mouth and made his head move in the affirmative. Howard and Melanie just twittered knowingly and went upstairs.
"Sorry for the endless parade of pictures," Hermione said, after his nervousness had melted away and he'd pulled her back down to the couch with him.
"I liked it. I'd forgotten how big your hair used to be."
"Shut up," she laughed.
"I was too scared to touch your hair then… but I always used to wonder if my hand would get stuck." He sank long fingers into smoother, but still full tresses, combing, letting the softness fall through.
"Not now, hmm?"
She leaned into his touch and he gripped again, grinning. "No… but my hand doesn't seem to want to leave."
It may have taken Ronald Weasley a long time to admit to seeing Hermione as anything more than a friend, but he had made it up to her by proving to be secretly the most unbelievable sap.
"Your parents are really nice people."
"They like you."
"Don't sound so surprised."
"Mostly, I think they're just really happy to have you home. We've kind of… hogged you a bit, haven't we? Harry and me. My family. The whole magical world, really."
"I've missed them. I'm glad to be home. But I've made choices based on what I thought was best… and, also, where I wanted to be. To be honest, that was usually with you."
"Hermione Granger… you are such a girl."
"Told you, didn't I?"
"As always, you were right."
Parkinson Manor was so big, it even had an equivalent to the Hogwarts Astronomy Tower. Snowflakes shone like the stars all around them, as they were basically outside, but kept toasty and warm by the magical house… and each other, cuddled on a blanket, looking up at the sky.
"Harry… I don't do this often, so it will probably come off about as well as my childhood dancing, but… I want to say I'm sorry."
He propped up on one elbow and looked down at her atypically timid face. "What for? Not telling me your parents wouldn't be here? In case you haven't noticed, I'm happy about that."
"No, I mean for the way… I've treated you over the years."
Oh… that. "Pan, don't worry about it," he said honestly, after a moment. "It… I don't think of that when I think of you anymore, okay? It's like it was two different people. We were kids."
"It wasn't long ago at all, Harry. I was just such a nasty little thing… teasing you about the dementors… and the Triwizard tournament… anything and everything, and… I actually used to call you 'Potty,' like that was clever." She laughed darkly at herself, squeezing her eyes shut tightly in embarrassment and regret. "God, you can tell my heart wasn't in it, can't you?"
"Why did you do it?"
"Because it was what was expected. That's the worst reason ever, but there you go. And… I'd aligned myself with Draco, my little rat," Pansy sighed, with that platonic affection she still held for Malfoy. "And he hated you, so… Well, that was really jealousy, mostly. Like me and Granger, I suppose."
Harry was confused. "Why would you be jealous of Hermione? You're a great student."
"Because of you! I didn't think there was anything romantic between you, really, but the papers were calling her your 'girlfriend,' and she was with you all the time…"
"But… I still don't get why you would care."
She sat up and pulled him up to join her. "Babe, did you really think I decided I liked you out of the blue at that Slug Club party?"
"You mean you…?"
"I think I had a little crush from the start. Most of the girls at school did… Merlin, some of the boys…"
Harry's eyes bugged slightly and he wondered if he'd understood that correctly.
"But I was a Slytherin… something I would not apologize for then or now… and you made it pretty clear early on how much you hated us."
"You don't have to apologize for that, or anything else. Because you're right." It was so bizarre to think for such a long time he had written Pansy off as just the queen Slytherin… the pug-faced girl. That had been the best description he could think of for the… perhaps snobby, perhaps guarded… expression he always saw on her face. But he was privy to so many more of her expressions now, and she was so beautiful… especially with the starlight sparkling on her skin. "Maybe you weren't the only one who had some growing up to do."
She smiled deeply, knowing he really didn't resent her for the past. "You grew up… well."
He welcomed the lascivious look she was giving him, up and down, and gave it right back to her. "You, too, Pan… quite well indeed."
"Mother… would you please say something?"
Draco Malfoy and Ginny Weasley sat… faced off, more like… with Narcissa Malfoy, in the ornate and rather cavernous sitting room of Malfoy Manor. The house was beautiful but the atmosphere stifling. Narcissa's face was… unimpressed.
"Ginny, dear… I hear that you are a rather powerful witch for one so young. Do you have my son under a love spell?"
Draco blanched whiter than his usual shade of pale. "Not quite what I had in mind… Mother, are you serious?"
"Are you drunk?"
"Draco… " Ginny whispered to him, cautioning, mostly because she could tell Narcissa had in fact honored Draco's request to remain sober for the occasion.
"Did I not make clear how I feel about Ginny in my letter?"
"Yes, you did. That is why I have to ask. I hardly knew what I was reading! You must admit, sweetheart, you didn't sound like yourself."
"Perhaps it's because I was… what's the word… oh, yes… happy?"
Narcissa paused. It pained her the way her son seemed to be telling her he'd never been happy before. "…I want you to be happy, Draco. Don't think that I don't. But… you and the Weasley girl…"
"She's right here. Her name is Ginny," he said plainly.
"I know. I'm trying to express to you my first reactions. And the news of her being your girlfriend was… unexpected, to say the very least. You might as well have said you were running off to join that awful rock band, the… Whatsit Sisters."
"The Weird Sisters," Ginny filled in, and then couldn't help it, and began to giggle, looking at Draco. "You know, I can picture it… you with the long hair, the guitar, the tight pants… Maybe you should try it."
The girl's suggestive tone riled Narcissa. "Young lady, who do you think you are, speaking that way in front of his mother?"
"You brought it up," Ginny responded, making Draco smile.
"She's got you there."
"Draco, I've heard enough. I tried, for your sake. Invited her into our home. You know very well that if your father were here… well, she wouldn't be."
"You're right. And neither would I." No, if his father weren't in Azkaban, Draco would still be at the Weasleys', being ignored, and glad for it. "But I wanted the two of you to meet because I love you both. I hoped that might be enough common ground for… something."
Ginny squeezed his hand in hers… which he hadn't let go of since they'd gotten there… and looked at Narcissa. She sympathized with the woman for a moment, watching her face try to process the shock at actually hearing her son admit aloud to loving someone… at all, let alone someone so unsuitable… and decided she deserved an honest answer to her question.
"No, Mrs. Malfoy, I do not have Draco under a love spell… at least not the kind you're thinking of. It was never my intention to fall in love with him, or to make him feel the same for me. It was unexpected, to use your word, and it is occasionally exasperating… but mutual, and also wonderful. I do love him, without ulterior motives, class hang-ups, or reservations. We hope you will be on our side, and the same for my family… but we don't need you to be."
Narcissa watched the cool blue-grey of her son's eyes warm as he looked at Ginny. Perhaps more importantly, she was able to see an equal affection in Ginny's gaze. The girl had influence over Draco, that was obvious, but from what she could gather, did not use it selfishly. She seemed to calm him, communicating mostly without words. Draco had always had a temper, always wanted things his way. The fact that he hadn't threatened never to speak to his mother again, or stormed out… because, "mummy's boy" or not, it was strategy he had favored in the past… spoke volumes as to this young woman's effect on him. She had that often foolish Gryffindor bravery, but one could only hope it was tempered with intelligence.
"She's amazing, isn't she?"
Examining her life soberly, for a change, Narcissa had to admit that she did not believe class distinctions were the most important thing in a match between witch and wizard, or that money and power necessarily equaled happiness. She acknowledged Draco's words with the slightest nod, and a cool, arched eyebrow she hoped was still intimidating.
"Perhaps… worth getting to know."
Then her son was up and kissing her cheek, and all cool pretense dissolved.
"Mr. Granger, could I talk to you… for a minute?"
Having noticed that the women seemed to be deep into some kind of girl talk, Ron had taken the opportunity to knock on the study door, peeking his head in, and Hermione's dad waved him inside with a smile.
"Of course, Ron. But I told you to call me Howard."
"Beg pardon, sir, but I don't think I'd feel right calling you something so informal… with what I want to ask you about."
The young man's face appeared nervous of its own seriousness, so Mr. Granger took pity on him and sat him down. "All right. What's on your mind?"
"Well, sir…" Ron cleared his throat. "It's about… what you said to me in the car on the way here from the train station."
Mr. Granger thought for a moment but could not recall anything in particular he had said. "I'm afraid I'll need a bit more. Memory's going in my old age." He was only forty-five, but it wasn't entirely untrue. He still couldn't find his old reading glasses…
"I mean what you said about… me being forbidden to marry Hermione… ever."
Ron's generally deep voice broke into an unnatural high note on the word "marry," and he cleared his throat again. Mr. Granger took in the barely concealed worry before him. The poor boy had been stressing over that? He'd only said it to relax the lad after he'd put him into a panic by jokingly bringing up the "M word" in the first place. "Oh, that… Listen, Ron…"
"I'm really hoping you'll change your mind."
He blinked. The boy wasn't asking…? "Ron, are you asking me permission to propose to my daughter?" They were so young. Admittedly, he and Melanie hadn't been much older… they'd been at University together when they'd gotten engaged… but how had Ron gone from the marvelous slow pace he'd been at ("took five years to hold my hand," he could hear Hermione saying) to this? "Don't you think you should wait a few years? You've still got another year of school. Do you have a career lined up? What will you…?"
"I didn't mean now!" Ron shouted, terrified… popping up out of his chair and quickly sinking back down, his legs having given out. "I'm not even seventeen yet!"
"Oh!" Mr. Granger felt the relief through his whole body. "Then, what did you mean?"
Ron's breathing slowly returned to normal as he spoke. "I just meant… I know she's smarter than me, and probably just too good for me, and I know we fight a lot… but we always have, and it works for us… and I just can't imagine my life without her. If I did think about… getting married and having my own family one day… I'd want that with her. Not now, maybe not for years. But I can't stand the thought of it not being possible. I don't even know if she would say yes, but I know how much your opinion means to her, and…"
Mr. Granger knew he had the boy's very heart in his hand at that moment, and even the jokester inside of him couldn't bring himself to risk bruising it again. "If… someday… you ask Hermione to be your wife, and she says yes, then Melanie and I will support our daughter's choice." He smiled warmly at Ron, who he did think was a fine young man. "She is always right, you know."
Ron smiled back, now able to put those thoughts away again, far into the future, and just concentrate on Christmas. "I know."
And, just outside the doorway, Hermione leaned against the wall, hand to her mouth and tears in her eyes. Quickly and quietly, she tiptoed the path back to her room. She had heard it all, and she loved Ron Weasley more than ever.
Enough to know not to tell him of her discovery.
At least until the honeymoon.
"Five, four, three, two, one… Midnight! Time for presents!"
Harry laughed. "Merry Christmas, Pan."
"Oh, right. Merry Christmas, Harry… Now, presents!"
Presents at midnight, just as Christmas Eve turned into Christmas Day, had been Pansy's idea, and she was as excited as a little girl. But she looked decidedly grown up, in a long nightgown, a gorgeous shade of indigo. They sat on her bed, in their nightclothes, legs folded under them, and Harry was glad for the rather innocent distraction of gift exchange. Before he could ask if she wanted to give or receive first, her hands were extended and excited lips pursed together. He reached behind him and placed a wrapped box atop her palms, which she dug into with glee.
"You have to promise you won't get ahead of yourself… ahead of me… with this, Pan. But I thought it would make you smile."
Pulling off the top and reaching her hand inside to touch the fluffy Egyptian cotton, she was not disappointed, but confused. "Towels?"
"Really look at them."
She stretched one out across her lap… Not only was it a deep green color, but there at the bottom, in red script, were the letters "PPP."
Pansy's breath caught. Pansy Parkinson Potter. "Harry…" She knew it wasn't a proposal. If it were, she would be thwapping him with the towel and calling him a nutter, because they were only sixteen. So, what…?
"You're so funny about it, how you always say you like the sound of it. I know you're mostly joking… but I wanted to let you see how it looks."
"Monogrammed. In red and green," she mused. "Christmasy, and Gryffindor together with Slytherin. You're brilliant, babe." She grabbed his chin and kissed him warmly. "You really are as brave as they say."
"I'd have to be, with you, wouldn't I?"
"Yes. So be brave again and close your eyes." He did, and she whispered, "Okay, Parker, it's showtime. Let's give Harry his present."
A second later, Harry heard a whimsical music begin and opened his eyes to find… Harry had never seen one up close before, but he believed it was called a carousel… colorful and shining, decorated with painted wooden horses, right in the middle of Pansy's room.
"Pan, what… how did you…? Your room wasn't this big a minute ago, was it?"
In fact, the walls had pushed back and space expanded to accommodate the carousel. Pansy took Harry's hand and walked him towards the grand ride.
"Parker did it. She's capable of all sorts of things, you know. A living home is a good way to get around the no magic away from school rule."
"You never had a childhood. Not until you were eleven, and even then you couldn't just be a kid, you had to be Harry Potter… fighting dark magic and saving us all, year after year. And it's not fair that your horrible, fat cousin got to do things like go to amusement parks and have fun, and you had to stay home in a cupboard. I wanted to give you a piece of… what you should have had. That's all."
"That's all?" She didn't realize how much that really was. He shook his head and her fingers brushed his cheek.
"Maybe I thought it would make you smile."
He couldn't remember when he'd smiled so much or so big. With a hand on her back, he helped her up onto the circular platform, following behind her as she chose the best horse for them.
And when the carousel started turning, their horse moving up and down, Pansy's arms wrapped around his waist… maybe it shouldn't have been impressive to a boy who had flown more times and ways than he could count… but it was. He loved it… and her.
They rode until they were dizzy, then they stumbled off and made a mountain of pillows on the floor, collapsing and eating the cotton candy Parker had produced for them.
Neither wanted him to return to that guest room, but holding her all night would require more self-control than Harry was sure he had… because, whether or not they were ready, he just wasn't comfortable having sex for the first time with someone watching… even if it was the house. So he stayed, on a makeshift bed on the floor, just a few feet from her.
"Goodnight, Pan. Merry Christmas."
"It finally is." Not lonely anymore. "Goodnight, Harry."
"Mother liked you, Gin."
"No, she didn't."
"All right, maybe 'like' is too strong. But I think she respected you, and that might be even more impressive. It's a lot more than can be said for your mother's opinion of me."
"Well, I rather more than like you. I happen to love you. Did you forget?"
Merlin, this girl could actually make Draco Malfoy look sheepish, and then make him smile about it. "You, too, Sugar Shock."
"Now, come in out of the cold, would you? Don't freeze to death just to avoid my family."
"Why not? I think I pull off this shade of blue smashingly well."
"You are nearly as stubborn as I am, aren't you?" Ginny wrapped her arms around his shivering body… his coat much too fancy to do something as utilitarian as keep him warm… and started pulling him inside the house. "It's Christmas morning. Come on, Ketchup-Breath."
"Is it time for presents?" he asked, wincing. The two of them had exchanged their gifts already, and her pendant gleamed against her sweater. That had been fun, but this would not be. Even though Ginny had helped him to pick out a gift for her parents, he knew they would hate it anyway, because it came from him. All this family togetherness crap was really turning him into a grinch.
"No, not yet. First, it's time for Christmas crackers!"
The two walked into the family room to find all the Weasleys gathered, and Fred and George pulling on opposite ends of a brightly-colored tube. After a loud BANG, George was holding the larger piece… but he was also on the other side of the room. Fred ran over and stole his brother's prizes, declaring loudly that they could make much more entertaining crackers than these for the shop, as George read aloud the motto…
"The Ooh-Aah Bird is so called because it lays square eggs."
Everyone had a good laugh at that… more so because it came with a bird, who lay a square egg… paused for the "ooh, ahh" reaction… and then flew away.
Even Draco laughed, but shut up quickly when he was handed a cracker by Mr. Weasley.
"You and Ginny, try. Don't worry, you don't have to brace yourself. It's a Muggle cracker I picked up. They're much gentler."
Draco blinked, forced the still not quite natural words "thank you" past his lips, and shared the cracker with Ginny, eliciting only a small bang and no physical trauma. Ginny got the bigger piece, but when she pulled out the motto, Mrs. Weasley spoke.
"That's for Draco."
He was confused, and a little frightened, but he took the slip of paper Ginny handed him and read it aloud.
"My girlfriend is worth putting up with her family… even when they treat me shabbily at Christmas."
There was quiet for a moment, until the girlfriend in question said, "That's a good one."
"What… does this… This is a Muggle cracker?" Draco gaped.
"Slightly magically altered," Mr. Weasley replied with a mischievous wink.
Mrs. Weasley sighed. "Draco, I was so prepared for you to be… maybe not completely evil… but a snob, certainly…"
"Oh, he is a snob," said Ginny.
"It's true. I am." There was really no sense in denying it.
"Then I suppose you've done an excellent job of toning it down while you've been here. You didn't complain about the meager accommodations, as I imagined you would. You didn't turn up your nose at my cooking. In fact, you quite literally made yourself sick to impress us, and we've given you no credit." Mrs. Weasley somehow managed to look both contrite and stern. "Now… we are far from accepting you happily as part of Ginny's life or this family, but… you're here, and I believe you treat our daughter well. So… Merry Christmas, Draco."
He hoped he said it back, but was so in shock, he was only barely aware of Ginny's lips brushing his cheek and whispering in his ear, "Maybe next year you'll even get a sweater with your initial on it."
That would really be a season of miracles, he thought later, as everyone readied to go meet Ron and Hermione, Potter (oh joy) and Pansy in town for Christmas brunch. But he didn't need a sweater, or her family's acceptance… could even deal with undesirables... so long as he had the girl Weasel.
A/N: "Ooh-Aah Bird" motto was swiped from the "Silly But It's Fun" episode of Good Neighbors, AKA The Good Life... cracks me up, lol.