There are no real warnings on this story, except for some language and that it's not really canon compliant. It's a fun piece of fluff for the holidays!

This story was inspired by an aesthetic for the Wordsmiths & Betas Holiday Aesthetic Creation, it was created by Kittenshift17

"Remind me again, why am I being dragged along?" asked Hermione, frowning at Harry as he tried, once again, to unsuccessfully press his hair down.

"Because I need you there," he answered, tugging at his tie as he turned back to face her.

"I don't understand, though. The Malfoy's HATE me," she declared, reaching up to straighten his collar.

"They don't HATE you," he answered, shifting uncomfortably under her flat stare, "Ok, they might not like you, but they don't HATE you"

"That's not encouraging me to come," she answered darkly.

"Mione," he whined, "Tori invited me. And you know Tori, she's like...the nicest person on the planet. I couldn't say no"

"And the fact that Daphne is going to be there had NOTHING to do with any of this?" she demanded, turning to look at herself in the mirror once more. Harry at least had the grace to look a little embarrassed as he rubbed the back of his head, further disturbing his unruly hair.

"Maybe. Just a little," he muttered, "And Narcissawantstoprojectanewimage"

Hermione froze, lipstick half way to her lips, "I'm sorry...What was that?"

Harry cleared his throat once more, "Narcissa wants to project a new image. She's going to have some press there for publicity"

"Harry James Potter, are you using me to deflect attention off of yourself?" she growled. He at least had the decency to step away from her, turning to lean down and pick up his godson off the floor.

"Well, you and Teddy," he answered. Hermione made a sound of exasperation.

"What am I going to be? The 9th wheel? Even Teddy will have Scorpius"

Harry turned back to her, desperation on his face, "Please, you have to come Hermione. I can't be there alone with those people. I'll do ANYTHING"

Hermione eyed him speculatively, lips pursed, "Anything?"

He nodded enthusiastically, "Anything"

Her lips curved upwards, "Ok"

Harry blinked, "Ok?"

"Yes, Ok. As in, alright. You have a deal," she replied, smirk settled firmly in place. Harry wrinkled his nose.

"What exactly did I just agree to?"

"You said you'd do anything if I would come with you. I'll let you know what anything means if we both manage to survive tonight," she replied, putting her makeup back into her bag, and scooping the brightly colored gifts up into her arms. Harry eyed her nervously, but nodded, straightening Teddy's own jacket.

Stepping through the floo felt like stepping into one of those romantic home and garden magazines her mother used to get at the grocery store. Her mom would sigh and moon over the pictures, remarking how she wished she was talented enough to create such remarkable holiday decorations. She was, in fact, quite certain that her mother would be shrieking with joy at the scene right now. The floo entered into the redone welcoming parlor of the Manor, which was fully decked out with boughs of pine across the fireplace, small lights dangling in the air, and baubles floating below the ceiling. It was impressive without being gaudy, and a spectacular staging area.

Hermione paused as she stepped out of the fireplace, the entire Malfoy family standing before her as a welcoming party, smiles plastered on their faces. She cleared her throat inelegantly, looking back behind her for Harry, who didn't arrive for an additional, awkward 30 seconds. Hermione smiled uneasily at the group before her before her closest friend bumbled through behind her.

"Sorry, sorry," he mumbled, shifting Teddy from one hip to the other, "Teddy decided that he couldn't possibly wear a bowtie without screaming"

At his arrival the whole mass of people pressed forward, and Hermione flinched at a flash to their right, narrowing her eyes at the presence of the photographer. Narcissa greeted Hermione with air kisses to each cheek, passing her off to her husband quickly who shook her hand just as perfunctorily. Shuffling to her right, she hugged Astoria around the blonde haired toddler in her arms, giving Scorpius a quick chubby arm squeeze before shaking Draco's hand as well. Daphne was last in line, and the first person to give her a genuine embrace.

"Thank Merlin you're here," the blonde murmured in her ear, and Hermione giggled in response, leaning back.

"Please tell me there's a lot of wine," she muttered back. Daphne grinned, and nodded.

"There's a whole cellar full. In fact, I'm pretty certain we should grab a few bottles right now"

Hermione nodded enthusiastically, placing her packages down on a chair by the fireplace, "That sounds like an excellent plan"

Daphne cleared her throat, interrupting the cooing that Narcissa was doing over her grandnephew, earning a narrow eyed look from the blonde woman, "Hermione and I are going to the cellar to grab some spirits. Is there anything you would like?"

"There's a 1975 Merlot in the back, if you'd please fetch it for me," came Lucius's drawl from the back of the group, and Hermione smirked at the tightened lines around his eyes.

"Of course," responded Daphne, "We'll be right back"

Hermione stuck out her tongue at Harry's desperate look, practically skipping down the hall behind her friend. The blonde grinned back, and as soon as they were out of hearing range, they both dissolved into giggles.

"Ok, tell me, how did YOU get wrangled into this?" asked Daphne and Hermione groaned, shaking her head.

"Harry. Apparently Tori invited him, and he was too nervous to come alone. Decided to offer me up for the slaughter as well," she answered before cocking her head, "How did she get YOU to come along?"

"She told me Harry would be here," her friend confessed, a small blush staining her cheeks. Hermione tipped her head back, moaning out loud.

"Oh my god, I am totally the 9th wheel"

Daphne wrinkled her nose, "Ninth?"

Hermione nodded emphatically, ticking names off with her fingers, "Mr and Mrs Malfoy, Draco and Astoria, You and Harry, and Scorpius and Teddy"

Daphne blushed a little brighter, steering them down a short stairway into the cellar, "Harry and I aren't a thing"

Hermione scoffed, "You are a thing"

"We're not!" came her emphatic response, "He hasn't even asked me out"

"That's just because he has the confidence of a wet noodle," answered Hermione, fingers tracing over labels, "He likes you"

"Yes, well, that's not so obvious on this end," came the dejected reply as the blonde grabbed a few bottles, placing them in Hermione's hands. The curly haired witch nodded.

"I know. He'll figure it out eventually"

"He better. We're not getting any younger," groused Daphne. Hermione let out a breathy laugh.

"Gee, thanks"

Daphne grimaced apologetically, "Not you. You're adorable, and amazing, and you'll never get old. You're going to stay young and perfect forever"

Hermione laughed fully then, "Remind me, why weren't we friends in school? I could have used someone like you"

Daphne pointed at herself, "Slytherin" and then pointed at Hermione, "Gryffindor"

Hermione wrinkled her nose, "Oh, right. Housing organization that systemically separated us for our formative years"

Daphne laughed then, "Alright, easy there Spew"

Hermione shifted as the blonde moved further back, "I'm just saying, if it weren't for that stupid hat, we wouldn't have all had preconceived notions about one another and might have gotten to know each other better"

Daphne popped her head around from the next set of racks, "Do you really think you and Draco would have been friends even without the hat?"

Hermione grunted, "Touche"

"Why don't you take those bottles back? I'm having a hard time finding that Merlot Lucius asked for. I have a feeling social lubrication is in high demand already, tonight"

"Alright. If I'm not there when you get back, send a search party," came Hermione's sardonic reply, her friend laughing richly as she disappeared down the aisles.

Carefully retracing her steps, Hermione let out a relieved little sigh as she spotted the open receiving room, strained laughter filtering out into the hall. Speeding up a bit, she cursed as her heel stuck on a decorative rug, causing her to stumble and almost drop the three bottles she was carrying, "Fuck!"


Hermione drew up straight, pivoting on her heel to the right. Wide, gray eyes stared up at her from below a mop of white blonde hair, dressed in a smart blue suit. Spitting image of his father, the toddler smiled guilelessly at Hermione, who immediately panicked.

"Nononono...Duck! Duck! Aunty Hermione said Duck!" she replied to the tot. He grinned a little more fully at her.

"Duck!" he shouted, and she nodded enthusiastically.

"Yes! Duck! Ducks that go quack quack quack!" she answered, waving her elbows like wings.


Hermione closed her eyes, taking a deep breath before looking up at the matching gray orbs that belonged to her long time nemesis, "Malfoy"

"Is there a reason why you're choosing to teach my son about waterfowl at this juncture?" he drawled at her, amused smirk on his lips. Hermione darted her eyes back over at his miniature, licking her lips before shaking her head in a jerky negative.

"No. You know...anytime is a good time for learning," she answered in a falsely high pitched voice. Draco raised an eyebrow.

"I see"

Hermione thrust a bottle of wine in his direction, "Please, for the love of Merlin, open one of these"

Draco nodded immediately, making an about face back into the receiving room.

Harry's eyes were wild by the time she re-entered the room, and he practically ran to her, "Where did you go?"

She held up the two remaining bottles of wine in her hands, "Fortitude"

Harry grabbed one, crossing the room to where Draco was opening the first bottle. Wine glasses appeared out of thin air, and were filled generously by the blonde heir. Hermione glanced over at Narcissa, who was taking pictures with Teddy, and caught eyes with the older male Malfoy. He scowled slightly at her and she mouthed 'Daphne' before joining the younger two men at the bar on the far side of the room. Harry shoved a glass into her hand as he relieved her of the final bottle, and she took a generous swig.

"Don't leave me alone again," hissed her dark haired friend, and Draco snorted into his wine glass.

"This is only the beginning," the blonde murmured back, "Just wait until gifts"

Hermione and Harry both flinched, turning back to face the rest of the family as Daphne re-entered the room. Lucius swooped down on her, grabbing the vintage bottle out of her hands, infringing on their space as he sought out a bottle opener and glass. Daphne shared a raised eye with Hermione, who hid her giggles behind her own glass.

Narcissa chose that moment to clap her hands sharply, practiced smile on her face, "I do believe dinner is ready, if you all would like to join us in the dining room"

Hermione eyed her wine glass solemnly before downing the rest of it in a gulp and refilling. She heard an inelegant snort to her left, and she turned narrowed eyes on Lucius who was suspiciously looking away from her. Turning to leave the room, she bumped his shoulder with her own, causing the red liquid in his goblet to slosh over the edge.

"Oh! I'm so sorry, Mr. Malfoy," she exclaimed, eyes wide, "How very clumsy of me"

There was a faint hint of a sneer around his lips as he glared back at her, but his response was interrupted by his wife clearing her throat. Schooling his face back to impassive, he nodded at her, "All is forgiven. We're not all born with the gift of grace"

Hermione barely kept the sneer off her own face, choosing to smile blandly at him instead, following the group as it migrated down to the dining room. Stepping into the expansive space, she gaped at the amount of food on the table set before them. Eyeing the mountains of deer, ham, turkey and beef, she sidled up to her dark haired friend, nudging him with her elbow sharply.

"I don't suppose, when you accepted this invitation, you managed to remember to pass along that I'm a vegetarian?" she asked him in a harsh whisper. The widening of his eyes was all the confirmation she needed.

"You're a vegetarian?" came Tori's clear voice at from her other side. Hermione winced, turning to look at the younger woman.

"Technically?" she muttered, and the girl grimaced.

"Oh, bullocks" she answered, looking at the table with fresh eyes.

"Technically, you're going to pretend to eat this food and like it" came Draco's muted voice from behind them. Hermione raised her eyebrow at him, "Mother's been going on and on about this feast for days. If you don't eat it, you will literally break her heart"

"Fuck," muttered Hermione.

"Duck!" exclaimed the little voice below them, and Hermione jumped, looking back down at the blonde boy. Draco narrowed his eyes at her.

"Language, Granger. Little ears are about"

Harry was tugging on Teddy's hand, the metamorphamagus trying to pull loose and grab for the first piece of food he could get his hands on, hair wildly shifting between the different shades present, "Good luck with that, mate. How do you think Ted learned the word bite?"

Narcissa cleared her throat again, "There are place cards for each of you. Please, be seated"

Hermione walked stiffly around the table, relieved to find her seat next to Harry, who was seated next to Teddy, acting as a buffer between himself and Narcissa. Opposite her was Daphne, next to Astoria, with Scorpius seated between her and Draco. At the head of the table sat the Malfoy patriarch, back straight as he observed the party around the table. Narcissa tipped her head towards him.

"Lucius? Would you like to say grace?"

Hermione felt her eyebrows raise of their own accord, and she turned to look at Harry who shrugged in return. Grace was not a concept she associated with the wizarding world.

Apparently it was not a heavily practiced custom either, because Lucius looked decidedly more uncomfortable as he opened his hands to either side. Narcissa took one hand, and Draco the other, hands linking down the table on either side.

"We offer our humblest thanks for the bounties we have been given, and the family we are blessed to share them with. May we always have plenty to share, and always have family to share it with"

Hermione managed to control her snort at the colorless tone, before releasing Harry's hand. She eyed the food across the top of the table, trying to find something that might be edible for her. There were scant vegetables and starch plates, but just enough she could probably fake her way through the meal. Reaching for a platter with mashed potatoes, her hand stilled as the Malfoy matriarch called down to her.

"Hermione, dear, doesn't that roast just look divine?"

"Ah..uh...Yes. It sure does," she replied with false enthusiasm, meeting the older woman's earnest expression.

"Why don't you try some?" came Draco's amused interjection. Hermione took a deep breath in, letting it out through her nose.

"I was actually really looking forward to these mashed potatoes," she answered calmly, focusing every ounce of venom she could into the look she pinned on Draco. He smiled wanly at her, filling his own plate with venison. From the corner of her eye she could see the older woman's shoulders droop a little as she gave a faint sigh.


Hermione closed her eyes, taking another deep breath before moving her hand over to the roast, placing a small piece onto her own plate. As she speared it to with her fork, she lifted it in front of her face, muttering out of the side of her mouth at Harry, "Anything I want?"

"ANYTHING" came his desperate whisper back. She nodded subtly then, before shoving the meat past her lips, chewing on it mechanically. Daphne and Astoria bestowed her with twin looks of horror as she managed to masticate and swallow the meat, turning a falsely pleased look back at the older woman.

"That was delicious, Narcissa. You've really outdone yourself," she enthused, and the hostess beamed back at her.

"Oh, really, it was the house elves who did all the work," she answered with false modesty, failing to catch the hardening of the edges of Hermione's smile.

Harry pinched her leg under the table and she jumped a little, humming as she turned back to filling up her plate with non-meat items, "When I puke all over the floor later, you're going to have to clean it up"

He patted her knee, "I will have deserved it"

Dinner was filled with polite conversation, cordial discussions about current events, and gushing over the children present. Politics were completely avoided, and by the time they were done, Hermione had had two further glasses of wine, placing her directly into well lubricated and mildly tipsy zone. They retired back to the original room, while the dining room was cleared and resettled with dessert.

"Hermione, dear, why don't you place your gifts under the tree?" It was an order more than a suggestion, but she couldn't conjure up any objections, and it gave her a brief reprieve.

"I'll show you the way," offered Lucius, standing up, "I need to light the tree anyhow"

She raised a speculative eyebrow at him, but nodded and picked up their pile of gifts from the chair she'd left them on, following him down the hall. As she entered the living room the tree was in, she couldn't help but laugh out loud. Lucius gave her an affronted look and she shook her head.

"Do you do anything in halves?" she asked, amusement coloring her voice. He furrowed his brow at her and she gestured around at the room, "I'm fairly certain this room is bigger than my entire flat. And I'm pretty certain that tree is taller than the building I live in"

Lucius smirked at her, "Malfoys never do anything by halves. You either do it fully, or not at all"

She snorted again as she walked across the room, eyeing the beautifully decorated tree that stuck out into away from the wall, "That's a healthy attitude"

As she placed their gifts under the tree, she smiled as she realized the branches weren't real pine. The tree, was in fact, fake, though it was very cleverly disguised. Turning back towards the older Malfoy and shook her head, "Nothing in halves, indeed"

He gave her a curious look before, and pulled out his wand "Lucerna incendio"

She gasped, "Wait, don't!"

The blonde man turned to her confused, "Why ever not?"

"ACCIO GIFTS!" she shouted, as the first bough went up in flames. A small box bounced off her head, the rest of the gifts piling at their feet as the tree burst into a spectacular inferno.

"AUGAMENTI!" they shouted in unison. Water poured out of their wands, dousing the fire. Coughing at the smoke, Lucius muttered a spell to open the far window and Hermione conjured a wind to blow it outside.

"What in the sodding hell was that?" he demanded. Hermione coughed, turning accusing eyes on him.

"Don't tell me you didn't know your tree was a fake"

His eyebrows shot up to his hairline, "A fake?"

"Yes, as in not real. As in made out of paper and plastic," she snapped back at him, wiping soot off the collar of her dress.

"Well, how was I to know?" he growled back. She wrinkled her brow.

"I don't know, you bought it! You should know that it's not a REAL tree"

"I didn't buy it. The Ministry provided it"

Hermione gaped at him and then laughed, "Oh, beautiful. The Ministry bought you a fake tree, and you set it on fire"

Lucius grumbled, "I didn't intend to set it on fire"

"Which brings me to my next question, why the hell would you use candles on a tree? I can think of ten spells off the top of my head that would put lights on a tree that don't involve fire," she demanded. He gave her a withering look in return.

"Malfoys always use candles on their trees. It's tradition"

"Is it tradition for the Malfoys to burn down their ancestral home every year, too?" she drawled in return, and he narrowed his eyes further at her. She shook her head, looking over at the charcoal remains of the tree, a laugh suddenly breaking free of her lips.

"What?" he demanded, shoulders square.

"Oh my god, Narcissa" she giggled, pressing her fingers to her mouth as her shoulders shook, "She's going to have kittens. Literal kittens"

Lucius went completely still next to her, face suddenly frozen, before he shook his head sharply, "No"

Hermione raised her eyebrows at him, "No? I'm not sure if you've noticed this Lucius, but your tree is a smoldering crisp. I'm not sure you can hide this from her"

"We're going to get another one," he retorted shortly, turning to grab a spare cloak off a coat rack on the edge of the room.

"We're? I'm sorry, I'm not a party to this mess," she answered, before she tipped her head to the side and giggled again, "Oh! You're afraid of her!"

Lucius turned back, stalking over to her before reaching his hand out palm up, "Yes, I am. And you should consider that fact very, very carefully"

Hermione stopped abruptly, face becoming pale. Lucius's grim smile did nothing to assuage her anxiety, "But, I didn't do anything!"

"No, but you were here. You saw it happen. You are an accomplice to this disaster, and therefore are it's creator by proxy"

"Bollocks," she whimpered.

"Indeed" he answered. She looked down at his hand.

"What are we going to do?" she asked. He twitched his fingers impatiently.

"We're going to go find another tree. And we're going to bring it back and decorate it and no one is going to be the wiser"

"But...why do you need me?" she asked, still eyeing his hand warily.

"Because one of us needs to fly, and one of us needs to levitate the tree, and if rumors are to be believed you are not particularly adept at the former" he replied dryly. Hermione wrinkled her nose.


"Yes. On a broom. Like a normal witch and wizard"

"I don't fly"

Lucius grabbed her hand finally, impatiently dragging her behind him and out of the room, opposite the direction they'd originally come, "Tonight, you do"

Draco slipped in behind his wife, their child, her sister, and their good friend as the flash of the camera went off once more.

"So," he murmured from behind a trained smile,"funny story, true story"

Astoria smiled beguilingly for the camera, muttering out the side of her mouth, "We don't need funny stories tonight, Draco"

"Yes, well...The tree is a pile of ash, and my father and Granger are missing"

"What?" came Harry's equally panicked and muted response from beneath his own practiced smile, "What did your father do to Hermione?"

"Who says my Father did anything?"

"Smile, Draco!" cooed Narcissa, and the blonde replaced his carefully controlled expression.

"What are we going to do about this?" asked Daphne from behind closed lips.

"We wait. I'm sure they're fixing it as we speak"

"Oh, that one was just perfect!" exclaimed the Matriarch, eyes filling with tears as she looked at the paper in hand.

Hermione didn't think she was screaming, but she couldn't swear she wasn't, because all she could hear was her brain giving off a high pitched squealing sounds. Lucius had mounted his broom and gestured for her to get on behind him, and the only reason she could find to do so was that death by Narcissa guaranteed to be less pleasant than plummeting to the ground. Her fingers were knotted into his cloak, face pressed against his back as he flew quickly over their estate.

"This was such a dumb idea," she whispered, and she felt him chuckle beneath her.

"Coming to the house this evening, or getting on the broom with me?" he asked.

"Both," she whimpered, clamping her eyes shut.

"I don't quite understand your distaste for flying, Miss Granger. Especially for someone who so voraciously consumes all things magical"

"It's not natural," she answered, "You're hundreds of feet in the air with only a stick between your legs keeping you from falling to your doom"

He laughed out loud then, "There are safety charms on most brooms. They are designed to break your fall"

She stiffened, "There are?"

"Yes. They do interfere with performance, so some people choose to have them disabled, but most models have them available"

"I'm not so good with heights, either," she confessed, "When I look down I feel like I'm going to faint and vomit at the same time"

"So don't look down," he replied, and she scoffed at his back.

"And where else would I look?"

"Look up," he answered, as if it was the dumbest question anyone had ever asked.

"Even if I look up, I can still see the ground" she groused back.

"No. Look up, Miss Granger," his voice was a touch softer, and she disentangled herself from him, lifting her eyes up to look forward. She gasped as she took in the bright moon, casting it's light onto the frozen landscape below them, "Beautiful, isn't it?"

She nodded wordlessly, screaming in the next instant as he tilted the broom down, diving for the ground in the woods behind their home. Landing, she slapped his shoulder as she stepped off the side of the broom, dropping onto her knees and dry heaving on the ground.

"Oh, come now, it wasn't that bad"

She waved a hand at him, "Between the roast and the broom, my stomach has had just about as much as it can handle, thank you very much"

He raised an eyebrow at her again, "The roast? I thought the roast was quite good"

She pointed at herself, "Vegetarian. I haven't eaten meat in the better part of three years"

He scowled at her, "Well, then why did you tonight?"

She leveled a glare at him, "Narcissa"

His expression relaxed and he nodded, knowingly. Turning about, he trudged the snow, looking at the trees surrounding them. Hermione's teeth chattered as she struggled to catch up to him. He bestowed her with another slightly amused, slightly annoyed look, "Where is your cloak?"

She glared at him again, "Someone kidnapped me before I could grab it"

He huffed in irritation before removing his own cloak and sweeping it around her shoulders, tying it at her neck. She blinked at him, taken aback at the chivalrous gesture, "Don't be so surprised, Miss Granger. I'm not an irredeemable bastard. Now, let's find what we're looking for before you have to explain a burnt tree and my frozen body to my wife"

"She's getting antsy" hissed Daphne, and Astoria nodded agreeably, as if she'd just shared a pleasant secret with her sister.

"We don't know if they're back yet," she murmured back, tickling her son's sides, surreptitiously looking at her mother-in-law out of the corner of her eye.

"I don't think we can keep her distracted much longer," muttered Harry, charming a rocking horse to gallop around the two boys as if it were a real horse.

"Draco's giving me his desperate eyes. He's losing the battle," answered Tori, and Daphne grimaced.

"I think it's time for gifts, don't you all?" came Narcissa's voice over the hum of chatter. The four young adults shared an alarmed look, but it was Harry who recovered fastest, plastering on a fake smile.

"That sounds great. Let me just take Teddy to the bathroom real quick, and we can all go," he answered. The older woman smiled indulgently, nodded, and Harry picked up his godson, fleeing from the room.

"That looks," Hermione paused, "Almost perfect"

Lucius hummed in response, flicking his wand once more to settle the garland around the tree. Hermione levitated candles onto the boughs, settling them out and away from other branches. She smiled at their handiwork – the tree looked lovely, and it was near impossible to tell anything had happened.

Lucius nodded, "Lucerna..."

"WAIT!" she cried out, and he stopped immediately. She smiled weakly at him

"I just want to...I think..." she cleared her throat, "Accio squirrel"

He furrowed his brow at her, frowning at her spell, "Really?"

She rubbed her jaw, "It was a thing in a movie...I just wanted to make sure it didn't happen here"

"Lucerna incendio!"

The candles ignited in unison, bathing the room in a soft, warm glow and the two adults let out a sigh of relief. Hermione smiled at their handiwork, turning to share her appreciation with the older Malfoy. To her surprise, his own expression was softer, and he bestowed her with an respectful smile of his own.

"Well done, Mr. Malfoy" she teased, and he chuckled once more.

"Well done, Miss Granger," he returned, before eyeing her critically, "I think, however, we need to fix your outfit"

She frowned, "What's wrong with my outfit?"

He sighed, reaching out his hand to her again, which she took this time, "There's nothing wrong with it, so long as you don't mind soot, sap and pine needles"

She grimaced, "Know any good spells?"

"No, but I have it on good authority there are more dresses than a witch can wear in one lifetime in one of our rooms upstairs," he drawled at her, tucking her hand into his elbow. She chuckled as he guided her back out of the living room and upstairs.

Harry had tried every tactic he knew to draw out their bathroom adventure, but there was only so much time one could pretend to be potty training a toddler. Finally, he had to give up and return. He only hoped it was long enough for Hermione.

As he approached the receiving room, Narcissa intercepted him at the doorway, eyes and lips tight as she attempted to smile at him, "Everything alright?"

"Ah, yeah. You know how kids are," he answered lightly, scrubbing Teddy's head with his hand. The metamorphamagus gave a sound of wordless protest, and his hair flashed black. Harry winced a little, grabbing the tot's hand instead.

"Hmmm," was the only reply, before she swept out of the room, "Well, let's go open gifts, shall we?"

Daphne fell step beside him, and whispered, "Good thinking"

He felt his cheeks warm up as he murmured back, "Let's hope it was enough time"

She reached out, tucking her arm through his, "Even if it wasn't, you did what you could to help"

He turned his head and grinned at her support, sliding his fingers down to twine with hers, "Thanks"

The door to the living room swung open, and the family and guests all gasped at the sight. The 16 foot tree swept from floor to almost ceiling, adorned with multi-colored fairy lights and candles, wrapped in a golden garland from top to bottom. The gifts were stacked high beneath the lowest boughs, reflecting the twinkling lights off their gay wrappings. Fresh pine boughs lay over the fireplace, and hundreds of candles floated about the room, giving off a warm, inviting glow. Hermione turned from where she'd replaced the last gift, and opened her arms to catch little Teddy as he ran over.

"Careful, darling, those candles are real," she admonished, looking up to catch Lucius's eye with her own. He pressed his lips into a thin line, turning to receive his wife with a kiss on her cheek.

"Hermione, darling, did you change?" asked the older witch. Hermione cleared her throat, standing up again and smiling weakly.

"I had a small incident with a wine glass. Lucius graciously offered to let me borrow a dress. I hope you don't mind?" she asked, eyes opening wide with exaggerated sincerity. Narcissa pursed her lips as she looked the younger woman from head to toe, taking in the form fitting, off the shoulder ensemble that probably cost more than Hermione's annual salary. She gave her a crisp smile and a sharp shake of her head.

"Of course not. It looks absolutely divine on you," looking around she beckoned everyone over with the wave of an arm, "Let's get a picture in front of the tree before we open all these gifts"

Hermione tried to position herself at the edge of the group, but Narcissa moved them about until she was standing next to the matriarch, the older woman's arm around her shoulder. She plastered a smile on her lips, wishing the wine hadn't worn off sometime as they were levitating the tree through the window into the house. As the photographer fussed and set up his equipment, she became acutely aware of a faint cooing sound from behind her.

The tightened arm around her shoulder, and brittle smile she caught out of the corner of her eye, indicated she wasn't the only one. There was a fluttering noise from within the branches, and a repeat cooing sound. Hermione surreptitiously loosened her wand from it's holster, pointing back in the approximate direction of the noise, wordlessly casting a stupefy as the flash from the camera blinded her. A small thud on the ground behind them informed her that the spell met it's mark. Fingernails pressed into her deltoid sharply, before another picture was taken.

"Wine, Miss Granger?" came the baritone voice to her left. She nodded anxiously.

"For the love of Merlin, please"

"Astoria, dear, would you like to choose the first gift to give to one of these darling boys?" came Narcissa's caged suggestion. The younger sister smiled serenely, reaching under the tree to grab a green box, pulling it into her lap. Grasping the tag, she there was a slight tick between her brows, before she passed it on to Lucius.

"I think that one's yours," she said calmly, grabbing another gift slightly further away. Hermione furrowed her brow, looking over at Lucius's rigid posture. He covertly tilted the label towards her and she snorted into her glass at the crisped brown edges, obscuring the name on the gift. Harry slapped her on the back as she coughed, and she shook her head in his direction.

The rest of the evening had gone quietly, if perhaps a bit strained. Hermione smiled at Harry as he gathered his godson and their gifts up, the toddler beginning to fuss as he realized they were going to leave. Daphne was chatting away animatedly beside him, assisting in the gathering process, and Harry kept bestowing her with slightly dazed grins.

"I don't know what happened tonight, Granger, but thank you"

Hermione raised her eyebrows, turning to face Draco, "I don't know what you're talking about"

He narrowed his eyes at her, "I saw the tree. Or, should I say the charcoal pile where the tree once was"

She winced, "Ah. Yes. That tree"

He gave her a wan smile, "Yes, well, whatever you did to fix it. Thank you. Mother would have been a mess"

She smiled back, reaching over the pat his arm just as Scorpius toddled up, brand new toy dragon in hand. Leaning down she caught his attention, squeezing the plush, "Wow, what a scary dragon! What are you going to call him?"

Scorpius grinned at her, waving the toy around, before exclaiming proudly, "Fuck!"

Draco made a wordless sound of distress, and Hermione cleared her throat, standing quickly, "Harry, time to go!"