"We love them, that's why we put up with this insanity year after year, right?" Ginny asked him, eyeing the area where the karaoke machine was set up; her husband and his wife were preparing to sing for the second time that night.
They'd placed themselves intentionally close to the bowl of eggnog and Draco also had a flask of firewhiskey in his pocket that he was using to further doctor their drinks. After one more glass he might be able to start forgetting that his living room looked like Father Christmas's toy shop had exploded inside of it.
"That's what I keep telling myself," he agreed.
He and the witch beside him had been forced together often enough over the years because they'd married people who were best friends, but they hadn't truly formed their own friendship until they bonded over the annual holiday shenanigans inflicted upon them by their aforementioned spouses.
It was impossible to say who loved Christmas more, Harry or Hermione. Individually they were each passionate, but combined their enthusiasm was like trying to survive a tornado of holiday cheer. Every year he and Ginny hunkered down in the metaphorical cellar to ride it out together.
Through the days it took to string muggle Christmas lights on each of their houses (no magic, that's cheating!) Through the baking extravaganzas that left their kitchens unfit to feed their own families. Through the seemingly endless caroling, and worse, the non-stop Christmas music; there was no escaping that, it was everywhere. And then, as each of their children was indoctrinated in turn, they had only each other to commiserate with.
On that cheerful thought Ron approached them with a plate piled so high with food that Draco was sure he was using magic to keep it steady. He rolled his eyes. His wife's other best friend was so predictable.
"I think they're getting better," Weasley smirked, gesturing in the direction of his two best friends just as they began a rendition of 'Rocking Around the Christmas Tree.'
Ron's sarcastic cheerfulness was just obnoxious. Unfortunately, he'd promised his wife years ago that he would behave himself around anyone whose last name was 'Weasley.' He really would have enjoyed delivering a good hex right about now.
Because they were not getting better and the ugly redhead knew it. If anything they were getting worse, as with each passing year their routines became more elaborate. While Hermione could hold a tune on her own, Draco was convinced Potter was actually tone deaf. But, worse than that, together they somehow managed to be so grating that even their unparalleled amount of enthusiasm couldn't make up for it. And this was coming from a man who was deeply in love with one of the people in question.
Ginny drained her glass and extended her hand for his flask. He pulled it out and gave it to her, he'd stopped trying to be discreet an hour ago. She poured herself another drink and this time she didn't bother to add eggnog. At this rate he was going to have to sneak off to his study for more firewhiskey.
Ron seemed unfazed by their lack of reaction to his teasing. He just continued to watch his friends with a funny little smile on his face; their dynamic was odd at this time of year. This was Harry and Hermione's time, almost even to the exclusion of their spouses. They didn't ignore Ron, but they didn't exactly include him either. It was a far cry from the way the three of them were usually joined at the hip.
However, Weasley never said anything about it or acted slighted. And Draco had figured out years ago that he accepted this annual temporary exile from the trio as his silent penance for a time he'd not been there when they needed him. It was the maturity with which the other wizard handled this that had finally earned him Draco's respect.
"I've never seen jumpers like those before, where did 'Mione get them?" he asked suddenly.
Draco snorted, "you think I asked? The less I know about those revolting things the better. She offered me the one Potter's wearing, I politely refused, and that was that,"
They were awful eye watering numbers that actually had Christmas lights sewn into them which blinked at random intervals.
"Oh Draco, she knew you were never going to wear that in a million years. She was just being polite. Normally, if you're going to wear matching outfits you do it with your spouse," Ginny explained condescendingly.
"Normally? There's nothing normal about matching outfits," he retorted, "Except for maybe on small children, and my wife and your husband, apparently," he said, eyeing the two blinking figures bouncing around on the small stage across the room.
"Maybe we should just swap spouses for the month of December," she suggested.
Ron made a strangled sound and Draco turned to look at her, smirking.
"I like you Gin, you're my favorite redhead after Lily, but I don't like you that much."
She pulled a face, "I didn't mean it like that. We could just stick them in one house, leave them to their craziness, that way you and I don't have to live in this," she gestured around her to the ode to Christmas decorations which was usually his home, "we'd go through less firewhiskey that way."
"Yeah, I'll let you be the one to suggest that," he said drily.
It's not that he thought for a moment that she was serious anyway. Over the years she had become one of, if not his closest, friends and he knew she slept no better alone than he did. As if in confirmation she rolled her eyes in his direction.
They were all quiet as the song finally, blessedly, came to an end.
"At least Hermione looks cute, Harry looks ridiculous," Ginny observed eventually, tilting her head this way and that, as if to study them from every angle.
She had a point. While there was no amount of beauty that could redeem those terrible jumpers, the shiny red bow Hermione had perched on top of her head was rather cute, and the short skirt she was wearing showed off her pretty legs. She looked like a perfect package just waiting to be unwrapped.
That was a thought. Maybe if he pointed that out to her she'd let him rip the jumper off. For authenticity's sake, of course.
She jumped down off of the short stage, looking much more like a little girl than the feared and respected witch that she was as she did so. She looked around the room and when she finally caught his eye she sent him an absolutely beaming smile. He winked at her in return. He knew she'd make her way over to him with time, but it would take her awhile.
The party guests mostly consisted of her and Harry's coworkers from the Ministry, where he was Deputy Head of the DMLE and she was Head Undersecretary to the Minister. Despite being in different departments for much of their tenures, they'd risen through the ranks together and had many friends in common.
And while it may have been held in his house every year, Draco was under no illusions, this was their party. Both well respected, even adored at work, they were generally the epitome of professionalism and so their coworkers enjoyed watching them let their hair down this time of year. This was not a party people begrudgingly attended out of obligation, they had fun, Hermione would not be able to cross the room without being stopped many times.
When she did finally reach him, she had Potter alongside her. By then Ron had an entirely new plate of food, he and Ginny had finished off the firewhiskey, and the party was winding down. She threw her arms around his waist and went up on her tiptoes to kiss him deeply.
"You two are disgusting," Weasley groused good naturedly, mouth full of mini-quiche.
"I was just thinking the same thing about you, Ronald," she spun in his arms to glare at her friend playfully, "where's your wife?"
"No clue, I'm here for the food, she's here to people watch, she scampered off with Parvati as soon as we got here," he shrugged, clearly unconcerned.
Weasley and his wife, Lavender, had the strangest relationship, they seemed to be rarely together and while Draco didn't understand how that worked, they seemed happy, so he figured to each his own. And frankly, the less he saw of the nosy woman the better.
Hermione turned back to him, cocking one eyebrow in a knowing expression.
"You and Gin finish your stash of firewhiskey yet?" she asked innocently.
His eyebrows shot up in surprise, surprise that only increased when she reached into that hideous jumper and pulled out another flask. It was quickly snatched out of her hand by Ginny.
"You hid a flask of liquor in your bra? Didn't know you had it in you 'Mione," she wiggled her eyebrows.
Draco froze, hands on Hermione's hips, suddenly finding himself very interested in the kind of lingerie she could be wearing to make that feat possible, especially because now that he thought about it he hadn't seen her get dressed.
"I was just being a thoughtful wife," Hermione answered primly.
"Merlin, was our performance that bad?" Harry asked as he watched Ginny pour herself a healthy serving.
She patted him on the chest condescendingly, "I love you, you are a good husband, a wonderful father, and an extraordinary auror. But you are a terrible singer and a worse dancer, and those jumpers are giving me a headache."
Harry made a face of exaggerated offense.
"Maybe it's all the liquor," said Hermione wryly.
Ginny shrugged and took a sip.
"You knew about that?" Draco asked his wife, tilting his head to indicate the flask Ginny had now given to her husband.
"Nothing happens in this house that I don't know about," she grinned impishly at him."
She hung onto him after that and let the guests come to them to take their leave. There was no shortage of them, especially because they were standing with the Potters amd nobody wanted to miss saying goodbye to both hosts, but despite the many asinine conversations he was forced to partake in, the party was exponentially better with Hermione's arms wrapped around his waist.
Just short of midnight the last of them bid their final farewells. Perhaps it was by coincidence, but he suspected it was due to a charm his clever wife had cast to get them all out right in time. Because they had someplace to be.
As she did every year Lavender was visibly affronted to be left out of their late night plans, and made no attempt to hide it. But her husband understood and was merely apologetic and wistful. Finally, with a last flurry of hugs and cheek kisses, some genuine, some less so, they had departed and the two couples were left alone.
"Go bundle up, love," Draco murmured to his wife, she just nodded and scurried off.
He'd kept his own outerwear in easy distance and simply summoned it without any worry of disturbing Hermione's precious decorations. The Potters had been smart enough to do the same. By the time Hermione rushed back into the room- she'd regrettably shed the adorable bow in favor of a more sensible hat- they were all ready to go. Hermione took Draco's arm, Harry took Ginny's, and they apparated to the place they'd all visited each Christmas Eve for more than a decade.
The two couples appeared side by side at the edge of the village and wordlessly made their way towards the church in the distance. Always sleepy, now that it was after midnight the town was completely silent. The only sound was four sets of boots crunching in the snow as they walked along.
It was a muggle village. The street lamps were electric and cars lined the streets, but it was also a place steeped in magical history. Both light and dark, the aura of it lingered and made the place feel quite different to your average muggle enclave, at least to the four magic wielders winding their way through the streets, it was cloaked with an air of veneration.
They arrived at their destination and automatically paused. Hermione went up on her toes and gave Draco a kiss on his cheek; out of the corner of his eye he could see Ginny doing the same to Harry. Then she released his arm and walked over to take Harry's and Ginny came over and looped hers through his. They made their way through the kissing gates, the two members of the Golden Trio in the lead.
When they reached the familiar gravestone Harry and Hermione sunk to the ground in concert while he and Ginny stood behind them like sentinels. They would certainly ensure that no harm came to them. As usual, Hermione spoke first.
"Happy Christmas Lily and James!" she greeted cheerfully, "It's been a really good year. James and Adhara have officially started dating, I know they're only third years, but we all knew it was coming, I have a feeling we'll all officially be family in a few years. Not that we aren't already family," she babbled, "but you know what I mean."
She chuckled and traced the letters of their names with her glove encased fingers, never letting go of Harry with her other hand, "She really made him work for it though, Draco was proud, I think you'd both appreciate her fire. Minerva swears she sees the pair of you in them. Of course, Leo keeps our James in check more than I can ever imagine Sirius doing with you James, though I guess he has a vested interest, considering Adhara's his twin. I know Minerva was concerned when they came to Hogwarts that she'd be facing something of a combined reiteration of the Marauders and the Golden Trio, but they're mostly good kids."
She sighed wistfully.
"Caelum and Albus, on the other hand, I think they've gotten more use out of your map since September than their siblings have in two and a half years. Albus is a Slytherin, if you can believe that, but I think it suits him, and I mean that in the best way. He's a quiet, clever boy with a mischievous streak a mile wide," she smirked fondly and took a deep breath.
"I would bet the combined Black/Malfoy vaults on you having another Gryffindor in Lily, though, I was at the Manor when Gin dropped them off to spend the night with my kids, and the child actually threw herself at Lucius. He caught her too, he's got nearly as big of a soft spot for her as he does Adhara; says he admires her 'shear nerve.'"
Draco had to bite back a laugh at his wife's spot on impression of his father.
"Harry's going to be made Head of the DMLE, he won't tell you that though, he's convinced it's just because he's the Chosen One. I mean it's not like he's ever done anything except save us all and then dedicate his life to public service," she scoffed sarcastically, and again he had to suppress a chuckle.
It was a long standing argument between the friends, Harry could be obnoxiously self deprecating and Hermione wouldn't stand for it. Ginny squeezed Draco's arm and he glanced over to see that she too looked faintly amused at what boiled down to Hermione's taunting of her best friend in front of his parents.
"As for your daughter in law, as you know she is a brilliant quidditch reporter, and before that a player. She's thinking of writing a book on the history of the sport. Which she should absolutely do," she looked back and gave the woman in question a not-so-subtle glare, "because even I'm interested, so it's sure to be a best-seller."
She took a deep breath and released it on a huff.
"Merlin, I can't believe it's been twenty years since Harry and I were first here," she bowed her head and Draco sucked in a breath, he'd forgotten- Merlin, twenty years!
"That was the worst night of my life," she continued painfully, "I don't know if I've ever told you that. But I don't know how I would have found the strength to go on without him," she swallowed thickly, her tortured expression was clear, even covered by a scarf and hat, "he's still here though, we survived, and that's what makes Christmas feel like a miracle every year."
There was a long pause as she visibly fought back her tears, at least enough so that she could speak clearly.
"On top of my children of course," she let out a brittle laugh, "and your grandchildren as well, I feel so blessed to have such a wonderful extended family. I'm sorry you aren't here to see it," she paused and then, as always, she said in a reverent whisper: "thank you for your son."
She glanced at Harry and silently passed the baton. He reached out and carefully wiped the tears from her face before turning back to the place his parents had been laid to rest.
"Hello, Mum, Dad. Hermione and I really rocked the karaoke tonight, just ask Gin and Draco. They pretend they don't love it, but they do," he turned his head to the side and gave them a slight smirk.
Draco decided that, for once, he'd ignore the other man's poor attempt at a joke.
"I'm sorry to say that I didn't even realize it had been twenty years since the first time we were here until Hermione said so; she's always been better about keeping up with these things. I'm sure you know that by now."
He sighed heavily.
"She summed things up pretty well, things are good. Things are better than good. I never thought I would get here. Twenty years ago I would have thought it was much more likely that I just would just go to sleep and not wake up, that was my luck," he ducked his head, "Actually, I'm ashamed to say that I think I almost hoped for it, it would have been easier than the alternative."
Hermione's sob cut through the tense silence, Harry reached out and wrapped an arm around her, drawing her fully against him, but he was undeterred.
"But then I woke up that Christmas morning and I realized that if I had died, I would have left Hermione all alone, and I couldn't do that," he looked at her fondly and then back at the gravestone, "I know you helped me before, that I only survived because of you, and I don't remember that night but I'm sure you were there then too, with both of us. So thank you, I love you both."
Draco closed his eyes against the force of emotion these words which he didn't think had been ever spoken aloud stoked. Ginny huddled closer to him and he unhooked their arms to lay his companionably across her shoulders. She patted his abdomen in appreciation. This was the heart of it all.
Her Christmas madness had been a bone of contention between he and Hermione for years at the beginning of their relationship. She would flit about with her holiday excitement, remaining MIA from their relationship for most of December, and then she'd disappear completely with Potter for hours during the very early morning every Christmas Eve. And he would stew.
In the second year of their relationship her behavior, or more precisely, her inability to explain it, had almost broken them up. But in the end he couldn't bear to let her go, even if he only got her eleven months out of twelve.
But then, on their third Christmas together, just weeks before their wedding, and when Ginny and Harry had still been very-newlyweds, she'd dragged him through the floo to their house in the early morning hours of Christmas Eve without explanation. The other couple had been waiting for them. She'd then simply given Harry a nod, grabbed his arm, and for the first time they'd apparated to the outskirts of Godric's Hollow. And that was the night he really began to understand the stories she'd told him about their time on the run.
He knew, of course, about that night during the war when they'd come to Godric's Hollow. Knew they'd unwittingly arrived on Christmas Eve. Knew that they'd visited his parents grave for the first time. He even knew that Harry had very nearly died at the fangs of that awful snake, and that they'd escaped the Dark Lord with mere seconds to spare and only one wand between them intact.
He'd just never really absorbed what it meant. The most famous orphan in their world had only gotten to visit his parents final resting place for the first time in the middle of a manhunt, disguised as another person. That the love of his life had spent the last hours of Christmas Eve and the early hours of Christmas morning 1997 tending to her best friend and praying to every god there was that he wouldn't die and leave her.
He had ached at the thought when it hit home that they had been utterly alone in the world for months. He knew something about that, but nothing really, in comparison. They'd had the whole of their world after them, and were so isolated that they hadn't even realized that Christmas was coming.
They were all each other had and it was as terrible as it was beautiful. Both rejected, abandoned, shunted to the side by the muggle world, magical society, their housemates, even their best friend. And yet they'd endured.
And when he thought about that he had finally understood how Potter had done the impossible.
Hermione had loved him through it.
With her indomitable spirit and impossibly big heart at his side he'd defeated the greatest evil their world had ever known. When he hadn't had any strength left she'd lent it to him. For somebody who'd learned the power that her love held first hand, somebody who had also been saved by it, it wasn't hard for him to understand, once he saw the evidence.
But he was humbled to realize how close everything almost came to an end, once again, on one cold night in Godric's Hollow.
Thankfully Harry and Hermione had been luckier than his parents. But that Christmas had still been lonely and desperate. And when he'd considered that, suddenly the holiday shenanigans made sense.
Harry and Hermione understood each other so well, at some point they'd come to an unspoken agreement that they would never experience a Christmas like that again. If they overcompensated, they could hardly be blamed. And the only way they'd known how to explain it to the people they'd chosen to spend their lives with was to bring them back to the scene of the crime, so to speak.
Ginny had understood too, and from then on they'd had their own unspoken agreement and become a team of their own. They were the supporting cast for their beloved ones, but also, in many ways he and Ginny were cut from the same cloth. They were proud, they didn't just fold. They couldn't simply accept the blatantly absurd things their spouses did year after year (this year they'd started a gingerbread house building competition, his own parents-the traitors- had been two of the judges.) They were both too stubborn to openly encourage their ridiculous behavior. And frankly, as much they understood, neither of them were keen to actually participate either.
So they rolled their eyes, and drank firewhiskey, and avoided holiday themed attire. But they never said a word against it, not really. They even graciously sacrificed their combined six children to the cause.
But in the early hours of Christmas Eve every year they dropped all pretense, and returned to Godric's Hollow in utter solemnity to remember and to give thanks.
"Happy Christmas, Harry," he heard his wife whisper.
"Happy Christmas, Hermione," he said in return.
The world was peaceful and safe around them.
All was well.