AN: My Christmas gift for all of the ladies at Twin Exchange and various other Fred/Hermione fans; especially Amy, Lana, Emily, Vette, Kara, Jack, Sica, Shannon, Lara, CJ and Jessica. Sincere apologies to anyone I forgot to name. It doesn't mean I love you any less.
Hermione sighed, staring out the window at the flakes of snow drifting down towards the ground. Her breath fogged the pane and she drew her finger through it until a face smiled back at her. Unfortunately the faintly dripping smile merely reminded her of the reason behind her melancholy mood.
There was a jaunty Christmas carol playing on the wireless, and her children sat behind her, fiddling with the presents they'd been allowed to open on Christmas Eve, the remaining gifts waiting under the nearby tree for morning. The fire was crackling, sending its warmth and a gentle glow across the room. It all seemed surreal.
Outside the snow seemed to be coming heavier if that was at all possible. It already lay high enough on the ground to bury her young son. Much too deep for even an adult to walk through. Too deep for Fred.
And there it was again; the thought that made her feel so distant from the happy holidays atmosphere of the room. The day was all planned and she had so looked forward to enjoying it.
Fred would get in early in the morning, almost certainly bearing last minute gifts for her and the kids in the most hideous wrapping paper he could find. She'd rewrap the kids' gifts, if only to hide the toys poking out of gaping holes in the paper. Hers she would leave as is. She didn't marry him for being fastidiousness after all.
Breakfast would be a drawn out affair involving plates of eggs, bacon, pancakes, sausages, fruit and toast. She'd read the Prophet and do her best to ignore the food fight between her children and how her husband encouraged it.
They would go to the Burrow where lunch would already be waiting, the food light to leave room for an early dinner. The whole house would smell of roast turkey and fresh pine. Ron would hide from the ever persistent mistletoe while his brothers teased him over his single status. Meanwhile, Ginny would summon the sprig towards her as often as possible to force Harry into one of those public displays of affection he was still uncomfortable with in front of her parents.
Arthur would sit by the fire to read a story that only the youngest children and most sentimental adults would listen to. And then there would be presents. Presents piled so high under the tree that they pushed the lowest branches upward. Presents hanging out of individual stockings for each member of the extended family. Presents on the mantle and in the corner on the floor. Presents summoned from bedrooms and closets when the time came for them to be exchanged.
They would don homemade sweaters and trade chocolate frog cards, surrounded by a sea of wrapping paper and ribbon. Hot chocolate and cider would pass around, and the adults would talk and reminisce while their children fought over new toys and yanked candy canes from the tree.
Finally they would return home, cheeks rosy from the winter air and the laughter brought on by Fred's tales of his childhood as they walked through their front yard to be greeted by the singing wreath at the door.
Both Jaden and Alissa would fuss all the way to their bedrooms, then fall asleep as soon as they were tucked in, their faces smiling and content. She and Fred would cuddle on the arm chair in the sitting room by the fire while he told her all about his trip and she filled him in on Alissa's skinned knee and Jaden's first incident of accidental magic. They might be knackered and fall asleep there together to be woken in the morning by the sound of presents being torn open. Or they might stay awake, retiring to their bedroom to make love, then enjoy a warm shower together before curling against each other beneath the heavy comforter she'd pulled out if the hall closet while he was away.
But none of that had happened. Instead she woke in the morning to a report on the wireless about an atmospheric charm gone wrong, dumping over two feet of snow over the entire British Isles. She'd attempted to floo work to find out what was going on, but no amount of powder would work, no matter how clearly she stated her intended destination.
By the time her children were up, she'd learned over the wireless that the floo network had been flooded until the entire network went down, leaving some witches and wizards tumbling out of unfamiliar grates mid-travel. For the first time since they'd purchased their home, Hermione regretted having the wards so far out. The entire community was guarded against apparition, and with the snow still falling, there was no way in or out.
She did her best to keep things cheery for the children. They had a nice big breakfast, and she even allowed them to have hot chocolate in the morning. It went against her rule of no sweets before lunch, but she needed to see their happy faces after their downtrodden expressions when they learned that daddy wouldn't be home. She assured them that Santa would find him wherever he was, and that he'd soon be home. They accepted her reassurances well enough, but his absence was still palpable.
By the time dinner rolled around, a hodgepodge meal of leftovers and the few things she could find in the pantry, they were complaining vocally. She played and told them stories, but it didn't compare to the evening with cousins that they'd been promised.
She finally summoned a gift for each of them, feeling a bit guilty that Fred wasn't there to see their reactions though she knew it was what he'd want her to do. The junior Quidditch set for Jaden and the plush owl for Alissa did wonders to cheer them up and keep them occupied, which left her alone to her thoughts and the smiley face drawn on the window.
Hermione twisted her wand to reheat the cup of tea she couldn't seem to finish. On the wireless, Millicent Turstran was crooning about a goblin who gave her money to buy a child a present. The song ended, the DJ commenting on the preposterousness of a goblin giving away money. Celestina Warbeck came on, singing about being with her love on Christmas Day. Out on the lawn, Hermione saw a flash of red.
She jumped, cup of tea falling to spill on the cushioned windowsill. She squinted, staring out to make out anything in the swirling mass of white. There was another flash; a figure briefly visible. She rubbed her eyes in disbelief until the light flashed again.
Both Jaden and Alissa started up as she ran past them, yanking open the front door. Cold wind blew around her, carrying snowflakes to the entryway floor. She held her wand high, its light shining its brightest, and in the distance she could see him.
Fred was struggling forward, his wand flashing with quick bursts of flame to help him work his way closer. He caught sight of her and smiled, waving to let her know he was okay. He'd be with her soon.
It seemed an eternity before he finally reached her, covered with snow and soaked through. Hermione pulled him to her in a desperate embrace, their children charging to grab hold of each of his legs. He laughed with more cheer than she could have managed and she finally let him go to pull him inside. While he walked, one child still clinging to each leg, she set the kettle to boil and cast warming and drying charms on him.
"Thanks, love," he murmured, looking at her fondly.
"I can't believe you're here," she whispered, leaning over to kiss him gently. "I'm so glad you are."
"How'd you get here, Daddy?!" Jaden asked excitedly.
"Yeah!" Alissa cheered, eager to hear his story. "Mummy said everyone in England was stuck and that only Santa could travel today." Her eyes grew wide. "You're not Santa, are you?"
Fred laughed, ruffling her hair. "Nope. I'm afraid not."
He grinned at Hermione, his eyes sparkling. "It was incredible! First I tried to Apparate as close as I could, but this charm in the air made it complicated so I was a bit far off. Then I found these muggles, it was a man and his two kids and they were playing in the snow in the middle of nowhere. I think it was a park but it was hard to tell. So I asked the guy how they'd gotten there and he told me he had a... What was it called? A snopla!"
"A snopla?" Hermione interrupted.
"Yeah!" He turned to Jaden and Alissa who were staring up, wide-eyed. "You should have seen it. It was like a car, only bigger and with more lights, and on the front there was this big piece of metal, like a shield, and it just pushed the snow right out of the way."
Hermione smiled, delighting in her husband's enthusiasm. "Oh, a snowplow."
"That's it! So I told him I had to get home to my little boy and my two favorite girls. Those muggles are so nice. He called his kids over and said he'd give me a ride as far as he could. It took forever but eventually we got to Graden. I'll tell you that old wall down there never looked so good. The snowpla got stuck on Cherry Road, but I told the guy I'd walk from there. He thought I was crazy, but there was no way I could come so close and not make it home."
Hermione gave him another kiss, pressing her cheek against his. "Well I'm glad you're a bit crazy. We missed you, you know."
"Oh yeah?" He grinned, rubbing his slight stubble along her jaw. "Well I'm here now."
Pulling back from her, Fred sat forward, rubbing his hands together eagerly. "Now that I'm here, it's time for some fun!"
Both Jaden and Alissa cheered, running for the living room with their father close behind. Hermione watched them with a contented smile while she pulled the kettle from the stove and made a cup of tea for her husband.
In the morning they'd gather together to open their gifts and have another big breakfast. By the afternoon the atmospheric charm would be taken care of and they'd travel to the Burrow for lunch and dinner. The kids would play, Jaden and Alissa telling the adventurous tale of their fathers return home, while the adults tried to sort fact from fiction in Fred's retelling. They'd all sing and dance, and exchange their piles of gifts, everything being a day late no longer mattering.
Or perhaps nothing would go as she planned again and she'd be forced to improvise once more. Either way she'd be happy now that she had Fred back at her side and her family felt whole.
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