Befanas in every shape and size hung around the hotel room making this holiday in Rome look to Hannah's eyes more like Halloween than Christmas. Big and small witches dressed in black flew broomsticks across orange moons on their way to deliver presents for Christmas. Brown ropes of chestnuts hung between traditional old crones sporting warty noses and young buxom witches riding sidesaddle to show off shapely legs. Neville loved them all and had bought one for each of his friends. The Roman tradition of witches giving presents to Muggle children at Christmas was too precious for him to ignore. He thought the myth brilliant and another reason for loving the wizard community in Italy.
"I have an idea," he said to Hannah as he lifted her hair to kiss her on the back of her neck. "Let's play the Befana ourselves. Let's find some poor Muggle kids and sneak them some gifts for Epiphany," he whispered. The breath from his words was warm against her neck and flowed down her back. "Wouldn't that be fun? We can even give them Christmas stockings to mix a little Father Christmas in with the tradition." He was practically vibrating with happiness at the idea. She could feel that against her back too, waves of happy energy against her spine.
"Yes let's give out Christmas Stockings," Hannah said as she bent to roll a stocking up her leg. "Let's do that, so all the local wizards have to do to find the violators of the Statue of Secrecy is search out the pair of British wizards in town."
The local wizard community hid their activities behind the guise of anonymous donors. No one actually delivered presents directly anymore. They had not for over a century for fear of revealing their community's existence.
"Probably but, who cares? Who will want to prosecute two war heroes for giving Muggle children Christmas presents."
Hannah glanced over to check the bottles of wine open on the table. Neville must have really drunk a lot if he was willing to joke about being a war hero.
He kissed her shoulder on the black lace of her bra strap. "You're looking very Hufflepuff tonight. Golden hair, black lace, white skin, very Hufflepuff and very beautiful, I like it," he said, slipping the shoulder strap back to kiss the skin beneath. "Tell me you wouldn't enjoy using magic to give a bunch of kids gifts. What's magic for if not to give pleasure,"
"What indeed?" she answered as he began to kiss the side of her neck.
She concentrated on the kissing and not the easy mention of children. Her last miscarriage had come just days after Ginny had delivered her baby, Lily. Previous losses had left Hannah unsurprised by the disappointment or the timing. The night following the failure Neville had walked into her hospital room with a sad face and a calendar insisting that they needed a break from attempts at babies. He made a deal with her that they would give up trying to have kids for awhile and concentrate on just having fun. They would go back to using contraceptive spells for two years to give her body a rest. He'd even marked the date on the calendar when they'd start to try for babies again, drawing a big red happy face on the box marked baby day.
The idea had angered her at first, as he'd probably expected from the look of trepidation on his face when he broached the subject, but he'd prevailed in the end with the argument that a hiatus would help her have the baby she wanted. As hard as it was she had agreed. He'd looked so sweet when he'd asked, bashful and guilty carrying a calendar that featured one of his own plants on the cover in an attempt to cheer her even if only with a picture of an orchid he'd named for her.
With or without children they had to remember to be happy, Neville had told her and Hannah had known he was right, but she still had negotiated his two year wait down to eighteen months. He in turn had demanded trips abroad at every Hogwarts term holiday "for fun." His idea had been a good one because from the moment she had agreed to his terms she had begun to relax. She'd even teased him about claiming the calendar portrait for his own when the only title the caption gave for the flower was orchid from Longwood garden.
"I can recognize my own plant," he'd complained with some testiness. "Believe me this one is mine. My orchids are a feature in the Longwood greenhouses." She'd apologized profusely for doubting his word. He'd been quite adorable in his annoyance then as he was adorable now, plotting to subvert the Statute of Secrecy by showering children with toys.
She stepped into her dress as he explained how easy it would be to buy gifts with Muggle money and then shrink the gifts small enough to fit into a handbag. When they made their deliveries they would return the gifts to normal size and leave them behind.
"You'd be a lovely Befana," he said as he zipped up the back of her dress.
She looked toward a pretty young buxom Befana whose costume showed quite a lot of bosom. "Shall I dress the part?"
"Only for me, later."
aaa aaa aaa aaa aaa aaa aaa aaa aaa aaa aaa aaa aaa aaa aaa
On the morning of January sixth, she and Neville stood in the Pantheon feeling happy and satisfied. School would begin at Hogwarts in a few days and their sojourn in Rome was coming to an end. They had celebrated their last night grandly. The newspapers had reported "the miracle" -- an anonymous donor had played the Befana and had in the night delivered Christmas Stockings and presents to children in every hospital across the city. Even some private homes claimed the experience. No one had caught the gift bearers at their work prompting the newspapers to speculate that cooperative hospital and apartment maintenance staff must have been behind the feat.
Hannah watched snow sift down in ethereal columns from the oculus in the roof of the Pantheon -- a second miracle, snow on Epiphany in this usually warm city. "Did you do this?" she asked Neville as she watched the flakes float down to the temple floor.
"No," he whispered back. "This is natural. Some beauties don't need magic to be." He lifted up her hand and kissed it.
This was pure beauty and she was watching it. As the snow swirled through the temple, Hannah felt that someone somewhere must have been pleased with their act. Despite all her losses Hannah felt perfectly content.