A/N: We're aware that Christmas is over, but... if we don't post this now, we never will. :D This fic was written all the way back in... well... several years ago, anyway, and we put it up on our LJ before as a gift to our dear friend, zarah. Just a bit of fluff and humor and us clinging to Christmas before school starts again. And, a little disclaimer, we don't own anything, not even Santa Claus.
The snow fell softly on the people walking along the streets of London. Draco Malfoy swore- softly, of course, so as not to irritate his wife too much. "I still don't understand why you volunteered for this," he huffed, stuffing his hands into his pockets in an attempt to warm them. "If you were so keen to help out in the name of the Christmas spirit, some Quidditch teams are looking for help for their Christmas drive."
Hermione Malfoy snorted. "What, and hold up their mistletoe while they kiss every female willing to pay three knuts?"
"At least they're generating money. And they're doing it in the Wizarding World, not in the fu- f-frigid Muggle world," Draco corrected himself hastily. "Not that frigid is bad. Frigid is much better than boiling hot, of course. I'd rather be frozen to death than burned in a fire, wouldn't you? After all-"
"Look Draco, you didn't have to come!" Hermione stopped and turned to him, annoyance clear on her face. "I told you you didn't have to come, but you insisted. Since you're here, the least you could do is not complain!"
Draco opened his mouth- perhaps to tell Hermione that he was only coming with her to make sure no lonely Muggle threw himself at her- but instead just said "fine" and stomped the rest of the short walk to the orphanage.
His spirits didn't improve when they entered the rather shoddy building. It was warm, and maybe even cozy, albeit its poor appearance, but it was filled with children. And not just any children- poor Muggle children without parents, without family. It was a bit too much for the Malfoy who was used to much higher standards of living. He found that he pitied the orphans, and that pity did nothing to lighten his mood.
"Hermione!" Some kids ran up to them and pulled Hermione into a room, leaving Draco standing foolishly in the hallway. Never mind. He'd rather not be in with the children anyway. He might end up getting too attached. Or something.
Draco found a chair and sat down, looking at his surroundings. Suddenly he felt glad that Hermione was helping out with the orphanage. He was aware that quite a bit of her earnings went into this and several other charities. He felt a surge of pride, knowing he had married an exceptional woman.
Almost twenty minutes passed by, with Draco shuffling his feet and tapping his fingers restlessly. He wanted to see what Hermione was up to, but at the same time he was afraid to disturb whatever they were doing. After all, he didn't want to make any kid cry. It made him uncomfortable.
A door opened- the same door Hermione entered. A woman poked her head out, looked around, then smiled at Draco. "Mr. Malfoy?" she asked.
"Hermione told me to tell you to come inside," the girl said. "She said you might be a bit bored out here."
Draco gave a sigh of relief. The thought that Hermione had forgotten him had crossed his mind more than a few times. He stood up and let the woman lead him into the room. Hermione was sitting at the front of the room, and in front of her were about twenty children, apparently hanging on to her every word. A piece of paper and a Muggle ballpen were resting on her lap. Hermione grinned at him as he took a seat in the back, being quiet, so the kids wouldn't be disturbed.
"What do you want from Santa, Jonathan?" Hermione asked a dark-haired boy.
"A bicycle," Jonathan answered shyly, looking down at his shoes. "If it's not too much trouble for Santa and his elves."
As Hermione wrote on her piece of paper, Draco sat up straighter. Who was this Santa? He sounded faintly familiar… perhaps he had heard other Muggleborns mention him before? And why was he going to give Jonathan a bicycle? Hermione took pride in being one of the largest donors to the orphanage, but unless she gave the children everything they wanted, it seemed Santa was going to out-do her.
"Amanda, what about you?" Hermione turned to a girl of about seven. "Anything you want this Christmas?"
"A dollhouse," she replied without hesitation. "It has to be big enough to fit my dolls, and Cindy's dolls too. It needs six bedrooms at least, and a guest room. Everything has to be pink."
"Okay, everything has to be pink," Hermione echoed, writing it all down. "Samantha, what do you want from Santa Claus?"
Draco listened raptly as the rest of the children gave their requests. Santa seemed to be a really rich, if he was going to afford a guitar, several toy cars, a couple of books, some dolls, a bicycle, a dollhouse, and a lot more.
"Okay, I'll send this to Santa right away," Hermione folded the paper once all the kids had had their turn. "Who wants to tie the letter to the owl?"
Draco looked, and sure enough, there was Hedwig, waiting patiently to deliver the message to Santa. Hmm, it seems Santa is a wizard.
In the end, the oldest boy, Richard, tied the letter to Hedwig's leg, and the youngest girl, Amy, gave Hedwig some birdseed before letting her fly into the snow. "Now that that's done, would you guys like a Christmas story?"
"'Twas the Night Before Christmas!" some children chorused. "Read that one!"
"All right. But you guys have to read with me." Hermione handed out a couple of books. "Everyone, please share! Does everyone have a book?"
"Do you want to share?" Draco looked down and found Jonathan pulling at his sleeve.
"Oh, well-" he floundered, not used to dealing with kids. "I suppose so." He moved to sit on the floor just as Jonathan tried to climb on his lap. After several trials, a comfortable position was achieved, and Hermione began the reading.
"Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there."
Draco read the book with fascination. So St. Nicholas- or Santa Claus- was a man who went around at Christmas time, leaving presents under the Christmas tree or in stockings. Hmmm. Why hadn't anyone told him about Santa before?
After the story came dinner time. All the children lined up dutifully before entering the dining room, and Draco picked a spot beside Jonathan. He was getting rather fond of the kid, actually. "Jonathan, what can you tell me about Santa Claus?" he whispered in a conspirational manner.
"Santa Claus, or St Nicholas, comes around at Christmas and gives gifts to everyone who's been a good girl or boy. He doesn't give presents if you've been bad. He has a sleigh pulled by reindeer, and Rudolph is his favorite. Rudolph has a red nose, he uses it to see when it's foggy. Santa lives in the North Pole, he has a lot of elves to help him make toys."
"Incredible," Draco breathed.
"Hermione says Santa is married to Mrs. Claus, but Jeffrey says he's married to the tooth fairy," Jonathan added in an undertone. "I don't think he is. I think he's married to Mrs. Claus."
"Tooth fairy?" Draco asked quizzically.
"Yeah! You know, the one who turns teeth into money? When you lose a tooth and place it under your pillow, the tooth fairy turns it into money."
Draco could feel himself getting excited. Free gifts at Christmas, from someone he didn't even know? Free money just by losing a tooth? What other generous beings had he never heard of?
After dinner another volunteer led the kids back into the other room for singing Christmas carols. Draco listened with rapt attention to the various songs, such as Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, and Frosty the Snowman. Ideas were forming in his head, and he almost didn't notice that he and Hermione were standing under mistletoe. Almost.
The next morning Draco was awake early, and Hermione found him at the breakfast table, scribbling furiously onto some parchment.
"What have you got there?" she asked, kissing his cheek. He scrambled to hide the paper from her.
"Nothing. Say, has Hedwig come back from the North Pole yet?"
Hermione laughed. "No, not yet. Why? Do you need her?"
"Yeah, a bit. It's not that important." Draco stuffed the paper into his pocket. "I've given the house elves the day off."
"What?" his wife was astonished. "You gave them the day off?"
"Yeah, I gave them each a Galleon and told them to go shopping. Why? Did you need them?"
"No, not at all…" Hermione frowned. "Draco, are you feeling all right?"
"Those children must have been a good influence on you," she said decidedly. "We should spend more time there."
"Sure, why not?" Draco grinned to himself. That would be another good deed to make sure his name was on the 'nice' list of Santa Claus. "We can take them all out for ice cream or something. Or come to think of it, since it's winter, maybe we'll take them all out for tea."
Hermione was startled at the change in her husband. "Right… so, when do you want to go?"
"Oh, any time you're free. I've actually decided to take Potty- I mean, Potter and Weasley up on their offer to go to that Quidditch drive I was talking about."
"You're going to spend time with Harry and Ron on purpose? Voluntarily?" Hermione didn't get it. Why was Draco acting so nice?
"Surprised?" Draco smirked. He stood up and, to surprise Hermione even more, proceeded to wash his own plate. Granted, he almost dropped it twice, but it was the fact that Draco Malfoy was actually washing his plate and coffee mug that astounded Hermione. The orphanage must have had a bigger effect on him than she imagined. The thought crossed her mind- he couldn't be insane, could he?
Draco gave his wife a long kiss before walking up to their bedroom, where he prepared for his day out with Potter and Weasley. Normally he didn't care two knuts for either of them, but it was Christmas. And because it was Christmas, Santa would be checking his list extra carefully.
Hermione went on her Christmas shopping, consulting the list Hedwig had brought her the night before. The bike, the dolls, were pretty easy, but the doll house and several other items proved to be challenging. It was half past three when she arrived back at Malfoy Manor, loaded with packages.
"Draco? Are you back yet?"
She found him sitting on their bed, an incredible frown on his face. "Draco, what's wrong?"
He glared mutinously at the wall in front of him, wishing it were Potter's face. The Quidditch Christmas drive hadn't been too bad at first, he and Potter and Weasley had been put in charge of registration and it was pretty smooth sailing. And then there was a Quidditch game, so the three boys had signed up for it. It's not often one gets to play against the Quidditch greats, such as Viktor Krum, who was the guest of the Christmas drive. Did Draco get to be Seeker? Of course not. Potter was Seeker. Draco was given the Beater position. It irritated Draco to no end that Potter got to play the position he was good at, and everyone was commenting on how brilliantly he played, while Draco had to be a Beater and, having had no practice, he knew he hadn't played too well.
"What happened, Draco?" Hermione sat down beside him, taking his hand. "What?"
You better watch out, you better not cry… Draco swallowed hard and forced a smile onto his face. "Nothing's wrong, Hermione. I'm fine." You better not pout, I'm telling you why.
He didn't look fine. A second ago he was wearing a terrible frown, the next second he was smiling painfully. It didn't look right at all. But Hermione knew better than to question Draco on matters like that. When he wanted to tell her, he would. In the meantime, she would find out from Harry and Ron.
The next two weeks leading up to Christmas were some of the best, although strangest, weeks of Hermione's life. Draco seemed determined to be on his best behavior, and although he teased her, they didn't fight at all. It was almost eerie. He made an effort to get along with Harry and Ron, and she even caught him hanging up three stockings, even though there were only two of them in the house.
"Draco, why are you hanging up three stockings?"
He jumped nervously. "Ah… nothing… why?"
"There are only two of us."
"Right. But… but… what's wrong with three?" he asked, thinking, Santa might give us more presents if we have more than two stockings. "It looks better than two."
"Leave it up then," Hermione said, smiling faintly at him before walking out of the living room and into the kitchen.
Merlin, what if Draco wanted children? Had the trip to the orphanage affected him so much? She simply wasn't ready for children, she wasn't ready for the hardships of pregnancy. Hermione loved her job and was having the time of her life, surely kids could wait two or more years? She and Draco had been married for less than a year, this was their first Christmas together.
But if he wanted children… was that why he was making an effort to be nice to Harry and Ron? To get on her good graces? Why he gave the house elves days off to go Christmas shopping, and visited the orphanage with her even without her asking? Was that why he hung up a third stocking?
Hermione felt a pang of worry. She didn't want to tell Draco that she wasn't ready for a baby, but she knew she would have to.
Christmas Eve found Draco humming to himself as he set out some cookies on a plate. Chocolate chip? Plain butter cookies? Oatmeal with raisins? Shortbread? Draco had no idea which one Santa would want, so he set them all out, along with a glass of milk. And some brandy, in case Santa wanted something a bit stronger than milk.
He adjusted the bucket labeled 'Reindeer food' at the foot of the table where he had set Santa's cookies. He wasn't sure what reindeers ate, exactly, but there had been a sack of it at the Magical Menagerie. He had cleaned the chimney two days ago, and had even placed a rug for Santa to wipe his feet on in front of the fireplace.
He turned around and saw Hermione standing in her nightgown, looking ready for bed. "Draco, what are you doing?"
He grinned at her. "Nothing, nothing. You go to bed, I'll be there in a few minutes."
Hermione looked nervous about something. She took a step forward, clutching her bathrobe. "Draco we need to talk. I… I don't think I'm ready."
"Ready? Hermione, no need to be ready. I've taken care of everything."
"Yeah! See, there are the cookies, and the milk." He didn't mention the brandy. "Rudolph has some food there, and the chimney is clean, the mice are all quiet- a simple sleeping draught in strategically placed pieces of cheese did the trick-"
"Draco, we haven't got any mice."
"Really? Well, anyway, not a creature is stirring, not even the house elves."
Hermione stared at him in confusion. "You know, now might be a good time to talk about what's going on."
"Nothing's going on, Hermione. I'm preparing for Santa. You must have done this so many times. I hope my Christmas list got to the North Pole in time. I included some things I thought you might like."
Hermione looked from Draco to the plate of cookies to the stockings, and back again to Draco. "You really believe in Santa," she said slowly, as everything fell into place. "That night at the orphanage, you heard us talking about Santa. And you believe it."
"Of course I do! You don't?" It was Draco's turn to stare at her. "You were the one talking about it at the orphanage."
Hermione closed her eyes and massaged her temples. "Draco, it's a story. It's for children. How the heck would Santa get around the world in one night?"
"Time turner," he replied promptly. "And his reindeer are like the Knight Bus, they can travel really fast in a short amount of time."
He had obviously thought about this a lot. Hermione scratched her head. "Draco, Santa's not real. He doesn't live in the North Pole, he doesn't have elves to help him with his toys, he doesn't have a reindeer-drawn sleigh. He's made up, sort of."
"There was a man before who used to give gifts to children, and that's where the story of Santa Claus started. But it's not real, Draco."
"But what about the orphans? They'll be expecting their gifts."
"I already sent them to the orphanage. The children will get them when they wake up."
"You said Hedwig hadn't returned from the North Pole!"
"I thought you were joking!"
Draco was shocked. Santa Claus wasn't real? "So the tooth fairy isn't real either?"
"No, Draco, sorry. She's not."
"Why would anyone make up such a stupid story?"
"The parents made up the whole 'naughty-or-nice' thing to make the children behave better. It works, doesn't it?"
Draco flushed. He had been nice to Potty and Weasley for nothing. He had been so nice, so well behaved, so un-Draco-like the past weeks, and it was all for nothing. He stared stupidly at the plate of cookies. "So… what did you think I was up to?"
It was Hermione's turn to blush. "I uhm, thoughtyouwantedkids."
"What?" Now Draco looked amused. "You thought I was hinting at children?"
"Well you put up three stockings!" she said defensively.
Draco sighed, feeling dejected. "Everything I've done, all for nothing. And I won't even get any of the things I asked for."
Hermione, for all she found Draco's Christmas experience hilarious, felt sorry for him. "Come on now, Draco, you're sure to get something from me tonight." She walked over to him and kissed him. "Thanks for being so great these past weeks. But maybe now we can be back to normal?"
"Of course," he replied, returning her kiss. He lowered his voice suggestively. "I can be naughty too, you know."
Hermione took his hand, about to lead him to the bedroom, but he stopped her. "Why do we need the bedroom?" he asked, pulling her closer. "The couch here looks just fine."
And, he thought, as he pulled her onto the couch with him, if Santa does come, he'll get the surprise of his life.