Once again I left it far too long... I'm so, so sorry to all the fans of this story that continue to stick with it! I hope this chapter is all you hope it will be! This isn't the end by the way, there's a bit more to come :D
Thanks to everyone who reviewed, I love you all (: Special thanks to my amazing beta Evenstar101 without whom this story would be full of mistakes!
Also, I would like to thank everyone who sticks with this story, and understands that I can't spit out chapters overnight :) Enjoy!
Chapter 18: The Perfect Start to Christmas
Part 1: A Simple Scene
"Oi, 'Mione, this letter came for you this morning," Ron called from over by the Christmas tree before he thrust a letter sealed with the Zabini crest to her. It soared through the air like a paper aeroplane and she caught it deftly.
Hermione shifted in her seat at the dining table and set down the copy of the Prophet she was reading. She glanced over to Draco, who cocked his head at her as he held Teddy over his head so the little boy could put the star on the top of the tree. She smiled at him – at the sight of him and his cousin together in the house she had always been happy in.
"I wrote to Blaise and Maria to see if she was all right," she explained. She looked down as Victoire tugged on her long-sleeved red jumper.
"'Aunt 'Mione, can I have that one?" she said, pointing to a blue crystal decoration on the table.
She and Fleur were in charge of handing out decorations to the kids, but since Fleur and Ginny had gone to concoct some (highly alcoholic) mulled wine from all the wine they could find in the kitchen and some oranges, she was left alone in the room with Ron, Draco, Teddy, Victoire and Bill, who was sat in the corner, listening to the radio and surveying everyone decorating the tree.
"Ah ah ah, trouble, what d'you say to your Aunt 'Mione?" Bill said, looking up from twiddling the dials on the old radio, trying to rid the airwaves of Celestina Warbeck's latest hit.
"Can I have that one, please, Aunt 'Mione?" the little girl said with an angelic smile. Hermione picked her up and put her on her lap.
"Why don't you choose one to take to Teddy as well?" she asked, looking at Victoire, who grinned up at her. She eventually picked an identical crystal for Teddy, except in green, and Hermione handed Victoire to Ron, who grinned at her and took her over to Draco so Victoire could hand the decoration to Teddy, who was throwing tinsel everywhere.
Even though the scene was simple - two alpha males (and ex-enemies) with children on their shoulders helping to decorate a Christmas tree – it made Hermione feel a warm rush of love towards them all.
She decided at that moment that if any family she had in her life was half as happy and loving as the Weasley's, she would die a happy woman.
Part 2: Progress and a Reply
Thanks for your letter; I really thought I was coming down with something! I'd be lying if I said I was fine but I think with this kind of illness you get worse before you get better.
I'm so glad Draco and you are to spend Christmas together! We can definitely meet with you this week. How about the day before Christmas Eve, two days from now? Send your reply ASAP. Blaise and I actually have some news for you two, but you'll have to wait!
Lots of love,
Hermione laid down the letter and Draco picked it up. Hermione sipped some of the industrial-strength mulled wine Fleur and Ginny had made hours earlier.
"Oh good, can we go and see them that day?" Draco said, replacing the letter in the envelope and sitting back in the sofa beside Hermione.
They were strangely alone in the room (strangely since there were about three hundred people in the house at all times) and they were sat close together on the squishy sofa in front of the fire. The proximity should have made Hermione feel nervous but she felt oddly at ease in his company and in the sleepy room with their lazy conversation and comfortable silences.
"We've got nothing else to do apart from potter around the house; we might as well go out for a few drinks. You don't have to ask my permission you know," she said with a good-natured smile.
"I know," Draco said quickly. "I was just wondering if you had anything planned."
Hermione murmured a sleepy 'no' before she shifted deeper into the sofa and rested her head on Draco's hard chest, under his arm, which was draped across the back of their joint seat. She closed her eyes and listening to his steady heartbeat, almost fell asleep with him there on the sofa.
"What do you think Blaise and Maria have to tell us?" she asked, mainly to keep herself awake.
"I dunno. Knowing Blaise they probably smuggled something back from their honeymoon and the authorities have picked up on it so he wants us to hide it for a while," Draco said, sounding just as sleepy as she must have. Hermione gave a weak laugh.
Fortunately for them, the Zabini's news was far happier.
Part 3: Responsible AND fun
"...so Blaise said to this magic carpet seller; 'you must be joking if you think we're paying that for this old flea-bitten rag' and the salesman said something in Arabic and we found out later that he had put some kind of ancient curse on him that would have made his eyes fall out within three days. We had to go to some gypsy type woman to get it taken off!" Maria finished.
Everyone at the table for four laughed and Maria smiled as she sipped her fizzy non-alcoholic wine.
"Honestly, I can't take him anywhere," she added to Hermione, who giggled.
"I can look back and laugh now but at the time I was shitting a brick" Blaise said in his casual, surprisingly down-to-earth manner. Draco grinned at him.
They had eaten a few hours ago and had ordered their last drinks (which were sitting in the middle of the table, untouched) before the restaurant closed.
"So..." Hermione said as the laughter died away and Blaise and Maria smiled at each other in a lovey-dovey newlywed way.
"You said you had some news for us?" Hermione finished.
Blaise and Maria shared another look but this time it was more nervous. Blaise put one arm around his wife and the other on her knee.
"I don't know how to tell you guys..." Maria started.
"Maria's pregnant," Blaise stated bluntly but with a grin.
Hermione squealed in delight and hugged Maria over the table, almost upsetting the drinks in the process and Draco stood up to give Blaise a macho clap on the shoulder, which turned into a slightly less macho hug.
Once they had all sat down again, all smiling, Hermione sipped her drink, and automatically leaned backwards towards Draco, as she had whenever they had been alone the past few days. Draco enveloped her into his arms automatically from where he lay casually against the back of the booth and kissed her head before they realised their mistake of P.D.A. from the shock in Blaise's expression and the knowing smirk playing on Maria's lips. Hermione made to remove herself quickly from his arms but Maria held up a hand.
"Hold it, lovebirds. You can be off-duty around us; we know what you're like," she said, winking. Draco relaxed but Hermione didn't.
"What if one of the cameramen is around?" she fretted.
"Cool your beans, they aren't. You realise we haven't finished giving you our news yet?" Blaise said with a smile in her direction. It was Maria's turn to look nervous.
"Blaise, what if-?" she started.
"Maria and I would be honoured if you pair of dysfunctional lovebirds would be the Godparents," Blaise said, cutting her off. Hermione and Draco looked at each other.
"Really?" Hermione asked curiously: Maria had loads of girlfriends she was sure should come before Hermione on the 'godmother for the first born child' list.
"Well, my friends are okay and everything but I want someone responsible and fun to be a role model to our child. Plus, I really like you now and I know you better and you have done so many wonderful things, I can't think of anyone I'd like to influence the baby more," Maria said, reaching over the table to take Hermione's hand.
"And I chose you because if the kid is a boy then we can take him out to get drunk when he's eighteen," Blaise shrugged at Draco, who grinned.
"I think I speak for both of us when I say we'd be absolutely honoured," Draco said, taking Hermione's hand in both of his and smiling at her.
Maria and Blaise beamed.
Part 4: Poison A L'orange
"I still can't believe it," Hermione said the next day – Christmas Eve.
"Neither can I," Draco said lazily without looking up from the paper. They were sat in the living room again; alone save for Fleur, who was hovering around the room.
Draco didn't have to ask what Hermione was on about – she had been talking about it ever since the day before. He didn't mind; he thought it was sweet.
"When did she say she was due?" she asked.
"She didn't," Draco said, smiling at her over the top of the paper. Hermione looked sheepish – she had asked that question at least twice.
"There you are. We've been looking everywhere for you two!" a voice said.
"Everywhere except the main room in the house, obviously Ron," Hermione said, artfully sticking silvery stringy stuff to one wall and attaching it to the other so it hung decoratively in an arc in the corner.
"Yeah well, anyway, me and Ron are having a lads night tonight in Ron's room – he's recorded the last season of the Quidditch and we've got a few crates of that Elf beer stuff that we like...we were wondering if Draco wanted to join us?" Harry said. Hermione almost fell off the chair she was stood on and whipped around to look at Draco, who was gripping the paper with slack hands.
"Erm, yeah, course. I'd pay good money to see Warren miss that goal again," Draco replied with a nervous laugh that didn't fit his calm face.
"Luckily for you it's free, give us a hand with this booze will you?" Ron replied with a glance at Hermione, as if for approval. She smiled at him and he returned it in his crooked way. Draco looked between the two of them with a small smile.
"Yep, you two need a real man to get this beer upstairs," Draco said, flexing his muscles. Harry laughed.
"You wish, Malfoy. We Gryffindors don't need any help in the strength department," he said, kissing his biceps. Hermione laughed as they left the room.
"Thank god they've gone, come quick please, 'Ermione," Fleur said, taking Hermione's hand to help her off the chair. She led a bemused Hermione to the downstairs bathroom, where Ginny was sat in front of the toilet, coughing and spluttering and holding her long hair back.
"I told you not to drink that lethal booze you made," Hermione tutted, turning to walk away. "It tasted like poison a l'orange!" she added.
"I didn't even have any!" Ginny moaned as Fleur tied her hair back in a long ponytail and Hermione handed her a towel.
"Well then what's causing this?" she asked as Fleur straightened up, apparently counting something on her fingers. Ginny shrugged and looked up at Fleur.
"Aha!" Fleur said with an amused smile.
"Aha?" Ginny and Hermione repeated curiously.
"When did you stop using contraception?" Fleur asked. Something clicked in Hermione's brain. Ginny grinned curiously.
"About a month before the wedding, so about... I dunno, two and a half months ago? Maybe a bit more... you don't think I'm pregnant do you?" Ginny replied, as is not daring to believe it.
"I think it's a definite possibility," Hermione said, beaming at her. She wondered what the press would say if they found out that both Ginny and Maria were pregnant just over a month after both their weddings. They'd almost certainly put it down as a friendly competition.
"Really?" Ginny asked, looking more bright-eyed at the second, as if two opinions were more accurate than one. Fleur looked at Ginny as she helped her to her feet.
"Does your back ache? Body more tender than usual? Boobs sore?" Fleur asked. Ginny rubbed the small of her back curiously.
"Now that you come to mention it..." Ginny said, positively beaming.
Fleur bent down and opened one of the drawers in the bathroom cabinet, which was full of lotions and potions, mainly in a variety of shades of pink, indicating they were probably women's things. She dug her hand to the back and retrieved a large violently pink bottle with half the amount of liquid left. She passed it to a bemused Hermione while she rearranged the other bottles in the drawer.
"That's a pregnancy test from Georges shop!" Ginny said immediately and Hermione passed it to her. Ginny scanned the label quickly and unscrewed the cap. Hermione summoned a spoon from the kitchen with an idle flick of her hand and Ginny poured herself out a teaspoon of the thick, pink liquid. She grinned quickly at Fleur and Hermione and drank the potion.
Part 5: Congratulations!
"What should happen?" Hermione asked Fleur. Ginny looked up too, obviously never having tried her brother's pregnancy test potion before.
"Well usually it takes four to five minutes and then you'll hear a voice... just wait, it's not as bad as it sounds," Fleur said quickly, when Ginny looked slightly scared.
"I have to say, thank god for magic – you wouldn't believe what muggle women have to do to find out whether they're pregnant or not," Hermione said with a wry smile.
"Why? What do they have to-" an anxious Ginny began before Fleur shushed her.
"Listen!" she said, leaning closer to Ginny. Hermione leaned in too and a tiny voice sounded from Ginny's stomach, apparently clearing its voice.
"Are you listening yet?" the high-pitched voice asked impatiently.
"Yes!" Chorused the girls.
"About bloody time too!" the voice said. Ginny laughed silently.
"It's Fred's voice! They must have somehow recorded it and made it higher!" she laughed and the two other women grinned too.
"Fred really was clever, he never got enough recognition," Hermione said softly.
"I never noticed it was his voice before!" Fleur whispered, as if afraid the voice would hear her.
"Right, are you ready?" the voice piped up.
"Yep," Ginny whispered.
"Congratulations, you're pregnant!" the voice said happily. Ginny looked up at Fleur and Hermione ecstatically.
Meanwhile, Draco arrived back downstairs and wandered through to the kitchen hoping to find Hermione. Mrs Weasley was humming cheerily under her breath as she decorated the kitchen with live fairies and mistletoe.
"Oh hello Draco dear, you gave me a start!" she said once she caught sight of Draco.
"Sorry Mrs Weasley, I was only looking for Hermione," he said, stooping to pick up a piece of mistletoe that had fallen down.
"That all right dear, I think she's in the downstairs toilet with Ginny and Fleur. Just along there" She said brightly, pointing down the short hallway to a door at the end. "I do hope they aren't trying to make a new brand of makeup again. Ginny and Angelina tried it last year after they'd drunk too much mulled wine." Mrs Weasley said, sounding put-out but smiling.
"I hope so too, they're probably decorating it though," Draco said with what he knew to be his most charming smile as he wandered down the hall. As he reached the door it burst open and out came the smiling faces of the three women.
"Don't tell anyone, I'll announce it tomorrow as a Christmas present!' Ginny was saying, looking flustered but elated.
"Of course, oh hello Draco" Hermione replied, turning her smile on him. Draco grinned down at her and stepped towards her.
"I hope you weren't making any more of that alcohol, it was horrific," Draco said to Fleur and Ginny over Hermione's head.
"Oh no, much better," Fleur said mysteriously as she and Ginny walked past Draco and Hermione, who grinned after them in the same mysterious way.
"What's happened?" Draco asked.
"Nothing much, you'll find out tomorrow," Hermione said with the same cheeky grin.
"DINNER!" Mrs Weasley bellowed for all the house to hear, before Draco could question Hermione any further.
Part 6: The Perfect Start to Christmas
"Come on then Malfoy, this beer waits for no man," Ron said, excusing himself from the table and dropping his and Harry's plate in the sink.
"Thank you very much Mrs Weasley, that was delicious." Draco said with a courteous smile. He waved his wand to clean the plate and cutlery and put the clean articles on the counter.
"No problem dears, don't get too drunk!" Mrs Weasley called after the three men as she collected everyone else's plates.
"Goodbye everyone, see you tomorrow!" Bill said from the middle of the room where he was holding Fleur's hand in one hand and Victoire's in the other.
"OK loves; see you bright and early tomorrow morning!" Mrs Weasley called. With that they went outside and with a small pop Disapparated.
"I'm sleeping in your room tonight," Ginny said to Hermione as they were washing up later, in a way that allowed no arguments. "I don't want Harry coming in and waking me up at three in the morning." she said, still looking happy from her good news earlier.
"All right," Hermione said, glad for the company. "We'll watch some films shall we?" she added.
"Yep." Ginny said as they stowed their wands away and traipsed upstairs, bidding everyone goodnight.
Five hours later, after three soppy love-films, Hermione yawned and Ginny rolled over in her camp bed.
"Shall we call it a night? It's one o clock already and we're going to have a long day tomorrow," Hermione mumbled as Ginny turned off the old TV.
"Mmm, Ok. Night 'Mione." Ginny replied, sounding just as drowsy.
"Night Gin." Hermione replied. About half an hour later, while Hermione was wondering why she couldn't sleep, Hermione heard the door creak gently open. No light flooded into the dark room – no lights were on in the hallway apparently.
"'Mione?" A voice whispered so gently it could have been the wind.
Hermione sat up in bed as the door drifted gently closed as stared around the pitch black room, wondering whether she'd been blindfolded.
"Draco?" Hermione asked softly.
Ginny stirred, unbeknownst to Hermione, and woke up, sensing noise, however faint. She lay there in the dark, completely silently and waited for more noise.
"I'm over here, Draco." Hermione whispered.
There was a stumbling, a small crash and then the creaking of bedsprings to signal that Draco had found Hermione's bed.
"Shh! Don't wake Ginny for god's sake. What are you doing in here? Are you drunk?" Hermione hissed, lifting up the quilt and allowing Draco to climb under the covers with her.
"No, I'm not drunk. I just wanted to see you for a bit." Draco said softly. Ginny bit her tongue to stop herself saying 'aw!' thinking that it would be a slight giveaway to the fact that she wasn't asleep.
"That's very sweet and all, but-" Hermione mumbled.
"Shh." Draco said simply, slipping an arm around her and guiding her head to his chest, where she lay quite contentedly. There was complete silence for a while, in which Draco sleepily stroked her hair and Hermione drifted in and out of sleeping. Ginny wondered if they had gone to sleep and wondered if she should do the same before she heard something, so quiet and soft it could have been her imagination.
"Hermione?" Draco asked, quiet as the gentle breeze outside.
"Yeah?" Hermione said drowsily but just as quietly.
"I do love you, you know." Draco said, sounding completely sober. Ginny grinned as widely as possible into the night, and waited for Hermione to answer him.
"Come on Hermione, come on... just say it..." Ginny thought as strongly as possible, crossing her fingers.
"I love you too, Draco." Hermione replied softly, kissing Draco gently, and it was all Ginny could do to stop herself from punching the air and cheering as an ecstatic Draco kissed Hermione and returned to his own room, beaming.
A/N: I hope you liked it! Please review, there's more to come and I'd love to hear your thoughts :D