A/N: Love to reviewers and Countess Black,
I know, I know, it's late. Mea culpa.
Spoiler A/N at the bottom.
Recently, Major Richard 'Dick' Winters, of 'Band of Brothers' fame, passed away at age 93. This chapter is dedicated, with enormous gratitude, to him.
Hermione smiled and tugged her shawl tighter, bent over the letter she was writing.
'Dear Molly and Ginny,
I enjoyed your visit yesterday very much. Please give me affection to everyone at the Burrow, and know that you're welcome any time. Enclosed is a baby cap for Bill and Fleur's soon to be new arrival.
It had been a really good visit, she thought. They'd kept things light, and at the end, Molly had hugged her gently. 'You'll always be a part of our family.' It had helped to hear that, but it had hurt as well.
She set down her quill and called for an elf to come and seal the letter. The air smelt like spiced wine and pudding-it was Christmas Eve, and the house was tingling with excitement.
Draco poked his head through the door. 'Hello, love.'
'Hello.' She stood and walked toward him. He noticed with pride the almost imperceptible bump at her stomach, only visible because she was wearing just a dress, with no robes over.
'Thanking Molly and Ginny for coming.'
'And you had a good time? They were nice to you?'
'Draco, it's the Weasleys. Of course they were.'
He wasn't so sure, but Draco also wasn't going to risk the relative domestic felicity they'd been enjoying in order to argue about such tiresome, dead common people. He knelt down and stroked her belly instead. 'Hello, my darling. It's almost Christmas. Are you very excited?' He rubbed lightly at the place where his child floated in the wet darkness of Hermione's belly.
'I finished Father's lap robe this morning. I've had to shoo Crooks off twice, so I'll venture it was a success as far as that end of things.'
Draco snorted. 'Precisely so. I swear, Father and that cat cabal against me.'
'I thought that was Mother and I.'
'It is that, too. Everyone picks on me, you know. It's dreadful.' Draco pulled a tragic face, and Hermione rolled her eyes and decided to adjust his attitude by flicking him lightly on the ear.
Draco gasped, outraged, and caught her hand for kisses. 'Ow! You've wounded me!'
'You had a pixie on you, I was just getting it off.'
'A pixie? In winter?'
'He was wearing a tiny little coat and hat.'
'I see. Perhaps I ought to make sure there aren't any on you, then. For the baby's sake.' He picked her up and carried her into the bedchamber, laying her on the bed and climbing up.
Hermione wondered what Draco was up to, until he bent over her and took her head lightly in her hands, turning it this way and that. 'Oh, there's one' he said, and kissed the spot.
'And another.' He kissed lower. Things would probably have got interesting had an elf not popped in, looking apologetic. 'Master and Madam, dinner is being served.'
Draco sighed. 'Can't you see my wife has an acute pixie infestation, elf?'
Hermione gasped. 'Draco! Thank you, Linky, we'll be right down.' She gave Draco a poke in the ribs, which prompted him, sighing regretfully, to climb off.
Donning her robes, Hermione walked down with Draco, chatting about their plans for the holidays.
'...And I've made Eudamia a pair of warm socks. She says her feet are always cold. Do you think that house needs the heating charms reworked?'
'I'll ask, love. Perhaps she's forgot to get it done lately.'
Lucius and Narcissa were waiting for them, soup course on the table. 'There you are.'
Lucius took in the dishevelled look of both children generally and raised an eyebrow at his son.
'We were working on correspondence' said Draco, as he pushed Hermione's chair back in. Lucius raised an eyebrow.
'Yes, of course you were.'
Hermione ignored it and turned to Narcissa. 'I was thinking duck for this evening , and then the lamb tomorrow on Christmas itself?'
'I agree. I've had the elves get my grandmother's recipe for trifle, which is our traditional Christmas dessert.'
'My Dad's making some of his quaking pudding, too, and bringing some other things for tonight. I thought everyone might like to try some muggle sweets, so they've got some for everyone to taste.'
Everyone nodded, and the subjected drifted to other things. That night, in bed, Lucius and Narcissa were resting quietly, Narcissa working on a number puzzle and Lucius reading the paper, grumbling about the contents.
'So' he said after a few moments 'the muggles.'
'It shan't be so bad.'
Narcissa nodded. 'Five. Yes, they're probably perfectly nice.'
'They raised a very sweet child.'
'Do you suppose they're as repressed as she is?'
'Oh, probably. Did you know the Ministry wants to levy a 4% tax on imported unicorn hair?'
'Shan't go through.'
'I agree. Oh, well, that's what one gets when one permits idiots like Stagthorpe to get beyond their competence.'
'Mmm. Do you think we shall have to choke down much of the muggle food?'
'We can order the elves to drop it if it's bad enough.'
'Quite. If you're through with that article, love...'
Lucius threw aside the rest of the paper. 'I've already read the comics anyhow.'
The Granger were quite used to the elves by now. Dressed well, and holding an overnight bag, they waited by the fireplace, a casserole dish of pudding in one hand and bags of sweets from Asda in the other.
'Do you suppose the parents will be as plummy as he is?'
'He got it from somewhere, Cyril.'
'Yes, of course. But I mean, do you suppose they'll all be doing it at us? That sort of Victorian Masterpiece Theatre thing?'
'The other boy's parents didn't.'
'They also don't own a bloody castle.'
'That's true.' Annemarie gave her husband a kiss on the cheek. 'We'll have fun.'
'She's a good girl, Anne, isn't she?'
The elf appeared. 'Master, Mistress is being ready?'
Hermione grinned as her parents appeared in the hall. 'Mum! Dad!' An elf appeared to take the casserole dish to the kitchens, where Lirry was ranting about the impropriety of human made food.
'Hello, darling. You looked lovely.' She did, too, in a dark green velvet, a silver net in her hair.
'You, too, Mum. You brought everything. And it isn't even sugar-free!'
'It is a special occasion. And we also brought some dental supplies, so it balances.' Dad set down the first Asda bag and held out the second, which was full of dental floss and toothpaste.
Draco came in and embraced both his in-laws, who could never quite get used to it. He took a step back and said 'Please, come and sit down. My parents are eager to meet you.'
The Malfoys were, indeed, quite curious, and as plummy as Cyril had suspected they would be. 'Delighted' drawled the man from nearly six inches above Cyril's head, and then offered him some brandy.
The woman was stunningly beautiful. She embraced them both and then sat to speak with Annemarie, looking like Grace Kelly in those weird robes magical people wore, giving the occasional order to one of the damned creepy elves that floated in from time to time.
'I take it you're both in the medical field, is that right?'
'Rather' said Cyril, who'd put himself through University and wouldn't be intimidated by some toff with a wand ' Dentists. We fix teeth.'
The man looked politely confused. 'I wonder if you'd mind explaining.'
Hermione, who'd heard the tail end of the conversation, said 'Wizards don't have dentists, Dad. They use potions to regrow teeth if needed, and that's about it.'
Cyril looked amazed. 'Truly?'
'That's right. You mean muggles don't?' Lucius cocked his head, trying to imagine exactly what else one would do. He'd been picturing both parents as sort of inferior medi-wizards.
'Not at all. We don't have the technology. What we do, mainly, is...'
Narcissa was similarly shocked. 'You didn't know about the blood?'
Annemarie shook her head. 'No, I didn't.' Draco came and sat next to his wife, just as his mother-in-law turned and said 'Hermione Jane, what's this about pig's blood?'
The room had got very quiet. Hermione finished her sip of pumpkin juice and said 'It slipped my mind, Mum, the last time we talked.'
'How does a thing like that slip one's mind?'
Draco, who was getting an indecent amount of pleasure out of this whole exchange, said 'Mother Granger, it's partly my fault. I've been insisting Hermione rest, she has less time to write letters and things.'
'Not to mention' said Lucius 'Hermione took the whole thing with remarkable aplomb. Hardly a word about it.'
'It was just some random maniac who didn't like what I had to say.'
Both Grangers relaxed fractionally. 'Well, if you're sure that's all it was.'
Draco leant into his wife's ear. 'Not so funny when it's you, is it?'
Hermione could've made a clever retort, but she decided the simplest course was best, and simply poked his ribs lightly and drank some more juice.
Dinner was splendid. 'My goodness, your cook is very talented.'
'It is. Shall we have your pudding now?'
The Malfoys were hesitant to eat food cooked by a muggle. They weren't dirty or stupid, as one would assume of a muggle, but still. The elves, Lirry vociferously protesting in the kitchens, put the stuff in bowls and brought it out to the family.
'Thank you. Has Buttons left you alone lately, Dad?' Buttons was the neighbour cat who so loved Cyril.
'Not at all. Ruddy thing's always creeping in, trying to get in my lap. Ate part of a fish paste sandwich I'd made myself just last week.'
'He likes you.'
'He's a menace. And he's always making bedroom eyes at my garden, as well.'
'It's covered in snow.'
'I can tell.' Annemarie rolled her eyes and gave her daughter a fond smile. 'Your father's becoming a grumpy old man, could you tell?'
'Mum! He isn't either.'
'Oh, yes, he is.' Cyril looked satisfied and ate some pudding, pleased at the idea of becoming a pensioner who chased neighbourhood kids out of his flowers and attended all the town meeting so he could rail at the council.
Lucius found himself rather liking the fellow, really, for all he was dreadfully unpolished. He seemed honest, and at least he wasn't tiresome. His grandchild could do worse for grandparents than these muggles.
Narcissa smiled. 'Are you as excited about the baby as we are?'
Annemarie nodded, not without a degree of sadness. She was glad these were nice people, good people, but to have her daughter married and pregnant at nineteen wasn't what she would have chosen. Granted, the young man seemed to adore Hermione, but the whole thing still left a faintly bitter taste in Annemarie's mouth.
Narcissa saw the look in the woman's eyes and wisely decided this was something for later. 'Tell me, have you enjoyed the things we sent?'
Everything was still packed in Hermione's room. 'Yes, it was very generous of you.'
Narcissa motioned for the elf to pour a bit more wine for everyone but Hermione. 'I hope everything we chose suits your decor.'
Cyril had asked Lucius to explain the workings of the Ministry to him. He nodded thoughtfully as the man elucidated on the way the government of Wizarding Britain worked.
'...So I've quite decided to run that ginger tom of Hermione's.'
'Attached himself to you, has he?'
'He did me, too. Nice old fellow, isn't he?'
'Very, though he knows his own mind.'
Draco snorted. 'Father Granger, that cat is a monster. He sleeps atop my head every night like a hat.'
Hermione giggled and nodded. 'He loves you, Draco.'
'Bah. He wants my place in bed, is all.'
'He's a good boy.'
'Hmmph. Ginger coloured nuisance, more like.' Everyone laughed, and rose from their pudding to take after dinner coffee and sweets in the parlour.
'Quite a place. Early Norman?'
'Yes, precisely. A relative of my wife's.'
The elves brought out the sweets, which had been carefully laid out on serving platters. Hermione almost laughed to see the scrupulous care which had been lavished on common sweets a person could buy on any High Street. But didn't, of course, because it would have been terribly rude and hurtful to do so.
The Malfoys carefully took a piece of each kind and sampled them, not quite sure of what to expect. 'My word, that's interesting' said Narcissa, as she nibbled a Cadbury Fruit and Nut bar.
Lucius nodded, quite busy with some rhubarb sweets. They had a sort of gummy texture that had nothing on actual rhubarb and cream, but he wasn't complaining. He wondered how he might buy himself a bag without anyone knowing or damaging his dignity by having to interact with an actual muggle.
Draco grinned at Hermione and contentedly munched some toffee, which was more or less similar to the wizarding sort. He wasn't especially keen on sweets generally, but he was pleased to have been able to do this muggle thing with his wife.
After the sweets had been sampled and coffee declined, the ladies trooped upstairs for a bit of girl talk and Lucius excused himself to go and take some of potions for his heart.
'May I talk to you, son?'
Draco rose and gestured for Cyril to proceed him out the door which opened onto the battlements. 'Of course. Please, join me.' It was clear and cold, and a thousand metres below them, the sea whooshed as often as breathing, and as gently.
The man stood beside him silently. 'What are you giving my daughter for Christmas, if you don't mind my asking?'
'Good question. She says all she wants is new quills and some bedroom slippers.'
'I've something here, if you're interested.' He reached into his pocket and came up with a box. 'It was my Mum's. Hermione was very close to grandmother.'
Draco carefully opened the box. It was a locket, just gold with a bit of enamelling. Nothing special, really. Cyril was looking at it, too. 'It's been in the family for over a hundred years. There's a picture of my Dad in his uniform in it.'
Draco thumbed the catch. A rakish looking bloke in some sort of military garb looked back at him, handsome despite the eye patch he wore.
'He lost that eye on D Day, storming Sword beach. Hard bloke, my Dad.'
Draco only understood a few words in the sentence, but he understood what it was to love one's father and be proud of his achievements. 'They tried to switch him to desk duty, but he kept applying to go back into the field, so they finally made him an attendant in a field hospital.'
'And after the war?'
'He was killed ten days before the surrender.' Cyril's voice was calm, level. 'It's important to me, this picture. It's the last one ever taken of him.'
'I'd be honoured to give it, then.'
Cyril handed over the box the locket went in. 'This whole thing was as much a shock to you as it was to us?'
'Seems like the two of you have done a good job, making things work.'
Draco looked into the ocean. 'Hermione is far more patient with me than I deserve.'
'Women-the good ones-are like that. Annemarie and I were just a little older than you when we got married.'
'That's what my father says.'
'You ever want to see how the other half lives, you're always welcome with us in Darlington.'
'Thank you. Is it true Hermione was a very obedient child? She refuses to admit there are any stories about things she did when she was small.'
Cyril chuckled. 'There's a few, lad. This one time, when she was about three or four, we'd invited the priest over for dinner and...'
A/N: Yes, probably an army isn't going to want the one eyed guy in the field. I was reading an article about a soldier who lost an eye in similar circumstances during the Second World War and was allowed to remain in the field, so this is sort of a tribute.