A/N: Okay, I realise I may have a rather loose definition of the term "week" - sorry about that. I should probably stop making promises I can't keep. I don't really have any excuse other than busyness and procrastination and general laziness.
Thanks to those who reviewed. Glad to know people are still enjoying the story.
I won't tell you when the next chapter will be up because I'd probably be lying. I promise it'll be as soon as possible, though.
Harry couldn't help smiling when he saw Narcissa and Draco come out of the Burrow together. He'd never have expected to one day be the one trying to fix the relationship between Draco Malfoy and his mother, but after what Narcissa had done for him he felt he owed it to her.
It wasn't just that, though. It was good to see Draco smiling for a change. Now that was something he'd certainly never have expected to find himself thinking.
Dudley looked very happy too, joking with George as they laid out the cutlery. Who'd have thought it: George Weasley and Dudley Dursley becoming friends?
Life was just full of surprises.
Talking of surprises, Harry had no idea who had been invited to this Christmas gathering. Weasley Christmases were always big, but he'd never known them be so big that they all had to sit outside. He couldn't help but wonder whether Mrs Weasley was trying to compensate. The Burrow must be terribly quiet nowadays, with only one twin, and it wasn't hard to understand why she'd want to fill it with people and noise to try and drown out that notable silence.
Soon enough, guests began to arrive. Harry was pleased to see Luna, though he knew it might be difficult to persuade Ron to be civil to her father. Neville was there too, hand in hand with a blushing Hannah Abbott, and followed closely by his rather formidable grandmother.
"Harry, come and meet a friend of mine." Ginny grabbed his hand, pulling him over to a pretty brunette. "Harry, this is Astoria Greengrass. Tori, this is Harry."
"Nice to meet you," Astoria said, extending a hand. Harry smiled, trying to figure out where he recognised the name.
"Greengrass?" he asked, "Why do I feel like I know a Greengrass?"
"My sister Daphne, probably," Astoria said, "She was in your year at school. I'm a couple of years younger."
It took Harry a few moments of confusion before he placed her. Of course, Daphne Greengrass: a Slytherin and one of Draco Malfoy's most devoted followers, after Pansy Parkinson and Crabbe and Goyle.
"Oh, she was in Slytherin," he said aloud, then regretted it immediately as Astoria's face closed off.
"Yes. So am I," she said shortly before walking off. Ginny rounded on him.
"She was in Slytherin?" she repeated, "That was all you could think of to say? You're not even at Hogwarts anymore, Harry! Isn't it about time you stopped classifying people by house?"
Harry took a step back, raising his hands in surrender.
"Sorry, sorry. I didn't realise it would be such a touchy subject."
"Of course you didn't. Sorry. I just get a bit defensive about it. Astoria was in the DA last year, and a few other Slytherins. They passed some really helpful information on to us about what the Carrows were doing, and put themselves in a lot of danger doing it. But that doesn't stop Astoria getting tons of abuse at school this year, because people just see her house badge and jump to all sorts of conclusions."
"Sorry," Harry said again, more sincerely this time, "I'll go and talk to her properly at some point."
When he tried to, however, she was deep in conversation with Draco. That was probably a good thing. Draco always seemed to look a bit lost in situations like this. Harry could understand that. He supposed the noisy Weasley family must get very overwhelming sometimes, if you weren't used to it.
There were a whole range of other guests, some of whom Harry knew and some of whom he didn't. A few he recognised as having gone to Hogwarts, but couldn't actually name. Friends of Ginny's, probably. From what she'd told him of her experience at Hogwarts last year, it sounded as though the usual barriers between different years and houses had broken down as they came together against the Carrows.
Even barriers between Gryffindors and Slytherins, it seemed.
When they eventually sat down to eat, Harry could understand why they'd needed so much space. The long tables were absolutely crammed with people talking and laughing and complimenting Mrs Weasley on her excellent cooking. Glancing down the table, Harry could see Dudley talking to a girl he vaguely recognised from Hogwarts. He thought she was probably a Hufflepuff, but he couldn't be sure. As he watched, she giggled and leaned in to kiss him on the cheek, leading Dudley to blush and whisper something in her ear. She laughed and swatted him on the arm.
Harry couldn't believe what he was seeing. Were they flirting? Did Dudley already know her from somewhere? How could he?
Further along the table, Draco was also sitting next to a girl. Astoria Greengrass. They didn't seem quite as intimate as Dudley and his friend, but as far as Harry could tell they'd been talking together pretty much since she arrived.
Halfway through the meal, it suddenly started to snow. The bubble around the table kept them in a warm, dry cocoon, letting them watch the snow drift past outside. It was like sitting in a snow globe, except with the snow on the outside. They must have made a pretty little picture, the perfect Christmas scene.
But no matter how full the table was, and no matter how noisy it became, Harry couldn't help noticing the gaps and the silences. George, crammed in between Dudley and Ron, nonetheless had an empty space beside him. Little Teddy sat comfortably on his grandmother's lap, completely content, but Andromeda kept glancing around as though looking for someone, and then returning her eyes to her food with a sad little smile. Harry himself couldn't help but be glad he wasn't staying at Grimmauld Place for Christmas, for fear that he'd have heard the echoes of Sirius singing resounding through the house.
Even Narcissa Malfoy must surely have had her mind elsewhere, with the husband who was spending Christmas in prison.
Arthur Weasley stood up, holding his glass.
"I'd like to make a toast," he said, as the noise gradually died away, "To all those who aren't here with us today. Our first Christmas without them. But let us not forget what they have given us. Our first Christmas without fear. Our first Christmas knowing that all of us will still be here for the next one. Let there be many more. Merry Christmas!"
He raised his glass.
"Merry Christmas!" came the response, as everyone drank.
Ginny glanced across at Harry, grabbing his hand under the table.
"You know," she whispered, "I think I saw some mistletoe round by the back door. Fancy investigating with me?"
Harry couldn't get up fast enough.
It was late by the time the Burrow finally began to empty. Mrs Weasley urged Harry to spend the night, but he politely declined. There wasn't space with all the people who were staying, and anyway Draco had to be back by midnight, according to the terms of the exception the Ministry had made for him.
"Like Cinderella," Draco said with a rueful grin. Everyone stared at him. He shrugged. "Dudley told me the story."
As if Draco knowing muggle fairy tales wasn't enough, it turned out Dudley had a girlfriend. He introduced Harry to her, the Hufflepuff girl he'd been talking to. They'd got to know one another at the safe house, apparently, because she was a muggleborn and had been in hiding.
A little bemused, Harry told her she should feel free to visit anytime. He extended the same invitation to Narcissa Malfoy, who looked reluctant to be parted from Draco.
"I'm going to visit Lucius now," she said before she left, "I can't let him be alone for the whole of Christmas Day."
She seemed to be waiting for Draco to say something, perhaps to give her a message for his father, but he simply turned away, grabbing the little put of floo powder from the fireplace.
"I'll see you soon, mother," he said, "Merry Christmas."
And with that he disappeared, whisked away into the flames. Harry gave Narcissa a smile before following.
When he got into Grimmauld Place, Draco was sitting at the kitchen table, deep in thought. He looked up when Harry came in.
"I never really understood Christmas before," he said, "All the excitement over it, the way people seemed to think it was this magical, perfect day. The best day of the year. I think I do now, though."
Harry thought of the way he'd felt that Christmas in first year, when he'd woken to find a pile of presents at the bottom of his bed, and had known for the first time ever that he was loved.
"I'm glad. Merry Christmas, Draco."
"Merry Christmas, Harry."