I do not own one single solitary character or setting portrayed in this fic. I have no claim upon any part of the wonderful works of fiction created and owned solely by J.K. Rowling.

*************************************************************************** There was only one week left until Christmas, but Hermione Granger was depressed. Her Christmas shopping was finished, and she had exchanged presents with everyone except Harry. He was the only Gryffindor remaining at Hogwarts during the holidays, so they had agreed to exchange gifts on Christmas day. It wasn't as if this were so bad. After all, Harry, and Ron of course, were still her dearest friends in the world. During the past six years, she had spent quite a few Christmases at Hogwarts. However, this year was different because it was the first time in a long while that she had felt homesick for her parents.

She had so looked forward to immersing herself in the aura of anticipation and joy that always surrounded the muggle holiday season. She especially missed the solemn beauty of the midnight mass her family attended on Christmas Eve. So now, after more than six extraordinary years at Hogwarts, she found that her Gryffindor bravery and self-sufficiency required a little spoiling from her parents. She needed her Mum's Christmas cookies and her Dad's cuddle's.

As is the case with mildly obsessive compulsive people, Hermione applied herself to certain aspects of her life fastidiously. She was unafraid of hard work, and she loved the blessings of academia more than the thought of love, boyfriends, girlfriends, dress robes, you name it. She never relented in her natural desire to be the best student she could be. However, her commitment to excellence did not manifest itself in study alone.

Hermione put an equal amount of effort into self-reflection when it was required. She understood herself, and she worked hard at understanding and acknowledging the impetus behind her actions and goals. Perhaps she was even a little too honest with herself at times. She was probably one of a very small population of people who could intimidate themselves. There were times when she was hesitant to analyze her behavior simply because she considered rationalizations to be a luxury too dangerous to enjoy. After all, they were the very reasons that Ron, Harry, and she had almost lost their lives many times over.

These were the character traits that had led her recently to the realization that she missed her muggle life. Furthermore, the young woman into which she had matured especially missed being her mum and dad's little girl. Being with them, and feeling their loving support, was the kind of reassurance she needed to finally make a decision about her future after graduation.

She was grateful for the fact that there was a future to even consider. She could hardly believe it was only a few short months ago that she and Ron had followed Harry on a summer quest that had apparently defeated Voldemort once and for all. As had happened when Harry was a baby, there was no definite proof that he was gone. He had literally evaporated into thin air due to their combined efforts, as well as those of Dumbledore, Sirius, and Professor Snape. In the end it was the six of them, wands raised together, who vanquished him. There was no evidence that he had resurfaced, and the Deatheaters had once again disappeared to four-corners of the wizarding world in a reactive effort to remain as unobtrusive as possible.

As word spread of their valiant defeat of He Who Must Not Be Named, Hermoine, the only witch in the group, had become the object of a popularity of the most Rita Skeeterish kind. It was as if that annoyance personified had multiplied. Interestingly, no one in the wizarding world considered her talents to be purely intellectual anymore, and the nasty term "mudblood luck" had seemingly disappeared into Voldamortian obscurity. Furthermore, the Ministry of Magic itself had described her, as was one of the most powerful witches to come along in many ages. It was this latter opinion, more than anything else that had rendered her almost as sought after as Harry.

Privately, Hermione acknowledged that it was the combination of her intellectual abilities, her Gryffindor qualities, and a lot of luck that had made her a force to be reckoned with on the level of Harry Potter. And she wanted none of it. She had never been interested in fame, and had pitied Harry for his overwhelming share of it from the very beginning of their friendship. Now, she too was written about ad nauseum in all the witching magazines. She, who had only just figured out how to straighten her own hair, had become the woman young witches wanted most to resemble. While Ron was enjoying every moment of their elevated status, Hermione had long ago become more like Harry in her lack of appreciation for the dubious benefits of celebrity. It was for all these reasons that Hermione desperately wanted to go home for the holidays.

Unfortunately, the week before she had been disappointed in her only Christmas wish. Her parents had sent her an owl containing a large package of presents along with a note saying they would be leaving in two days on an extended African safari. They would not be returning until the middle of January. In a fit of panic, Hermione had rushed to Professor McGonagall's office and incoherently begged her teacher for permission to floo home immediately. Minerva McGonagall had never seen her in such a state. With an air of concern, she'd given her permission with a nod of her head. Her mouth had been too wide open to grant verbal permission.

In less than five minutes, Hermoine stepped out of the fireplace in the ancestral home she had grown up in. As she entered the library, she heard the thud of something heavy being deposited in the entry hall. Following the direction of the noise, she ran into the hall and surprised her mother, who had just dropped a large suitcase at the bottom of the stairs. "Darling!" she cried in surprise before lunging at her daughter and enfolding her in a hug of sheer mother joy.

"Oh Mum!" Hermione sobbed, "I've missed you and Dad so much! "I just received your owl, and got special permission to floo home and beg you not to leave me this holiday."

Having said this much, Hermione had completely broke down in her mother'' arms. Her father, having heard the commotion, came running down the stairs. Upon seeing his beautiful daughter unexpectedly sobbing in her mother's arms, he had begun to cry as well. He was a rather emotional man. Numerous hugs and copious tears later, they had all sat down to discuss the problem at hand. It was with a look of regret mingled with guilt that her mother explained their situation.

"You see, Darling, we never dreamed for a moment that you would be coming home. When we didn't receive an owl from you, we thought for sure you couldn't bear to tell us you would be staying at Hogwarts again. Our friends, the Bridgerton's were going on a second honeymoon to Africa. They invited us and we accepted. It is a chance of a lifetime opportunity, and we have spent a considerable amount of time arranging the practice so we can go."

Although she was disappointed, Hermione had understood immediately. She had felt ashamed as she realized that she had been taking her parents for granted for a long time. After all, it was she who had become so immersed in the wizarding world. It was she who constantly disappointed them by choosing to remain at school during many of her school holiday breaks. She had also spent several weeks each summer at the Weasley's home. This had rendered summer vacations away with her parents impossible. Yet, all along they had been there for her trying, with a modicom of success, to mask their disappointment and support their daughter as she became further attached to a world that could not always include them. Yet, they respected their daughter's gifts and were proud of having produced such a special girl.

Therefore, despite her own neediness and disappointment, Hermione knew the unselfish thing to do was to give them her blessing. They rarely traveled, as their dental practice took up so much of their time. The last vacation she remembered them taking was their family vacation to France years ago. She'd realized, once again, that she had been gadding about for years while they had stayed at home.

Additionally, they'd trusted her, and they'd had complete faith that Dumbledore would keep their only child safe. She would never have wanted to jeopardize her future in the wizarding world by inadvertently alerting them to the type of dangers that had been a constant looming threat. It was too hard to explain Voldemort without causing them excessive anxiety and her direct removal from Hogwarts. They had been more than good to her, and she had not been fair to them.

So now, here she was stuck at school for the holidays with a moody Harry her only company. He had been sullen lately due to his inability to get in touch with Sirius. He had expected to spend the holiday with his godfather, and was disappointed that his first real family Christmas was not going to take place after all. No one had seen or heard from Sirius in over a month. Harry's feelings were a rather selfish disappointment mingled with a very unselfish concern for his godfather's safety. After all, Voldemort was gone, but no one knew better than Harry how present he might still be.

Suddenly, a dramatic pounding on the door of her bedroom startled Hermione.