Author's Note: Harry Potter and all related characters, settings, and terminology belong to JK Rowling.
This story was written for TASHAx's Christmas challenge. The prompt will follow the story. Reviews appreciated!
A Very Normal Christmas
The scarcity of people in Diagon Alley on Christmas Eve reminded Draco of his worst memories. Which was unfortunate because Christmas should have been a time for celebrating. Despite his lack of party invitations and his abundance of traumatizing memories, Draco was in good cheer—for Draco anyway. Were there reasons to be morose at this time of the year? Certainly. His father now resided in Azkaban, and the Malfoys had been cast out of society. Everywhere they went, people glared at them with anger and hatred, a war's worth of suffering in their eyes. But Draco still had his mother. He still had his home, his life, his freedom, his health. Surprisingly, that was enough for him.
If there was one thing he'd learned during the war, it was that other people's approval was overrated—and sometimes deadly.
Even if people hated and feared him, Draco still liked to take strolls down Diagon Alley. He kept to himself while watching families being families together. Mothers shuffled their children from shop to shop, smiling, laughing, scolding, but always loving. Children asked for toys, pets, sweets, and Quidditch gear, and they cried when their parents refused them. The squawking children scraped against Draco's nerves, but there was something nice in the normalcy of it. This was how families behaved.
In Draco's youth, his family had always been proper and rigid. His parents had been reserved—even cold—to him in public, but even the way they showed love at home could only be called lukewarm. He never regretted his childhood, but there was something soothing in watching how other people interacted together.
He should have been at home spending Christmas Eve with his mother, but the manor was cold and dark, not a festive bauble or candle in sight. Draco had been craving some holiday spirit and warmth. Some normalcy.
But it was Christmas Eve—the coldest one London had seen in years—and the normal families had already finished their shopping days before. They were sure to be at home by the hearth, sipping hot chocolate, talking to each other about their lives, playing Christmas games, and eating Christmas foods. Diagon Alley was practically deserted as a result. The few groups of people shopping did so while huddled together, fighting against the wind and cold. People were already calling it the Blizzard of 2001, which put Draco in mind of an arctic racing broom for the most adventurous and cold-blooded of Quidditch players. The storm was supposed to strengthen as the evening went on, and weather wizards predicted Christmas Day to be buried in foue feet of snow. It was the absolute worst time to take a stroll, and yet here Draco was.
Most of the shops had closed up early to avoid the storm, their frosted windows dark and their interiors empty. Bundled up as much as possible in his wool robe and fur cloak, a scarf wrapped around his neck and head for added protection from the weather, Draco trudged through Diagon Alley. If he'd hoped for a butterbeer or a Firewhisky to warm him up, he would have been disappointed: even the Leaky Cauldron—usually open all year long no matter the holiday—had closed for the night. The storm must have been a seriously tremendous threat for Tom the bar and innkeeper to turn guests away.
Draco moved along, his eyes stinging as tears ran down his face and into his scarf. It would be useless to wipe them away because they froze almost as soon as they left his eyes.
Soon, a sound began to fill the street, muffled, deep, and clearly very loud. He blinked through his frozen tears, trying to find the source of the sound, but it came from a building at the end of the alley, still out of sight even if there hadn't been so much fog and snow. As he tread closer, the sound became distinguishable as music, and the building from which the music emitted was a disgusting pumpkin shade of orange. The bold sign over the door said "Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes," and if Draco could roll his frozen eyes, he would have done it a thousand times over.
The one open shop in all of Diagon Alley was full of people. Draco couldn't make them out individually through the windows because they were so frosty, but he could see silhouettes through the ice. No wonder the street was so empty. It seemed as though everyone in London was inside the Weasleys' joke shop.
With a loud blast of music, the shop door opened. "What are you doing out there?" Ginny Weasley asked. He looked around, wondering if she was talking to him, but the street in front of the joke store was deserted. "It's freezing. You need to come inside," she continued, stepping out into the snow to tug on Draco's arm.
His protestations died on his lips as soon as the door closed behind him, his confusion about Ginny Weasley's familiarity forgotten in light of the chaos inside. The shop was teeming with so many people there was hardly any room to move, and yet people were dancing, playing games, eating, and drinking. There was even a swing attached to the ceiling, and three people sat on the wide bench, hanging above the heads of the crowd. Chaos was an understatement, but Draco couldn't think of any other word to describe what he saw.
The music was deafening and jolly, a mixture of Christmas carols and rock music the likes of which Draco had never heard before. Like a single conscious being, the crowd alternately swayed and jumped to the music, and underneath the song he could hear the crowd singing as a whole. It was the most bizarre spectacle he had ever witnessed.
Ginny tapped Draco on the shoulder. "Can I take your cloak?" she yelled, her lips a hair's breadth from his ear.
It was probably pointless to reply—besides, he had too much dignity to go around screaming at people in order to be heard—so Draco removed his heavy fur cloak and handed it to her. The few seconds spent inside were already making him sweat, so he was glad to have one less garment on, though his wool robes were still a tad uncomfortable as he absorbed everyone's body heat.
When Ginny returned, she handed him something that looked like a flesh-colored bean. As Draco looked between her and the bean in confusion, she smiled widely and pointed at her ear, where he could see her own bean lodged snuggly inside. Hesitating slightly, Draco inserted the strangely textured bud, making sure it was secure enough not to fall out without pushing it so far in that it got lodged inside his ear canal. The last thing he needed was a bean stuck in his ear.
The effect was instantaneous. The loud music became muted, but not in the same way it had sounded when Draco had heard the muffled music outside from the street. Instead, the volume seemed to have turned down inside his head, but in a curiously unnoticeable way. It was the oddest sound—both loud and quiet, yet still very distinct.
"Better?" Ginny asked, and Draco jumped. It sounded like she'd spoken directly into his mind, as clear as if they were speaking in Madame Pince's library at Hogwarts. Ginny laughed, and Draco could only assume he was making an undignified face.
"What is this thing?" Draco half-yelled, certain there was no way she would be able to hear him over the noise in the shop.
Ginny flinched and put a hand to her ear. "Oi, no need to shout! George and Verity came up with it," she said. "It's a variation of Extendable Ears, except with these, each ear acts as a speaker and a receiver. The closer you are, too, the better you can hear."
Now Draco noticed a hum in his ear, the sound of a hundred people singing along to the song playing in the background. The voices he heard the most acutely were the ones closest to him, such as hers. Behind him, a man sang completely off-key, and to Ginny's right, a woman belted out highly complicated, operatic versions of the music. These voices were louder than the people at the back of the store, whose voices blended together in an indistinct buzz.
Brilliant! Draco thought, but of course he didn't give her the satisfaction of a positive reaction. Instead, frowning as he did so, he asked, this time keeping his voice at an adequate volume, "What is going on in here? I didn't know you'd joined a circus." The three people on the swing above them were now standing, drunkenly holding onto the ropes and each other. "And how did they get up there?"
"Come on," she said, taking hold of Draco's hand and pulling him through the tightly packed crowd, "drinks first, questions later!"
It was hard to maneuver in a straight line while people were dancing. In fact, the best way to squeeze through was to move similarly but contrastingly with the lot. Draco had to wiggle his hips, lift his arms, duck his head, and turn on his feet just to get by, and before they'd made it to the center of the shop, Draco began to suspect a conspiracy. Somehow he'd become one with the dancing horde, an idiotically festive part of the whole.
He felt a bit like he'd been absorbed by the mass, and when he looked ahead of him, where Ginny should have been, he only saw their connected hands. She'd already been swallowed and was probably on her way down to the belly of the beast.
Draco had never been inside the Weasleys' shop purely on principle, though a tiny part of him had always wanted to see what was inside, though he never would have admitted it to anyone. It was impossible to make out his surroundings now. There were so many ribbons, wreaths, and bows adorning the walls, the joke products themselves were completely hidden, and hanging or flying through the air with magic were candles of every shape and size, Christmas baubles, and the occasional snack food. As he passed by, Draco saw a man reach his arm into the air to grab a piece of cake before it zoomed away and then continue dancing while he ate it.
"What kind of a place is this?" Draco asked, a bit concerned he'd stumbled into a situation he shouldn't have.
The group of people around him responded with, "Happy! Happy!"
Draco, slightly fearful for his life, yanked on Ginny's hand until the crowd released her back to him. "Is this an… an orgy?" he asked.
Ginny merely laughed and continued to pull him forward again, finally stopping at a refreshment table, where a fountain gushed amber liquid.
"Firewhisky?" Draco asked, visibly awed by the sight of Ogden's best cascading in waves. "I thought your family was poor," he added.
As she ladled some of the Firewhisky into two glasses, she replied, "Oh, the rest of us are. George does really well for himself with the shops, though."
She waited for Draco to take a sip before she gulped her whole drink down, and then without waiting for him to finish, she shoved him back into the dancing crowd, where he had to wiggle his hips or be trampled by the masses. He found it difficult to balance his glass while boogieing with the commoners, but he was determined not to waste a single drop.
Instead of abandoning him, Ginny stayed nearby, and the way her hips swayed attracted his attention away from the stampeding dancers. Now he noticed the skin-tight, strapless red dress that hugged her curves, the silvery tights covering her legs, and the dangerously high red stilettos that made him fear for her life as well as his. How she managed to dance in them, he had no idea, but he attributed her ability to the strong muscles of her legs.
Suddenly, his view of her body was obstructed when she wrapped her arms around his neck and pressed closely against him.
"What am I doing here?" Draco asked, a little buzzed and dizzy from the alcohol and very much confused about the situation.
"What are you doing here?" she asked with an impish smile. Because of their proximity, she said the words in a low voice, and because of the Extendable Ear Bud in his ear, it sounded like she'd spoken straight into his head. A shiver traveled from the base of his neck down to the end of his spine, and his whole body was aware of hers: the way her hips swayed with his; the way her pelvis sometimes pressed into his and sometimes didn't; the way her fingers entangled in his hair.
"I don't know," he managed to say, though concentrating was becoming increasingly more difficult. "I was just walking, and I ended up here."
"Everyone does at some point," she said. "There's nothing like a joke shop to rid you of your woes. Fred and George have always excelled at relieving tension through laughter, and even though Fred isn't here anymore, George of course carried on the tradition."
"But it's Christmas Eve. What are all these people doing here? Shouldn't they be at home with their families?"
"They are," Ginny answered with a smile. "They're all my family and we're all theirs."
Draco looked around, and even up at the people balanced precariously on the swing, and he saw companionship and camaraderie, even if the scene was bizarre to behold at first glance. The people packed inside the joke shop were comfortable and free, no inhibitions but trusting of those around them. Even Draco had somehow stumbled into the crowd and come out of it dancing in a Weasley's arms—and if that wasn't a Christmas miracle, he didn't know what was.
"So what are you doing here?" she asked again, her forehead dropping to rest on his shoulder.
Hesitantly, he lifted one hand from her waist to her hair, digging his fingers in the coppery silk of the loose curls.
"Looking for a family," he admitted—and it had to be the Firewhisky talking because he would never say such a poncy thing in real life.
The fragile moment was broken by a loud, "HEEEEEYYYYYY now! Gettin' cozy with my sister, are ya?"
As George Weasley appeared out of nowhere, Draco jumped away from the sister in question and was momentarily distracted by the glowing red ball attached to his nose. When he noticed the hideous red necktie ornamented with fat dancing Santas that looked an awful lot like house-elves in red suits, Draco wondered why he hadn't gone back home yet. Christmas might have been cold and lonely and barren at Malfoy Manor, but at least it was normal. At least it made sense.
With a hand on Draco's and Ginny's backs, George waggled his eyebrows at both of them.
"We're dancing, George, not having sex," Ginny said with a roll of her eyes.
That was the moment, of course, that Draco finally dropped his drink, an explosion of Firewhisky and shattered glass halting all the dancing in the middle of the room. Even the music stopped playing, leaving Draco's head strangely empty after an hour of muffled background noise.
"Sorry," he said to the watching crowd, his eyes finally landing on Ginny.
"It's fine!" she said, pulling out her wand to Vanish the mess. The music started up again and the people around them immediately went back to dancing as if nothing had happened.
George patted Draco's back so hard he nearly keeled over. "That's why you need to practice safe sex! I mean, dancing! Don't hurt him, Ginny, he's an innocent!" Then, as suddenly as he appeared, he disappeared.
Before either of them could say anything, Draco was accosted as someone hugged him from behind. He spun around with a scathing remark on the tip of his tongue, but another person had the audacity to hug him. And then another. And then a fourth person was hugging a confused and angry Draco. He could hear Ginny laughing behind him as people stopped dancing to momentarily throw their arms around him, and then he felt her hand on his shoulder holding him still as she pulled something off of Draco's robes.
He spun around to see her laughing while holding a giant, circle-shaped sticker that read, "Hug me, I'm a Grinch!"
"What the hell is a Grinch!" Draco cried, and Ginny only laughed harder, holding her stomach as she doubled over.
One look at her derriere erased Draco's ill humor, as he choked on his own laughter. On her lower back, just over the swell of her bottom, her brother had placed a similar sticker, silver in color with the words "Ho Ho Ho!" in bright red.
"What? What?" she asked, when she finally noticed his inane spell of laughter. She spun herself in a circle as she tried to get a look at her back, until Draco finally put his hands on her waist to stop her. He turned her around and picked at the edge of the sticker, slowly pulling it off her dress.
When she read what it said, she pouted, her brows slanting into an angry V.
"That was not appropriate at all! How dare you laugh at me!" she said, spinning on her heel to dive into the crowd, supposedly to search for her brother and hex him.
Draco stopped her with a hand on her arm, and as she glared at him, he tried his best to control his chuckles. Surreptitiously, he wiped tears out of his eyes, and when he was finally composed, he saw her staring at him, her eyes wide and perplexed.
"I don't think I've ever seen you laugh like that," she said.
"I don't think I've ever laughed like that," he replied.
She reached for his hands, and he let her hold them, but whatever moment they were having was ruined because the brutal crowd was crushing them together, and the only way for them to remain on their feet was to dance.
What was normal, anyway?
Prompt: Christmas time; mistletoe and wine (or, erm...any alcoholic beverage).Christmas party time; in the office, Hogwarts, the ministry, family home or swanky new club. Wherever the location and whatever the reason, Draco and Ginny are celebrating together. The tone can be angsty, romantic, comedic or anything at all just make sure it's full of Christmas imagery – bells, snow, red and green, stockings...
Bonus points: a red dress, a novelty tie, broken glass and a lost locket.
Length: 500 word minimum, no maximum.
Deadline: December 28th.