Christmas hit Draco Malfoy in the face as the door to the Weasley's rather odd little house opened up before him; a veritable assault on his senses. The aroma of Christmas baking battled with the smell of the turkey roasting for dinner. What he could see of the house was laden with brightly coloured decorations; there was a small wreath on the door, made of holly and fir and there were sprigs of holly and fir and little clusters of gold and silver baubles hung from light fittings and under picture frames. The house was warm - a welcome change from the bitter chill outside - and that warmth embraced him even as he stood outside waiting to enter.
Molly had enveloped Ginny in a massive hug the moment the door had opened wide enough for her to get past. With shared cries of "Happy Christmas", mother and daughter had hugged and kissed cheeks and then hugged again before stepping apart. It was only then that Ginny was able to hand her mother the two bottles of white wine that she had brought with her.
Molly turned to Draco then and smiled.
"Happy Christmas, Mrs Wea-" Draco started.
"Molly, please," Molly interrupted. "We told you before," the words were a little harsh, but the tone was warm, "We're family; or soon will be at any rate." And then, much to his surprise, she hugged him as well. A hug which he returned somewhat awkwardly, but returned nonetheless. He found the closeness of the Weasley family overwhelming. They were so openly affectionate with one another, so relaxed and informal; so different to his own family. He caught sight of Ginny smiling at him encouragingly and, he thought, she looked almost amused.
"Look who's arrived!"
Ginny whirled around when she heard a voice behind her.
"Daddy!" Ginny went to her father and threw her arms around him, as she had when she was five, and when she was 15; and now that she was ten years older still.
Arthur returned the embrace and then patted her fiery hair affectionately. "Now come on inside, it's cold out here," he urged, releasing Ginny and leading her inside, hoping that his wife and his daughter's fiancé would follow.
Once inside Ginny tugged off her gloves and stuffed them in the pockets of her cloak and then slipped out of her cloak laid it on top of the countless others that adorned the newel post at the bottom of the stairs. Her scarf was hastily removed and tossed on top of the pile, slipping to the floor unnoticed as she dashed into the lounge to greet her brothers.
Draco was left alone with Ginny's parents now and, although the Slytherin would never admit it, he was a little nervous. He expected the smile to fall from Mrs Weasley's face - Molly's face, he corrected himself - and for Arthur's face to harden. But the smiles remained in place.
"Arthur," Draco said smoothly, extending his hand to the older man..
Arthur, his distinctive Weasley-red hair now shot through with grey, took the offered hand and shook it warmly, his other hand rising to grasp Draco's upper arm. "Pleasure."
Draco merely inclined his head in response.
Ginny's parents had been worried at first about their daughter's choice of boyfriend - he was up to no good, could she trust him, he wasn't her type, they weren't suited. Ginny had listened to their advice and their worries and their protestations, she had listened carefully, but ultimately, she had followed her heart.
It had been 16 months before she had been able to tell her parents that she had a boyfriend and it was serious. And just who it was that had captured her heart. It had been hard for her to keep it from them, she didn't like to lie to them or to her brothers, and she didn't want to see the disappointment in their eyes when they found out whom it was that she loved.
Last Christmas had been especially hard. She had wanted to celebrate with her family and with Draco, but it had been impossible. She had spent the day trying to pretend to her family that she was still single and that she wasn't missing anyone and that she was their little Ginny. Late into the evening she had excused herself and sat in the downstairs cloakroom for ten minutes crying and then trying to fix her makeup and hide the evidence of tears.
She had sworn then that next Christmas would be different, but it had still been another 5 months until she had finally told them, when Draco had proposed.
Her parents had been concerned at first. Indeed, concerned was a bit of an understatement. Seeing that Ginny was serious, they had tried to understand, and eventually they had seen that their daughter was genuinely happy, and that Draco didn't seem to be the big bad meany he had once been at school. His intentions sincere, his feelings true.
Ginny's older brothers were another matter. They still weren't so happy. But they tried. For the most part. Sometimes.
"Now then, my dear," Molly said as she headed back to the kitchen. "You can take off your cloak and leave it with the others." She gestured vaguely to The Pile. "Let's get this wine opened. Would you like a glass?"
Now that sounded like a very good idea. "Yes, thank you," Draco replied as he removed his own cloak, scarf and gloves before bending to retrieve his fiancée's scarf from its resting place on the floor.
Molly and Arthur disappeared back into the kitchen as Draco headed for the lounge. He leaned against the doorframe, unnoticed and simply watching.
A fire crackled away merrily in the grate, warming the room with heat and with light and with the atmosphere it gave. All the pictures on the walls and above the fireplace, and on every other available spot were smiling and waving happily at anyone who cared to notice. The room was adorned with more baubles hanging from more light fixings and Christmas cards were hung around the top of the room. The fireplace was surrounded in red and gold tinsel - Draco couldn't keep the smile from his face, it was so very Gryffindor - and it took on a life of its own as the fire cast shadow and light.
A Christmas tree stood in the corner of the room, laden with decorations and tinsel and sparkling lights. The fairy on top waved her wand about and shot out tiny little sparks, and would occasionally flutter her wings and take a little trip around the room. The baubles were of every shape and colour and design, and some looked homemade. 5-year-old homemade. Draco made a mental note to ask Ginny later if any were hers. She would undoubtedly tell him off for being so cheeky, but she would blush, embarrassed - a look he found adorable on her. And it would be worth it.
Even if she did hit his arm.
The whole house was so very different from Malfoy Manor. That had been a grand house, but this was home. It was warm and welcoming, bright and friendly. His mother had always insisted on having a massive tree in the entrance hall, and it was always, always decorated in silver and deep blue. Only. It was always colour co-ordinated. Everything matched. Everything had to be correctly spaced. Narcissa had been pleased with it, and guests had always commented on the gorgeous tree, but to Draco it had seemed cold. He much preferred the eclectic mix of decorations and the rainbow of colours.
The tree had been the only real concession to Christmas. Tinsel made a mess and anything else would spoil the decoration of the room. The carpets and the wood and the furniture had been carefully chosen; Mirabelle Witchwood had done the colours herself, wouldn't want to spoil it.
His attention shifted from the room to the people in it. Everyone had risen to greet Ginny and they had not yet sat down again. Charlie and Percy were absent - presumably in Romania and with the in-laws, respectively. Everyone else was present, Fred and his wife, George and his girlfriend, Ron, Hermione, Harry.
Fred and George were being Fred and George, doing something utterly stupid that had everyone in hysterics. He lost sight of everyone else as his eyes lighted on his fiancée, her head thrown back as she laughed, her eyes sparkling, her cheeks glowing.
As if she sensed his presence, she turned and her eyes caught his. Her smile got wider, if it were possible, and she beckoned him over. He willingly complied, standing behind her and wrapping his arms around her waist.
Ron was the first to notice his presence.
"Malfoy," he said tersely. Ron had, at first, refused to attend the Christmas celebrations chez Weasley when he had heard that Draco was to be there. Eventually Molly, Ginny, Harry and Hermione had managed to persuade him not to be so childish, but he seemed determined to be as bitter about it as possible.
None of Ginny's brothers had taken to Draco as easily as her parent's had, and the youngest three in particular were still very wary.
Draco turned to Ron, a hint of a smile playing about his lips. "Happy Christmas," he said, his tone even.
Ron's expression soured and he looked like he was about to say something nasty or reach for his wand and start casting hexes.
Ginny sighed and Draco felt her tense.
It was Hermione, in the end, who came to the rescue. "So, Draco," she said, his name forced somewhat awkwardly from her lips, "I hear you're working for the Ministry now."
Ginny shot Hermione a thankful look. Draco leapt upon the subject gratefully. "Yes, Potions research, although just recently it's seemed more like Charms work than Potions. I knew I should have paid more attention in Charms."
"What are you working on?" Hermione asked, genuinely interested.
Ron and Harry looked both amused and resigned.
"It's classified," Draco said seriously.
Hermione's eyes widened a little. "Really?"
Draco's lips quirked upwards into a smile. "No, I've just always wanted to say that. We're working on a way to treat Cruciatus, at least to lessen the effects."
And that was it; Hermione was full of questions. Draco and Hermione sat in one corner discussing Potions and Charms while Ginny caught up with her brothers until they were called through for dinner.
As they moved through to the kitchen, that somehow managed to accommodate the large party - magic was obviously involved - Ginny grasped Draco's hand and held him back so that they were alone in the lounge.
"I'm sorry about Ron," she said quietly. "He seems determined to be bitter about all this. Us, together."
"Never mind," he replied, his voice equally soft. "I'm quite resigned to the fact that none of your family likes me." He put his hands on either side of her face, his thumbs smoothing over her cheeks. "Cheer up, it's Christmas."
"But I do mind. He keeps glaring at you and..."
"Really, I hadn't noticed," Draco said mildly, allowing his hands to fall away from her face and settle on her hips.
"You don't miss a thing, Draco Malfoy, I know you too well. And don't try and change the subject. I do mind. I don't like it when the two of you fight, or don't fight but glare and say horrid things." Draco opened his mouth to speak. "And I know, today you haven't glared or said anything to him at all that could be construed as offensive, and I know that you have all manner of sarcastic little comments all bursting to escape. You may not like him, but you're making the effort, and he's not." She pouted.
Draco brushed his lips over hers and she smiled.
"Still, I'm sorry he's being such an idiot. Everyone else seems to finally be accepting, even Harry and Hermione but he's just being...."
"A git?" Draco suggested quickly.
Ginny looked angry but she smiled anyway. She heaved a sigh. "And you were doing so well."
Draco suddenly looked worried. "You're mad at me. Does this mean I won't get shagged later?"
Ginny burst out laughing at the unexpected comment, a brilliant smile lighting up her face. She leaned closer to him and whispered in his ear. "If you're very, very good...."
"I'm always good. I'm an angel." He paused and gestured to his white blond tresses. "It's the hair."
Ginny looked doubtful and carried on as if he hadn't spoken at all. "...I'll be very, very naughty."
Draco looked like a cat that had just discovered it was in a dairy.
Ginny pulled back to face him once more and her tone became more serious. "I meant what I said earlier, I know you're making an effort. Thank you." She stretched up and touched her lips to his. He responded eagerly, his arms wrapping around her waist to pull her closer.
A voice drifted through from the kitchen. "Come on, hurry up!" George.
"I'm hungry." Fred.
"You better not be kissing my sister." Ron.
Ginny stepped back somewhat reluctantly and then walked through to the kitchen, making sure to make a show of straightening her shirt and patting at her hair purely for Ron's benefit. He caught her eyes and saw the humour there and smiled in spite of himself.
The dinner was spectacular. There was roast goose and roast turkey, three different stuffings, roast potatoes and a huge choice of vegetables, and all covered with immense amounts of gravy. All of it washed down with a glass or two, or three, or more of wine.
Everyone was squashed in around the table, all chatting and talking and laughing together. The Weasley's teased each other mercilessly and those not Weasley's by birth couldn't help but get caught up in the warm, jovial atmosphere.
This was Christmas, coming together as a family. Draco's parents had never really gone in for Christmas. It was a foolish Muggle holiday, why bother? But the few Christmas that Draco had spent at Hogwarts had taught him otherwise. Muggle-born and Mage-born alike entered into Christmas with spirit and enthusiasm.
His parents had looked down on the Weasleys, and others like them for embracing such foolish Muggle celebrations, among other things. But for Draco it was a tradition he would happily embrace.
"Draco?" Ginny's voice interrupted his thoughts and he got the impression from her tone that it was not the first time she had said his name.
"Sickle for them?"
"Oh. Is that all I get?"
"What do you expect for a sickle?"
Ginny laughed. "You idiot," she said affectionately, and now loud enough for Ron to hear from where he sat at the far end of the table.
"Truer words have never been spoken," he yelled down at them.
Draco did his level best to ignore him. He kept his eyes focused on Ginny. "Just a little hex?"
"No." But she chuckled anyway.
Molly loved having her family around her, having all her little chicks - plus a few extra - back under her wing, if only for a day or two. And to see them all happy was better still. Fred's wife was utterly charming, and George's girlfriend seemed lovely too - both twins certainly seemed happy. And Ron seemed happier now that he was out of his most recent relationship - it had been good while it lasted but turned sour at the end and she was glad that he seemed to be moving on. To have Bill and his wife, and bump, was wonderful - she'd been fussing around Madeline for days asking all manner of questions about the impending grandchild. She saw little of Harry and Hermione these days, what with work. Hermione was very focused on her job and worked incredible hours, and Harry was always off somewhere fighting dark forces.
And then there was Ginny. She had been truly worried when her daughter had first revealed that she was dating Draco Malfoy. Her baby, her little girl, dating a Malfoy. When the news had come two weeks later that they were engaged she had been shocked and then more worried still, but time had eased her fears. Ginny seemed truly happy, as happy as Molly had ever seen her; her eyes alive, she positively glowed. As she watched them at dinner, heads bent in a quiet discussion, the occasional ripple of laughter from Ginny, the loving looks exchanged when they thought no one was looking, she realised that she was no longer worried about her daughter's choice, merely happy.
She watched as Ginny picked up her cracker and extended it to Draco. He took the other end and they tugged hard. The crackers had been given special treatment by Fred and George and went with a mini-explosion rather than just a bang and sent out little pieces of glitter.
Draco ended up with the larger half and he peered inside. He pulled out a large and tacky pink plastic ring and handed it to Ginny. "Happy Christmas, my darling."
"Oh, wow. Thank you." Ginny's voice was monotone but a smile played about her lips.
She snatched the rest of the cracker off him and proceeded to investigate. The green paper hat went quickly onto her head and she rolled her eyes at the joke, rolled it up and threw it at Fred.
Fred picked up the piece of paper and unravelled it, laughing loudly as he read it. "Thanks, Gin, that might come in useful, were working on some little joke packs at the minute." He re-rolled the paper and threw it at George.
Ginny sighed at Fred's laugh and shook her head. She turned back to Draco when he prodded her arm with his cracker.
"Help me pull my cracker?"
Ginny smile turned wicked and she looked up at him through her eyelashes. "What an offer. How could I refuse?"
She ran her tongue over her lips, her eyes locked with Draco's all the while, and then wrapped her hand around the other end of the cracker and pulled.
Again, Draco ended up with the bigger part of the cracker. He turned the cracker upside down and emptied it onto the table.
Ginny snatched the hat and put it onto his head, something Ron seemed to find particularly amusing, and judging from the sudden quiet conversation between Ron, Harry and Hermione, Ginny guessed that they had laid bets as to whether Draco would wear his hat.
Draco looked down at the table and prodded his prize. He wasn't quite sure what it was, he knew only that it was bright green and plastic. He reached inside his robes for his wand and pointed it at the plastic lump, whispering under his breath. The object changed shape, forming leaves and stems, the green becoming darker, and little white berries formed.
Ginny watched as he picked it up and hung it above her head.
He raised his eyebrows to ask the question.
Ginny shrugged and so he moved in to lightly touch his lips to hers.
Ginny smiled. "You didn't need mistletoe, you know."
"I know. But if you don't mind, I'll keep my mistletoe handy just the same."
"Really? And who else might I see standing under the mistletoe?"
Draco leaned in close to be sure that no one else heard what he said. "I thought I might take it home and hang it above the bed."
A flush rose in Ginny's cheeks. "Oh. Well, that's different."
She returned her attention to her plate and began eating again.
Once dinner was over, a few quick charms saw the table cleared and clean and all the dishes in the sink being washed.
Ron leaned back in his chair, his fingers linked together, his hands resting on his stomach. He looked just like his father. "That was wonderful, Mum!" he exclaimed happily. "I think I'm ready for a nap now." Very much like his father.
Harry, it seemed, was having none of it. He got to his feet and tugged at Ron's arm so that he would rise also. "Let's build a snowman," he suggested eagerly, pointing out of the window to the snow outside.
His black hair was tousled, as ever, and his green eyes sparkled. He looked for all the world like the eager 11-year-old he once had been, enjoying his first Christmas at Hogwarts.
Ron groaned. Warm and sleep were preferable to cold and activity.
Hermione smiled. "I'm game. Anyone else?"
Five minutes later everyone, bar Molly and Arthur, was outside gathering up armfuls of snow and trying to fashion a snowman. It soon degenerated into an all-out snowball fight.
The snowman - still just a little mound of snow in the middle of the garden - was abandoned as they tore around the garden flinging snow at each other. Madeline retired inside pretty quickly, Bill had such a smile on his face that she told him to stay outside and enjoy himself. He didn't need telling twice.
Ron and Draco seemed to take great pleasure in hurling as many snowballs at each other as possible now that they could simply take the convenient excuse of a snowball fight. Another high point of Draco's afternoon was stuffing a handful of snow down Harry's back. A low point was when Harry managed to do the same to him.
He walked to Ginny, shoulders hunched as if he were trying to keep the snow off of his back. "It's bloody cold!" he moaned.
"I have no sympathy for you. This all started when you threw snow at Ron."
"I did not. We collided."
Ginny ignored him. "And you did put snow down Harry's back, it's only fair he should retaliate."
"I suppose so," Draco conceded, promptly scooping up a handful of snow and tipping it over Ginny's head and rubbing it in.
She squealed and leapt away. "Oh, I'm going to get you for that," she threatened.
Draco simply laughed.
Ginny bent and scraped together a mound of snow, cupping her hands together to lift it. She set off towards Draco again, and intent look on her face.
Ginny gave chase.
Draco was faster and pulled away, running to the far wall to scrape off the snow along the top. He turned back to Ginny, snow in hand, and laughed as she suddenly turned and started to run away from him.
They tore around the garden until Draco finally caught up with her. He dropped the snow he was holding and grabbed her around the waist. Suddenly stopped, Ginny lost her footing and they tumbled to the ground, a tangle of arms and legs.
Ginny had lost most of her snow in the chase and the fall, but she grabbed another small handful and deposited it on Draco's head before kissing him soundly.
A brief flash of shock flashed across Draco's face but it quickly melted away when Ginny's lips touched his. They were happy, lost in each other, until a voice interrupted them.
"Get a room, guys!" Fred.
"At least someone's getting some." George.
"Stop mauling my sister." Ron.
"The garden needs de-gnoming again." Bill.
Draco pulled back slightly and looked into Ginny's eyes. "One of the advantages of being an only child," he said.
Ginny chuckled. "My back is cold."
Draco got to his feet and helped Ginny up. His kept her hand in his as they followed the others inside.
Molly had made tea and coffee, very gratefully received when they all tramped back inside again. Hands wrapped around warm mugs, the hot liquid burning a trail of fire as it slid down their throats. They were all ushered back into the lounge and the unwrapping of presents began.
The celebrations continued long into the evening, the house warmed with love and laughter. They talked and teased each other until the wee hours of the morning and played silly party games.
Tired, but happy, they all eventually retired to bed. Draco realised, as he climbed into bed beside his fiancé that he had never asked her about the decorations on the tree.
She blushed, just as he had predicted. "I'll show you tomorrow," she said, hoping he'd have forgotten. "But they're not very good."
She sighed and then smiled. "Promise."
She muttered a charm to extinguish the lights, reflecting on how strange it was to be curled up beside Draco but in bed in her childhood home. And at how right it felt to have him there.
"This is has been the best Christmas ever," she said somewhat sleepily.
Draco dropped a kiss on her forehead, and she could feel his lips curling up into a smile. "For me too, darling. For me too."
There was silence as the snuggled together and drifted towards sleep.
"Happy Christmas, Gin."
"It most certainly was."