The Ties That Bind Us



Draco straightened his robes as he wandered into the kitchen, sighing in annoyance at having to search for his wayward wife. Their guests for the evening were due to begin arriving at any moment, and the last time he had seen her was an hour earlier, when she was levitating a sideboard out of their dining room. He stopped idly in the doorway and watched her as she furiously stirred a bowl at the table. Her red hair was pulled back into a smooth topknot and her face carefully highlighted by cosmetics, but she was wearing tatty, shapeless grey robes.

“Gin, what are you doing in here?” he asked, his annoyance simmering beneath the casual words. “You’re not even dressed yet.”

Pausing, she turned to face him, her flushed cheek marred by a smudge of flour. “I’m making the pudding I promised Hermione,” she replied evenly.

He made his way to her side, openly searching her face for distress. She only adopted that particular tone when she was upset about something and intent on hiding it. He thumbed the flour from her face and reminded her, “That’s what we have house-elves for. Where are the useless creatures, anyway?”

“I sent them away for an hour so I could do this myself. And they’re not useless,” she chided. “They cooked for days to make the Christmas dinner tonight special. Hermione would have fits if she heard-”

He waved her lecture off negligently. “I really don’t care what she says. She can crusade for elf rights elsewhere, but not whilst she’s in my house. It’s bad enough to have to be pleasant to her normally, but when she gets on about elves and their plight, I have the urge to revert to schoolboy hexes.” He eyed her curiously when she didn’t immediately jump to her friend and sister-in-law’s defence. “Alright, out with it. You spent weeks cleaning and rearranging the Manor and nattering non-stop about tonight. You even bought new robes for it. Now, when everyone is supposed to be arriving, I find you in the kitchen, elbow deep in chocolate. Which, of course, begs the question: why are you not using your wand? What,” he asked, exasperated, “is wrong?”

“I wanted to do this myself,” she defended. “Ron and Hermione are telling everyone tonight that she’s pregnant, and I wanted to give her something special. You know how much she likes my brownies,” Ginny huffed. She gave the batter a vicious stir before dropping the wooden spoon with a clatter, and with a half-hearted smile, she turned and moved to the counter.

Draco followed right behind her, wrapped his arms around his obviously upset wife and rested his cheek atop her head. “Don’t ignore me when I ask you what’s wrong. You’re upset, and I want to know why,” he insisted.

Turning in his arms, Ginny sighed heavily and laid her cheek against his chest. “I’m not upset,” she protested. “I was just thinking how nice it would be,” she murmured, snuggling deeper into his arms.

“Just thinking how nice it would be to have a baby,” he clarified, leaning back and tilting her chin up to face him. “Ah, I see.”

“Do you?” she asked hopefully. She was overjoyed when Draco gave her his special lopsided smile, an expression that meant he would do whatever he could to make her happy.

“If you want a baby, you need to stop tearing apart the Manor and hiding in the kitchen, and get to practising,” he growled, leaning in for a searing kiss.

They passed several pleasant minutes in this manner, only breaking apart at the sounds of someone approaching. The clack-clack-clack of high heels drew closer and was suddenly drowned out by shrill giggles.

Narcissa breezed into the kitchen with her blue robes floating gracefully around her ankles and a grinning little girl on her hip.

“Daddy!” she shrieked, squirming to be let down, “Gramma Cissy said we can open gifts tonight!”

Draco knelt down to catch the red-haired blur that hurled herself at him. Hugging his youngest child to him tightly, Draco shot an irate glare at his mother. “You know I already told them no presents until tomorrow morning,” he accused. “You are constantly undermining my authority, Mother.”

Narcissa gave a blithe little shrug. “I’m a grandmother. According to Molly, that’s what we do. Besides, Draco, it’s only one gift. We always allowed you to open one on Christmas Eve,” she reminded her only child.

“Oh please, Daddy!” came the immediate plea, accompanied by huge, begging grey eyes.

Draco smiled at his daughter and gave in gracefully. “Alright.”

Ginny stepped forward and interrupted her little girl’s victory dance by sweeping her up into her arms. “Lisolette,” she admonished, “what have I told you about manipulating your father?”

“Mummy!” she pouted. “I was not manip...manipudating him,” she insisted, stumbling over the large word. Turning to bat her eyelashes at the subject in question, she added, “I love my daddy.”

Laughing, Ginny set her down and rearranged the little girl’s hair. “Lissy, you are a menace.”

“Daddy said I’m just like you,” she grinned. “Ooh! Uncle Ron and everyone are here,” she added, remembering the reason they had come in search of her parents.

Both Draco and Ginny started, obviously surprised at the news. Narcissa rushed to explain her granddaughter’s announcement. “Ron just Apparated to give you advance warning. He said Hermione and the children will arrive by Floo in a few minutes. Lissy and I came to find you. Darien, Dalton and Celeste are waiting to receive anyone that arrives before we all get back,” she added, answering the unspoken question.

Ginny squealed as her hands flew to her robes. “I must look a mess! I have to go change,” she exclaimed as she dashed to the door. Skidding to a halt, she threw her husband an uncertain look. “I don’t suppose you could finish the pudding, could you?” she asked dubiously. “I know you really don’t know how to cook...” she trailed off.

Giving her a confident smirk, Draco replied, “I’m a wizard with a wand. Pudding is hardly a challenge to someone of my magical skill. Where are the directions?”

“The recipe is on the table,” Ginny said in relief. “When it’s done, just leave it on the counter to cool. Thanks!” she yelled as she ran out the door.

An amused Narcissa stood just inside the kitchen and watched her decidedly non-domestically inclined son pick up a scrap of parchment and stare at the pile of chopped chocolate on the table. Finally taking pity on whoever would have to eat what her son was about to bake, she shooed him aside. “Draco, you’ve never cooked in your life.”

Defiantly, he looked back at her. “So? How hard can it be?” he asked mutinously.

She turned to Lissy and gave her granddaughter a wide smile. “Why don’t you take your father and go welcome everyone as they arrive?” Narcissa prodded.

Excited at being reminded that her very loud, very large family would soon be assembled en masse, Lisolette grabbed Draco’s hand and began tugging him towards the door. “C’mon, Daddy. Auntie Herm an’ Phillip an’ Randy an’ Harry are coming!” She paused to gulp in another breath. “An’ Gramma Molly an’ Grandpa an’ ALL my cousins, an’ I get to tell them we can open gifts tonight,” she finished giddily, her eyes sparkling.

Draco turned to cast a bemused look at his mother, recalling precisely how large of an extended family they had, and how many of them had red hair and had vowed to kill him the moment their baby sister was displeased with him. “I was hoping we could just tie the Weasley brothers to stakes outside in the garden,” he grumbled.

“Draco!” his mother reprimanded him sharply. “They have been nothing but good to you, and it’s Christmas. Where’s your goodwill?”

“As a gesture of goodwill, I’d let Ginny go out in the morning and spread chicken feed, so they wouldn’t starve. They hate me, Mum,” he whined.

“Don’t be a wretch, Draco,” she warned. “They love their sister to bits. They’d behave exactly the same even if she was married to Harry Potter himself, so don’t take it personally.”

“Harry-bleeding-Potter,” Draco grumbled as he let his youngest child drag him through the corridors to the entryway. “Potter with my Ginny? Not in the next twelve lifetimes. What an awful thing to say. And to think I let her convince me to invite him tonight. Bah!”

Draco was brought out of his unpleasant reverie when Lissy dropped his hand and launched herself at the knees of a lanky, red-haired man leaning nonchalantly against a pillar. “Uncle Ron!” she cried, laughing happily as she was picked up in strong arms. “Happy Christmas!”

Ron tossed his niece high up in the air and caught her as she shrieked with laughter. “How’s my little pumpkin?” he asked, giving her a noisy kiss on the cheek. “Are you excited about Christmas?”

“Oh yes!” she sighed reverently. “I can’t wait until all my cousins are here. Daddy said we can open a gift tonight.”

Draco’s three older children perked up at the news. “We can?” asked Darien, his oldest. “Really?”

“Yes,” Draco smiled, “really. You can thank your grandmother for that.” His heart warmed as he looked at his three oldest. They each had grey eyes and white-blond hair and bore a striking resemblance to him, Malfoys to their perfect little toes. Until Lisolette was born, it had irritated Ginny to no end that all of her children looked exactly like their father.

They looked like triplets standing there, Draco thought. Only three years separated them, and they were as close as siblings could be. At nine, Celeste was already showing signs of being a beauty. She was thrilled that her brothers, in their first and second years at Hogwarts, were home for the holidays, and was glowing with excitement. “Daddy,” she said happily, “why don’t you show Uncle Ron into the family room. This way you can help Aunt Hermione when everyone comes via Floo. We’ll wait out here for Grandma Molly and everyone that Apparates.” She paused and smoothed her long blonde hair behind her ears. “Where’s Mum?”

His sons nodded in agreement and gave each other a worried look. “Your mother is fine,” he assured. Darien and Dalton both thought the sun rose and set on their mother, and were very attached to her. “She went to change into something nice before everyone gets here. She should be down any moment.”

“Already here,” her sunny voice said behind him. She smoothed forest green robes over her hips nervously. “How do we look?” she asked.

Celeste nodded approvingly. “I told you that colour would look great on you, Mum. I’m glad you took my advice and bought them.”

Ginny chuckled at her daughter. “You’ve a much better head for fashion than your tired old mum, darling,” she said, running an appreciative hand over Celeste’s beautiful hair. “Be a dear and wait by the fireplace to help Aunt Hermione, would you?” she asked. At the sulky look, she added, “James and Thierry will be arriving by Floo, as well. I thought you’d want to be on hand to greet them.”

Celeste perked up at the mention of her friend and cousin. The three of them, along with Dalton, were fast friends from the moment they could talk. With a glance at their brother, Celeste and Dalton herded their father and Uncle Ron into the family room, Lisolette chattering happily in her uncle’s arms.

Ginny moved to her oldest child and slung an arm over his shoulder. “So, it’s just you and me, kid,” she teased. “How’s school been treating you?” Ginny asked. Private time with each of her children was a valuable commodity. They each wanted their mum to themselves, and tended to squabble when they felt they didn’t get any alone time with her. Selfish, just like Draco, she thought. She didn’t mind; in fact, she loved that her children adored her so much.

“It’s been really great,” he replied enthusiastically, leaning his head against her neck. “Professor Snape knows so much about Potions, and he took points from Helené last week,” he crowed. “It was so funny; you should have seen it. She lost her temper and sounded just like Aunt Fleur, saying ‘Zis es unacceptable! You ‘re ze meanest man, and ‘opeless!’ She was so angry, and he told her she would get detention if she said anything like that again.”

His laugh was carefree, still very much the laugh of a child. But Ginny was concerned that perhaps he was a bit too much like his father, who was a git of immense proportions at his age. “Helené is your friend, and family besides, Darien. You should be nicer to her. Just because she’s in Gryffindor,” she chided, trailing off at his look of confusion.

“What has that to do with anything?” he asked. “Who cares if she’s in Gryffindor? So’s Randy. Big deal. I was laughing at her because it was funny,” he said, stressing the last word.

Ginny gave him a wry smile and ruffled his hair lovingly. “I’m sorry. It’s just that when your father and I were at school-”

“Yeah, yeah,” he said impatiently. “I know, Dad told me a thousand times about how much fun it was for Slytherins to make the Gryffindors miserable. It’s not like that anymore. I mean, jeez, you went there, like, last century!” he added, poking her in the side. “We all sit together at lunch sometimes at each others’ House tables. No big deal. Everyone does it.” His shrug said just how little he understood about the longstanding House rivalries. Privately, Ginny was thrilled that he didn’t comprehend, since it meant that House divisions had crumbled.

A loud crack announced someone’s arrival on the other side of the front door. Before she could move to open it, her son was swinging the door open wide. “Happy Christmas!” he said with a wide smile. “Professors, we’re so glad you could make it,” he greeted them politely, making Ginny’s heart melt at how grown up he sounded.

Severus Snape and Melissande Sinistra stepped into the foyer, the former loaded down with brightly wrapped parcels.

Smiling warmly at her old Astronomy professor, she took her by the hands and gave her a quick kiss on the cheek. “I’m so happy you came,” Ginny grinned. A tall dark witch with a penchant for matchmaking, Melissande had played an instrumental part in Ginny’s own happy marriage. “Come on in. Everyone is in there,” she said pointing to the family room. “Let me get your cloaks, so you can go sit down.”

She took her cloak and waited as Severus Snape handed the presents off to Darien to remove his own cloak. “Professor Snape,” she said. “How have you been?”

He looked as dour as ever, and decidedly uncomfortable at the thought of spending the evening with Weasleys and children. “I’ve been well. And you?” he inquired politely.

“Thrilled that everyone could be here tonight. Will the two of you be staying?” Ginny asked. She still felt like a schoolgirl who was late to class around him, but Draco was very fond of his old Head of House and had insisted he be invited to their home for the holidays.

“No, we just came by for the evening, drop off gifts and the like. We have to go to Dorset tomorrow,” he added, voice pitched low and what looked like fear in his eyes. “I have to meet her family,” he hissed, horror lacing his words.

Restraining a smile, Ginny laid his cloak over her arm and moved to the hall closet. “Well, you are dating,” she said mischievously. “It’s only logical you spend Christmas with her family.”

“I’m too bloody old for this,” he muttered as he gathered the parcels from the waiting Darien. “Don’t ever date,” he warned the boy. “Families are a horrible, terrifying thing.”

Darien gave his Head of House a solemn look. “I won’t, sir. Girls are scary enough by themselves,” he said, grey eyes very serious.

Ginny muffled a laugh as Snape huffed, “Well, that’ll change soon enough, I’d wager.” Turning to Ginny, he added, “Young Mr Malfoy here has exceptional marks in Potions. He’s a very gifted student.”

Both Darien and Ginny swelled with pride as Snape moved reluctantly towards the family room. “I suppose the sooner I go in, the sooner I can leave. Narcissa in there?” he asked over his shoulder.

“Not sure,” Ginny replied. Smiling, she added, “Guess you’ll have to find out for yourself.”

A series of loud cracks signalled the arrival of her parents, her brother Charlie and his wife Marie, whom Ginny greeted with a squeal of delight. After much kissing and hugging and sighing over how big Darien had gotten, Ginny managed to corral them into the family room.

It appeared everyone else had already arrived by Floo, as Ginny mentally ran down her guest list to ensure everyone was accounted for.

Ginny’s parents had moved to a cluster of overstuffed armchairs, and were currently deep in conversation with Narcissa, Severus Snape, Melissande Sinistra and Remus Lupin.

Since Remus was here, Ginny surmised Harry had also arrived. There he was, standing with Ron by the fireplace, cradling his four year old, Callie, in his arms.

Draco was leaning against the wall in a quiet corner, talking to Blaise Zabini and Fleur, relating some story as his hands flew about, emphasising whatever he was saying.

Susan, Harry’s wife, sat on one of the sofas with Hermione, Marie, Penelope and Angelina Johnson. A wave of sadness swept over Ginny as she watched Penelope talk quietly.

She missed Percy so much, but never more so than at Christmas. He was killed five years back in an accident at a Ministry event in Kenya. The officials received notice of a nundu attacking a village in the plains, and had gone to try to stop it. Percy was one of thirteen to die before they were able to subdue it. Poor Penelope had been devastated, as had their daughter Anne, who was only nine at the time. The family had pulled together around them, making sure they were taken care of and knew how much they were loved.

Ginny was pulled from her sad thoughts as loud laughter burst from an area to her left. Her brothers, minus Ron, were crowded together, inspecting something in Fred’s hands. They fell silent as Ginny looked at them, each looking entirely too innocent to not be up to something. Ginny was making her way over to them to find out what was going on when Lissy crashed into her from behind.

Turning, she smiled as her youngest blinked up at her. “Sorry, Mummy. Didn’t see you there,” Lissy said, her hands linked with her two favourite cousins. Harry, Ron and Hermione’s youngest, gave her a charming grin as he readjusted his grip on Lissy’s hand.

“Heya, Auntie Ginny! Miss me?” he said, his smile deepening and his brown eyes flashing.

Knowing that at a fast-growing seven her sturdy nephew was too heavy to pick up, Ginny knelt down and gave him a big hug and smoothed a hand over his brown hair. “Of course I did, Harris,” she said, knowing how much he detested his given name.

Struggling out of her arms, he gave her an accusing look. “Don’t call me that,” he pleaded. “I HATE my name. Call me Harry, just like Uncle Harry. I’m gonna save the world too,” he said importantly.

“You are, are you?” Ginny asked with a soft smile. “How are you going to do that?”

He scrunched up his eyes for a minute, thinking carefully. “You know ‘Hogwarts, A History’? I’m gonna write ‘Wizarding Britain, A History’ and include how to defeat Dark Lords! I’ll interview Uncle Harry for it! This way, no more Dark Lords will happen, ‘cuz everyone will know how to kill them,” he said decisively.

Ginny laughed as she thought how much like Hermione little Harry was. By the time he was five, he was reading everything he could get his grubby little hands on.

Turning to the other boy holding her daughter’s hand, she leaned forward and snatched his glasses playfully. “How’s the most handsome Mr Potter in the world?” she asked, giving him a big, smacking kiss before replacing his glasses on his little nose.

Blushing to the roots of his hair, Tony pushed his glasses further up his nose and mumbled, “Dad’s handsomer than me.”

She whispered in his ear, “I don’t think so. I think you are the most handsome Mr Potter.” Giving him a quick hug, she added, “And the sweetest. Your father can be a royal pain in the bum sometimes.”

Letting the three giggling children race off to play by the Christmas tree, Ginny scanned the room for the other children. Admitting to herself that having more than a dozen children in the house for Christmas was going to be insane, she moved to the sofa where some of the older kids sat.

Darien smiled at his mother as she sat on the arm of the sofa. “Brats,” she remarked, “the lot of you. Don’t even find your poor old Aunt Ginny for a ‘Happy Christmas’. No appreciation,” she sighed dramatically.

Helené, Bill and Fleur’s twelve year old, shook her silvery hair and smiled. “My apologies, Aunt Ginny. Mamán said you were busy when we arrived, to greet you later.” She stood and wrapped her arms around Ginny. “Happy Christmas, and thank you for having us,” Helené said, her blue eyes sparkling. “We were just discussing the ‘orrid Professor Snape, if you would like to tell stories of how mean he was when you were at school.”

Darien and Rigel, Blaise’s son, protested loudly while Ron’s son Randy played peace-maker, as usual. “He’s not so bad, Helené. You know that. Dad told me what he was like when he was at Hogwarts, and believe me, we have the much better deal. Oh. Happy Christmas, Aunt Gin,” he added as an afterthought.

Ginny accepted his hug and a kiss on the cheek from a grinning Rigel. “As beautiful as ever, Aunt Ginny. I want a girlfriend just like you,” he flirted. Batting at his hand, Ginny gave him a wry grin. “You’re worse than your father. I’m glad I don’t have to deal with you when you’re a teenager.”

Moving away as all four of them protested that they were teenagers, and almost grown up, Ginny laughed and gave Draco a wink. He was eyeing her from across the room, silently promising to continue the kitchen kiss later, when they were alone. Smiling happily to herself, she made her way over to Harry and Ron, pausing to give the sleepy Callie a kiss on the head.

“Happy Christmas, you two,” she greeted, embracing Ron. Turning to Harry, she gave him and Callie a quick hug before attempting to straighten his untidy hair. “Hasn’t your wife managed to get your hair to behave yet?” she teased.

Switching the toddler to his other arm, Harry gave her a self-conscious grin as he patted his head. “Nope. I don’t think Dumbledore himself could get my hair on the straight and narrow.”

“Don’t complain, mate,” Ron groused. “At least you’re not going bald.”

“Oh, Ron,” Ginny laughed. “You’re not going bald.”

“Not yet,” he grumbled. “Just look at Dad; it’s only a matter of time.”

All three looked over at Arthur Weasley, talking and completely unconscious of the attention his red-fringed pate was garnering.

“It comes from your mother’s side, Ron. That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you,” Harry said. “You never listen to me.”

“Well, having three boys isn’t helping either,” Ron sighed good-naturedly. “Harry’s the worst of the lot. Imagine that; Harry being a troublemaker.”

“That’s what you get, naming one of your kids after me,” Harry teased. “Maybe I’ll give him my Invisibility Cloak when he goes to Hogwarts.”

Ron gasped and turned red. “Don’t you dare, Harry. You know all the trouble that thing got us into!” he accused, before finally realising that Harry was only playing.

Ginny chuckled and interceded on her brother’s behalf. “Don’t worry, Ron. Harry’ll have his hands full with all the boys chasing round after Allison. Met her boyfriend yet, Harry?” she asked sweetly.

Her aim true, she watched as Harry spluttered and became murderously quiet. “They’ll stay away from my little girl, if they know what’s good for them,” he growled.

Ginny clucked and pursed her lips. “She’s fifteen, Harry. Boys happen. Get used to it. In a few years, you’ll be walking her down the aisle.” Mischievously, she added, “I hear she’s seeing that nice Adam Goldstein, from Ravenclaw. Good-looking boy.”

“She’s got a boyfriend?” He looked like he had just taken a Bludger to the gut. “Why didn’t she tell me?”

“She told Susan months ago,” Ginny said. “You don’t discuss boys with your father. It’s a rule.”

“Phillip knew, too,” Ron added smugly. “She tells him and Anne everything, you know. Don’t worry, mate, worst that’s happened is he kissed her after one of her Quidditch matches.”

Harry turned green. “Stop,” he moaned. “No more.” He looked over at where Allison, Anne and Phillip were laughing over butterbeers. “My baby girl. It was only yesterday we adopted her, five years old, all curls and chubby cheeks, vowing she’d never leave us,” he said mournfully. “Now she’s kissing boys.” He shook his head. “I hope you and Hermione have a girl someday, Ron, so I can laugh at you.”

Ron flushed and stammered, “Well, about that...”

“Time for that later, Ron,” Ginny interrupted. “Don’t feel bad, Harry,” she added, shifting the focus onto herself, “in a couple of years it’ll be Celeste going through it. I am NOT looking forward to it. Draco’s likely to have fits.”

“One can hope,” Ron and Harry replied together, before laughing.

Shooting them a look, Ginny walked over to The Sisters, as she had dubbed them.

Hermione, Susan, Penelope, Marie, Angelina and Fleur were relaxing on the sofa and surrounding settees, gossiping.

“Passing all the good information round before I got here?” she asked with a smile as she dropped down next to Angelina.

Flipping her long braids over her shoulder, Angelina transferred the baby to Ginny’s waiting arms. “Excellent timing, Gin. My arms were going numb. Your turn to mind The Fussy One.” At Ginny’s raised eyebrow, she continued, “We were just discussing how to get them to be quiet and go to sleep when they’re teething.”

Tickling the baby’s stomach gently, Ginny immediately said, “Dip a rag in whisky. Works every time. So Sean’s starting to teethe, is he? A little ahead of schedule. You’re a fast learner, aren’t you?” she cooed to him as he tried to chew on one of her fingers. Laughing, she wiped the drool from her finger and tucked his blankets around him snugly. “Why don’t you ask Mum? She’s the baby expert,” Ginny said.

Hermione and Angelina shared a rueful look. Ginny glanced back and forth between them. “I know I’ve been out of the loop when I have no idea what’s wrong with what I just said.”

Unconsciously rubbing her belly, Hermione replied, “She’s been after Fred and Angelina again to get married.”

“Don’t see what all the rush is about,” Angelina grumbled. “It’s not like either of us is going anywhere. We’re happy the way we are,” she defended.

Ginny gave a sympathetic grin. “You know Mum. Old-fashioned to the core. She wants everything to be neatly in place.”

Penelope leant forward around Ginny and patted Angelina’s hand. “Square peg, round hole. Look at the bright side, love. At least she doesn’t call you a scarlet woman anymore.”

Everyone laughed at that, remembering the uproar that occurred when Fred and Angelina told Molly they were having a baby and not planning to wed.

Fleur gave an expressive shrug. “Molly es not fun when she es in a temper. We just pretend zere es something wrong with zee Floo when she es angry. Works like a charm.”

Marie nodded. “Yes, avoiding her until she has calmed down is usually a sound tactic. Always works for Charlie when she’s on about us moving to Britain permanently.”

Hermione snorted. “Avoiding her is easy when you live in another country. Unfortunately, Ron and I are in walking distance. There’s no escaping her then, if she’s determined to speak with us about something. On the other hand, it’s great to have her pop by and announce she wants to take the kids for the weekend. All in all, there are a lot worse women that could be our mother-in-law.”

They all nodded in agreement. Molly Weasley, though slightly overbearing at times, was like a second mother to them all.

Ginny opened her mouth to ask Susan how her new job at the Ministry was going when the clock struck the hour. Starting, she realised dinner should be ready. Passing the baby back to Angelina, she made her apologies and quickly headed for the dining room. Quiet footsteps behind her made Ginny stop and turn, waiting for her husband to catch up.

“Are Hermione’s brownies done?” she asked leaning up to lightly kiss him.

“Er. Yes, yes they are. Cooling on the counter, as ordered,” he murmured, slipping his arms around her waist.

Pushing against his chest lightly, Ginny gave him a suspicious look. “What did you do?” she accused.

Opening his eyes wide in feigned innocence, he replied, “Nothing. Your brownies are done, as promised. I just wanted a moment alone for a taste of my Christmas dessert.” He nuzzled her ear as he purred, “Mmm. Redhead-flavoured. My favourite.”

Laughing, Ginny slapped at him playfully. “Favourite? You’d best not be out sampling other flavours. I’d cry.”

He pulled her into a tight embrace and whispered seriously, “Gin, you know I couldn’t do that to you. One, I’m too damn old and tired to go out looking for a mistress. Two,” he chuckled, dodging the fist thrown at his head, “I’m terrified of your hexes.”

She huffed and pushed him away before planting her fists on her hips. “Not even a mention of love. Some Casanova you turned out to be,” she sniffed. “Four children, warm bed at night, pleasant conversation and a nice home without even a by-your-mention. Ingrate.”

He laughed as he gathered her stiff little body against him and rained chaste kisses along her cheek and temple. “Ginny, I have Harry-bloody-Potter in my house for Christmas. I am nice,” he said, infusing the word with the horror one usually reserved for phrases like ‘baby-killing sociopath’, “to your brothers, all twenty-eight of them. I spend Fridays at work with a silly grin on my face, because I know I get to come home and spend two entire days with you. If that’s not love, I don’t know what is,” he finished grandly.

Lips twisting in amusement, she replied, “A simple ‘I love you’ would have sufficed. C’mon,” she ordered, grabbing his hand and moving forward. “I need to make sure dinner is ready. How’s Blaise?” Ginny asked. “I didn’t get a chance to speak to him yet.”

“He’s fine. In a bit of a tiff about Rigel’s mother not showing up today. Didn’t even send him an Owl to say she couldn’t make it.”

Ginny sighed as she waited for him to step forward and open the dining room doors for her. “That woman has never been reliable. I’m glad Blaise has sole custody. I’d hate to think of her as being responsible for that lovely boy, even for a single day,” she said fiercely, her maternal instincts flaring.

Draco leaned casually on the back of a chair as she walked the length of the enormous table, checking random dishes and platters. “Well, he’s happy. That’s what counts. Blaise said he and Darien are dorm mates and in constant trouble with Snape and the prefects. Seems darling Uncle George told them where the kitchens were, and how to get in for a midnight snack.”

Ginny paused thoughtfully, a gravy boat tilting precariously from her hand. Shaking her head, she put it back down and smiled at him. “Sorry. Just remembering all the trips I used to make to the kitchens. Sometimes I miss Hogwarts, Draco. You know, just being a kid. That and their treacle tarts were the best I’ve ever had,” she laughed. Rearranging one last placard above a place setting, she moved back to him and wrapped her arms around his waist.

“Gin?” he asked softly, brushing her cheek with the backs of his fingers.

“Hmm,” she replied distractedly, still thinking about school.

“Shut up and kiss your husband. He’s been waiting patiently.”

Tipping her head back, she accepted his kiss and opened her mouth, demanding more. When his tongue swept in, she sighed happily and met him halfway, deepening the kiss until he groaned and pulled her closer. Grinding his hips into her, he cupped her bottom and let her feel how much she aroused him. Finally pulling back, he reluctantly swept a hand through his hair and reminded himself that they had a houseful of hungry friends and family. “I’m afraid we’re going to have to continue this later,” he lamented.

Ginny grinned. “We could always tell them to come back tomorrow,” she suggested huskily.

“Ginny,” her mother’s voice floated through the doorway, “are you in there? The children are getting hungry.”

Straightening Draco’s robes with a tug, Ginny called out, “Yes, Mum. Just making sure everything was ready. We’re coming.”

Hand in hand, they met Molly in the corridor and walked back to the family room.

“Everyone,” Ginny announced, “dinner is ready if you’d like to eat.” Laughing, she sidestepped the stampede as the children shot to their feet and bolted for the door. She moved next to Draco and waited as everyone paired off and began making their way to the dining room. Remus offered his arm to Narcissa and escorted her to the door as Draco visually swept the room for any stragglers. Assured that the party had cleared out, he closed the door and clasped his wife’s hand in his own and led her in to dinner.

When everyone was seated, Bill stood up from his seat and drew two bags from beneath the table. “We brought crackers for everyone,” he smiled, moving down the table and handing out brightly-coloured crackers.

“Here’s one for you,” he said to Rigel, “and you and you and you,” he laughed, pressing one into the eager hands of Darien, Randy and Helenč. “It’s nice to have your best mates be part of your family, isn’t it?” he asked his daughter, patting her shoulder. “Good thing, too,” he quipped, “since we can’t separate the four of you with a shoe horn.”

Giving a pretty pout, Helenč scolded, “Daddy, don’t be rude. I love all my cousins,” she simpered to Celeste, who was seated to her left.

Discreetly rolling her eyes, Celeste held her hand out. “C’mon, Uncle Bill. Give your favourite niece a cracker,” she wheedled.

He gave her a measured look before passing by her. “Nope, I think I’ll save you for last,” he teased.

An outraged squawk escaped her lips before he tugged her hair and dropped a cracker in her lap. “Kidding, love. Don’t cry.”

Moving on, he passed out crackers to everyone and tucked the bags away in a corner. He gave his sister a significant look as she sat there and smiled.

“Oh,” Ginny muttered. Elbowing Draco lightly, she said under her breath, “Are you going to say something, or shall we sit here all night?”

Gracefully, he stood and raised his glass. “I’d like to thank everyone for coming tonight,” he began. “Christmas is a time to gather those close to you, and appreciate what life has given you. I have to admit, there’s been times when I was alarmed at the sheer numbers of relations I acquired when I married Ginny,” Draco paused while the adults laughed, “and now I realise that I should have been terrified, because that number has since tripled.” He smiled ruefully at Ron. “Most of that seems to be my fault, along with Ron. Who, I believe, has an announcement of his own.”

Ron flushed, but rose when Hermione prodded him meaningfully with a salad fork. “Er, yes. Hermione and I wanted to, that is, we’re, you see...” he cleared his throat. “Let me try again. It seems we have an early Christmas gift. Hermione is going to have another baby.”

Molly knocked her chair over in her haste to reach Hermione and Ron, snaring them both in an oxygen-depriving embrace. “Oh, I’m so happy for you! Another baby!” she sighed tearfully as Arthur pried her off of them forcefully. All of the adults gathered around them, offering their congratulations.

Draco smiled to himself as Ginny and her brothers caught Ron in a group hug. Turning his gaze, he noticed a very reluctant Severus Snape being dragged towards the happy group by his date. Leaning back, he spent a very entertaining few minutes watching Snape blunder his way through congratulating two people that he didn’t particularly like on having their fourth child. Draco allowed himself a good laugh as he remembered Snape’s horrified face when Ron and Hermione announced their first child. He had remarked that Fate had just spat on the Theory of Natural Selection.

Eventually, prodded by the whining of the younger children and the rumbling of their own stomachs, the adults returned to their seats. Ginny settled herself last and called, “Let’s open the crackers and get to eating!”

The room was filled with small snapping noises as they pulled them apart, laughing over the silly hats each got. Setting aside the candy and riddles, Draco smiled indulgently at his children. It was somewhat of a tradition for them to all put on their hats together and eat dinner with them on. Not particularly caring that he was about to make a fool of himself in front of hordes of Weasleys, he called out. “One, two, three!”

Astonished, he watched his beloved, beautiful children transform into dogs. Literally.

Three Siberian Huskies sat where Darien, Dalton and Celeste used to be. Lisolette was now an Irish Setter. And all of them were rather taller than they should have been. Cringing, he looked down at himself. All he saw was golden blond fur. Great tufts of it. Everywhere. Turning his eyes to his wife, whom he was going to skin alive if she was a willing conspirator, he silently begged for her to fix it.

Speechless, Ginny stared at the little Pomeranian fluffball that used to be her husband. Slowly, she turned her head until she could pin Bill with her eyes. Which was rather difficult, given the fact that he was laughing so hard tears ran down his cheeks. As were Fred, George and Charlie. Everyone else was transfixed by the odd sight. “Alright, you four. I knew you were up to something. Fix it, before I fix you. As in hex. As in painful hex. Now,” she ordered.

Fred was in danger of falling out of his chair, he was laughing so hard. Ginny was very grateful when Angelina leant over and gave him a shove, sending him toppling to the floor.

She eyed George menacingly. He raised his hands in surrender, fighting hard against the urge to smile, leaving him with what appeared to be a nasty facial twitch. “It’s a new product. This was kind of our beta testing of it before we added it to our inventory. Don’t be angry, Ginny. It’s temporary,” he said.

Ginny paused and took a deep breath. “How temporary are we talking here?”

Fred’s head appeared over the side of the table as he hoisted himself to his feet. “Only works as long as you wear the hat. Take it off, and everything’s back to rights.”

Ginny shook her head in disgust as she removed the hat from her husband’s head. Immediately, an extremely irate Draco was seated next to her once more. Rigel obliged her by confiscating her children’s hats and handing them to his father, who was besieged by demands from all three to “give them back for a bit of experimenting after dinner”.

The rest of the meal was blessedly uneventful. Afterwards, Ginny sat with the adults in the family room, lazily making small talk and catching up on each others’ lives, while the children, Fred and George could be heard in the small adjacent sitting room cackling madly. None of the Weasleys were alarmed when small explosions would occasionally disrupt their conversations.

Several hours later, when the children had all opened a gift, listened to Remus tell a Christmas story and begun to doze in their seats, Ginny began to show everyone to their rooms for the night. When she had all of her guests tucked away, she and Draco saw Severus and Melissande off.

Closing the door quietly, Draco led his heavy-eyed wife up the stairs and to their room, pausing to look in on their children, who were all fast asleep.

He had barely begun to strip off his robes when he heard Ginny slide between the sheets. Turning, he regarded her with an amused smile on his lips. She had simply dropped her robes on the floor and left them there, and a trail of hairpins led to her side of the bed. Walking closer, he noticed that she hadn’t even bothered to remove her cosmetics. Laughing softly, he cast a quick Cleaning Charm on her face and turned out the lights, climbing into bed.

Apparently, his absent house-elves had decided to return. The bed was comfortably warm, freshly charmed heating rolls at the foot, just as he liked it. Draco decided to wish them happy holidays tomorrow, as a job well done. But only after Blaise and Potter had left. He’d be strung by his thumbs and tortured before he appeared soft in front of those two.

Ginny snuggled closer to him, throwing an arm across his chest. “Draco,” she mumbled sleepily.

Pushing a skein of hair away from her face he replied, “Hmm?”

“This was such a wonderful Christmas Eve. Tomorrow’s going to be even better. You’ll see. I’m so glad you finally let me have Christmas here,” she trailed off, her words slurring with sleep.

Draco rolled his eyes, glad it was dark. In the twelve years they had lived here, he always found a way to slither out of hosting the Holiday Horror, as he liked to think of it. Thankfully, her family was large enough that she didn’t notice until a few years ago. Ginny had been badgering him ever since. He never told her the reason he was so against it. Sighing, he tucked her more securely against his side as he thought about it.

The truth was, she had him totally and completely whipped. And happily so. He loved her to distraction and he adored his kids. His life was brilliant. But every now and then he wrestled with little niggling doubts. Things in life couldn't stay perfect forever. Something inevitably went wrong. And so far, everything Ginny wanted, Ginny got. He saw to it. He made nice with her family, he didn’t grimace when Ginny had Hermione over for tea every Saturday, he even allowed Perfectly Pathetic Potter to be added to their guest list. Somewhere in Azkaban, his father was howling in despair. Draco was sure of it. Not allowing the Weasley Horde to descend on the Manor, along with all of their adopted family, like Potter and Lupin, was Draco’s lone rebellion. His bastion in the madness of being married to Ginny. Yet here he was, lying in bed on Christmas Eve, with Potter and several dozen Weasleys just down the corridor. There was no denying it, even to himself anymore.

He really was going soft. Damn it all.

***


A/N: I am NOT advocating giving a baby alcohol in the story, just referring to the old wives tale- personally, I think baby anbesol is the most wonderful invention ever to ease the pain of teething.
The End.
Mourning Broken Angel is the author of 14 other stories.
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