Word Count: ≈ 2,100
Prompt: gingerbread men
Warnings: major character death
Summary: Hermione reflects on Christmases past.
A/N: I solemnly swear that I am up to no good; however, I promise to return everyone, good as new, when I'm done playing with them. I own nothing that you recognize, and I do not profit from any of it.
Hermione trudged through the crowds in Diagon Alley, shopping bags on each arm. She nimbly sidestepped the mingling shoppers as she mentally reviewed several running lists in her head. A book of childcare spells and charms for Rose, who was expecting her first child with Lorcan Scamander, who had inherited no small amount of his mother’s dreamy nature. A new jacket for Hugo, whose clothes were constantly out-at-elbows as he spent all his time at his new job on the dragon preserve with Charlie. For Scorpius, off in Japan finishing his apprenticeship, a box of Weasley products to remind him of home.
Lost in her own thoughts, Hermione stopped short outside Florean Fortescue’s, inhaling deeply. Scents teased from inside the shop; something indefinable that still evoked that sense of holiday spirit. She smiled indulgently at the children running for the shop entrance. It seemed like only yesterday that Rose and Hugo had done the same thing; although they were both grown, now, and far too busy with their own lives for things like sweets with their mum.
She smiled to herself and was about to continue on her way, when more patrons opened up the shop door and another wave of tantalizing scents enveloped her. This time, that indefinable something that had teased her senses earlier hit home with the force of an avalanche.
Eggnog, cinnamon, peppermint, mince and gingerbread…
Hermione was suddenly awash in a sea of memories from holidays gone by.
Her mother bringing homemade gingerbread men to Christmas dinner at the Burrow and Molly enchanting them to dance around the tabletop, much to the delight of a squealing baby Hugo. Rose, a mature toddler of three, had giggled as she pointed at them from her place on the floor with Albus and James. The smiling look she had exchanged with Ron, seated across the room.
Coming downstairs Christmas morning, only to discover that the children had devoured most of the gingerbread house she had painstakingly put together and decorated. A trail of crumbs and discarded cinnamon dots – which she’d used in an intricate latticework pattern on the walls – had led her behind the sofa, where Rose and Hugo were still munching happily. Their shining eyes and sweets-smeared faces had overcome her anger and she’d laughed, scooping up Hugo and twirling him around before depositing him on the chair and giving Rose her turn.
The Christmas they had decided to try to celebrate with her family, entirely Muggle-style, which had resulted in she and Ron both racing frantically from room to room, undoing the children’s wandless magic. She’d heard a particularly large crash and found Ron underneath the darkened Christmas tree, the lights hovering near the ceiling. She’d only belated realized that it was because Hugo had charmed them into pixies, after he’d heard his grandfather refer to them as fairy lights.
The cold, angry silences of that last Christmas together, when they’d spent every possible moment at The Burrow with the rest of the family, just to keep from fighting in front of the children while they were home from Hogwarts. Taking them to Platform 9 ¾, pain stabbing in her chest like a Cruciatus curse as she had allowed herself to acknowledge that this was likely the last time she and Ron would make this trip together.
The lonely, tear-filled holiday the year that her parents had passed away, when Ron and Lavender had announced their engagement in front of the entire family on Christmas Eve. Ron had cornered her afterwards, dragging her out to their spot in the garden and wrapping his arms around her, rocking her gently, letting her know he still cared. They’d gotten over the bitterness and anger by then… but the loneliness remained, at least for her.
Rose announcing, in the middle of Kings Cross Station, that she intended to marry Scorpius Malfoy. She was thirteen, and he was the spitting image of his father at that age. Draco, tight-lipped, had nodded curtly to her as he pulled his son away. On the way home, Rose had explained that Scorpius’ mum had died the year before in some sort of accident, so he needed someone to look after him. Lips twitching, she’d agreed to invite Scorpius and his father to dinner over the holidays, although she had never expected that the invitation would be accepted, nor that the grown-up Draco would be so… charming. Rose’s infatuation with the son had waned before they returned to Hogwarts for the new term, but her own infatuation with the father had lingered.
Bringing Draco and Scorpius to Christmas Eve at the Burrow that first time, both of them standing nervously aloof amidst the throng of red-haired Weasleys. Then Albus had tugged Scorpius outside with the rest of the kids for a pick-up Quidditch game, and Hermione had linked her arm with Draco’s and re-introduced him to the rest of the family. He and Fleur had gotten on especially well, conversing in easy and fluent French, light hair flashing in the firelight. Harry and Ginny had taken great pains to be warm and welcoming, and even Ron had managed to be cordial.
The look on Molly Weasley’s face the second year, on the eve of the Winter Solstice, apron smudged with gingerbread, mince pies, Christmas cake and all manner of other good things, as Draco presented her with the gift of one of his house-elves for the duration of the holidays, to help with the extra work. How they had fought about that, afterwards; Hermione had been so incensed that he would gift an enslaved sentient creature, until Draco had explained that, in pure-blood society, it was considered a great honour to bestow the services of a house-elf on a host or hostess during a visit. He’d also wryly pointed out that he had freed all his family’s house-elves following the war, and the ones working for him now were paid wages, if they would accept them, or had accounts in their names at Gringotts’, if they would not. She’d stared at him in surprise, until he admitted that his wife had been an ardent supporter of house-elf rights. Her delighted peal of laughter had rung through the house, causing even shy, reserved Scorpius to grin.
The third year, when Draco had brought her out into the gardens of Malfoy Manor, the trees and bushes lit from within by hundreds of tiny, sparkling fairy lights. The pounding in her chest, as he’d gotten down on one knee and asked a question to which they both already knew the answer. Still, there had been the briefest flicker of uncertainty in his face, in that instant before she’d flung her arms around his neck and kissed him. Moments later, they’d been tackled by all three of the children and landed in a laughing, crying, hugging, tangled heap of limbs in a snowdrift. Cheeks rosy and eyes shining, Scorpius, Rose and Hugo had trooped inside for hot chocolate and gingerbread men while Draco had held her back, quietly slipping a ring onto her left hand. After kissing her gently, they’d followed the rest of their family into the house.
Teaching Draco her mother’s recipe for gingerbread men, laughing and joking with the children as they’d decorated them with frosting, raisins and sweets. It was a Christmas tradition with Rose and Hugo, one which they had happily inducted Scorpius and Draco into. Draco, using a charm she’d never quite gotten the hang of, enchanted a batch of them to dance along the tabletop. Rose had watched them, her teenaged eyes shining, before running to hug her mother, whispering that the Manor finally felt like home.
Sitting in front of the fire, sipping wine and reading by the light of the Christmas tree, Draco’s head in her lap as he dozed, his book lying open on his chest. Brushing the hair out of his eyes, she had thought that she’d never known such peace and contentment as that night, with the man she loved.
Sledding down the hill behind the Burrow, dragging their much-too-cool teenaged children along with them. Several hours later, she and Draco had been ready to head back inside for hot chocolate and mince pies, but the kids – who’d protested the entire morning that they were far too old for childish things like sledding, thank you very much – had begged to be allowed to stay longer. Laughing, they’d left them to it; Arthur had actually had to go out and chivvy them in, once darkness fell.
Waking up to a beautiful snowfall one glorious Christmas morning, opening the doors off their bedroom to stare in wonder at the three perfect snow angels beneath the balcony and the words, “Happy Christmas, Mum and Da,” charmed into the snow. Her happy tears after discovering that, while all three of them were responsible for the snow angels, it had been Scorpius who’d spelled the message into the snow.
Draco’s hair glowing white in the firelight as he leaned over to kiss her, that first Christmas night when all the children were grown and on their own, and they had gone home to an empty Manor, instead of a houseful of children, guests, pets and assorted stowaways. His whispered promise that the best was still ahead of them. Their laughter as he’d chased her around the kitchen table when she’d gotten up to fix tea, scooping her up and depositing her on the countertop to kiss her soundly.
The concern they’d had when Draco had first fallen ill, tired and stiff-jointed all the time. He’d downplayed it considerably, and she’d allowed herself to relax, until she watched him across the room at the Burrow that Boxing Day, his body language shouting – at least to her – that he was in enormous pain. She’d dragged him to the Healers the next day.
The months of worry that had followed, as treatment after treatment failed to have an effect on the disease ravaging his body. The looks on the Healers’ faces, their last visit to St. Mungo’s. The looks in their children’s eyes when they’d all sat down in front of the fireplace and talked. She had wanted to take Rose and Hugo to the Burrow for a few days after that, to give Draco the chance to be alone with his son, but Scorpius had stopped her in the hallway that evening, burying his face into her hair and sobbing like a child.
“Please,” he’d whispered, “please don’t you leave me, too.” Her own heart already breaking, she’d sunk to the floor with him and rocked him gently, as though he were a child again, instead of the grown twenty-something wizard he was.
The quiet, clinging Christmas they’d had that year, the five of them spending long hours together, as if they had all somehow known it would be their last.
Sitting at Draco’s bedside that final night, holding hands, whispering love and comfort, holding his gaze as his breathing became laboured. Rose, Hugo and Scorpius had all sat vigil at his bedside that week, saying their goodbyes, and she knew, as he finally slipped away from her, that Draco had known he was surrounded by love.
Hermione shook herself out of her reverie, wiping a stray tear from her cheek as she went on her way. This first Christmas without Draco was harder than she’d imagined it would be. She Apparated home and went into the parlour, where she began sorting and wrapping the presents she’d bought. She pulled out her handwritten lists and began reviewing them, stopping to scratch out an item she’d absently added to get for Draco. Re-reading the list more closely, she realized she’d added no less than five items to her shopping list for him. Closing her eyes, she gave in to the sobs that welled up inside her.
When she’d cried herself out – again – she dried her cheeks and eyes and wandered down to the kitchen to make herself a cup of tea.
Just inside the kitchen door, she stood in wonder at the sight of Rose, Lorcan, Hugo and Scorpius, sitting with mugs of hot chocolate, watching the gingerbread men cooling on a baking rack. Flour-smudged faces lit up as they caught sight of her.
“You’re just in time to decorate them,” Scorpius told her as he jumped up to get her a mug. She pulled him into a hug, in order to prove to herself that he was really there. “I arranged for a long-distance Portkey,” he answered her unspoken question.
“It’s tradition, Mum,” Rose said quietly, clasping hands with Lorcan, sitting beside her.
Hermione smiled at her family through misty eyes and nodded.
“Yes,” she agreed, “it’s tradition.”