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Christmases After

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The first year after their mother died was hard, but Christmas was the worst.

Hermione Granger Weasley had always made sure her children had at least two gifts, one something they needed, and one something they truly wanted. Of course, they usually had more than two, especially after their father's promotion--Ron Weasley couldn't let his children have the same sort of Christmases he'd had, nevermind his Christmases had been filled with love and family--but in the earlier years it had sometimes been a stretch to make sure both children had more than one. If her children would only have two gifts, one would damn well be educational, but the other should be something desired.

Hugo wondered who would make sure he really got what he wanted this year, and what about Rosie? She really wanted that Missy Witchy doll with real, functioning wand (with only three spells, but still, a doll with a real wand), but she didn't think she'd get it, no more than Hugo thought he'd get that junior potions kit.

Especially because he couldn't imagine Mr. Malfoy caring two whits about him, or Rosie. Not just because the man rarely looked away from their father, but because he was so... pale. Pale skin, nearly white hair, even his eyes were such a pale gray. Mr. Malfoy looked to Hugo like a walking ice sculpture, and an ice sculpture wouldn't care about kids or their Christmas.

Also, he didn't seem to like Hugo or Rosie very much, but then an ice sculpture wouldn't, would he?

That was all right, because Hugo didn't like Mr. Malfoy, either, and neither did Rosie. They hadn't liked him much when he first started hanging out at their house, but Hugo really didn't like him after overhearing Mr. Malfoy and his dad in the bedroom. The bedroom his mother used to sleep in, with his dad. The whole thing was only made worse because the sounds coming from the room had been way too close to the sounds his mom and dad used to make. Hugo wasn't entirely sure what that meant, but he knew it seemed a little like Mr. Malfoy wanted to take the place of Hugo's mom, at least in his dad's eyes.

He didn't need to worry, at least that first Christmas, though. That first Christmas, Mr. Malfoy was no where to be seen as Hugo's dad sat with him and Rosie at the base of the Christmas tree. It was bigger than the very first tree in Hugo's memory, and had more ornaments, but it still looked like a sad, droopy tree to him, like it missed his mom as much as he did.

That year, they only got what they wanted, a junior potions kit for Hugo and the Missy Witchy doll for Rosie, and a bunch of other toys besides. They'd never gotten so much at one time before, and not a single present was educational. He smiled and thanked his dad for all his great presents, but it wasn't the same.

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The next year, Mr. Malfoy arrived on Christmas Eve for dinner. Hugo enjoyed how uncomfortable he looked.

Christmas Eve was the time for what his dad called "the family you make for yourself," meaning all his friends. Aunt Ginny and Uncle Harry and came over, bringing James and Albus, and new baby Lily. There was Ms. Lovegood, who brought her boyfriend, a man just as strange in the eyes as she was, and there were the Patil twins, and Mr. Thomas, and Seamus, who didn't like being called "Mr. Finnigan." There were lots more, but Hugo lost track of how many, because he really started paying more attention to the food they brought.

And Mr. Malfoy was there this year. Hugo definitely had the feeling Mr. Malfoy didn't much like most of Dad's friends, and they didn't like him, either. Munching on a meat pie, Hugo watched as Mr. Malfoy and Uncle Harry eyed each other like they weren't sure what the other would do, and finally they shook hands. But they didn't really talk much the rest of the night. Aunt Ginny tried more than anyone else to include the walking ice sculpture, but he made it hard by not smiling.

Later, after the food was eaten and presents opened and everyone else had left, Hugo sat on the stairs and listened as his dad and Mr. Malfoy talked. The last he'd seen of them, they were sitting on the couch cuddled together like dad and mom used to do.

"You could have at least tried."

"Perhaps I would have tried more if they did."

There was a sound that told Hugo his dad had pulled Mr. Malfoy closer. "Ginny tried, and you frowned at her the whole time you git." Silence. "She is my sister, you know. If this... if we're going to keep doing this and if it's going to work, you have to be nice to her and the rest of my family at least." Another silence. "Including my kids."

"Ron." Now the sounds of someone moving away and rising from their creaky old couch. "They don't want me to be nice to them. And I don't know how without it looking like I'm trying to take Herm--her place." Hugo heard his dad murmur something, and anger flared because his voice sounded so sad. "No, Ron, have you even talked to them about us? Do they know what I am to you, would they understand?"

"They're young, I don't think--"

"Maybe not, but you have to tell them something, don't you? Especially if you want me to stay tonight. Especially if they have to see my face Christmas morning." Another very long silence, and finally a sigh, which Hugo could only assume belonged to Mr. Malfoy. "Fine. I'm not staying. I'll see you after the holidays." He did leave, then, though as he stopped by the door to collect his coat, his grey eyes strayed upward, and caught Hugo's. They stared at each other a long time until Mr. Malfoy looked away and stepped out of the door. Hugo heard the faint pop of Apparition.

They did not see Mr. Malfoy again for nearly three months.

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The next year was a busy one, in which Dad had several promotions at work and had to leave the kids with their grandparents or uncles and aunts for a while, in which Hugo kissed his first girl (Lisa Harper, who had blond pigtails and cute freckles and had run away giggling after), Rosie had her first big magical accident which had Dad white in the face and all of them up at St. Mungo's, and in which Dad and Mr. Malfoy sometimes saw a lot of each other and sometimes didn't see each other for weeks or months.

A week before Christmas that year, after a big row with Mr. Malfoy and almost two months of not seeing him, Dad sat Hugo and Rosie down at the kitchen table for a family talk, which was weird because for a while Hugo thought Dad would never say anything.

"Listen," he said finally, "you both know Draco Malfoy."

"Yeah," Hugo said, and Rosie echoed him quietly. Hugo continued, "We know he's a big git who never smiles."

"Don't call him that," Dad said, frowning at him. "He doesn't smile because he's... well, he's nervous."

"You call him a big git all the time," Hugo muttered, but Dad either didn't hear or pretended not to.

"He's nervous because he doesn't know what to do or say around you kids, and part of that's my fault." Sighing, Dad put his hands on the back of one of the dining room chairs. "I should have had this talk with the two of you a long time ago, I just didn't know how." Apparently he still didn't know, because he stopped there with that look on his face that meant he couldn't think of what to say next. Rosie broke the silence.

"Daddy, are you gonna marry Mr. Malfoy?"

"He can't," Hugo said before their dad could answer. "Boys can't marry each other."

"But they kiss each other like Daddy and Mommy used to, and Mommy and Daddy were married."

"People can kiss without being married, stupid!"

"I'm not stupid, you're--"

"No one is stupid, Hugo, you know not to call your sister names." Dad looked at them, just a little angry, so Hugo sat back in his chair. "Rosie, I'm not going to marry Mr. Malfoy. I... like him a lot, but I don't know if I want to marry him." With another sigh, he moved to sit in the chair, and Hugo thought he looked really tired. "He was there for me when your mother... when she was sick, and he didn't have to be. I want him to keep being here, not just for me but for you. I want him to feel like he's part of the--"

"He's not!" Hugo couldn't stop himself anymore, and he couldn't sit there listening to his dad say he didn't want to marry Mr. Malfoy, but say he did in every other way. "He's not part of the family, he's not Mom, and he's not here for anyone but you! You do want to marry him, you just don't want to tell us that! I'm not stupid, Dad, I know what's going on!"

His dad looked shocked, but he shouldn't have. How could he think Hugo and Rosie would be okay with this? This would only be their third Christmas without Mom, but Mr. Malfoy had been there even before the first. Mr. Malfoy had been there even before Mom died, and Dad thought they didn't know. Well, maybe Rosie didn't, she'd been too little then to know, but Hugo did. He knew. Before his dad could say anything else, Hugo jumped up from the chair. "Just marry him, already! See if I care, I don't! But I won't like him, I don't have to!"

He ran away then, up to his room. That's where he spent all Christmas Eve and Christmas, too, by himself, listening to the sounds of presents being unwrapped and people talking. He didn't hear Mr. Malfoy, but he had no doubt the man was there.

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Three years later, when Hugo was eleven years old and Rosie was nine, and Hugo was home for Christmas, their dad sat them down in the kitchen again to tell them they were moving.

"Draco is going to live with us, but his home is too big, and this house is... well, it's too uncomfortable for everyone." Dad smiled, but it was sad still, and Hugo knew what he meant. Their house still had Mom all over it, and Dad wanted to erase her for Malfoy's sake, and his own. He'd met Scorpius at Hogwarts before the holiday, and the git wasn't any better than his dad. Hugo didn't want Scorpius to be his step-brother in any sense of the word. And he definitely did not want to erase his mother. "Hugo, don't look at me like that."

Hugo scowled and shrugged, looking away. Dad wouldn't listen to him, anyway. He never did. Dad would do what he wanted, no matter what.

Before going back to school, he helped Dad and Rosie start to pack away all of their things from their familiar places into boxes that would be put away until there were new, unfamiliar places to put them. Dad said he knew the house he and Malfoy wanted, but the deal hadn't gone through yet. "Draco will make sure it does," he said with a small smile.

Fine, whatever.

Hugo didn't look at his dad as he boarded the train to go back to Hogwarts. He did catch a glimpse of Scorpius, though, who scowled at him before disappearing into one of the compartments. Guess he must have heard of the plan, too. At least Scorpius lived with his mom, and wouldn't be living with them all the time.

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Scorpius was there the next Christmas, in their new house with them, all pale and frowning and cold like his father. Hugo could tell he wasn't any more happy to be here than Hugo was to have him, or his father. But, like everything else, there was nothing he could do about it.

Draco tried, he guessed. He'd even asked Hugo and Rosie--while frowning, and looking uneasy--to call him "Draco" and not "Mr. Malfoy." So he did, because he was tired of "Mr. Malfoy" and it was better than "Mom."

Hugo noticed things were different on Christmas Eve with Draco there. Sitting at his place at the table, Hugo watched the Potters and Ms. Lovegood--without a boyfriend or girlfriend this year--and the others reacted. Ms. Lovegood seemed not to notice, and treated Draco like anyone else, but all the others didn't seem to know what to say or do around him, even though he'd been part of Christmas Eve for a while. Mostly, they seemed not to know what to think about the open affection Dad showed for him, not only because of Draco, but because Dad hadn't even been so affectionate toward Mom. It was like... he was challenging anyone to say anything.

No one did. At least, no one said anything where Hugo could hear.

In the morning it was just the family, which now included Draco and Scorpius. They opened gifts from youngest to oldest, with Dad murmuring something to Draco when Rosie opened a very expensive dancing crystal ballerina. Dad looked worried, but Draco just shrugged. Rosie practically fell over herself thanking Draco before running up to her room to put it up where it wouldn't get broken. While she was gone, Scorpius opened his gift, a Firecomet, the latest and fastest broom in existence, custom colored in Slytherin green and silver, a broom Hugo would kill to own. Scorpius looked at it without expression, then set it aside without a word to reach for the next gift, which he also did not give thanks for, and Dad sent him upstairs for that. Hugo tried not to show how giddy Scorpius' hateful look made him.

Hugo opened his gifts from Dad and everyone else first, putting off Draco's until last. His mouth opened when he picked it up, because he could guess what it was before opening it; he gave Draco a glance, but the man looked as much like an ice sculpture as ever. Dad, though, smiled and nodded encouragement, so Hugo ripped open the paper to see a Firecomet like Scorpius', but in a different color scheme, Gryffindor red and gold of course.

"Holy--"

"Hugo." Dad's tone warned language without having to say it, and his eyes gave a warning. Be grateful.

He was. He didn't want to be, but he was. How could he not be, when this was the best gift he'd ever gotten in how whole life?

Hugo clutched at the broom's handle and looked up at Draco, really looking at him for the first time since that night on the stairs. Then, he'd been too young to see much of anything, but now he could tell Draco really wanted him to like the gift, just like he'd really wanted Scorpius to like it, and Rosie to like hers. Scorpius had disappointed, and this was his own dad. Hugo couldn't imagine acting like that to his father, because he loved hid dad even if sometimes Dad did stupid things or things Hugo just didn't like.

"Thanks, Draco," he said. "This is the best gift ever, really. I want to play Quidditch, so... it'll be really good for practice and games when I get on the team next year." He tried to show that he realy meant it, and he must have because Draco smiled at him. Not a big smile, but it was a smile.

"Why don't you go outside and try it out," said Dad, moving to pick up shredded Christmas paper. "Just stay below the tree line for now, until I can get a befuddlement shield up." Draco stood to help him,

Hugo nodded, rising to go up to his room and change into something warm, but it didn't seem right. Pausing, he looked back over his shoulder to the two men cleaning the floor, talking about how they should have moved to Hogsmede and griping that this neighborhood was just as good as Hogsmede or any of those elite magical communities that had been popping up all over the countryside. Merlin, he hoped they wouldn't be moving again. With spending most of the year at Hogwarts, there'd barely been time to get used to this house, and these people.

But he had. Hugo knew what was wrong.

Before he could think twice about it, Hugo went to Draco and put his arms around the man briefly. "Really. Thanks." Both Draco and Dad stared at him, Dad with his mouth opened a little in shock. Maybe that was worth it, just a little.

Running up the stairs, Hugo thought he still didn't like Draco all that much, and he stilled wished his mom was here. But... well, maybe this new house and new family wouldn't be all bad.