It started at the breakfast table one day in mid-November, a few months after they were wed.
"Draco?" Ginny asked.
"I haven't been able to find any Christmas decorations. Were they destroyed when the manor was damaged?"
"Oh, no," Draco replied. "We never had any, not for this house."
He looked up. "We were rarely here at Christmas. When I was younger we'd go into the city before Christmas for shopping and parties, and then by Christmas Day we'd be skiing or something similar. Later I spent the holidays at school."
"Right," Ginny replied.
"And now, of course, we go to the Burrow," he said. "But if you want to decorate the Manor, you should go ahead."
"All right," Ginny said. She felt unsettled by the conversation though she didn't know why, so she let it drop. For the time being, anyway.
Ginny went to the one person who could always answer her questions about the customs of posh pure-bloods: her sister-in-law Padma. They had tea in Padma and Ron's little house in one of the wizarding enclaves in North London.
"It was so strange," Ginny said. "I want to create our own traditions, of course, but I don't want it to just come from my family."
"I have to say, I'm not surprised," Padma replied, handing Ginny the plate of biscuits.
"Thanks," Ginny said, absentmindedly taking several. "But I've seen Christmas decorations at your parents' house!"
"This isn't about wealthy wizards," Padma said. "I meant I'm not surprised about the Malfoys; they were always a little odder than everyone else. Lucius was so extreme in his distaste for anything that Muggles did. I'm sure he made that decision and Narcissa just went along with it."
"The Blacks certainly celebrated the holiday," Ginny said. "There are piles of decorations at Grimmauld Place."
"Then you know who you should talk to? You should talk to Andromeda Tonks."
"You're so right," Ginny said. "I'll send her an owl post today."
"Only when you do see her," Padma said, looking at the empty plate, "try not to eat all of her sweets."
The Tonks family home was in the country. Andromeda insisted on Ginny coming for lunch, and nodded when Ginny told her about the Christmases of Draco's youth.
"That wasn't just the Malfoy influence," Andromeda said, "though it was part of it. Cissy never liked Christmas much."
Ginny stared at the table laden with food and wondered if Andromeda had thought she was bringing several other people with her, or if she'd just heard scurrilous rumors about Ginny's eating habits. She took half of a ham salad sandwich. "Never liked it? Whyever not?"
"Cissy was the youngest—not just of the three of us, but of the cousins as well. And she hated it, hated being treated as the baby, hated being left out of the fun. I think she was just one of those children who didn't like being a child and didn't really like other children." She poured herself another cup of tea. "When Lucius Malfoy started coming around, Cissy was still quite young but he treated her like an adult. It was the way to her heart, as it turned out."
"But she was always so protective of Draco," Ginny said.
"Everything changes when you see the baby squirming in your arms," Andromeda said, smiling. "And he was the only one. He didn't know his cousin, didn't have siblings. The only one who babied him was his mother."
Ginny thought about that as she finished her sandwich. "Anyway, Christmas?" she asked.
"Right, Christmas. Well, we usually had a tree, and faerie lights, and some holly I believe. We opened presents at our home on Christmas morning and then went to Grimmauld Place for dinner with our cousins. We were allowed to run around in the bedrooms upstairs and scream and shout over our presents while the grown-ups had cocktails downstairs. It was the one day all year when we didn't have to be on our very best behavior at the table, and we had crackers and a ham and a Christmas pudding, you know, all the usual things." She smiled. "It surprised me when I went to Ted's parents' house for the first time for the holiday and it wasn't much different. Of course there were no house elves and nothing was magical, but it was the same idea, the same effect."
"It sounds like ours, too," Ginny said.
"Does it? How lovely. Anyway yes, all that running around, with even the grown-ups being children at the table, wasn't something that Cissy enjoyed."
"The Malfoys went skiing instead, apparently."
Andromeda nodded. "That sounds like her."
"And what did you do last Christmas?" Ginny asked.
"On the day? Well, now that we could, we went to Grimmauld Place. Rather fun being one of the grown-ups for a change. And you know, Auntie—Sirius' mother—is so infuriated by my presence that she leaves her portrait entirely as an act of protest!" Andromeda laughed.
"What a relief," Ginny said.
Andromeda offered her another sandwich half, which she took, and then said, "Ginny, you know, it's always an adjustment after you're married and the holidays can be the worst. It's true for everyone, not just those who have obvious differences."
Ginny nodded, not sure if Andromeda's words made her feel better, or worse for worrying so much.
"And you may want to ask him," Andromeda continued. "You don't have to deliver the perfect Christmas to him on a silver platter."
"Right," Ginny replied, realizing that's exactly what she'd wanted to do.
A week later, at the same breakfast table, Ginny asked a different question.
"Draco?" Ginny asked.
"What would you like to do for the holiday?"
Draco looked up, his brows furrowed. "I assumed we'd be at the Burrow," he replied.
Ginny shrugged. "Mother has that Boxing Day Buffet and everyone will be there. That's all I need, and all she'd harass us about."
"Oh," Draco replied. "Well, I don't know."
"Your aunt goes to Grimmauld Place," Ginny said.
"Does she?" he asked. "Damn, I can't remember the last time I was in that house."
"I dunno, Gin," he said. "Sirius and Harry—I wouldn't want to intrude."
"They're your family, too," she replied. "Your family home. And come to think of it, that makes Harry your family now, too."
"Huh," Draco said. "Well, I think that would be nice, to do something connected with Mother."
"Good," Ginny said.
They went back to their breakfast. After a few minutes Draco said, "You know, they sell trees in the village. When I was little I always wanted to get one but there was no point as we wouldn't be in the house. I'd like to get one of those this year."
"So we shall," Ginny said.
"Christmas Day at Grimmauld Place," Draco said, counting on his fingers, "Boxing Day at the Burrow, Christmas Eve where?"
"Here," Ginny said firmly.
"Well, of course, once we start having a family," Draco said, "but until then—"
"Until then," Ginny said, taking his hand, "I'm sure we'll find something to keep us occupied."
Draco raised his eyebrows. "You know, holiday sex means August babies."
"I can live with that," she replied. "In a few years' time, mind you."
"So," she asked, "Christmas at home, then?"
"Yes," he said. "Christmas at home."