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The sound of her children speaking in a hushed tone always put Hermione on alert. Much too often, it was a sign of trouble. For her.

Sighing, she put down her quill and tucked her stack of parchment into her workbag. Young children and pets had taught her early on to never leave important documents easily visible and accessible. Good thing she’d intended on destroying that draft version of the Sparkling Marsh Forklet-moss Conservation Petition anyway. Nothing survived Weazies Crafty Finger Dabbles once it adhered. Although, Uncle Harry was extremely pleased at the bright yellow handprint on the bosom of Walburga Black’s portrait. Hermione grinned at the memory of little Victoire’s face when she realized she’d done something clever instead of naughty.

Quietly walking up to the whispering pair so as not to startle them, she saw them intent on some object in Aelwen’s hands. Peering over their heads, she saw that it was a tiny bird.

Sensing a hovering presence, her sprogs looked up.

“It’s hurt, Mummy!”

“Crookshanks found it and gave it to me!”

“Can we keep it?”

Hermione sighed. The household had already acquired a hedgehog, two salamanders, and a Crup-Dachshund hybrid that, frankly, she was astonished was still alive. Perhaps the fact that it was partly magical made it acceptable to share a living space with Crookshanks. Draco always snidely commented on how that meant Ron was at least semi-Squib.

“Please, Mummy!”

Hermione sighed again. Draco wasn’t the only one who succumbed to a pair of pleading eyes. She resorted to her usual answer: “We can keep it until it’s recovered.”

Her sprogs beamed.

“What type of bird is it, Mummy? Day-day says it’s a blackcap, but there’s no black anywhere on its head!”

“I just told you it’s a girl blackcap! I saw a picture in Granddad’s book about birds!”

“Well, why don’t we pay a visit to Granddad and Grandmum’s library and find out for sure?”

“Yay!”

A hand over their shoulders, Hermione gently steered her sprogs toward their small library, where, having tapped the right books with her wand, they stepped into her father’s study through the portal she’d created for convenience between their house and her childhood home.

Deian ran toward the correct shelf and pulled the book in question.

The three settled into the couch and agreed, after a glance at the illustrations, that the injured bird was indeed a female blackcap. Hermione read through the details and summarized. “The passage says that our native blackcaps tend to fly south for the winter, while those from countries like Spain or Germany fly north to Britain, so this bird is likely from somewhere on the continent. It also says that blackcaps like to eat berries, small fruits, and insects. Let’s go home and consult the book from Auntie Luna on how to wrap a broken wing and then see what we have in the fridge.”

The bandaging proved successful; the food offerings not so much. Aelwen began tearing up when the last piece of fruit, carefully diced, was refused.

“Don’t cry, Ellie! We can go to the grocery store and let it tell us what it likes to eat!”

“I’m afraid the staff at the store won’t allow us to bring a bird in, Deian, especially if it isn’t in a cage. Let’s wait until Daddy gets home. He can look after the bird and the three of us can do some shopping.”

But that trip and the subsequent one to the pet shop inside Diagon Alley for more exotic fare were failures. Three bedtime stories and a special visit from Pépère to sing her favourite lullaby were required before Aelwen would settle for the night.

The obvious solution hit Hermione the following day in the middle of her monthly Wizengamot meeting. She sent a message by Floo to Draco, who returned a resigned reply that he’d bring the sprogs to visit Looney—and that she owed him.

Hermione returned home and was surprised to see a large rag placed on the floor beneath the blackcap’s cage.

“It poops, Mummy! A lot!”

“And it likes all the mistletoe berries that Auntie Luna gave us!”

Hermione resisted the urge to roll her eyes. Of course it would eat the foodstuff she’d not considered, given that it was poisonous, though now that she thought about it, she’d seen a note about mistletoe in her dad’s book and dismissed it because, well, obviously. Another lesson learned: there’s no obvious when it comes to creatures, magical or not. After all, the “magiweenie” (as the hybrid canine had been dubbed) was addicted to chocolate. Draco had learned to hide his stash very, very well.

A week thus passed happily, and the blackcap made a rapid recovery.

The following Sunday, with permission to bring the bird to the Manor to be properly introduced, the family of four plus feathered guest arrived via a different library portal and made their way to the sitting room. The sprogs proudly showed off their newest creature companion (no, it was not a new pet!) and begged to allow it to explore the gardens. Mémère finally conceded, though she asked one of the house-elves to keep an eye on it.

The bird caused no trouble and brightened the atmosphere with its chirpy praise of the well-maintained landscape and magic-enabled climate control.

Three weeks later, Draco and Hermione brought the sprogs to the Manor for the usual Christmas Eve dinner with both sets of grandparents. As special dispensation, since ’twas the season of giving and coming together as families, Deian and Aelwen were allowed to bring all the household pets (yes, Hermione had to finally concede that the blackcap was one, since it’d declined being set free).

The festive mood was shattered after dinner by an outraged scream. The blackcap had somehow escaped its cage… and had left small streaks of droppings across the gardens. It must have been free of its confines since brunch. A mortified Hermione insisted on helping the house-elves clean the mess.

Her woes were sadly capped when Neville Longbottom had to be consulted five days later. Evidently, enough of the blackcap’s copious droppings had escaped the cleaning up, and now an aggressive infestation of Viscum album needed to be got rid of in time for the annual Malfoy Masked Midnight to count the year down.