“There is neither happiness nor unhappiness in this world; there is only the comparison of one state with another. Only a man who has felt ultimate despair is capable of feeling ultimate bliss. It is necessary to have wished for death in order to know how good it is to live…the sum of all human wisdom will be contained in these two words: Wait and Hope.”
― Alexandre Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo
Hermione adored Christmas. In particular, she adored Christmas at Hogsmeade Village, blanketed in a fresh powdery snow so perfect she suspected magical meteorological interference. Not that she minded in the slightest. She watched the snow sparkling in the predawn light of dim streetlamps as she relaxed in a living room finally unpacked and organized after nearly six months in their new home.
Even with magic, moving became much more complicated with children. Especially when extensive book collections were involved. Which, between her books and Draco’s, a veritable his and hers library, their collection could certainly be termed extensive, bordering on excessive.
The sound of Draco’s soft footfalls pulled Hermione’s attention from the window. He looked barely a blink out of sleep, soft and rumpled and endearingly disheveled in a way he’d only grown into in fatherhood. That very same disheveled appearance often made Hermione reconsider the hard two-child limit they’d placed on their family after witnessing the sustained chaos that became the Potter household following Lily’s birth.
“I don’t think I’ve woken up before you in years,” Hermione told him in a whisper as he slid beside her on the velvet sofa. “Actually, I don’t think I’ve been up before you for as long as I can remember,” she amended. She set her tea aside and leaned in for a kiss, melting against him in the blessed fragments of silence and solitude their sleeping children offered them. She knew it would be a brief, ephemeral moment.
“I couldn’t bring myself to wake you when Cassie started crying again,” he mumbled against her mouth, clearly still drowsy.
“I made tea,” Hermione said. She ran her hands through his messed hair, brushing it back into something resembling his usual style. It caught her in moments like that, when Draco seemed his most human, just how distractingly handsome she found him, just how much she could love him.
“I’ll make my own,” he said, standing. He glanced back at her. She had her head tilted in question. “There’s a reason I always make the tea, love,” he said, twisting and lowering himself to soften the blow of his words with a kiss. “Yours is terrible.”
“My tea tastes just fine,” she insisted, unsure if the fiery feeling in her chest came from indignation or amusement. “I can’t even tell the difference from what you made yesterday.”
A familiar smile flashed across his features, one she didn’t see often anymore. It was the smile that said they’d had this conversation at least once before.
“Yes, well, your palate is clearly underdeveloped. Mine is not, however.” He stole her cup as he distracted her with another kiss. “I’ll make yours fresh, too. One of us must have standards.”
Draco only made it halfway to the kitchen before a four year old blond blur barreled into his waist.
“Christmas, it’s Christmas!” Scorpius announced, bouncing with the energy and enthusiasm only a child on Christmas morning could maintain. His tiny hands grappled at Draco’s shirt, begging to be picked up.
Hermione glanced at the clock; one day, in the distant future, she could envision a life where Scorpius slept past sunrise. But in the depths of a Scottish winter, she knew an impossibility when she saw one.
Still holding Hermione’s tea in one hand, Draco managed to stoop and lift Scorpius around his middle, hauling the child into his arms. He grunted. “Scorp— buddy, I think you might be getting too big for this.”
Hermione watched as Draco set her tea on the counter and engaged both hands in holding their son, who already looked bored and ready to bound to another destination, sliding from his precarious perch. Draco let him go. Complain as he might about their four year old being too big to pick up, Hermione could see Draco imminently mourning the loss. Scorpius ran to her on the sofa.
“Time for presents,” he announced, practically climbing on top of her. She smoothed the blond waves away from his face.
“Hush darling, your sister is still sleeping,” she told him, pulling him in for a hug.
“Is there a kitty?” Scorpius asked, struggling to look around. He'd been asking for a cat since the moment they’d lost Crookshanks the year before.
“We’ve talked about this Scorpius. We’re not getting a cat right now,” Hermione told him.
Scorpius wrenched himself from her arms, pouting with a look so similar to his father that Hermione had to suppress a laugh.
“But I want a kitty,” Scorpius whined as Draco joined them, fresh tea in hand, settling onto the sofa. Hermione could only lock eyes with her husband who blew out an exhausted breath.
“Uncle Theo and Uncle Blaise will be here soon and we’ll do presents then. They’re bringing their cat for you to see, isn’t that exciting?” Hermione said.
Scorpius huffed, still pouting through the surge of excitement he clearly didn’t want his parents to see.
Hermione took a sip of her fresh tea; it tasted exactly the same as the cup she’d made before. But she smiled in gratitude at Draco, a silent thanks he met with rolled eyes.
“It’s better,” he insisted.
“It’s the same,” she said as she returned her attention to the squirming child between them. “After we do presents we’re going to go see your grandparents for lunch. And no one will be receiving ancient human bones as gifts.” She flashed a teasing grin at Draco.
“It was one time, Granger. And you don’t even remember it.”
She laughed, reaching across Scorpius to find Draco’s hand. Scorpius wriggled from beneath her arm, sliding to the floor. He turned, looking at them with a pointed sort of authority Hermione blamed entirely on the Malfoys.
“After we see your grandparents we’re going to go up to the castle for Christmas dinner with your daddy’s new work friends. And you’ll be on your best behavior, won’t you Scorpius?”
“Only if I get a kitty,” Scorpius grumbled, arms crossed in front of him.
Draco snorted, reaching out and ruffling the waves Hermione had just smoothed. “This isn’t a negotiation, bud.”
Scorpius frowned, engaged in a momentary battle of wills with his father, and then threw himself to the floor where a number of his toys immediately offered a new focus.
“What time were my parents expecting us?” Hermione asked Draco as Scorpius distracted himself with a toy snitch.
Draco shrugged, stifling a yawn. He pulled out his wand and summoned the cell phone he used to communicate with her parents. He fumbled with it briefly before tossing it aside on the sofa.
“Eleven,” he answered, winding an arm around her shoulder and pulling her close.
“You know, I found my old phone when I was unpacking the bedroom. I could probably take over some of the logistics with my parents,” she said, sinking against him as she watched a stuffed toy bludger bounce off the back of Scorpius’s head with a soft thump.
She felt the tension ripple through Draco’s core.
“You have that phone? The one from before your accident?”
She nodded, looking up at him to search his face for whatever had caused that unexpected reaction.
“Have you used it—since then?”
“No,” she said. “I haven’t even charged it since—maybe a month after I got out of St. Mungo’s. Why?”
Slowly, a flush of pink crawled up his neck. “Well,” he started. “Why don’t I get Scorp dressed and you can power it up?”
She furrowed her brows, questioning. Draco dropped a kiss to her temple.
“I assumed we lost it in the fire.” He paused, drumming fingers against his leg, working out a sudden reticence. “I taught myself to text. I used to talk to you on it—when things were hard. In the beginning. It helped. I figured you saw it and didn’t say anything—or never saw it and it was destroyed.” The pink creeping up his neck flushed deeper, a rosy red beneath his fair skin.
When Draco steered Scorpius back to his bedroom to change for the day, Hermione located the phone she’d almost entirely forgotten for years.
And when she held the old electronic device in her hands, freshly powered from the complicated merging of magical and muggle required to run even the tiniest bit of electricity to their Hogsmeade home, she nearly dropped it as hundreds of messages swarmed her.
I love you.
I miss you.
I almost killed Ron fucking Weasley tonight.
I’m not allowed to be mad at you.
But I am. I’m so upset with you.
You can’t stand me.
Merlin, I miss you.
You looked so pretty today.
I just want to kiss you.
I miss you.
You gave me a gift today.
I love you.
I’m not giving up.
You called me handsome.
I think you hate me.
I didn’t tell you about trying for kids.
You’re breaking my heart.
I know, I’m being dramatic.
You’re in the bedroom right now.
I just kissed you.
I almost came in my pants.
It would have been worth it.
Gods you’re beautiful.
We’re going to figure this out.
I’m going to get your memories back for you.
I love you.
And so on and so on and so on.
It twisted and tangled and tore at her heartstrings, uncertain if she should feel grief or joy or guilt or love. Evidence of a thing he went through just as she did, only from a different perspective, a different context. Her shoulders shook, tears pouring, hands trembling as she had to set the phone down. Strong, familiar arms wound around her from behind.
“I didn’t mean to make you cry,” he said against her ear.
“It’s behind us,” she said, leaning into him. “I love you.” Whether she said it out loud or she simply thought it with enough force, she didn’t exactly know. She couldn’t hear the sound of her own voice over the roar in her head.
The green flash of the Floo flaring to life in the other room, coupled with an excited squeal from Scorpius, put an end to whatever emotional spiral had just captured them. She turned, wiping her eyes. “I love you,” she said again, or for the first time, or for the thousandth. It felt the same.
“Go ahead and change. I’ll wrangle Theo,” she told him, struck suddenly by a sense of inevitability in the thing between them. In a life planned to its far edges, she found comfort in the surrender to such an easy inevitability.
She found Theo outside Cassie’s door.
“She’s in here?” he asked in greeting, already cracking the door open.
“She’s sleeping,” Hermione exclaimed in her best forceful whisper, throwing an arm across the door frame, blocking his path. “Don’t you dare wake my sleeping baby, Theo. Are you mad?”
“Well, as her godfather I must champion for her in all things. And seeing as it’s her first Christmas, I’m not letting her miss a moment of it.”
“She’s ten months old, Theo. She’s not going to remember whether or not we woke her the instant you got here. We’ll get her up for presents if she’s still—"
Theo ducked under her arm and pushed the door all the way open at the sound of Cassie’s cry: a punch to Hermione’s stomach that simultaneously made her heart twist with a mother’s concern while also considering the ethical implications of using a silencing charm on her own child. Theo, on the other hand, couldn’t look more pleased to hear Cassie cry so long as it meant he was allowed time with her. Which was an ethical question in its own right.
But she could hardly fault him for his enthusiasm. There were few things Hermione imagined that could compare to the sight of one of her dearest friends loving her daughter as fiercely as Theo loved Cassie. He had her in his arms, shushing and rocking, before Hermione had even crossed the threshold into the room.
Cassie’s shrieks continued despite Theo’s best efforts as they moved to the living room where Scorpius sat enamored with the cat currently avoiding him.
“He likes it best when you let him come to you,” she heard Blaise telling Scorpius from his designated chair beside the fire. She and Draco had purchased the matching ottoman specifically to protect their coffee table from Blaise’s pathological need for lounge-adjacent seating positions.
Theo looked stricken as the baby in his arms continued to cry, always desperate for Cassie to enjoy every moment she spent with him. Hermione rolled her eyes, mostly out of how precious it was, and summoned a bottle from the kitchen. She handed it to Theo. “She’s probably hungry again. Try this.”
Draco appeared behind them, dressed impeccably as if he hadn’t just been delightfully rumpled and sleep-deprived minutes before.
“Is Cassie awake?” he asked, a smile in his voice as he took a seat on the velvet sofa.
“What gave it away?” Hermione replied as she sat next to him.
“My goddaughter is perfect. I don’t appreciate the implication that her early aptitude for operatics is unbecoming.”
Hermione smiled as Theo avoided joining them on the sofa. Instead, he settled in the other armchair near the fire.
A sharp crack caused everyone in the room to jump, apart from Blaise, who merely blinked. Scorpius scrambled away from where he’d been sitting near Blaise and wedged himself between his parents, staring bug-eyed at the house elf that now stood on their coffee table.
“I is leaving this for the lady of the house,” the elf announced, placing a heavy parchment envelope on the table. The elf vanished in another loud crack.
Hermione immediately turned to Draco, who looked like he might vomit.
“Was that—" Theo started.
Draco gave a sharp, singular nod. He swallowed, his adam’s apple dragging a long line down his throat as he stared at the envelope on the table.
Scorpius lept from the sofa and grabbed the delivery. He stared at it, putting together the letters Hermione taught him in most of their free time.
“This is your name,” he said with a proud smile, delivering it to Hermione.
Draco looked pale, perhaps a little greenish, as he watched the letter transfer hands from Scorpius to Hermione. She wasted no time opening it. Between the stunned adults and the restless children, she didn’t have the luxury of careful consideration.
The envelope contained a letter and two documents, all bearing the official Gringotts seal.
Her hands shook as she tried to keep Scorpius’s grasping fingers from finding the parchments as she read at a record setting pace. Draco eventually found his motor functions again, pulling Scorpius away.
“It’s—" her voice caught. She felt a little faint. “It’s a complete dissolution of your trust account,” she said, casting a glance at Draco. “And the creation of two new ones. For Scorpius and Cassiopeia.”
“What’s for me?” Scorpius asked.
“Give us a minute, Scorp,” Draco said through a strangled voice.
Blaise rose suddenly. “Scorpius, let’s try and find that cat again, shall we?”
Between Theo’s loving fondness, Draco’s deep affinity, and Hermione’s tremendous appreciation, it would have been impossible to determine who was more grateful for Blaise Zabini in that moment.
With Scorpius occupied, Draco spoke. “We can’t take their money. What do they want?” His words traveled low and serious in the space between them, carrying an undercurrent of fear.
“There’s—there’s no strings.” Hermione had to swallow, fighting the painful tightness in her throat. She passed the letter to Draco. He scanned it quickly.
“They’ve made you the executor of the accounts?” Draco asked, utterly dumbfounded as he looked to Hermione.
“They what?” Theo asked from across the room.
“They can’t touch the money,” Hermione said.
“There are no conditions,” Draco added, reviewing the letter again. Equally as much a question as it was a statement.
Hermione allowed herself a small, disbelieving smile.
“For our children,” she breathed, eyes finding Draco’s.
Another sharp crack caused her to jump again. Cassie let out a wail as Theo engaged in his best efforts at soothing her.
The elf set a box of candies on the table. “These is for the master of the house,” it squeaked before vanishing again.
As if sensing the presence of a candy, Scorpius ran back into the living room. Draco looked downright comatose staring at the apple flavored taffies that normally—only—ever arrived on Hermione’s birthday.
Oblivious to the fact that candies were not breakfast foods, Scorpius launched into his tactics for acquiring one.
Hermione sank to her knees on the floor beside him, reaching for the apple taffies.
“I think because it’s Christmas your daddy won’t mind sharing these with you,” she told him. Her chest felt concave, collapsing on itself in sympathy for her husband who didn’t seem capable of speech. “These are special candies, Scorpius.” She pulled one from the box and twisted at the paper wrapper, offering it to him. “These are the kinds of candies that a mother gives her son to say she loves him very much.” She paused. “Even when they disagree.”
Scorpius popped the candy in his mouth and grinned at her.
“Like when you said we can’t get a new cat.”
She pulled him into a hug, ignoring the sticky chewing sounds against her ear. She looked up at Draco. “Among other things, darling.”
“I think,” Hermione started, exhausted from a long day of Christmas festivities and the struggle known as bedtime in their household. “Minerva McGonagall might actually like you a little bit.” She settled onto the sofa next to Draco. They’d barely had a moment alone together since the early hours of the morning. “She seemed quite pleased with your work. She even told me she didn’t regret letting Harry convince the Board of Governors to hire you.”
“Did she?” he asked. He had his attention focused on the letters from Gringotts sitting atop the mantel, voice sounding distant as he humored her conversation. In any other setting, he would have needled her for more information, seeking more praise, bathing in compliments and confidence.
“I used the potion,” he said suddenly, entire body shifting towards her. “After I put Cassie down for a nap earlier today. Before dinner.”
“You—what?” Hermione asked. He’d coiled, muscles tense, everything about him on the verge of running or hiding or perhaps finally breaking free from something that held him back.
“The potion,” he repeated. “My potion.”
Carefully, he unfastened the cufflinks on his left shirt sleeve. Hermione couldn’t tear her gaze from the precision in his fingers, the way he threaded metal through cotton with a deft, practiced control. Even with the realization of what was coming, she found he couldn’t quite breathe.
He rolled the cuff: once, twice, three times. Finally revealing a pale, perfectly unmarred stretch of skin. Hermione couldn’t help herself; she reached for it, tracing the place where the Mark used to brand him.
“You had it half your life,” she said in summary of the obvious that somehow felt more important than all the rest.
“Not now that it’s gone,” he said. “Every day it’ll be less than half. I didn’t—I didn’t want to worry about my students seeing it. It was—time to forget it.” He didn’t exactly sound relieved, but rather, stuck.
Hermione looked towards the fireplace, towards the documents that sat atop it.
“And we got that gift from your parents today,” she added.
“You didn’t let him win, you know,” she said, hands still running along his forearm. “I thought you meant Voldemort, the first time you told me why you hadn’t removed the Mark yet. But you meant him, didn’t you? Your father?”
Another nod, followed by a breath that shook as he released it from somewhere deep in his chest.
“I don’t think it was ever really about winning or losing with him,” he said, winding one of her curls around his fingers, watching her with the same reverence that stole her breath every time she saw it. Even now, having seen it so many times before. “Just moving on.”
Hermione abandoned her memorization of new, blank skin in favor of locking eyes with her impossible, improbable gift of a husband. She found a familiar whirlpool there, rotation in a degrading orbit, a kaleidoscope in liquid metal, melted just for her.
“We’ve gotten quite good at that,” she said. “Moving on. Together.”
For the second morning in a row, Hermione rose before her husband, who’d insisted on handling Cassie’s latest bout of fussiness. She didn’t bother with the tea, opting to let him have his idiosyncrasy if it made a difference to him. Instead, she spent her time sitting at her kitchen table and doing something she found peaceful and pleasant: list-making.
“What’s this?” Draco asked as he dropped a kiss on the top of her head, fingers casually trailing across the back of her neck before he began busying himself with tea. Proper tea, apparently.
“Just feeling a little nostalgic,” she said. “Grateful mostly—for what we have.” She paused, watching as he moved through the kitchen, preparing tea in an easy routine she rarely got to witness first hand.
“Because next month is six years?” he asked, a break in his movements as he watched her.
She hummed an affirmative noise. “I was just making a list, people in our lives who we owe some thanks to—for that first year.”
Draco moved to stand behind her, chin resting atop her curls as he peeked at the names in her planner.
“Ronald Weasley is on your list?” he asked, incredulity evident in the way he huffed a light laugh and squeezed her shoulders with a sort of possessiveness she doubted he even realized he’d engaged in.
“I needed to see him to know,” she said simply. “That dinner was an awful time but I had to see him again to realize that I’d already let him go.” She leaned against Draco’s chest behind her head.
“I wouldn’t advise telling Theo you have him on that list,” Draco said.
“I know, but how could I not? He’s the only one who refused to coddle me while the rest of you treated me like glass.”
“At least the Weaslette’s inclusion makes sense,” Draco mused as one of his hands dipped from her shoulder, trailing little lines of affection down her arm.
“Ginny was indispensable,” Hermione agreed. “But do you know what came to mind first? She mentioned something about planning for kids, which was how I realized we’d been doing the same. Then you and I had that fight.”
He stiffened against her, lazy paths paused along her arm.
“We needed to have that fight,” she continued. “It changed everything, I think.”
She could hear the grimace in his muttered acceptance of her logic.
“I suppose Pansy earns her spot for letting the matter of my disinheritance slip?”
“Exactly. And your mother is on here for those candies,” his grip on her shoulder tightened. “I was almost out of hope the first time you told me about them. They helped.”
“Might as well add a third Weasley to that list and include George for infecting me with that fucking confetti.”
Hermione laughed, accepting his diversion towards something lighter. She reached over to hold the hand he still had paused against her arm.
“I think you might be reaching with that one,” she said.
“Don’t tell me our little talk about all of Theo’s toys in that guest room didn’t get your brilliant brain turning long before you put all the pieces together.”
Hermione considered. It was a bit of a stretch, but she added George’s name to the list regardless. She quickly added the next one as it came to her.
“Blaise, of course,” she said wiggling the fingers on her left hand. Her ring caught the soft light from the fire in the adjacent room; a beautiful warm glow to match the red stone and gold band. “Who knows when I would have asked about it without his push.”
Draco stepped away from her just long enough to gather the tea he’d prepared, setting it on the table as he lowered himself into the chair next to her. With zero sense of subtlety, he dragged his chair as close to her as he could. He walked his fingers along the top of the table, stopping on her planner which he then dragged closer to him, settling it between them.
Then, as if it were a completely normal way to sit with someone, he leaned down to hook her legs beneath her knees, twisting her so that her legs draped over his own and she sat sideways, bridged between their two chairs.
She swatted at his hands that immediately began climbing from knee to thigh along her flannel pajama bottoms.
“You’re ridiculous,” she laughed. “I’m not finished with my list.”
He loosed a dramatic sigh and, as an unspoken compromise, removed one hand from her thigh, leaving the other firmly in place, massaging heat through fabric, straight to flesh.
“Abraxas Malfoy,” he declared.
“Abraxas Malfoy?” she repeated. “Your grandfather?”
“Indeed. If we’re giving away gratitude based on whatever we’d like then I think my grandfather ought to have a place for his part in acquiring our favorite piece of furniture.”
She knew he meant it as a joke, a logical fallacy ad absurdum he knew she’d struggle to ignore. Instead, she smiled.
“Abraxas gets his spot,” she agreed with him, adding the name. “So long as Harry gets his.”
Draco groaned with the good-natured obligation of a lifetime rivalry long since laid to rest.
“Must we?” he complained, playing his part. Hermione leaned over in her strange perched position to kiss him.
“Of course we do,” she said as she pulled away, still savoring the soft warmth of his mouth. The heat beneath his hand on her thigh grew, radiating outward. “He saved your life.”
“Almost certainly. And he protected Theo.”
Hermione couldn’t take the heat from his hand on her leg any longer. She swung her legs back in front of her, ignoring the pathetic noise of disappointment Draco made as she shifted again, completely abandoning her own chair in favor of his, straddling his lap. The disappointed noises ceased immediately. He wrapped his hands around her waist, placing a light kiss on her clavicle. He released one of his arms, grabbing the planner and holding it between them.
“You know who’s missing from this list?” he asked. “You and me. I think we deserve a little credit.”
She’d already forgotten about her list of names, instead favoring her attentions on his jaw, lips traveling the hard line that helped make him so striking. "I didn’t do anything,” she mumbled against his skin.
He jerked away from her.
“Surely you’re joking. You survived. You gave me a chance, let me prove myself to you.” The arm he still had wound around her waist tightened. “And then there’s the matter of the two beautiful sleeping children you’ve given me.”
“Then I think you deserve credit for giving them to me, too,” she whispered, hands holding his face, watching his outrage on her behalf, savoring the fierceness with which he defended her, even from her own understatement. She kissed him, noting the sound of her planner hitting the floor as his other hand tangled in her hair.
“Are you nervous about next month?” he asked in air they traded, capturing her bottom lip between his teeth before she could answer.
“Yes,” she breathed against him. “No. I don’t know. Are you?”
He pressed his mouth to hers again, a taste of tongue and teeth and tenuous hope.
“About the same,” he admitted as she sucked in a breath, finding oxygen alarmingly scarce between them.
“If the memories return, I must say I do rather like the idea of knowing what it’s like to fall in love with you twice,” she admitted through a pant, rolling her hips against his, tasting the shape of his groan.
She had fire in her veins, flames licking at her nerves, and an inferno burning away every errant thought that might distract her from the taste of his lips and the feeling of his fingers dragging against her skin.
“And if the memories don’t return,” he said, trailing a path of kisses towards her ear. He continued in a low voice, hot against her neck. “I’ll finally buy you that pensieve.”
She laughed, loving him and the things they’d weathered together.
Wanting for her memories, but needing nothing.