Lucius Malfoy has been many things in his life. Slytherin Prefect. Head Boy. Husband and father. Dark Lord's right-hand man. Dark Lord's doormat. Prisoner of Azkaban. Yet no one could have ever accused him of being one thing – a blood traitor. And he certainly wouldn't ever dream of becoming one, if it wasn't for his only son and heir, who in an act of colossal stupidity has decided to marry a Mudblood. But not just any random Mudblood. The Mudblood. The illustrious member of the Golden Trio, recipient of Order of Merlin, First Class and Harry Potter's best friend Hermione Granger.
Of course Lucius forbade Draco to enter into the marriage. He even threatened to disinherit him should he follow through that harebrained idea. And of course Draco completely ignored everything Lucius had said. The boy probably knew that his father was too much of a pragmatist to truly make good of his threat. When faced with the extinction of the Malfoy line, even a half-blood heir was better than no heir at all. And there was still the (minuscule) possibility that Draco would come to his senses, divorce the Mudblood and marry a proper pure-blood girl to sire a proper pure-blood heir with her.
Yet the unwritten rules of pure-blood society were unforgiving. Anyone who married a Mudblood was a blood traitor, and a person who associated with Mudbloods or blood traitors was naturally a blood traitor as well. So Lucius and Narcissa have done the only that was possible for people of their principles and social standing – they had cut off all contact with their disappointment of a son and his unacceptable wife. It hasn't been easy for them — for they have always loved Draco dearly — but they have done so.
No family gatherings. No birthday parties. And it has been perfectly fine by Lucius, thank you very much.
He didn't miss his son.
But there was something he didn't take into account four years ago when he'd erased Draco from his life.
He has never seen his granddaughter – never face to face, that is. He had glimpsed her on the street now and then when he went about his business in Diagon Alley. First as a baby in a Muggle-shaped stroller, then as a toddler holding her mother's hand, and the last time, only a couple of weeks ago, as a rambunctious three-year-old, prancing around her father as they entered Flourish and Blotts. Of course, during such encounters Lucius has always swiftly changed his course and went another way, so that their paths wouldn't cross. He didn't care about Draco's offspring a bit – or so he tried to convince himself. The child was a half-blood, not a true Malfoy. But still he couldn't help the strange flutter in his chest whenever he laid his eyes on the little girl.
Under normal circumstances he has been able to overcome his weakness, but there was one part of the year when he always succumbed to temptation, gave into his feelings and acted extremely silly.
It had started quite innocently. Three years ago on Christmas Eve Lucius was buying new robes at Twilfitt and Tattings as a surprise present for his wife when a tiny, insignificant garment caught his eye.
A woolen baby hat.
Crimson-colored, with the picture of a unicorn.
His thoughts immediately wandered towards Draco's daughter, then only a few months old. How cute she would look in such a hat. How warm it would be. Whether she would like the unicorn or prefer a different pattern. In the end, he'd left the shop not only with the robes intended for Narcissa but also with two baby hats, one baby girl dress and a tiny scarf. And — although he'd berated himself for his foolishness — that had only been the start. Over the course of that day Lucius had bought a whole pile of toys, books and other baby related items – and then contemplated for several hours what to do with all that. In the end he chose to deliver them in secret, in hopes that his identity wouldn't be revealed.
Every Christmas Lucius told himself that this was the very last time. That he couldn't possibly continue with this farce any longer. Bringing presents to a half-Mudblood child — albeit incognito — still did count as associating with filth by even the loosest standards of pure-blood doctrine, and Lucius was a pure-blood through and through. The idea that someone would address him as a blood traitor was too terrible to even contemplate. But still he stole out of Malfoy Manor every year on Christmas Eve in search of presents for a granddaughter whose name he didn't even know. Presents he would later leave on the doorstep of Draco's house in Godric's Hollow under the cover of night.
This was the reason why Lucius Malfoy found himself today entering Wilhelmina's Toy Paradise, a toy shop in Diagon Alley, disguised in plain robes, with his face and hair covered by a hood. He quickly scanned the wizards and witches coursing through the shop but to his relief there were no familiar faces to be found. Lucius swiftly moved to the counter where a portly middle-aged woman in purple-green robes was waiting for customers.
"May I help you, Sir?" she asked.
"Could you recommend a present for a three-year-old child?" Lucius inquired.
The shopkeeper smiled. "A boy or a girl?"
"Well, first there is a large variety of soft toys for you to choose from," she motioned towards two display boxes with stuffed animals. Those in the first box were magical — unicorns, hippogriffs, kneazles, three-headed dogs, several breeds of dragons, winged horses and many other beasts — while the second box housed animals of the non-magical kind – kittens, dogs, bears, lions, mouses, even snakes.
"She has already received a plush toy previously," Lucius shook his head, thinking of the stuffed Chinese Fireball dragon he had bought last Christmas.
The woman laughed. "I can assure you, Sir, that for a three-year-old there is no such thing as 'too many plushies'."
Lucius had to admit she had a point. He scanned the box with magical soft toys with a critical eye. Kneazles were out of the question – Draco's wife already had a live one, so a stuffed one would be redundant, and were she to learn who this particular gift came from, she may even perceive it as a veiled threat. Hippogriffs brought back unwanted memories of the one who had attacked Draco in his third year at Hogwarts. Unicorns were too meek. Phoenixes reminded him of Dumbledore. Runespoor was too snakelike... Nagini... no. The three-headed dogs were outright ugly...
"I'll take that pink niffler," he said, pointing at the aforementioned animal with his walking stick. Pink wasn't their natural color, but Lucius had already recognized the pattern when he was shopping for presents a year ago – whenever some animal's true coloring was too dull or otherwise visually unappealing, the toy version of said animal sported a completely different, bright, happy color instead. This resulted in orange hippogriffs, purple thestrals and other oddities. For a young child, he supposed, it would do – but he would have to grab a copy of the children's edition of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them at Flourish and Blotts just in case. His granddaughter shouldn't enter Hogwarts thinking that werewolves were cuddly puppies with yellow fur.
"A superb choice, Sir," the shop keeper smiled and Summoned the toy to the counter with a swift Accio. "Will that be all?"
"What else can you recommend?"
"We have this beautiful little kitchen, complete with an oven, a sink, a..."
Lucius frowned. "The child in question is not some common servant!"
"Of course not," the shop keeper soothed and quickly diverted his attention to other toys. "We also have these very nice building blocks, a color matching mosaic, a plastic Muggle construction set — very fashionable among those of Muggle descent — and our current bestseller, magical dolls," she directed his gaze towards an isle of shelves full of identical-looking dolls. "But I am afraid those are a bit on the pricey side."
"That won't be a problem." The hassle with plain disguises was that one didn't appear to be very wealthy. He reached into his pocket and shook it slightly, so that the gentle clinking of gold could be heard.
The shop seller perked up. "There are two versions – Fashion Witch and Action Witch. Both are very popular."
Lucius furrowed his eyebrows. All the dolls looked the same to him – pretty smiling faces, long hair, colorful dresses.
"What's the difference?"
The shop keeper Summoned two dolls, one from each rack, and put them on the counter for him to inspect.
"Fashion Witch is for those girls who like to play dress up games with their dolls," she lifted a colorful toy wand that seemed to be part of the doll's ensemble and touched the doll's dress with its tip. The dress immediately changed — not only in color, but also in shape — from red blouse and matching knee-length skirt to emerald green floor-length dress robes. Then she tapped the hair of the doll and its hairstyle changed as well. Another tap, and the hair color changed from blonde to dark brown.
"The doll and wand have ten different settings for both the dress, the doll's hair and even make-up," the shop keeper explained. "Of course, you could always transfigure the doll with your real wand, but this way the children are able to do it themselves, regardless of how developed their magical skills currently are."
Lucius could understand why children would find such a toy appealing. "And the other doll?"
"The Action Witch is for more adventurous girls," the shop keeper took the second doll, which also had a small toy wand. "She can be a Potions mistress," she lifted the toy wand and tapped the doll's robes, which turned pitch black and little cauldron patterns appeared on them, "Quidditch player," the doll's robes turned into Quidditch robes with large AW emblazoned on the front, "or Abraxan horse racer," this time the robes became more form fitting, to allow the rider unrestricted movement. "As with the Fashion Witch, there are ten different settings, and for each setting there are also accessories — a cauldron for the Potions mistress, a broom for the Quidditch player, an Abraxan for the rider, and so on — but those you have to buy separately. You cannot change the doll's hair color, but we have them available with four different hair colors to choose from."
Lucius touched his lip with his finger, deep in thought. Which one would his granddaughter prefer? He knew next to nothing of the little girl. Was she fond of pretty robes, or would the more pro-active doll take her fancy? If she was anything like Narcissa, she would go for the robes – Lucius' wife loved fashion and was sometimes able to spend hours trying on new dresses or changing hairstyles. In his own eyes, however, the second doll seemed to promise more amusement.
"One Action Witch, please. Blonde hair, with all accessories." Draco's daughter inherited the Malfoy pale blonde hair, so Lucius concluded she would want a doll that looked like her.
The chosen toys floated to the counter thanks to another Summoning Charm.
"That would be 12 galleons for the doll and accessories, and another two galleons for the niffler. Would you like me to pack it for you? We have beautiful Christmas wrappings."
"Yes, please," Lucius put the required amount on the counter and waited while the shop keeper wrapped his purchase in red wrapping paper patterned with white jumping unicorns, who were drawing a sleigh full of presents for some reason. The box with the accessories was rather large and the separate one with the doll wasn't very small either – he would have to shrink the presents in order to carry them safely. He regretted not having brought one of his house-elves to carry the parcels for him, but there was the danger that his servants might then blabber about it to his wife.
His presents shrunk and safely hidden in his pocket, Lucius started for the door, when he spotted a familiar figure at the entrance.
Heart hammering in his chest with sudden terror, Lucius blindly ducked behind the nearest group of shelves and narrowly avoided bumping into a young couple standing there, admiring a miniature replica of the Hogwarts Express. He ignored their outraged stares and quickly proceeded towards the end of the rack, where he hid behind a stack of multicolored balls.
Of course! It would be just his luck that at the same time when he was certain he would be able to conduct his secret shameful business in peace, his wife would decide to go and buy presents for her friend's children and grandchildren.
Out of the people he didn't wish to spot him in this compromising situation, Narcissa was on top of the list. She was the daughter of The Noble and Most Ancient House of Black. Members of her family were famous for their impeccably pure blood, unforgiving nature and complete disdain of Mudbloods, Squibs and blood traitors. She had cut her own sister out of her life because she has married a wizard of Muggle parentage, and has agreed to do the same with Draco, after he had married the Granger girl. Lucius could bear the contempt of others, but if his wife — the woman he has loved since he had been a teenager — looked at him with her beautiful blue eyes and called him a blood traitor...
He cautiously peeked out of his hiding spot. Thankfully, Narcissa didn't start roaming the shop — like many of the customers did — and went straight to the counter, just like he had. Lucius slowly crept around the farther end of the shelves towards the exit. When he was at the door, he once more turned around and checked what his wife was doing. She seemed to be deep in conversation with the shop keeper over the toys displayed on the counter. Lucius didn't question his luck and hastily exited the shop.
Once on the street, he felt considerably safer. His presents were in his pocket, so even if Narcissa were to see him right now, he could always say he went to Diagon Alley to shop for something completely different.
He quickened his pace. He still had some children's books to buy at Flourish and Blotts, and since there was no telling whether Narcissa wouldn't show up there as well, he'd better hurry.
It wouldn't do to be caught in the act.
Narcissa Malfoy froze with her hand on the handle of the half-opened door to Wilhelmina's Toy Paradise.
Could that be…?
No, her eyes must have played tricks on her – there was no way her husband would willingly enter a shop that sold children's toys. Even were he in need of buying a gift for the child of a friend or business associate, he would simply ask her to do it for him – Lucius was hopeless at buying presents. The man in black robes she'd glimpsed — or thought she'd glimpsed — near the counter for a confusing second simply had to be someone of similar height and physique.
With a deep breath to calm her suddenly wildly thudding heart, Narcissa stepped into the store and looked around. She couldn't see anything suspicious – merely customers walking among the shelves, looking over the various toys on display. There was no one familiar, just as she had hoped – she chose to go now because she believed that most of the people she knew would be home at this hour.
It's probably the nerves, she decided. She was afraid to be caught, so her mind conjured the image of the person she feared to encounter here the most. Ever since Narcissa has started buying Christmas presents for her half-blood granddaughter three years ago, every Christmas she has lived in constant fear that her shameful behavior would be discovered, even as she did everything in her might to keep it a secret. Not even Draco did know who has been covertly leaving presents on his doorstep every Christmas Eve.
Feeling a little calmer, Narcissa walked towards the counter. Yet still, when she neared the aisle where she saw the Lucius look-alike disappear, she couldn't help but to peek between the shelves. Once again nothing – only a young pair inspecting an enchanted toy train.
Narcissa released the breath she didn't realize she's been holding.
Well, of course it hadn't been him. What an absurd notion! Her husband was at home, just as she had left him – in the drawing room, relaxing in his favorite chair in front of a window that overlooked the garden with a glass of wine and a stack of business reports (only her husband could consider reading business reports a relaxing activity). It was ridiculous to imagine that as soon as she left the manor 'to visit a friend', he would spring out of his chair and Floo to Diagon Alley to conduct some shady business in a toy shop, of all places.
Her peace of mind restored, Narcissa walked up to the counter towards a maternal-looking shop keeper.
"I have heard about your new line of magical dolls," she wouldn't come to the shop unprepared. "Can I please have a demonstration of the charms they have been furnished with?"
"But of course, Madam."
The shop keeper Summoned two dolls to the counter and proceeded to show their magical properties. Apparently, there were two different kinds of dolls with distinct features – Action Witch and Fashion Witch. Narcissa was immediately taken with the second doll. The clothes were beautiful, and all those different hairstyles and make up… Simply adorable! She would have loved such a toy as a little girl. On the other hand, the Action Witch had many accessories that her prettier counterpart did not have, including a winged horse. The message was clear: the Fashion Witch could only sit and admire herself in the mirror, while her 'sister' got to go out and have fun doing exciting jobs and sports. Thankfully, that was easily remedied.
"I'll take the Fashion Witch, with the box of accessories for the Action Witch," Narcissa ordered. There was no reason why you couldn't look stylish and have an adventure.
She rummaged through the rolls of wrapping paper next to the counter until she found the perfect one – metallic green patterned with adorable red kneazles flying on brooms.
"Use this one to wrap the boxes, and add a matching ribbon," she told the shop keeper. "I will look at your assortment of soft toys."
She has already bought several cute dresses, shoes, and hats that were perfect for a three-year-old girl (once you entered Madame Malkin's, it was difficult to leave without buying out the entire children's section), but every child also was in need of toys.
Just as she was inspecting the various different cuddly animals, a shrill voice sounded from behind.
"Narcissa Malfoy! What are you doing here?"
Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Move along.
Narcissa turned to greet a tall witch in resplendent burgundy robes. "Mirabella Parkinson!" she forced her lips to quirk up in a false smile. "What a pleasant surprise!"
"Had things gone differently, we could be now buying presents together for Draco's and Pansy's child," Mirabella said with the superior air of a woman whose children did not marry Mudbloods. "Well, I am buying a present for my grandson, of course," she added, looking Narcissa up and down, no doubt eager for a juicy piece of gossip. "But I am surprised to see you here, my dear? As far as I know, you have no grandchildren."
Because half-blood offspring of Mudbloods do not count as grandchildren in polite society.
"One of my cousins has a little granddaughter," Narcissa lied smoothly. "The present is for her."
She did her best to sound calm and disinterested. She couldn't afford for Mirabella to start going around blabbering things like: 'You won't believe just whom I caught red-handed in a toy shop today! Narcissa Malfoy, buying presents for her half-Mudblood granddaughter!'
"And which of the cousins would that be?" the nosy woman prodded, her voice saccharine sweet as she circled her prey.
"I thought I was in a toy shop, not in an interrogation room in the Auror's Office," Narcissa glared at Mirabella. "But if you must know, it's Cousin Romilda, the one from Buenos Aires." No matter how curious Mirabella was, Narcissa doubted she would be able to do much investigation in Argentina.
Mirabella smirked. "It's Christmas Eve already. How do you intend to get your present overseas in time?" It was clear that she at the very least suspected the doll Narcissa has just bought was, in fact, intended for Draco's daughter.
"Express Owl, obviously," Narcissa said a bit more harshly than she intended.
She snatched the first soft toy within her reach — an orange-blue knarl, it turned out — and marched to the counter, where she added it to her purchase and quickly chucked some coins on the desk in front of the surprised shop seller. The doll was already wrapped, and the knarl was not, but she could easily wrap it herself at home. Now it was crucial to leave before the situation escalated.
"If you would excuse me, Mirabella," Narcissa said. "The Owl Office will be closing shortly, I don't have much time."
And she swiftly walked out of the shop.
Not that she was afraid of the reaction of her friends and acquaintances per se. She knew very well that many of them had similar problems. The son of Bethany Goyle turned out to be gay, and although nowadays there were potions and spells that enabled two men to have biological offspring, young Greg's relationship with Blaise Zabini still created a big scandal that was on the pages of Daily Prophet for almost two weeks. The elder daughter of Seraphina Greengrass ran away with a Muggle and has already managed to produce two children with him. Archimedes Greengrass disowned his daughter right away, but Seraphina has been visiting the young family in secret, behind her husband's back.
The latest object of gossip was young Theodore Nott, who has recently announced his impending wedding to a half-goblin witch from Transylvania. His grandmother, a blood-purist through and through, ended up at St Mungo's after she literally exploded with anger and yesterday's issue of Daily Prophet featured an angry letter from Theo's father, leaked to the sensation-seeking press by a corrupt Azkaban prison guard.
No, the only person whose opinion truly mattered to Narcissa at this point was her beloved husband Lucius. Just like her, he has been raised to value blood purity above anything and to uphold the pure-blood traditions and customs at all costs. For more than three decades already Lucius has been her staunch companion, best friend, and lover. They've been inseparable since the day when sixteen-year-old Lucius asked fifteen-year-old Narcissa out on a date, and their bond strengthened even more after the loss of Draco. She couldn't face his anger, disappointment, and — quite possibly — disgust, should he learn of her transgression.
No, Lucius could never know!
Rounding the corner, Narcissa Disapparated with a loud, distressed crack.
When Hermione Malfoy entered her house on Christmas Eve, returning home from the Ministry of Magic early for a change, she barely had time to put away her briefcase before she was attacked by a Flour Monster.
"Mummy, Mummy, look what I've made for you!" her little daughter ran towards her, covered from head to toe with flour, chocolate and other suspicious substances. She proudly stuck her hand up, holding a small object in front of Hermione's face.
Hermione inspected the offering closely. It was a strangely shaped piece of gingerbread splashed with an icing of three different colors – white, red and green.
"That's a very nice... umm... reindeer?" she smiled at her daughter, kissing her chocolate-smeared cheek.
"It's a Christmas tree," the little girl frowned slightly.
"Uh... yes, I knew that," Hermione lied. "It looks very pretty, Amanda."
"They are Minnie's favorite," her daughter announced, lifting her other hand, in which she held her plush dragon. "She already ate six." Being a Chinese Fireball, the toy animal was naturally red in color, but now it looked as if it had been dipped first into chocolate, then into green icing and after that proceeded to roll around in several other baking ingredients.
"Time to get clean, you two," Hermione smiled and drew her wand. "Scourgify," she cast, restoring both daughter and pet to their proper state. Amanda's hair immediately started to stick out at strange angles – when it came to hair, the little girl has inherited her father's coloring but her mother's bushiness and resistance to any kind of reasonable styling.
"Come, Mummy!" Amanda gripped Hermione's hand and dragged her towards the kitchen. "We've made lots of cookies!"
Hermione walked into the kitchen expecting a disaster. Yet to her great surprise the room was spotlessly clean and perfectly tidy – all tools and utensils were in their place, not a single speck of flour, chocolate or icing in sight. She wouldn't be able to tell that any baking took place here at all if it wasn't for the plates full of Christmas cookies neatly laid out on the kitchen table. Stained glass biscuits, sugar-dusted vanilla shortbread, chocolate cookies, colorful little gingerbread figures, mouthwatering mince pies... It was easy to tell which ones were made by her husband (perfectly shaped and masterfully decorated) and which ones by her daughter (weird, splotchy and deformed).
Draco was standing by the sink, the picture of elegance and masculinity in his deep blue robes, pale blonde hair neatly combed.
"How come you can clean the whole kitchen but not our daughter?" Hermione asked, shaking her head.
Draco shrugged with a sheepish grin. "She ran away before I could cast a Scourgify."
Their kiss was interrupted by a loud, "Eww!" Their daughter was in a phase when the only who was allowed to kiss her daddy was herself.
Amanda raced towards the plates, picked up one of the misshapen gingerbread figures and ran back to present it to her mother.
"This one is for Scorpie," she announced proudly.
"Scorpie?" Hermione wondered.
"The baby," Amanda explained and put the gingerbread against Hermione's protruding stomach, as if expecting that her unborn brother would stick his hand out of Hermione's belly to accept the offered sweet.
Hermione gave her husband an accusing glance. "You mean little Hugo." Draco made no secret of his preference for a star-related name in accordance with the Black family tradition, but engaging their daughter in the whole matter was definitely a very Slytherin move on his part.
"We like Scorpius better," Draco said. Why he insisted on naming their son after a deadly arachnid when there were constellations with much nicer names was anyone's guess.
"Well, Hugo likes his name the way it is," Hermione said firmly, massaging her belly. She was determined to give her children ordinary names – years of being met with raised eyebrows after introducing herself and having her name butchered by incorrect pronunciation made her form a strong opinion on child naming. "See? He just kicked. That means he agrees with me."
Draco wasn't deterred. "Or he did it to let you know that Scorpius is a name much superior to Hugo." He made a slightly disgusted face while saying the last word to emphasize his stance.
The baby kicked again, as if in agreement with Draco's words.
"Did your daddy put you up to this?" Hermione patted her belly with a frown.
"Well, at least you're honest."
Hermione dutifully ate five more different cookies her daughter gave her 'for Scorpie'. Amanda operated with the idea that her baby brother was in Mummy's belly, so each cookie that landed in Mummy's stomach would be somehow transferred to him to munch on. After Hermione insisted that the baby was too small to eat so many cookies at once, her little girl ran away to play with her plushies in the sitting room.
Hermione was finally free to sit down and watch her husband move around the kitchen – letting vegetables to cut themselves, preparing the stew, levitating meat into the oven... They were expecting Harry and Ginny for dinner in about an hour, so it was high time to start working on the food – even with the help of magic cooking could be quite time consuming. Hermione had to admit their decision for Draco to be a stay-at-home dad was a good one. Her work at the Ministry improving the lives of house-elves and other magical creatures wasn't just very important but also well paid, while Draco's only work experience was being his family's heir. Plus, she would be hopeless in the kitchen.
"What do you think?" Hermione asked. "Will your parents finally find the courage to knock on our door this year?"
It had started on a Christmas Eve three years ago. Two separate piles of presents appeared on their doorstep – the first around six o'clock in the evening, the second around midnight. Hermione noticed the second batch occupying the space at their front door through one of the upstairs windows when she was feeding baby Amanda her 'midnight snack'. No tags with names were attached to either of the multitude of gifts, yet from the content of the parcels it was apparent whom they were intended for. The following year the first pile waited for them when they came back from a trip to the nearby park, the second pile arrived two hours later. Last year Draco collected one group of presents at seven o'clock and Amanda tripped over the second the following morning when she ran out of the house to build a snowman after unwrapping all presents she found under the Christmas tree.
Both Hermione and Draco were certain that the mysterious benefactors were in fact Draco's estranged parents. Their behavior was very confusing because for the rest of the year both Narcissa and Lucius acted as though their son and his family didn't exist, even going to great lengths to avoid them when they accidentally visited Diagon Alley on the same day.
"It would be nice if they did it before our children graduate from Hogwarts," Draco said with a shrug. He never complained aloud but Hermione knew how he missed his parents and how much their attitude bothered him.
"We could send them an invitation for Christmas dinner," she offered.
"They would only see it as a weakness to exploit," Draco shook his head. "They are the ones who wronged me, they should make the first move."
Hermione sighed. Malfoy stubbornness at its finest.
"Well, you know them best."
She has already resolved to owl Lucius and Narcissa a notice when the baby was born in February. With a fresh wizarding photograph of the whole family, to let her parents-in-law know what they were missing. If the birth of a male heir — so prized among pure-bloods — didn't spur them into action, nothing would.
Narcissa Apparated into a small group of trees near her son's house. She adjusted the hood of her invisibility cloak and inspected her attire, or rather the lack of its visibility. The quality of magical items wasn't what it used to be – the cloak she has been utilizing for the last three years already showed several patches of visibility, so she had to buy a new one a week ago at Gladrags Wizardwear.
Just as she exited the place and was about to walk towards the house, the main door opened and several people stepped out. Narcissa recognized Harry Potter and his fiancée Ginevra Weasley. They were smiling and saying their goodbyes to Draco and Hermione, the couple obviously leaving for home after a social visit. Narcissa's granddaughter was perched on Draco's hip, already in her sleep clothes, clutching a stuffed dragon to her chest and waving at the departing couple. Narcissa's heart leapt into her throat at the sight of her granddaughter. But then Hermione shifted her stance slightly, and Narcissa's eyes were drawn to her daughter-in-law's protruding belly.
Was it possible? They were expecting a child again!
Another grandchild she was going to see only from a distance.
She never should have agreed with Lucius when he said they should sever all contact with Draco. But back then she had hoped it would force her son to see the error of his ways, to leave the Granger girl and return home to Malfoy Manor, where he belonged. Oh, how naïve she had been!
Potter and Miss Weasley went to the couple of trees Narcissa has just vacated – obviously it was a popular Apparition spot. They came so close to her as they walked by that all Narcissa would have to do to touch either of them was to reach out with her hand. Thankfully, the invisibility cloak hid her well. The young couple Disapparated with a silent crack and Draco and his little family ventured back inside the house, closing the door.
To be sure there were no more guests leaving for home, Narcissa waited for several minutes, brimming with impatience. She had told her husband she had a headache and would take a nap. But Lucius knew it only took about twenty minutes for her usual medicine, the Anti-Headache Potion, to take effect. Should she be 'napping' too long, he might choose to check on her, and expose her deceit.
Adjusting her cloak again, Narcissa walked to the front door and reached into the pocket of her robes. One by one she pulled out the presents, enlarged them to their original size and then placed them on the doorstep, arranging them neatly. Hopefully she didn't overdo it with the gifts – but all those children's garments at Madam Malkin's were so cute, she simply had no choice but to buy them all.
And walking past the Quality Quidditch Supplies shop has obviously been a mistake, as she had spotted a child-sized toy broom there. It couldn't fly very fast and didn't go more than two feet off the ground – ideal for a beginner. She has been overcome by sentiment, reminiscing how little Draco's eyes shone with excitement when he saw his first broom under the Christmas tree – so of course the toy broomstick has landed in her shopping bag.
She straightened to inspect her handiwork when suddenly...
At the sound of a booted foot crushing the snow somewhere behind her back Narcissa froze.
It was coming from the snow-covered footpath that lead to the door of Draco's house.
A visitor at this hour?
Thankful for her invisibility cloak, the only Narcissa could do was to quickly step aside so that the person wouldn't bump into her. She couldn't very well walk away – she might not be visible, but even if she used a spell to silence her steps, there was no way to hide the imprints in the snow she would be making during her departure. She turned around to see who was the person that almost caught her in the act...
The yard was empty.
Crunch crunch crunch crunch crunch.
Judging by the noise, the person now had to be nearly upon her, but if she were to believe her eyes, then she was completely alone. Frowning, Narcissa looked at the ground, and she could see footprints forming in the snow one after another as the intruder walked.
The newcomer was invisible! Not Disillusioned, as she detected no shimmer – but what business did anyone have, walking around Draco's house in an invisibility cloak? Well, it was exactly what Narcissa was doing, but that was different – she had a valid reason for it.
The sound of footsteps ceased in front of Draco's door, and for a moment everything was silent. Then something appeared as if out of thin air – a gloved hand holding something small and square... a parcel? As Narcissa watched, the small object changed its proportions and turned into a large packet wrapped in colorful Christmas paper. The invisible person laid it on the doorstep next to Narcissa's presents. Then another packet appeared. Another. And another.
Narcissa stood perfectly still, cautious not to breathe too loud, as the mysterious gift giver stood only two steps away from her. Should she make her presence known? She was brimming with curiosity, eager to learn who this person was. Yet at the same time she feared to be caught. What to do?
She was still debating with herself when a familiar voice asked, "Narcissa?"
Amanda Malfoy knew that Father Christmas, whom some Muggles called Santa Claus, was a nice, friendly man, who liked children so much that he brought them presents every year on Christmas Eve. But she had no idea what he looked like because she has received conflicting information.
Her Mummy said that he had white hair and beard, wore a red suit trimmed with white fur, traveled through the sky in a sleigh pulled by flying reindeer and came down a chimney to put presents in children's stockings. But Daddy said that Mummy couldn't know what he really looked like because she grew up among Muggles. That Father Christmas wore robes, not a suit, and they were green, not red, and the reason why Muggles thought he entered their houses through the chimney was because he was traveling by Floo powder. And there was no such thing as a flying reindeer – that legend was most likely the result of a breach of the Statute of Secrecy, caused by some wizard who went for a ride in a carriage drawn by winged horses and was spotted by Muggles.
When it came to the Malfoy family, Father Christmas behaved in a very strange way. He kept leaving some of the presents in the sitting room under the large Christmas tree Amanda decorated with Mummy and Daddy. But he also placed some of them on the doorstep of their house. Amanda had been little last year, but she still remembered how she had stumbled upon a pile of presents right behind the door the previous Christmas Day. And she also remembered how Mummy had looked at Daddy and said, "Again? I thought you've collected all of them yesterday?"
Indeed, Father Christmas has been doing strange things.
And this year Amanda was going to catch him in the act.
Tricking Mummy into thinking that she fell asleep in the middle of her reading Rabbity Babbity has been surprisingly easy. Amanda waited for a while after Mummy left and then crept out of her bed and toward the window. From there she had a perfect view of the front door. If Father Christmas decided to leave any more presents there, she would see him right away.
She didn't have to wait for long. In a few moments something shimmered on the doorstep and a small parcel wrapped in red paper appeared in the air. It floated gently downwards and landed on the upper step in front of their house's door. Then another parcel appeared and floated right next to the first one.
Amanda frowned. The presents were already there – but where was Father Christmas? Did he make himself invisible? That was cheating!
More and more presents appeared — there was a huge pile of them already — but no matter how much Amanda craned her neck, she couldn't see a single hair of Father Christmas. What a cheater! It was as if he knew she was waiting for him today and has decided to spite her.
Well, at least he brought presents.
Suddenly a head appeared out of thin air, quickly followed by the rest of the body, and a man was standing by the front door. He wore long, dark green robes, just as Daddy had said, and his hair was so pale it looked white in the moonlight.
Amanda nearly fell out of the chair she's been standing on to better see out of the window.
That had to be Father Christmas!
He was holding something shimmery in his hand – an invisibility cloak?
Amanda studied him eagerly. He was tall, slim, and didn't have a beard at all – Mummy obviously had been wrong there as well. But Daddy had been wrong too – Father Christmas didn't come out of the fireplace, he must have Apparated to their yard. Amanda has always suspected that he would like it better than the Floo – Apparition made you sick a bit but it was much quicker than any other means of transport.
As she watched, another person appeared in front of Father Christmas – a pretty lady with blonde hair, dressed in a long purple dress. This was definitely not how Amanda envisioned the little elf helpers. She's always thought they were house-elves, like Uncle Harry's Kreacher, and just wore nicer outfits. Mummy had said that Father Christmas didn't own any elves, that all those who were helping him were free elves who were doing it because they wanted to, since they liked children just as much as he did. But this lady looked like a normal, perfectly human witch, there was nothing elvish about her at all.
Did Father Christmas have a wife?
This was getting more and more interesting by the second.
Father Christmas and his lady were talking to each other but from up here Amanda couldn't hear a thing. Maybe they were discussing another way to prank her?
Well, she was having none of it. She would catch them in the act!
With a determined gleam in her eyes, Amanda slid out of her spying place, padded across the bedroom, opened the door and silently crept down the stairs.
Lucius Apparated into a small group of trees near Draco's house, which was situated in the wizarding area of Godric’s Hollow. It was already dark outside and everything was quiet, not a single soul to be seen. He adjusted his invisibility cloak and set out on the pebbled footpath, now covered with snow, that lead to the front door. As he came closer, however, he noticed a strange thing – a large pile of parcels wrapped in colorful Christmas paper was positioned at the door.
Who could have had the same idea as him? What if Narcissa... But no, that was absurd.
He stopped at the door and removed the first present from his pocket, enlarging it with a flick of his wand. Inspecting the parcel in his hands, Lucius wondered whether he hasn't gone overboard at Flourish and Blotts. The shop assistant has recommended him a series of books for little girls titled Sabrina the Young Witch – the name apparently being a pun on a Muggle 'telifision' series. In each of the nine books a five-year-old witch and her pet kneazle went on a different adventure – battling dragons, taming hippogriffs, visiting the underwater cities of the Merpeople... Everything has been portrayed in a more or less realistic (but child appropriate) way, except for the fact that young Sabrina frequently made use of her wand, despite being clearly too young to legally own one. The shop assistant assured him these books were currently all the rage among girls under six. Lucius has been unable to decide which of the books to buy, so he'd bought the complete set. They were wrapped individually, which meant there would be nine presents instead of just one.
He placed the first present in front of the door next to those already positioned there and reached into his pocket for more. He'd better be quick about it. Narcissa has retired early due to a headache, leaving him with the perfect opportunity to deliver his presents. Yet it was crucial not to dawdle. The Anti-Headache Potion she usually took for this indisposition should kick in any minute, and then Narcissa would come knocking on the door of his study with a demand for him to 'retire early' as well. Which would be more than welcome under normal circumstances — his wife was a beautiful woman and a fantastic lover — but it threatened to expose his shenanigans right now.
As he worked on depositing his presents as quickly as possible, a strange feeling began to grow in his chest. A sense of being watched, of not being alone in the yard... Lucius was no stranger to feelings of this kind, not since the last year of war, when he had the 'honor' of entertaining the Dark Lord in his home. But back then his paranoia had been justified – there truly had been someone who watched his every step, ready to mete out punishment for the slightest transgression.
I'm just imagining things, Lucius mused as he cast a quick glance over his shoulder. The place was empty, he was completely alone. No need to be afraid. At all.
Still, the unsettling feeling of someone's eyes boring into his back didn't go away. It grew stronger and stronger until... A very familiar fragrance reached his nostrils. A mixture of jasmine, orange, wild rose...
No, it couldn't be...
Or – could it?
"Narcissa?" Lucius asked, bewildered. It seemed impossible that his wife would be here, but he couldn't be wrong – this was the fragrance of her favorite perfume.
He removed first his hood and then the rest of his cloak, making himself fully visible. Just as he started feeling a bit dumb talking to himself, he heard a soft crunch of snow to his left and Narcissa's pale face appeared mid-air, followed by the rest of her body.
"Lucius?" she whispered, her eyes wide. "What...? How...?" She didn't sound angry or disgusted – rather more than only a little confused.
Lucius took in her appearance, the invisibility cloak, the surplus pile of presents on the doorstep. He wasn't an idiot.
"I suppose there is no reason to ask where all of these came from," he said, pointing at the festively wrapped parcels.
How could he have been so stupid? Ever since his birth, Draco has been Narcissa's greatest pride and joy. Knowing that, how could Lucius believe for a single second that his wife had truly meant it when she agreed it was necessary to break all contact with their son and his family? Especially when he himself could hardly bear the idea of never seeing Draco again.
Narcissa finally found her voice. "How long has this been going on?" she asked, her expression more puzzled than anything else.
"Since Draco's daughter was born," Lucius confessed. He had a feeling that this wasn't Narcissa's first time either. She could hardly criticize him for what she was doing herself.
Narcissa's blue eyes found his grey ones. Her lower lip quivered slightly. "I thought you would hate me and call me a blood traitor."
"And I thought you would hate me and call me a blood traitor," Lucius offered her an apologetic smile.
Narcissa's lips slightly quirked upwards. "We certainly are an interesting couple."
"Aren't you concerned with how the pure-blood society will react should we resume relations with Draco?" Lucius voiced his second strongest fear. There was no reason to ask whether contacting Draco was something she truly wanted – her actions spoke more than words. And if he was honest with himself, it was something he secretly longed for as well.
"That bunch of hypocrites?" Narcissa sneered. "It's an open secret that Seraphina Greengrass visits her half-blood grandchildren every other weekend. And everyone knows the story Corinna Bulstrode concocted about her son-in-law's pure-blood status is a lie – there are no pure-bloods with the surname Poletti in Italy. And don't get me started on the Flints, Carrows, Selwyns... We'll be a source of gossip for a while and then people will transfer their attention to a new scandal."
"In that case, Mrs Malfoy," Lucius offered Narcissa his arm. "I think it's time we visited our son."
Why should it matter what other people thought when his wife shared his opinion? All other pure-bloods could go to hell.
Together they stepped up to the door, yet before either of them was able to knock, the door burst open. Lucius braced himself to meet his son's judging stare but... there was no one there.
"Mummy! Daddy!" a young voice rang from somewhere below his waistline. "Father Christmas is here! And he has a lady with him!"
Lucius looked down, and there she was. His little granddaughter was standing in the doorway – barefoot, with pale blonde hair disheveled, dressed in a light-blue nightshirt patterned with pink unicorns. She was looking up at him with an eager, excited expression on her tiny pointed face.
"Amanda," Draco's mildly annoyed voice sounded from the adjacent room, coming closer with each syllable. "Why aren't you asleep? And what did I tell you about not opening the front door by your—"
Draco emerged in the doorway and stopped dead at the sight of his father and mother at the doorstep. For a long, heavy moment the three Malfoys only stared at each other, unable to speak. This was the first time Lucius has seen his son in the past four years — random glimpses in Diagon Alley could hardly count — and he had to marvel at how good he looked. When he'd left home, he'd been still just a boy barely out of his teens – now he was a strong, handsome young man.
"See, Daddy?" the girl... Amanda... broke the silence, puffing up her chest proudly. "I told you I would catch him!"
Lucius regarded the child in front of him. She had grey eyes, just like Draco and himself. "I'm sorry, young lady, but I am not Father Christmas."
"But you have to be! I saw you leaving presents at the door," the girl insisted and turned to Draco to say in a conspiratorial stage whisper, "He has an invisibility cloak, Daddy!"
Lucius crouched, so that he was on the same eye-level with the girl.
"Since you saw me outside, clearly I cannot be Father Christmas, then," he said, remembering how his own grandfather had been feeding him the Father Christmas myth for almost ten years before he finally uncovered the truth. "For I have not used the correct means of transport. Haven't your parents told you that Father Christmas always comes in through the Floo Network?" He even managed to say it with a straight face.
His granddaughter pouted. "But Apparition would be so much quicker!"
"Yes, but you must take into account how many households he has to visit during a single night," Lucius made an effort for the explanation to sound logical and convincing. "One has to concentrate very hard while Apparating – after a couple of jumps he would be too tired to do it safely."
His granddaughter still didn't buy it though. She got her cleverness from her father, for sure. "But Mummy said our fireplace is warded, and only people who are on our list can come through."
"Father Christmas gets a special permission from the Floo Network Authority for the 24th of December," Draco joined in.
"Really, Mummy?" the little girl turned to her mother, who appeared behind Draco.
"That is… er… not done in my department," Lucius' daughter-in-law said, slightly flustered. "I would have to ask someone from the Department of Magical Transportation how they manage it."
Little Amanda cocked her head, her eyebrows forming a puzzled line as her eyes zeroed in on Lucius again. "If you aren't Father Christmas, why did you bring presents? And why is your lady crying?"
Lucius turned and raised his head to look at Narcissa, who has been suspiciously silent the whole time, and truly – she was discreetly wiping at her face with a conjured handkerchief, her eyes all red and puffy.
This time it was Draco who responded. "He's not Father Christmas, Amanda, but he's my father. Your grandfather, Lucius Malfoy. And this lady is your grandmother, Narcissa."
"Really?" Amanda exclaimed, her voice happy and eager once more. "So you're back from your trip to Africa?"
"Africa?" Narcissa repeated, startled.
"Daddy said you're travelling, and that's why you can't visit us," their granddaughter explained.
Lucius looked at his son, who only shrugged, a small smile playing on his lips. Suddenly Lucius had a lump in his throat, overcome by gratitude. Draco and Hermione could have simply told their daughter that her grandparents didn't want to see her, or that they were awful people and she was better off never meeting them. Yet instead they covered for them, giving excuses for their behavior so that little Amanda wouldn't have a bad opinion of her grandparents.
"Well, now we're back from our travels and would like very much to meet our granddaughter," Narcissa said with a warm smile directed at the girl, since Lucius wasn't able to utter a word.
"Mummy, Daddy, can they come in?" Amanda beseeched her parents. "We can unwrap the presents, since they're already here," she added in a very Slytherin way. "I'm not sleepy at all. Pretty please!" Her pleading voice greatly reminded Lucius of little Draco when he was her age.
"Well, of course they can come in," Draco said, looking Lucius straight in the eyes. "But the question is – do they want to?"
Draco’s face appeared impassive, yet Lucius could see hope mixed with trepidation in his son's grey eyes that were mirrors of his own. Was the boy afraid they would reject him again, as they did when he married Granger? Lucius looked at his wife, who smiled at him encouragingly. They could hardly manage to rebuild their relationship with Draco overnight, but he intended to work hard to achieve that goal. It was time to take the first step.
"Yes, we do," Lucius said.
"Yay!" Amanda yelled. She grabbed Lucius‘ hand and in an instant he found himself being dragged into the house by the overexcited three-year-old, who was carrying one of the presents in her other hand.
The two Abraxan horses from the Action Witch sets bonded quickly with the new niffler and knarl, as well as with the local plush 'fauna', which consisted of a dragon, a ferret, a teddy bear, two unicorns, and three dogs of different breeds. As was usual for Amanda's games, all the animals could 'talk' – and quite conveniently spoke the same language, despite being of different species. Narcissa has been given the role of Miss Primrose (pink-haired Fashion Witch in a frilly pink ballgown) while Lucius got to be Miss Hildegarda (Action Witch dressed in her Auror costume). The Malfoy family sitting room turned into a magical landscape where the toy animals and dolls had their adventure.
"Can you bring a camera?" Hermione whispered to her husband, sitting down next to him on the couch. "I don't think Harry will believe me otherwise."
Lucius Malfoy sitting on the floor and talking in a high-pitched voice while swinging a doll in the air with the help of his wand was too foreign a concept for any person to believe without proof.
"I've already made plenty of photos," Draco replied just as silently, wiggling the fingers of his left hand slightly. Only then did Hermione notice that he was secretly holding their home camera at a discreet angle, half-hidden under his sleeve.
"Did they play with you like this when you were a child?" Even witnessing the scene with her own eyes, she still had a hard time to reconcile the image of Lucius and Narcissa Malfoy rollicking on the floor with little Amanda with the two aloof aristocrats she knew.
"Only when my grandparents weren't around," Draco smirked. "Because then I was too busy for that. I was the only grandchild in both families, so you can imagine how it went. My grandparents literally battled each other for the privilege to spend time with me."
Hermione regarded him with envy. All four of her grandparents died before she was born and she had no uncles or aunts either, so it has always been only she and her parents during Christmas, birthday parties and other celebrations.
Draco's voice turned serious. "Mother invited us to the Manor for Christmas dinner when you were in the loo," he said. "I know we're supposed to be with your parents but..."
Hermione shook her head. "I'll call Mum and reschedule. I can meet with them whenever I want, this is more important."
“You’re the best,” Draco took her hand into his own and kissed her knuckles.
“No, you’re the best,” Hermione smiled at him with affection. “And you deserve only the best.”
Draco has helped her to track down her parents in Australia and to restore their memories. Now that his relationship with his own parents was at stake, this was the least she could do to help Draco get back what he had lost by marrying her. Lucius and Narcissa weren't her personal favorites but her husband and children deserved a complete family.
Draco to reconcile with his parents and Amanda to finally meet her grandparents – that was something she hardly dared to hope for. That it came to pass was a small miracle.
No matter how many presents they unwrapped under the Christmas tree, this was the best Christmas present ever.