“Well now that we’ve picked out a Christmas tree and had that baking thing, what’s something else you used to do with your family?” Draco asked over his first cup of tea the morning after the party.
Hermione blew over her mug for a moment lost in thought before replying.
“There was one tradition we got to do the last few years before I came to Hogwarts – after I was starting to lean less on Father Christmas traditions and more on family and charity ones. We would sort of adopt a family for the holidays – one that maybe didn’t have much money to cover gifts and food – and help make sure they had a good Christmas.”
“So, a family like the Weasleys?”
She shot him a glare across the table as he realized he might have crossed a line.
“Something like that,” she replied, a hint of her irritation still evident in her voice.
Sheepishly, he waited for her to continue talking. When she didn’t immediately, he awkwardly tried to plow on.
“Any idea on how to find one? I don’t exactly come across too many working with my investors.”
“Actually…” her voice trailed off momentarily. “There is a family in the ministry that might benefit from something like this. The Corbyns. Richard works in the Muggle-Worthy Excuses Committee – not the most well-funded department. I think he’s got something like five kids?”
“Five! Merlin, no wonder they...”
Another glare shot Draco’s way.
“Sorry,” he apologized, “old habits die hard. I’m still not where I should be I guess. So, how do we go about finding out if the Curries-”
“Right, sorry, Corbyns would agree to this?”
“Hmm, I’m not sure about that. My parents always talked to someone that seemed to need it that came in their office for a dental cleaning. I guess I could always owl him.”
She drained the rest of her cup before silently summoning her winter cloak by the door.
“Hang on, I’m about done, and then I can walk to the post with you. I still wish you’d let me get us an owl.”
“In this tiny apartment? I don’t think we have the room.”
“Didn’t you say one time that Harry had to keep his bloody owl in a bedroom with him? We have plenty of space here.”
“I’ll consider it. Maybe.”
Draco rolled his eyes as he finished his tea. Summoning his own great cloak he quickly followed Hermione out the door.
It was a brisk walk to the local owl post. There were a few of these small ones scattered about and hidden in areas where there was enough of a wizarding population to warrant it, so they didn’t always have to trudge to Diagon Alley. This particular one was only a couple of blocks away, so Hermione normally insisted on walking even on days like today when the snow was coming down in sheets.
“I w-w-wonder how l-l-long it’s going to ta-a-ake for us t-t-to get-t-t a reply?” she stutter as the cold crept in around them.
Draco made a mental note to get her a better cloak as well as an owl for Christmas this year.
“Hopefully not long. We don’t have that much time left before the 25th.”
They slipped silently into an alley and made their way to the back wall. After making sure no one was looking, he reached out and twisted the lid of the trashcan directly beside to the wall a quarter turn clockwise, followed by a three-quarters turn counter-clockwise. A small archway opened up that required them both to duck down as they entered, but once inside it was nice and warm, if smelling slightly of owl droppings.
“Good-day again to you two,” greeted a short, older gentleman from behind the counter. “To what do I owe the pleasure of your visit?”
“We need to owl someone, as usual Anders.” Hermione informed him with a laugh.
“Right-o, then. Now, will we be needing local, national, or international today?”
Draco watched as his fiancé froze a moment.
“I’m. I’m not entirely sure. He might be local…I’m pretty sure he isn’t international.”
“Might want to use one of my national birds then.”
The older wizard whistled a few notes. “Come on now, Tawny, they haven’t got all day.”
Sure enough, a tawny colored owl soon alighted on the counter in front of them as Hermione grabbed a slip of paper waiting for her beside it and scribbled off a note.
“There,” she declared as she reread what she had written before tying it to the owl’s waiting leg. “Now, I just need to get this to Richard Corbyn’s family. All I know is that he works for the ministry, though.”
“That’ll be enough for him, don’t you worry. He’s one of my best birds and hasn’t ever misdelivered a letter - so far as I know. If anyone can find the wizard you’re looking for, it’s Tawny.”
A few more whistled notes and the bird took flight.
“And now,” Draco observed, “we wait.”
It didn’t take them near as long as they were expecting to hear back. They had just finished a Christmas movie Hermione had watched with her parents many times before when a tapping on their window drew their attention.
Draco reached the window first and let the snow dusted owl in out of the cold. It ruffled its feathers to shake the powder off before stretching out its leg. Once he had removed the note, Draco watched the owl waste no time in flying back off to its perch.
He didn’t get a chance to read it before Hermione could rush over and pull it from his hands. Her face lit up as she read it.
“Richard says he would be more than grateful if we could step in. Apparently, his wife has been sick lately and there’s been little time or money for celebrating the holidays.”
“Any ideas what to get the kids, or even what their ages are?” inquired Draco.
“Let’s see…ah, here we are. It says they have a 10-year-old boy, twin 8 year olds – one boy and one girl, a 5-year-old girl and a 3-year-old boy.”
“That’s quite a range of kids…but I think we can cover all of them. Where do you suggest we start?”
“Ron and George probably have some good things at their shop we can get. Why don’t we head there first?”
Draco wasn’t too keen on the idea of visiting the Weasleys’ shop, but he couldn’t argue that it would be the perfect place to get children’s presents.
“Alright. Let’s go then.”
Hermione’s face lit up – maybe she wasn’t expecting him to agree to it? – as she quickly grabbed his hand to Apparate to Diagon Alley.
He was thankful that the Weasley brothers were busy with other holiday shoppers and barely had enough time to wave at them, leaving the two of them able to shop without any interruptions.
“Hmm, what about these toy wands?” Draco asked, staring at a large display of them. “The Aguamenti ones look harmless enough, as do the Lumos ones.”
“True. Go ahead and grab a few of them, then,” she instructed. “I want to go check out the candy displays upstairs.”
Grabbing three of each he moved on to see what else he might have thought interesting as a child. He found some fireworks boxes and grabbed a couple of them along with a set of magical costumes that transformed you into different people or animals when you wore them.
He was staring at a display of dung bombs trying to figure out how mad this Corbyn guy would be if he sent some to his house when Hermione came back downstairs.
“Nice choices,” she observed as she looked over what he had grabbed. “I’ve got some super acid drops, lollies that make your face change to different colors as you suck them, anti-gravity triple powered bubble gum, and a couple of never-ending licorice whips.”
“Brilliant. I think this might be enough stuff from here, what do you think?”
She nodded before taking the items from him. “I’ll check out – I’m guessing you won’t be too mad if you don’t have to interact with Ron or George. How about you head over to Flourish and Blotts to see about getting some of the Year One textbooks usually needed at Hogwarts?”
Draco nodded, happy for the excuse to leave and headed off. He was already finishing checking out with a complete set of first year books, as well as a couple of cookbooks and children’s stories, when Hermione walked up.
“Sorry that took so long. There were more people there than I was expecting.”
“I’m not surprised with what time of year it is. Do you think a few racing brooms for the three oldest and a couple of toy brooms for the younger two would be a good idea? And maybe vouchers for the 10-year-old to get a wand and new robes before he goes to school next year? I’m still not sure what to get the dad.”
“If he’s anything like my dad, just seeing his family happy would be enough of a present. Still, having something under the tree for him to open would be good…”
“What about a bottle of scotch?” he suggested. “I’m sure I can get him a good year relatively cheap through one of my contacts rather quickly.”
“Hmmm,” Hermione paused a moment before replying. “You know, that sounds like a pretty good idea. How quickly do you think you could get it?”
“If he’s home, tomorrow at the latest.”
“And if he’s not?”
“Then that gets more complicated…”
“Hey Blaise, thanks for helping me out with this,” Draco insisted as the tanned wizard came through the Floo and handed him a large bottle of scotch.
“No problema, my amico. I assume you still won’t tell me who this is for?”
“Truth is, I don’t know. Hermione is trying to help out someone at work that doesn’t make enough to do much for his family on Christmas-”
“So, like the Weasleys?”
“Shhh!” hushed Draco, looking back towards the bedroom to make sure Hermione hadn’t heard.
Dropping his voice, he continued. “Yes, but that’s a bit of a touchy subject. Anyways I couldn’t think of anything else to get for a dad. Merlin knows Father never wanted for anything, so I don’t have much to go on.”
“I think my madre is getting her latest boyfriend a cruise through the Mediterranean, and the year before that she gifted her ex a whole vineyard, so I’m right there with you.”
Draco laughed. It was good to see one of his old friends for a change instead of always Hermione’s. They talked long into the night catching up with each other before Draco noticed himself yawning.
“We might need to call this a night. Good gracious, no wonder I’m tired, it’s after 3am, and we have to deliver all of these presents tomorrow.”
“Say no more, I have to get back, too. Wouldn’t do for my new girl to wake up without me there.”
“New?” inquired Draco. “That was fast. I thought you just broke up with what’s-her-name? Jean-Ann?”
“Jeanette. And that was a few weeks ago.”
“You never cease to amaze me, Blaise.”
The olive-skinned wizard winked. “Addio, Draco. And don’t wait so long to owl me again!”
Draco waved his friend off through the grate before heading towards the bedroom. Hopefully he could still get enough sleep to pull of delivering gifts tomorrow.