I don't own Harry Potter, just Carla.
Chapter 8 - Holiday Cheer
The day after Harry's "discussion" with the editor of the Daily Prophet, a retraction article was printed apologizing for an inaccurate article. Harry and Hermione both knew that it would not erase any rumors that would no doubt have spread from the previous issue, but both being past victims of the paparazzi, they knew that in a few months, the people would lose interest and things would go back to normal.
A quick call to the head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement had confirmed that Rita Skeeter had been arrested and found guilty of being an illegal Animagus, and was sentenced to six months in Azkaban, as well as being charged a large fine. Harry felt a grim sense of satisfaction when he heard the news.
Soon, Saturday had arrived, and Harry needed someone to watch the children. Neville was not an option this time: he had a large school-related project to work on, and could not be bothered, so Harry Flooed Molly and asked if she could watch the children, to which she readily agreed. This freed both of the adults for a night away from the kids to relax.
The first place they went to was dinner at a small diner in London. At Hermione's insistence, she drove them to the restaurant, once again telling Harry that he should give up his motorcycle and buy a car. When they sat down and ordered, Hermione asked for a salad while Harry ordered a basket of fish and chips.
"So, anything new and amazing at the office?" Harry asked after they had ordered.
"No, nothing's planned until next year's conference," Hermione said, sipping her glass of water. "What about you?"
"Nothing particularly spectacular," Harry admitted sullenly. "Just some sixth-years falling on their arses during dueling practice." As their food arrived, Harry continued to talk, their conversation melding into the cacophony of the evening rush. After dinner, they drove to the cinema to watch an animated movie that had come out during the summer, but both of them had been too busy to attend. As they left the building a scant hour and a half later, Harry was chuckling to himself.
"...Maybe we should get a cat, and dress it up like the one in the movie," Harry suggested, a grin plastered on his face.
"Harry James Potter, you will do no such thing!" Hermione gasped, outraged. "That would be cruel to the cat!"
"Not as cruel as when you tied a pink bow around Crookshanks' neck that one time," Harry countered, shuddering. "A male cat should never have to wear a pink bow." Hermione scoffed and rolled her eyes at Harry's claim.
"Come on, the bow was adorable," Hermione said. "And everyone else thought so too, except for you."
"Then apparently I'm the only one who saw the death glares that he was shooting everyone that night," Harry responded flatly.
"You are not going to get a cat and dress it up," Hermione said in a tone of finality. Realizing that he could not win this argument, Harry dropped his shoulders and sighed.
"All right," he said sullenly. Together they walked back to Hermione's car and drove to the Burrow, a triumphant smirk on her face. When they had arrived, Carla and Ted had already fallen asleep, so Harry and Hermione carefully carried the sleeping children into the car and buckled them in, taking care not to wake them. When they pulled in front of 12 Grimmauld Place, Harry used wandless magic to quietly open the front door as he carried Ted into bed, Hermione carrying Carla.
Hermione carried Carla into her room and, kicking off her trainers, used her foot to pull the covers off the bed. Gently laying the small girl into the bed, Hermione pulled the covers over her and after a moment, gently kissed Carla's temple. Smiling softly, Hermione picked up her shoes and stalked out of the room, carefully closing the door. She turned around to see Harry sneaking out of Ted's room, slowly closing the door.
"I had a good time tonight," Hermione whispered softly after Ted's door had been completely closed.
"Me too," Harry agreed, turning to her. "We should do this again sometime."
"Maybe," Hermione said, before succumbing to a wide yawn. She looked down at her wristwatch and saw that it was past eleven 'o clock. "But right now, we should go to bed," she added. Humming in agreement, Harry tried to walk to his room, but stopped when Hermione was in front of him. They tried sidestepping each other several times before Harry stood aside and let Hermione walk past. "'Night," Hermione whispered as she went into her bedroom and closed the door. Harry muttered "goodnight" to the empty hallway before walking to his bedroom.
November and December passed by without much incident, Harry and Hermione only spending one other Saturday night out together, until Christmas day, when the four residents of 12 Grimmauld Place decorated the house with lights and tinsel and passed around presents under the tree.
Harry and Hermione had gone shopping with the children on separate days to shop for the other adult, and both adults made them promise to not tell them what they had gotten until Christmas day, so the children were eager to pass out their presents, as well as open their own.
"Open mine, Daddy!" Carla said excitedly as she held out a thin rectangular gift to Harry. Harry peeled off the colorful paper to reveal a moving photograph of himself, Carla and Ted playing in the snow, contained in a simple silver frame. "Do you like it?" Carla asked.
"I love it," Harry said honestly, pulling the girl into a hug. "Thank you." They continued passing out Christmas presents and enjoying themselves. When all the presents had been unwrapped, Carla had a stuffed lion that moved and purred from Harry, and a children's introduction to the magical world from Hermione, Ted had received a toy broom from Harry and a book on pet caring from Hermione. In addition to the photograph, Harry received a handpainted mug from Ted and a recently released defense tome from Hermione. Hermione had received a pair of simple earrings from Carla, a copy of the most recent edition of Hogwarts: A History (no doubt at Harry's suggestion), and a book on interracial politics from Harry.
Molly had invited them over to the Burrow for a grand Christmas feast. They came over and mingled with the rest of the Weasley clan, but had to leave the party early, the children having slipped into sleep from full stomaches. After the children had been tucked into bed, Harry and Hermione sat in the sofa in the sitting room of 12 Grimmauld Place, watching the slowly blinking lights on the Christmas tree.
"I think that was the best Christmas we've ever had," Hermione sighed as she snuggled into the comfortable sofa.
"Yeah, I think it is," Harry agreed as he stretched his arms out, draping one over Hermione's shoulders. "Carla especially seemed to enjoy it; I've never seen her so happy."
"You've been a good father to her," Hermione said, snuggling into Harry's chest, his arm wrapping around her shoulders.
"Thanks," Harry said, rubbing Hermione's arm. For a minute, they simply sat and enjoyed each other's company before Harry began chuckling to himself.
"What?" Hermione asked, raising a curious eyebrow.
"I was just thinking..." Harry began, before being interrupted by a disbelieving snort from Hermione, "oh, hush. Anyway, I was thinking, we went out, had dinner together, and now we have the night to ourselves." Almost imperceptibly, Harry began to slowly lean forward.
"Your point being...?" Hermione asked, involuntarily leaning towards him.
"Just saying," Harry shrugged, their faces mere inches apart.
"Harry?" Hermione whispered softly, stopping her movement.
"Hmm, yes?" Harry hummed, his warm breath tickling her lips. Hermione opened her mouth to speak, but suddenly found herself forgetting what she wanted to say.
"Never mind," she said instead, and resumed her motion. They stopped briefly, their lips mere millimeters away, before they softly pressed against each other. The kiss lasted mere moments before the two friends pulled away from each other.
"Wow," Harry muttered to himself before fixing his gaze on Hermione. "So...what does this mean for us?" Hermione blinked in surprise and cleared her throat momentarily.
"Well, the way I see it, there are two options," she said rationally. "The first is, we ignore this moment and get on with our lives." Hermione thought she saw something flash across Harry's face, but it was so brief that she thought she had imagined it. "Or...we can accept this as a new step in our relationship and see where it leads us."
"I kind of like the second option," Harry said with a lopsided grin. Hermione smiled softly at him.
"So do I," she said before they reached over and kissed each other again, this one lasting slightly longer than the last. "Happy Christmas, Harry," Hermione whispered when they parted again.
"Happy Christmas, Hermione," Harry replied, reaching down to kiss her again.
Don't forget to review, and again, Merry Christmas!