Author's Notes:

Here's Chapter 156 for you!

I've enjoyed writing this one during my Easter break from work. We're getting into winter within the story and that means Christmas chapters are coming up. Is there anything specific you want to see in an upcoming chapter?

Love, DW

P.S. Enjoy x


As winter approaches, the autumnal weather of September and October turn into stormy, icy spells in November. Even with a few warming and drying charms, Hermione takes it easy as she enters her sixth month of pregnancy. After getting over her sickness, the last thing she needs is to catch a cold or to slip over and end up on bed rest. Therefore, when Pansy asks if they're attending the Annual Christmas Lights Switch On in Diagon Alley, they quickly decline, wanting to spend the weekend relaxing at home and planning for the next four weeks of school before Christmas break.

"Ron's desperate to go; he wants to make it a tradition, but I'm exhausted and just want to go home and take a bath," Pansy complains, pushing her lunch around her plate.

"So do that; tell Ron to take the twins out for the evening and enjoy yourself," Draco suggests.

"It's not that easy. When I get home, the house is always a pigsty, and you can guarantee Ron hasn't made dinner, so I'll have to feed them before they head out," Pansy sighs, tucking her hair behind her ear. "How did my life end up like this?"

"Ron's always been messy, and I love Molly, but she's done everything for her children," Hermione explains. So it's not in his nature to do things around the house. You need to be explicit about what you want him to do in the house. It shouldn't just be down to you because you're the woman of the house."

Pansy smirks. "Are you telling me Draco helps around the house?"

Draco scoffs, "We split the cooking, but Mitty does most of the housework during the day."

"I need to get myself a house-elf," she mutters.

"Or just learn some cleaning spells," Hermione suggests. "I've got a book you can borrow. I'll bring it in on Monday."

"Great, thanks," Pansy says, standing with her plate. "I've got class in ten minutes; I'll see you later."

After their last lesson, Hermione heads straight home to start dinner while Draco picks Scorpius up from Chris and Sarah's house. Knowing her parents, he'll be stuck there for half an hour, so after popping the lasagne in the oven, Hermione makes herself a cup of tea, grabs her book, and sits on their garden bench to relax.

The moment doesn't last, as a squawk from above gains her attention. Hermione watches as a beautiful owl circles the sky above her before diving down and landing on the arm of the bench beside her. After removing the parchment from the owl's leg, Hermione expects the bird to fly off, having succeeded in its task, but the owl remains, expecting Hermione's reply.

Unfurling the parchment, Hermione reads:

Hermione and Draco,

I hope to see you tonight at the Light Switch On. What's new? It's been so long since we've caught up. Perhaps we can go for a coffee after the lights tonight.

Your friend,

Megan and Gregory.

It's not unusual for Megan to send them owls requesting a meeting to divulge information from MACUSA. They had informed their friend that they were stepping back from the Order business and to contact Harry or Ginny if she had information. Perhaps this was just a request to catch up, but Hermione somewhat doubted that. The writing was too staged. Megan had new information, and, for some reason, she wanted to tell them instead of Harry.

After sending her reply confirming the meeting, Hermione changes out of her comfortable loungewear into jeans and a jumper. Then, she hangs around the kitchen, awaiting the return of her husband and son.

After the events of last year's Christmas Lights Switch On, Hermione didn't feel safe taking Scorpius, even with the advertised extra security the Ministry was providing. So, Hermione took her phone out and dialed her uncle's number.

"Hello?

"Hi David, I've got a favour to ask," she begins. Could you look after Scorpius for a couple of hours tonight? Something important has come up, and we don't want Scorpius involved."

"Is it dangerous?"

"A little, but nothing Draco and I can't handle."

David sighs, "I did have plansā€¦"

"Oh," Hermione fails to keep the surprise out of her voice. "I can ask Grandma if she'll have him."

"I'll have him, it's fine. I've just got some friends coming over for the game. I'm sure Scorpius will enjoy it too," David admits. Recognising Hermione's silence as a surprise, he adds, "I do have friends, you know."

"Sorry, I was more shocked by the game. What game are you watching?"

"Football."

"You hate football. Are these friends of yours peer pressuring you to do things you don't like," Hermione jokes.

David groans, "Fine; I have Elliot and Isaac coming over. They're interested in the muggle world, and I suggested hanging out. I promised Sophie I'd try to make some friends, and I thought, who better than her friends' fathers."

"Oh, the Montgomery's dads," Hermione realises. "Their children are lovely, so I'm sure you'll get along well with them."

"We've hung out a few times, but this is the first time outside The Leaky Cauldron."

"Well, let me know how it goes. Can I bring Scorpius over in an hour?"

"Yeah, that's fine."

Just as Hermione and her uncle hang up, she hears the tell-tale sound of the floo network lighting up, so goes to meet her family in the floo room.

"Scorpius got a little messy at nursery," Draco says, explaining why he's wearing a bright orange jumper and blue joggers, clothes they don't own.

"Oh, what happened?"

"Sarah said he fell in the water tray, so the staff changed him into his spare clothes, and then he got paint everywhere," Draco chuckles.

"Maybe we need to start sending two spare pairs of clothes then," Hermione laughs, taking her son and kissing his cheek. "I have news," she sighs to her husband after placing Scorpius on the ground.

"What now?"

"Megan's requested a meeting tonight after the Light Switch On."

Draco frowns. "She knows we've stepped back."

"I know, so it must be important."

Draco throws Scorpius' dirty clothes into the clothes basket in the downstairs bathroom. "You've already agreed, haven't you."

"Yes, it will be nice to catch up together anyway." Hermione shrugs. "I've called David; he will have Scorpius for a few hours while we're out."

"Okay," Draco sighs, annoyed that their plans to relax have changed. He kisses his wife's cheek so she knows it's not her he's annoyed with. "I'm going for a shower before we eat. It smells good."

Hermione had forgotten the lasagne and rushed to take it out of the oven. The cheese on top is slightly darker than she would've liked, but it's still edible.

Once Draco returns, they eat their lasagne and salad together, theorising about what could be so important that Megan has requested a meeting. After dinner, Draco washes up while Hermione changes Scorpius into pyjamas and a dressing robe for his night at Uncle David's house.

Upon arriving at Uncle David's house, Hermione lets herself in, as usual, when her uncle is expecting them.

"Hi, David. Thanks again for watching Scorpius for us," Hermione says as she enters the living room, only to find Elliot and Isaac Montgomery sitting on the couch. "Oh, hi. I didn't think you'd be here yet."

"Ms Granger?" One of the Montgomery brothers asks, then turns to David. "What is Hermione Granger doing here?"

"She's my niece," David shrugs.

Hermione places Scorpius on the ground. Immediately, he runs over to Uncle David and dives onto his lap.

"You're niece?" he frowns. "Wait, does that mean Sophie is your cousin?" He asks.

"Yes, but rest assured I treat all my students equally and would never show preferential treatment," Hermione explains.

"Did you know about this?"

"Yes, Beth told me years ago. They met on a trip to Diagon Alley, but Sophie didn't want people to know, so Beth told me not to tell anyone," the other Montgomery brother explained.

"Sophie wanted to make her own friends without having children pretending to like her because she's my cousin," Hermione adds.

"Smart kid."

Draco enters behind her with Scorpius' backpack.

"Scorpius has had dinner, but if he gets hungry later, there are snacks in the fridge," he informs David.

"These are Elizabeth and Florian's fathers," Hermione explains to her husband, who looks just as confused to see them sitting in David's living room as they are to see Draco Malfoy standing before them.

"Nice to meet you both. I teach Elizabeth and Florian potions at Hogwarts." He holds out his hand.

"Elliot, Florian's father," Elliot introduces himself as they shake hands.

"Isaac, Richard and Elizabeth's father."

"How is Richard doing post-Hogwarts? He achieved all Exceeding Expectations, correct?" Draco asks.

Isaac's face brightens as he describes his son's life since graduation.

"Well, we're pleased to hear Richard has done so well. We must be going; it was lovely to meet you both." Hermione smiles as she walks over to kiss her son on top of his head. "Thanks for watching him. Enjoy your game."

As they exit David's house, they laugh at the absurdity of three men who know nothing about football trying to have a game night and watch a match together.

As soon as the coast is clear, Draco apparates them outside The Leaky Cauldron in Diagon Alley, where they are immediately swept into the crowd of people heading towards the stage. Each shop window has a wintry scene portrayed in fake snow. Hermione's favourite is Flourish and Blotts' design, where a couple is holding hands as they ice skate across a frozen lake. The usual bright bulbs in the street lanterns have been replaced with soft, flickering candles, creating a darker but more intimate atmosphere.

"The Minister wasn't joking about increased security," Draco mutters, nodding towards the Ministry Officials standing on guard outside every shop down Diagon Alley.

Most shops are still open, wanting to capitalise on the event and crowds. Hermione notices that George Weasley is one of those owners. His shop is still lit up, and she can see children running in and out with excited faces.

As they approach the back of the crowd, Hermione notices that six more Ministry Officials are on the stage, watching the crowds from every angle, while an orchestral band plays a collection of Wizarding and Muggle Christmas songs.

To the right of the stage, outside of Gringotts, a large Christmas Tree has been decorated with colourful baubles, tinsels, and fairy lights. It is waiting to be turned on by the Minister at eight o'clock, along with the string lights hanging across the Alley from shop to shop.

Hermione and Draco try to hang back, not wanting to feel trapped within the crowd, but as more people join, they get pushed further into the middle. However, Hermione spots Percy Weasley a few metres ahead and waves him over. The man pushes his way towards them with Phoebe sitting on his shoulders. The people around them fill Percy's gap, giving them more room to move.

"Ron said you weren't coming," Percy says, gently hugging Hermione and patting Draco on the shoulder.

"Our plans changed," she vaguely explains. "Is Audrey here with you?" Hermione glances behind her friend for his wife, who would be due within the next few months. She wanted to check how the other woman was getting along with her first pregnancy.

"No," Percy sighs. I'm here with Ron and the twins. It was a bit of a last-minute invitation since George gave him the night off, but I'll take any excuse to get out of the house."

"Is it that bad?" Hermione asks, her heart breaking for her friend.

Percy grimaces in pain as his hand flies up to grab Phoebe's little hand, which has a fistful of ginger hair. "Hair, Phoebe, please?"

Hermione chuckles, "You'll have to get used to that. How close is Audrey's due date?"

"Only six more weeks. She's due at the end of December." Percy's face lights up. "I just can't wait to meet my daughter."

"Daughter?"

"Did I forget to tell you that? I can't remember who I've told and who I haven't," he explains.

"Congratulations!" Draco says. "I'd love a daughter."

"Do you not know yet?"

"We couldn't decide whether to ask or not, so we haven't asked yet," Draco explains.

"Well, you still have a few months to go, right? Plenty of time to figure it out." Percy smiles.

"Three more months," Hermione says. "Thankfully, I'm past the worst part. How has Audrey's pregnancy been?"

"Perfectly fine, I assume. She doesn't tell me much and won't let me go to the healer appointments with her, but she's been going to work as normal, so I guess it hasn't affected her too much," Percy sighs. All she cares about is her work. She'd probably still go in to work on her deathbed," he half-jokes.

"There's nothing wrong with a woman caring about her career and worrying about how a baby will affect her future," Hermione tells him.

"I know how much she cares about her job. I told her I was going to take the full year of parental leave that the Ministry offers so she could return to work earlier, and she actually thanked me. But then she told me she was only going to take three weeks of leave, and I'm saving her from organising childcare," Percy explains.

"Try not to blame her, Percy. Nobody wanted this life of marriage and parenthood. While many people are happy with their lives now, not everyone has grown to love their partner," she reminds him.

"Not everyone's as lucky as you two." Percy smiles sadly. "To be honest, marriage has been nothing but a nuisance, but I had hoped we'd grow closer during the pregnancy, but she's been working more than ever, having to put steps into place for her three-week absence at work," he says mockingly. "We don't love each other, we don't even like each other, and we knew from the beginning that our marriage was never going to last, but we're always going to have our daughter as a connection, and I wanted us to be friendly at least, but she keeps pushing me away."

Hermione hugs her friend again. "I can't imagine how hard this is for you, Percy. You know we're here for you if you need to escape the Estate and Audrey for a while."

"Thanks," Percy mutters, his eyes emanating his sadness.

"Oi!" They hear through the crowd and turn to see Ron barging his way through, Philip in his arms. "Percy, do you mind not wandering off with my daughter?"

Percy frowns as he replies, "I told you where I was going."

"I wasn't listening." Ron shrugs, turning to Draco. "Did you know Blaise was bringing his boyfriend?" He asks, unimpressed.

Draco stands taller, trying to spot his best friend, and spots him in the crowd while Benjamin stares at everything in awe. "I'm going to talk to them," he informs his wife.

"Be kind," she calls after him. "Is Pansy here?"

Ron rolls his eyes and says, "No, she's at home, having a bath or something."

"Don't be so condescending, Ron. She works hard for your family and deserves a little time to herself," Hermione sternly tells him.

"And I don't work hard for my family?"

"I wasn't talking about her job. You expect too much from her. She comes home after working nine hours, and you expect her to cook and clean the house after you and the kids," Hermione tells him.

Ron rolls his eyes, annoyed at being called out for his laziness. "Okay, I get it. I'll do more around the house."

"You better, Ron. That woman is the best thing that's ever going to happen to you," Percy harshly informs him. "She's given you enough chances. Don't ruin this."

Ron glares at his brother. "I know how lucky I am."

"Your actions say otherwise," Percy retorts.

Ron's jaw sets, but he knows his brother is helping him out by being here with the twins, so he remains silent.

Draco rests his hand on Blaise's shoulder, gaining his attention.

"Draco!" Blaise hugs his best friend.

"What are you doing here?" Draco questions, glancing at Benjamin, dressed head to toe in Blaise's wizarding robes. "Hi, Benjamin."

"Oh, I see you've met my Italian friend." Blaise stares at him pointedly.

"What?" Draco frowns as realisation dawns on him. "You're Italian friend, from Italy, called Benjamin."

"Alright, shut up," Blaise shushes him. "I wanted to introduce Benji to our world and when else than the Light Switch On. It's one of the most magical times in Diagon Alley."

"You know what will happen if someone discovers him," Draco hisses. "And you decided to risk it tonight when there's heightened security after last year?"

"What happened last year?" Benjamin asks worriedly.

"Those bad guys attacked, and a girl died," Blaise simply explains.

"Died? She was murdered," Draco reiterates.

Blaise takes Benjamin's hand, squeezing it reassuringly. "If things go south, I'll get us out of here," Blaise promises.

Draco sighs, "I can't protect you. I'm here to meet Megan and Gregory."

"What's going on?"

"I don't know yet. Are you sure you're okay?" Draco asks, watching Benjamin.

"I'm comfortable," the man agrees.

"Well, I'm glad your conversation went well on Halloween. Thanks for keeping me informed, Blaise," he teases.

"We've been busy," Blaise comments, and Benjamin blushes deeply.

"Okay, I don't need to know all that." Draco shudders. "If you're sure you're okay, then I should get back to Hermione," he says, hugging both men before leaving them to their idiotic plan.

Deciding to treat his wife since their relaxing night had been ruined, Draco heads to Florean Fortescue's Parlour, where he orders a hot chocolate for Hermione and a bouquet of churros for them to share.

When he returns, Hermione has been left alone.

"Where did Percy and Ron go?" He asks, passing her the hot chocolate.

"They got into an argument, so left to see George," she says, sipping at her drink. Hermione hums appreciatively, "Is this peppermint?"

"Yeah, that's what you were drinking on New Year's Day in 1999," he mentions.

Hermione frowns slightly. She rarely drinks hot chocolate, but when she does, it's whatever the house elves make at Hogwarts, so she's surprised he knows her favourite flavour. "How do you know what I was drinking two years ago?"

He teases, "The smell clung to me for the rest of the day after you threw your drink at me."

Hermione rolls her eyes, laughing as she remembers the moment. "You shouldn't have stood so close to me."

"Just drink it." Draco smiles.

Hermione takes another sip. "Thank you for my drink," she sweetly says.

Draco kisses her cheek, wrapping his arms around his wife and wondering if it was possible to love her any more than he already did.

With ten minutes to go before the Lights Switch On, the lanterns lining Diagon Alley dim as the Minister finally takes to the stage with two aurors as his security guards. Hermione recognises them as Peters and Blackwood, whom Harry had introduced them to at Vale's trial.

"Have you seen Harry around?" She asks her husband, scanning the crowd while Draco checks the faces of the guards he can see.

"I haven't; he might not be bothering this year," he suggests.

The crowd falls silent as they await the Minister's speech. Slowly, he steps towards the microphone, waving at a few people in the crowd, reminding Hermione of the first time she saw Professor Lockhart in Flourish and Blotts.

"Welcome," the Minister's voice echoes across the Alley. "To Diagon Alley's second Christmas Lights Switch On." While waiting for the cheering and clapping to subside, Minister Shacklebolt glances down remorsefully. "It's at this time of year," he continues with a sigh. "As we leave one year behind and enter a new year, we can come together as a community and take another step away from the horrors of the war. We find ourselves more willing to forgive those who deserve forgiveness and forget those who don't. We can accept the mistakes we have made in the past and use that knowledge to create a better future for our children." The Minister pauses to scan the crowd. "I want to take a moment to thank each of you for placing your trust in the Ministry by being present tonight after the tragic events that occurred at our celebrations last year. It warms my heart that you have faith in me, as your Minister, to protect your families."

"Is he even going to mention Tabitha?" Draco glares angrily at the man who runs their country.

"I do this job for you, your children, and your families. After living through a dark period of history, I am proud to be the person to lead this country into a period of enlightenment. The Ministry and I have been looking forward to working hard to improve our community. I'm looking forward to sharing more information with you in the New Year," the Minister grins as the crowd applauds his speech.

"This must be what Megan wants to tell us," Hermione quietly states.

"Without further ado, let the countdown begin," Minister Shacklebolt announces as a drum roll leads the crowd with the countdown from ten. "Merry Christmas!" He announces as they reach zero.

The Minister waves his wand in a circle, and the whole of Diagon Alley beams as Christmas lights of every colour twinkle and dance above their heads. Behind the stage, fireworks shoot off, exploding in the night sky and obscuring the constellations from view.

"I know this wasn't our plan," Draco whispers into her ear, hugging Hermione from behind. "But I've enjoyed our night. Merry Christmas."

Hermione grins, "You're getting into the Christmas mood a little early, aren't you?"

"You made Christmas special last year, and I don't want Scorpius growing up to hate the holiday like I did," Draco explains.

"I appreciate the effort." Hermione turns to kiss his cheek but sees Megan standing a few metres away, beckoning them towards. "Megan wants us to follow her," she whispers, taking his hand and dragging him behind her.

Megan weaves through the crowd towards a little unassuming tea room. As they approach, Hermione sees Gregory and Augusta sitting at one of the tables inside. Megan unlocks the door with the key and ushers them inside.

"How are you both doing?" Gregory asks, standing to greet them.

"We're good," Draco replies, patting his friend on the shoulder. We weren't planning on being here, though, so this better be good."

"Be nice, Draco," Hermione warns him, wrapping a calming hand around his wrist.

"Sorry," he sighs, turning to Megan. "I shouldn't take my frustration out on you, but I didn't think I could despise that man any more."

"We're so close, remember that," Megan assures him.

"So, why are we here?" Hermione glances around at the dark tea room.

"Mrs Croft was a friend of my Grandmother. I spent most of my childhood here, so when I asked her if I could hang out with some friends, she was more than happy to offer up her tea room," Megan explains, gesturing for Hermione and Draco to sit at the table Gregory had just stood up from. "There's really no easy way to go about this. I don't want to pussyfoot around the topic. You know I wouldn't have asked you to meet if it weren't important," she tells them.

"We know," Hermione agrees. "What's going on?"

"First off, you'll be pleased to know that Tiffany Tyler's trial in MACUSA was recently, and she was sentenced to life, which actually means life over in the States," she explains.

"Well, that's certainly good news. Is work any better?"

"It's getting there. President Harris is struggling to trust people, but since I've proven myself, she's placing a lot more responsibilities on my shoulders. I keep reminding myself that it's only until the summer."

"I'm going to hold you to that, Megan. It's easy to stick with what we're comfortable with, but you deserve so much more than that," Hermione tells her.

"I've already put some feelers out within the Ministry. I'll be fine."

Hermione smiles pleased that her friend isn't going to stick with the abuse she's been putting up with at MACUSA. "So, in your letter, you mentioned something new and catching up," she says, leading the conversation towards the reason they're all there.

"Yes," Megan clears her throat, sitting taller as though in a meeting. "My contacts at the Ministry have informed me that there have been a lot of meetings going on recently, mainly with the event planning committee and Alexander Vyner."

Hermione feels herself pale as goosebumps spread up her arms. "Alexander is involved?"

Megan nods. "You understand what that means?"

"There's only one reason why the Minister would need to include Alexander and the event planning committee in meetings," Draco says, his fists clenched in anger. "Do we have a date?"

Megan shakes her head. "My contact-"

"Who is your contact?" Draco asks."

"I probably shouldn't say," Megan says.

"Is it Alexander? He's on our side and would do anything to protect his department and archives," Hermione asks.

Megan nods once. "He informed me that the Minister plans to announce the New Marriage Decree on New Year's Day. If he's following the same time frame as last time, we expect the Ceremony to be held on the first of June."

"It's too soon," Hermione says. "Will there even be enough people to include?"

"Vyner's estimation is that there will be just over one hundred people in the age range of Hogwarts graduates to those who missed the cut-off last time," Megan claims.

"That's more than I expected," Hermione mutters.

"And thirty-six of them are under our care as seventh years," Draco snaps. "How sure are you and MACUSA that this is actually happening?"

"Vyner has confirmed it," Megan explains. "He gave me a copy of the new questionnaire. The Minister is no longer hiding the fact that they're matching people based purely on blood status and the number of children. Do you remember how the majority of the questions were 'What's your favouriteā€¦ whatever'? That's all gone."

"What can we do? Is MACUSA thinking of bringing the takedown forward?" Hermione asks.

"No, we can't bring it forward. The ICW has agreed with our plan and has put certain things into place on their side, too."

"I don't want anyone else to go through the Ceremony and Decree," Hermione sighs. We've taught all those children that will be involved, and even though we were their age, we'd matured during the war. These children have had years to get back into a normal life, and now they're being dragged back into the Ministry's mess." She leans against Draco's shoulder. Her husband wraps an arm around her in comfort.

"We can figure something out," Draco attempt to assure his wife, but nothing comes to mind. "I don't know what to do, but we'll think of something."

Megan watches them with an uncomfortable grimace on her face.

"What's wrong?"

"MACUSA doesn't want us to do anything," she admits.

"What? Why not?"

"Once the Ceremony has been conducted, MACUSA and the ICW can add the second Marriage Decree to his charges. They can send him away for longer," Megan explains.

"So, is giving Shacklebolt an extra five years more important than the well-being of our children?" Draco asks.

Megan leans back. "I'm on your side. I'm just letting you know that if you plan to do something, don't tell me because MACUSA won't like it, and I need plausible deniability."

Draco nods. His mind is swimming with ideas of how they could stop this second Marriage Decree, but he knows none of his ideas will be successful. The Minister is far past the point of listening to his people, especially if they come from him and Hermione.

"Is there anything else?" Hermione asks.

"Can you pass this over to The Order? I know you're not as involved as you were-"

"Sure, we'll pass it over," Hermione agrees.

"You know, I'll be glad when all this is over," Gregory comments. Augusta is sitting on the table in front of him, and he's been pulling faces at her while his wife holds her meeting with Hermione and Draco.

"You're not the only one," Draco sighs. "I wonder what life is going to be like without Shacklebolt. We don't know who'll take over, but they can't be any worse than him."

"MACUSA is hoping one of the Department Heads will take over. I know Gideon doesn't want that level of responsibility, but I'm sure there are a few who would step up and do a good job," Megan says.

"Who are you thinking about?" Hermione asks curiously.

"One of the Matthews would be good, or Poppy Montgomery," Megan answers.

"If one of the Matthews steps up, you know the other would support them. Maybe that's what we need, a deputy position to keep the Minister open and honest," Hermione suggests.

"I'm not sure the Wizengamot would go for that," Megan says. "You know how much they like to stick to traditional practices. It's been this way for over a millennia; they're not likely to change things up."

"They might not have a choice if the ICW make it a requirement for the new Minister after Shacklebolt's been removed," Draco points out. "Pass it along to President Harris, see what she thinks."

"I'll try, but her right-hand woman turned out to be a Death Eater, so she'll probably dismiss the idea," Megan reminds them.

"Good point; maybe wait closer to the time," Hermione says, stifling a yawn. "If we're done here, I'd like to get going. It's been a long week, and we have an even longer week ahead."

Draco stretches his back as he stands. "The Minister is conducting his first School Inspection next in December, so everyone at Hogwarts is stressed out and rushing to get everything organised and in order."

"Good luck with that." Megan smiles, hugging Hermione.

Hermione takes her husband's hand outside the tea room as they walk towards The Leaky Cauldron. Most of the crowd had dispersed during their meeting, and only a few groups were hanging around, chatting with their family and friends.

"We need to pass this information on to Harry as soon as possible," Hermione says. "There might be something he can do from within the Ministry."

"Hasn't he been working closely with the Minister recently?"

Hermione shakes her head, knowing Draco's line of thought. "If he knew anything, he would've told us."

He suggests, "Can you call him from David's and let him know we're coming over?"

Upon entering David's house, they hear the three men shouting at the players on the television, enthralled by the game of football being at a draw with only ten minutes left to go. While they see Hermione and Draco enter the living room, none of them acknowledges them as one team is running down the pitch, passing the ball back and forth towards the goal. When the goalkeeper blocks the shot, David turns to them.

"How was your night out?"

"Lovely, the lights are better than last year," Hermione comments.

"Goal!" Scorpius cheers, drawing the adults' attention to the screen, where nothing has changed.

"You've got a little trickster here," Elliot comments, holding his hand out for a high five from Scorpius.

"He's been no bother," David assures them, picking up his great-nephew to hand to his parents.

Draco smiles and embraces his son. "Can you say bye, Scorpius?"

"Bye-bye," the toddler waves his tiny hand at the three men sitting in the living room.

"Bye, Scorpius," they reply.

"Thanks again, David." Hermione hugs her uncle before leaving them to their football game.

In the driveway, Hermione removes her phone from her jacket pocket. She dials Harry's phone number, hoping he's at home and not at the Ministry.

He answers on the fourth ring. "Hi, Hermione."

"Hi, are you home?"

"Yeah, why?" Harry asks with a yawn.

"Can we come over?"

In the background, Ginny mutters something to her husband. Harry must cover the microphone to reply as Hermione can't hear what he's saying.

"Is it important?" Harry finally asks.

"The Order will find this very important," Hermione answers.

"You can come over," Harry says. "But we have to be up early tomorrow, Ginny's got a game."

"It won't take long. We've got to get Scorpius home to bed anyway," she assures him.

After hanging up, she pockets her phone and takes Draco's hand. After checking their surroundings, she apparates to Grimmauld Place and knocks on the door.

Harry still has his phone in his hand as he answers the door.

"I've put the kettle on," he greets them, guiding them to the kitchen that Hermione is more than familiar with after spending a whole summer there - although it feels like a lifetime ago. "Tea?" he asks.

"Please," Hermione agrees, sitting at the table.

Draco takes a seat beside her, Scorpius still in his arms.

"We looked out for you at the Light Switch On. Were you there?" Hermione asks.

"I wasn't required to work, so we didn't bother," Harry states. "I didn't think you were going. Ron begged us to go with him. He said Pansy wasn't going without you two, but he wanted to go with the kids," he mentions.

"That was the plan, then some friends asked to meet up afterwards," Hermione explains.

"Which friends?" Harry asks, adding milk to three cups, stirring and handing out the cups.

"Megan and Gregory," Draco answers. "Thanks," he adds, sipping from his cup.

"Ah, so this is MACUSA business," Harry assumes.

"No, Ministry business," Draco corrects.

"Oh, I haven't heard anything," he comments.

"Are you still working closely with Shacklebolt?" Draco asks.

Harry shakes his head. "That was just until Vale's trial. I've returned to working in the Auror Department."

"That's great." Hermione beams. "Are you happy?"

"Of course," Harry answers quickly. "Anywhere's preferable to working under Kingsley."

"I'm not surprised you haven't heard then," Hermione claims. "The Minister has been holding meetings with the event planning committee and Alexander Vyner."

Harry tilts his head as he thinks, coming to the same conclusion Hermione and Draco had in the tea room.

"He's planning another Marriage Decree."

"Megan's contact said the Minister will announce it on New Year's Day, as he did for ours. They haven't settled on a date for the Ceremony yet. Although MACUSA assumes the Minister is following the same pattern," Hermione explains.

"Also, the questionnaires have been streamlined. It's clear the Minister's interest is in blood status and number of children," Draco adds.

"Who's Megan's contact within the Ministry?" Harry asks, sipping at his tea.

"Vyner, himself. He's risking a lot by passing on this information. If it gets back to the Minister that people know, there's only a short list of people who could have divulged, and he already has trust issues with Alexander," Hermione mentions.

"He has trust issues with everyone," Harry points out. "Does MACUSA have anything planned to combat this?"

"They don't want to stop the Decree. They want to use it as another charge against the Minister," Hermione says.

Harry nods his head. "I can see where they are coming from. Not everything we have against Kingsley is going to stick during his trial. They're going to want as much evidence against him as they can to ensure he gets sentenced for as long as possible," he explains. "But I don't want anyone else going through The Marriage Decree."

"Our exact thoughts," Draco says. "There must be something we can do. I don't care about going against MACUSA; these are our children. We've taught everyone who will be included in this second Decree."

"I'll put the word out during our next meeting and see what ideas people can come up with," Harry says.

"Thank you, Harry." Hermione stands. "Let us get out of your hair. Pass our best wishes over to Ginny for tomorrow."

"I will do." Harry leads his friends to the front door, hugging Hermione as they leave.

"Keep us posted," Hermione says.

Harry smiles. "I thought you were taking a step back."

"We are, but I'd like to be updated with what is happening with Order."

"I let you know how it goes," Harry assures her. "Bye."

"Bye-bye!" Scorpius waves at Harry.

Harry waves back with a chuckle as he closes the door behind them.

Back home, Hermione immediately takes Scorpius upstairs to bed, reading him a story after brushing his teeth. It's been a long and exciting night for the toddler, so he quickly drifts off. Downstairs, she finds Draco putting away the dishes from dinner, clearly deep in thought.

"It's late," Hermione comments. "We should go to bed and think more about this tomorrow when our minds are fresh."

"I've been thinking," Draco starts.

"I can see that." Hermione smiles, smoothing out the worry lines on her husband's forehead.

"You won't like this," he adds.

Hermione frowns, waiting for him to continue, her hands resting upon his shoulders.

"What if we inform the Death Eaters about this? There's bound to be some parents of those involved or even some who will be included themselves, like Dennis. Leave it up to Heres to do something about it. Why does it always have to be us?"

"You're right. I don't like it, but it's certainly an idea." She leans up, pressing a kiss to his lips. "Why is it always us?" Hermione rests her head against Draco's chest. "You know, I thought my life would settle down after the war. After graduating, I thought I would have an easy, carefree life without trouble."

"Did you forget who you were?" Draco jokes, carding his fingers through her hair. "Trouble finds you."

Hermione chuckles in agreement. "Come on, let's get to bed. We can worry about all the future holds tomorrow."

Draco takes his wife's hand, following her upstairs to their bedroom, where they take turns getting ready for bed in their bathroom. Once under the covers of their bed, Hermione shuffles closer straight into her husband's open arms. Draco presses a kiss to her forehead as they settle down to sleep, their thoughts trying to empty themselves of all things Marriage Decree-related and focus on the here and now, falling asleep in the arms of the person they love.


Thank you for being here.

Thank you so much for reading.

Please FAVOURITE, FOLLOW and REVIEW.