A/N: Welcome to my first piece for the 2020 Joy to the World Collection! When xxDustNight88 and I created this collection two years ago we had a lot of fun, so this year we asked our friends articcat621, GaeilgeRua and SquarePeg72 to join us. We have 25 stories between the five of us coming out this holiday season.

This story was prompted by the lovely articcat621! The prompt was: Hermione didn't expect to spend Christmas in Storybrooke. Character B helps her make the most of it.. Thank you for the wonderful prompt! I hope I've done it justice.

I apologize if there are any errors, this was self-betaed by Grammarly.

All of the usual disclaimers apply. I don't write for profit and I certainly don't own any of these characters.

I hope you enjoy this tale!

Love always,
~starr


Hermione made a mad dash from the security checkpoint to her scheduled departure gate. The storm had caused her to be late, leaving Storybrooke, and she had almost missed her flight to London. She rounded the corner with her gate in sight but noticed that something didn't seem quite right. There was a large crowd gathered around the gate. Her flight was supposed to start boarding five minutes ago.

She neared the gate and overheard a few of the conversations fluttering about the area. Some people talked about a snowstorm that was getting ready to hit Portland, and a few others were talking about delayed flights. Someone else in the distance was on the phone with a hotel, trying to book a room for the night.

"Oh no," Hermione sighed, propping her suitcase against her leg and pulling her mobile out of her jacket pocket. She opened the weather radar and saw that a large snowstorm was headed right towards Storybrooke and Portland. She hung her head and waited for the announcement to ring out overhead.

"Attention all Portland Jetport passengers, may we have your attention, please. All flights scheduled to depart this afternoon have been postponed due to an impending snowstorm that will make all air traffic extremely dangerous. We apologize for any inconvenience, and we will let you know as soon as we have more information regarding a new estimated departure."

With a heavy sigh, Hermione reached down and grabbed the handle on her suitcase. She glanced out the window quickly and decided she could make it back to Storybrooke before the storm hit. So much for her Christmas vacation in London.

. . . . . . . . . .

"We're sorry, Ms. Granger," the MACUSA representative said, "there are no more portkeys available at this time. The holiday season has simply wiped our supply out."

Hermione let out a sigh and nodded her head as she tilted the phone away from her mouth for a few moments. "Okay, thank you anyway."

"If anything comes available, you'll be my first call."

"Thank you," Hermione said, smiling slightly. "Have a wonderful holiday."

Hanging up her phone, Hermione sighed once more before continuing her walk to Granny's. She shook her head as she mumbled under her breath, chastising herself for not being better prepared. She had been traveling between the United States and London for years during the holidays, and she always made sure that she had a way home. How could she have been so careless this year?

As she carried on her walk, she noticed all of the Christmas decorations that had appeared around town. This was the first time she had seen the lights lit since they had been put up. She was reminded of watching Charming and Killian arguing over who was climbing the ladder to hand the ones decorating the gazebo.

Neal had stayed on the ground and allowed them to argue it out, shaking his head the whole time. Every so often, he would crack a joke that only he and Hermione could hear.

The memories brought a smile to her face as Granny's storefront came into view. If she remembered correctly, everyone was having dinner at Granny's this evening. As she approached the door, she looked around and took note of who was sitting where.

Neal had his back to the door towards the back of the restaurant. Hermione smiled and readjusted her bag on her shoulder, and pulled the door open. The bell chimed, signaling Granny that someone had just walked in.

When Granny opened her mouth to say something, Hermione shook her head and held a finger to her lips as she pointed to the back of Neal's head. Granny smiled and nodded her head.

Hermione nodded back and crept up behind him, sliding into the booth behind him and covering his eyes with her hands. She leaned in and whispered in his ear. "Guess who."

She could feel his eyebrow furrow behind her hands. Neal reached up and pulled her hands away from his eyes and turned to look back over his shoulder.

"What are you doing here?" Neal asked. "I thought you were flying home today."

Hermione smiled and slid out of the booth, walking around to take a seat across from him. "I was supposed to fly out, but my flight got postponed."

"For how long?" Neal asked, reaching out to take her hand.

"They aren't sure," Hermione said, shrugging her shoulders. "There is a big snowstorm ready to hit at any moment, and they don't want to have any planes in the air."

"What about a -" Neal began, struggling to find the word he was looking for.

"Portkey?" Hermione chuckled, raising a brow. "There aren't any left in Maine."

Neal frowned, squeezing her hand gently. "What are you going to do? I know you wanted to spend Christmas in London."

"I guess I'm spending Christmas in Storybrooke if that's okay with you," Hermione said, offering him a half-smile.

Neal smiled and leaned across the table, pressing a gentle kiss to her lips. "Nothing would make me happier. Where are you staying?"

"I was going to see if Granny still had a room available for me," Hermione replied, shrugging her shoulders.

"You're not staying at Granny's," Neal insisted. "You're staying with me."

Hermione's eyes went wide. "Are you sure?"

Neal nodded his head. "Absolutely. You can help me decorate tonight and then tomorrow since we'll probably be snowed in, we can bake cookies and watch Christmas movies."

"You know how to bake?" Hermione teased, raising a brow.

"I mean," Neal shrugged. "We can figure it out together. Where is your stuff?"

Hermione pointed behind him by the door. "I didn't want my luggage to give me away when I snuck up behind you."

Neal laughed as he slid out of the booth. He extended a hand to Hermione, which she took happily and helped her out. Interlacing his fingers with hers, he led them to the door and grabbed her luggage with his other hand.

Hermione braced herself for the cold as Neal opened the door for her. The snow had started to fall, but it wasn't sticking to the ground just yet. The town of Storybrooke looked like it was trapped in a snow globe as the flurries scattered around them.

"Do you want to take the long way or the short way back to my place?" Neal asked, leaning over and pressing a kiss to her cheek.

"The long way," Hermione said, wrapping her other hand around Neal's upper arm and cuddling up close to him as they walked along the sidewalk.

Along their journey from Granny's to Neal's apartment, Hermione and Neal found themselves taking their time, admiring the Christmas decorations adding a sparkle to the town's charm. Neal would often pull her into a hidden corner and kiss her passionately, taking advantage of the hidden moments they normally didn't get to spend together.

. . . . . . . . .

Hermione let out a sigh as she collapsed onto the couch in Neal's living room, draping a blanket over her lap. She leaned down to grab her book off the table and opened it to her bookmark. As she began skimming the page, she heard the door open and closed behind her. Hermione assumed it was Neal returning from shoveling the walkway.

Just as she turned to say something to him, she felt the icy chill of frozen fingers on the back of her neck. Hermione let out a scream and jumped off the couch, spinning in the air to face him. "What the hell was that for?"

"My fingers were cold, and you looked warm," Neal replied, shrugging his shoulders. "Why are you staying cooped up inside on this beautiful snowy afternoon?"

"Because it's cold," Hermione replied, shaking her head as she crossed her arms over her chest. "Wouldn't you rather be inside by the fire, cuddled up close?"

Neal thought about his answer for a moment and shook his head. "What I want is for you to put your winter coat back on and come outside and play in the snow with me. What do you say, Granger?"

Hermione laughed as she noticed his puppy dog eyes, pleading with her to say yes. "I will only go outside and play with you under one condition."

"Name your price," Neal replied, resting his hands on his hips.

"Tonight, you watch a movie with me in front of the fire with popcorn and hot cocoa," Hermione said, extending a hand to him. "Deal?"

"Deal," Neal replied, eagerly shaking her hand. "Now come on. We're losing good daylight."

Hermione rolled her eyes, dropping her blanket and book onto the couch. She shook her head, made her way into the foray, and began pulling on her boots and jacket. Taking a step toward the door, she pulled her hat over her head and met Neal at the door.

"You look adorable," Neal said, pulling the door open.

Hermione braced herself against the wind and followed Neal outside, cursing under her breath as a chill ran down her spine. "I hate you."

"No, you don't," Neal replied, chuckling softly as he led her to the park across the street from his apartment complex. Letting go of her hand, he took a few steps ahead of her and turned back to look at her.

Hermione noticed the smirk on his face and raised her brow. She watched as he knelt down and started packing the snow into a ball. She took a giant step back. "What are you doing?"

"What does it look like I'm doing?" Neal asked, a smirk tugging at the corners of his lips.

"It looks like you are trying to get hexed into next week," Hermione said, looking him up and down as she slipped her hand into her pocket, wrapping her fingers around her wand.

"Now, why would I want to do something like that?" Neal insisted, straightening back up as he tightly packed the snow in his hand.

"Don't. You," Hermione began, only to be cut off as a snowball hit her square in the chest. "Neal!"

Neal tossed his head back with a laugh before bending down and packing another snowball in his hand. This time he aimed at her leg, causing her to jump around and running in a circle.

"Stop it!" she squealed, running toward a tree as a single line of defense between her and his weapons.

"Throw a snowball back at me," Neal laughed. "It's called a snowball fight, Hermione. Get with the program."

Hermione furrowed her brow and looked down at the snow on the ground. She was reminded of snowball fights in the courtyard at Hogwarts between the Slytherin and Gryffindors. Gryffindor was always victorious, but she usually didn't have to get involved.

"Show me what you got, Granger," Neal teased, sticking his tongue out at her.

Hermione leaned down with a huff and gathered a collection of snow in her hands, packing it together tightly. She pulled her arm back over her head, winding up for the pitch. As she threw the snowball across space between them, she whispered a spell.

She crossed her arms over her chest and watched as the snowball chased Neal around the park until it crashed into his back. Hermione tossed her head back with a laugh as he fell face-first into the snow.

"That's not fair," Neal grumbled, pushing himself up off the ground and dusting the snow off his chest.

"I think it's fair," Hermione replied, shrugging her shoulders. She watched as Neal walked toward her with his arms wide open. Instead of running away, she opened her arms and welcomed the hug.

Neal's arms found purchase around her waist, and Hermione wrapped her arms around his neck. They squeezed each other tight as Neal pressed a kiss to her lips.

"Ready to go inside and watch a movie?" Neal asked, smiling as Hermione answered him with only a nod.

. . . . . . . .

Hermione watched as Neal set up the DVD player with a smile on her face. After a lively debate over the movie selection, the decision was made to watch The Year Without A Santa Claus, one of Hermine's favorites. She pushed herself away from the couch and into the kitchen, where she began heating up the milk for the hot cocoa.

She spun on her heel and made her way to the cupboard to gather the ingredients and mugs. As she pulled out the cocoa powder and candy canes, she heard the kettle starting to whistle. With a smile on her face, Hermione set to work assembling the mugs. A few moments later, she was almost ready to bring the mugs into the living room.

"I almost forgot the whipped cream," she mumbled, snapping her fingers as she turned to the refrigerator and pulled the door open. She stuck her head in the door and rummaged through the minimal food that Neal had inside.

Neal rounded the corner into the kitchen and was greeted by the sight of Hermione, bent over at the waist, digging through his fridge and mumbling to herself. He laughed, shaking his head as he took in the view. Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed that Hermione had added a few more decorations to his apartment when he hadn't been looking.

"Found it," she announced, taking a step back and closing the door. As she turned around, Hermione caught a glimpse of Neal's shadow out of the corner of his eye. "Holy hell," she gasped, clutching the whipped cream bottle to her chest. "How long have you been standing there?"

Neal chuckled, crossing his arms over his chest. "Since the third 'you've got to be kidding me' and the additional curse words you threw in there," he teased.

"You could have said something," she sighed, shaking her head as she finished up the mugs of hot cocoa. She topped each mug off with a candy cane and some peppermint sprinkles before picking them up and turning to him with a cheesy grin on her face. "Now that the hot cocoa is ready, it's movie time."

"Almost," Neal said, smirking at her as he pointed to the decoration hanging above his head.

Hermione smiled and walked over to him, holding the mugs of hot cocoa out to either side of her. Pressing up on her tips ropes, she leaned in and pressed a kiss to his lips, pulling away after a few moments.

"Movie time," Hermione announced, making her way into the living room. She glanced back over her shoulder and narrowed her gaze when she noticed Neal standing in the doorway. "Come on then; I played in the snow with you. Now it's time to do what I wanna do."

Neal laughed and pushed away from the doorframe, following her into the kitchen. He'd do anything to keep seeing that smile on her face.