Chapter 4: Christmas 2010
Hermione had always said Christmas Eve was her favorite day of the year. There were several reasons for this. First, the air was thick with anticipation and excitement. By the time the calendar flicked to December 24, the presents had been bought, the packages wrapped, the groceries purchased and the decorations hung. The "have to's" were out of the way and all that was left was to spend time with the ones you love and enjoy it. Second, coming only a few days after the winter solstice, it was a very dark time of year. This just accentuated the twinkling lights and candles everywhere, making it feel as if all of England had decided to snuggle down and enjoy themselves. But the main reason she had always enjoyed the day was the tradition her mum and Auntie had started when they were little girls.
The family folklore was that when Jean and Janie were six years old they lived next door to each other. As each was an only child, they spent a lot of time together. A few weeks before Christmas, one of the girls (that part of the story seemed to change over the years) asked her parents if they could spend Christmas with the other instead of going to spend the day with the older relatives. Much to the girls' chagrin, each was told that they had to spend the day driving to the stuffy homes of older relatives where they would be expected to be on their best behavior despite being the only person under the age of twenty in attendance. Discouraged but not defeated, the girls plotted a new strategy. Soon, they had both families agreeing that Christmas Eve was to be a fun celebration with the family you chose, while Christmas Day would be spent with the family you were related to. Then, and every year since, the two had spent Christmas Eve together. As they each married and had children, the celebration expanded to include the later generations.
Hermione had loved those celebrations growing up, as she had been just like her mum – the only child at any of the extended family gatherings. Collin and Dennis Creevey had become her family. While they spent every Christmas Eve together, they had also grown close over the years and saw each other whenever possible. The first Christmas after Collin died was so difficult on all of them. But, they made it through it by pulling out the old photo albums of the hundreds of photographs Collin had taken documenting their many years of "chosen family" gatherings.
While Hermione had missed the years she had been overseas, she still made an effort to call home during the party so she could catch up with everyone. That first Christmas Eve after she had come home with Rose had been such a delight. They had all embraced little Rose with great enthusiasm and love. Dennis had patiently sat with Rose as they opened 12 different crackers until they finally unwrapped a paper crown that met to Rose's high color standards in order to match her dress.
The gatherings were always relaxed. You could dress up or dress down as much as you wanted. This meant that pajamas and cocktail dresses could often be seen side by side at the dinner table. The feast was delicious but not fussy. Nobody wanted to be stuck in the kitchen roasting a bird all day, so there were lots of appetizers and snacks to graze on while catching up. And there were always, always games. The specific games varied over the years, but they often involved hysterical laughter. If teams were involved, they had to be of mixed families. Hermione knew both Dennis and Collin were amazing artists, so when Pictionary was the game of choice, she always made sure to get on their team.
She was sure that this year's celebration would be loads of fun. Rose was the magical age of 4 and delighted in every speck of Christmas magic. She was obsessed with Father Christmas and had been keeping her toys put away perfectly just so Father Christmas would know what a good girl she was – and, Hermione suspected – see that there was room on the shelf for a few more toys. Dennis and Fiona's little boy Hugo was now two, and was old enough this year to enjoy the chaos of Christmas. He wouldn't understand Father Christmas or the nativity, but shredding wrapping paper, popping Christmas crackers and sneaking sweets from the grandmums were right up any two year old's alley.
There were many years when Christmas Eve was the only time she would catch up with the Creeveys, like the years she was away at university. But, once she had Rose, she found that she sought out those family connections even more. As a single mum she had needed a lot of support. While her parents were great, it was nice to have a fresh perspective from Auntie Janie was well. Hermione had been worried that Dennis would stop coming once he married Fiona. But, as it turned out, Fiona's parents had died around the same time Collin did, so she was excited to come into new family traditions and celebrations.
Last Christmas had been great. Hermione had been back for a year, Rose had been 3 and Hugo was 1. Hermione's lease was about to be up, and she was looking to move to a suburban neighborhood where Rose could have a back yard. Dennis and Fiona were looking for a similar type of place now that Hugo was getting bigger. They had gone looking for condos and houses together, and ended up finding places in the same neighborhood. It had worked out so well, and with the long hours that Fiona worked as a detective, Dennis and Hermione were able to trade off with babysitting which helped everyone out. The kids acted a lot like siblings, which Hermione loved.
Rose had insisted on wearing a fancy Christmas dress to the party. Hermione let her pick it out, and to four year old Rose, the twirl factor was very important as a deciding factor. Hermione had chosen the jeans, jumper and old trainers look, and was thrilled to not be in high heels like she wore to work. As a solicitor she had to dress very formally most of the time. It made her long for her days in the refugee camps where she wore jeans and boots almost every day for years.
She curled up onto the sofa nursing her wine while watching Rose bossing Hugo into building Father Christmas' workshop out of building blocks. She was focused on the kids until she heard her dad ask Fiona about her work. Fiona didn't usually talk much about her work as a detective. Hermione had been a solicitor long enough to know that Fiona wasn't a regular investigative cop. She figured she was actually some sort of spy or secret armed forces agent, which she found fascinating, but obviously she couldn't ask her about it. But – she took every opportunity to eavesdrop on her dad as he asked about it. Not to mention, she was still curious about Fiona's partner Ron who she had met all those years ago. Even though they had never actually gone out, she still let herself daydream about that "could have been's" from time to time. And, Hermione still hadn't ever met anyone else with whom she had felt such immediate chemistry. That said, she always tried to convince herself that she was better off without him if he was actually some secret spy.
"Tell me, Fiona, what is the most difficult part about being a detective?"
"Well, I know it sounds ridiculous, but it's the paperwork which is always killing me!"
"Seriously? It's not being frightened of being hurt or not being able to find the suspect?"
"There certainly are moments where you feel the adrenaline, but we are so well trained that most of our responses are pure instinct. And, I have a wonderful partner. Ron, who is also Hugo's godfather, is really good at what he does. I was lucky to get him as a partner. He and his former partner were known as the absolute best, and then his partner got promoted to be the head guy, and I got lucky enough to be paired with Ron. I trust him completely, and I know he has my back. And Dennis trusts that he has my back. Otherwise, I don't know that Dennis would let me leave each day!"
"Does his wife feel the same way?"
"Oh, Ron's not married. Claims he's married to catching bad guys or something. But between his former partner, Harry, who is now my boss, and Harry's wife Ginny, who is also Ron's sister, I take it as a great compliment that they trust me to have his back."
"So – paperwork huh?"
"Definitely! Not only is it tedious, but if I miss one stupid form or file something wrong, the bad guy I busted my rump to catch could get off on a technicality."
"I hadn't really thought about it that way. I guess that makes it high stakes paperwork then?"
"Definitely. But despite the paperwork, I love my job. I can't imagine doing anything else."
"That is wonderful. A sign from God or the universe or whatever you believe in that you are doing what you are meant to do!"
"Hermione, you do the work you were meant to do as well, don't you think?" Fiona asked.
"I think I do. I really felt called to work with refugees I suppose. I loved the work in the camps, but that really isn't a lifestyle that I could sustain past my twenties. And certainly not a place I wanted to raise Rose full time, which is ironic since that is where she was born. But, I enjoy the work I do now as well. It's sort of like the detective work I suppose in that you are trying to use the systems in place to advocate for the right cause. To promote justice, and help someone who is in the most vulnerable space without even a country to be able to have a fresh start."
"That's fantastic, Hermione," Fiona smiled.
"Yes, I agree," added her Dad. "Actually – let's toast to both of you ladies. To young women who are following their true paths. May they teach their wonderful children to do the same. Here, Here!"
"Here, Here" everyone added.
"Here mummy!" Rose yelled. Hermione laughed at this and gave Rose a big hug. "Yes, Rosie, here, here!"