Author: luckei1 PM
Sequel to Pumpkin Patch. Harry, Ron, Hermione, and now Draco continue to run from Death Eaters. The night before Christmas, they encounter an enchanted forest.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Romance/Adventure - Hermione G. & Draco M. - Words: 6,921 - Reviews: 84 - Favs: 119 - Follows: 14 - Published: 02-01-07 - Status: Complete - id: 3371442
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter. Never will.
Note: Sequel to Pumpkin Patch. If you haven't read it, you can find it on my profile page. This was supposed to be posted for Christmas, but it just didn't happen. But better late than never, right? Enjoy!
And maybe, just maybe, Draco and Hermione would live happily ever after. Maybe.
Maybe. It is such a vague word, really. It characterizes the unpredictability of an outcome. It means that there could be either a positive or a negative result, and either one is equally likely to occur. Unlike probably, which inherently slants toward the positive.
Sometimes, the event about which a 'maybe' is said has certain weights on it that give either the positive or negative result stronger emphasis, making one more likely to occur than the other. In this case, it could easily be said that the weight was by far on the negative side of the equation.
"Bloody brilliant, Malfoy. We're lost."
"No, Granger, we are not lost. We are going in the right direction, and we have been for hours."
"Seems like we're lost," Ron chimed in.
Draco took a deep breath and rechecked the map.
Hermione muttered, "We are most certainly lost."
"I heard that," said Draco warningly.
"I don't care," she snapped. "Why we decided that today would be a good day to let you lead us is utterly beyond me."
"Because you realized—finally—that I'm not a complete dolt when it comes to these kinds of things."
"And yet, we're lost," she pointed out.
"We are not lost!" he practically shouted.
"Will you two please keep it down?" said Harry grumpily. "Or do we need to see curses hurtling past us to remind you that we are running from Death Eaters?"
Both Draco and Hermione scowled briefly at Harry, then returned to scowling at each other.
"Well, Miss Know-It-All," said Draco in a loud whisper. "Which way do you think we should go?"
"If I had started out this day with the compass and map, we would already be there by now. But you've got us so completely turned around that there's no hope for recovery. Don't try and cover up your mistake by letting me try to get us out of your mess. Then you'll blame me for the whole thing, saying you were right all along and I only messed us up once I took things over."
"Merlin, Granger, you're giving me a headache! Why do you always insist on talking nonsense?"
Without a word, Hermione glared at him and then dropped back to walk with Harry and Ron.
"Remind me again why he's here," she said to both of them, irritated and not at all trying to be quiet.
Harry and Ron exchanged a look and continued trudging through the snow. Harry spoke. "Hermione, you asked him to come along. Remember? In the pumpkin patch? When we were running from these same Death Eaters?"
"Yes, but remind me again why he's still here."
"I can hear you, you know," said Draco, glancing behind him. He continued, loud enough for them to hear. "And I would be glad to help you remember why. Let me just reach into my robe, into that magic pocket I have that can hold just about anything, and pull out the silver cup that once belonged to Helga Hufflepuff. I would do it now, but as we are in a bit of a hurry, you'll just have to use your imagination."
"Shut up, Malfoy," she hissed.
"Picture it. All silver, and with a little Hufflepuff logo on it. Remember that? Yeah, I got that for you lot. And don't think I don't know that's the only reason you haven't left me behind."
"That's not true, Malfoy," said Ron, rather crossly. "You're being helpful. And somewhat cooperative. Mostly, though, you're being whiny, snotty, and rude. But we're supposed to be trying to overlook our differences and work together. Remember?"
"I think I've done more than my fair share," Draco said, haughtily.
"Fair share?" Hermione retorted with a forced laugh. "You've been with us for a total of almost two months. Where were you before that? Oh yes, I remember; hiding in an abandoned house."
"Will you two shut up?" shouted Harry, completely through with listening to their bickering. "If you don't, I will take your wands and silence you both, rendering you both incapable of reversing the spell, and most importantly, quiet. We need to stay focused on getting through this forest. Remember? The part where we're trying to defeat Voldemort? I know it's hard when bickering is so much more fun."
Hermione glared at Harry briefly, allowing herself a moment of annoyance at her friend. Then she remembered everything they'd been through since leaving Hogwarts. The three of them had researched and looked for the Horcruxes together, but Harry had shouldered the weight of the burden. He was the one expected to destroy them once they were found, to go into all the dark rooms first, and press her and Ron forward when they were tired of moving. Harry was their leader, for better or for worse, and she knew it wasn't completely fair. He was just a kid. They were all kids, playing at big things like War and Death.
When she and Malfoy were exchanging barbs, it was easy to think they were still safe, within the castle grounds, where bullies were the biggest threat. "Oh, Harry, you're right. I'm so sorry, it won't happen again. You know how he is."
Draco rolled his eyes. "And Potter, you know how she is."
"Yes. I know the both of you." He looked crossly from Hermione to Draco. "You are both stubborn, and thick-headed. I demand ten minutes of complete silence from the two of you, while we figure out where we are. Once we do that, we can get back on track."
"I'm telling you, we've been heading due north for three hours," Draco said, pulling out his pocket-watch to show Harry. It was a very handy magical item, and was at the same time a compass, calendar of sorts, and Dark Magic detector. It had been a gift from his father for becoming a Death Eater, and it was beautiful – in the cold, dark way that Malfoy things were beautiful. "See?"
As he'd said, the arrow was pointing north.
"Well, according to the map, we should have cleared this wood at least an hour ago," said Harry.
"But we haven't," said Ron.
"And so we're lost," chimed Hermione, almost cheerily, looking at Draco.
He cast a sideways glance her way, a residue of annoyance in his grey eyes as he peered at her through long strands of silver-blond hair. She couldn't tell, simply from the look on his face, what he was thinking, but she knew it wasn't exactly mean. It was inscrutable, if that were possible considering the argument that was raging among the four. Almost as if he were looking at her for the first time again, trying to figure her out.
There were moments like this one, where Hermione forgot that she hated him; or that she used to and was now trying to give him a chance, though not at all going easy on him. She only remembered that dream-vision-thing they'd had and her stomach would flip over and start squirming around inside her, her pulse quickening. In those moments, she would become aware that actually, he was someone she didn't think she hated at all.
"We are not lost," he said calmly.
"Shut UP!" shouted Harry, stopping and rounding on Draco, who'd fallen a bit behind. He got right in his face. "I need you to remember that you're on our side, and that we call the shots. And right now, I'm telling you two to be quiet!"
Draco shoved Harry away from him, forcefully but not angrily. "Do you think I'd be here if I weren't on your side? I'd have gone stark raving mad by now if I didn't actually want to be here. Though I use the term 'want' loosely."
Harry glared at him. "Let me see that map."
Draco handed it over to Harry along with the compass, and left the group to walk and clear his head and cool his temper.
"Harry, what's going on?" Hermione asked quietly when she was sure Draco was out of hearing range. "You seem really upset."
He sighed and rubbed his temples. "I just – we've been going all day, and it doesn't seem like we're getting anywhere. And Malfoy's right, we should have passed the woods already, only we haven't. Then you two started bickering and… while he's generally agreeable, it can grate on my nerves after long enough. I'm sorry, it's just been a long day."
"Don't apologize to me! I'm the one who should apologize, and I do," she said. "I shouldn't let him get to me."
"It's okay. I know you especially have bad feelings toward him," Harry answered.
Hermione knew he was referring to the plethora of times he'd called her Mudblood. She tried to maintain a casual pose even though her heart had just skipped a beat; she hadn't told her friends all of the details of the dream she'd shared with Draco, and she'd never told them why she'd asked him to join them. They'd accepted her judgment without question.
Ron had been studying the map while listening to Harry and Hermione talk. "Well, we can only keep heading north," he said. "No matter where we are now, north will lead us out of the woods. We may have to cut over, depending on exactly where we emerge." Ron started off in the right direction with Harry following him closely. Hermione and Draco fell into step behind them, and Harry got more than the ten minutes he asked for, as no one spoke for thirty.
Hermione tried hard not to think of how close Draco was, or of the fact that sometimes, when one of them took an awkward step, they brushed shoulders just a little. They were bundled up in warm clothes, and yet the contact spread a warmth inside her as if it were skin on skin. The mere thought that she should – or could – be nervous about Draco Malfoy made her blush, and she was always thankful for the cold in those moments, when she could blame the biting wind for her pinked cheeks.
The last two months had been… interesting, to say the least. For the first week after Draco had joined them, things had gone smoothly. Draco was helpful, supportive and almost friendly. He had even made the three of them laugh once. But that had lasted only a week. Then he started realizing what life constantly on the go was like, and he started whining. Or complaining. Or finding things wrong with everything they decided.
Maybe she was being harsh in the way she was remembering it, though. In truth, he wasn't all that bad, complaining once a day, and not even that loudly. But compared to what things had been like before he had joined them, it was a monstrous decline in their auditory comfort.
There were times when he was completely different, though. It almost seemed like he cared–about her, and about what they were doing. Though he had become something akin to friends with Harry and Ron initially out of convenience, she'd noticed that they'd grown on him. Ron's ability to laugh at just about anything was infectious, and she'd observed him often joining in their outbursts. And she could tell that he admired Harry's cool head in the face of danger or difficult circumstances.
Shortly after leaving the old house with the pumpkin patch, she and Draco had discussed what had happened between them, conveniently skirting the issue of the kiss. After much comparing of notes, they concluded that the only thing they had both done was drink pumpkin juice while standing in the patch. It wasn't a definitive answer as to what happened, but it was as close as they could get to one.
Sometimes she would catch him looking at her. Nothing else, just looking at her. It always seemed like he was deep in thought about something. Whenever she caught him in one of those pensive looks, he would seem to snap out of it and smile and either give a little wave or come to walk or stand next to her. Then would follow a few hours of truly wonderful interaction.
He made her laugh like no one she'd ever known. His wit was so sharp and quick that she couldn't help but laugh when he used it against Harry or Ron, and sometimes even herself. They could be in the middle of a debate, and he would say something, and she would burst out laughing. He would try to ignore it and keep arguing, but slowly he would smile and give her a playful shove, then laugh a little with her.
Draco had a presence. She didn't know too many people whom you could feel around you whenever they entered a room, or stood, or spoke. People like Dumbledore, Snape, and Umbridge had that kind of presence, and it was not always a good thing. Draco was one of those people.
Even in his story-telling, he was commanding, and he told them many stories: about Slytherin, his cronies, their trouble-making schemes, and then snaking their way out of trouble. It was what being Slytherin was all about, he reasoned. Most of the stories made Harry and Ron laugh, being familiar with trouble-making themselves, but whenever Snape was mentioned as being involved, it started a bad vibe that usually lasted the rest of the day.
Draco wasn't too difficult with Harry and Ron most of the time. He'd have his moments, which Ron would call his "boy-monthlies," making Draco even more unbearable. Fortunately, though, they were relatively rare.
Draco shuffled behind Ron, head down. He was certain they were going the right way, but they weren't where the map said they should be. He glanced at Hermione; she looked thoughtful, and he wondered whether she'd been rethinking her argument and preparing to launch into it again.
He almost smiled. She was such a spitfire; it was something he liked about her. Yes, he'd thought it – he'd even admitted it, if only to himself – there was at least one quality about Hermione Granger that he admired. He could always count on her for a good row, sometimes just for the sake of it, and she could take as well as she gave.
He usually fought only with her, and there was a two-fold reason for this. The first reason was for the good exercise in verbal sparring. The second was that he just wanted to talk to her. He wasn't very good at actual conversation with girls, so this was the best he thought he could do.
Okay, there was actually a third reason, but he wasn't sure how to deal with it. Sometimes, when she was running her mouth in a lecture over something he'd said, her cheeks would get flushed, and her eyes would almost glow with her internal fire, and he wanted nothing else but to kiss her until her cheeks and eyes were alight because she was happy with him.
With Harry and Ron, he tried to avoid outright confrontation, as they generally became heated and personal. Instead he talked to them about Quidditch or some other neutral subject.
Draco looked around him and saw that Hermione had walked into Harry's back when Harry had stopped suddenly.
"Sorry, Hermione," he said, looking around him. "I think I've seen that tree before."
"Ow," said Hermione, rubbing her nose.
"I think you might be right, Harry," said Ron.
Both Ron and Harry turned to look at Draco and Hermione. "Well? Do either of you recognize it?" said Harry.
"Wasn't paying attention," said Draco.
"Me neither. Sorry," said Hermione. "So, you really think we might be going in circles?"
"I don't know; the compass has pointed north the entire time," Harry muttered, frowning at both the map and compass.
"Of course it has," said Draco.
"What if we're circling something that draws the needle toward it?" asked Hermione.
Draco rolled his eyes. "It's a magic compass, Granger. It doesn't work like your Muggle version. It always points north, and it's never wrong."
Hermione opened her mouth to reply, but Ron clamped a hand over her mouth. "Anyway," he said. "The compass works, so that's not the problem."
Hermione pulled away from Ron's grasp, glared at him, and then said, "If you really think you've seen that tree before, mark it. Like in the Department of Mysteries. Then we'll know if…"
Draco looked at her. "Good idea," he said.
She looked back at him skeptically, expecting the worst, as usual.
"Seriously," he said.
"Yeah, good one, Hermione. Flagrate!" Harry put a big red 'X' on the tree trunk with his wand and they continued walking north.
After only ten minutes, they came upon a tree with a big, red 'X'. All four of them stopped and stared.
Ron turned to look at his friend, eyes wide. "Harry, what – "
" – happened?" Hermione finished.
"I – I don't know. I mean, that's the same tree, right?"
"Has to be," said Ron.
"Do it again," said Hermione, trying to remain calm. "Use a different color this time."
Harry added a blue 'X' above the red one. They walked on.
As they feared, ten minutes later they returned to the tree that now had both a red and blue 'X'.
"Okay, what's going on?" Ron asked, a hint of worry in his voice.
Draco, who had said nothing since the tree had been marked the first time, walked around the small clearing where they found themselves once again, and returned to Harry, Ron and Hermione.
"It's an enchanted forest," he said with certainty.
"A what?" said Harry.
"An enchanted forest," Draco repeated. "We're stuck in a loop. Whenever we go north, we come right back to where we started: Here. Hence, we see the same tree over and over."
"So…we're stuck?" said Ron, panic in his voice now.
"You're never really stuck in an enchanted forest, Weasley. There's always a way out. It's just not the direction we've been heading."
Hermione spun in a slow circle, looking at all the trees surrounding the clearing. "There are a lot of possible ways to go," she said.
"Yes," said Draco, matter-of-factly. "It could take hours to get out, and then we'd have to get back on our heading. I suggest, however, that we stop for the night here."
"Are you mad?" cried Harry. "We'd be sitting ducks! The Death Eaters could get stuck in the same loop and that would lead them directly here. We'd be as good as dead."
Draco scowled. "Potter, I swear, even after being around me for nearly two months, you still think I'm an idiot. There are a few known properties of enchanted woods. First, they're Unplottable. When someone steps into one, they disappear from anyone else who might be looking for them.
"Second, they're like magical plants. We are inside the wood, so the entrance has disappeared to anyone else. Once we get out, it will be open again. Kind of like the Room of Requirement, actually; if the forest is occupied, no one else can get in. This is a truly good chance to get a decent night's sleep. We don't have to worry tonight." He sighed, tired, and ran a hand through his hair.
Harry and Ron looked at Hermione apprehensively for confirmation of Draco's facts. She nodded; Draco rolled his eyes. "Maybe, eventually, you'll believe me about the things I tell you, especially since I haven't lied to you once since I joined you."
"You still haven't answered our questions about that night," said Harry pointedly.
"I don't have to," Draco snapped. "I don't have to explain anything to you. And we've had this discussion already. My answer is the same."
"Harry, drop it," said Hermione. That was the one thing she was ferociously on his side about; he didn't have to talk about what he went through unless he chose to. "We need to make a decision about what we're doing," she said, trying to move things to a less volatile topic.
"You know my position," said Draco haughtily.
"I agree with Draco. We should stay here for the night," said Hermione.
Draco looked at her in astonishment; she'd said his name.
Apparently Harry and Ron noticed too, and Harry's anger seemed to dissipate, leaving him looking tired. "Yeah, okay. We'll stay. You're sure, Malfoy?"
"Yes," he said, exasperated.
They worked together to clear a place for them to sleep. Ron melted the snow in a large circle while Hermione went behind him and dried the ground. Harry went to the middle of the circle and built a fire. Draco went into the woods to find logs, both to sit on and to use in the fire. He was careful not to take any wood from living trees, just from the occasional dead one and the forest floor. It wouldn't do to upset an enchanted forest.
Once the circle was cleared, each took out his or her sleeping bag and food. Harry and Hermione prepared dinner over the fire. Despite Draco's assurance that they were safe, Harry, Ron and Hermione were still nervous. It had to be the months of constant worry and looking over their shoulders that kept Hermione from relaxing, even though she knew it was safe; what she knew and what she'd experienced couldn't be reconciled in an instant. Every forest sound sent them reaching for their wands, hearts pounding.
They finished eating, and Harry and Ron began to discuss the need for a watch. Draco reassured them that they were completely safe, and put up wards around them that would alert them in plenty of time, and loudly, just in case, to ease the others.
When the last remnants of dinner had been cleaned up, exhaustion hit them all and they went straight to bed.
Draco usually slept on his right side, and tonight was no exception. The four of them were lying in a four-point star, so at least one of them would be facing whatever might come through the woods. A dome of warmth had been cast around them, and the fire was smoldering in the middle. Harry and Ron were asleep; Draco could hear Ron's loud snores and Harry's heavy breathing. While he was used to perfect quiet when he slept, Draco had been forced to adapt when he'd joined the three friends on their mad flight from the Death Eaters.
But Draco couldn't sleep.
He rolled over onto his back to look up at the stars, and noticed that Hermione was sitting up in her sleeping bag. He watched her for a few minutes, the firelight catching the different colors in her hair, and outlining her facial features. She was really quite lovely, when he forced himself to think about it, and he couldn't help but think that if it weren't for her, he'd have throttled Harry and Ron a hundred times already.
Then he saw her hand go to her face, and it could only mean that she'd been crying. He sat up too and, grabbing his cloak, moved to sit next to her, gently laying it around her shoulders.
She looked up at him as the warm fabric enveloped her.
"Hey," he said, softly so as not to wake the others.
"Hey," she repeated.
"Couldn't sleep," she said.
She looked at him and smiled through wet eyelashes. "Crazy day, huh?"
"Yeah. I have a good feeling about tomorrow, though. We'll get out of this maze in no time."
"I hope so. I had a dream that the Death Eaters following us were sucked into the same trap and killed us in our sleep."
"Merlin, Granger, I'm sorry. But you don't need to worry, that's not going to happen. There are wards up, wards I put up. We will have plenty of warning if they get close."
She sighed. "Except we don't know how to get out of here."
Draco shifted in his seat, and didn't respond. Hermione glanced at him, and saw him fidgeting with a rock on the ground in front of him. When he felt her looking at him, he stopped, and looked out at the trees.
"Why were you crying?" he asked softly.
She looked at the ground in front of her and then over her shoulder to where Harry and Ron were sleeping. "Sometimes things just get to me is all," she said, now looking at the trees he'd been watching a moment before. "It's all this running. It amazes me. We're still kids, really. And we're running away from full-grown men who want to kill us. I mean, our biggest concerns right now should involve upcoming tests, and what to wear to the next Hogsmeade visit, and whether or not your crush likes you back. Not when we're going to have our next meal, or where we'll be sleeping tonight, and whether there will be a patch of grass to add cushion. It seems so surreal, sometimes. Like a movie that I'm only watching, not a part of. I should be able to get up and get popcorn if I want, but it's real. Sometimes it just hits me especially hard and I have to cry about it. That's all. I'm fine, really."
He nodded, and he understood. He felt the same way sometimes, only instead of crying, he would break things, or melt things, or blast things apart with magic.
Hermione wiped her eyes with her sleeve, and then asked, "What day is it?"
Draco pulled out the pocket watch, opened it, and muttered the right charm. Then he blinked. "Huh. It's the twenty-fourth."
Hermione gasped. "Christmas Eve?"
He nodded, tucking the watch back into his robes. When he turned back to Hermione, she had the saddest look on her face he'd ever seen, and he wanted to wrap her up in his arms and tell her everything would be okay.
"Christmas Eve," she repeated. "I knew it had to be getting close, but had no idea it was here." She looked around her, and felt a lump form in her throat. She didn't want to cry again. "This is completely wrong. We should not be spending the night before Christmas hiding and lost in a magical forest."
Draco couldn't think of anything to say.
"Have you ever heard that poem?" she asked after a few minutes.
"The Night Before Christmas."
"No, I don't think I have."
"I expected as much. It's a Muggle poem, after all."
She didn't say anything, just looked so sad.
"Are you going to tell me?" he asked.Hermione looked at him. "Sure, if you like. I learned it as a child; I hope I remember it all. Stop me if you've heard it." She took a deep breath and started. "'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house, Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse…"
"It's the night before Christmas, and we're out in the cold. Who knows when we'll stop running, we might even be old."
Hermione looked at Draco, and laughed. "What was that?"
He shrugged. "Just trying it out that whole poetry thing. I was never any good at it."
"That much is obvious," she said, smiling.
"Hey, I'd like to hear you give it a go. At least I tried."
"Okay, then. It's the night before Christmas and cold as the moon. I wish I had candy, or even a macaroon."
He laughed then. "A macaroon? That's brilliant."
She smiled sadly and said, "This isn't how Christmas Eve should be. I should be at home, with my parents. The tree should be trimmed in silver and gold, and I would be begging them to open just one present tonight. They would be telling me all the reasons why I should wait, but I would beg them still, and they would finally agree, only they would pick out the present I would open. It would be something to wear: new pajamas, a robe, new slippers. I would thank them, and we would sit around the tree sipping hot chocolate. Then they'd go to bed, and I'd sleep in the living room, on the floor, underneath the tree with all the lights."
She could almost imagine the cup of warm liquid in her hands and the smell of the tree as she inhaled the cold, crisp night air.
"What about you?" she asked him. "What should the night before Christmas be for you?"
He shifted awkwardly, not sure the best way to answer her question. He didn't have those nice memories like she did. Since the Dark Lord's return, no Christmas had been pleasant.
"The last good Christmas I remember was during our third year at Hogwarts. The night before, we ate dinner together. Our dining room table is about thirty feet long, and usually Lucius sits on one end, and my mother on the other. I get put in the middle. For some reason, they decided to do things differently that night, and both my parents sat next to each other, across from me, in the middle of the table. My father made my mother laugh, and I remember thinking how right the world was."
Hermione didn't know what to say. Among the thoughts that plagued her was that his last good Christmas had been so many years ago. It wasn't the nice, cozy image she saw when she thought of her own family, and it made her realize how different their lives were.
"This is nice," he remarked, out of the blue.
"This. Talking. Usually it's nothing like this."
"Because we're always fighting, you mean?"
"Yeah. I don't want to fight with you, though."
"Sometimes I think we forget that we know how to do anything else," she offered.
"Probably," he agreed.
At that moment, it started to snow. The fire had died down to the ashes, leaving only the moonlight to illuminate each tiny snowflake as it twisted, tumbled, and twirled to the earth. He watched as a few flakes came near to them, but melted because of the warming spell. With a flick of his wrist, he moved the barrier to allow the snow to reach them. Hermione's face lit up like a firework, and she stuck her tongue out to catch any flakes that got near her. Some of them landed in her hair, and once again he realized how pretty she was.
They sat in silence, listening to the snow falling. It was like hearing a brook from far away, but close enough to just be able to hear it.
When he saw that Hermione was getting cold despite his cloak, he returned the barrier to encompass them. She shivered slightly, but the look of wonder never left her face.
"I used to think snow was magic," she said. "Before I knew what magic was, that is. It's incredible, if you think about it. Each flake is so tiny, yet they all add up to something huge. Snow is cold, but if you get cold enough, it burns. I used to sit and watch the snow fall for hours."
Draco looked out toward the black forest, watching it snow, trying to see what she saw. He thought he could, almost, but there was a grey cloud that hung over him all the time, the result of his less-than-rosy childhood. He didn't have any memories to match the one she'd just shared, and it had probably been one of hundreds.
"It's actually quite romantic," Hermione said, and Draco turned to look at her in wonder. She wasn't looking at him, and he knew she wasn't saying that being with him just then was romantic. But he couldn't suppress the feelings he'd been having since joining up with her, Ron and Harry.
They weren't touching as they sat together. Almost, but not quite.
Draco's eyes widened. "Oh!" he said, grinning and fishing something out of his robe which he handed to Hermione. It was a small tin of the finest Honeydukes chocolate available, unopened.
"What's this?" she asked.
"Chocolate. I – I've been saving it for the right time. You know, when something… good happens. I've had it stashed away for months, now, and I've only just remembered. I reckon now's as good a time as any. What with Christmas tomorrow."
Carefully, she opened the tin. Inside were two perfect squares of chocolate.
"One has cherry inside, the other coconut. You pick," Draco said.
Hermione considered each piece, then closed her eyes and picked one out. It was the cherry one, and it felt like she was eating a piece of heaven. It reminded her of good times, of safe times. When she finished chewing, she extended the tin to Draco.
He removed the remaining piece, but told her to keep the tin. She hesitated, but after a confirming nod from him, she pocketed it. She waited while he ate his piece.
"Hermione?" he said, a little hesitantly, a bit experimentally, once he'd completely savored the sweet.
"Do you, uh, ever wonder what it would be like? You know, in real life?"
She blushed. Even in the dead of a cold winter night, with only moonlight for aid, he could see it. "I'll admit I've thought about once or twice…" …a day, she finished in her mind.
"Well, there's nothing for it, then," he said, smiling at her. "In the name of the truth, I think we have to."
"Oh, I see," she said, and he could hear the smile in her voice. "If it's for truth, then."
He leaned over and kissed her softly, lightly; like the brush of a snowflake. It was everything he'd imagined it would be, everything he'd seen in his mind's eye since he kissed her in the dream. She responded, and he felt all kinds of knots clenching and unclenching in his stomach, and his heart was racing, but his mind was soaring and it was even better than he remembered from their shared dream.
He didn't notice that he had reached a hand up to run through her hair, or when she touched his face. He only felt an incredible softness, and he smelled her, and somehow, despite the conditions they were living through, she managed to smell like the winter around him, and the spring he felt. With a hint of chocolate and cherry.
Finally, she pulled away, her face flushed and her eyes bright, and he couldn't say anything right away because there she was, being beautiful again, right in front of him. She bit her lip and looked at him nervously, and he only smiled at her, trying to ease the tiny lines of worry that had crept into her face.
"Well?" she said, in a small voice.
"I think it's better than the dream," he said, his voice lower than usual.
Hermione nodded and turned away, back toward the forest. "Let's not fight anymore, okay?"
"Okay. I know it's mostly my fault – "
"No, I think we're equally responsible. It's like second nature. It's just going to take a little bit of work, is all."
He nodded, continuing to look at her. Her knees were pulled up to her chest, her hands wrapped around them whether out of comfort or to keep warm, he wasn't sure. But the longer he watched her, the more he wanted one of those hands in his.
"I really can be nice, when I put my mind to it," he said, trying to sound convincing.
She looked at him and grinned, a ridiculous, lopsided grin that he couldn't stop staring at. "I think you can do just about anything you put your mind to, Malfoy."
He smirked. "Including snogging you senseless, if the fancy strikes me."
She blushed again and shook her head. "No, there should be no causing anyone to lose their senses. It won't do right now, when we're constantly on the run for our lives."
"Must everything go back to that?" he whined.
"Until we're safe, yes. And don't whine; it's childish."
He glared at her, then his features relaxed into a small frown. "So… what, then? Where does this leave us?"
"I think we start by trying to be friends. Don't you?"
"Can't we skip all that? I mean, we already know we don't like each other."
She punched him lightly on the arm. "We do not. We've never taken the time to really get to know each other. And, well, to be honest, we have nothing better to do right now. We can spend our energies fighting each other, bickering at every little word the other says, or we can try the friends thing. See if there's something to look forward to once all this is over."
"Oh, if that kiss was any indication, there's plenty to look forward to!"
"Malfoy, I mean it. Friends first, all right?"
He groaned. "Do you realize I've never done the friends thing?"
She smiled primly. "Exactly. It will be good for you."
"But you have an unfair advantage."
"Draco. Friends or not? It's your call."
"Friends, of course," he said without hesitation.
She smiled. "Good. Now. I think we should try to get some sleep. Don't you?"
He reluctantly agreed. As he got up to return to his sleeping bag, he gave her a quick kiss on the cheek. She quirked an eyebrow, grabbed his robes, and pulled him down to give him a proper goodnight kiss.
"Hermione! Wake up!" It was Ron, shaking her slightly and interrupting the perfect quiet they'd all been sleeping through.
She sat up straight, immediately awake and alert. Ron had moved on to wake Draco but the familiarity of Ron waking her after a dream in which she kissed Draco Malfoy—again!—shot a jolt of panic through her. This time though, she refused to accept that it had been another dream, and she felt in her pocket for the chocolate tin. It was there, right where she'd put it beside her wand. Then she looked at Draco, who was already on his feet.
"What's going on?" he asked sleepily.
"Look around," said Harry, who was sitting on his sleeping bag with his back to them, wonder in his voice.
Hermione did, and she gasped. All through the forest, in every single tree and bush, thousands – perhaps millions – of fairies were glowing and twinkling, in all different colors, making the forest look like a thousand Christmas trees. It was snowing again, and all she could hear was the gentle fall of each flake. The forest at midnight was silent and dark, but each new flash of color shouted the coming of the day.
Draco came to stand beside Hermione, and he took her hand in his. It fit perfectly, and he marveled at the simple truth in that. Turning to her, he squeezed her hand and whispered, lightly in her ear,
"Maybe" is a vague word.
It holds promise, hope, and possibilities. That night, as two people stood hand in hand, watching what felt like something near to a miracle, the weight of their "maybe" shifted toward the positive.
Maybe, when the War was over, and the Light had won, there would be time and space for their "maybe" to turn into something more.
Something like a "Yes."
A/N: Well? Did you like it? Let me know! Want another one? Let me know!