A Christmas Story

Part 10: A Confession

Author: Dizzy

Authors Notes: After almost a year of nothing I give you…something. A small something, but it's a start. I've been so caught up in the real world that I had to leave fandom entirely, but I'm hoping return. I've been working full time, going to school full-time, and I've gotten married. Those three alone should be enough, but I've got a little dog that requires constant supervision (she's my child) to boot, and I'm dutifully hunting for a house.

Fortunately though I've been given a reprieve. I'm on vacation currently, not the kind where you go to the beach. Just the kind where you stay home and get paid. So I've taken advantage of that. I'm also starting a new job next week. It's part-time for now, more hourly money and a better position, but a slight pay-cut due to the limited number of hours. But that means more time. So good news on that front.

Here it is, the long awaited Part 10.

It was Draco's abrupt departure, and his disappointing "gift" that prompted Hermione to get up from her seat. Ron and Harry gave her a look of confusion.

"I forgot a gift," she smiled and picked up her parcels. "The prat just reminded me." They nodded and returned to their butterbeers, completely trusting.

She felt a bit guilty for lying to them, but she had a feeling she was going to have to get used to it. In the end she was sparing them a lot of anger and confusion.

Hermione made her way back out into the cold, heading on the direction of Honeydukes. She had one more gift to get. It might be silly and pointless but it was something Hermione felt she had to do.

She had to show him that even if he didn't care anymore, that even if he had forgotten: she hadn't. She still remembered. She hadn't forgotten. She still felt the same as she had before they had left the alternate Hogwarts, and she would still feel the same tomorrow.

There was no changing that. As she walked she wished that, in a way, she could change it. Reversing her feelings for Draco Malfoy would be a lot easier then dealing with them, continuing them. She had a feeling it would hurt less in the long run as well.

She made her way through the crowds of people, happy that she could bump into them. Touch them, feel them, and at the same time she missed that world that she had left. Towards the end of her stay there it was less lonely, less scary. It had been nice.

If only she had been given a bit more time there she could have handled this situation better. They could have prepared themselves.

She shook her head to clear it. There was no sense in dwelling on the might-have-been's. She had to deal with the now.

She made her way to the register and prepared to do just that. Deal with now, and make amends for the past. She was going to do this right this time, and tell him everything.

The Slytherin common room was completely empty. It was feast night, so the few students that had remained were in the Great Hall. Draco was alone, and that was how he liked it.

He turned the brown package over and over in his hands, calloused fingers rubbing the outside of it, across brown paper. He pulled at the twine that circled its length, and tried to feel its contents through the wrapper.

He was a coward.

This was, however, a fact of his being that he was not ashamed of. Malfoys had been cowards for centuries. Running in the face of danger, and hiding until it was over. They had run, and hid in every great battle, in every dangerous situation since there were Malfoys. They were proud of it. Being a coward was synonymous in a Malfoy's eyes with being intelligent. Only a foolish Gryffindor would run head long into battle. Only an idiot would endanger themselves so recklessly. Being a coward was bred into him.

It was inescapable. There was nothing he could do about it. He was genetically predisposed to cowardice.

Draco shrugged. You could not mess with bloodlines.

"You could-" he reasoned out loud, "-stop making excuses."

At least he was self-aware.

He let the parcel fall from his hand back into his satchel. Another day perhaps, after a longer string of excuses were made, he would be able to do it. Another day just like this one would be better.

The feast was just like any other of the great feasts that dotted each holiday of the calendar, and ended the year. Platters and platters of festive holiday food lined the tables, and grubby hands reached out to grab more.

There were sugar cookies and rum cakes, fruit cakes and bread pudding, large legs of turkey, roast duck, every kind of potato imaginable from chips to mashed, all heaping and steaming.

It was a lovely feast, but in the end, just the same. The only thing that changed was the menu, and perhaps the conversation. For the first time out of all the feasts Hermione had attended she wasn't forced to listen to talk of Quidditch and lessons. Instead she talked of Christmas presents, and her dwindling finances. Christmas had put a large dent in her pocket change.

Ron and Harry both wore identical sweaters, Ron's with a large bold R and Harry's with an H. They both had mismatched socks on under their britches, a gift from Dobby. Hermione herself was donned in a scarf of Mrs. Weasley's creation in bright Gryffindor colors with shiny tassels at the ends. Dobby had given her a massive hat.

"Good haul this year," Ron was saying to Seamus, listing off the gifts he had received one by one. He smiled at her as he got to her gift, and then turned to Harry as he listed his.

It was pleasant, and cheery, but at the same time she couldn't help but let her mind, and her eyes wander across the hall. Draco had yet to show up for dinner.

If she had been disappointed upon looking at her stack of Christmas parcels this morning she hadn't shown it. There was no elegantly wrapped gift from an unknown giver in the stack. No surprise parcel delivered at breakfast.

She had yet to stumble upon one in the halls or in her usual seat at the library. She had checked, taking a special trip there just to be sure. There was nothing.

In truth she hadn't sent a surprise gift either yet. So really she couldn't be disappointed or angry, not until the day was over.

She felt him enter the hall, the rush of wind from the door marked his arrival and he strode in, fashionably late.

He didn't cast a look in her direction, didn't make way for her table with anything in his hands. He just went and sat, and started to eat.

Hermione focused her attention back on her boys. They had moved on now from presents to food. Suggestions flew about which mashed potato substance was the best, to which meat the others should try.

She smiled and laughed, and acted for all the world like nothing at all was the matter.

She saw him get up to leave, and watched his departure out of the corner of her eye. He was going out to the Quidditch pitch. She knew that much. He had his cloak on and that determined look on his face. The question was did she follow him?

If she did she would sacrifice nothing more then a blistered nose from the cold and the feeling of abject humiliation. If she didn't, she would sacrifice so much more.

"It's getting late," she murmured and picked up her stuff. The boys smiled at her, giving her good natured hugs and thanks for the gifts. She nodded at the others, yawning pointedly and then hastily made her way out of the hall.

It was lucky she had her cloak and her gloves for she wanted to waste no time. It was best to catch him before he took to the air. She shoved her hands into the gloves as she walked, briskly and purposefully towards the doors.

She was going to do this. She had to do this. Hermione had to know.

Draco hadn't taken flight yet, she could see his thin, pale form against the white of the snow, looking to the sky. His broom was in his hand, his bag on the ground. She walked a little faster.

"Draco!"

Draco turned and looked at the girl in surprise. He had imagined a meeting like this, hoped for something, which was why he had waited a minute, hoping but never believing. And here she was.

Her face was tinted red from the cold, her hair caught against her face. She was slightly out of breath, but cheerful looking.

"What are you doing out here Granger?" Truthfully he hadn't wanted it to come out as gruff and cold as all that. She didn't seem to notice.

"I didn't get to give you your gift," she smiled at him. Ignoring the stone like quality of his face, and the rigidity of his posture, she still smiled. He was just being Draco, just acting like he thought he was supposed to act.

"Gift?" He shifted uncomfortably.

Hermione nodded and reached into her satchel. "It's not much, but it was bloody expensive."

She handed him a small silver box, tied with a black ribbon. A Dragon Tongue.

Draco smirked.

"I hope you didn't do anything unscrupulous to get this Granger," he said as he opened the box. The little dragon inside darted frantically.

"Just your standard robbery," Hermione said cheerfully. "Wand blazing, take all your money out of the cash box and nobody gets hurt. That kind of thing."

Draco did smile now, reaching two fingers in to grab the little dragon.

"I'm almost ashamed to eat it now." But he did anyway, closing his eyes in that expression of ecstasy that made Hermione shift from foot to foot and look away.

"I'm glad you um-," she coughed, "-like it."

Draco groaned and nodded. "I got you something too," he murmured, his mouth still thick from the chocolate.

Hermione blinked in surprise as he reached down into his own back and withdrew a plain brown package wrapped in twine.

"Sorry it's not properly gift wrapped," Draco said shrugging, handing it too her. "Didn't have the time."

Hermione didn't care about the wrapping. She didn't even really care what was inside. The fact that he had actually gotten something for her was enough. She had been hoping for this all day, a sign of something at least.

She slowly removed the twine, ripping at the seams of the paper with her nails.

Inside was a small porcelain angel, snow white with wings pointing towards the sky. It caught the moonlight and twinkled for a moment, the surface giving off an opaline luster.

"It's beautiful," she breathed. Her fingers rubbed along the smooth surface.

"Had to resort to something a bit unscrupulous myself for that," Draco said shifting. "About an hours worth of work at the corner, selling myself."

Hermione smiled, still entranced.

"Thank you Draco," she whispered. He shifted again.

"No, thank you," he smirked. "I wasn't going to get any action otherwise."

Hermione smiled and rolled her eyes, putting the angel carefully into her bag.

"Come on," Draco said suddenly, taking the bag from her grasp and depositing it gently on the ground beside his own.

"Where are we-" but Hermione wasn't given a chance to finish. If she had been it would have been a yell of protest. Draco knew this, and just simply acted.

"We're going for a quick fly," he said and before she could say no he had her situated at the back of his black Nimbus. He took the spot in front of her, holding her arm securely so she couldn't get away.

"Hold on," he tossed over his shoulder, and then kicked off the ground.

Hermione screamed, flashing back to Buckbeak and the crazy flight up to the tower where Sirius was held. She hated heights, and she hated flying thing, especially flying things being controlled by impulsive teenage boys.

She grabbed his waist, squeezing his middle her eyes squeezed tight.

"I wanna get down. I wanna get down. I wanna get-" her mantra was cut short by her shriek as Draco took a sharp right in the air.

It was freezing, the wind biting at her ears, her face protected only by Draco's broad back. But in a way it was refreshing, in a scary, impending death kind of way. She gripped his stomach tighter.

"Open your eyes Hermione," Draco called over his shoulder. And she did. Because she trusted him.

They were over the lake now, glittering pale white in the moonlight, surrounded by a soft blanket of snow. The castle rose up into the sky, little pinpricks of yellow here and there on its surface.

It was beautiful. Draco had leveled them out now, the wind still whipping past their faces.

Hermione knew that it was time.

"I have to tell you something," she yelled in the general direction of his ear. Draco leaned back into her.

"What?" He yelled back.

Hermione gathered her courage. It was now or never, and it seemed as though it was now. She had decided this morning that she was going to tell him tonight, regardless of the consequences. He had to know, and she needed to tell him.

Hermione took another breath to steady herself. Closing her eyes in preparation and in fear.

Hermione opened her mouth to yell her confession.

"The spell…the spell was me. I did it," she saw his confusion for a fleeting second. She felt the broom shake a bit as he over corrected, she felt Draco freeze.

And then they were plummeting back towards the earth.