A/N: Happy early Christmas! Don't think this means that I'm back from my fanfiction hiatus, because I'm not. But I've had a rough week and I've been wanting to write a holiday one-shot, so I finally sat down and got it done, since writing something new always cheers me up.
I never really write one-shots because I'm a terrible short story writer. Anyone who's read any of my other stories knows they tend to be very complex and wordy, which doesn't exactly work with something meant to be short. Still, I think this turned out pretty good.
I hope you all have a great holiday, no matter what you celebrate! Rated M for language only. Sorry to disappoint, but it's not that kind of story. ;o)
Oh, and if you haven't already heard Chase Holfelder's cover of 'All I Want for Christmas Is You' then LOOK. IT. UP.
Hermione Granger sat in the Gryffindor common room, staring up at the large Christmas tree, tackily garnished with golden tinsel and oversized ornaments. She especially hated the little golden cherubs flying about. Everything about it felt so impersonal. Like the type of decorations one might find in a hotel lobby this time of year.
No, this was not what Hermione wanted. What she wanted was her tree back home, covered in popcorn garlands she and her mum had sewn together, and ornaments made out of popsicle sticks and cotton balls from her childhood. Not to mention the fake snow in a can her dad sprayed the tree with every year. Sure, that tree was tacky too, but in a much better way than the one in front of her.
But this year was different. For the first time in Hermione's nineteen years of life she was spending Christmas alone. After the Battle of Hogwarts she had gone to Australia to find her parents, returning their memories and explaining everything to them between nonstop tears.
For a brief time her family was whole again. But for her parents, moving back to England proved to be a much more difficult task than she originally anticipated. They had joined someone else's dental practice and signed a three year contract. There was no getting out of it.
Still wanting to spend the holidays with her family, Hermione contacted the Ministry of Magic about getting a Portkey to Australia, since flying was too much of a hassle for such a short time. But even with her connections at the Ministry, her requests went unanswered. She understood everyone was busy reshaping the wizarding world after a war and all, but ... it was Christmas.
Hermione sighed and stood. She went over and stared down at the handful of presents under the tree, her eyes stopping on a small one on top.
Love. It was a foreign concept that she was still adjusting to. Really, she was shocked he had written it on his gift to her. While they had started something after the war, it came to a swift halt when they got into a thunderous fight following his refusal to come back to Hogwarts for his Eighth Year. If not for his studies, then at least for her, but he refused. She had left for school still seething. They had only exchanged a handful of letters since, none ending with the word love. She really wasn't even sure if they were still together. Which was exactly why she didn't take Mrs. Weasley up on her offer to spend Christmas with them. She wasn't ready to find out.
Hermione frowned as she continued to stare down at that little present. She sighed again, grabbed her book bag off of the end table and left the Gryffindor Tower, eager to get to the library. Hopefully, studying would take her mind off of her lonely holiday.
As she walked down the steps, she started to wonder where she and Ron went wrong. Their relationship had been a long time coming, so that meant it should be easy, right? So then why wasn't it?
Hermione traveled in a daze, not coming out of it until she heard someone else's footsteps. She snapped her head up to find that she had made it to the ground floor. Someone was walking out of the corridor leading to the kitchen, currently licking the frosting off of a chocolate cupcake.
Draco Malfoy stopped when he saw her, the two of them staring at each other for a long moment. She didn't think that anyone else was here, aside from a few professors, and the look he was giving her now said that he thought the same.
Draco's eyes moved downward and he noticed her book bag. He cocked an eyebrow. "On your way to the library, are you, Granger? Figures. Only you would see the break as an opportunity to get more study time in."
"What business is it of yours?" she snapped, turning on her heel and continuing on her way. And here she had thought as the only student still at Hogwarts she could get in some quiet study time. But with Draco Malfoy around she would have to keep one eye open at all times. What rotten luck. Hopefully, he would just let her be.
Hermione spent several good hours in the library, studying Arithmancy, even though she didn't need to, and memorizing a potion that supposedly made its consumers cheerful. She figured she could bake it into cookies or something to improve her night.
Just as she pulled her Charms book out of her bag, she suddenly heard a noise. Stopping to listen, she quickly realized that it was footsteps. Not even ten seconds later, Draco stepped around one of the bookshelves, smiling widely when he saw her.
"Evening, Granger. I figured you would still be here."
"It's not evening yet," she said, flipping through her book until she found the page she needed.
"You sure about that?" said Draco, pointing at the window just behind her.
Hermione glanced over her shoulder, surprised to find that it was, indeed, dark out. She must have been studying Arithmancy longer than she thought.
"I'm going to Hogsmeade for a drink. Or two. Probably five. Do you want to come?"
Hermione turned back around and pursed her brow. "Excuse me?"
"Hogsmeade." Draco pointed in the village's general direction. "Drink." He made a drinking motion. "You." He pointed at her. "Come." He beckoned. "And here I thought you were supposed to be smart." Now he tapped his head.
"As much as I enjoy your condescending commentary, I'll have to pass," she said, looking back down at her book.
It was suddenly yanked away from her. She snapped her head up just as Draco snapped the book shut.
"We both know you already have the entire text memorized. Come have a drink with me."
"Because I don't want to," she said, grabbing her book back. "Besides, how do you even plan to go there? It may be break, but we're still required to remain on the premises."
"I'm going to walk there," he said.
"And how to plan to get out?"
"Through one of the big holes that still haven't been repaired in the side of the building."
Hermione looked up at him again and raised her eyebrows. "But ... I thought all holes had been repaired."
"The big ones, yes, but a few in the less traveled parts of the castle are still waiting their turn. Wanna see?"
Hermione pursed her lips in thought. While she had little interest in going anywhere with Draco, she had contributed to much of the restoration of Hogwarts, especially the holes leading outside, and it troubled her that some had been missed.
Without a word, she packed her books away, stood up and tossed her bag over her shoulder. When Draco didn't move, she said, "Lead the way."
He did just that, leading her out of the library, through several twists and turns in the corridors, up one flight of stairs, and, finally, through a door. On the other side was a classroom, the first half of the desks still looking normal but the half near the crumbling wall that had been blown inwards were knocked over and in pieces. Draco was right. The hole was still very prominent.
Hermione walked up to it, frowning as she pulled out her wand.
"What are you doing?" asked Draco.
"Fixing it," she answered.
"Oh no," he said, stepping in front of it. "Not until we get back from Hogsmeade."
"I never said I was going," she snapped. "Now, move out of my way."
He crossed his arms and stood his ground.
"Malfoy, please -"
"I'll tell you what, Granger. If you come to Hogsmeade and have a drink with me, one drink, I will help you fix this the moment we get back."
"I can do it my -"
"We both know this is a two person job. You'll be here all night without my help."
"It's not like I have anything better to do," she said.
"Exactly. So come to Hogsmeade with me."
Hermione didn't move.
"Come on, Granger. It's Christmas Eve. No one should be alone on Christmas Eve."
She lowered her wand and sighed. As much as it pained her to admit it, he was right. Going with Draco Malfoy to Hogsmeade really did sound more appealing than staying in this room fixing a wall all night.
"One drink," she said sternly.
Draco smiled. "One drink."
Hermione looked out the hole, shivering as a cool breeze shot inward. "I need my coat."
"That's fine. I'll wait," he said, leaning against the damaged wall and staring out at the horizon.
It was only then that Hermione noticed he was already wearing his with gloves and a scarf poking out of his pocket.
"Chop, chop, Granger. We haven't got all night."
Hermione glared at his smiling silhouette before heading for the door. She hurried up to Gryffindor Tower, where she put her books away and grabbed her coat out of the closet. She wasn't sure why she was so excited to go out, especially with the company she would be keeping.
After everything that had happened at the Battle of Hogwarts, she had been surprised to see Draco back for his Eighth Year. She thought for sure he would just call it a day with school and enjoy his millions. But here he was, in several classes with her and rarely saying a word, being one of only three Slytherins to return. The others being Blaise Zabini and Theo Nott. It seemed his sarcastic 'charm' had been sucked out of him. Or so she thought. Her recent encounter with him said otherwise.
As she slipped into more snow appropriate boots, she wondered why he was at Hogwarts for the holidays. He had family to go home to, since all of the Malfoys had been pardoned after the war. Theo Nott had not been as lucky, seeing as his only parent left had been whisked off to Azkaban. But even he had gone somewhere. Maybe not home, but somewhere.
Once Hermione was bundled up, a few Galleons in her pocket for her drink and maybe a quick visit to Honeyduke's, she headed out of the tower and back to where Draco was waiting for her.
When she got there, he was still standing in the same place, only turning to look at her, the light of the moon reflecting the small bits of snow trapped in his white-blond hair.
"Ready?" he asked.
She nodded and walked over, staring out the hole and down at the ground below. It looked pretty far, considering they were on the second floor and all.
"It's easier than it looks," he said. "I'll go first and just follow my footing."
Draco sat on his arse and slid down, Hermione watching closely to see where his foot landed. She could already see his path, with small stepping stones amidst the rubble. This was definitely not his first time sneaking out of this hole.
Hermione let him get two steps ahead before following, matching his movements exactly, including hand placement. When he was safely on the ground he looked up at her, holding out his hand when she landed on the last step. She ignored it and jumped down, stumbling on her feet before looking back at him, both of their cheeks already red from the cold.
"You can really hurt your ankle on that last step if you're not careful," he said, his eyes narrowing. "Next time, just let me help you."
"I'm fine, and there will be no next time, Malfoy." Hermione looked around, gathering her bearings before heading off in the direction she was sure Hogsmeade was in.
Draco grabbed her arm and turned her around. "This way," he said, pointing. He let her go and took the lead.
The two of them walked to Hogsmeade in silence. Hermione wasn't sure what she could talk with him about. This was perhaps the first time she and Draco had ever been alone together and even when they weren't they never chatted. It just wasn't part of their relationship, which was indifferent on their best days, and malevolent on their worst.
When they arrived in the village, they headed straight for the Three Broomsticks. It was crowded in there, so Hermione went in search of a table while Draco went to the bar to get them drinks. She tried to hand him money, but he refused it. As she wandered the crowded sitting area, she told herself she would slip some Galleons into his pocket later. The last thing she wanted was to be in debt to him.
The moment a couple left their seats at a small table in the back corner, Hermione was there to swoop in, simultaneously pissing off another couple who just weren't fast enough. She smiled and shrugged.
Draco arrived a minute later with their drinks. Two hot, steaming mugs of butterbeer, which she quickly discovered was accompanied by firewhiskey when she took a rather large sip. She held it in her mouth for a second before swallowing, the liquid burning all the way down. Draco noticed and laughed.
"What did you think I meant when I said drink? Hot chocolate?"
"That actually sounds lovely," she said, putting her mug down.
"Then I'll get you some. After you finish your butterbeer and firewhiskey."
Hermione rolled her eyes but still took another sip. It wasn't a bad drink, just not what she'd expected.
"So tell me something, Granger, why are you here?"
Hermione finished her sip and said, "You dragged me."
Draco smirked. "Not what I meant."
"Obviously," she said, taking another sip. "Why are you here?"
"My parents have to testify against some of their former friends in front of the Wizengamot. On Christmas Day, if you can imagine, and they didn't want to bring me down on this less than joyous occasion."
Hermione blinked. "Who schedules a trial on Christmas?"
"I expect it was some lonely arse who wants to ruin the holiday for everyone around him."
"Sorry to hear that," she said sincerely. "But couldn't you have gone home with Nott or Zabini?"
"I wouldn't dare go home with Theo. His house is bloody depressing now that he's the only one in it, and Blaise is being forced to spend Christmas with his mother's new beau and his family. He has seven children, all younger than twelve, and, frankly, it sounded like hell."
"Understandable," she said, taking another sip of her drink.
"Now, Granger, tell me. Why are you here?"
"My parents are in Australia and I couldn't get a Portkey," she said simply.
"No Potty and Weasel?"
She huffed. "No, they're with Ron's family."
"And why aren't you with Ron's family?"
She huffed again. Yep, that attitude of his was still there. "I had studying to catch up on."
A pause. "Bull."
"Excuse me?" she said, pursing her brow.
"I thought you two were in love now, or something, so why aren't you there?"
Hermione went white. There was that word again. Love. "Where did you hear that?"
"Around," he said. "So why aren't you -"
Just then, a familiar, boisterous laugh echoed through the room. They both looked around, freezing when they caught sight of the owner of the laugh. Hagrid sat at a table, his cheeks flushed from alcohol, and joined by Headmistress McGonagall, Professor Sprout and Professor Slughorn.
Hermione gasped and looked away.
"Shit," said Draco, finishing his drink. "Let's go. If we stay near the wall they won't see us."
Hermione and Draco stood, walking along the wall and keeping their heads low until they were outside and away from their professors.
"Well, this was a genius idea, Malfoy," said Hermione, already heading back towards Hogwarts.
"Where are you going?" he asked, stepping in front of her. "They looked pretty damn occupied in there. We can just go to the Hog's Head and -"
"No, Malfoy. You said one drink and we had it. I'm going back."
"But the night's still young. We could have dinner somewhere or -"
"I'm going back!" she snapped, stepping away from him and marching onward.
But he was quick to step in front of her again. "Please, don't go," he said, his eyes desperate as he gazed down at her. There was a sadness in them she had never seen before. But, considering who he was, she had never really looked. Just over seven months ago they were enemies fighting on the opposite sides of a war. Sort of. As much as she had despised Draco, she always knew that he was never evil. You could be a bigot and still have a soft heart.
Still, as desperate as those eyes looked, she could not bring herself to stay and break the rules a moment longer. Not with her new headmistress so close.
"Sorry, Malfoy," she said.
Draco sighed but stepped aside, letting her continue on her way. She looked back after ten steps and he was still standing there. It was the same after twenty. But when she looked back at thirty he was gone, probably to drink by himself at the Hog's Head. What a happy Christmas it was for both of them.
It was a very long and very cold walk back to Hogwarts, not to mention very lonely. Even though she and Draco had walked to Hogsmeade in silence, it was still nice to have someone there beside her.
Hogwarts finally came into view, and she headed straight to the hole they had exited through, even though she probably could have gone through the front door since her professors were currently occupied.
When she got there, she immediately knew that something was off. The placement of Draco's makeshift steps were different. Wider and more crumbled. She climbed them anyway, slipping a few times on the new rubble. She arrived at the top, inspecting the hole, which seemed to be larger now. Then she looked into the classroom. Not one desk was still in one piece, and the door to the rest of the castle was open, the walls around it knocked out to accommodate for something larger than a person.
"Oh gods," she whispered, hurrying to the door and carefully glancing out of it. She stared down the hall, just catching a large, spiked club being dragged around the corner. A troll's club. She moved away from the door and pressed her back against the wall. "Oh gods, oh gods, oh gods," she whispered again.
Hermione took shallow breaths and thought hard about what to do. Headmistress McGonagall was in Hogsmeade with the only three professors that had stayed behind for the holidays, and she and Draco were the only students staying at Hogwarts over the break. Filch was the only other person around and he was a Squib, so she couldn't go to him and drag him into the face of danger. There were only two options. Go back to Hogsmeade and get the headmistress, or take care of the troll herself.
While instinct told her that going to get the headmistress was the smarter decision, it also dawned on her that until that morning she had thought she was alone in the castle. But she wasn't. Draco had been there the whole time. She had just missed him since she had been skipping meals in the Great Hall and eating what she had stored in her room instead. What if there were other students?
With a troll on the premises, time was definitely a factor, and she couldn't take the risk if others might be wandering around. So, with a deep breath, Hermione took out her wand, looked back into the corridor, and made sure the coast was clear before quietly running to the corner the troll had turned. She slipped her head slowly around the side, but the troll was nowhere in sight.
Gripping her wand tightly, Hermione walked around the corner, her ears on full alert as she slowly stepped forward. Everything around her was silent, not even a faint grunt or clatter from the troll dragging his club.
Noticing a wall with crumbling stone, like something heavy had bumped into it, she made the turn down a new corridor. It was clear.
Her heart was beating faster with every step she took. She sucked in her nervous breaths, always listening.
And then she heard something. It was coming from behind her.
She whipped around and looked, but it was clear. And then she heard something else. A low, congested, breathy grunt, much closer than the other noise. In fact, it was right behind her.
Hermione gulped. She turned slowly, her breath hitching when she saw what was waiting at the other end of the corridor. A gargantuan troll with a bulging belly. One eye drooped about five centimeters lower than the other and each breath he, maybe she, took sounded like a painful wheeze.
It stared at Hermione, blinking several times before releasing a thunderous growl and charging, its club raised high.
Hermione shot a stinging hex at the troll's hand, hoping it would be strong enough to make it drop its club, but it wasn't.
"Accio club!" she shouted. The club wriggled around, trying to break free, but the troll kept a death grip on it, stopping for a moment to examine the thing. "Confringo!" She was aiming for the club again, having already decided that she would avoid killing the troll if she could. After all, it was only following its natural instincts by attacking her.
But the troll moved its club out of the way at exactly the wrong moment and the spell hit its arm instead. The troll cried out in pain as its arm burned, but the effects really did not seem to be all that damaging. Aside from its growing anger.
The troll roared once more, charging at Hermione and swinging its club.
She dodged the attack by turning down another corridor, running for her life as the giant beast trailed behind her, smashing its club into everything that got in its way.
At one point she ran down some stairs, the troll swinging its club as she turned the corner, crashing it into the wall. She jumped away and landed hard on the floor to avoid it.
Hermione pushed herself up, looking back at the troll just in time to see it fumble down the last few steps and crash into the window on the opposite end. It hung halfway through the glass, groaning as it raised its arms to push itself out.
She had just raised her wand again, to attack the actual beast this time, when she heard rushing footsteps come to a skidding halt. Someone stepped off of the stairs, staring wide-eyed at the troll's shaking bottom as it tried to escape the window.
"Malfoy, stand back!" she shouted.
Draco turned to her and blinked. "Granger? What -"
The troll finally broke free, though it wasn't quite prepared for it and stumbled back several steps. Draco screamed and ran towards Hermione, getting out of the way just in time as the troll fell flat on its arse right where he once stood.
"Fucking hell!" he shouted, grabbing her arm and attempting to pull her away, but Hermione pulled back. "Let's go, Granger!"
"We can't leave this thing wandering around in here!"
His eyes widened. "Yes we can!"
"No!" she spat. "You're free to run but I'm staying."
"You're fucking mad, woman!"
A loud roar snapped them both back to the here and now. The troll was back on its feet and charging for them. Hermione ran straight but Draco mumbled something and ran down a narrow corridor to his right.
"Coward!" she called after him as he disappeared from view. When the troll started to gain on her, she pointed her wand and shouted, "Depulso!" The beast went flying back down the corridor and she had a few extra seconds to come up with a plan. What she needed to do was knock the troll out and, from past experience, the best way to do that was with its own club. Now, she just needed to figure out how to get it.
Turning another corner, Hermione realized she was heading straight for the library. The thought of a giant, clumsy troll getting anywhere near her precious books greatly troubled her, but when she attempted to switch directions the troll was already too close and she was forced to run onward.
In the library, Hermione ducked behind a shelf seconds before the troll came barreling in. It looked around, searching for her as it swung its club. Shelves shattered and books went flying, Hermione cringing as several pages no longer connected to their spines floated in front of her.
And then the shelf she was behind was knocked away. The troll was right above her, raising its club and bringing it down to smash her to bits. She rolled away before it could make contact.
Something zapped the troll on the back of its head and it turned around. Draco was standing near the libraries entrance, two statues of knights on either side of him. The knights charged forward their swords raised. The troll did the same with its club.
"Wingardium Leviosa!" shouted Hermione with a swing of her wand. She just missed the club as it came down on one of the knights, shattering it. Damn. "Distract him, Malfoy! Stay far enough away to keep his arm raised."
"You heard the woman!" he said to the remaining knight, both of them running off in opposite directions. The troll went for the knight first. Draco picked up a book and tossed it at the troll's head. It turned and looked at him. The knight did the same. It turned back. Then Draco again.
"Not the books!" shouted Hermione, holding her head in agony.
"Sorry, Granger, but if it's my life or a book's, I'll choose me every time. Now get on with whatever it was you were doing! The faster you end this, the more books you can save." He picked up and tossed another.
Hermione grunted and raised her wand. She moved it around with the club. The troll seemed to be caught in an endless loop and it was easy to predict its movements.
"Wingardium Leviosa!" She got it!
The troll looked at the club confused, and Hermione took this moment to swing it back and smack the troll hard in the head. Its eyes rolled back in its head as it fell backwards, landing with a hard thump that made the whole room shake.
Draco hurried forward and used his wand to bind the troll. When that was done, he looked at Hermione and said, "Don't worry, they're unbreakable."
She nodded and collapsed to her knees. "You came back," she said, looking up at him.
"Came back?" he said, pursing his brow. "Did you actually think I was going to leave you alone to fight a bloody troll?"
Hermione said nothing.
Draco huffed. "I only went off to get us reinforcements. I thought you heard me when I said I'd be right back."
She shook her head.
Footsteps sounded down the corridor just outside of the library and they both looked over to see Headmistress McGonagall and Hagrid run inside.
"Good heavens! What has happened here?" asked McGonagall, looking sharply between Hermione and Draco.
Draco simply pointed and said, "A troll got in."
"Yes, I can see that, Mr. Malfoy. But how ... where ... Hagrid, please get this thing out of here at once," she ordered.
Hagrid stepped forward and grabbed the troll's feet. He glanced over at Hermione, who was now sitting completely on the floor with her back pressed against a knocked over shelf.
"Yeh all righ', Hermione?" he asked.
Hermione nodded. "Yes, thank you, Hagrid."
"Yeh still comin' over fer tea tomorrow?"
"Yes, I'll be there around noon."
Hagrid smiled and dragged the troll away.
McGonagall suddenly noticed the knight statue, which was now standing beside her.
"Sorry about that, Profes - I mean, Headmistress," said Draco. "Return to your post."
The knight bowed, grabbing the few pieces of his fallen comrade that remained before leaving the library.
McGonagall looked around the room and sighed. "I suppose we can take care of this in the morning. I will trace back where the troll came from. The two of you should return to your dorms and report to me in the morning."
"Yes, Headmistress," they both said as she exited.
"Her trace is going to end at your escape hole," said Hermione. "Sorry."
Draco shrugged as he walked over and sat down beside her. "I have others. But what I don't get is how a bloody troll found its way in. They've never found that hole before."
"It was a mountain troll, so it's probably been wandering this way for awhile. It must've seen us come out or something."
"Oh," said Draco. While Hermione stared into space, he stared down at all of the torn books, gathering them and putting them into some sort of formation.
When Hermione's eyes focused again, he was nearly finished. The corner of her mouth twitched as she realized he was making a Christmas tree out of books. Once that was done, he took one of the random pages laying about and folded it into a star, propping it on top of his tree. Hermione flicked her wand and it started twinkling.
"Happy fucking Christmas, am I right?" he said, leaning his head against the fallen shelf. He reached into his pocket and pulled something out. "Oh, bloody hell."
Hermione looked and saw a red rose garnished with holly, only it was broken right where the stem met the bud, hanging on by a thread.
"I got this for you," he said, handing it over.
Hermione blinked as she stared at the rose. "Why?" she asked.
"I don't know," he said with a shrug. "You seemed sad earlier so I got you this to cheer you up. And ..." He reached back into his pocket, biting his lip as he searched and smiling triumphantly as he came out with several peppermint toads and some fudge in a small bag.
Hermione took the broken flower first. Once Draco had a free hand, he lifted his wand and fixed the stem. As Hermione held it the bud began to bloom. She looked from the rose to the makeshift Christmas tree, and then began to cry. Draco didn't say anything, just sat there and waited beside her.
"I'm sorry," she said after several minutes of tears.
"What for?" he asked, popping a piece of fudge into his mouth.
"For crying. For earlier. You're right, I am sad. I am really, really sad that I'm not with my parents for Christmas. I've only seen them once since I went on the run last year and I just ... I miss them."
"So why not the Weasleys then? I thought they were, like, your other family or something," he said, handing her a peppermint toad.
Hermione sighed and said, "It's complicated." She opened her toad and bit off its head before it could go anywhere.
"Then go on and tell me about it," said Draco, kicking out his legs and making himself comfortable. "I've got nowhere else to be."
Hermione smiled and did the same. And so she and Draco talked about everything. About her. About him. About their parents and Ron and how Theo's dad was one of the people his parents had to testify against tomorrow as part of the deal they took to be pardoned. Their friendship was on the rocks because of it, obviously, and he wasn't sure what to do about it.
After several hours on that library floor, a few pieces of candy weren't cutting it, so the two of them headed for the kitchen. Hermione, of course, refused the assistance of the house-elves and Draco watched while she made spaghetti.
Hermione was surprised by how good it felt to talk to him, and that sarcasm of his that usually annoyed her was now making her laugh so hard tears came out of her eyes.
By the time the two of them were finished with their food, it was already well after midnight. They walked through the halls together, only stopping when they reached the spot where they would have to separate. One direction led to the Gryffindor Tower, the other to the Slytherin Dungeon.
"I'll see you in the morning, Malfoy," said Hermione, even though she made no attempt to move. He didn't either.
A small twinkling sound came from above them and they both looked up. Something was growing out of the stone archway. A green plant which could only be one thing.
"Oh, would you look at that," said Draco, looking back at her and smirking. "Mistletoe."
"Did you do that?" she asked.
"No. Did you?"
"No," she said, eyeing him suspiciously.
"It wasn't me," he said defensively.
Hermione stared back at the mistletoe. When she looked at Draco again he was watching her. She took a deep breath before leaning forward. He did the same.
The moment their lips touched, an electrical surge ran through Hermione's body, the tiny hairs on the back of her neck prickling as something she had never felt before tingled inside of her. The kiss was soft and slow, his hand coming up to cup her cheek while hers remained awkwardly by her sides. When they pulled away, their eyes remained locked.
Draco gulped. "I lied. I did do that."
Hermione nodded and said, "I know," before plunging her lips back onto his. Her arms flew up and wrapped around his neck while his held tightly onto her back, pressing her body hard against his. This kiss was much hungrier than the last, their tongues becoming entwined and their bodies growing hot. She had never wanted someone like this before, so bad that it hurt.
But she couldn't. Not here. Not like this.
Hermione reluctantly pulled away, both of them panting as Draco still held onto her, gazing at her with confused eyes.
"I have to go," she said, but without making a move.
Draco shook his head. "Come to my dorm with me."
To Hermione, nothing had ever sounded so exciting and so frightening at the same time. She shook her head. "I can't."
"I'm not propositioning you, Granger," he said, loosening his hold on her. "I just ..." He sighed. "I want you there. No one should be alone on Christmas."
She smiled softly. "That's what you said about Christmas Eve."
"They go hand-in-hand."
Her smile faded as she gazed into those desperate and sad eyes, wanting something she didn't think she could give.
"Please," he said, his voice but a whisper.
Hermione sighed. She leaned forward and kissed his cheek. "Goodnight, Malfoy."
Draco released her and she turned quickly.
"I'll be up for awhile!" he called down the corridor to her. "The password is mistletoe!"
Hermione didn't look back, getting all the way to her dorm before finally being able to breathe again. The first thing she did when she got there was take the rose he had given her out of her pocket. She gazed at it for a long moment, then put it down with a sigh.
As Hermione changed her clothes, she started to reflect on everything that had happened that day. How had a small encounter with Draco Malfoy ended with a kiss under the mistletoe?
And then, as she plopped down on her bed, she remembered. It was the troll. She had learned from past experience that there were some things you couldn't share without ending up liking each other, and knocking out a twelve-foot mountain troll was one of them. Of course, the amount of 'like' involved was a case to case basis. But what had just happened downstairs ...
Hermione shoved her head into her pillow and screamed. Why did she want to go back down there so badly? She had a boyfriend. Maybe. But, then, maybe not. She really didn't know, and that was an obvious indicator that the relationship wasn't going well.
And it was Christmas. And she was alone.
Hermione rested her head properly on her pillow and stared over at the rose. He had gotten that for her even before the troll. Because he thought she looked sad. But she had thought he looked sad, because he was. They both were. And there was no reason why they couldn't be sad together.
Jumping off of her bed, Hermione put on her robe and slippers. She headed out of her room, down the stairs and out of Gryffindor Tower, not stopping until she was in the dungeon in front of stone wall. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath.
The wall opened up a passageway and Hermione stepped through. She did not stop until she was in the entrance to the Slytherin common room, her eyes darting around until she found Draco standing by the fireplace.
He turned around, blinked and smiled. "Welcome, Granger. I've been expecting you."
Hermione and Draco's eyes did not break contact, their hearts beating fast and their breaths shallow. And then Hermione was taking that final step into the common room, the passageway leading out shutting behind her.