The Competition: Strictly Dramione's A Very Dramione Halloween Drabble/One-shot Writing Contest

The Prompt: Hermione had never really been interested in pumpkin carving; it was a messy sort of event. And to be fair, she'd never been very interested in Draco Malfoy either.

"If you're ever going to learn, Granger, don't you think on Halloween is the best choice?"

Author's Note: Much love to LaBelladone x for beta-reading this piece!

I am thrilled, humbled and incredibly honoured to say that this piece won first place in the Strictly Dramione Halloween fest. I'm so thankful to everyone who read and voted, and to be a part of such an amazing Dramione community.

Disclaimer: I do not own any part of the Harry Potter franchise.

Hermione froze as she entered her common room one Saturday afternoon, having spent much of the day in Hogsmeade with Ginny, Luna and Neville, wandering the cobbled streets, visiting shops and sipping Butterbeers.

The downside to being granted the honour of Head Girl, with her own common room, was the unfortunate side effect that came in the form of her roommate, the Head Boy. Who happened to be none other than Draco Malfoy.

While her instinctive first reaction had been shock, she understood the reasoning - and the implications - behind McGonagall's decision in granting him the same privilege amongst the students. No one had come out of the war without being impacted in some way and it had become increasingly obvious he was attempting to move on, as they all were.

Malfoy had chosen to return to Hogwarts to re-do his seventh year and complete his NEWTs, as had Hermione and a handful of other students from their class. While she had observed the prejudice and hatred thrown his way from both sides following the war, Hermione had had very little involvement with her roommate; both largely keeping to themselves with few rare exceptions. She feared this might be one of them.

"Granger," he said, looking up as she wiped the gaping expression from her face and stepped into the common room, closing the large wooden door behind her. "Happy Halloween."

"Happy Halloween to you as well, Malfoy," she returned politely.

"No costume?" he clipped, tutting.

"Right, well," she offered, folding her arms across her front. He wasn't wearing a costume either. In fact, he was simply wearing his school oxford despite it being the weekend, the top few buttons undone and his silver and green silk tie loosened and tossed casually over one shoulder.

On the table before him was a large, orange pumpkin that he seemed to be inspecting with significant interest. As he tilted and observed the pumpkin from different angles, he glanced up at Hermione as she skirted past, destined for her bedroom.

"Care to join me?" he queried flippantly, his grey eyes meeting hers, a pale brow arched.

"What exactly are you doing?" she asked, gnashing her lower lip with her teeth.

He gave her a baffled look, glanced down at the pumpkin and the array of tools beside it, then back to Hermione, crunching absently on a crisp green apple.

"What does it look like?"

"It looks like you're carving a pumpkin but that can't be correct," she said, rolling her eyes. She set down the bags she had been carrying from Hogsmeade; clearly she wouldn't be escaping so easily to her room.

He gazed at her for a moment, a smirk slipping languidly to his lips. "You're under the impression that pumpkin carving is a Muggle activity and that I would never partake in such a thing, aren't you?"

"Isn't it?" Hermione asked, eyes wide. Somehow she had never considered the origins of pumpkin carving, as it had never been an activity her family had participated in.

Malfoy actually laughed, a short bark of amusement.

"No, Granger, not originally," he said then paused. He ran a hand through his hair as he selected a blade from his array of tools, stabbing it into the top of the pumpkin, several inches from the stem. He looked back to her, a grin crossing his features. Hermione glanced to the floor, willing the heat in her cheeks to fade at his attractive, though rare, smile. "Don't tell me this is something I know and you don't?"

"I've never paid much attention to pumpkin carving," she responded with a flippant shrug, refusing to rise to the bait. "I've never done it, myself. My parents always claimed it was just a creative way to make a mess and the pumpkins don't last anyway."

"Never," he repeated, disbelief tainting his tone. He lifted his wand, making a duplicate of his pumpkin. "Then you have no choice; you have to join me."

"I'm not interested, really," she said, glancing back up.

"Granger," he said, tilting his head with a purposeful stare. "Carve the damn pumpkin."

"I don't know what to do." Her voice came out smaller than she intended, another soft flush creeping to her face.

"Merlin," he said, shaking his head. "If you're ever going to learn, Granger, don't you think Halloween is the best time?"

"Fine," she said after a long pause. She shrugged out of her cardigan; the fire kept the room plenty warm. "What do I do?"

He rolled his eyes, walking over, handing her the blade.

"First you need to remove the top so you can divulge it of its contents," he stated matter-of-factly. Hermione crinkled her nose in distaste. He gestured to his own pumpkin, having done the same. "See mine?"

"Okay," Hermione muttered, digging the blade into the top of her pumpkin and following suit. "I can't see your parents carving pumpkins."

"My parents?" he questioned, smirking. "Oh, hell no. They would never. Pandy, one of the elves, taught me as a child. She had come from a different household where pumpkin carving was an annual tradition. I haven't in a number of years now but I thought - why not?"

"Indeed," Hermione murmured, successfully creating a lid for her pumpkin. "Now what?"

She glanced to Malfoy, eyes widening in horror. He had rolled up his sleeves and inserted his entire arm into his pumpkin, coming out with a large handful of flesh and seeds, dumping it into a bowl.

"Surely that can be done with magic," she said weakly, peering into her own pumpkin.

"Don't you dare," he scolded, eyes narrowing. "You're getting the full pumpkin carving experience today, Granger."

Taking a deep, hesitant breath, Hermione reached into the pumpkin. She cringed at the cold, stringy flesh as it ripped away, the slimy seeds slipping from her hand and the squelching sounds it made.

"This is so unpleasant," she whispered to herself, eyes slipping shut momentarily as she briefly debated whether it was too late to still escape to her room. Glancing over at Malfoy, he appeared to be watching her with poorly concealed mirth.

"The origin of Jack-o-Lanterns began in Ireland," Malfoy stated after some time and Hermione found herself oddly grateful for the distraction from the seemingly endless contents of her pumpkin. "There was an old urban myth about a man named Stingy Jack -"

Hermione snorted and he glanced sidelong at her, one eyebrow raised. "You're making this up."

"Am not," he sniffed as he continued to work on his pumpkin. "Anyway, Stingy Jack twice deceived the devil, trapping him in an alternate form so that he would promise not to come for Jack for a period of time or to claim his soul. When Jack died, he was disallowed into Heaven for his unsavoury acts, but neither was he allowed into Hell, the devil angry with him still at being misled. So he sent Stingy Jack away with merely a piece of burning coal, which Jack placed into a hollowed turnip. Legend has it, Stingy Jack roams still today and people carve Jack-o-Lanterns to ward him off."

"Fascinating," Hermione murmured. Malfoy was scourgifying the mess from his hands and arms and Hermione walked over, agape as she looked into his cleaned out pumpkin. "How have you done that so fast?"

"I haven't made a show of being disgusted by each handful," he said pointedly and Hermione scowled as she continued on, her pumpkin still half full.

They fell into a surprisingly companionable silence as Hermione focused on finishing the arduous task of emptying the contents of her large pumpkin and Malfoy began to plot the carving of his own.

Hermione glanced up after several minutes, watching him as he lifted a smaller blade, fiddling with it meticulously. "You know, you aren't terrible company."

"What a stunning compliment, Granger," he drawled sarcastically. Then he looked up towards her, blond hair falling in his grey eyes and he smirked. Hermione once more felt that obnoxious flush rise to her cheeks. He really was exceedingly handsome - if one was into the blond, brooding, Slytherin thing. Which she wasn't.

"I simply meant," she said, stubbornly looking away, "that you are much easier to get on with this year. But yet you rarely speak."

He gazed at her, his expression unreadable. Then he sighed, setting down the knife.

"I almost didn't come back this year," he stated, carding his fingers through his already disheveled hair. "I was sure I knew how the other students would react. And I wasn't wrong. Though to be honest, I don't really care and I can handle students well enough. I dealt with much worse last year, as we all did. But to be entirely candid with you, Granger, I've grown tired of fighting and hatred and judgement. I merely wanted to come back, complete my NEWTs, and carry on with my life. Keeping to myself has just been simpler."

Hermione looked across the table at him, her brow furrowed. "That's very honest of you."

"Well," he said, the ghost of a smirk on his lips, "don't get too used to it."

"You can…" she trailed off, chewing her lip. "You can talk to me, if you like."

"You've got your own demons, Granger," he said dismissively, but something in his softened expression seemed to appreciate the sentiment. "I've heard the nightmares."

"Likewise," she whispered, embarrassed.

"Ah," he stated, looking away. "Silencing charms all around, then." Despite herself, Hermione laughed at his attempt at humour, grateful for the break in the tension. She tilted her head, staring at him a moment longer before returning to her work.

A few minutes later, Hermione was satisfied with the interior of her pumpkin.

"How do I create its face?" she asked, looking around to see his pumpkin which he subtly moved to block. He had drawn up a seat and was very intently focused on the detail of whatever he was making. "What are you carving?"

"You can draw it on first or just start carving," he said with a shrug, ignoring her question. "Whichever you prefer."

Hermione picked up a self-inking quill, hesitating over the round face of the pumpkin as she considered what to draw. Then she set the quill down, picked up a blade in its place and with a roll of her shoulders, began to carve freehand.

"Good girl," Malfoy murmured with the briefest of smirks.

Hermione, having never carved a pumpkin, struggled with the angles and the curves and settled on a rather generic Jack-o-Lantern face, with triangular eyes and nose, and a jagged, toothy mouth. She cleaned up the rough edges with her wand as she went, and if Malfoy noticed, he did not say anything.

As she was beginning the mouth Hermione glanced up to see Malfoy staring at her, those grey eyes aglow with something she couldn't quite place. She quickly looked away as she felt the rush of blood to her face once more, silently cursing the tell. Over the two months since they had been back at Hogwarts, especially having spent time in close quarters with him, Hermione had come to accept how attractive Malfoy really was - something she had always been content with ignoring given the abhorrent way he had treated her.

But beyond that, it had become difficult to continue hating him, seeing how much he had grown and matured as a person. He was different, in an enigmatic, complicated sort of way and she had felt increasingly drawn to him.

He turned back to his work and presently laid down his knife, satisfied with his work. Then he walked over to Hermione's side of the table to observe her work from behind her and she tried to ignore his close proximity but felt his presence all too well. Once she remembered to breathe, she made the last few cuts in the face of her pumpkin.

Her entire body seized up as he stepped in closer; she could feel the heat rolling off his body but didn't dare turn around. Unwittingly, she flinched at the feel of his breath on the back of her neck, a shiver running the length of her spine as she clenched her knife tighter.

"Set the blade down, Granger," he breathed. Her initial shock passed and she did as he asked.

"What are you doing?" she hissed, turning her head to him.

"Halloween is so fascinating," he murmured, grazing a hand across her hip. Impulsively, she jumped at the contact. She suspected he had ignored her question again. "People pretending to be things they aren't. And pretense is such a curious thing."

Hermione stood on the spot in abject terror; torn between running as far from him as she could or discovering his intentions. The brief contact had set her skin ablaze and she consciously forced her breathing to return to normal, acutely aware of the closeness between his chest and her back.

"I know a thing or two about pretending," he went on, his voice barely above a whisper as he squeezed her hip now, emboldened by the fact that she hadn't instantly shoved him away. "For instance, I spent seven years pretending I hated you, pretending I didn't respect your intelligence and admire your tenacity."

Hermione found herself speechless, as she turned her head to look at him but he was facing down, gazing absently at the column of her throat. He gathered her hair loosely in one hand, sweeping the mass of curls over her opposite shoulder. Hermione couldn't have moved if she tried.

"For three years, I've pretended not to see you, pretended you meant nothing to me," he continued at Hermione's stunned silence. "When you were at the Manor, I pretended not to care whether you lived or died. Because it was required of me." He said the word mockingly.

Malfoy ducked in, his lips brushing against her neck, a feather-light caress and Hermione instantly made to move away, finding her senses, but her legs had turned against her and her knees buckled as she lost her balance. He caught her easily, grasping her arms with his slender fingers, drawing her against him so that her back met the warmth of his body.

"You're lying," she whispered, pleadingly, finally reunited with her voice.

"For once, I'm not," he returned, his tone matching hers. "Since September I've ignored you because I thought it was easier to deny myself the truth. But it's exhausting and I just - I can't, anymore."

Hermione closed her eyes as his words sunk in, her brow furrowed and there was something in his voice that she couldn't even comprehend. He tilted her head, one hand sliding into her hair, and pressed another kiss to the sensitive skin beneath the curve of her jaw.

"And you," he murmured and Hermione could feel his smirk against her skin. Unwillingly, she sunk further back into him, overcome with the sensation. "You're good at it, too. I've seen you this year, pretending you aren't curious; aren't attracted." Hermione made a sound of discontent and he hesitated. "If I'm wrong, walk away now."

He wasn't wrong. She couldn't walk away. Her only response was to drop her head back to his shoulder and he ghosted more open-mouthed kisses across her neck, her skin scalding at the contact as he snaked an arm around her waist, hitching her tighter against him.

Hermione's brain flew into overdrive at the sudden turn of events but all she could process was the feel of his hard chest against her, his hands playing across her skin. And his words - the way his words crept into her mind, painting the many years of memories of him with doubt.

"Pretend with me, Granger," he murmured, his tone tinged with longing, his face buried in her shoulder, "pretend there isn't this astronomical divide between us. You don't hate me and I wasn't raised to hate you, and we exist in some world where there could actually be a chance for us. Please."

He choked out the last word and Hermione turned her head to the side, just enough to meet his grey eyes and they were open and honest and haunted. She was surprised to the bone she had never seen it before.

Those eyes that repeated the word. Please. His arms that clutched her closer, as if she would dissolve to a wisp and float away into the air if he let her go.

As if of its own accord, her hand lifted and entwined in the fine blond hair at the base of his skull, her fingers trembling. She tilted her head to face him closer; his lips were parted as he gazed at her, as if seeing her for the first time.

It was all she could say. "Okay."

His lips crushed hers in an instant, impassioned and discordant, and Hermione was immediately struck with the poignant thought that he needed someone as much as she did and she found herself kissing him, desperately, with abandon. He broke away for a moment, only long enough to turn her to face him but not nearly long enough for Hermione to catch her breath or her mind.

Then he was kissing her again, his hands on her face and Hermione couldn't even comprehend how they had ended up here but she knew she couldn't have let go if she tried. Then he slowed, the urgency replaced with something subtler and Hermione found her back to the wall of the common room, his lips once more on her throat as his hands skimmed her breasts, teasingly.

He drew back, meeting her eyes. The vulnerability was less so but she knew what to look for now and she didn't know how he had hid it so well for so long.

"Sorry," he murmured with a smirk, his hands resting on her arms, "I've needed to do that for a long time."

Her hands fisted in his collared shirt as she gazed at him, imagining the lust in his expression to match hers.

"It's okay," she whispered, drawing him in for another kiss. "I didn't know how badly I needed it too, I guess."

"So you know," he continued, his forehead touching hers briefly as his breathing slowed, "I don't expect anything of you. I could never ask you to accept me for all I've done. I just… needed you to know."

Before Hermione could say anything more he had pressed one last kiss to her forehead and with a conflicted look somewhere between a smile and a grimace, he was gone to his room.

Hermione stared after him, heart pounding furiously in her chest. She could still feel his hands upon her and the sudden loss of heat was profound.

She didn't know what she had expected - but it wasn't this.

Out of her periphery she caught sight of the pumpkins and it felt ridiculous now to look at them; hers with its bizarre and poorly conceived face, as if it were laughing at her.

She glanced across the common room to Malfoy's door, the short distance feeling impossibly great. There had been nothing disingenuous about all he had said and she felt an intense, inexplicable desire to go to him.

She took a few hesitant steps around the table and, out of interest more than anything, looked down at his pumpkin. Her heart seized and began to race again.

There, carved plainly but expertly into the face of his pumpkin, was her. Curls resting about the shoulders, a soft upward curve upon the lips and a sparkle to the eyes. How he had managed so much detail, she didn't know.

Hermione stared at the pumpkin for a long moment in awe, at the precise lines and the way he had somehow infused the expression with such pure emotion.

She suddenly and very badly wanted to know him. To learn who he truly was. If it was all a front, who was he really? She felt desperate to learn.

Her feet carried her across the room without any considerable thought and she had knocked on his door before nerves could overtake her and force her to overthink the situation, as she was prone to do.

After what felt like minutes but was probably seconds, he opened the door. He pursed his lips, running a hand through his hair. Hermione's eyes followed the movement as she stared at him.

"Look, Granger, I'm sorry," he began before she could speak, "I never should've done that."

"Probably not," she agreed, chewing her lower lip, "but you did and I didn't ask you not to." Her voice dropped to a whisper as she stared at him, a surge of curiosity and compassion flowing through her. She took a step closer, looking up at him as he gazed back at her, blank and expressionless.

"I want to know the version of you that doesn't pretend," she said in a breath.

His eyes widened in surprise and disbelief and he swallowed heavily.

"That version is buried," he said and Hermione could see the sorrow deep within his eyes. "Buried and so damaged."

Steeling her nerves, Hermione reached toward him, slipping her hand into his. He entwined their fingers.

"I know about damaged things," she offered quietly. She squeezed his hand, "and I know they can be fixed."

Then she grasped his face and drew him toward her, kissing him again. And when his tongue met hers, his hands pulling her impossibly closer, Hermione could taste his relief, his hope.

"I swear," he muttered with a smirk when they broke apart, "I only meant to carve a pumpkin."

Hermione laughed, tracing patterns on his shirt with a smile. "Happy Halloween, Malfoy."