DISCLAIMER: I do NOT own Harry Potter.
Thank you D/Hr-Advent Admins for giving me the opportunity to write for your lovely fest.
Thank you to my beta, LadyCamille17, MrBenzedrine-art and LastbornSlytherin-art, who drew the inspiration for the fic, and Safewordisdevilssnare,
It was the first Christmas after the war and the excitement of celebrating it was felt all throughout Wizarding Britain. The Ministry held a big celebration for the wizarding citizens at the town square. A massive tent was set up to accommodate everyone in attendance, and inside were several long tables, reminiscent of those in the Great Hall. They decorated the venue with ice sculptures, faerie lights, Christmas trees, champagne fountains, and buffet tables set up on every side of the room. When the doors opened at exactly six in the evening, wizards and witches from all walks of life joined the Yuletide feast.
Everyone cheered when the Minister gave his speech and presented the heroes of the war, the Order Members, to the crowd. Soon, some of the guests started mingling, while some started dancing to the songs that The Wicked Sisters were playing. Anywhere you look, you'd see people laughing and having fun, but in the far corner of the room, away from prying eyes, a certain blond wizard sat by his lonesome, drowning himself in firewhiskey and self-pity.
"Hey Ferret, drinking solo again? Don't tell me this is gonna be your new normal."
Draco narrowed his eyes at Ron Weasley, who approached him with a drink of his own. He took a swig of firewhiskey and cocked an eyebrow at the ginger. "Feel free to join me, Weasel. After all, they do say that misery loves company, right?"
The young Auror guffawed loudly, congratulating the Slytherin for finally obtaining a sense of humour. When he finally settled in his seat, he took one look at the blond and sighed. He didn't exactly volunteer to approach the sulking young fellow, but he was a better option than an intoxicated Pansy Parkinson. Ron still believed they should've straightened this out with their two friends a year ago; unfortunately, none of them had the guts to ask.
The crowd erupted in cheer, making the ginger jump. "Bloody hell! Couldn't that matchmaking mistletoe pick a better time to pop up?"
"Who is it this time?"
"Parkinson and Longbottom," Ron replied.
"Odd couple," Draco smirked before taking another swig of firewhiskey.
"You're one to talk."
Draco sighed, there it was at long last. He expected them to make a comment about his budding friendship with Hermione a year ago, but no one ever did.
"Sorry," the ginger Auror said quietly. He saw the blond nod and emptied his glass of alcohol. "But while we're on the topic -"
"She said we're just friends."
"What else is there to do, Weasel? I tried my best to make her see that we can be good together," the dashing blond said before taking a deep breath. "I guess she never really thought of me as something more."
"I never thought I'd say this, Ferret, but I think you were a better option than Krum."
Draco smirked and shifted his gaze to the snow-covered street where a couple walked hand-in-hand. He sighed. Even the twosome that the Matchmaking Mistletoe paired up were taking things to the next level, he thought. He had no one to blame but himself - if he had stopped himself from falling for Hermione Granger, he wouldn't have had any wounds to lick. He shifted his gaze back to the party, missing out on seeing how someone hurrying to the tent had bumped into the couple outside. As he watched Pansy and Neville dancing, he thought of the past twelve months, trying to figure out exactly when the brilliant brunette managed to get under his skin.
No one remembers when it started and no one bothered to ask about it either. When Draco and his friends first arrived at the Order's Headquarters, he and Hermione argued every single day for a week and threw hexes at each other twice or thrice. Their relationship changed when she refused to leave him despite his injuries during a raid, which eventually led to a truce between the two brilliant teens.
What started as a truce between them had turned into something more in a matter of weeks. Draco found himself comforting the comely brunette while she mourned for Dobby, and she gave him a shoulder to cry on when his father disowned him. If their friends were ever bothered by how close they've become, they never said anything. Hermione and Draco were partners during missions and game nights at the Headquarters, where they were unbeatable.
They became even better friends right after the Final Battle. A month into the new school year, they became inseparable - Draco carried her books while Hermione led him to class. He'd study with her at the library, while she'd visit him at the pitch during team practice. Soon, she was wearing his scarf and jumper, while he kept her HeadGirl pin in his pocket for good luck. She'd wait for him outside the Great Hall in the morning so they can have breakfast together at the Gryffindor table, while he'd engage her in a conversation while they had dinner at the Slytherin table. One Saturday evening, when their little group convened at the Room of Requirement, Luna Lovegood couldn't keep her thoughts to herself.
"Are you two together now?" The room fell silent as Luna shifted her gaze between Draco and Hermione. "I think that it looks good on you both. There's a really beautiful yellow glow around you."Hermione glanced sideways at the dashing Slytherin who took a swig off his glass of Firewhiskey, and giggled. "That's very kind of you, Luna, but Draco and I are just friends," she replied.
They started holding hands a few weeks later. Their friends immediately caught on the subtle way she leaned on the dashing blond and the gentle manner in which he tucked a stray strand of her curly brown hair. He kissed her goodnight when he walked her back to the Head's Dormitories after the Halloween Ball. It was far from romantic, more like a peck on the cheek. She blushed and bade him pleasant dreams, and he slept through the night with a smile on his face. Blaise Zabini almost choked on his coffee when he saw the brilliant Gryffindor plant a kiss on Draco's cheek the next morning when she sat with him for breakfast.
"So," the dusky Italian said, as soon as he regained his composure. "It seems like you both had a fun evening. I take it you've finally gotten together?"The comely brunette laughed heartily, as she rested her head on Draco's shoulder. "You're quite a funny guy, Blaise, no wonder girls go crazy over you. Draco and I are just friends, I thought we'd said that when Luna asked a few weeks ago."
It snowed early that year. Halfway through November, he found himself hating the snow and the substitute Flying Professor who'd come all the way from Bulgaria upon Headmistress McGonagall's request. While most of the students were eagerly waiting for Viktor Krum to grace their halls, Draco wished the Bulgarian Seeker wouldn't come at all. He became moody and snapped at her, but she took his hand and assured him that nothing would change even if her former suitor arrived.
He should've known better than to trust what she'd said. Everything changed the moment the Bulgarian saw her at the Great Hall during breakfast. He broke protocol by sitting across her at the Slytherin table, much to his dismay. Like him, Viktor wanted to spend time with the comely Gryffindor every chance he gets - he took his meals with them and followed them to the Library. The burly Bulgarian accompanied her as she watched Draco's practices, and escorted her to Hogsmeade alongside Draco.
If their friends had started placing bets on which wizard would win Hermione's heart, he certainly couldn't blame them. For the past three weeks, there seemed to be an unspoken rivalry between him and the substitute professor - each looking to outdo the other in winning the favour of the comely brunette.
She broke his heart on the night of the Yule Ball. The present he ordered for her arrived late, and by the time he entered the Great Hall, she had been dancing with Viktor just like she did a few years back. Draco rolled his eyes and inched his way towards her, hoping to cut in when the next song played. When he was right behind the dancing couple, he heard her speak.
"Draco and I are just friends, Viktor. That's all we're ever gonna be!"
The rest of the evening was a blur, all he knew was that Theo and Blaise led him out of the dance floor and his friends took turns keeping him entertained. He couldn't remember how he ended up in his room nor who tucked him in. He wanted to stay in bed until the holidays were over, but his friends didn't let him.
The last time he saw her was at the train ride to King's Cross wearing his scarf over her jacket, much to his dismay. She tried to approach him, but he kept moving away.
"Are you avoiding me?"
He jumped at the sound of her voice when she finally cornered him in one of the compartments. He rolled his eyes and tried to step out, but she was quick to block him. "Please step out of my way, Granger."
She grabbed his arm and looked at him pleadingly. "Draco, please! I want to know why you're acting like this. What did I do to you?"
He tugged his arm free and narrowed his eyes at her. "Go back to your boyfriend, Granger -"
"But I want to know -"
"What's the big deal? We're just friends anyway," he sneered and walked away.
The crowd cheered again and brought him back to his senses. The Matchmaking Mistletoe must've made another appearance, he thought. As he moved to check which lucky couple the Mistletoe chose this time, his eyes landed on a curly-haired brunette who slowly made her way towards him. He stood to leave, but he realized that Weasley had somehow managed to glue him in place. He silently cursed the ginger Auror and made a mental note to hex him, while he watched the stubborn woman approach.
"Draco," she said quietly as soon as she came face-to-face with the charming Slytherin.
"Granger," he replied indifferently. "No boyfriend today?"
"Viktor and I are -"
"Let me guess, you're just friends, right? Oh please, Granger, stop using that on every single guy you know."
"But it's true, Viktor and I are just friends," she insisted. "Maybe I was too blind to see it before, but he helped me fix that. In fact, I came here to tell you that I miss you and that I don't want to be just friends with you anymore."
"I told everyone we're friends because I didn't want to hear you say it first," Hermione said as she blushed furiously. "I've always hoped you'd say you wanted something more, but when you didn't, I assumed you only saw me as a friend."
He held her face in his hands, as he brushed her tears with his thumb. "You're an idiot, Granger," he smirked. "I'm crazy about you. I fucking love you."
"And I love you too, you stubborn ass," she said as she threw her arms around him, and raised her lips to meet his.
Cheers erupted as the Matchmaking Mistletoe appeared again, but Draco couldn't care less. Today, he'd graduated from being just her friend, and he didn't need the Mistletoe to tell him that.