The Fest: Strictly Dramione's Secret Santa Fic Exchange 2017

The Prompt: Draco and Hermione are stuck working together on a case that takes them away from their loved ones for Christmas. Can they put aside rivalries to take a break and enjoy the holidays?

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

Draco Malfoy gazed keenly through the window of a third floor hotel room overlooking Prague's Old Town Square. Imposing evergreens towered above the Square, blanketed with bright lights twinkling in the dusk sky.

Across the Square, Draco could plainly see the old medieval astronomical clock, amidst the diverse assortment of Gothic and Baroque architectural structures.

The ordinarily bustling pedestrian precinct was nearly silent, tourists and peddlers alike having turned in for the night, in a nostalgic sort of anticipation of the Christmas morning to come. It was a sharp contrast to the excitement earlier in the day, and the past week as a whole, when the renowned Prague Christmas market had been in full swing.

Generally, Draco would have appreciated the omniscient history and beauty of the Czech capital, but tonight he felt only anxious dismay.

"Remind me," he drawled, turning to the other occupant of the room, "why we can't take one night away from this stuffy room? Honestly, it's highly unlikely this smuggling ring will decide to move a shipment of Demiguises on Christmas Eve."

His partner didn't immediately answer, instead finishing the page she was reading. She carefully marked her place and set the book down, rolling her chocolate-brown eyes.

"Unlikely, yes," Hermione responded, "but someone has to be here in case they do. Imagine those poor Demiguises if they do try to smuggle them tonight and we weren't here?"

"We would have an abundance of invisibility cloak incidents on our hands in the coming months," Draco replied with a smirk. At her widened eyes and her sudden furious intake of breath, Draco held up a hand, allowing the smirk to slide from his face. "Relax, Granger, I don't want to see those Demiguises turned into cloaks any more than you do."

"I do agree that spending Christmas here, with you, isn't ideal," she said sniffily. "But this is our first major case and it's an honour to be trusted with a task of this magnitude."

"Be real, Granger," he huffed, "we're only here because the DMLE doesn't trust me and you, as my partner, got roped in by default. I'd hardly call this a major case."

"Important, then," Hermione responded. "Those Demiguises need us. We've been tracking the location of the trade for weeks, it's only appropriate we're here to prevent it from occurring."

"I just don't see it happening tonight," he said. He collapsed on the other side of the couch from Hermione and she gingerly tucked her feet beneath her. "Besides, all of this equipment will basically do the job for us, if it were to happen."

He waved an arm at the various tools and gadgets whirring and clicking on a table by the window.

"The equipment will detect the Demiguises, but we still need to be here to take down the ring," Hermione said, returning to her book. After a moment she set it back down irritably, turning to him. "You aren't the only one who had other plans for Christmas, you know."

"Going carolling with Potter and Weasley? Baking cookies the Muggle way with your parents?" Draco smirked.

"None of the above," Hermione snapped, her eyes narrowed. "And must you antagonize me today? Can you not just be silent? Or at least civil?"

"We've been silent all week, Granger," he said with a sigh. "Staying in this room is driving me mad."

While their hotel suite comprised of a living space and a bedroom, with separate beds, it was still an extremely confined space for two people over any significant length of time.

"Fine, we'll be civil, then," she said with an exaggerated roll of the eyes. "And what were you going to be doing for Christmas, Malfoy?"

"Actually, Granger, if you must know," Draco couldn't keep the smirk from returning, "given that this is our first Christmas with Father in Azkaban, Mother and I were going to spend the holidays with my aunt Andromeda and cousin Teddy."

"Oh," Hermione replied, looking suitably chastened. She was silent for a long moment. "I wasn't aware you were in contact with them."

"Since the war," he responded quietly. "Mother and Andromeda have been attempting to mend their relationship."

"How is Andromeda doing?" she asked, nervously chewing her bottom lip.

"She is…" Draco trailed off, pondering, "as good as can be expected, I suppose. She appreciates having my mother around, and I think Teddy keeps her distracted."

"I can imagine," Hermione said, a hint of a smile playing about her lips. "He is quite a handful."

"Most definitely," Draco agreed. "So what were your actual plans?"

Hermione's eyes flickered to the watch at her wrist. Draco often wondered why she insisted on wearing a Muggle wristwatch but had never bothered to ask.

"I am currently missing a Christmas Eve gathering at Harry's house, with friends and Order members," she announced.

"Well, that sounds unpleasant," Draco stated conversationally.

"Come off it," Hermione said with a scoff, "I know you and Harry have been getting along at work lately. You're just sour you weren't invited."

"Not in the least, Granger," Draco corrected. "Potter I can tolerate, but too many Weasleys in one place and I start to convulse."

Hermione rolled her eyes at the exaggeration but a smile slipped onto her features. She stared at him for a long moment, deep in thought.

"Malfoy, why don't you go?" Hermione asked, softly. "We don't both need to give up our Christmas plans. And you're right, the chances that this exchange is going to happen tonight are slim."

"You can't be serious," he said, hesitating.

"Clearly, you'd rather not be here," she said with a shrug. "Just keep your coin on you in case something happens."

Draco fingered the charmed coin in his pocket, wondering if this was a test of some sort. He wouldn't put it past Granger.

But as he watched her pick up her book once more, her brown eyes dull and listless, he knew it wasn't. That she genuinely wanted him to be able to spend Christmas with his family, even though it would mean her spending the holiday alone. Draco swallowed the sudden and uncomfortable lump that had formed in his throat.

He watched her turn the page, sinking deeper into the couch with an almost inaudible sigh. Her lips were downturned with a slight frown, her brow furrowed and when Draco looked closely her eyes had stopped moving across the page.

"I'm staying," he found himself saying. She glanced sidelong at him, her eyes widening briefly in surprise.

"What about Christmas with your mother and Andromeda?" Hermione asked.

"They understand I've got to work," Draco said with a shrug. Somehow he didn't like the thought of leaving her alone in this hotel room on Christmas Eve. He swallowed, meeting her gaze. "You're my partner. We're in this together."

"You and I both know you didn't want me as a partner," she said dismissively but Draco heard a trace of humour in her tone.

"I didn't want anyone as a partner, Granger," he reminded her. "You were simply the only one who didn't refuse to work with a former Death Eater."

"Yes, well," Hermione said, looking down at her lap, "I believe in second chances."

Draco stared at her for a long moment, the way she was fidgeting with a loose thread on her jumper. It was true that she had been the only one to accept him as a partner, but she was also the reason he had even made it through Auror training. Most of the others wouldn't train with him. Many were vocally opposed to him even being allowed into the program.

Granger had subtly reminded the program coordinators that he had been acquitted in his trial following the end of the war in May. She had fought for him. He owed her.

"Granger, you go," he murmured. "Go to your gathering at Potter's. Or if you prefer, go in the morning. Are you spending Christmas day with your parents then?"

"Malfoy…" she breathed, trailing off.

"Because if you are," he continued, meeting her eyes uncomfortably, "you can go back to London and return when you're through. I don't mind."

"Malfoy," Hermione repeated, sharper, and Draco abruptly stopped speaking. "My parents are in Australia with no knowledge that I exist."

He felt as if the air had suddenly been slammed out of him as he stared blankly at Hermione. She was still picking at her jumper and Draco was unused to seeing her look so vulnerable.

"You… what?" he finally spluttered.

"I removed their memories of me before Harry, Ron and I left to search for Horcruxes," she explained, so quietly Draco had to strain to hear her. A wry smile slipped onto her features that didn't reach her eyes. "To protect them."

Draco stared at her in abject horror. A wave of something crashed over him; pity, or respect, or a combination of the two.

"Can't it be undone?" he asked, and she looked up to meet his eyes. She shook her head subtly.

"I've spoken with a team of healers. If it's possible, they don't know of a way."

"Granger, I…" he trailed off, running a hand through his hair, "I'm sorry."

"Not your fault," she breathed with a shrug. "They're happy there, at least."

Draco shook his head, rattled by the implications. He honestly didn't know what he could say to her that might possibly help.

"So, your real Christmas plans were to sit in London by yourself?" he asked, his brows knitted.

"No," she said, pointedly avoiding his gaze. "I have a Portkey to Brisbane. I was just going to go there and…"

"And watch your parents celebrate Christmas," Draco deadpanned, feeling an uncomfortable churning in his chest. "Not a chance, Granger. That sounds like the most depressing Christmas I can possibly imagine."

"It isn't as if sitting here in this hotel room is going to be much more interesting," she quipped, attempting to lighten the mood.

"It will be the most interesting Christmas ever to occur in a hotel room," Draco asserted, suddenly spurred into action.

He ignored the suspicious look that crossed his partner's features, as he walked across the room to pick up the clunky Muggle hotel phone that he had been forced to learn how to use during their stay in Prague. He cast a quick Muffliato on himself as the the dull tone came on the line.

Several minutes later, his preparations complete, Draco re-took his seat on the couch beside Hermione, who had taken up her book once more.

"What have you done?" she murmured distractedly as she turned the page, her eyes not leaving her book.

"You'll see," he replied airily. "Don't you trust me?"

She glanced at him, meeting his smirk with a hint of a smile.

"I haven't had an option but to trust you for months now," she reminded him. "But you're up to something."

"Never," he drawled, elongating the 'r' sound out scandalously, coaxing a full smile out now from his partner.

Locating a book of his own from the end table, Draco began absently flipping the pages without actually reading, knowing it would irritate her and she was amusing – and quite pretty – thus irritated.

Some time later there was a knock at the door and Draco casually cast a temporary concealment charm on all of their Auror equipment. A hotel server walked in, delivering a cart of food. The man bowed eagerly, eyes lighting up when Draco handed him a generous tip of Czech korunas.

Cautiously, Hermione took a plate of food from the cart, eyeing Draco oddly.

"Turkey and potato dumplings," he explained with a faint smirk, "it was the closest thing to a traditional Christmas meal on the menu. And Czech beer, of course."

Draco had discovered the brewed beverage on a previous mission and had developed a taste for it. He placed a mug in front of each of them.

"Malfoy," she said softly, chewing her lower lip, "you didn't have to do this."

"We need to eat, don't we?" he clipped, setting his own meal on the coffee table in front of him. "Apparently the traditional Czech holiday meal is fried carp with potato salad. I thought you might prefer something more reminiscent of home."

"You thought correct," Hermione responded, still staring nervously at her food. "Malfoy, have you done this because you feel sorry for me? Because of my parents?"

Draco set down his utensils and turned to her, one eyebrow quirked.

"Of course not," he said, rolling his eyes. "I did it because you're my partner and it's Christmas. And if we're both staying, we might as well make the best of it." He hesitated, deliberating his thoughts. "Granger, I know I'm not easy to get on with sometimes."

"Most of the time," she corrected absently, starting into her meal.

"Most of the time," Draco permitted, "but I have grown to respect you as an Auror and as a person, and I do appreciate having you for my partner."

Hermione stared at him for a long moment, her brow furrowing. "That's unexpectedly kind of you to say." She tilted her head. "And likewise, Malfoy. I didn't know what to expect when I agreed to be your partner. But you haven't been cruel or mean; I've come to respect you as well."

"Good," Draco replied, offering her a rare smile.

Once they'd finished eating, Draco handed her a small box and her eyes widened in surprise.

"I haven't got anything for you," she said quietly, glancing at him. Draco simply waved a hand, indicating that she should open it. Removing the item from the box, she stared at it with some consternation, giving it a shake. "It's… a snow globe?"

"You don't like snow globes?" he asked, smirking. "It's just a charm I've been working on, housed in a snow globe."

When Hermione peered closer into the glass ball, Draco elaborated. "It shows you whatever you want. If you want to see your parents in Australia, it'll show them. If you've got a hankering for a glass of pumpkin juice… well, you get the point."

As she stared at the globe, two small figures appeared, sitting together beside a Christmas tree and sipping mugs of coffee as white bits of glitter fell around them. Hermione gasped, almost instantly blinking back tears.

"Malfoy," she turned to him, clutching the snow globe to her chest, "that's the most thoughtful gift I've ever received. Thank you."

"You're welcome, Granger. Merry Christmas," he said, meeting her warm brown eyes.

Hermione averted her gaze, looking down at the snow globe once more. At her sudden inhalation, Draco followed her stare.

A miniature blond-haired figure was in the globe now, and it looked an awful lot like him. Confused, Draco looked back up at Hermione. Her eyes were wide, her cheeks flushed as she quickly stood up and walked away, towards the bedroom. She paused at the threshold, her back to him, holding the globe beyond his line of vision.

Draco instantly followed, pausing hesitantly some distance away from her.

"Granger, seriously?" he questioned.

She turned on the spot, forcing a smile and a nervous laugh. "You globe must be faulty."

"It isn't," he assured her, deadpan.

They stared at one another in an awkward silence for what felt like an incredibly long time.

Draco looked at the globe again; the Draco figure was inappropriately close to a curly-haired brunette figure. Hermione shook the globe obnoxiously, loosening the snow particles, deliberately looking away from him as she hid it behind her back. Draco bit back a grin, amused by her stubborn refusal to meet his gaze.

"I'm flattered, Granger," he murmured, knowing it would make her uncomfortable.

Inside, he was basking, astounded at the revelation. His stomach was flopping around at the thought that Hermione might actually be interested in him. It was a possibility Draco had pushed to the back of his mind countless times, believing it was futile to harbour hope of such a thing.

He took a step towards her, feeling his heart pounding wildly in his chest. Hermione stared up at him, her doe eyes wide, and swallowed heavily.

Cautiously, Draco reached behind her and pried the snow globe from her grasp. He pointedly stared at the globe himself; it showed the same figures as it had to her. Her lips parted with a sudden intake of breath and her expression grew incredulous as comprehension dawned.

Draco blindly set the globe on an end table behind him, never looking away from her gaze. He trailed his fingers up the line of her arm, across her cheekbone and into her curly hair.

He could feel the exhalation of her breath on his lips; his eyes slipped shut at the heady sensation and he leaned in, his lips brushing against hers in the slightest caress.

Suddenly they both jumped apart as a loud wail alarmed through the hotel room. The instruments on the table were spinning and flashing, alerting them to a situation.

Draco stared at her for a moment longer, exhaling sharply. Her tongue darted out, moistening her lips and Draco's eyes followed it. She laid a hand on his chest, resting there for a moment before she applied a gentle sort of pressure.

"The Demiguises," she breathed and Draco snapped to attention.

"Right," he said and with a wave of his wand, the tools were silenced. With another wave the window flew open and a third cast Anti-Disapparation charms over the square so none of the criminals could escape.

Though the square was dark save for the faint light emanating from the multiple Christmas trees, the smugglers were visibly panicked once their comrades started to drop, the victims of several well-aimed Incarcerous spells.

Draco cast a glance at Hermione and the two Apparated down into the square, quickly binding the remaining smugglers. He ignored the colourful language being thrown their way as he secured the area from any stray Muggles who happened to be about.

"Alert Robards," he hissed to Hermione and with a nod, she quickly sent out her otter Patronus to the head of the Auror Office back in London.

Draco inspected a large wooden crate that was sitting off to the side, beneath the tall astronomical clock. A cursory spell revealed its contents to be invisible.

"Your Demiguises," he murmured, coming up behind Hermione. He casually brushed a hand against her hip. She looked at the crate full of creatures then a smile broke out on her face as she turned back to Draco.

She opened her mouth to speak as several on-call Aurors Apparated in and began securing the criminals for transport back to London where they would face questioning and most likely, Azkaban.

Draco and Hermione lingered in the square, cleaning up all evidence while two magical creatures specialists recovered the crate of captured Demiguises. All the while as they worked, they exchanged teasing touches and lingering stares.

Draco thought he was going to go insane.

After everything was taken care of, Draco took hold of Hermione's arm and Apparated the two of them back into the hotel room, meeting her gaze with a significant look.

"We have to submit our report," she said in a breath, eyes wide at the heated look he was giving her.

"It can wait," he growled, leaning in.

"Just… quickly," she insisted, twisting away from him. With a heavy sigh, Draco packed their tools and materials into a case while she hurriedly filled out the report. As soon as the page vanished from the table, transporting itself directly to the Ministry, Draco pulled her to her feet and into his arms.

His lips met hers without hesitation, but Draco was unprepared for the electricity that ran through his veins at the contact. As his tongue met hers, his hands digging into her hair, Draco suspected his heart was going to burst, racing as it was.

"Looks like you'll be able to spend Christmas in London after all," Hermione murmured against his lips between kisses, as she pulled him toward the bedroom.

Draco wrenched himself away at her words, panting heavily, meeting her lust-darkened gaze.

"But you'll be alone," he breathed.

"I'll survive," she said dismissively, dragging his lips to hers once more as she fumbled with his belt buckle. Reading her intentions, Draco lifted her jumper over her head, breaking away.

He kissed her again, hands running teasingly up her sides, lingering at her chest, luxuriating in the small whimper the action drew from her throat.

"Come with me, to Andromeda's," he said into her neck, dragging his teeth across the sensitive skin there.

"I couldn't." She reached for his shirt, leaving him bare-chested.

"You could," he breathed, taking her with him onto the bed, all but ripping her shirt off in turn. "It'll be fine."

"But – your mother –" she gasped, as he buried his face in the swell of her breasts, running his tongue along the bare flesh.

"Do not mention my mother right now," he said sharply, looking up to meet her gaze, his own alight with humour.

"Noted," she whispered, drawing him in for another fevered kiss as she pushed his trousers from his hips.

"You're coming tomorrow," he said with finality. He looked at her with a smirk, trailing kisses down her stomach as he reached for her jeans. "You'll be coming tonight, too."

Draco entwined his fingers with Hermione's as they left his aunt's country home the following evening. An absent-minded smile slipped to his lips.

"That went better than I expected," Hermione said, glancing at him. Draco could read the relief plainly in her eyes.

"I told you it wouldn't be that bad," he admonished teasingly, giving her hand a squeeze.

When he had shown up to Christmas dinner with Hermione in tow, Andromeda had been ecstatic. His mother, though understandably surprised, had been polite and gracious to the brunette all evening.

He had seen the way Narcissa had watched the two of them interact and practically heard the cogs in her head whirring.

While wizarding world politics held no appeal to Draco, he knew his mother was attempting to piece the name of Malfoy back together following their unsavoury involvement in the war. Narcissa presumably thought a relationship between Draco Malfoy and Hermione Granger would look good in the public eye.

No matter. If it meant his mother wouldn't cause a fuss he would take it. He knew given time, Narcissa would grow enamoured with the witch beside him, much as he had. Now that he had finally allowed himself to think such thoughts, it was as if the floodgates had opened.

Draco stopped walking as they neared the Apparition point, and with a tug on their joined hands, drew Hermione towards him.

In the dark of the night, lit only by stars, he kissed her, feeling an uplifting surge of emotion.

As she slid her hands into his hair and kissed him back, Draco suspected this would be a Christmas he would never forget.