TITLE: Brightly Shone the Stars That Night

RATING: PG13 for some mild language and one very mild reference to alcohol consumption

DISCLAIMER: As usual. All recognizable people and places belong to JK. The only thing that came from me is the plot.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: Written for a Christmas fic exchange last year (2005), never got around to posting it here til now. The original requested criteria that I was supposed to meet were as follows:

Rating(s) of the fic request: Any
Three things you want your fic to include: Fluff! Draco singing Christmas carols, and Hermione sitting on Santa's lap
Three things you do not want your fic to include: Anger from anyone over Draco and Hermione's relationship, Pansy, that's all I think...

So… let me know how I did including those items! Hope you enjoy this bit of fluff!

SUMMARY: Having slipped out of a Christmas party for some fresh air and a chance to reflect on his relationship with Hermione, Draco has a run-in with a garden gnome.


Scowling, Draco sidled toward the kitchen door and quietly let himself out into the cold of a starry winter night. Really, there was no reason for him not to be having a great time—everyone around him was, and they were all going out of their way to be warm and inclusive toward him, as it was his first time attending a Weasley Christmas bash. But Draco had never been great in crowded places… something to do with growing up in a thirty thousand square foot manor house with only his parents and a handful of servants for company, he supposed. He liked to think that in almost every way that mattered he was no longer the spoilt prat of a boy who'd inhabited that mammoth house, but there was no denying that to this day he simply couldn't tolerate being stuffed like sardines with countless other people into a relatively small area such as the first floor of the Burrow… even on such a happy occasion as this, the first holiday event since the defeat of Voldemort. It just sat wrong with him somehow; made him edgy, irritable.

And he didn't want his mood to be resposible for bringing Hermione down. She was, after all, the single most important- the best- thing in his life these days. It had begun after Snape had brought him into the Order of the Phoenix; the interest had sparked almost immediately… something to do, perhaps, with being away from Hogwarts, where the two of them had shared such a long and unlovely history. Thrown together at Order Headquarters, and on countless missions and in battle as well, the two of them had grown quite close quite quickly, their constant banter and initial heated debates giving way before long to a heat of an entirely different sort.

Their burgeoning relationship had been greeted with a certain amount of… skepticism… from other Order members who had been less quick to trust Draco, but in the end it had been accepted more easily than Draco had anticipated, due in large part, he was sure, to the fact that Hermione's friends trusted her judgement implicitly. Hermione thought long and hard about almost everything she did, and had a long record of making sterling decisions. The road to coupledom would doubtless have been a bit bumpier had Draco fallen for someone more rash- Ginny Weasley, perhaps- or more flighty, like Luna Lovegood. Actually, the road to coupledom would have been a lot bumpier in either of those cases, as Ginny was Harry Potter's fiancee, and Luna was Ron's girlfriend.

But Draco had never spared either of them a second glance- not romantically, at any rate. Hermione was it for him, he grew increasingly positive with every passing day. Hermione was it, for life.

He allowed a smile to twitch his lips at the thought of her as he'd last seen her before exiting the party- he'd glimpsed her briefly through the throngs of celebrants, head thrown back and laughing, tipsy from Molly's egg-nog, seated squarely on the lap of the ugliest Santa Claus Draco had ever seen; Mad-Eye Moody all decked out in red velveteen with fluffy white trim. Wrong on SO many levels, Draco thought to himself, but his mental tone was one of amusement rather than disgust.

Hermione. His Hermione. God, how he loved the sound of that laugh. Unlike him, she was right at home in these situations. She was having the time of her life in there. That was why he'd snuck out here- so as not to spoil it for her with this sudden, brooding funk that had overtaken him.

He pushed himself away from the wall he'd been leaning against and began to meander aimlessly around the Weasleys' kitchen garden, scuffing his feet through the light dusting of snow on the ground as he went, his breath making frosty puffs in the chill air.

Bands of light, along with music and the sound of countless voices talking and laughing, spilled out from the house. For such a relatively humble abode, Draco had to admit that the Burrow possessed a certain sense of homey contentment and well-being that his own childhood home, Malfoy Manor, had lacked. He liked the location as well; this far off the beaten path, a brisk walk from the nearest village, the sky was absolutely swimming with stars. They were myriad, and so very, very bright. He stood with his head tilted back for a long moment, just drinking them in… until a sound close at hand- almost right at his feet- caught his attention and tugged his gaze downward at exactly the same instant as something small-yet-solid impacted his boot with an audible thuck.

"Hey!" he exclaimed indignantly, once he saw what was going on. He had unwittingly wandered close to a low stone wall, in the shelter of which a group of garden gnomes appeared to be having a bit of a holiday shindig themselves.

There were about a dozen of them, and it appeared that they had at some point acquired a pair of red-and-white striped winter gloves; no doubt a hand-knitted Molly Weasley specialty. These had been pulled or cut into pieces so that each jauntily-striped finger casing was now stretched over the the knobbly top of a gnome's head; Christmas caps for one and all. Several berries and crumbs of pie or cake that had apparently been liberated from the house somehow- or maybe only from the outdoor rubbish bin- lay scattered about, along with what appeared to be a saucer of butterbeer, from which Draco gathered the gnomes had been drinking communally. They had been having quite the jolly old time, it seemed, and were not kindly disposed to his intrusion, unintentional as it had been.

The leader was slightly larger and knobblier than the rest. He sported a dirty, matted little beard, and was the only one attired differently- no doubt as an indication of his status, he seemed to have an entire sock perched atop his head, red edged with white so that altogether he gave the appearance of a vastly disgruntled little Santa Claus. And just ten minutes ago I thought I'd never see an uglier Santa, Draco mused.

It was this gnome who had hurled the first rock and as Draco watched, temporarily surprised into inaction, the little creature picked up another one from a nearby pile of rubble where the wall was decaying, and lobbed it at him as well. It was a purposeful throw, and instead of thudding harmlessly against Draco's dragonhide boot as the first one had, this rock hit him squarely in the shin.

It hurt.

"Hey!" he shouted again, and now it was outrage, rather than mere indignation, that colored his voice. "Shove off, you little prick! Go on, the lot of you!"

He moved toward them menacingly. Gibbering madly and shaking their miniscule fists, the gnomes scattered, vanishing through holes in the decrepit stone wall, or under the cover of a nearby hedge. Draco, for his part, retreated to the relative safety of the Burrow's kitchen door, sinking down on the back steps and ruefully massaging his leg. Jeez- little bastard had an arm on him, and no mistake.

This close to the house, he could clearly make out the words of the carol that was now being sung inside. It was Good King Wenceslas, a carol that Draco found strangely moving. Perhaps because it was about the redemption of a wealthy man? In any event, he found himself humming absently along with the tune, even singing quietly at parts- Brightly shone the stars that night… well, that was certainly true of this night, wasn't it?

Behind him, the kitchen door creaked open and then shut again. Draco didn't have to turn around to know that it was her- a wealthy man's redemption. HIS redemption. He knew it immediately; knew her footfalls, her scent; that sense of presence that was uniquely hers. She sat behind and slightly above him, on the top step, wrapping her arms around him from behind and resting her chin on the top of his head. This close, he could smell the egg-nog on her breath; he could smell her shampoo. He loved that smell.

"Hi you," she said quietly, giving him a squeeze. "You feel half frozen. Is anything the matter?"

"A bloody gnome threw a rock at my shin," he said petulantly, still rubbing at the offending spot.

Hermione chuffed laughter into his hair. "Poor baby," she said, "went over by the garden wall, did you? But what I meant was, why are you out here in the first place? Aren't you having a good time?"

"I was," he said, "but it was getting pretty rowdy in there. I just wanted some fresh air for a minute, a chance to hear myself think."

"And what have you been thinking about?" she queried lightly, a smile in her voice.

My redemption. My salvation. You.

"That I'd like to marry you," he said.

He felt her go very, very still where she was pressed against him. For a long time there was no sound, other than the continued muted singing from inside. When she finally spoke, all traces of mirth had left her voice. It was small now; constricted… she sounded almost as if she'd had the wind knocked out of her.

"Draco… don't tease. Not about that."

He tilted his head back, far back until he was able to meet her eyes, albeit upside-down. Her eyes were wide as she met his gaze steadily, her dark hair cascading down around them both.

"I would never tease you about that," he said solemnly, reaching up to touch her cold cheek, to push a stray lock of her hair back behind her ear. She was wearing, he saw, Mad-Eye's santa hat, perched precariously atop her mounds of curls; it was about to slide off sideways. It occurred to him, in passing, that it was one of the things he would remember about this moment for the rest of his life. One of the things that defined it.

Abruptly he disengaged from her, turned around and went to one knee at the foot of the steps. "I love you, Hermione," he said, catching both her hands in his, "and I don't see that changing, ever. So if you feel the same way, then… marry me?"

He heard her breath catch in her throat, her eyes widening still further, until they were almost impossibly huge. Then she pulled her hands free and with a tiny, inarticulate cry, launched herself at him, hurling herself into his arms with such exuberent force that she knocked him flat on his back, sprawled out on the frost-hardened ground of the Weasleys' dooryard with her squarely on top of him, nearly nose to nose, the frosted puffs of their breath mingling together now, Moody's festive hat lying several feet away in the snow.

"Can I take that as a yes?" Draco asked a moment later, once he'd regained the breath that had been knocked out of him.

"Yes," she breathed, "God, Draco, yes!" and she kissed him deeply.

He allowed himself to get lost in the kiss for a long, long time… until, once again, he was distracted by a nearby noise low to the ground.

"What the hell?" he growled, reluctantly breaking the kiss and turning his head. It was none other than his old acquaintance, the bearded head-honcho garden gnome, shuffling rapidly toward the discarded santa hat, grubby little hands already outstretched for the prize.

"Oh no you don't," he began, casting about on the ground for something to throw, but Hermione, having just seen what it was that had caught his attention, dissolved into laughter, distracting him.

"What's the harm?" she chuckled. "Let him have it."

"For what, a sleeping bag?" Draco groused. "It's not as if he can wear the bloody-"


"And that's the same little bugger that threw the rock at-"

"Draco, let it go. Who cares?"

"My leg bloody well ca-"

"Draco." This time she caught his face between her hands, compelling him to look only at her. "Forget the damn gnome. For Merlin's sake, you just asked me to marry you and I said yes. There should be only one thing on your mind."

Draco had just time enough to mutter a contrite "oh… yeah…" before she sealed her lips to his again. He wrapped his arms tightly around her waist, sliding one up to tangle in her copious amounts of hair, the other down to cup her bum possessively, reveling in the warm, solid weight of her on top of him.

Even so, he couldn't help himself sneaking a last sideways look at that bedamned gnome. It had seized the hat both-handed and was dragging it back toward the hedge. Catching Draco's eye, it let go just long enough to send an inarguably lewd gesture his way before reclaiming its prize and staggering on.

He had half a mind to scramble to his feet and lunge after it, but the urge only lasted a fraction of a second; then Hermione, breaking their kiss, trailed her tongue along his jawline right up to his ear, pausing long enough to whisper, "focus, Draco," before nibbling on his earlobe in a way that very nearly made him lose control.

After that, she had his undivided attention. She was all he saw; all he felt, all he tasted, all he smelled.

Even when the kitchen door creaked open again and one of the Weasley twins began gleefully hooting "Get a room!" in a carrying voice that was sure to bring every bloody person in the bloody house out on them, the only thing that was real to Draco was the woman in his arms. The woman he was going to marry.

The woman he loved.

His redemption. His salvation. His life.

His Hermione.