A/N: Written for the Slytherin Secret Santa over at Mugglenet Fan-Fiction. The wonderful Haylee XhayleeXblackX requested a Draco/Hermione story. I had never written the pairing (nor do I entirely understand the appeal -- sorry, Dramione shippers! ;]), but I gave it my best shot. Hope you all enjoy this little fic, and, of course, I would love to know any and all thoughts about it.
Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful. – Norman Vincent Peale
Hermione couldn't help but smile to herself as she walked back from the corner grocery store, her bag of newly-purchased chestnuts swinging in hand. Snow flurried all around her, coating the world in a soft blanket. It really was a white Christmas – and it was absolutely beautiful in every way.
She was glad that she had decided to return home for the holidays this year. She didn't spend much time with her parents anymore, what with attending Hogwarts. During the breaks, too, she had been spending most of her time with Ron and Harry lately. It wasn't that she didn't love her parents . . . they just couldn't relate to everything going on in the wizarding world: Voldemort, the war, the ever-present terror from it all. They tried to understand – tried desperately to understand, so they could be a bigger part of their magical daughter's life – but they didn't. Couldn't.
But it was currently the holiday break of her sixth year, and instead of going to the Burrow with Ron and Harry, she had decided to return home. Voldemort was getting stronger all the time, destroying countless buildings, lives, and houses each day. She didn't know how much longer her home would be around for – she wanted to appreciate it while she still could.
It was as she rounded a corner that she noticed another figure pushing through the snow-covered sidewalk, coming the opposite way of she; she felt a momentary surprise, as most people were safe and warm inside their homes. She had only ventured out briefly because her family had decided to roast some chestnuts before eating their Christmas dinner.
Her surprise increased ten-fold when she recognized the approaching figure.
His head was bent, so he did not see her until they were perhaps ten feet apart; that was when his face turned upward, and her gaze smashed into the cold gray clouds that were his eyes.
"Fancy seeing you here, Granger," he sneered.
She stopped walking. He kept going.
"What are you doing here?" she demanded.
"I'm walking," he said, continuing with his stroll, bumping her shoulder with clear deliberation as he passed.
"You're up to something," she accused, whirling halfway around and then following him.
Draco Malfoy halted and turned to face her, a smirk playing with his lips. "When am I not?"
"This is a Muggle neighborhood, Malfoy," she snarled. "You wouldn't be here unless you had virulent intentions."
"Virulent. That's a big word for a sniveling Gryffindor."
She whipped out her wand from the inside pocket of her coat and jabbed it at his chest.
"This is a Muggle neighborhood, Granger," he repeated back at her, taunting. "I'd suggest you put that away before you draw attention to yourself."
"Either tell me why you're here, or just leave right now," Hermione threatened, pushing the wand firmly against him.
"You know, you make that sound like a choice," Malfoy mused aloud. "I either tell you why I'm here, or I go away – but even if I did tell you why I'm here, you would still demand that I leave. Which means I pretty much have one option."
"Oh, for Merlin's sake," she snapped, throwing up her hands in frustration. "It's Christmas, Malfoy. I don't want to play these stupid games with you today. Instead of making my life miserable today, why don't you just go run home to your mummy and celebrate the holiday?"
The smirk was suddenly gone, the jeering eyes suddenly dark. "Because she doesn't know I'm here."
"Well, that's not surprising," said Hermione flatly. "Where does she think you are?"
His responses to her were completely untainted with any sort of sneer or mocking tone. It unnerved her.
"And why aren't you there?" she asked carefully.
He scowled; the moments of open honesty were gone. "Why do you care?"
She didn't know why she cared, actually, but she replied, "It's Christmas Day. Most people aren't alone today."
"You're alone too," he reciprocated.
"But I'm going home to my parents."
"I want to be alone," he said, giving her a pointedly disgusted look. "Now if you don't mind, I'll be on my way." He resumed his walking.
Clutching the chestnuts in her hand, Hermione felt a flutter of cold that had nothing to do with the snow against her face as she watched his retreating form trudge along the sidewalk.
"Give me your wand, Malfoy," she called out to him impulsively, just before he reached the corner of the block.
He turned, his features contorted in disdain. "Why, Granger?" he drawled, not sounding the least bit interested in the 'why' behind her words.
She moved towards him until they were only a foot apart, and then held out her gloved hand. "Because that's the only way I can trust you to come into my house."
He stared at her a moment before recovering himself. "I can't think of a single reason why I would want to come into your house, Granger – or why you would want me to come into your house, for that matter."
Her gaze never wavered on him; her outstretched hand never flinched. "Come spend Christmas with us."
He arched an eyebrow. "You're joking, aren't you?"
"We'll be eating dinner in a few hours, once the ham's done cooking," she continued speaking, "and as soon as I get home, we'll start roasting these chestnuts." She held up the bag full of nuts to further make her point.
He squinted at her. "You are joking," he confirmed to himself.
"No, I'm not," she said quietly.
"Then you're mental," he concluded.
She smiled slightly. "Maybe."
"You don't want me in your house. And even if for some obscure reason you did, your parents – "
" – would be delighted to have someone else over for Christmas," she finished his sentence for him.
He considered her for a very long moment, silver eyes searching, scanning, stabbing, attempting to find the lie. But there was no lie to be found.
Without a word, he began to walk towards her – her breath caught briefly in her throat – then he strode right past her.
Incredulous, she turned and caught up to him. "What – "
"I am not giving you my wand," he stated flatly.
"Yes, you are – "
"I'm still underage, Granger. I'd be a fool to perform magic around here."
"Oh." Fair point. "All right, fine. But if there's any funny business, you'll be thrown down the front step on your rear end faster than you can – "
"Faster than you can travel on a broomstick?" he interjected, smirking. "Because a rock could probably move faster than you on a broom, you know."
"At least I have talents in other things," she snipped back. "Buying your way into everything isn't going to get you very far in life."
"Well, at least I . . ."
And they bickered all the way to her house, the snow wafting around them, the Christmas lights illuminating their way.