A/N: Ah! Another new one! The first chapter isn't much – it's sort of an introductory chapter, a prologue if you will. So, given that, it's pretty short.
As they made their way down to the Three Broomsticks, Hermione linked her arms through Harry's and Ron's, a warm smile on her face. "You know what I love most about this time of year?" she asked her two best friends.
"The fact that we get almost everything at half price?" Ron asked her, a satisfied grin sporting his face.
Hermione rolled her eyes. "No. The warm, festive season! It's so ... jolly."
Harry raised his eyebrows at her. "Sorry, but did you just say jolly?"
Hermione laughed, and the three of them trudged through the many levels of snow. It was Christmas, and Hogsmeade was flocked with many wizards and witches. And Ron was right: almost all the shops had their goods at half price. There were choirs assembled at various points, singing and humming Christmas melodies. Here and there, laughter filled the air, and the gleeful smiles of their fellow classmates could be seen all around them. All in all, the atmosphere was glowing.
They finally reached their destination, and Hermione awkwardly avoided the mistletoe hanging from the door pane. Ron looked the other way, pretending not to notice. Harry, on the other hand, whistled a tune, trying to hide his discomfort. The ghost of the awkward, but friendly break-up between Hermione and Ron still followed them; it would be a while before it would disappear.
It wasn't that Ron did something to offend Hermione. It's just that they decided that they couldn't be more than just friends. The shift from practically brother and sister to boyfriend and girlfriend was, in one word, awkward. They called it quits, and resumed their former relationship, but, as already mentioned: ghosts don't disappear quickly.
The Three Broomsticks was packed. The air buzzed with the chatter of the customers. Hermione led the way to an empty table right at the back, and the three had to weave in between people (Harry's foot got stomped on) and strange creatures before finally arriving at their table. They sat down, and in unison let out a long breath.
"Bloody hell!" Ron exclaimed. "It's more packed than usual! Why is that, I wonder?"
Hermione and Harry took in their surroundings. Hermione nodded. "It's because they're not afraid anymore, Ron. Voldemort has finally been defeated; his Death Eaters have either disappeared off the face of the earth or given themselves in. What could these people possibly be in danger of?"
"Thanks to Harry, here!" Ron said, clapping Harry on the back.
Harry rubbed at the spot, and said, "Well, if it weren't for you two, I'd probably be dead by now..."
Hermione sighed. "You're too modest, Harry."
Ron stuck out his chest. "I can also be modest sometimes."
Harry raised his eyebrows. "Like now, you mean?"
Hermione stood up. "I'm going to get our drinks. Three butterbeers?"
Ron and Harry nodded, and resumed their friendly bickering. Hermione shook her head, amused, as she made her way to the bar. She almost regretted going as many people kept on bumping into her in their haste to greet long lost friends or hurry out back into the cold.
Hermione was rubbing her shoulder timidly by the time she arrived at the bar. She collapsed on the stool, and grumbled about packed bars.
"Don't complain!" Madam Rosmerta's voice barked. Hermione jumped, and turned to face the barwoman.
Hermione smiled sheepishly. "Sorry, Madam Rosmerta!"
Madam Rosmerta smiled, "Not to worry, dear. But The Three Broomsticks has never been so busy before! Never mind the noise and the claustrophobia!"
Hermione laughed, and placed her order. She drew patterns on the bar table in front of her as she waited for their beverages. She glanced around her and got her second shock for the day. Not even a foot away from her sat Draco Malfoy, aimlessly swirling his butterbeer with a spoon. His eyes were cast downward, his mouth wasn't even turned down in its usual sneer or smirk. His pale fingers drummed a soft beat on the bar table.
Feeling her gaze on him, Draco looked up and met Hermione's eyes. Hermione quickly looked away, acting as if she hadn't been staring at him. Madam Rosmerta gave Hermione the three glasses of butterbeer, and Hermione accepted them with a smile. She turned to go, and she heard Malfoy say not unkindly in a sharp tone, "I don't need your pity, Granger."
She stopped short, but didn't turn around. He must have read more in her stare than she had thought. She didn't reply; instead she walked away, muttering a non-spill spell on the glasses. True, she did pity him, and for good reason, too.
"Ah! There she is!" Ron exclaimed as Hermione plopped herself on her chair, distributing their drinks across the three of them. "Do you even know how parched I am?" he enquired of her.
"When aren't you?" Hermione sarcastically asked. "Listen," she said to them on a more serious note. "Guess who I saw now?"
Harry raised his eyebrows expecting an answer.
"Malfoy," Hermione said in an undertone.
"Git," Ron scoffed.
"He looked really down, though," Hermione said.
Ron pushed his now empty glass aside, and shrugged his shoulders. "What do you expect, Hermione? Both his parents turned themselves in to the Ministry, so now they're sitting in Azkaban. You can't blame the bloke for looking down."
"Yeah, but they're not going to be in there forever, right?" Harry queried. "Wasn't there something in the Prophet about that?"
Hermione nodded. "They weren't exactly on Voldemort's side ... at the very end. They didn't fight for him. But," she said, sighing, "they're still marked Death Eaters, so they'll serve a sentence of about ten to fifteen years."
Harry whistled. Ron just looked off into the distance.
Hermione interpreted his look correctly. "Ron, how can we tell who's good or bad? Snape was a good man – " she cut herself off, shooting a look at Harry. The subject of Severus Snape was still a sore one for him. "-maybe Lucius and Narcissa Malfoy were good people, too?"
Harry said quietly. "She's right, Ron. They were both capable of love. Familial love. That completely overrides Voldemort's principles."
Ron didn't say anything for a while, and he considered Harry and Hermione's words. He sighed and said, "Don't care. Malfoy is still a git to me."
And at that moment, Draco Malfoy, the "git", walked out of the Three Broomsticks, his head ducked, and a green and silver scarf tucked neatly around his neck, the strong wind tangling his pale blonde hair.
-------------------------------------------------------to be continued---------------------------------------------------------
A/N: See? Told you it was short! I was thinking of making my next chapters longer – a couple of reviewers for War of Words complained that the chapters were too short. From this chapter, it's difficult to tell what's happening, and the direction that the story is going in, but either way –
Let me know what you think!