Hey all! I started this about a month and a half ago, and decided it was time to get it finished in time for the holidays. I hope you all enjoy reading it, even though I don't own anything. Oh, and yes, this is a one-shot.

It was a proven fact that Draco Malfoy hated the holidays. There was too much glitz, too much food, too much of a crowd packed into Malfoy Manor. He'd learned at a young age that throwing a temper tantrum (while earning his father's wrath later) would get him out of the parties for the time being. But he was older now; seventeen in fact. No longer could he kick and scream and threaten to hold his breath until he turned blue. It would be immature and embarrassing now.

He watched her from time to time - in classes, during meals, when he was supposed to be studying in the library. Hermione Granger held a certain fascination, one that she wasn't supposed to hold. Not to him, at least. She was the smartest witch in the school, but everyone knew that. She was a fiercely loyal friend, exactly like a Gryffindor should be. She wasn't the most beautiful girl he'd laid eyes upon, but she had a natural beauty that other girls would have tried to improve. Above all else, though, she was muggle-born. And that was a no-no in Draco Malfoy's world.

The morning's post contained a letter addressed to Draco. It was an invitation to the annual Malfoy Christmas Ball; an addendum letter from his mother stated his presence was required this year. His eyes fell on Hermione, her nose once again in a book. A smile formed on his face as a plan developed in his head.

He needed to get her alone.

Sitting through Potions was agonizing, especially with the curly-haired Gryffindor sitting only one workspace over. He watched as she cut her ingredients, as she added them, studied the text book to make sure she was doing it all correctly. He felt the grin on his face at her excitement when it turned the correct shade of orange. It hadn't yet occurred to him that his own potion was in the hands of Crabbe and Goyle. As long as the room was still standing at the end of the hour, Draco didn't much care about the day's assignment.

"Well, it would appear our time is up," the short, stout, mortarboard hat-wearing Professor Slughorn announced. He stopped in front of Draco's station. "Gentlemen, two feet on what went wrong here," he added, indicating the sludge that settled in their cauldron. Draco rolled his eyes, not caring enough to produce a glare.

A whirl of brown hair, black robes, and red-and-gold Gryffindor colors passed by him. Draco reached out for her arm, effectively halting her steps.

"Let go, Malfoy." Her tone was cold, biting. "I haven't the time to be called a Mudblood right now. I'll be late to Transfiguration."

Draco let his hand slide down her arm until he reached her wrist. "Go out with me," he said, his trademark smirk gracing his features.

"Not likely, Malfoy," she replied, brown eyes narrowing. "Let go of me."

"Come on, Granger," he chided. "I'm not that bad."

The brunette's eyebrows rose skeptically before she glanced down at the hand that held her wrist. "Let's say, for just a minute, that I actually believe you. Why on Earth should I go out with you?"

His grin widened as he released her arm. "I need a date to the annual family holiday party. I've seen you in a dress, you look rather smashing. Thought you might like to accompany me."

Her arms folded across her chest. "You want me to walk into the house of a family who has been openly hostile towards me for the last seven years? Wasn't it your family who shared the opinion to do away with the Mudblood? Even you aren't stupid enough to think I would do this."

"Look at it this way," Draco offered as he led her into the hallway when students filtered into the Potions classroom. "I hate my father, you hate my father. What better way to get me out of these pointless familial obligations than to show up with you on my arm?"

Hermione was starting to see red. "So you're using me to get back at your father?" she inquired as they moved up the stairs side by side.

"It sounds rather crass when you put it that way, Granger." Draco stopped her when they reached the top step. "Just...please say you'll at least consider it. I swear on all that I hold dear I won't let anything bad happen to you."

With a sigh and a nod, Hermione agreed. "Just stop calling me Granger."

Draco allowed a quick smile to pass over his face before tentatively moving away with the excuse of being late for Herbology. Hermione watched him go, smiled to herself, and wondered what she'd just gotten herself into. The war was over; the wizarding world different. But was Draco Malfoy?

Harry Potter and Ron Weasley looked warily at the package that arrived the following afternoon during lunch. The large box contained green silk dress robes, with no note explaining who they were from. They noticed the smile that graced Hermione's face briefly as her brown eyes flitted across the Great Hall, but they couldn't tell where her gaze landed. Their suspicions grew when she informed them she would be arriving late for Christmas at the Burrow, but she couldn't say why. Their minds were made up that something fishy was going on when she excused herself to pack as she would be leaving later that night. They didn't even notice when Draco Malfoy followed her out only seconds later.

"Planning to tell your friends?" Draco asked when he caught up with her.

Hermione stopped, holding the dress box tighter to her body. "Not bloody likely," she replied before continuing up to her dorm. She'd reached the portrait to the Gryffindor dormitories before she turned back to him. "Thank you, Draco. For the dress, I mean."

"I'll meet you back here at six. Will you be ready to go by then?"

Hermione nodded, uttered the password to the Fat Lady, and disappeared through the portrait. Draco smirked and turned away, making his way to his own dormitory. He could hold out on seeing her for another five hours. Waiting never killed anyone before. Right?

Malfoy Manor loomed large in front of the pair. Hermione shook, Draco noticed, and instinctively reached for her hand. His lips twitched into a smile when she allowed the contact.

"Nervous?" he asked, moving closer to the front door.

She tried to keep her voice light when she said "No, not at all," but failed miserably.

"Yeah, me neither," he replied, a mirthless chuckle passing through his lips. "Glad we've got that in common."

The pair walked slowly, the mansion looming dark before them. Draco pushed open the large front door, allowing Hermione to enter before him. Their hands never unclasped as they made their way through the foyer.

"Draco, good of you to come," a deep timbre spoke as they were halfway up the grand staircase. "And you've brought a Mudblood. How nice."

The younger blonde wizard turned, the hand in his own tightening. "Father, I'll ask you not to speak that way of guests."

"And I'll ask you to show some respect." Lucius Malfoy's voice was cold and biting with a subtle hint of annoyance, and Hermione couldn't tell if it was always that way or just for her benefit.

"We're going to get settled in, and then you may continue to tell me all about what I'm doing wrong," Draco retorted as he turned away and continued up the stairs, Hermione moving hastily along with him. Finally, they reached a room, the fourth one on the left. Draco ushered her in before performing a locking charm on the door. It was his bedroom, she realized, raising an eyebrow in his direction.

"I'm not sleeping with you, Malfoy," she informed him, holding her suitcase closer to her body.

Draco laughed. "I wasn't expecting you to, Hermione. I just needed to get...well, not be down there. Didn't think you'd want me to leave you with my parents."

He sunk down on the corner of his bed, the hunter green duvet wrinkling around him, and let his head drop into his hands. Hesitantly, she moved to sit next to him, her hand resting on his shoulder. All she offered was a whispered thanks and a smile, before they drifted into a comfortable silence. It was odd to be sitting on Draco Malfoy's bed in Draco Malfoy's house with Draco Malfoy's parents just downstairs awaiting the moment they'd get to delightedly curse her into next century. It was all too soon when he stood, her hand sliding off his arm. Silently he moved to the connecting bathroom and closed the door. Hermione laid back on the bed listening to the sounds of running water.

What was she doing here? she asked herself once again.

"Ready to face the firing squad?" Draco inquired, holding out a hand to help her up. Hermione hadn't even been aware he was out of the bathroom yet. "You need to get dressed."

She looked at the outstretched limb, debating whether or not to take it. "Draco, are you sure this is such a good idea?"

Draco pulled back his hand, running it through his blonde locks. With a sigh, he sat back down beside her. "No, not so much anymore. I knew my parents wouldn't be happy, what with you being...you. I'm starting to think this isn't the way to get back at them."

"Well, I'm not going anywhere," she told him, finding a small bit of her Gryffindor bravery. He watched as the young witch bustled around, gathering items she'd need for the party. He watched as she disappeared into the bathroom he'd just vacated, wondering just how long it could take a girl like Hermione Granger to prepare for the evening.

She exited the bathroom, stopped short, and turned to face the closed bathroom door. "Sorry," she grumbled. "Didn't think you'd be undressing."

The typical Malfoy smirk pulled at the blonde's lips as he stood just feet from the embarrassed witch in nothing but his dress pants. "Would have thought I had more time," he replied with a laugh. "Who'd have thought all you'd need is five minutes, what with your...the buttons on the back of your dress."

"Just finish getting ready," came Hermione's irritated response. "This door is getting really boring to look at."

Draco laughed, but finished dressing before he announced that she could safely turn around. "You look lovely," he commented as his eyes swept over her emerald-clad form. A blush filled her cheeks, deepening the rose coloring. Then he added, "I have excellent taste."

Brown eyes rolled. "Don't make me curse your pants off in the middle of the party." But she chuckled as she voiced the threat. He crossed to stand in front of her, allowed her to adjust his tie; a smile alighting his face the whole time. The pair stood before each other, gray eyes meeting brown, lost in the gaze of the other.

Draco cleared his throat. "We should probably get downstairs," he said, slipping his hand into her own. Hermione nodded as he pointed his wand to unlock the door, and then waited another minute before exiting. They walked along in nervous silence, Hermione taking in the tasteful decorations around her. Green ropes of garland wound around the banisters, white fairy lights were strung around door frames and lined the halls, and a large, magnificent Christmas tree stood in the foyer completely decorated. None of this had been there when they'd walked in, Hermione noted.

Narcissa Malfoy stood in front of the tree adjusting the small red bows until they were at the exact 90 degree angle they should have been. The hunter green velvet of her dress contrasted perfectly with her blonde hair and pale skin, the lights of the tree reflecting around her to cast an angelic glow. Draco moved along at a quicker pace at the sight of his mother (and the absence of his father.)

"You look lovely," Draco said in a reverent tone as he leaned down to kiss his mother's cheek. He watched as the older woman's eyes darted to her left, drinking in the sight of Hermione Granger on her son's arm.

"Well, it seems I'm not the only lovely one this evening," Narcissa replied, a hand on Draco's arm as her attention turned fully to the now flushed Hermione. "That dress looks perfect on you, my dear."

Hermione glanced quickly to the boy by her side, delighted at the smile that graced his usually cruel features. "Thank you, Mrs. Malfoy. It was a gift from Draco." She received an appraising smile from his mother as Draco's hand tightened around hers.

"Still touching the mudblood?" The smooth, cold voice of Lucius Malfoy sounded behind Narcissa as he neared from the sitting room. "Whatever would the Dark Lord think of you now?"

Draco scoffed. "He's dead. I don't really put much stock in the opinions of the deranged and the deceased."

The elder Malfoy, lips set in a sneer, moved closer to the little group gathered around the tree. His right hand rested on the walking cane that doubled as a wand holder, poised to wrench it out and inflict the damage he so dearly wanted to inflict. Narcissa raised a hand, placing it against her husband's chest to halt him in his stride. "We have guests," she calmly replied, her other hand waving toward the sitting room while her eyes settled on Hermione.

"Your son will learn to show some respect," Lucius spat through clenched teeth.

"Our son has company," Narcissa whispered, "and this is not the appropriate behavior to display in front of company. We can discuss this later." Lucius pulled in a breath, set a stony, intimidating look on his face, and turned back to the party.

"I'm sorry," Draco murmured, looking from his father's retreating form to his mother before looking down at Hermione.

Narcissa rested a hand on her son's arm. "Pay him no mind," she said to the teenagers. "It's Christmas. Come, let's celebrate." She patted Draco's arm once more before moving away to join the party.

"Are you okay?" Hermione asked once his mother was out of earshot. She wrapped her arms around her middle as Draco's hand pulled out of her own. She watched as his pale hands slid through his fine blonde locks in frustration.

Draco shook his head, taking a seat at the bottom of the stairs. "I shouldn't have brought you here," he muttered, finding the marble below his feet quite fascinating. "I don't know why I thought it would be smart to bring you here."

"Draco," Hermione started, moving toward him.

"No, if you get your things, I'll take you to the closest Apparition point," he continued, standing up to climb the steps.

Defiantly, Hermione spoke, "The only place I intend to go is into the drawing room for your family's Christmas party, and that's where you'll be going as well."

For the first time, in a long time, Draco Malfoy let out a hearty laugh. He closed the distance between them and wrapped an arm carefully around her waist. "Well then, Miss Granger, what are we still doing out here?"

Hermione, arms crossed over her chest, didn't move. "Just do me one small favor?" Draco nodded. "Don't leave me alone with anyone."

"Promise," he told her, removing his arm so he could take her hand once again. The drawing room was packed with witches and wizards in festive holiday dress robes, flutes of champagne in hand as hor d'oeuvres passed by on silver platters. Heads turned when the teens entered, whispers and glances were exchanged, and Draco could distinctly hear the word "mudblood" bandied around.

Hermione's thumb traced soothing circles around the back of his hand. "Don't worry about it," she whispered, a brief smile appearing on her face as he released a deep breath. The pair made their way through the crowd, stopping for introductions before reaching the refreshment table.

"Is it hot in here or am I imagining it?" Draco asked, pulling at the knot in his tie as Hermione thrust a goblet of cider into his hand. She pulled the fidgeting hand away from the offending fabric, lacing her own fingers together with his.

"It's fine, just relax," she chided, involuntarily stepping closer as Lucius approached. His gaze was cold and focused; a menacing glint in his dark gray eyes meant to inspire fear in the young couple. He was steps away now as Hermione's heartbeat sped up, pounding against her chest.

"Ah, Draco, we'll need to have words," Lucius said through tight lips, ignoring Hermione completely. "Come, there's someone you need to meet."

The teenagers exchanged hesitant looks, their hands tightening in fear of being separated. "Hermione can help me check on dinner," Narcissa offered, coming up behind her husband. "I'm sure she has no interest in meeting yet another business associate."

Draco smiled softly, amazed at his mother's willingness to help someone like Hermione. He gave Hermione a slight nod, detached himself, and walked away a few paces behind his father.

"I like seeing the two of you together," Narcissa declared as Hermione watched him go. The younger witch turned to face the platinum blonde woman behind her, feeling a look of surprise was evident on her face. Narcissa arched an eyebrow as she smiled. "Draco takes after his father. They aren't happy men. But then he puts you on his arm, and the unhappiness crumbles. I do believe he cares for you very deeply. It's something you shouldn't take lightly."

Hermione nodded. "I never thought I'd see Draco in this light," she admitted, ducking her head so his mother wouldn't catch the blush that crept up her neck. "He's always been so..."

"Frustrating?" Narcissa offered.

"I would have said narcissistic," Hermione replied with a laugh. "But, yes, frustrating would describe him just as well."

As Narcissa led Hermione to the kitchen, Draco's eyes landed on the laughing women. A pang of jealousy hit him as his father and men he didn't care enough to remember their names spoke around him. No excuse he could think of seemed like it would get him out of the situation.

"Was that the Granger girl I saw earlier?" asked a rather bloated, short wizard with a glass of firewhiskey in hand. Draco's ears perked at the sound of her name.

"Hmm, yes that was," came Lucius's derivative reply.

"A mudblood in the Malfoy home? I never thought I'd see the day," said another gentleman to his father's right. "Running some sort of outreach program as part of your sentencing?" Draco could feel the heat rising within him as pureblood halfwits spouted off disparaging remarks about a muggleborn.

"It was Draco, actually, who decided she'd make a wonderful dinner guest." Lucius's tone was biting and sarcastic, every bit the way Draco remembered it.

"Rebellious boy you've got on your hands there, Lucius," the stout man spoke with a chortle at Draco's expense.

Draco counted to ten in his mind, hoping to calm himself before he spoke. "If you gentlemen will excuse me, I see an old friend I haven't had a chance to greet yet." He started to move away, but someone caught his arm. Turning his head slightly, he caught a glimpse of blonde hair belonging to his father.

"Your attendance is required here," Lucius stated, his grip on the boy's arm tightening.

"I'm here, aren't I?" came Draco's retort. "That should be enough for you. Now, if you'll ex--"

"You will not do this to me," Lucius seethed, his voice closer to Draco's ear than it had been before. "You will not chase after some filthy little mudblood in my home."

Gray eyes narrowed at the older man. "She's a witch just like any other in our world," Draco spat out. "And you'll do well to remember that. It's about time you got over your silly little pureblood prejudices." He pulled out of his father's painful grasp and took off angrily to find his date. As Hermione and he mother reentered the party, Draco caught the young witch's wrist and pulled her away.

"What are you doing, Malfoy?" she inquired angrily as she was dragged through streams of guests. He didn't reply, but stopped beneath the mistletoe. Hermione looked up at the offending plant hung above the doorway. "Don't even think about it."

But he had. Draco leaned down, their lips only millimeters apart before he close that distance. Her lips were soft and tasted like the strawberry-kiwi lip gloss she'd been so fond of wearing. His arms wrapped tightly around her small frame, holding her to him.

Hermione, on the other hand, fought against the invading lips. Her hands reached up around his neck, feeling the baby fine blonde hair at the base. Giving it a hard tug, she managed to detach Draco. "What are you doing?" she hissed, noticing his arms hadn't left their place around her waist.

Slowly, dejectedly, he moved away, whispering an "I'm sorry."

Of all the eyes on them, Hermione felt Lucius Malfoy's cold, gray stare penetrating. She watched as Draco walked out to the foyer before following him. "Draco, wait!" she called out as he reached the stairs.

He stopped, a hand running through his blonde locks. "What do you want?"

"What made you decide to do...that?" The anger was gone and her voice sounded softer, more willing to listen.

He stared at her, his gaze hardening as his memory replayed their kiss. "What do you want me to say, Granger?"

She moved closer, a few feet now between them. "Did you do it to irritate your father?"

Draco shrugged flippantly. "Possibly."

"What happened with him while I was gone?" she asked, trying to keep her patience in check.

He moved closer, towering over her small form. "None of your business, Granger." Hermione winced at his biting words, but wouldn't back down to Draco Malfoy. Hesitantly, she reached out to take his hand, hoping he wouldn't pull away from her.

"Did you kiss me because you have feelings for me?" she asked hopefully, her fingers intertwining with his. Draco looked away, but tightened his grip on her hand. "I'm sorry I pulled your hair. That was childish of me."

"Hardly even felt it," he mumbled, looking back to her for the briefest of moments.

A smile ghosted across Hermione's face. "Would you...do you think you'd ever do it again? Maybe even without the presence of mistletoe?"

The cocky, Malfoy-esque smirk returned as Draco spoke. "Are you professing your undying love for me, Granger?"

Hermione made an attempt to pull away. "Hardly," she replied, regaining her senses. "Just hoping to get another chance to maim you. It is rather fun."

Slate eyes rolled as strong arms wrapped around her waist once again. "I'm going to kiss you," he warned her. "No hair pulling." Hermione smiled as his lips neared, brushed against her own, tasted like mint and butter beer. The click-clack of heels caused the young couple to begrudgingly break apart.

Lucius, with Narcissa quick on his heels, stormed over in a fit of rage. "This will not be tolerated in my house," he fumed, his teeth clenched, as his hand pulled out his wand. Draco positioned himself in front of Hermione, intent on taking the brunt of his father's anger.

"Lucius, please," Narcissa pleaded, pulling on her husband's wand hand. "This is unnecessary. Your son is happy; let him have that."

"He's not the son I raised," Lucius seethed, color rising in his face, as he turned to go back to the party. "I want him out," he added over his shoulder.

Draco was stiff as he took in his father's words. He should have been proud that he wasn't like his father. He'd admired the man for so long, but he'd grown up. A quick glance at the muggleborn witch by his side told him he wasn't his father; Draco was a better man than Lucius Malfoy. Turning quickly on his heel, hand still clutching Hermione's, they climbed the stairs to his bedroom in silence. Tears stung her eyes as Draco haphazardly threw his belongings into his trunk, slamming it shut harder than need be.

He was out of breath by the time he spoke. "I have nowhere to go," he realized, sinking down onto the bed. Arms wrapped around his slumped shoulders as a kiss was pressed to his cheek.

"Come to the Burrow with me," Hermione suggested, feeling a shudder rip through the boy in her arms. Draco shook his head. "It'll be fine."

"They hate me," he murmured, placing a kiss against the arm that wrapped around his front. "It would be worse than being here."

"No, it wouldn't," Hermione countered, turning his head to look at her. "You've changed, Draco, in the best way possible. They'll see what I see in you." She pressed her lips to his once more, the kiss deepening on its own. Draco pulled away first, their foreheads resting against one another.

"Let's hope they don't all do that," he joked, placing a chaste kiss on her lips. "The Burrow it is then. I just...I need to say goodbye to my mother."

Hermione nodded, untangling her arms from his neck. "Want me to come with you?"

Draco stood, holding out a hand to pull her up. "She'll want to say goodbye to you. Seemed to have taken a liking to you."

A red tinge rose in her cheeks as they descended the staircase to see his mother still standing in the foyer. Her eyes glistened with tears as the twinkle of fairy lights from the tree reflected in her irises. "Leaving so soon?" she asked when she spotted the teenagers, luggage in hand. She received a nod from her son as he pulled away from Hermione to hug her.

"We'll be with the Weasleys, their home is called the Burrow, if you need to reach me," he whispered into her ear as Narcissa held onto him tighter.

"Send word to let me know you arrived safely," she told him, finally letting go. She moved to stand before Hermione, embracing her in a hug just as tight.

"Take care of him," Narcissa implored.

"I will," Hermione promised before breaking the contact to leave with Draco by her side. They made their way to the edge of Malfoy Manor before Apparating away to the Weasley family home. The jovial noise that only this particular family could produce was heard from half a mile away as Draco and Hermione landed alongside the pond on the Burrow's property. The rich aroma of Christmas dinner wafted out the doors and windows as they approached the misshapen house. Hermione allowed a small laugh when Draco pointed out there was no way the house could be structurally safe. They reached the front door, Hermione allowing them to enter without knocking.

And then the racket died.

About a dozen sets of eyes settled on Draco Malfoy standing sheepishly in their living room with Hermione Granger only inches behind.

"You muggles have some strange Christmas traditions," Fred piped up, uncomfortable with prolonged silence.

"Do you pull pranks on Christmas as well?" George wondered, receiving a slap on the arm from his girlfriend, Angelina Johnson.

The twins glanced at each other before simultaneously saying, "Wicked."

Laughter abounded, but Hermione noticed two who weren't partaking in the merriment. Her eyes caught Harry and Ron, both with scowls etched across their faces.

"This," Ron said, pointing at Draco, "is the reason you ditched us? You've decided to become chums with Malfoy?"

"Ron, please," Hermione said, but it was too late. He and Harry, with Ginny on Harry's heels, all left the room just as Mrs. Weasley barreled into to greet her newly arrived guests. She pulled Hermione into a hug, complimenting her dress, telling her she was so happy to see her. And then she turned to Draco, gave him an appraising look, and pulled him to her in a bone crushing embrace.

"I'm so happy you've joined us," she told him. "I didn't believe that you could be as bad as the boys claimed. Hungry? We've waited on dinner for you to arrive."

"What about Pot...Harry and Ron?" Draco asked quietly, earning a nudge to the ribs from Hermione for his slip-up.

"I could go talk to them," Hermione offered. "I shouldn't have sprung this on anyone, especially them."

Mrs. Weasley waved a dismissive hand. "Their stomachs will get the better of them, I'm sure of it. In the mean time, the rest of us can start."

Draco turned back to look at Hermione, who smiled brightly at him before ushering him to the kitchen table. Mismatched plates and bowls, serving dishes and trays lined the Weasleys' table as everyone began to dig in to the wonderfully aromatic meal. He listened to the chatter and laughter, enjoying the family that surrounded him. Fred and George only once tried to pull a prank at Draco's expense when dessert came, and they slipped him a Canary Cream. He thanked Hermione profusely for catching it before he bit into the small cookie.

It wasn't until Mr. Weasley declared it time to open presents that Ron, Harry, and Ginny rejoined the group. No one had noticed when Draco slipped out of the room until Mrs. Weasley called his name. All eyes turned once again to Hermione for answers.

"Must have gone to the loo," she mumbled, standing up to look for him. She made her way outside; not really knowing what drew her there. When she found him, he was leaning against the old tool shed where Mr. Weasley housed all his muggle fascinations.

"You should be inside," he told her. "It's freezing out here."

"I could say the same thing to you," Hermione countered, her hands rubbing up and down her arms to create some warmth. "You're missing presents time."

One blonde eyebrow quirked. "I'm not really missing much, am I," he muttered. He watched her shiver, whether from the cold or his sarcastic tone, he wasn't sure. Without thinking, he reached out, pulling her to him.

"Mrs. Weasley had something for you," she informed him in the tone he'd deemed her "know-it-all" voice. "I will admit, though, that I have nothing for you."

"I don't want anything. Plus, I didn't get you anything either," he replied with a shrug, his arms tightening to add more warmth.

Hermione looked up, but Draco was looking out into the fields. "You gave me my dress."

"And then I dragged you to that ridiculous excuse for a family get-together," the blonde countered. "A dress can't possibly make up for that."

They stood in silence, arms wrapped around each other, as Hermione considered her next move.

Draco broke the silence first, though. "What do you think your friends are going to say? About us, I mean."

Letting out a slow exhale, Hermione thought about his words. Could they ever accept these two together? Would they ever forgive her for what they might have seen as betrayal? Had she betrayed the two people who'd stuck by her through thick and thin for the better part of seven years? Her heart raced as the thoughts whizzed through her mind. "I have no idea," she finally said. With those words, she felt Draco pull away. She was cold again, and she'd say anything to have him back. "Harry will come around. Ron's a bit...slower. But they'll come around, Draco, you'll see."

Draco shook his head, freshly falling snow landing in the platinum locks. "This is your family, your life. I can't be a part of that."

"From where I stand, Draco Malfoy, you need a family more than I do," Hermione retorted. "You said you didn't get me anything for Christmas. Well, here's what I want. I want you, Draco. I want you to be here with us, with people who are happy you're here. I want you to be happy. I want you."

His head hung in despair as she spoke. He wanted to tell her he wanted her too, that he wanted a family who cared for him. He wanted to take her in his arms and hold onto her forever. But he couldn't; it would do her no good. "You don't know what you're asking," he told her.

"What is it you want from me?" Hermione asked, disregarding his words. Her hands came to rest on his side as she faced his backside. "What can I give you for Christmas?"

"Hermione--" he started, but she cut him off.

"I see you, Draco, when you watch me. You don't think I notice it, but I do," she informed him. "You feel about me the same way I've come to feel about you. You aren't the same spoiled, selfish git we grew up with. And now that I know what you've had to live with...well, you don't deserve that lot in life. Let us be your family. Let me in. Now tell me, Draco, what can I give you?"

His hands reached for hers, pulling them around to his front to allow their fingers to once again intertwine. "I want you too," he murmured, "but I can't do that to you."

Hermione pulled away, moving around to his front to face Draco. "You aren't doing anything to me that I don't want you to do. Can I have you, Draco?"

He released a sigh, placing his hands on her cheeks. A thumb stroked away a tear that slid down her face before his lips met her own.

"Get inside this instant!" Mrs. Weasley called from the kitchen door. "You will not catch your death on Christmas."

The couple looked toward the maternal witch and laughed. "We should go back in," Hermione agreed. "I am feeling rather knackered after such a long day."

Draco watched as Hermione began to walk away. "I didn't answer your question, did I?" he asked, halting her steps. She turned back to face him. "I want you, if you'll have me. To hell with what my father thinks and what those two think."

She ran back, her feet squishing in the snow that covered the ground, and leapt into his outstretched arms. "So, I can keep you, Draco Malfoy?"

He set her back down on her feet, leading her into the house. "Only if I can keep you too."