A/N: Written for a Christmas Challenge for Rivals in Love. I wrote it in a bit of a rush so i'm not completely happy with it, but here it is anyway :) Enjoy!

Rivals in Love-Christmas Challenge

Can be one to two shot


-A decorated christmas tree,

-A declaration of some sort (whether it be of love, friendship or hatred),

-Must include the book 'Christmas of Hogwarts. Memories',

-Can have optional mistletoe.

-Can be Hogwarts years or post Hogwarts.

His Best Christmas

Hermione's breath was labored as she ran from the house, holding her son in one arm and her daughter's hand in the other. Silent tears streamed down her face and made her shiver as the cold, harsh air hit them.

Hugo was still asleep, but Rose was crying as her mother pulled her by the hand, down the sidewalk and away from the house. They wouldn't last long outside. It was Christmas Eve, and even colder that usual for London at that time of year. Snow was already sticking to the ground as it crunched under their feet.

Hermione hurriedly hoisted her daughter up on her hip before sucking in a deep breath and dissapperating, with a loud 'crack,' to the only place she could think to go in a time like this.

Draco sat at a corner table at the Leaky Cauldron nursing a Firewiskey. It was his first, and probably only drink of the night, but he had to get out of the Manor. He liked coming to Diagon Alley because it reminded him of his childhood. As many things about his childhood he'd like to forget, the excitement of going to Hogwarts was not one of them.

Leaving Hogwarts, on the other hand, had been a nightmare. His father was already so deeply entrenched in the Death Eater society, that after his 6th year, Draco was obliged to stay at the Manor and play host to Voldemort. If it hadn't been for Snape, he surely would have died there. Instead, he played by his Godfather's rules and ended up alive and well...and the loneliest person on the planet.

Draco shook his head, trying to push those thoughts away. It was Christmas Eve. He'd come here to get away from those thoughts. He was quickly pulled out of his internal rambling anyway when he heard someone hurriedly enter the tavern and slam the door.

A woman, clutching a baby in one hand and a small child in the other stood there, shaking from the cold as she made her way toward where Tom was tending bar. It wasn't that late, but late enough that it was strange for a mother to bring her two young children to the Leaky Cauldron.

He eyed her carefully as she moved, or kind of hobbled. The little girl, clutching her hand now, was sniffling loudly, and the baby in her arms started to cry. He saw her talking with Tom, almost as if she were pleading with him, and cast a spell to hear what they were saying.

"Please Tom," the female voice pleaded. It sounded familiar, but then again lots of women's voices sounded the same.

"I'm sorry, 'Mione," Tom said, his voice laced with concern. "It's Christmas Eve. I'm all booked. There isn't anywhere in town to stay tonight." 'Mione, where had he heard that name before. It wasn't common, and he knew it was familiar. He could tell Tom was familiar with this woman. She was far too young and fit to be his lover. He wondered why she knew him so well.

The little girl at her side began whimpering again. "Mommy," she cried, "I'm tired."

The woman turned and leaned down to her daughter. "I know, baby." she said. Draco caught a glimpse of her face when she turned in his direction. He could see a bruise covering her left cheek and a bit of blood at the corner of her mouth.

It was crystal clear what had happened. A chill went down his spine as he felt trapped in a sense of Deja Vu. How many times had his mother run to Snape's house, Draco in tow, after his father had beaten the shit out of her.

The woman pushed her hair out of her face as she continued to try and comfort her daughter. "We will find a place to stay, Rosie, I promise." When her face was illuminated by the light above her head, Draco's heart stopped. Hermione Granger. Actually, he knew well enough to know it was Hermione Weasley now.

Draco clinched his fist as he thought of the Weasel hitting Hermione. He felt extremely protective of her all of a sudden. Maybe it was because she'd accepted him at the end of the war when no one else did. When she saw Snape's memories, proving he'd defied Voldemort and his father, she'd given him her thanks. Potter and Weasley just sneered at him and turned away.

If he were being honest with himself, he'd have to admit it had nothing to do with that. Hermione had been an important figure in his life since he was eleven years old, even if she didn't know it.

He'd initially hated her because she stood for everything he'd been taught to hate. She was a Mudblood. Dirty. Beneath him. Then, as she beat him in every class, she became an annoyance that incurred the wrath of his father. How could someone so inferior beat the purest of purebloods in any field of magical education?

In their fourth year, she revolted him because she didn't revolt him. He'd actually been attracted to her when he saw her at the Yule Ball with that ignorant oaf, Viktor Krum. For a full year he tortured her because of his own ignorance and shame. Then, one night, in 6th year, it all changed. He didn't know if it was the stress of Voldemort's task or the way her shoulders were shaking with sobs, but he felt compelled to hold her and make her stop crying.

She babbled something about Ron and Lavender, he didn't really know what she was talking about, but he held her has she cried. And then, when she was done, he pulled her up, gave her a squeeze and fled from the Astronomy Tower where he'd found her. The never spoke again after that but that was the night she stopped being a Mudblood.

Draco was pulled from his thoughts for the second time that night when the baby in Hermione's arms started to wail. "Oh Hugo," Hermione cried, rocking the baby. "Please go back to sleep."

Draco took the final swig of his drink and dropped money on the table before sliding out of the booth he was sitting in. He slowly strode up to her, clearing his throat when he reached her.

Hermione's head shot up instantly, and her eyes grew wide as she saw Draco Malfoy before her. She knew she must look a mess, but her main concern was on her children, so she didn't have time to care. "Granger," Draco greeted, refusing to call her 'Weasley.'

"Ma..Malfoy," She stuttered, still rocking the baby who had settled down a little bit. She tried to cover her left cheek, which she knew was probably starting to bruise, but Draco's hand reached out to stop her.

"I've already seen it," he said, his voice not dripping with any sort of malice the way it usually did. The only time she'd ever heard his voice like this was the night he whispered nonsense in her ear and held her in his arms. The night she'd seen Ron and Lavender together.

Hermione hung her head in shame. No one but Tom had ever seen the bruises. She was a master at glamour charms and had been since the first week of marriage. "It was nice seeing you, Malfoy," she said, her voice strained from trying to hold back tears, "But I've really got to go. We...We need to find a place to go."

"What about Potter's?" Draco asked. He was the World's savior. Surely, he could put up his best friend and her children.

Hermione sniffed and shook her head. "I...I...can't." she finally bit out. The truth was that Harry didn't know anything about the abuse. However, the one time she'd started to mention it to his wife, Ginny, she's basically been told not to air her dirty laundry in public. Hermione wanted to remind her that she was family, not 'public,' but left it alone.

Draco couldn't help the pang of sympathy that swept through him as he looked at her standing there with her children. She was just as alone as he was. Probably more so because he'd been used to the feeling. "Come to the Manor," he finally said. He didn't know why, but he had to take care of this girl.

Hermione scoffed. "I can't come to the Manor with you," she said, picking Rose up again. It was complicated holding both children, but Rose was getting impatient with her mother.

Draco smirked at her. "Sure you can. You have nowhere to go, and I have an empty house with plenty of room. It's Christmas, Hermione."

Hermione's eyes shot back up to look at him. He never said her first name, except that night in the tower. "Mommy," Rose cried, clutching at her mother's neck. "I'm tired, Mommy." She looked down at her daughter and back up to Draco. She really didn't have a lot of choice. And she had her wand, should he try anything. Though, she felt pretty sure she could trust him.

"Okay," she finally said, trying desperately to hold on to her wiggling son and her crying daughter at the same time.

"May I?" Draco asked, indicating that he'd be willing to take her daughter off her hands.

"Ummm, she doesn't usually like strangers," Hermione warned. But as soon Draco held his arms out to Rose, she moved into them, resting her head on Draco's shoulder. Hermione could not believe it. Rose had always been shy and reserved around other people. Not even Harry and Ginny could hold her without a struggle.

"Take my hand," Draco said. "It's the only way to apparate past the Wards." Hermione nodded and shifted her son in her arms to hold him closer, then placed her hand in Draco's. Within seconds she felt the familiar feeling of being sucked through a tube before dropping lightly on the plush carpet of Draco's living room.

Now that she felt relatively safe, and knew her kids had a place to sleep, the full extent of her injuries were able to make themselves known. "Ugh," she groaned, trying to hold onto Hugo as her side ached.

"Whoa," Draco said, placing Rose on the floor and grabbing the baby before Hermione dropped him. "Are you okay?" It was a stupid question. She was clearly not okay.

"Yes..." Hermione hissed out, struggling to keep herself standing. Draco sighed and pulled Hermione into himself, giving her a place to rest. He had a predicament. Rose looked to be about four years old. Hugo, the baby, was likely only a few months old. He couldn't leave them alone, but Hermione was never going to make it up the stairs by herself.

"Bitsy!" Draco finally called. Within seconds and small house-elf 'popped' into the room.

"Yes, Master?" she asked, looking at the new people standing in the living room. Draco rarely ever had guests.

"Please stay with young miss Rose and her little brother while I take their mother upstairs." Draco directed. He placed the baby in Bitsy's arms and used his full strength to hold up Hermione.

When Rose began to cry, Draco kneeled down to her and said, "I'll be right back for you, okay? Now, be a big girl and help Bitsy with your brother. Can you do that?" After a few seconds she nodded and her cries turned to whimpers and he turned his attention back to Hermione.

She was amazed at how gentle he was with the children. If you had asked her an hour ago whether Draco Malfoy could do anything other than make a baby cry she'd have thought you insane. "Can you walk?" he asked her.

"Yes, I'm fine," she tried to move on her own but the adrenaline she'd been running on had completely left her body. Draco placed her arm around his neck and moved her to the stairs, finally deciding carrying her would be easiest.

She didn't protest as he swept her into his arms and up the stairs. He brought her to his mother's old room, which was the largest and nicest room in his wing. He placed her gently on the bed before moving to pull a chair next to the bed. "Do you want my to heal your wounds before I bring your children up?"

"Please," Hermione whispered, locking eyes with him. He could tell she was ashamed to be seen in such a vulnerable state. He could also tell that she was letting him know that she was trusting him. The thought filled him with pride and desire to do right by her, no matter what.

He started at her head and healed to bruise on her cheek. Then he moved down her body to her collarbone which was also bruised. She had three broken ribs and she grunted in pain as he fused the bones back together. "God, Hermione, what happened to you?" he breathed.

She sniffled, trying to hold in her tears, but it was a hopeless cause. He'd seen her secret and hadn't made fun of her, what harm could tears do. Her body shuddered with sobs as Draco made quick work of healing her other wounds, including some internal bleeding that had started in her abdomen. He knew enough about healing to know that if she'd just found a bed somewhere and passed out, her daughter would have found her dead in the morning. That thought made bile rise in his throat.

"Weasley did this to you, didn't he?" Draco finally asked when Hermione's sobs died down.

She nodded. "How long has he been beating you, Hermione?" Draco asked, grinding his teeth together in disgust.

"Since the day we got back from our honeymoon." She said, her voice small and cracked. Before he gave it any thought, Draco moved into the bed next to her and pulled her into his arms.

"Why do you put up with it?" He asked. This girl was a war hero. She was Harry Potter's right-hand woman. She was beautiful and smart and ambitious. How in the world did she end up with a man so beneath her? A man who beat her to boot.

"The kids, are they..." Draco started, but he didn't even know how to form the question without vomiting at the thought.

"He's never hurt the children." she said, quickly. "If he had, I would have left."

"Why haven't you left anyway?' Draco asked.

Hermione sighed. She didn't know how to answer the question. She hated her husband. She had for a long time. But with Ron came a lot of things she loved. "I made a choice to marry him when I was 19," she said. "I thought I loved him. We were happy until we got married. When he started...hitting me, I thought it would pass. When I got pregnant with Rose he was amazing. Never hit me. Treated me like a queen.

"Then, when she was born, he wouldn't let me go back to work. He kept me like a prisoner in our house. But, without him, I'd lose my family. My parents died not long after the war was over and all I have, in the world, are Harry and the Weasley's. If I leave, I'll have no one." Draco noticed that she was speaking in the present tense, but didn't interrupt her. He couldn't believe she was considering going back to that bastard.

"After Rose was born, and the beatings started again, we weren't like man and wife anymore. I couldn't give myself to him intimately. I didn't trust him."

"But, Hugo can't be more than six months old." Draco said, confused.

Hermione swallowed hard and looked away from him. There were some things she wasn't willing to talk about. However, Draco didn't need to be told. When he saw the look on her face, he knew. That bastard raped her. He really did think he was going to puke. He took a few deep breaths, calming himself before speaking. "You need to leave him. You can stay here as long as you need to. You and the kids are more than welcome. But you cannot stay there. He will kill you."

Hermione shook her head. "I have to go back." she said. "What about the kids? What about the family? They'd take his side."

"Hermione, look at me," Draco said, pulling her to face him. "He will kill you. He will not stop with you." He bit back tears as he continued, "My father did this to my mother. She barely escaped death several times. I always had to nurse her back to health. Do you want Rose to find you unconscious on the floor one night? Do you want Hugo to walk in on his father raping his mother?"

Hermione's breath caught in her throat. "Oh my," she shuddered at the thought. He was absolutely right. If she went back there, she would be condemning her children to a fate she couldn't imagine. He might not hurt them physically, but the fighting had to affect them emotionally.

"Let me go get the kids," Draco said, moving from the bed. "Rose looks very worried." Hermione smiled and nodded. "I know it's a little strange, but you can borrow one of my mother's nightgowns tonight until we figure out what to do about your clothes."

Hermione just nodded. She didn't care about anything but seeing her children. Draco hurried out of the room and back down the stairs to the living room. Bitsy was rocking the baby and talking to Rose about something. The little girl had calmed down quite a bit. He smiled and entered the room.

"Rose, how would you and Hugo like to see your mommy now?" he asked. She nodded and smiled making her way over to him. He scooped up the baby in his arms and thanked Bitsy before allowing her to go back to her chambers.

"Is she okay?" Rose asked, clutching at his hand. He leaned down and patted her head.

"She will be okay, I promise." He said.

"What is your name?" Rose asked as they began making their way up the stairs.

"I'm Draco," he said, pulling her along.

"Thank you, Draco." His heart melted and he smiled down at her. Who could not love this adorable girl. He wanted to make sure she never had to dry her mother's tears ever again.

He led them into the bedroom, and shut the door behind him. He transfigured an old dresser into a cradle to put the baby in, but Hermione stopped him before he laid the baby down. "Actually, I have to feed him." she blushed.

He placed the baby in her arms and moved to leave the room, but again, she stopped him. "You can stay, I can use a blanket." she indicated, placing the blanket from the bed over her chest to shield his view. He'd healed 90% of her body anyway. Now wasn't the time to be modest.

Rose snuggled into bed next to her mother as the baby suckled at his mother's breast. "Mommy, I don't want to go back to him." Rose sighed.

"We won't, baby. I promise." Hermione said. And looking at Draco, she knew she could keep that promise. He would help her. Within minutes Rose was sound asleep, clinging to her mother's arms.

"I can't believe my babies have to spend their Christmas like this." She cried. "They didn't even get to open their presents."

"I'm sorry, Hermione." Draco said. "But, maybe this is the best gift you could give them." She nodded. He was right. She should have left Ron a long time ago.

They sat in comfortable silence while Hugo feasted. Finally, when he was done. Hermione removed him from her breast and handed him off to Draco he already had his arms opened to accept him. "Can I ask you something?" she said, snuggling under the covers and pulling Rose closer to her.

"Sure," Draco said.

"Why did you comfort me that night in the Astronomy Tower? And why are you helping me now?" She asked. She trusted that his heart was in the right place. She always had, to tell the truth. But she didn't understand why.

"That, Hermione, is a very long answer." Draco finally said. "The short version: I never wanted to see you cry."

Hermione's pulse raced as she heard his words and saw the look in his eyes. "But you were sometimes the one to make me cry." she countered.

"I was a fool." he said. He looked at her for a brief moment and then turned and left, muttering 'goodnight' on his way out.

Hermione was no longer thinking about Ron. She was confused and exhilarated by Draco's words. Could he possibly be saying what she thought he was saying? She drifted off to sleep thinking about Draco Malfoy and what he could possibly have meant by his admission.

Hermione woke up to find the bed and crib empty. Her brain went into a panic and her heart skipped a beat before she realized that Draco had probably just come to take the children to allow her a few minutes more of sleep. She used her wand to see what time it was. It was still relatively early.

She yawned and got out of bed, stretching her hands over her head. It was the best she'd felt in a long time. Usually, when Ron would attack her, she could only heal the most emergent wounds because of time and in order to keep him from beating her again. She hadn't felt totally herself in years.

She pulled one of Narcissa's dressing robes out of the closet and padded out of the room in search of Draco and her children. She smiled as she heard Rose chattering about something downstairs. She followed her voice all the way to a large sitting room across from an even larger dining room.

Her breath caught in her throat and her eyes grew wide when she saw the most magnificent Christmas Tree, lit and decorated, in front of her. It reminded her of the huge trees Hagrid would bring in for the Great Hall at Hogwarts. "Mommy!" Rose called, jumping up into her mother's arms and pulling out of her walk down memory lane.

"Rose was just telling me about what she got last Christmas." Draco said, smiling up at her from the floor where he was playing with the baby. The vision of Draco, down on the floor, playing with her children made her want to cry again. Ron never played with the kids. He never even spent time with them unless there was something in it for him. She'd almost forgotten that men could be good with children.

Rose hopped down and pulled her by the hand to where Hugo and Draco were. "We've been waiting all morning for you, Mommy," she said, her voice exasperated. Hermione chuckled. She was truly her mother's daughter.

"Draco said we couldn't open any presents until you got up." Rose explained.

"Presents?" Hermione asked, looking at Draco. He just pointed under the tree. There were at least thirty packages sitting there, waiting to be opened. "But how..."

"I guess Santa came," he answered, smirking up at her. She smiled warmly back at him. She didn't know how he'd done it, but in the middle of the night, he'd conjured up gifts for her children so that they could have a real christmas. She was willing to bet that the tree went up last night too.

"Well, go ahead," Hermione said, looking back at her daughter. The girls glee was through the roof a she bounced over to the tree and started pulling out gift after gift looking for the ones that read 'R-O-S-E.' Draco passed Hermione Hugo's gifts.

The next few minutes were spent opening gift after gift, the excitement punctuated with squeals of delight from Rose, and 'thank you' after 'thank you' from Hermione. Draco grinned from ear to ear. Every year since his mother died he'd spent Christmas alone. And every year he was miserable. This morning had been the best Christmas of his life.

"I can't believe you did all this," Hermione said, patting him on the knee. They both smiled as the physical touch. "I have to get you something now."

"No," Draco said. "You have no idea how much your being here is a gift."

"What do you mean?" she asked.

"I've never had a happy Christmas in my whole life until today." Draco said without explaining further. Hermione smiled back at him and nodded. She understood. As much as he'd rescued her last night, he seemed in need of a little rescuing himself.

Rose was playing with her new toys and Hugo had begun napping when Draco pulled the last box from the tree. It had 'Hermione' written in beautiful script across the tag. "Wow," she said, surprised that he'd gone to the trouble to get her a gift too.

She bit her lip and tore the paper from the box before lifting the lid. "Draco, this is amazing." Hermione gasped as she gently lifted the original copy of Christmas of Hogwarts: Memories from the box. She flipped to the front page and gasped. "Draco, this is signed!" she cried.

He grinned up at her. "I had noticed that." he said. "And I have to apologize that you're gift is 'used.'" he laughed as she gave him an incredulous look.

"This book is worth at least 10,000 galleons." Hermione explained.

"And now it's yours." he said. "I always knew you liked books, especially first editions."

Hermione gently dropped the book back into the box and thew herself into Draco's arms. "Thank you so much Draco!" she gushed, hugging him tightly to her. His heart almost stopped as he felt her press against him, and it was all he could do, not to crash his lips into hers and drink her in completely.

Finally she moved off of him, looking slightly embarrassed when she did. "This was really great of you, Draco. You didn't have to do this for us."

"It was my pleasure. Come with me." he said before standing and holding his hand out to her. She took it and he helped her up from the floor. She smiled at him, but motioned back at the baby and Rose.

"Bitsy!" he called.

"Yes master?" she answered, as she entered the room.

"Will you please keep and eye on Miss Rose and little Hugo for a few minutes?" Draco asked politely. Hermione smiled at both him, and the immaculate clothing the small elf was wearing. She hooked her arm through Draco's and allowed him to lead her into the front hallway.

"I just wanted to tell you that my offer was serious." Draco said, leaning against the wall as he let go of her arm.

"Offer?" Hermione asked.

"To stay with me. It's rather lonely here, and I want to help you if I can." He explained. "I can help you get your divorce, and get on your feet. I can help you with the kids if you want to get back to work. I can do anything you need me to do." Draco said. He knew he was sounding more and more desperate the more he talked, but he couldn't help himself. The thought of having her leave the Manor made him panicky. Besides, he's been emotionally closed off for 26 years and all it brought him was loneliness.

"I just don't understand why you want to help us," Hermione admitted.

"I'd think it was obvious." Draco said, pulling her into him so that they were only inches apart. "I've been in love with you since that night in the Astronomy Tower."

Hermione's eyes widened and her breath began to come out in pants. Almost ten years this man had been in love with her and she'd never known it. He might have been a former Death Eater, but she had trusted him more than she'd even trusted her own friends in a moment of heartache. "I..." she started, but before she could finish her thought, she noticed something above their heads.

"You planned this didn't you!" she shouted, laughter in her voice. There was mistletoe hanging directly above them.

"Maybe," he smirked, pulling her slightly closer.

She smiled back at him and leaned in. In the moment, she didn't care that everything was moving too fast. She didn't care that she was still married to Ron and her children were in the other room. All she cared about was the fact that Draco was standing in front of her, declaring his love for her under the mistletoe.

Her lips lightly brushed against his and she could smell the toothpaste on his breath. Goosebumps popped up all over her body as his lips captured hers in his and he deepened the kiss. His hands moved around her waist and pulled her tightly against him. Her hands went to his hair and pulled his face closer to hers.

She couldn't get enough. She felt hot and cold all at the same time. Her head was buzzing and her lips were tingling in a way that she'd never experienced before. As he bit on the bottom lip, a slight moan escaped her lips. "Draco..." she breathed, when they finally parted.

Her brain was still fuzzy for a few seconds before she was able to speak again. "Wow," she said, looking into his eyes.

"Yeah, that pretty much sums it up." Draco had been dreaming about this moment for years and the reality had far surpassed the illusion. The sight of her swollen lips and heaving chest made his heart pound and his hold on her tighten.

"I wanted you to kiss me, that night in the Astronomy Tower." Hermione blurted out. Draco looked back at her shocked. "I was upset about Ron. But after you comforted me, and told me how beautiful I was and how much I deserved someone better, I couldn't help but fall for you a little bit." Draco smiled and she continued.

"I'm still married." Hermione said, "and I have two kids, no job, and I'm a mess. I've been beaten for the past seven years by my husband. I'll have no one after I file for divorce..."

"You'll have me," Draco interrupted and she smiled.

"I'm just trying to tell you, that I know that I could love you, one day." Draco's heart soared. He hadn't even expected that much. "But, you have to be patient with me."

"I've waited ten years." Draco said, "I could wait ten more."

The End.