Disclaimer: I own nada, JK Rowling rules all.
A/N: I had an urge to write a Christmas fic, and I realized that I never actually have written a Christmas fic! So here you go, a Christmas fic in July. I do wish it was a little happier though.
He woke up to a throbbing ache flashing down his side, soaked in his own cold sweat. He had spent the better part of the night blistering hot and then terribly frigid, unable to move due to the bandaged and still-fragile state of the right side of his body. He'd known Apparating was dangerous, but he'd always been so confident in himself when it came to his magical abilities. The risk of getting splinched, in his opinion, had always been low on his short list of Ways Draco Malfoy Could Die. Snape had always told him his arrogance would get the best of him, just like it had messed things up for his father, and now he could finally admit that he was probably right.
He sat up, grabbing the bottle of tonic on his bedside table. He took three thirsty gulps, wincing as it burned his throat. He felt the effects instantly – the intense throbbing and aching dulled, and he could feel the nasty draft of this old house again.
He laid back down, staring up at the dark ceiling. The house creaked and groaned, and he wondered if everyone was asleep. He looked at the clock. It was almost Christmas.
He got out of bed. He cradled his bandaged arm to himself, quietly going down the stairs. Everything seemed quiet and unmoving, no familiar sounds of motion, no urgent whispers. And then he heard it – something faint. Music.
One by one, the corridor lights lit the way for him as he traveled, curiously heading towards the origin of the noise. As he got closer, it became clearer. He recognized it, and it made a shiver go down his spine. Somebody was playing Christmas music. Here, in this creepy old house, where through the paper-thin walls he usually heard muffled sobbing over a dead loved one or serious hushed talk over plans and ambushes. Muggle Christmas music was as out of place here as he was.
The light was on in the living room. As he silently crept up into the doorway, he could see that somebody had put up a Christmas tree in an otherwise dark and grim common room. He silently watched her as she hummed to herself, putting up Christmas ornaments by hand.
He could have stood there and watched her forever. Granger, alone – without her two Gryffindor lackeys – was fascinating. He watched her sometimes, the way her face moved as she thought, like mechanical gears moving into place, and how sometimes her eyes surveyed things that he wasn't sure were quite there. There were moments where he had no choice but to respect her, like when she was covered in blood and limping through the bodies of dead Death Eaters and even those of their old classmates. And then there were the moments when he couldn't quite describe what he felt towards her, like when he watched her run her fingers through Weasley's stupidly ginger hair while he rested on her lap, or the way he caught her sometimes, staring away into nothing, her face lost in thought.
Like now, for example. Or even hours ago, when he had looked up to see her hovering above him, feeling her warm hands as she pressed down on his open wound. "Keep still, Malfoy," she'd said to him, her brown eyes dark with determination. The way he had struggled to keep consciousness as she shielded his body and blocked off spells, before firing her own. He'd said three words to her, then – in his mind. Never out loud, always in his mind.
"Couldn't sleep?" he said out loud.
She quickly turned around, surprised. When she saw him her face changed, and she turned back to the tree.
"No," she only said.
He collected himself from the doorway, approaching her from behind. "Why don't you use magic?"
She didn't even glance his way. "You should get back to bed. You need your rest," she said, delicately hanging a gold phoenix figurine on the tree.
He could feel himself begin to coldly withdraw. Granger had always known how to grind his gears better than anyone. One way was pretending that she wanted nothing to do with him. As if the reason he had gotten splinched and wounded from battle wasn't because of her.
"So this is it, then," he found himself saying, his voice clipped and harsh. "We're back to this. Pretending."
Again, she refused to look at him. He did notice, however, that little muscle in her jaw clench. Oh yes, he knew that little muscle in her jaw very well.
"Back to 'this'? I don't remember us having ever stopped."
His eyes flashed. He suppressed the urge to grab her and shake some sense into her. "You think I followed you there, in the middle of a fucking battle, just so we could continue on hiding?" he said.
For the first time, she looked at him, turning her entire body towards him.
"You think that's supposed to mean something special? Telling me that you followed me here?" Her eyes turned cold and empty. It was like looking into a barren Antarctic landscape. "You're Draco Malfoy. You follow anyone."
That's when he felt it. Like a wind had blown through him, a nasty and greedy wind, and had left him reeling, not sure of what it had taken from him. But taken something it most definitely had. If he'd ever had a feeble candle still burning for them – it – she had finally blown it out.
"You think you're as righteous and noble as the rest of them," he sneered at her. "But you're heartless, too. And you know it. I know you do."
He gave her one last look – the last look he would ever waste on her – and turned back around, heading back to his room. He slammed the door behind him, not caring if it woke up all of the grumpy portraits and sleeping people in the house. Good. They would all be as sleepless as he was.
He felt the throbbing return, and he took some more tonic. He wondered how much he could drink for the tonic to start working on his heart. He thought about what he would have to go back to, if he could. He remembered the desolate ruins of his manor, the way his mother had reached out to him before she and his father both disappeared, gone in a hazy swirl of burned silk robes and only a faint hint of their formerly privileged lives. He'd gone back to Hogwarts for her, but there was no her to be found, and no Hogwarts, either.
He could have taken refuge with his family. He was almost sure they were up in their winter cottage in the Alps. But then he remembered what he thought would be his last day with her, the sad and pleading way her eyes looked at him. Nobody had ever looked at him like that. Only her.
He said that he had stopped recognizing himself the moment he had stayed behind. The truth was that he had stopped recognizing himself long before that.
He must have dozed off, lying there and cursing her existence. When he woke up, the house was quiet again, with the sound of the snow gently rapping against the windows, but it was still dark. He could see the pale moonlight filtering through the flimsy window curtain, and the white, glowing snow as it gathered on the window panes.
When he heard his door open, he closed his eyes. Faintly, he could hear his heart start to beat again. Strange how these last few weeks, he had suddenly become so familiar to the language that thudded from deep within his chest. He hadn't ever known it before, but now it was all he ever heard.
She didn't say a word as she closed the door behind her and silently crept into his bed. She was so warm, and he hated it. She was so soft and everything he never thought he could want and he hated it. He hated that she thought she could just sneak into his bed and think that it could solve everything, and erase the distance she had forced in between them, and undo what she had said. But most of all, he hated that he had hoped this was exactly what she'd do.
"How's your arm?"
Her voice was soft, a light breath against the curve of his jaw.
"Feels like death, Granger."
"It'll get better," she said. She was completely still beside him, and he wanted to beg her to move. Not away, but just to move. A slight shift closer, just so he could know she was really there.
"I didn't want you to follow me. I would have understood if you'd gone into hiding with your parents. I would have hated it," she said, sighing, "but I would have understood."
His face was hard, glaring up at the ceiling.
"Understood, maybe," he said lowly. "But you never would have been able to look at me again. Admit it."
She didn't say a word. He could hear her breathing, though, and it settled the gnarled knots in his stomach. The way it was so steady and quiet, it made him feel at peace, so unlike the jagged rhythm of his own heart.
"Have you had your bandages changed yet?" she asked him. Without him even having a chance to answer, she was already up, walking over to his side of the bed. She turned on the bedside lamp, and he could see her then. She whispered a spell and soon his shirt was off, discarded neatly at the foot of the bed.
She sat down, slowly and carefully unwinding his old bandages. They were tainted orange from a mix of both blood and pus, but not once did she flinch, not even when they stubbornly clung to his skin. He loved how serious she became, how determined she always was at doing a good job. Even at changing bandages. Even on him.
She set the old bandages in a metal bowl, lighting them on fire, before she began wrapping him in a fresh set. He winced a little when she wrapped them a little too tight, but he didn't say a word.
"Granger," he said to her, hoarsely.
She was leaning over him, their faces only apart by a few inches. He could feel her scattered breath, blessing his pores. She finished up but she didn't move away, not a step, just looking at him. It was those eyes, and he had long known it. He would go to the ends of the earth for those eyes, just for them to keep looking at him in precisely that way.
"Just promise me," she whispered to him. "Just promise me you won't be an idiot. Promise me you won't die."
But Draco Malfoy had always been bad at keeping promises, so he grabbed her face with his able hand and kissed her instead. She melted into him instantly, like honey on a summer day, kissing him hungrily. To him, there were kisses, and then there were end of the world kisses. The kind that held nothing back, that didn't pretend, that was sweet and ached and full and tragic.
She carefully moved on top of him, breaking off their kiss. God, she was breathtaking. Even in the middle of a war, even when he could still faintly smell the scent of smoke and burning bodies on her, she was beautiful. He moaned when he could feel her weight right on top of his erection, and she deftly stripped off her shirt, tossing it to the floor.
In the dim light he could see a smattering of cuts and bruises along her collarbone. She was a damned hardworking girl. He wanted to kiss every single one of them.
Still kissing him, she unbuttoned his pants, and with another whisper, magicked them off of him. He was breathing hard, straining to keep himself quiet when she finally slid herself around him, slick and wet with desperation and want. And then she started moving, her lips shuddering with quiet moans, and he clutched the sheet beside him, tightly.
He could still feel the slight pain in his side, but it was lost in the wave of overwhelming and intense pleasure he found washing over him with every movement of her hips. In the middle of a war, nobody ever lasted long, and he knew it would be the same for him. Their release would be quick but powerful, fueled by desperation and need. She began to move faster, and he silenced her heaving breaths with his mouth, kissing her.
She came just moments before he did, arching her body back, biting her lip from screaming and waking up the other temporary inhabitants of 12 Grimmauld Place. And when he finally felt it, that powerful surge, released, he closed his eyes so tightly he saw tiny white veins of lightning, dancing on the insides of his eyelids.
She collapsed beside him, breathing heavily, her body moist and lax. He could smell sex in the air; a sweet, hot musk. She turned his face and kissed him again, long and deep, before they simply lay there, listening to the sound of their own breaths. They waited as the hot, stuffy air gradually slipped back into the usual drafty air of this house, the kind that reeked of mold and age.
He glanced at the clock, his hand gently stroking her hair. 12:06.
"Merry Christmas," he said to her. He closed his eyes, feeling the exhaustion catch up to his body. There was a pleasant, warm swell in his chest. He knew what this was. Contentment.
"Merry Christmas," she said back to him.
He eventually fell back asleep with her in his arms, but she didn't. She watched him, tracing his peaceful countenance with her eyes, swallowing down the burning stone she felt in her throat. When she was sure he was truly asleep, she untangled herself from him and dressed. With a flick of her wand, she dressed him, too.
She knelt down next to him, giving him one last kiss. He didn't stir.
She'd made her mind up a long time ago when it came to Malfoy. She'd known all along that despite her hopes, he would follow. She felt that change in him when she had left, like the shifting of underground plates to reveal something awakened and true. Malfoy had always been so good at running away because he had nothing to stand up for. Now he did. Now he did – or at least he believed he did – and it was all her fault.
She knew the moment she saw him at the battlefield, his gray eyes searching the rubble for her, what she would have to do. She had set up the tree and put on the music so she could forget for a little while. She hummed to disguise her tears, hanging the ornaments one by one with unsteady hands.
If he forgot he loved her, he would live.
"I love you," she whispered to him, her voice heavy and full of emotion. She shakily raised her wand. "Obliviate."