Disclaimer: I don't own anything but the storyline.
- Under the Lights -
The King's Cross Station had always been a busy place in London, England. As one of the most important transportation venues, one would always be able to see crowds of people, bustling about with their luggage and hurrying along to catch their trains, regardless of which hour of the day, or which day of the week, or which season of the year.
But the train station naturally saw its most hectic days during Christmas. It was this holiday that prompted people to leave all their worries and troubles behind, and to travel, and enjoy the cheerful spirit.
And every year, during the Christmas season, the same tall, handsome and beautifully decorated Christmas tree would be placed in the center of all platforms at the station.
Only, everyone was either too distracted reaching their platform, or greeting their friends, or checking their luggage and tickets, to notice. Not one single person stopped for one single moment to appreciate the beauty and merriness of the tree.
Not one, except for her.
December 24, 1986
Six-year-old Hermione Granger snapped a photo of the train station with her father's instant camera that she had borrowed. She was there with her mother, who had brought her along to wait for her grandparents that were coming to visit for the holiday. While Mrs. Granger stood waiting, little Hermione, with her mother's consent, left to wonder around the platforms by herself. Her mother trusted her enough not to get into any trouble.
Hermione had walked around for a while, before spotting the Christmas tree that stood there amidst all the action and buzz of the loud chattering. She happily approached it, sitting herself down on the low concrete ledge that surrounded the large plant.
It was Christmas Eve, and she had always loved Christmas. It was her most favorite holiday.
The photo slid out, and Hermione eagerly grabbed it with her small hands. She carefully examined the picture. There were the people with their trolley carts, a part of a train, the signs of the platforms that hung from the ceiling…and there was the tree.
For some indescribable reason, Hermione felt a special connection to the tree. She smiled at the picture, admiring the ornaments – there were ribbons, and baubles of all colors, yellow twinkling fairy lights that had been loosely wrapped around the needle-like leaves, and of course, the glorious, bright star at the very top where she had to crane her neck to see.
Hermione's grin widened.
"Why isn't that moving?" A voice said, in an almost infuriated, demanding tone.
Hermione whipped her head around to face a pale, blond boy around the same age as her. He was staring at the photo that she was clutching, with both frustration and curiosity.
"Why isn't what moving?" Hermione frowned, puzzled. "Do you mean the photo?"
The boy had white-blond hair that was slicked back, and wore strange, velvet black clothing that Hermione had never seen before. He would have looked absolutely adorable, if not for the disagreeable, disturbed expression on his pointed face.
He rolled his eyes. They were grey, she noticed.
"Of course I mean the photo! What else can I be talking about?"
Hermione was slightly taken aback by the queer little boy's rudeness, and her frown only deepened. "Photos don't move. At least, I'm never seen a moving photo before."
"Well, I've never seen one that doesn't." He replied haughtily, and Hermione wondered how anyone so young could be capable of putting on such disdain on his countenance.
The brunette bit her lip. "Well, then…" But she brightened up immediately. Nothing could dampen her spirits, really, during the time of such a festive season. "I'm Hermione Granger. It's a pleasure to meet you." She extended her hand with a friendly smile.
The boy lifted his chin proudly. "Malfoy, Draco Malfoy." He examined her outstretched hand doubtfully, almost suspiciously, before reluctantly shaking it with his own.
"So, Draco, why are you here?"
Two pink patches formed on the blond's cheeks and he suddenly lowered his eyes as if ashamed of something that he had done. "Well…you see, I'm not supposed to be here," he confessed guiltily in a low voice. "But I begged my house-elf to bring me here because there was nothing better to do at the Manor, and Mother and Father are both out for a dinner engagement."
Hermione tilted her head quizzically slightly to the side. "House-elf? What's that?" Even at a young age, she was already beginning to show signs of great intelligence and a strong desire to acquire more knowledge at every opportunity.
Draco reddened. "Uh…he's a close acquaintance, and, uh…I call him that for, uh, for fun."
He was stuttering nervously, and Hermione didn't believe him for one second, but only laughed. This Draco Malfoy was such an odd, intriguing character unlike any other she'd ever encountered before.
"Enough about that," Draco said, all confidence returned. "What are you doing here?"
Hermione's face lit up. "I came to pick up my grandparents. They're coming to visit us for Christmas. See that person over there with the blue coat?"
"That's my mother." Hermione was bubbling with excitement. "I can't wait for tomorrow! I love Christmas, even though Santa Clause isn't real. I wonder if he will reply my letter this year." Her chocolate-brown eyes widened. "Oh dear, I hope I'm not on his naughty list."
"But you know he's not real," Draco said inquisitively. He didn't understand.
"Of course I know that, silly," Hermione replied, giggling. "But it's fun to pretend."
Draco shook his head. "What's the point of pretending? It's still not real, and it never will become real."
Hermione's face became solemn. "All the real stuff…it takes the magic away. But if you believe in it, then it is true. Trust me. Try to pretend some time. I promise you'll like it."
Hermione firmly nodded her head. "Pinky-swear."
Just then, Hermione's mother walked up to them. Their resemblance was prominent, Draco noted. Both had the same shade of brown hair, and brown eyes. Mrs. Granger patted her young daughter on the shoulder, who was currently chatting away cheerily.
"Mummy!" Hermione exclaimed once she saw her mother. "Are Grandpa and Grandma here already?" She moved her head around, trying to spot her elderly relatives whom she was exceptionally fond of.
Mrs. Granger nodded. "Yes. They're waiting for you over there." She pointed for Hermione to see. Then she smiled warmly at Draco. "I see you've made a new friend."
"Oh, yes! I nearly forgot!" Hermione cleared her throat in an adult-like way for a proper introduction. "Mummy, this is Draco Malfoy. Draco, this is my mum."
Draco nodded once. "Hello, Hermione's mummy."
"Nice to meet you, dear." She was still smiling. "Now, darling, it's time to go. Say goodbye to your friend."
With a sad pout, Hermione hopped off the ledge. "Goodbye, Draco. I'll miss you," she said sincerely. And then, to his immense surprise, she reached out her arms and hugged him.
Draco's eyes widened in shock. Nobody had ever really shown him much affection before now. Loneliness had been a constant companion, except for maybe the house-elves whom he had befriended. They had known him ever since he was born, but they had never hugged him before. Yet here he was, under a Christmas tree at the train station, being hugged by a muggle girl who barely even knew him. For some odd reason, he felt his cheeks burning in mortification. His face was a dark shade of red as he tentatively hugged her back.
After they pulled away, Hermione held her mother's hand and walked away. Draco watched them leave, and waved back as Hermione turned around, waving, and shouting "Happy Christmas" so loudly it could be heard across the platform.
He was sad that he would probably never see her again, his first friend. And even so, they were from completely different worlds.
But little did he know, that that was only the first year that they would meet – under the lights of the Christmas tree.
December 24, 1991
It was Christmas again, and the tree had been lit up as bright as ever.
Hermione Granger was sitting on the same concrete ledge, swinging her feet. It was her first Christmas holiday after she had started attending the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and she had come back to muggle London for break.
It was odd to think that she was different from everybody else in the train station. Honestly, she didn't like to think so. They were all human beings; they were all equal. But she had been absolutely ecstatic when she received the acceptance letter on her eleventh birthday and learned that she was actually a witch. A witch. A magical being.
Her first year so far was eventful. She had become best friends with Harry Potter and Ron Weasley, and the three were currently trying to discover the secret of the Philosopher's Stone. But other than that, she was already accustomed to her new school. Hermione tried her very best to do well in her studies, completing all of her assignments, attempting to answer every question asked by the teachers… She loved it there, and still felt a thrilling rush of excitement every time she saw the moving staircases, the magical portraits, the respectable professors, the Great Hall, the mail-delivering owls…everything!
But she also found herself missing her parents, her home, and the Christmas tree.
Hermione had been absolutely, positively, enthralled to discover that Draco Malfoy was a wizard. They were best friends, after all. She and Draco had met every year after the first at King's Cross Station. The Christmas tree was their annual meeting place, and they would just spend the hour talking and laughing about nonsensical things, until on the Christmas Eve when they were ten years old, the blond never came. Hermione had been extremely disappointed and couldn't stop herself from crying, but was beside herself with joy when she spotted him on the Hogwarts Express. She finally understood what he meant about the "house-elf" and the moving photo and laughed every time she thought of it. But it was discerning to her that he was a pureblood, and a Slytherin, and a Malfoy, only the wealthiest, most powerful, pureblood family which traced back to times before even Merlin himself, and still kept ancient, traditional beliefs.
Which included the inferiority of muggles, and muggle-borns.
And that meant her.
She thought they would be inseparable best friends. She thought they would sit together in all of their classes, do homework and eat and chat in the Great Hall together everyday. Well, she had been mistaken. All they did together was quarrel.
It was so unfair.
He was so mean to them, and she didn't even know what she did wrong. Tears unknowingly pricked her eyes and trickled down her flushed cheeks.
Hermione jumped, startled at the voice, and hurriedly wiped away the tears on her face with the back of her hands. She gasped when she recognized whom the voice belonged to.
The blond rolled his eyes. "Who else?"
A rush of déjà vu washed over her as she remembered their younger selves meeting at the exact same spot on the exact same day for the first time five years ago. How different things had been.
"I knew you'd be here," he said triumphantly. "You're so predictable, Granger." It almost sounded like an insult.
"Thank you," Hermione replied curtly in a clipped tone.
Draco lifted his chin in a superior air. His hair was slicked back as usual, his face expressionless, and his entire demeanor cold, unfriendly. Even though he was only eleven – a young child – he was the perfect epitome of arrogance and superiority.
"I came to tell you something."
"What?" Hermione asked, and she silently pleaded him to return back to the way they were before.
He only stared at her, and said icily, "We can't be friends."
Hermione looked him straight in the eyes for the first time that evening, her own chocolate-colored orbs watery and red. "Why not?" She demanded, her voice cracking.
"I have my reasons. Even if I wanted to be, we couldn't." For the first time, there were traces of guilt, sorrow and desperation in his words. "We can't be friends anymore."
Teardrops fell onto her lap one by one, blurring Hermione's vision. She simply stared at the ground, and was still able to vaguely see the shadow of the twinkling lights behind her. They shone so brightly, so delightfully, so different from what she felt inside.
"I don't think we ever were," she finally whispered.
Along with Draco's retreating footsteps, Hermione could also hear something else. It was the sound of her heart breaking. She had been so hopeful, so naïve, so innocent – all to be shattered by complete disappointment. There was something else now, though. Anger.
Her tears began to form a small puddle on the concrete, but it was then, exactly 7:23 PM on Christmas Eve, that Hermione Granger vowed that that would be the last time she would cry for Draco Malfoy.
December 24, 1992
"Malfoy," Hermione Granger said through gritted teeth after catching sight of his figure.
The blond strolled towards where she was sitting. "Granger," he scowled with just as much fury.
They were in their second year of school. For the past few semesters, they frequently insulted each other, bickering and arguing ruthlessly until a teacher had to stop them from throwing any more angry words at each other.
"Look, Malfoy, I don't want to argue today. For Merlin's sake, it's Christmas! If you came here with the sole purpose of irritating me to oblivion then I suggest you please leave."
Draco's eyes flashed dangerously. "Don't you ever speak to me like that, you filthy mudblood," he snarled.
"Stop. Just stop." Hermione let out a long, shaky breath. "I don't understand. Why are you doing this to me?"
"This! For the past year I have tried my best to avoid you. You don't want to be friends with me, I accept that. I tried to forget everything from before school. In my mind Draco is long gone; there's only Malfoy now. So I don't talk to you or look at you or anything, yet every single time you still fight with me!" Her eyes were shut tight as she fought with her emotions. "I don't understand you! If my blood-status is a problem to you then why can't you just overlook my existence altogether and pretend I'm not there? Why do you have to insult me all the time? There's nothing I can do about my heritage, and quite frankly, I'm not sorry about it!"
She exhaled sharply, her eyes still closed. It felt nice to confront him and just let everything out. The emotions that had gradually built up and were stirring inside of her were finally released.
"I never said I didn't want to be friends with you," Draco finally said softly following a long, painful silence.
Hermione chuckled darkly. "Well you certainly have a gift for manipulating people's thoughts."
"I never said I didn't want to be friends with you," he said again, louder, firmer this time. "Isn't it obvious?"
"What is? That you're obviously better than everyone else and that nobody is good enough to be graced with your presence?"
The blond ignored her jab. "You're a Gryffindor, I'm a Slytherin. You're a muggle-born, I'm a pureblood. You're a Granger, I'm a Malfoy."
"I know that!" Hermione exclaimed angrily. "You don't have to rub it in my face every time you see me. As if I'm not reminded enough in school."
Draco sighed. "Yet that's exactly what I was raised to do. Don't you see? The circumstances don't permit our friendship, even if I wanted it."
Hermione took a deep breath, still calming down. "Quit speaking in circles, will you? I don't have all day to listen to your riddles." She was genuinely puzzled by Draco's intentions. It was as if he suddenly felt the necessity for explanations of their non-too-friendly relationship out of the blue. As if he suddenly decided they had a relationship at all.
"Don't you know what would happen if we ever became friends?" He demanded angrily. His perfect blond eyebrows were knitted together into a furious frown. "If my father ever found out…" He shook his head, as if afraid to even think of the consequences. "Granger, you could get hurt. Merlin, you could get killed! Killed!"
They ignored the strange looks that they were receiving from curious passersby.
"Thank you for the concern, Malfoy," Hermione remarked dryly. "If I hadn't known you better, I would have reached the conclusion that that would be exactly what you could possibly hope for. A mudblood unworthy of prestigious privileges such as magic, dead and wiped off the face of the earth, once and for all."
The blond Slytherin growled. "You're wrong."
"Am I?" She let out a humorless chuckle.
Hermione could tell that Draco was struggling with this, this…confrontation. She knew that he had been taught to always keep on a mask of indifference and apathy that both his parents, Lucius and Narcissa Malfoy, had mastered so skillfully. It wasn't often for Draco to remove this mask and reveal his inner thoughts and feelings.
"You're still my best friend."
His voice became so quiet, it could easily be missed. But Hermione managed to hear, and her reaction was a clear case of incredulity, her face a look of disbelief. Her initial thought was that her ears were deceiving her, and her mind merely playing childish, unrealistic tricks. She could just about imagine onlookers snickering mockingly at her naivety.
Her heart, as cliché as it sounded, skipped a beat. She still remembered the day they promised to be the best of friends for the rest of their lives perfectly, as if it were only yesterday.
- Flashback -
December 24, 1988
It was another Christmas Eve.
It was just like every other year. Hermione Granger was holding her mother's hand. They had just been to the British Library, where Hermione contentedly spent the afternoon browsing through books while Mrs. Granger did some research on medical history. Hermione's parents were both dentists – doctors of the teeth.
It was around five o'clock in the evening. Mrs. Granger promised Hermione that she could visit the King's Cross Station for an hour or so before they headed home for dinner. They walked along the platforms, avoiding the hectic rush of it all. When Hermione spotted the shining Christmas tree, she let out an excited squeal, let go of her mother's hand and all but ran to the circular concrete ledge.
After a few minutes, a frightened-looking blond boy walked hurriedly towards her. It was Draco!
"I have to go home soon. My parents are out but I don't know when they might come back," he explained in a rush, his grey eyes darting around as if his parents might suddenly show up.
But as he hopped onto the ledge and seated himself beside Hermione, both quickly forgot all about it. Mrs. Granger, who was sitting on a nearby bench, looked on fondly at the pair with amusement clearly written on her face. She was happy to see her daughter so happy. With that thought in mind, she took out a book that she had borrowed from the library, and proceeded to read it.
"Draco, do you have a best friend?" Hermione suddenly asked. Her expression became very solemn and serious.
The boy shook his head. "Blaise and Theo comes over to play with me sometimes, but we're not best friends. And Pansy..." He scrunched up his nose in distaste. "Do you?"
"No," Hermione sadly replied with a frown. "But I've always wanted to have one. So I was wondering…" She bit her lip nervously. "Draco, would you be my best friend?"
"Really?" His eyes lit up. "Yes, I would like that. Would you be mine?"
The brunette nodded happily. "Of course!" She grinned real widely and held up her right hand. "I, Hermione Jean Granger, promise that you'll be my best friend forever, even if you don't want me to be yours anymore."
Draco mimicked her gesture. "And I, Draco Lucius Malfoy, promise that we'll be best friends forever, no matter what happens."
Overcome with delight, Hermione reached over and hugged the blond.
They continued talking animatedly, sharing their Christmas holiday plans and everyday schedules, with flushed rosy cheeks and bright, dancing eyes, until Mrs. Granger came to ask if Hermione was ready to go home.
As she left the station, hand in hand with her mother, she turned around to look at Draco – much like the first Christmas Eve. "Goodbye Draco! Don't forget our promise!"
Draco nodded in reply. "I won't! Happy Christmas, Hermione!"
Hermione Granger left the railway station, her heart nearly bursting of happiness. Her very first best friend in all eight years of her life, and it was none other than Draco Lucius Malfoy.
- End of Flashback -
It seemed that Draco was reliving the same memory in his mind.
"I haven't forgotten our promise."
When Hermione didn't say anything, he quickly continued speaking. "What I mean to say is, that if we were ever partnered up for Potions class – which is a likely possibility – then it would be sensible for us to be on civil terms. You're not the only one who views their academic achievements as something of great importance, you know. Although, nobody has quite been able to surpass your highly irritable insufferableness."
Hermione listened on, highly amused, as Draco rambled on. She was happy, oh so happy, that he had come with hopes of amending their friendship. Because quite honestly she would be lying if she said she didn't miss the arrogant, cunning Slytherin, despite his hostility.
"You're still my best friend, too," she said, interrupting him. "We made a promise, remember?"
He looked at her, surprise etched on his face. He was skeptic, too – suspicious at her unexpected response. Hermione thought his expression was adorable.
"Look, Malfoy." She fiddled with the hem of her shirt, biting her bottom lip, contemplating in her mind which words to choose and use. "I am willing to overlook our...unpleasant history if it allows us to start a friendship."
"Rekindle," Draco corrected. Was that a ghost of a smile –?
The Gryffindor brunette grinned at him. Before now, she had honestly thought that her Christmas wish of being best friends with Draco Malfoy again was nothing but wishful thinking. She didn't think it would ever come true, unless a miracle occurred. Hermione briefly glanced at the shining yellow star on the top of the tree, and thanked it. Maybe the tree was like a sort of blessing, a good luck charm. Maybe, just maybe, it unknowingly, silently, worked holy miracles.
Another thought struck her. "What about in school? We'll have to pretend that we still despise each other. Otherwise, your father might find out. And what about all the students? They'll never accept their Slytherin Prince being so much as civil towards someone from another house - a muggle-born, no less!"
Draco flashed the infamous Malfoy smirk. "Yes, well, you're still the unendurable Gryffindor know-it-all, sidekick to Potty and the Weasel."
"At least that's better than being narrow-minded, big-headed Slytherins," she teased. "Who do they think they are? The kings of the world? And just because their blood is supposedly cleaner." She scoffed, rolling her eyes.
"It's true," he said haughtily.
Hermione checked her watch. "Merlin, it's late! We should get going."
"So, I'll see you in school, then."
She nodded. "I'll write you. Happy Christmas, best friend."
He responded with a smirk. "Happy Christmas, secret best friend."
December 24, 1996
From that special Christmas Eve during their second year on, Hermione and Draco resumed their former friendship, and it became stronger than ever. Although they acted like they absolutely loathed each other and couldn't stand one another, feeling nothing but contempt and disgust in front of everybody else, they always found comfort in each other's presence. This especially applied to the Slytherin, who could finally just be himself with the Gryffindor bookworm. They were always able to find ways to secretly meet, usually at night after curfew. They also corresponded through letters every single day. Hermione felt so lucky to have the best friends that anyone could ever ask for.
They faithfully met every Christmas Eve, too, at their special place. It was never spoken of, but for some reason they followed this routine as if it were a ritual, a tradition. Perhaps it was instinct. Or perhaps it was simply a bond between the unlikely pair.
"Are you scared?" Draco asked.
It was their sixth year of school already, and they could all feel the looming danger. It was coming - another war.
"Of course I am," Hermione replied almost matter-of-factly. "But we have to face it whether we like it or not." She paused. "It's not me that I'm worried about, anyway. What troubles me is my parents, and friends, especially Harry and Ron and…you."
The said person smirked. "I knew you couldn't resist my attractiveness, Granger. Secretly lusting after me, eh?" There was a sly, mischievous glint in his steely eyes.
"Sure, sure, Malfoy. Keep telling yourself that if it makes you feel any better, you pompous git." She snorted in an unladylike fashion. "As if you need anything to inflate your humungous ego."
A contented silence prevailed. They both stared up at the tree with admiration. It stood there so brilliantly in the middle of it all, unaffected by the rest of the world. It seemed as if it was in its own universe by itself.
"I haven't talked to you much this year," Hermione noted regretfully, her eyes never leaving the evergreen plant. "What have you been up to?"
Draco visibly tensed, his jaw was clenched, his face rigid, frozen, expressionless. His complexion grew a shade paler, if that was even possible.
"Doing what?" Hermione asked. She had meant for it to be a lighthearted conversation, but when the Malfoy heir didn't reply, she glanced at him inquisitively and immediately knew that something was off. "Is it...it's not that, is it?"
He still didn't say anything.
"What? What? Please tell me, you can trust me."
Hermione gasped. She knew what that meant. Dark side...He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named...Death Eater...
A dangerous, dark look briefly flitted across his face. "The bastard threatened to kill my family." His mercurial eyes became menacing. If looks could kill...
She could only imagine what Draco was going through. Overwhelmed with sympathy and anger, she fixed her gaze on the ground, fighting back tears. "I'm so sorry, Draco," she whispered, her heart breaking for her friend.
The pained blond let out a noise between a snarl and a growl. "Let's not talk about this. It's Christmas, meant for happy things, not my bloody life story." He exhaled sharply. "Anyway, why the tree?"
"What?" Hermione knitted her eyebrows together in confusion.
"The tree. Evidently, you're very attached to it, and I'm curious of the reason behind this unique bond."
The brunette smiled. "Oh." She fondly looked at the twinkling plant, and Draco did the same. "Isn't it beautiful? Look at its decorations, and the star, and the lights. Mesmerizing, yeah? Full of holiday spirit." She paused. "But it's lonely. It just stands here all alone every year, hoping to be looked at, cared for, only to be ignored by the people who are too engaged in their own businesses to spare so little as a single glance. But everybody needs a friend. Everybody needs help sometimes, Draco."
He could feel her toffee-colored eyes on him, and it almost felt as if she wasn't only talking about the tree anymore. His thoughts strayed to himself. There was so much pressure on him, it was sickening. How unfair life was! How dangerous the darkness of man's heart could be.
"I wish you would go see Dumbledore," she continued. "He can help you. We will all help you."
"Help?" Draco raised an eyebrow skeptically. "We're your enemies, Granger. Wouldn't they rather see us dead and wiped off the face of the earth, once and for all?" He repeated what Hermione had once said to him. "Good riddance, isn't it? We're bloody Death Eaters, working like stupid idiots for that bloody bastard, damn it!"
"No, you're wrong. Professor Dumbledore will protect you. He's the most powerful wizard in all of the wizarding world, for Merlin's sake!" She shook her head vigorously. "Don't you trust me?"
"Of course I do!" Draco glared at her for asking. "Do you trust me?"
Hermione nodded. "With my life," she answered firmly.
"What about them? Do they feel the same?"
"Well..." Hermione replied uneasily. "I'm sure they'll...eventually come around."
Draco snorted. "You don't have to sugarcoat anything. Even thickheaded blokes unfortunate enough to possess intellects identical to that of Crabbe or Goyle could see. For all I know, your friends still call me 'Ferret.'"
"Says the person who never addresses them by their proper names either," she retorted. "To their defense, they at least call you by your last name. You...you're just plain mean." She crossed her arms, feigning irritation, but was unsuccessful in hiding her growing smile.
The Malfoy heir flashed that infamous smirk that could only be mastered by a true Malfoy. "I improvise."
The Gryffindor Princess rolled her eyes. Sometimes, her best friend could be so immature and childish; it was a drastic change from his usual cold, icy demeanor. "I wish you would just try to be civil," she grumbled. "Is that so much to ask for? I don't like this – this whole facade we're creating. It makes me feel dishonest."
"Granger, don't expect us to suddenly all become a big, happy family, because if you do, you'd be disappointed." His playfulness disappeared in an instant. "I don't like pretending any more than you do. Believe me."
All of a sudden, the atmosphere dampened. The two young students of rival houses were both lost in thought, and looked quite downcast and sullen. When would they finally be able to be best friends in public, without having to deal with strange, disapproving looks from others? When would the wizarding world finally be free of prejudice and the shadow of danger? Everybody longed for the day when they would be able to live without harboring any fear of war.
"I nearly forgot!" Hermione pulled out a neatly wrapped package from her bag. She handed it to Draco. "This is for you."
"Open it," she urged excitedly. "You'll never guess what's inside."
Eyeing it with immense curiosity, Draco carefully removed the red ribbon, and then the wrapping paper, to reveal a plain cardboard box.
"What is it?"
Hermione let out an exasperated sigh. "That's sort of why you're meant to open it. Seriously, ferret."
He shot her a dirty look and opened the box, and then tentatively took out its contents, half expecting it to spring up and bite him. It didn't, though. It was a – it was a –
"It's a snow globe," Hermione told him. She took the object from him to explain it. There were a few miniature Christmas trees, and a girl and a boy building a snowman inside the glass dome. When she gently shook it, snow fell on them, completing the scene of a winter wonderland.
Draco stared at it in awe. Never before had he seen anything so remotely interesting. It was beautiful.
"It's a muggle thing," Hermione offered. "I thought you might like it."
"I do," he replied. "Thank you."
Hermione shrugged. "You're welcome. Happy Christmas."
"Happy Christmas." Draco glanced at his watch and hurriedly stood up. "I have to go first. Thank you for the gift."
"Okay," she nodded, sad that he had to leave. She wondered when was the next time they would be able to spend time together freely again. "Oh, and Draco?"
He turned around.
"Please consider talking to Dumbledore. I mean it. Really."
It was impossible to refuse under her pleading gaze. "Alright," he said, and left.
Hermione glanced at the place where he had sat only moments ago, and was surprised to see a silver box resting there. Beside it was a piece of folded parchment. She thought it was something he had accidentally left behind, but upon a closer look, discovered that two words were written on the topside of the parchment.
They exchanged presents every year, but Draco always left his thoughtful gifts inconspicuously, in her bag, on her desk, on the ledge...
She chuckled. Even though they were best friends, he still insisted on calling her 'Granger.'
The other side of the parchment was covered with his elegant script. Excellent penmanship - was that another Malfoy attribute? She greatly admired it; after all, it wasn't often that a boy had such impeccable handwriting. Ron's messy scrawl was the perfect example.
It was a note for her. "Dear Granger," it read.
"Enclosed in the box is a Christmas gift for you. I hope you like it, as it does have a special meaning. If you ever lose it, you will be severely punished. I mean it.
You are welcome, and Happy Christmas.
- Draco Malfoy"
Hermione was left highly amused after she finished reading the short letter. She held the shiny box in her hand, wondering what could possibly be inside, and lifted the lid.
The brunette gasped.
Inside the box lay a beautiful silver necklace. She gingerly touched the pendant. It was a silver Christmas tree, embedded with dainty emerald, ruby and diamond studs. It was simple, yet beautiful.
And it must have cost a fortune, she thought, not knowing whether to be touched or angry with him for spending so lavishly and unconventionally. Alas, the former was predominant.
Tears unknowingly glistened in her eyes as she understood the symbolism of the necklace. It represented Christmas. It represented the tree. It represented their friendship. She carefully clasped the piece of jewelry around her neck, vowing to wear it every single day for the rest of her life.
Hermione looked up at the real tree behind her, and thanked it for giving her Draco Malfoy.
December 24, 1998
Two years later, and the tree was still there.
Voldemort had been defeated by the Light Side, by the Boy-Who-Lived, and the last remaining Death Eaters were all captured by the Aurors. The wizarding world finally saw peace at long last.
Because of the events that took place the previous year, the education of the students had been halted. They were invited back to complete their seventh year. Hermione Granger went alone - Harry and Ron decided to pursue their careers as Aurors instead. But Draco Malfoy had decided to return as well, and Dumbledore appointed the two as Head Girl and Head Boy.
All was well.
The Christmas season arrived for yet another time.
"It's nice to be here again," Hermione said contentedly.
"You can come here anytime," Draco pointed out.
She nodded in agreement. "But this is different. This is special. It's Christmas, and I'm here with you." A faint blush crept onto her cheeks.
"Aw, that's touching," Draco smirked smugly. "I'm sorry I can't say the same, though."
Hermione swatted his arm playfully. "Yes, yes. What are you going to say next? 'Everybody kiss my feet?'" She shook her head. "You Purebloods are so self-absorbed!"
"Well, nothing's worse than being a beaver," he teased, his eyes dancing evilly.
"Or a ferret," she shot back. "Shall I remind you of a little incident in our forth year? It goes something along the lines of the great Draco Malfoy turning into an Amazing Bouncing Ferret."
"Ferret." Hermione glared up at the tree. "Christmas tree," she complained. "Will you be my best friend instead? Malfoy's being an annoying prat."
The said prat chuckled. "And now you're talking to inanimate objects."
The brunette grumbled something incoherent, only adding on to Draco's amusement. She could be so strange and different sometimes, but her queerness was in a positive way.
The two best friends watched the people at the train station for a while in silence. People exchanging greetings and embracing each other, they all looked so happy. It was such a heart-warming scene.
Christmas really was something magical.
"Harry invited you over for dinner tomorrow," Hermione announced.
Once the Christmas holidays ended during their sixth year of school, Draco did indeed talk to Dumbledore, and the elder wizard was pleased to help. The Malfoy family transferred to the Light side, and proceeded to act as spies for the Order.
After the war ended, the two finally told everyone of their friendship. To say that people were merely surprised was an extreme understatement. Their reactions weren't pretty. Ron, especially. He was so mad, his face visually reddened with anger until it was the identical shade as his flaming hair. He refused to talk to her for the rest of the week. Harry tolerated it slightly better, although shocked to discover that Hermione and Malfoy had established their friendship so long ago, even before they had met in school. Lucius and Narcissa Malfoy were disturbed that their son was so close to a muggle-born, but it was time they overlooked the prejudiced beliefs, and accepted her rather quickly. Hermione got along surprisingly well with Draco's mother.
The only person not taken aback by their close acquaintance was Professor Dumbledore. The headmaster seemed almost knowing, and his electric blue eyes only twinkled mysteriously behind his half-moon spectacles.
"Potter invited me for Christmas dinner?" Draco exclaimed, appalled. It was as if the idea was the most preposterous thing he'd ever heard.
"Yes," Hermione replied satisfactorily. She smirked triumphantly, her brown orbs sparkling. "You should be ashamed by his maturity."
The blond scowled. "Are you implying that I am immature?" He demanded.
"Mm-hm." She had to bite her lip to keep from laughing out loud when Draco growled angrily. "Please be nice tomorrow. They're trying very hard to be civil, you know." She was proud of her friends' effort. In truth, they got along quite well for the most part. Even Ron had begrudgingly admitted that Draco wasn't so bad. Most had already been won over by his graceful charm and witty intelligence. Molly Weasley was so fond of him she would have married him for sure if she were thirty years younger. Hermione's own parents had long been completely convinced.
"Any funny business, and I will not hesitate to hex you," she threatened.
He raised an eyebrow, pretending to think over it.
"Ferret, please," she whined.
Draco narrowed his eyes dangerously into thin slits. "Calling me names is getting you nowhere, Granger." He smoothed his expensive robes. "But yes, I will come over for a bit once I've had dinner with my parents."
"Oh, that's right! How are your parents? I was actually hoping to visit them tomorrow, if that's okay."
"They're fine. Only Mother keeps ranting about how gorgeous and brilliant and amazing you are." He rolled his eyes. "Even Father's growing quite fond of you."
Hermione blushed. How wrong she had been about them before!
"So...do you have any Christmas wishes this year?" She asked.
Draco frowned. "Well..." He looked up at the twinkling tree. "Christmas tree, what do you do when you fancy this girl, but doesn't know if she feels the same?"
"You fancy someone? And you didn't tell me!" Hermione widened her eyes accusingly. An envious green monster came to life inside her. She didn't even know when it had happened, but she had unknowingly, secretly, started developing feelings for the prat. Damn her bloody feelings! She wasn't supposed to have them!
"And…" Draco apprehensively glanced at her for a second. "What if it just so happens that she is the best friend sitting beside me this moment?"
She literally froze, as if she had suddenly transformed into a stone statue. But then the information fully registered in her mind, and she recovered.
"Christmas tree, what do you do when you happen to reciprocate those feelings?"
A wide grin spread across Draco's face, and Hermione knew she was wearing the same expression on her own face. Flushed, and suddenly shy but incredibly happy, her heart hammered in her chest so quickly she seriously thought it might explode.
"Does that mean we're dating, then?" She still hadn't fully found her voice, and her words came out very softly.
"Yes, and you're all mine." Draco looked fondly at their intertwined hands. "Merlin, my parents will be absolutely ecstatic once they find out! They've been taking bets when I would finally tell you, you know." He chuckled appreciatively. "I'd have to tell Mother that she owes Father a hundred galleons."
Hermione smiled. She really did love the elder Malfoy couple. "I wonder what Harry will say when he sees us arrive at his doorstep, hand in hand. Oh, I can't wait to see Ron's face!"
And as they sat there together, laughing, they both had the same thought in their minds.
It was truly one of the best Christmases that they've ever had.
December 24, 2003
"Silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright..."
The melody of the Christmas carol was being softly played at King's Cross Station. Another Christmas Eve, and Hermione and Draco were already twenty-three years old.
The couple was sitting by the large tree that they loved. It was oddly endearing.
"Admit it, Draco. You had a thing for Pansy Parkinson when we were in school." Hermione crossed her arms. They were in the middle of another heated, but playful debate.
Draco gritted his teeth. Even though the brunette meant it teasingly, he couldn't believe she would ever have such a ridiculous notion. It was completely, utterly absurd!
"I did not! Saying I fancied Pansy would be like saying you never liked Weasley!"
Hermione's eyes widened. "I never liked him!" She cried out defensively. "He was, is, just a friend!"
Both young adults were known for their obstinacy. They were seriously two of the most stubborn people ever, and both hated admitting that they were wrong.
Hermione shot Draco a watch-me-I'll-prove-it-to-you look and turned to face the tree behind them. "Christmas tree, did the git over here ever fancy Pansy Parkinson?" The two sometimes talked to the large tree as if it were a pet. It was quite hilarious, really.
The fairy lights on the evergreen twinkled.
Tilting her head to the side, Hermione raised an eyebrow victoriously.
Draco harrumphed, unconvinced and not about to be defeated. "And did know-it-all Granger ever fancy Ronald Weasley?"
The lights continued twinkling.
The former Gryffindor, who had begun working at St. Mungo's hospital as a Healer, sighed. "Well, none of that matters anymore, does it? I'm with you now, and you're with me."
Her nostrils flared angrily. "Excuse me, mister?"
The blond flashed his signature smirk. "Only joking, love."
Unable to contain herself, Hermione rolled her eyes. Neither of them said anything for a while, but the silence wasn't awkward – on the contrary, it was comforting.
As was their relationship. They had been dating for about five years already, and were still very much in love. The bond between them was so strong, anyone could see it. Hermione couldn't imagine her life without him.
There was no reply. He seemed to be deep in thought.
Now that Draco had taken over the company, allowing Lucius to enjoy an early retirement, the business required a large amount of his time and often preoccupied his thoughts. He was very talented and skillful, though, and under his control, Malfoy Enterprises rapidly expanded even more.
But Hermione sensed that there was something else worrying him. Something important. Usually Draco was so...smooth, and always a perfect gentleman, albeit a very obnoxious, infuriating one.
He snapped out of his reverie. "Hm? Yes?"
A worried frown marred her face. "Are you okay? Is something on your mind?"
The Malfoy heir slid his hands into his pockets. "There's...there's just..." He hesitated, as if caught in a mental dilemma. A troubled, nervous expression appeared on his handsome face. "One more thing I have to ask the tree."
He took a deep breath, his grey eyes intently fixed on the glowing star. "If I asked Hermione Granger to marry me, would she say yes?"
It took a while for Hermione's mind to make sense of what he was saying. When it did, though, her breath hitched. Draco kneeled down on one knee, and her heart stopped beating altogether.
"Hermione Jean Granger, will you marry me?" He opened a velvet ring box.
"I -" She covered her mouth with her hands, the tears in her eyes welling over. The answer was decided, she had known all along. They loved each other, more than anything else. Hermione placed a hand on Draco's cheek, staring into his eyes, which were full of apprehension, fear, hope and love. "Yes, yes I will."
He then slid the ring onto her finger. And it was the most beautiful, exquisite diamond ring she had ever seen and it was just perfect.
As Draco stood up with a relieved smile, the people around them who had happened to witness the proposal clapped and cheered, congratulating the newly engaged young couple.
"I love you, you know," he murmured, unable to hide his grin.
Hermione nodded, overcome with emotion. "I know. I love you too."
They shared a sweet, tender kiss.
"Happy Christmas, Hermione."
She couldn't stop smiling. "Mm. Happy Christmas, Draco."
He wrapped an arm around her waist, and she leaned her head on his shoulder. They talked of telling their friends and family the good news, and planning the wedding.
"When?" Draco asked. "And where?"
"Can we..." She began tentatively. "Can we marry here? On Christmas Eve?"
Draco stared at her incredulously. "You want to be married in a train station?"
Hermione nodded. "It's our special place. With the tree."
So much had happened in this place. It was where they first met, became friends, became not friends, and then became friends again. It was the place where they had shared so many meaningful conversations and had so much fun laughing and talking over frivolous things. It was where they started dating, became engaged...
"Okay, then." He was in such a good mood, nothing could ruin this perfect evening.
Neither of them could believe that they were going to be married. The revelation was so huge. But they were both happy...beyond happy. Sweet Salazar, they were ecstatic! Uncontainable excitement and inextinguishable love burned in their hearts.
It sounded perfect.
December 24, 2010
"Mummy, Daddy, look! It's the tree!"
Five-year-old Scorpius Hyperion Malfoy ran towards the dazzling Christmas tree. He was the son of Draco and Hermione Malfoy, and a perfect replica of his parents. The little boy had the same unmistakable, platinum white-blond hair that all Malfoys had, and it was slicked back exactly the way Draco used to wear it when he was younger. He also had the same steely grey eyes. Even though he was still very young, Scorpius was already exceptionally cunning and sly but also extremely intelligent and quick-witted. He was also stubborn. Very stubborn.
The King's Cross Station was still as it was before. There hadn't been any significant changes. Thankfully, the Christmas tree was still put up, fully decorated, every single year.
And the Malfoy family faithfully visited it every single year, on Christmas Eve. It was their own tradition that would never be broken.
The three of them sat down on the ledge, with Scorpius in the middle.
"It's Christmas Eve," the little blond boy said. "Can I get my presents now?" He looked up hopefully at his parents.
Hermione gave him a stern look. "You're not supposed to open your presents until tomorrow morning, you should know that."
Scorpius put on an adorable pout. "But I'll be extra good for the whole week if you let me have them now. Please?"
Five years old, and he was already making deals with adults.
His mother let out a tired, exasperated sigh. "No, Scorpius."
"Daddy?" He averted his gaze to his father with irresistible puppy dog eyes, jutting out his lower lip.
Draco felt very uncomfortable then, caught between his son's pleading look and his wife's threatening glare. He cleared his throat. "Well, it is a special day, love. And Scorpius has been very good this week."
"Pleaasseeee, Mummy," Scorpius begged.
Hermione felt her resolve weakening. "Oh, fine," she finally snapped, huffing in frustration. Reaching into her bag, she pulled out a meticulously wrapped present and handed it to her son.
Scorpius eagerly tore away the paper and took out a thick, heavy book.
"Hogwarts: A History?" Draco chuckled. "That's so typical of you, Granger."
Even though they had been married for so long already, she was still 'Granger' to him. He didn't think that would ever change.
"I thought it would do well for our son to read about his future school," she replied, almost in a defensive tone, then turning to her son, "I will be expecting top grades from you, understand, young man?"
Scorpius nodded as he flipped though the pages of the book with genuine interest. "Thank you, Mummy," he said, and gave her a big hug.
Draco took out something from his pocket, and making sure that nobody was looking, muttered a quick spell that enlarged the object with his wand. It was wrapped as well. He held it out. "Happy Christmas, Scorpius."
"It-It's a broomstick!" The younger Malfoy cried out excitedly, the wrapping paper crunched up in his small hands.
His father nodded proudly. "The best one yet."
"This is wickedly cool," Scorpius exclaimed as he closely examined the tool used for flying. It was practically every boy's wish to have one. "Thank you so much, Daddy!"
But Hermione wasn't very pleased with this. "Draco Malfoy!" She scolded disapprovingly. "He's much too young to own a broomstick, let alone fly. It's too dangerous for him!" She was extremely afraid of flying herself.
Draco had expected this precise reaction. "I'm going to teach him. Don't worry, he'll be fine." He smirked. "He's going to be the captain of the Slytherin Quidditch team one day."
"How do you know he's going to be in Slytherin?" Hermione challenged. "I think he'll be a great Gryffindor."
Scorpius rolled his eyes as he listened to his parents have the same conversation yet again. They were always arguing over whether he would end up in Slytherin or Gryffindor. Personally, though, he preferred the Slytherin house, but he would never tell his mother that.
"Can we go home now?" He asked. "I want to try it out." He gestured to the polished broomstick in his hands.
Hermione shot her husband a bitter look-what-you've-done look, to which he only replied with a satisfied smirk.
"Wait," she said. "Before we go, there's something I want to tell you both." She glanced at the tree with a hopeful smile, and gently rested one hand on her stomach. "I - I'm going to have a baby girl soon."
Scorpius' eyes lit up. "I'm going to have a sister?"
"So that means I'm going to be a brother?" Upon seeing his mother nod again, he stood up, and jumped up and down in delight. "I'm going to be a brother! Oh Merlin, I'm going to be a brother!"
Relieved that he seemed just as excited as she was about her big announcement, Hermione's smile widened. She looked at Draco, who appeared to be shocked.
"Yes, really," she confirmed, and kissed his cheek, her eyes dancing merrily. It warmed her heart how sincerely and excitedly the two most important people in her life were welcoming their new family member. "Now let's go back to the Manor."
She turned around and was about to leave when Draco held onto her wrist.
"I love you," he proclaimed, feeling like the luckiest man alive to have such a wonderful family - a perfect wife, an adorable son, and a beautiful baby girl would come along in just a few months.
Hermione thought she'd never smiled so much before. "I love you too. Happy Christmas, Draco."
Holding hands with Scorpius, Hermione and their son walked in the direction of the exit. They were a few feet away already before realizing that Draco wasn't with them.
"Coming?" Hermione called.
Draco nodded. "In a minute," he replied.
He stood before the tall Christmas tree, feeling nothing but sincere gratitude. It was this holy festive tree that had started it all. It had witnessed all of the most important turning points of his relationship with Hermione, like a guardian angel. Without it, Draco Malfoy didn't know what might have happened, but he did know that his life right now was perfect just the way it was, and the Christmas tree was a part of this perfection.
"Thank you," he said. "For everything."
A/N: Wow, that was quite long, wasn't it? A bit tedious? I apologize :P
Anyway. What did you think? Please leave a review, that would be very very appreciated ;)
I wish you all a [late] Merry Christmas and an [early] Happy New Year!
- silver. ink13