A/N: My Dramione Advent fic for 2012. The prompt was 'shopping'. Thanks to MazVN and Dollfaced for the beta and filigree1 for the Britpick. Happy Christmas everyone!
At the initiative of Hermione Granger, there was to be a Christmas play at Hogwarts this year. It was hardly because she was passionate about performance art, but in the midst of all the recent horror of war, people seemed to have forgotten how to have fun and feel good. In fact, the only reaction the announcement of the reopening of the old auditorium got was empty looks.
Still, something needed to happen. Not a week went by without someone breaking down in the halls where it had all happened, and each time it led to a more oppressive atmosphere. Everyone needed to realise that it was still ok to hope and dream; to live, love and laugh.
At the first meeting, three boys and four girls trickled in and no one else seemed to be coming. Rather than give up the endeavour, Hermione decided to work with what she had. Never mind that nobody looked like they would put in the hours it would take, and Hermione herself would probably have to set everything up. Oh, joyous season.
It did not help matters much that one of the boys was Draco Malfoy, probably only here to heckle her relentlessly. She could hold her own, but sometimes she missed Harry and Ron, who had both decided they had had enough of school and were ready for actual lives. Not that either of them would actually have signed up to do a play.
"All right, any volunteers for the female lead?" she asked. There were only two parts of note in this play, after all. Hermione had been nothing if not prepared for a bad turnout.
All four of the girls' hands immediately shot up. In the end, since this was hardly a production relying on skill, she had them draw lots for the part as well as understudy, under-understudy and under-under-understudy. The last understudy, a rather cunning-looking Slytherin girl, then asked if the part would be hers if something unfortunate should happen to the other three.
Hermione resolved to keep an eye on her.
"Any volunteers for the male lead?" Hermione asked. A single hand shot in the air. "Anyone else?" she prodded, but even her most imploring look was not able to convince the two other boys, who suddenly found their shoes extremely fascinating. In the end, there was nothing she could do. "All right," she said. "Malfoy, I suppose you can be the male lead."
His answer was a rather obnoxious, self-satisfied smile. She hated that he of all people could still smile.
She then sent the other two boys, only there to avoid detention, out on a treasure hunt for all the things they would need on stage, and had the understudies begin to reluctantly work on creating the settings.
When she gave Malfoy and the leading girl a script each, Malfoy did not even question her, but simply took the script and began reading on the spot. Maybe this could work, after all.
It did not work. Not at all.
After a few days, it became apparent that the prop-seeking boys had no real intentions of finding any props, the girls that were not playing the romantic lead had stopped giving a fig about the play and simply sat around chattering—and, oh, there was Malfoy. Malfoy.
The first time he had sought her out in order to discuss the script, she had been uncomfortable. The second time, when he had complained that the girl would not rehearse with him, she had been puzzled. But from then on, she had only become more and more aggravated.
The script had a kiss. A single kiss at the very end to signal a happy ending. Apparently when Malfoy complained that the girl would not 'rehearse' with him, that was the part he was talking about. He had been hounding the poor girl, harassing her to rehearse that and only that because 'what's a good story without a brilliant ending?'
So now Hermione found herself without a female lead. It had been impossible for her to convince the girl to give the play another chance. So she had to congratulate the understudy on her promotion before angrily pulling Malfoy aside. "Stop harassing people or you will have to single-handedly set up the weather on the set!"
Again, he only smiled in that maddening manner. "I'm very good at snow."
Malfoy had not attempted to kiss the second girl. That was always something, right? But Hermione noticed the girl markedly cringing away from Malfoy at every turn.
"Are you all right?" Hermione finally asked the girl.
"I'm... fine..." she muttered, holding a hand up to her nose and then grimacing. "It's just that... I'm sorry, Malfoy, but you stink."
He looked suspiciously unbothered.
"You can go now," Hermione told her, "but Malfoy, a word, please?"
Malfoy easily jumped off the stage and sauntered over to her. "I didn't try to kiss her. It's not my fault if she doesn't like my new diet," he casually told Hermione, even as she began gagging at his mere presence. He turned his palms upwards and tiny, fragile flakes of snow began falling. "But I can still do the weather."
The third girl, a much more timid sort than her predecessors, lasted only two days before she went to Hermione saying she was uncomfortable with the way Malfoy always stared at her face.
Somehow Hermione did not think this was a coincidence.
The problem was that apart from his unfortunate habit of driving his co-leads away, he was also the only one that even seemed to show some dedication. He learned his lines and positions without a fuss, easily set up all the weather effects they needed, and even helped with the prop gathering, which in turn forced the other two boys to actually do something.
It was like he wanted the play to go well, only he did not want it to go well. It was confusing, annoying, and a distraction Hermione could ill afford if she were to get everything ready on time.
Soon she was found enchanting backdrops whilst the two first girls that had given up on being the lead were attempting to lend a hand, and the fourth female lead was over in a corner, rehearsing her lines. The first girl could actually sew, though, and that helped tremendously. The second girl was however not good for much beyond gossiping. The boys were out scavenging as usual. In spite of them most likely playing Exploding Snap for most of the duration, they had actually found some good things so far.
"I could simply use Polyjuice to—no, not Polyjuice..." Hermione muttered, sending a spell at the backdrop rather viciously, leaving a scorched mark.
"What's she on about?" the gossip asked no one in particular.
"You!" Hermione wildly pointed at her. "Cut your hair, maybe put you in a pair of trousers and pad your shoulders... You could be a boy, right?"
The indignant shriek she got as a response probably meant 'no'. Annoyed with the world at large, she gave up on getting anything done that day and left.
She was well down the hall when she realised she had forgotten her school books and turned back. As she was pushing the door open to the auditorium, she heard the gossip say, "Granger doesn't even realise that Malfoy does it because he likes her, does she?"
What utter nonsense! But she did not care to have that discussion, so when she was spotted, she acted like she had heard nothing.
There was to be a trip to Hogsmeade with some modest funds in order to purchase what could not be scavenged. Hermione had gained permission to take one other person with her, and had allowed everyone else to vote on whom, yet when Malfoy was the one to emerge the next day, she could not quite refrain from sighing.
He raised his hands. "The vote was unanimous."
"Naturally," she muttered and they set off.
"I'll be good."
"Yes. You have such a good track record with that."
He shot her a dark look at her tone, but then shrugged. "That's not me any more. I'm making amends. Or trying to, at any rate."
"Why would you even bother?"
"No, lying always sheds light on things."
He seemed to fight a smile. "Point taken. I've decided I need to be able to look people in the eyes again or I can't live. You and your friends are the hardest."
Hermione pointed towards the local Wiseacre's Wizarding Equipment to let him know where they were going. "But why even bother?"
"Because I'm tired, Granger. I'm tired of feeling nothing but hate and anger and shame. I want to have fun and enjoy my life, but I know that I can't do that as long as you look at me like... like that!"
Hermione had not been aware that she was looking at him in any particular way. "Like what?"
"Like I don't deserve to be alive when others aren't."
"That's not how I—"
"But that's the thing, Granger. That is how you look at me. That's why I need to convince everyone like you that I've changed. It's either that or keep to the ugliness."
That actually made sense. But what was she supposed to tell him? That she forgave him? It would be a lie. "I do not wish you dead."
"You do not wish me happiness either."
That, to her surprise, was actually true. She simply could not find it in herself to be a good enough person to genuinely wish him happiness. Who was he to be happy when there was still so much sadness? "It feels disrespectful when you smile."
"Because you blame me. Because you think I do not deserve to live. This hopeful play of yours does not apply to me. You would, in fact, prefer it if I spent the rest of my life hiding in shame."
They had arrived at the shop and he went in, cheerfully saying, "Hey, didn't you mention a giant hour glass? There's one here. The sand goes up, though. Might be a bit awkward."
"No. Let's just... do this."
Hermione decided that would be a very good idea.
It did not take long to realise that the shop did not carry everything they were after. To Hermione's surprise, Malfoy actually knew the solution to that: Madam Cain's Curios. It was one of those alley curiosity shops that was laden with rubbish and a few very well-hidden treasures. Unfortunately, while they did seem to be carrying some nice props, they went quite beyond Hermione's given budget.
Malfoy did not seem worried at all but rather began chattering with the surprisingly young shop owner, who apparently did not mind the flirtatious smiles of a schoolboy.
Annoyed again, Hermione began browsing the little trinkets that would be completely useless on a stage. There was nothing truly spectacular there, only a ring with what looked like a miniature crystal ball in a pretty silver setting. Hermione took the ring and put it on. The size of the crystal ball would usually be too large for her tastes on a ring, but she liked this one.
At least she did until it turned a very displeasing green-tinged yellow. She was still staring at it in dismay when Malfoy returned.
"She'll let us borrow the things for free if we advertise her shop a bit. Have you finished playing with rubbish?"
The inside of the crystal ball turned a more neutral colour. She cocked her head.
"Buy the mood ring or leave it," Malfoy said. "Come on."
Mood ring. Of course. "I didn't bring any money," she said, taking it off and putting it back on the table. She had already done her Christmas shopping by owl and had not considered buying anything for herself.
"Then borrow from the pouch McGonagall gave you. It's only a few sickles and I just saved us a lot of money, in case you didn't notice."
"I'd never! Borrowing without permission is—"
"Forgive me. I forgot who I was talking to for a second there." He made a disgusted sound and then, before Hermione quite realised what he was doing, bought the ring.
"What are you doing?"
"It's a few sickles for a piece of junk, Granger. Let it go." He shoved the ring into her hand and began pushing her out the door.
"I'll pay you back!"
"Certainly, if you enjoy wasting my time that much. Want to go for a hot chocolate before we go back? It would be a nice break."
"Look around you. Hogsmeade is all decked out, and someone down here must be even better at doing snow than I am."
He was right. Not only were there plenty of pretty Christmas decorations along High Street, but the whole town was covered in white, while the castle had yet to see a single flake. But what exactly was he suggesting? He knew she could not pay for herself and she doubted that the Three Broomsticks served hot chocolate, which left Madam Puddifoot's...
"I think we should get back!" She turned away from him and hurried back towards the castle, unconsciously clenching the mood ring in her fist.
Normally, Hermione liked to think that she was a sensible and mature young woman. These days, however, she had to concede that she was not. She became more and more irrational in spite of the play going quite well with Malfoy and the last female lead having amazing chemistry between them. One could almost believe their feelings were real.
If he was going to scare off the girl, then why was he wasting everyone's time?
It all culminated in Hermione having a fit one night during rehearsal. Malfoy had made a minor mistake on stage and then she tore into him. When she later reflected on it, she was far from proud of herself, but in the moment, everything seemed perfectly justified. Yet the fact of the matter was that by the time she had finished, everyone else had left and Malfoy was sitting at the edge of the stage, frowning at his hands.
Hermione's ring was a cloudy green, which did nothing to lessen her annoyance.
"Well," Malfoy finally said. "I can honestly say I had no idea you felt so burdened by me. I know I've inconvenienced you a bit, but..."
"When are you going to scare off the last girl?"
"It's true!" he insisted. "She was the reason. I really like her and she wanted the part. I know that's bad, but I've been trying to make up for it!"
Hermione stared. "You... really... what?"
He shrugged and looked away, embarrassed. "Crushes aren't for Gryffindors only. Can I go now?"
Hermione turned on her heel and left. The green in the ring had decided to swirl. It really was nothing but rubbish. Useless, foolish rubbish. She could not bear the weight of it any longer so she yanked it off and tossed it down some side corridor before running back to her dormitory.
It did not take Hermione long to regret throwing away her ring. It might be cheap and useless, but it was still quite pretty. It was hardly the ring's fault that she did not get along with Malfoy. So she went back to retrieve it. It was gone. She even tried summoning it a few times with no success.
Now she was truly depressed.
The next time Hermione went to rehearsal, she was feeling quite subdued. She realised that she needed to apologise for her recent behaviour. Obviously she could not handle being around Malfoy.
When she entered the auditorium, a strange sight met her. The gossip and the sewing girl were whispering in a corner and Malfoy was lying on his back on stage, staring at the ceiling.
"Where's your partner?" Hermione asked, feeling a strange sense of foreboding. Malfoy's crush should have been present already.
"Gone," replied Malfoy.
"I see." Hermione took a deep breath. "And when will she be back?"
He slowly sat up and swung his legs over the edge. "She won't."
"What have you done?"
The gossip stepped forwards. "That's not—"
"Is it really that hard to grasp, Granger?" he replied with a nasty smirk, ignoring the girl. "My work here is done." He jumped down from the stage and walked out.
It was a few days later that the gossip sought Hermione out with an imploring, "He didn't chase her off!"
"He didn't." The gossip took a deep breath and then let out a rush of words. "I thought he didn't want you to know, and he probably didn't, but I think that's stupid so I'll tell you anyway. She was being nasty, saying a lot of things about you and your, uh, temper. He first ignored it, but she wouldn't stop. So he told her that you were all right and a person was allowed to have bad days and she... well, flipped. Called you some very bad names and told him that either he repeat those names to your face or he'd be sorry. He refused. Apparently they were together; did you by any chance—?"
"Why didn't he just say so?"
"Oh. I tried asking him and he simply said it didn't matter. Said you'd say it was his fault anyway for helping her get the part the way he did. Can't you just... talk to him?"
She really ought to. At least to find out why he'd lied to her.
"Hullo, Granger. Suppose I lost my wager on how long that girl could keep quiet. I put a galleon on tomorrow." Malfoy closed the book he'd been reading. "So, what'll it be? More shrill accusations or is it doe-eyed sympathy this time? I can never seem to tell with you."
Hermione stared at his hand. "An explanation as to why you're wearing my ring would be nice."
He smiled without amusement. "Found it. Thought I'd wear it to tease you, but I don't believe you even noticed it." He held up his hand as if to study the ring on his little finger. "I find the effects to be rather intriguing."
It had dark grey clouds that were occasionally lit up by lightning.
"Why did you lie about what happened?" she asked.
"You had already made up your mind."
She really had been awfully quick to blame him. "I'm sorry. That was unfair. You were of more use to the play than me."
"That's not true."
"Yes, it is."
"Not really. You kept it all together. And I bet you know the lines better than anyone. Hey! What if—"
"Why not? I thought you wanted to save the play."
"If I'm up there, that's all anyone will see. Even I am sick of seeing my face. Besides, I'm an awful actor even by amateur school play standards. I wouldn't do it justice."
"It's just another love story."
"It's about a boy so blinded by everything he doesn't have and his plans to somehow get it that he doesn't notice what he does have until it's almost too late. I feel like so many of us are so occupied with everything we lost that we forget that we still have a future to look forward to."
"Your point may be lost on people."
"May have been lost, you mean. And I suppose so. I just felt it was a point worth making. Especially when the holidays will really remind us of all the gaping holes."
He frowned at nothing in particular as he seemed to mull that over, before he suddenly said, "Hey, I have to go!" and walked off before she could even respond.
"And you still have my ring," she muttered, but then she smiled. Whatever it meant, the ring had been a beautiful clear sky blue as he left.
For the next few days Hermione did not even get close enough to Malfoy to check the colour of the ring, much less ask for it back, but he seemed to be talking to everyone else just fine. She attempted to approach him once or twice—she really did want her ring back, after all—but he managed to vanish before she reached him each time. She was forced to admit that he was avoiding her.
She did not need a mood ring to tell her how this made her feel. Confused, annoyed and hurt were very much at the top of her list, although not necessarily in that order.
Feeling more and more frustrated and discontent each passing hour where she did nothing, yet perfectly well realising that it was far too late to do anything about it now, she set out to hunt down a Malfoy. It did not work too well, but she soon caught a gossip instead—for all the good it did her. The gossip merely stammered a few excuses and then fled, never to be caught again.
It hardly mattered anyway. Tomorrow was the last day—the day the play should have been performed—and the day after that, everyone would be leaving for the holidays. If Malfoy wanted to avoid her for the rest of the year, then so be it.
Hermione looked up from her book to see Malfoy anxiously glancing at his watch. It was their last day at school, and Hermione had very much hoped she could have spent it reading in peace. "Where?" she asked.
"You'll see." He gestured rather impatiently at her.
She sighed and closed the book but willingly rose.
"I know, I know," he said. "Come on!" He grabbed her wrist and pulled her with him, forcing her to either keep up or fall down.
A few minutes later, they arrived at the doors to the old auditorium. "Malfoy, what's the meaning of—"
He put a finger to his lips and then opened the door, gave her a little push through it, pointed at a spot, and closed the door after her. Most of the seats were already filled with students and teachers. They were doing the play? But who would be the female lead? Had the Slytherin girl changed her mind? Hermione narrowed her eyes and scanned everyone seated, but it was impossible to see who was there.
So she took the seat pointed out to her and resolved to simply watch.
As soon as the curtains opened, Hermione's breath caught. The setup was beautiful. Everything looked exactly how she had imagined it, even when she had tried to be realistic about what they had the time and resources for. The magic effects were incredible and added a softness to the whole setting.
Then the play started. Hermione was surprised to see the timid girl playing the part of the love-struck young woman. She would have supposed the gossip if not the Slytherin. But then a few minutes in, something odd happened. The young woman exited the stage and came in as... the sewing girl wearing an identical costume. Hermione covered her mouth in surprise, wondering whether that was intentional. Malfoy turned around, did a double-take, and asked the girl if she had done something to her hair, which elicited a few giggles, and then continued with the script.
When another switch, this time to the gossip, happened a few minutes later and Malfoy said he could hardly recognise her these days, even more people laughed. But at the third rotation when the timid girl was the one back on stage and Malfoy's reaction was, 'Where have you been?' the audience could hardly contain themselves. Even the advertisements for Madam Cain's Curios were done so blatantly and humorously that it was impossible not to smile.
Technically, there were a few mishaps during the performance. The timid girl had to be coaxed for her lines, the gossip tended to go on too long, and Malfoy himself almost fell over the same prop a few times in what Hermione sincerely doubted was a planned manner. Additionally, the backdrop came loose on one side, the snow went off at the wrong time, and the statue of the baby dragon almost burnt down the stage when put too close to some other props.
All in all, it was the most amazing thing Hermione had ever watched. When the curtains closed—a bit early on a lean-in—she could only sit there with tears in her eyes as the rest of the audience cheered and whistled.
After the play it was time to eat, so Hermione did not get the chance to speak to Malfoy or anyone else. After eating, she did seek out the girls at their tables. They all said the same thing—Malfoy had been the driving force behind everything, and without him they doubted they could have learned even their third of the part in such a short time. The breaks had been crucial to reading up on their lines. Hermione praised the brilliance of that plan, only to be told again that it had all been Malfoy's idea.
Malfoy certainly had been busy.
Hermione felt oddly shy to approach Malfoy at his own table where he was eating and talking to other people, so she decided to wait for him outside the Great Hall. She would ambush him with her gratitude and tell him that he did not need to make more amends. That would be a nice way to begin the Christmas break.
When he finally emerged, she again felt shy and had to give herself a mental kick in the behind before she could say, "Draco!"
He spun around and changed his path to reach her. "I thought you'd left."
"Oh. Well. Yes. But no. Obviously." She frowned.
"It feels awkward to thank me, huh? All right, let's find somewhere more private so people don't accidentally overhear." He began walking without even waiting for a reply.
"That's absurd!" she objected.
"Yeah..." he muttered, making a few turns until they reached an abandoned corridor with nice huge windows showing the starry night outside. "But I'm a bit tired and like the quiet. Somehow I don't feel like I slept very much these past few weeks."
"Then I shouldn't keep you up."
"Keeping me up is the least you can do after all the sleep I lost."
"I really am grateful."
"I know." He sat down on the windowsill. "And people had fun, didn't they?"
"Your personal touches definitely helped. What with the changing girl, the product placement, and falling over your own legs..."
"Hey, I was exhausted and so nervous that it's a wonder I remembered my own name, let alone any of the lines! I think I was allowed to trip once or twice."
"You tripped five times."
He scowled. "If you've finished criticising me..."
"No, no, no! I loved the tripping! Especially because it seemed like things genuinely startled you."
"They did. I had forgotten half the play until it happened."
She laughed. She couldn't help herself. He stared at her, and she laughed even harder. Once she had finally stopped being amused, she said, "Hey, Malfoy?"
"Are you very angry with me?"
She motioned at the mood ring he was wearing on his little finger again. "Red and lightning. Anger, right?"
His eyes widened and he quickly pulled off the ring. "Nah, but from what I've seen, colours can be fairly random. Like, yours was often greenish when you seemed cross with me, but it also turned green when I was peacefully reading at one point. So, uh, don't put too much stock in it." He handed it to her.
"So why was it red? And why does it so often have lightning when you wear it? When I wear it, it's just... clouds and swirls."
He swallowed and looked away.
She put it on and sighed. "Look, boring."
"It's only rubbish, Hermione."
A tiny shiver went through her at the way he said her name and a lightning bolt tore up the now darkening orange-red inside the tiny crystal ball. Her eyes widened. "Oh." When her heart wouldn't stop pounding, she quickly stuffed her hand in her pocket. "Yeah, you're right. Rubbish."
He gazed at her. "Is it true, then? You were jealous that time you yelled at me?"
Hermione's cheeks heated. "I... uh... where would you..."
He got to his feet and grabbed the wrist of her hand wearing the ring and pulled it out of the pocket. "Attraction," he then said. "The lightning appears whenever I feel drawn to you."
The little flashes of light were almost overwhelming. She really wished he would let go of her wrist. The feel of his fingers on her sensitive skin was making her pulse—and the ring—go berserk.
"We're going home tomorrow," he quietly said. "This is very bad timing. But can I ask for one small favour?"
"What?" she managed to force out in a voice that was far too husky.
"The girls all refused to include the kissing scene. They said they didn't want to make you jealous again. After all my hard work I never even received a single kiss."
A kiss? That should be easy enough, should it not? Her eyes went to his mouth and tried to tamp down an urge to squirm. Lips against lips. She had done that before. It should not be so difficult. Taking a deep breath, she put her hands on his shoulders and then reached up to press her lips against his. His arms immediately went around her waist and pulled her closer.
Never would she have thought she would be kissing Draco Malfoy, but here she was, doing just that. Never mind a silly little curiosity ring, her insides were a swirl of colour, moving faster and faster and bursting to get out.
It was almost too much all at once, so she ended up breaking the kiss, stepping away from a dazed Draco.
"Right," he muttered, his eyes unfocused. "I think that settles it, then."
"I hope it was worth all the effort," she prudently said.
At that, he slowly grinned. "Happy Holidays, Granger. And stay away from Weasley. He had his chance. See you in January."
Then he walked away, whistling, and Hermione found that for the first time in a very long time, she was looking forward to something.