A/N: Inspired by and loosely based on the comedic genius of Helen Fielding's Bridget Jones's Diary, which in turn was inspired by and based on Jane Austen's timeless Pride and Prejudice. Huge thanks to the lovely mods for putting up with my endless questions. Written for DHR_Advent 2013. This is the full version.
"Love is a snowmobile racing across the tundra and then suddenly it flips over, pinning you underneath. At night, the ice weasels come."
- Matt Groening
During the holidays, Hermione Jean Granger stocks her minimalistic, median-income flat full of bottles of alcohol. Not much of a drinker for most of the year, she makes an exception for the months Christmas songs provide the soundtrack for some of the most humiliating and socially awkward moments of her life. It's a fact she has learned to accept: around the time dazzling Christmas lights appear in town, Hermione Granger turns into the kind of woman that has to drink to keep her sanity.
Especially around her Uncle Geoffrey, who seems to have the uncanny ability of cornering her at every holiday party.
"Whatever happened to that Ron fellow?" he inquires with his nose twitching, like vermin to food crumbs. "You know, the ginger one? Looks a bit like a tomato when he's had a little too much to drink?"
Ron is her Uncle Geoffrey's favorite topic of conversation. Too bad Ron had stopped showing up for holidays around her house two years ago, otherwise it might have been a little more relevant for discussion.
"We broke up," she clarifies for the thousandth time that night. "Two years ago, actually. So I don't expect you'll be seeing him around here any time in the future."
"Oh, that's a shame," says her Uncle Geoffrey, gratuitously adding more Jameson to his coffee. "I quite liked him. Aside from the tomato face bit. Thought for sure you two kids would tie the knot… good thing I didn't bet on it!" He snorted, laughing heartily at her expense, a bit of coffee dribbling down his chin
Hermione flashes him a smile so forced it is almost painful. "I'll pass along your hello," she says through her teeth.
"Oh no, no, that won't be necessary." He shakes his head, finally leaving her. Hermione takes this chance to slink away from her corner and make her way to the kitchen, steal a bottle of vodka from underneath the sink, and sneak it up to her childhood bedroom.
She quietly locks the door behind her, flipping on the lights. She sighs and, cradling the bottle to her chest, sinks to the floor, her back against the foot of her bed. She takes a quick survey around her room. There is still a group of dusty, glass-eyed stuffed animals sitting on top of her dresser. She runs her fingers along the worn spines of her books and encyclopedias. Porcelain horses and pictures of her youth unabashedly smiling with her formerly beaver-like teeth are peppered around her cramped room. This place is a time capsule, a place she hardly thinks about until the holidays come along and she is back to locking herself inside it.
Some holiday traditions are hard to break, she muses to herself. She takes another swig. Oh well.
She spends some time in there, puts on a few records, rereads old letters and badly-written diary entries. She is sitting on her floor, mid-chug, flipping through an old photo album, when she hears a knock on her door, and she only has enough time to hide the bottle behind her back when her dad comes in. He is clad in his laughably hideous Christmas sweater and his usual apologetic, pitying face.
"It's nothing to be ashamed of, you know," he says to her, nodding to her contraband. He closes the door behind him. "When we first started doing these holiday parties, I was tempted to ask for horse tranquilizers from the vet."
She nods, laughing under her breath. "Sorry, Dad. I just needed a moment." To bemoan my current existence. Basic holiday sentiments with insufferable, drunken relatives. The usual.
"Don't ever be sorry for locking yourself in a room to keep whatever little faith in humanity you have left," her dad grins. He takes a seat on her bed, and she joins him. "Is everything all right, darling? You've been a little. . . distant, today. Is it a boy?"
Her father's phrase, "Is it a boy?", has carried on from her younger years. She surmises it is her father's gentle way of living in denial of her adulthood. It makes her smile and brings her back to the years when life seemed relatively uncomplicated. If only her problem was that a boy didn't fancy her back. The entire problem was that the boy did fancy her. Just not enough.
That, and he was a total, utter prick.
"Oh, I know that look," he observes. "It is, isn't it? Is it Ron again?"
She scoffs, taking a drink. "No. Ron is simple. Lovable and uncomplicated and, apparently," she mutters, "not meant for me."
She is met by the furrowing of his brow. "And this new boy? Is he not simple?"
She shakes her head.
"And simple is good, isn't it? There's beauty in simplicity?"
She and Ron were so simple. They fit. His family loved her. Her family, in turn, was keen on him. They were opposites, true, and some days they completely missed the mark altogether (although towards the end, these days outnumbered the days they didn't), but it was comfortable, and therefore tolerable. There had been no bad blood or murky history, no sneaking around and lying, or nights she stayed up, questioning the existence of his moral compass. And yet she hadn't been happy. What they had still hadn't been sustainable.
"Sometimes," her father answers. "But simple rarely comes. Life is full of complications. Our job is to find the ones that are worth untangling, even if it means untangling some of the ones that bite us in the arse," he says, in a chuckle.
She leans into him, then, the both of them laughing. She misses this, she realizes. Her father has always had a way of comforting her. In a very different way than a hard drink, of course. But still potent. Still true.
She takes another swig.
"Do you like him?"
"Yes," she says, biting her lip, "but I'm not sure he deserves it."
"Knowing you, I'm sure he does. Even if he doesn't know it yet." He pulls her into a hug before getting up. "Well, darling. Time for me to join the real world. Your mum might have an aneurysm if she's left alone with that lot for too long."
She watches him leave, closing the door behind him. Then, feeling a bit too cooped up with her own thoughts, she opens her window and climbs out. The cold sobers her up a little bit; her fingers icy against the panel, swinging her legs over and slowly making her down the roof with a newfound concentration.
After all, she just wants to escape for a little bit, not kill herself. She imagines the headlines anyway: Woman Slips off Roof Due to Suffocation of Overbearing Christmas Spirit. Oh, you know, and just a dash of loneliness.
It's unfair, really, how easy it is to get lonely when the weather gets cold and the Christmas lights become as ubiquitous as the sirens of globalized materialism. If she were sloshed enough, she might've even considered writing a letter to the Prime Minister about it.
She sits there and watches the stars. How silent and beautiful and so far away.
Good God, is she having a poetic moment? Here? All by herself?
Does that even count?
She is rarely allowed these moments. Her life and career in Wizarding London make that impossible. Even so, the stars don't shine as bright there, in the instance that she does manage to stop, take a breath, and look up. But she does allow herself to get sad and sentimental just for a minute. For one minute. Then she is going to go back through the window to her childhood room, hide the vodka bottle, kiss her mum and dad goodbye, and Apparate on home. Then perhaps make herself a very potent drink in an effort to erase the past few days from her working memory.
The minute passes. She clutches onto a slippery roof tile and tries to hoist herself back up, but not before she hears a voice travel through the frigid air, cutting through her spine.
"Granger? What the fuck are you doing up there?"
She freezes, whipping her head around. There, below her, is Draco Malfoy in an expensively tailored coat, looking up at her with furrowed brows and a look of thinly disguised alarm and irritation. The alarm is new to her. The irritation, not so much.
"Trying to see if I can fly, what do you think?" she snaps at him. She stares at him for just a minute, trying to make sure he is not a manifestation of her recent alcoholic binge.
After being out here in the cold for a while, she can finally feel her face again. The rest of her body, too. Just the sight of him makes her blood run again. Which is unfair, really. Nobody should ever have this much control over her body temperature, much less somebody with the surname Malfoy.
"What are you even doing here?" she says, her breath a white fog. Her tone is acerbic but there is something else there, something not as conducive to her constitution surrounding him – a little bit of water. Saltwater. "Don't you, I don't know, spontaneously combust if you enter the Muggle World?"
He scoffs at her like she's an idiot. It makes her want to launch herself at him and bury his face in the snow until his perfectly posh nose falls off from frostbite. "Well, I'm still in one piece, aren't I?"
"Unfortunately," she mutters to herself.
But in her vehemence, her foot accidentally slips from one of the iced-over tiles, and before she knows it, she's skidding down her own roof.
And her last thought is: How the fuck did Draco fucking Malfoy end up on my lawn?
Three Days Ago
She decides to start the story at Malfoy's holiday party. Malfoy Enterprise is a big player in the postwar economy, which means seeing Malfoy is inevitable in her line of work. Seeing Malfoy in the extravagance of his obscenely large manor with his fountains and barely-clothed Grecian goddess statues have become a staple in her holidays, however resistant of the concept she initially was. It is the height of sophistication and she spends most of it avoiding the host and drinking the time by until she can finally go home. Just like any other holiday party, in her opinion.
Every year Malfoy has a new theme. Gold accents or ice sculptures or world famous harpists. This year's theme is silver and emerald, which in theory can come off a little tawdry, but Pansy Parkinson is Malfoy manor's resident holiday decorator. This is the same Pansy Parkinson that was featured in the number three slot on Witch Weekly's Twenty Most Eligible Witches in the Hot Homemaker category. Hermione had been a few spots behind, taking up a humble number seven, even after her numerous insistences of her name being taken out of the running.
Anyway, this is all to say that Pansy Parkinson has a devilish sense of good style, which she decides to prove – year after year – at the most exclusive and largest holiday party of the year: Malfoy's.
Hermione takes a flute of champagne from one of the servers as she walks through the giant doors, taking a sip as she absorbs every finely moussed coif and sinewy, sparkly women backless gowns. She greets her coworkers and makes nice with Ministry officials she threatens to hex on a weekly basis. Malfoy's annual party is where tense work relations and tense former school acquaintances can pretend all is merry, thanks to a never-ending supply of Wizarding Europe's most luxurious alcohol. Even she is not exempt from this.
She spies Malfoy across the room, standing next to Pansy Parkinson, who is dressed in her usual attire: a long, form-fitting, ivory gown that would make even any respectable woman want to shoot herself (repeatedly). In his right hand is a glass of whiskey, neat. He catches her eye for a split second before returning his gaze to the Ministry official they are both conversing with, and she lets her eyes linger on that newly-tensed muscle in his jaw for just one second, before disappearing into the crowd.
This is their tradition. She mingles, he mingles. Not once do they overlap – which is admittedly sometimes more strategy than fate. But she can feel his eyes on her, even through the shoulders of very nice, obliging men, just as she hopes he can, when he is yet again cornered by a beautiful girl wearing a dress that would have made the Messiah cry.
The steeper her alcoholic intake, the more she finds herself questioning whether this is the kind of thing she wants, or could ever possibly be happy with. She is Witch Weekly's seventh hottest witch in Wizarding Britain (not that she cares about titles)(much), damn it. And she is very fucking eligible, thank you very much.
"Hello there, Granger." She shifts her downward gaze to Blaise Zabini's immaculate bone structure in front of her, sanded down by the fingers of God himself. "It's nice to see you, as usual. Are you enjoying yourself?"
Behind him she spots Malfoy just a few feet away, having taken a few moments' repose from mingling, intensely staring at her from over the lip of his glass as he drinks.
"I am, thanks," she says.
He chuckles pleasantly. "Better not try acting, Granger. Or if you do, you could use a few classes."
She smiles at him. "I think I'm quite well-suited to my current job," she says.
"I agree," Blaise Zabini grins in his impeccable, well-fitted suit. He's pinned a sprig of holly on his lapel, which makes her smile a little. He raises his glass. "Let's have a toast then. To being well-suited to our current jobs."
Laughing – this is one of the few genuinely amicable interactions she's had of the night – she clinks her glass with his.
He chats with her for a little, exuding a kind of friendliness that would only be possible with a little bit of liquid bravery, and by the time he's excused himself from her in favor of other business executives, Malfoy is gone from her peripheral view. She finishes her drink and, sighing at how slowly time seems to be going, decides to take a stroll out in the gardens.
She can tell Malfoy's charmed the garden because the air is quite temperate even without a coat. She passes a few people on their way back into the party, and is relieved to find some solitary out underneath the stars, surrounded by – however extensively manicured – nature.
She's been here a few times before, under the same conditions – pretentious Christmas harp music, guaranteed alcohol consumption, and glamorous fairy lights that worked to the advantage of pretty girls in sleek dresses – but she never misses a moment to marvel at the genuine beauty of the Malfoy gardens. The manor is a bit too large for her, full of uncomfortably unused rooms and an aura of dark history that has never sat well with her. But the garden is different. The garden, she's heard, was Narcissa Malfoy's creation. It extends for acres and is home to a labyrinth, a greenhouse, a menagerie, and a self-sustainable lake.
She gets rid of her heels and starts at the fountain, before making her way to the labyrinth. She is just a few minutes in, trying to find her zen, when she hears voices of two men in conversation, and catches a whiff of cigar smoke. It only takes her a few seconds of listening to realize who they are. It's not hard – there are very few men in her life who have such distinctly posh accents.
"This happens every year, Draco. You have this party, it's a smashing success, and your face still looks like a baby's smacked arse," says the man she is almost sure is Blaise Zabini." I've spent some time trying to figure out why that is, and I think I've found the reason: female companionship. You're sorely lacking it. A few years ago there wasn't a single time I didn't see you when there wasn't some new chit on your arm. Now I'm afraid your bed's gone a bit dusty, and that's why you've been such a Scrooge."
"The state of my bed does not concern you, Zabini," says Malfoy, his tone cutting. Which is rich, because at one point the state of Malfoy's bed (or rather, the conga line leading up to it) seemed to concern everyone with a Witch Weekly subscription.
"I'm afraid it does, mate. It pains me to see you like this, not to mention our partners have noticed. Nobody likes a Christmas grump. Now how can we fix this?" There is a slight pause, and she imagines Blaise stroking his chin, although this is something she has never seen him do. "I know! What about Granger?"
It takes her a moment to register her new stance in this conversation, but when she does, her blood rightly runs cold.
"She's gotten better-looking over the years, hasn't she?" he continues. "Bloody hell, she was number seven on Witch Weekly's Most Eligible Witches! You've got to admit, she looks quite stunning when she tries. Granted, her line of work doesn't usually have her dress in evening gowns." Blaise lowly chuckles. "Which is quite a shame, actually. Who knew all that was under there?"
There is a tense silence, and she has to fight the urge to climb the wall to see Malfoy's expression. That, and to hex them both for good measure. Honestly, her looks! Was that all that mattered to them? She probably wouldn't even have been a speck on Blaise's radar if she'd shown up in reindeer pajamas.
"Is that supposed to be an insult?" he finally replies, in a bored tone. "Me? With Granger?"
Hermione blinks. Something inside her – something large and vital to her being – withers and dies.
"Frankly, I would rather fuck a paralyzed horse than ever be tempted to bed Granger."
And that does it, really. The light goes out from within her. She imagines the night sky sucking its stars back in and falling down on her, enveloping her in darkness. She blocks out the rest of their conversation and, knowing she is emotionally unfit to make small talk with anyone, makes her way to the greenhouse. She thinks it is an appropriate place to fume.
"A paralyzed horse?" she mutters to herself. "What the fuck kind of pervert goes and says something like that?"
She calms herself down there, but not before cursing his existence and lamenting why she ever came to his stupid holiday parties. She questions herself and her decision-making skills – the fact that she lacks them, or at the very least, leans towards making very bad ones. Taking up with Draco Malfoy in secret has to be the worst decision she's made in her life. And the fact that she even cares about what he says about her! What a new low she's stooped to. God, she is so genuinely depraved.
Finally, she makes up her mind to head home. She heads back to the party and makes a beeline for the coat closet. She wants so badly to be anywhere but here, and to erase the night's revelations from her memory. She has an idea on exactly how to do this: vodka and Chaka Khan.
She shrugs on her coat, checking for her wand and clutch. She's practically trembling with rage. Then she hears him.
She freezes. She doesn't want to turn around, to give him the satisfaction, but she does. This one last time, she does.
And there he is. For the first time that night, he is acknowledging her, actually within arm's reach of her. He looks so confused at the sight of her in her coat and with her purse and she refuses to be endeared by it, not even a little. There was a time she marveled at any moment he forgot to pretend and let a semblance of what he actually felt shine through for her. Those times, she's decided, are long gone. Fucking finito.
His mercurial eyes are fixed on her. They remind her of the snow globes she collected as a child – teases of a perfect-seeming, artificial world inside. She wants to spit in them. Or gouge them out with fancy dinner forks. Either one.
"Where are you going?"
"I'll give you one guess, Malfoy," she answers briskly. "And here's a hint: it's far, far away from here."
He clenches his jaw, his eyes hardening at her. "Has something happened?"
She almost wants to laugh. This forced pretense gave him the expression of someone who hasn't had a proper shit in a month.
"I don't know, Malfoy," she says. "It was going all right, but fucking a paralyzed horse would've surely livened things up, wouldn't you say so? Maybe for next year. Just a little something to keep in mind."
She takes momentary joy at the shock that ripples through his face. Usually an alabaster color, his face is practically ghostly now.
She walks out, knowing full well he is still where she left him, staring after her. She knows he would never leave his own party to run after her (he'd sooner gnaw off his own arm), and he doesn't.
She goes home.
The first thing she does is get out of that sodding dress. But carefully, because she had mistakenly spent about two weeks of wages on it, before wrapping it back up and shoving it into the deepest corner of her closet. She then puts on a little Chaka Khan, damn whatever the neighbors might think. And she makes a conscious decision to skip the wine and go straight for the hard liquor.
It'll be the New Year in just a few days' time. She could start new. She could extract every stolen glance and passionate shag, seal it in a pensieve, charm it to the weight of a brick, and toss it out to sea. That way it would be out of her, and it would have no way of festering like a cancer. Because that's what he is, isn't he? A sodding cancer. He's inside you and he rots everything else that he touches. He's a greedy bastard, always needing more space to grow.
At some point she stumbles out into her balcony. Chaka Khan has reached the end of her track list, so she is left to contemplate and sulk in silence. It starts to snow, which makes it hard to see the stars. Either way, she decides she doesn't give a damn about the stars. Not that they ever cared about her, anyway. They were probably already dead, just ghosts of what used to be there.
She's good at that. Relying on things that are unavailable, that won't show up for you when you need them, that'll badmouth you when it's convenient. Fucking stars. Fucking Draco.
"Fuck 'em," she mutters to herself, slamming the glass door behind her, trying to drown out the muffled whine of her own bruised heart. "Fuck 'em all."
It is the next morning when she hears somebody knocking on her door. This is in the middle of her downing an extremely pungent hangover tonic – one of many to come, she's assuming. The holidays are the only time she allows herself to go a bit disheveled, to lose some of that uptight, characteristic posture she retains for most of the year – in private, of course.
She finally swallows the last of it, plugging her nose and making a face, feeling it already begin to soothe the pounding headache and nausea she'd woken up with.
"Who is it?" she calls out. Disappointingly, the remnants of last night are still all too fresh, not diluted the least bit by her night spent serenading a vodka bottle.
"Granger, it's me. Open up."
Leave it to Draco Malfoy to feel that the world revolves around him enough to never see the need in saying his own name – no, in this world, he is just "Me." Apparently that's good enough. Sod him.
She scoffs. "How about fuck off?"
"You're being a child."
"Me? A child? I'd take that over a crass-mouthed prick any day, thanks."
She briefly wonders why being called a "child" is an insult, anyway. What's so wrong with being untainted and innocent? It isn't nearly as bad as being compared to an Auschwitz camp officer. Not that Malfoy would even understand that reference. A reincarnated version of Satan himself, he would probably even be delighted by it. It was just the kind of thing an asshole-pervert would take joy in.
"I'm sorry you had to hear that. But what did you expect me to say?"
She nears her door, arms tightly folded across her chest, firmly aware that this is the first conversation she's ever had through furniture. "How about 'thanks but no thanks' or 'she's all right, but not really my cup of tea. Slaps on the back for the bloke who fancies her, though, and treats her well'?"
His tone is begrudging, which doesn't help his case one bit. "Point taken. It was a poor choice of words."
She almost wants to laugh at how clearly unrepentant and guilt-free he is about the incident. But had she expected anything different? This was Draco Malfoy. She'd known exactly the kind of person he was the first moment she'd kissed him back, all those months ago. This is what kills her the most. The fact that she could have predicted this ending – him being a prat, her being bitter about it – from a million leagues away.
She's so educated, so goddamn intelligent, and even she isn't exempt from making such colossal errors in judgment.
"What gets me, Draco, is that you never even said you were sorry for saying it. You said you were sorry I heard it." She takes in a shuddering breath, and it feels like needles in her lungs. "So I'm warning you. Go away. I'm not going to let you in. I'm never going to let you in. Not anymore."
This is the end, she says to herself. The end of whatever they were. Whatever they had. The truth is that it wasn't even important enough to warrant a name, or a label. They weren't together, not in so many words. But they'd been something. Sometimes an incredibly good something, and sometimes – like now – an inconvenient, humiliating, pride-pulverizing something. But something.
"Granger," he says. There's a heaviness in his voice she has to force herself not to dissect. She is done rooting for him – for him to make that jump, to break through. She isn't rooting for anybody but herself now. She's learned that lesson; she's paid that price. "This isn't over. We're going to talk about this, sooner or later. Like sodding adults. Face to face, not through somebody's flat door."
As soon as she knows he's left, Hermione begins packing her things. Her mind is dead set on the one place Draco Malfoy would never have the gall to follow her into: the Muggle world.
She wakes up on the ground. For a minute she thinks it's really happened, she's really dead, until the waterlogged splotches in her vision clear up to form Malfoy's concerned face above her. She knows God (or his more devilish counterpart) could never be this cruel.
He has his wand in his hand. The bastard saved her.
"You hit your head coming down the roof," he tells her. "And you're bleeding a little bit, as well as may be suffering from a minor concussion, but otherwise you should be fine." His sarcasm is almost as biting as the cold as he tries to help her sit up. "Aside from being a drunk and a buffoon for deciding an iced-over roof would be a safe place to stargaze."
She slaps his hands away, her anger chasing away her wooziness. "Get away from me. Don't touch me. Who do you think you are?" she fumes. "You don't get to save me, all right? Not like that."
"Apparently," he snarls, his face so pale under the Christmas lights he looks like some kind of beautiful angry snowman, "I just did. But if you would like to climb back on that roof and fall down without me lifting a finger to help you, then be my guest. I'm sure you'd love spending Christmas in a neck brace in hospital."
She glares at him. "As a matter of fact, that sounds like a happy alternative to what is currently staring me in the face."
She helps herself up. She is soaked in ice water but he makes her blood boil and somehow this evens her internal chemistry out. She begins heading back to the front door when she brings her hand to her head and finds her palm covered in water and a little bit of blood.
Whatever. Who hasn't bled a little for love? Or lack of it, apparently.
Good God, who signed the consent form for this to have become her life?
"Granger," he calls out to her.
"Get off my lawn." She trudges through the layers of snow. "If I turn around, and you're still there, I will hex your face into oblivion. I mean it."
"I'm sorry, all right?" he says, finally, and despite herself, she stops at the hint of desperation she catches from the lilt in his voice.
"Sorry for what?"
"Bloody hell, what do you want - a list?"
"Yes, I think I'm owed a list, actually."
He sighs impatiently. "I was - I saw you with Blaise, and I didn't like it. I didn't mean what I said, obviously. It was an incredibly poor choice of words. Quite possibly even the poorest in the history of poor word choice. But you get that, don't you? I'm so good at that. Being cruel. Finding ways to cut people down, to minimize their importance, because that would mean I was in control."
She whirls around, her cold, soggy hair whipping her in the face. "Am I supposed to pity you? Because you were trained to be a bully? Because you don't handle jealousy well? Well, boo fucking hoo, Malfoy. If it's control you like so much, then why don't you fuck that in hidden alcoves instead?"
He just looks at her, just a little bit stung. There's longing in there, a small, unwanted voice peeps out in her brain. He's never looked at anyone the way he looks at you. Like there's something real, something that warms him up inside. But there is a problem with her conscience. It always argues on his behalf, even when he stays silent himself. And she is not here to fight his battles.
This, she reminds herself, is the problem when you make the mistake of liking someone so much. Every part of your body gets addicted to them. Your brain, too. He short-circuited her synapses and this is her first step to rewiring herself back to normal again – by banishing him from her life.
"Granger, I like you," he finally says, and she is almost dumbfounded by how much his voice sounds like release. "I like you so much it's literally maddening. I hate being at my own fucking holiday party knowing I can't touch you – not to even brush your hair across your shoulder. I hate having to watch you across the room, talking to Blaise or Creevey, or catching a look at every man's face when they see you - in a fucking dress."
There is a bubble of air in her throat. And probably up in her brain, too. She might even be dead. "I'm not yours," she says, hoarsely but firmly. "You don't own me, Malfoy."
He nods. "I know."
"And I don't deserve to be hidden like I'm something to be ashamed of. I'm not. You're not, either. Anybody would be lucky to have us, Malfoy. And it's silly because I can't even remember now why we ever agreed to do this in secret. Why we ever thought it was a good idea, why we ever thought it wouldn't hurt our own pride." She shakes her head. He doesn't speak up, so she continues determinedly. Honestly. Agonizingly.
"I will never be convenient, or perfect for your image, nor will I ever act according to your level of deranged possessiveness for the night. And if you have a problem with that, even the slightest bit of complaint, then I suggest you leave. Because there is nothing for you here, and no one." She lets out a breath, her chest uncomfortably tight, mouth dry with expectation. "Least of all, me."
He doesn't move from where he is. He's four inches deep in snow, but seems hardly perturbed by it. Any other moment, she would have made a snarky remark about how cold couldn't possibly disturb someone whose constitution was one hundred percent ice. But that wasn't true, was it? She has her proof standing right in front of her.
"I like you. I want to be with you. Completely," he says, his eyes dark with intensity, and breath like a billow of chimney smoke. "Sod everything else."
His lips, a warm pink against the stark lack of color surrounding them, smirk at her.
Something in her melts. What an infuriating, glorious smirk. The inescapable mascot of her internal struggles as of late.
"Me and you, Granger." He just looks at her, expectantly. "Are you in or not?"
She remembers what her father had just told her about simplicity and complications in life. She and Draco would never be simple, she knows this. There is too much history there, padding the ground underneath their feet – most of it not even their own. Their personalities are too alike to guarantee a safe landing from whatever they become. But when she looks at him now, her mind goes quiet. "What a lovely tangle," her heart croons. And Hermione had to smile at it, all of it, because even after all this time, her heart was still such a masochistic little fuck.
It would be such a Christmas miracle if her heart would let her walk away from him. But perhaps this was a kind of Christmas miracle all on its own. Draco Malfoy on her parents' lawn, in the Muggle world, on Christmas Eve, telling her that he wants her.
It is the kind of wish you think would only come true on the eve of the Apocalypse, when all is lost and everything that could possibly happen was the universe vomiting and overcompensating for all of the shitty things right before the end.
"All right," she says. She wonders if when she wakes up from her rooftop-induced coma she'll remember this lovely delusion she's having. "Okay. Me and you it is, then."
He flashes her a brilliant smile. "Come on, then." He walks towards her and instead of kissing the lights out of her like she expects, he grabs her arm and nearly drags her to her front door.
Her body tenses with alarm. She had, after all, just gotten out of that place. "What are you doing?"
"It's we, Granger, remember?" he says. "And what else does it bloody look like? We're getting started."
She doesn't quite understand, even when he rings the door bell. She can hear the commotion indoors, even past the fast pounding of her own heart. Her eyes widen. "Wait -"
But it's too late, because her front door swings open to her parents in their holiday uniform - atrociously ugly knitted sweaters, complete with bells and snowmen with scarves - along with family friends and relatives gathered up behind them, staring.
"Hello," her mum says, looking a little startled. Her gaze darts to Hermione, confused. "Hermione dear, who is-"
"Hello," Malfoy suddenly says. "I'm Draco Malfoy. Hermione's boyfriend."
And it shocks her a little, how seamless he says her name, despite still calling her by her surname, even after having professed his feelings for her. This makes her suspect he's had plenty of practice in his mind. Suddenly, it actually feels like Christmas.
A bewildered pause goes by. Then, as usual, the unwelcome bark of her Uncle Geoffrey: "Boyfriend? Whatever happened to that Ron bloke? I quite liked him, aside from the tomato-face bit."
As she and Draco are welcomed into the Granger house (her for the second time that night, but with a newfound fascination due to sudden, Adonis-looking boyfriend) (which she notes begrudgingly), peppered with questions and being adored by her aunts, Draco finds a moment to lean into her as she catches a glance of her dad giving her a thumbs-up from the kitchen, his breath hot against her ear.
"Granger," he murmurs, conjuring a blush from her cheeks, "that man over there—"
"My Uncle Geoffrey," she whispers back.
"Listen. I'm only asking as a courtesy. But can I—"
"Use the bathroom down the hall."
She has to bite back her own smile when he leans back away from her, a slow but triumphant smirk snaking across his face. Honestly, she'd have thought of Obliviating Ron from her uncle's memory herself, sooner or later, but she allows herself to be dazzled by the impossible sight of him in her cozy, unimpressive living room, drinking eggnog, and possibly (most likely) being visually molested by her drunken aunts. He is an asshole but he is trying, oh, that, she cannot deny. He is trying – for her. For them. For – whatever this is.
He squeezes her fingers once before letting go, and this is the moment that Hermione Granger decides that yes, this, she can live with. And possibly for a very, very long time.