Christmas seems so dark and desolate this year. With a broken engagement, the loss of her job, and the death of her parents, Hermione can't seem to find any reason to feel anything but dread with the approaching holiday. Perhaps it's not only the spirit of Christmas that's missing this year, but something else as well. Even though she knows she should look ahead and count her blessings, she can't seem to see past her current woes. Perhaps it will take someone special to lift the darkness and make her Christmas bright once more. (Written for The Maple Bookshelf's Christmas Challenge 2013)

Almost Christmas



Rain and Memories

He kept his hands on the outside of his cup of tea to keep them warm. He wasn't sure if it was especially cold inside the little coffee shop where he was waiting, or if it was just that he was usually cold. Gazing outside, he winced at the deluge of rain falling from an unforgiving sky. Drops of rain raced each other down the window next to his booth just as all the people outside raced down the sidewalk, trying desperately to stay dry. There would be no dreaming of a 'White Christmas' this year. Instead, one could expect cold and rain – an archetypal English Christmas – or almost Christmas, rather. It rarely ever snowed at Christmas – not here – but it almost always rained.

When he was at school, years ago, it always snowed at Christmas time, but of course, that was a long time ago, in a different place, almost like another lifetime… a long forgotten memory.

Memories of his childhood Christmases always made him pause. There truly was a time when they were happy and joyful. He recalled those early years with more nostalgia than perhaps he ought, but then again, most people recalled their earlier days as more happy than sad.

He knew that the woman he was waiting for certainly did. He knew it because he overheard her talking to one of her friends about it just the other day at a Muggle department store. Hermione Granger told her friend that whenever she thought of the Christmases from her childhood, she thought of them with a bit of whimsy, and a bit of sadness, but that no matter what they were always happy memories. She then proceeded to tell the same friend that whenever she thought of Christmas now she felt only longing and pain… longing for what used to be and pain at knowing it would never be that way again. She said that whenever Christmas morning came she wanted to hide in her bed until the entire day passed her by.

She told the other woman, "Nothing's the same as it was when I was a girl. Christmas was the pinnacle of the entire year, but now that my parents are gone and I'm all alone, I dread it more and more each year. That's why I refuse to celebrate it this year. I simply refuse."

The girl Weasley (whatever her name was) told Hermione Granger that it was up to HER to tell Harry Potter that she wasn't going to celebrate Christmas this year.

Thus the reason they were all here today. She was here to tell 'Potty' that she wasn't going to celebrate Christmas and Draco was here to eavesdrop on that conversation. He wasn't sure why he was eavesdropping on that conversation, but he would exam his feelings later.

Perhaps it was because he understood her ill-ease with everything merry and bright. Christmas was merely another day on the calendar to him as well. His parents were gone, his childhood home was in ruins, and he had no family, very few friends, and only a handful of happy memories to sustain him. Yet it caused a strange feeling in the middle of his chest when he thought that this woman felt the same as him. For some reason, it wasn't right that she was sad at Christmas. It just wasn't right.

There was one Christmas, long ago, perhaps the most horrible Christmas of his life, in which she made just a bit brighter by talking about her happy memories of Christmases past. It was during his sixth year at school – his worst by far – and his father was in prison, and Draco was tasked with the murder of Dumbledore by Voldemort himself. He felt nothing but dread and despair, and to top it all off, he was spending his first Christmas ever at school instead of going home.

He wanted to die that Christmas, if truth be known.

Then one day, while he was sulking (alone he thought) in a corner of the library, this woman, just a girl then, made her way down the aisles, through the stacks, to stand in an alcove near where he sat. He never did know to whom she spoke, for he didn't see her and she didn't see him, but he heard every word she uttered that day. He thought of them, mulled them over time and time again in his head that Christmas, and they helped sustain him. They helped him survive that year. They've helped him survive every Christmas since.

She had said, "I know you're sad that you won't be at home for Christmas; I'm sad, too. But even if we can't be at home, Christmas is still the best time of year. Even if we aren't with our loved ones, all we have to do is remember all the happy times we've shared with them… all the singing, the smells of sweets and cakes, the presents, the lights upon the tree, and all the smiling, happy faces… and it brings Christmas back to us. It touches us here, in our hearts, and here, in our brains. It sustains us when we need fortitude and endurance. Christmas isn't just a time of year, or a memory, but a way of thinking, a way of feeling, a pure, bright light in our otherwise dark and empty world.

I know dark times are upon us, but we must never lose hope… hope is the very core of Christmas. Christmas isn't about decorations and greenery, and Christmas isn't just one day a year. Christmas is about love and love surrounds us every day of our lives. It's about giving love and feeling love. It's about the hope that everything will be better. It's about a peace that surpasses all understanding.

It's about finding joy in the little things, like a pretty Christmas tree or a wonderfully wrapped present. It's about finding happiness at not just what's behind us, but for everything that lies ahead.

Just like you, I'm sad that I'm not spending Christmas with my family this year, but I have all my Christmas memories locked up in my heart and all I have to do is remember them and I feel renewed again."

She finished her soliloquy and then apparently her and the other person, who didn't utter a word, walked away. But when Christmas came that dark and dismal year, Draco Malfoy took her words to heart and somehow he survived.

With his thoughts still on the past he almost missed the sound of the bell dinging over the door of the little coffee shop where he sat alone in a booth, gazing out at the rain, nursing a now tepid cup of tea. He looked up just in time to see her rush in, folding her umbrella as she crossed over the threshold, splattering drops of rain all over the floor. She spied the person she was about to meet, but luckily, she didn't see him. If she had seen him all of his well placed plans would be for naught.

He hunkered down, his head bent so low one might mistake him for being in prayer (and wouldn't that be a first?) and then once she passed him, he straightened up and strained to listen.

Acknowledging the person she was to meet with a friendly greeting and a swift kiss hello, she sat down in the booth behind him so they were back to back. The man sang out his own greeting in return to her and made an inane comment about the weather. She quipped a comment of her own and then they started talking about the very thing in which the Draco wanted to hear.

They began to talk about Christmas.

"Ginny tells me you don't want to spend Christmas with us. She said you told her you'd rather be alone. I can't believe that, Hermione. Are you certain you don't want to come and spend Christmas with us? The kids would love to see their Aunt Hermione," Harry Potter rattled on to his best friend of twenty-two years.

"And I'd love to see them, just not at Christmas. Ginny's right, I do want to spend the day alone," she answered.

"Are you certain?" he prodded.

"Yes, I'm certain, Harry," she insisted, holding up her empty cup toward the waitress to indicate that she wanted a cup of coffee.

"I hate to think of you as spending the holiday all alone," he replied, nodding to the waitress after she also topped off his cup.

"I would be alone whether I spent Christmas with you and your family, or by myself in my flat, so what's the difference?"

Harry frowned. "What do you mean you'd be 'alone' even if you spent Christmas with Ginny, the kids, and me? That's nonsense."

Hermione Granger waved her hand in front of her face and said, "I don't mean literally alone, but figuratively. You have your family, Ron has his new wife, and while I know I'm always accepted into the folds of those families, I don't really belong in them. I would still be alone, in my heart and in my mind, even surrounded by a mass of people. 'Alone' can be a state of being, or it can be a state of mind."

"I think you've lost me," Harry admitted.

Draco wasn't shocked that the other man didn't know what the woman meant, but HE knew. She meant that sometimes a person could feel alone in a crowd of people because they didn't have anyone special in their life. They could feel alone because no one understood what was in their hearts; no one understood what was in their thoughts. He felt that way all the time. He was saddened to know that she felt that way, too.

Hermione continued, "I don't know why, Harry, but ever since my parents passed away, I've felt as if Christmas is merely just another day of the year. The last few years, when I've gone to your house or the Burrow, I've been happy, at least for the few hours that I'm there, but still empty, deep inside. Knowing that my own family is gone, and that I don't have a husband or children, makes the whole thought of Christmas and the spirit of the season elusive to me, somehow. I don't like feeling like this. I never used to feel like this and when I try to convince myself that I should feel happy, not sad, I still end up sad anyway."

"That's why I've decided to go away for Christmas. I'm going to a resort where I used to spend my early childhood Christmases with my parents. I hope that by going to the place where I used to have happy Christmases might help bring back that feeling, or at least give me some happy memories to relive."

Harry reached across the table and took Hermione's hand in his. "I won't try and change your mind, only because you're the most stubborn woman I know so it wouldn't do any good anyhow. When do you leave?"

"Tomorrow, on Christmas Eve," she answered.

That didn't give Draco much time to get his plan into place; in fact, it only gave him a day at most. Scooting out of the booth, he turned up his collar, threw some Muggle money on the table, and left the coffee shop. Stepping out into the pouring rain, he walked quickly and quietly down the street, making plans in his head as he rushed along.

Wrong Person, Wrong Place

Walking up the stairs to her room at the resort, Hermione Granger stopped in the hallway at the top of the stairs, opened the booklet on activities that the man at the front desk handed to her, and sighed loudly. There was a Christmas tree decorating contest tonight… what joy. There was a cantata to follow by the local boy's choir… oh my. There was a candy-cane making class this afternoon… fun… fun… ugh… fun. There were even skiing lessons given by an instructor who apparently dressed like Father Christmas. Give her strength.

Wasn't there anything to do at this resort that wasn't Christmas related? True, it was Christmas Eve, and true, this was a resort tucked in the hills of Northern Scotland – where it looked like a true winter wonderland – and yes, perhaps many people took their holidays here and wanted to share their Christmas spirit with one another. And it was also true that she came here with every intention of trying to find her lost Christmas spirit among the bells and tinsels and holly, and it was also true that this place was the place where she had spent her childhood Christmases with her parents… but perhaps, just perhaps, there were one or two souls (Hermione included) who thought Christmas was a bunch of rot and not worth her time or effort.

Tucking the brochure under her arm, she walked over to the window at the top of the stairs and looked out at the swirling snow all around her. She couldn't deny that this was truly a lovely place to spend Christmas. She knew that first handed as she had spent almost every Christmas from age five to twelve here with her parents. It was a tradition. That was the only reason she was here this year. She needed something tangible and real to help her feel tangible and real. She needed to find the true meaning of Christmas again, because she lost it somehow, somewhere, over the last few years.

Ever since her parents died she'd felt alone, but especially at Christmas time. Her mum died four years ago, her father after that, and ever since Hermione had felt adrift on the sea of forgotten Christmas memories, but oh how she wanted to remember it all again. She had such good memories of this place. Her family would come here the week before Christmas, stay until Boxing Day, then go visiting relatives until the New Year, always making sure they were home in time for Twelfth Night.

After she started school, they stopped coming here. She deeply regretted that now. She also deeply regretted coming here now. It wouldn't be the same without her parents. As if the deaths of her parents weren't two major life hurdles for her to conquer, in September, two days before her birthday, the man she was set to marry… the man she'd been in love with most of her life… one of her best friends in the whole world… left her for another woman and married her only two weeks later.

How could she possibly spend Christmas with her best friend Harry knowing that Ron and his new wife would be there as well?

Losing her job at the Ministry was the straw that finally broke the camel's proverbial back, also known as Hermione Granger's will to live. She worked hard for the Ministry, she'd given them ten whole years of her life, and with no rhyme or reason they suddenly did away with her position, thus doing away with her.

Who needed a job at the Ministry anyway? Hermione was a smart witch. She could do anything she wanted to do, and thanks to her parents' careful planning, she was actually quite well off with their passing, so she didn't need to rush back to work anyway.

She also didn't need a man in her life, especially one who lied to her, and who apparently loved someone else.

Most of all, she didn't need Christmas. Although, why she thought spending Christmas here at this resort would be easier than spending it at home was beyond her.

She opened the brochure with the activities back up and made the decision that she would do at least one of them. It was almost Christmas and she needed to do SOMETHING to try to find the Christmas spirit again, or she might very well wither up and die.

Walking down the hall, nose in the pamphlet, she reached out her hand for the doorknob to her room. Opening the door, she walked right in, kicking off her shoes as she did. Sitting on the edge of the bed, she thumbed through two more pages until she found something she thought she might like to do. "Hmmm," she said aloud, "There's caroling every night around a big bonfire with hot chocolate afterwards. Maybe I'll try that one."

"I wouldn't, if I were you," a voice said from the bed.

Hermione jumped up from the edge of the bed quickly, throwing the pamphlet in the air, and screaming at the same time.

The person from the bed said, "Because that's how I ended up like this."

"What are you doing in my room!" she screeched.

"Your room?" he said, almost accusingly. "Let's see. I checked in two days ago, against my better judgment, seeing how this is a Muggle resort, but still, I wanted to get away from all the Christmas trappings in London, so I came here, and the first night there was a large bonfire for all the guests. I couldn't get away from all the happiness and singing fast enough, so I ran the other way, tripped over a tree root, and broke my foot. I've been HERE in MY ROOM with a blasted Muggle cast on my foot ever since, seeing how they rushed me to a Muggle hospital."

She smiled. She couldn't help herself. "Why didn't you Disapparate to St. Mungo's? They would have given you some bone-mending potion and you would have been on your way, healed in a day or so, tops."

He frowned. "I might have hit my head as well, and been unconscious for a bit, and perhaps when I woke up I was already imprisoned in this bloody cast."

"You could leave now, couldn't you?" She made a motion with her hand. "Apparate away… go home, find a Healer?"

His frown turned into a grimace. "There might be the added misery of me losing my wand in the melee. It's out there – somewhere – but I can't very well ask one of the resorts employees to go out in the woods and look for another piece of wood, which might really be a magic wand, now can I?"

She laughed, and it felt good to laugh, for she hadn't laughed in ages. "You broke your foot at a winter resort, but not skiing – no – not you. You broke it running away from a bunch of caroling Muggles." She laughed louder. At him.

"And to rub salt in your wounds, or in this case, your broken foot, you lost your wand, so you can't leave." Covering her mouth with her hands, she stifled another chuckle or two.

His expression remained deadpan, his voice dry. "Laugh all you want, Granger, but they were singing songs about silver bells and snowmen dancing around a fire." He shivered. "It was right scary. I felt as if I were running for my life. And it's traumatic to lose my wand. It's not the first time such a thing has happened to me, I believe you recall, seeing how I lost my wand to Potter all those years ago. I can't leave, I can't do magic, I can't even scratch my foot and I have a fierce itch at the moment. But the point is thus, my dear – this is MY room, not yours."

Hermione went to the door, opened it, and looked at the number on the front. This was room seven. She was supposed to be in room eight. Her luggage, which the bellboy picked up when she arrived, was waiting for her right outside the door of room eight. Perfect. Wonderful. Great. Turning back toward the room, she bent down, picked up her shoes and said, "So sorry to interrupt you while you're resting. I'll leave you alone now. If you'd like, I'll even go out and look for your wand." And she started toward the door.

To which Draco Malfoy called out, "Don't leave so fast, Granger. If I have to suffer here, I see no reason why I should do it alone. You can go out and find my wand later, during the caroling, that way, if you wanted, you could use my wand to hex the singing Muggles and the crime can be traced back to me, not you."

"Give me one good reason why I should stay here with you, Malfoy," she asked, hands on her hips, waiting patiently for his reply.

"Because it's almost Christmas for goodness sakes. The least you can do is keep me company."

Keeping Malfoy Company

"Fine," she said, "I'll stay and keep you company. It's not as if I especially wanted to go caroling, or build a snowman, or any of those other activities that are going on." She sat in a wingback chair by the windows.

"Why did you come here if you don't want to make merry with the little Christmas activities?" he asked with a look of utter condensation on his face. "Oh, and thank you for staying, even if you're only doing so because there's nothing better to do," he was quick to add – sarcastically.

Deciding to ignore the first part of his statement, she focused on the last and said a simple, "You're welcome." She stood from her chair near the windows to sit herself by his hip on the bed.

"What are you about, Granger?" he asked, eyes narrowed. "Kindly remove yourself from your place by my right leg, if you please."

"Fine," she barked, standing. "While I'm at it, shall I just remove my person from your room and let you entertain yourself?" She noticed a remote to a television on the dresser. Throwing it at him she said, "Here. Watch a holiday movie."

The remote hit him on the chest. He rubbed the area with one hand while rolling his eyes. "It's not that I'm appalled or disgusted with your nearness, not at all, it's just that you jostled the bed near my bad leg. Come sit on the other side." He patted the mattress with his hand near his left hip.

She gasped slightly, apologized, and walked around to the other side of the large bed to sit on the left side of him. "I wasn't thinking," she replied, "which is half my problem this time of year. I get so preoccupied with things that my mind turns to mush."

"That's unlikely, with a mind like yours," he returned.

"You would think, right?" She looked down at her folded hands in her lap and then sighed. "The truth is I don't really get preoccupied this time of year. What I really get is a little bit depressed." She looked up at him, gave him a half-hearted smile and added with a shrug, "I don't think I like Christmas anymore."

"How can someone not like Christmas," he asked sarcastically. "Frankly, I've not been a fan of the holiday for the better part of my life. Sure, it was an okay little holiday when I was a blighter of six or seven, but I don't see the purpose of it now."

She turned slightly to face him. "Exactly! That's how I feel, too. Yet, I don't want to feel that way."

"Tell me why Christmas isn't merry for Hermione Granger any longer," Draco asked. "I'll even pay attention, I promise."

She expelled a small laugh. "That's big of you," she said. "Frankly, there are so many reasons why I prefer not to celebrate Christmas these days, and most of them make me look like a pitiful, little, ungrateful wretch. I know there are many people who are less fortunate than I am, so to sit here and complain would seem petty of me."

Now he shrugged. "I have no problem with petty people, being one myself and all, but fine, if you don't want to tell me why Christmas is no longer a happy holiday for you, at least tell me why it used to be happy. Tell me your best Christmas memory."

She frowned. "My best Christmas memory?"

"If you please," he urged. "I'm in pain and the dulcifying tones of your voice will soothe my discomfort, I'm sure."

She looked as if she almost wanted to laugh. "You once told me my voice sounded like a screeching bird with a boil on its backside."

He put his hand on his chest, raised both eyebrows and said, "Surely you're thinking of someone else, dear Granger. I would never have said anything disparaging to you."

She smiled again. Her smile was so fresh and sweet that he smiled in return. "You spent the better part of our childhood saying disparaging things to me."

"I don't recall that," he lied. "And I certainly don't recall the incident of which you speak."

"It was fourth year," she reminded him, "And I was reading aloud from our transfiguration book, and when I was done, I walked by your table and you told Blaise Zabini that hearing my voice drone on and on was worst than having someone drill holes in your head. You said, and I quote, 'her voice is like a screeching bird that has a boil on its arse', unquote."

He smirked at her and said, "Yes, happy memories in deed. Fine, I might have said that as a child, but now I like the sound of happy, boiled-arsed birds. I'm the infirmed one here, and you're the clod that came into the wrong room, so the least you can do is relieve my boredom and tell me your happiest, Christmas memory."

She bit her bottom lip. Draco didn't know if she wanted to laugh or shout at him. Luckily, she settled her back against the headboard of the bed, crossed her legs at the ankles, and looked up at the ceiling, deep in apparent thought.

"My happiest Christmas memory took place right here at this resort," she began. "My parents and I came here for seven years when I was little, and I always looked forward to it so much. The year I was nine was my very best, though. My parents… well, my dad in particular… forgot to pack our presents. My mum had them all wrapped and ready right by our front door, but when he was packing the car for the trip, he forgot them."

"How many presents are we talking about here, Granger?" Draco asked from beside her.

"Why does that matter?" she wondered.

"Well," he started, "if it was merely one or two, I can see how he could forget them, but if we're talking a large bag filled to the brim with presents, I'm apt to think you're father was a fool."

"My mother thought so, too," she grinned. "They were in three large shopping bags, right by the front door, and she even reminded him to pack them five minutes before we all got in the car, and yet he still forgot them."

"Men," Draco said, nodding his head.

Hermione slapped Draco lightly on the arm. "You're a man."

"Thank you for noticing," he said with a small smile. "I try."

She rolled her eyes. "I'm just saying that a woman can make a one word statement like, 'men' and get away with it, but for you to do it is seriously disturbing. You're disparaging your own gender."

"No," he disagreed. "I only meant that it's understandable that he forgot them. We men do things like that sometimes. Your mum should have went back inside and looked by the front door to make sure your father didn't forget. Anyway, how is this leading to your favourite Christmas story?"

"I'll continue if you shut up," she said seriously.

"I don't see how a Christmas without presents could be a happy memory," he added.

"Do you want to hear my story or not?" she added.

He interrupted by saying, "Even with my worst Christmas memory, I remember having presents."

"Malfoy," she warned.

"Heaps and heaps of them," he continued, "more presents than I could count."

She gave him a reproachful look.

"My motto always was that it's better to receive than give, don't you know," he concluded.

She sat there, silent, arms folded over her chest, and stared at him.

Finally, he smiled and said, "Go on with your happy memory, Granger."

She shook her head and repeated his sentiment from earlier. She said, "Men," and that was all. Then she slipped off his bed, found her shoes, put them on her feet and started toward the door.

He held out his hand toward her. "Wait, don't leave."

She turned to him and said, "Don't worry. I'll be right back." With that she went out his door, closing it softly behind her.

Draco frowned, looked down at the 'fake' cast on his right foot and said, "This isn't turning out as I planned."

And wasn't that an understatement.

A Box Full of Memories

Hermione hurried to her room, pulling her luggage inside the door. Opening the larger of the two suitcases, she spied the object of her desire under a green jumper. Pulling it out carefully, she clutched it to her chest and made her way back to Draco's room.

He was still sitting on the bed, his right foot propped up on a pillow, his left foot beside the pillow on the bed. "Where did you go?"

"I went to get this," she said, showing him the small, brightly decorated box. Crawling up on the bed beside him, she placed the box on his left thigh and opened the lid.

"This box contains the remnants of my best Christmas," she began.

"The one without presents," he confirmed.

Nodding, she said, "Correct." She pulled out a pile of Polaroid pictures. "These are called Polaroid pictures. They're taken with a Muggle camera that develops the pictures instantly." She placed the pictures in his outstretched hand. "After we arrived and discovered that my father forgot the presents, he offered to go back for them, but it was a seven hour trip and my mother said that we could just make each other presents instead."

He started looking through the pictures. "I bet you were thrilled with that suggestion," he said.

"I was nine, so of course I wasn't thrilled," she returned.

He eyed her wearily and said, "That was sarcasm, dear Granger. I know you weren't thrilled, yet you've earmarked that Christmas as your favourite, so something good must have come out of it." He looked back down at the pictures in his hand and then laughed at one of her making a snow angel. "You know," he began, "I tried to make one of these little snow angels once, but for some reason, when I got up from the ground to examine my work, my angel had horns and a spiked tail."

Hermione laughed outright. "You made a snow devil… is that what you're trying to tell me?"

He laughed along with her and said, "Not really, but I do recall trying to make one and Goyle told me that only girls made snow angels, and then Crabbe said that mine looked more like a snow devil."

Reaching for the pile of pictures in his hands, she riffled through them until she found one of her mother and father decorating a little tree. "I took this one. My dad asked the resort manager if he could cut down a small evergreen for a tree in our room, and the man let him. Then my mother and I went out in the woods and found pinecones and holly and we decorated the tree with things from the forest and things from our luggage." She pointed to the 'star' on top of the tree. "I made that star out of cardboard and covered it with tinfoil."

She shuffled a few more photos and found one of her mother and her. "My mum and I stringed popcorn, although you can tell from the picture that she wielded the needle and thread and I mostly ate it."

Draco tried to hide his smile, but it was hard, because she was smiling. She seemed happy again. He liked to think he was helping her to find her happiness, but even if she was finding it all on her own, he was pleased.

"Next you'll tell me that you made each other presents," he teased.

"Well, my father said that all the pictures he was taking were his present to my mum and me. My mother had tucked a tin of marzipan and another tin of Christmas biscuits in her suitcase, so she said that was her contribution to our Christmas, and I made this box." She put the pictures down on the bed beside them and held up the tattered and worn looking little box. "It was a shoe box. My dad found it for me, and I went to the gift shop here and bought all the rest of the Christmas cards they had, as well as some red and green ribbon. Then with scissors, tape and glue, and a little innovation, I made this box."

She reached inside the box and pulled out a yellowed piece of paper. "I wrote my mum and my dad and a little poem that year. Do you want to hear it?"

He could only nod.

She read the poem she wrote when she was nine.

"I wish for a bright tomorrow,

I wish for happiness and light,

I wish for a life without sorrow,

I wish for love, on Christmas tonight.

I dream of greenery and shining stars,

A future that's happy and bright,

I dream of snow and holly and laughter,

I dream of you, on Christmas tonight.

Sing a carol, start at the chorus,

See a star tinkling bright,

New memories crowd out old one,

New memories start now, on Christmas tonight."

Draco took the fragile piece of paper from her hands and read the words she had just read silently to himself. "You wrote this when you were nine?"

Nodding, she placed her head on his shoulder. He liked how that felt. He was afraid if he moved, she might move, and he didn't want her to move from his side… ever.

She took the poem from his hand and refolded it along the creases on the paper. "Every year after that we would leave our presents at home to be opened later, and we would bring this box I made, and my mother would pack a tin of sweets, and my father would bring his camera, and we would make happy memories. We'd tuck a small memento from each Christmas in this box and the next year we'd have a jolly time pulling something out from the box, be it a picture, or a poem, or a dried up pinecone, and we'd sit around and reminisce and remember. It was all rather lovely, really."

He sighed loudly, picked up the pictures from the bed, and placed them back in the box. "It sounds lovely."

"I think that's what's missing from my Christmases of late," she pondered. "There's no one to reminisce with, no one who shares my Christmas memories."

"I can share Christmas memories with you," he said in a whisper. She heard him and brought her eyes up to his. Placing the box on the table beside him, he placed a hand on her cheek, and while her head still rested on his shoulder, he turned his head and kissed her hair. "My best Christmas memory revolves around you, did you know that?"

She shook her head slightly, keeping it on his shoulder. He curled his fingers around hers, brought her hand up to his mouth, and kissed her knuckles. He was going to tell her about the memory he had at Hogwarts, and how her words to an unknown person made Christmas better for him that year, but then he realized that right now, this moment, was his best Christmas memory. "This is my best Christmas, Hermione. Right here, right now, with you."

She lifted her head and looked up into his eyes again.

"I overhead you talking to Potter's wife that day in the department store. I heard you tell her that you no longer liked Christmas and that you felt alone, and I thought that was a travesty. I vowed to try to make your Christmas brighter, so I eavesdropped once again, overhead you tell Potter about this place, and then I came here a day before you, concocted this fake broken foot story, all as a way to somehow make your Christmas better, but in the end, you turned it around and made my Christmas better. Thank you, Hermione Granger."

Draco leaned over and kissed her lips softly.

"I thought you were going to mention the Christmas from sixth year at Hogwarts," she said, touching his cheek with one finger.

He sucked in a breath. "How did you know about that?"

"I knew you were sad that year… sixth year… and I knew you weren't going home for Christmas. It was such a dark, dismal time for all of us, but I could see that you had something weighing on you. Now I know what it was, but back then, I only knew it was something big and it was making you sad," she revealed.

She looked down and saw they were still holding hands. She placed her other hand on top of their clasped hands and continued, "So I followed you to the library, and when you were all alone in the alcove, I walked around to the other side and had a pretend conversation with a person that didn't even exist. You see, Draco, I was really talking to you that day. I knew YOU were sad that you weren't going home for Christmas, and I wanted to make you feel better, so I pretended I was speaking to someone else, but the only two people there were you and me. I was talking to you, Draco. It was my little Christmas present to you."

He swallowed the lump in his throat. "Seriously?" he asked, shocked beyond measure. "You were speaking to me that day in the library? You were alone? You did that for me?"

"Yes," she said softly, almost in a whisper. "And now you did this for me. I brought this little box with me as a last minute whim, but I had no real intentions of looking in it, and then you asked me my favourite Christmas memory, and I decided to open the box and tell you about that Christmas so long ago, and now, dear Draco, I have to say that you've ruined things for me."

"Wait," he began, "How did I ruin things?"

"Well, that Christmas, when I was nine, was once my favourite Christmas, but now it isn't," she said plainly, dropping his hand to cup his cheek. "This one is. This is my favourite Christmas, and it's all because of you and your fake broken ankle."

"Fake broken foot," he corrected with a smile, placing his hand over hers on his face. Pulling both hands down, he leaned forward and kissed her cheek. "And now that you know it's fake, may I take this blasted cast off my foot. It really is itchy."

"Did you really lose your wand?" she asked.

He pulled his wand out from its hiding place under the pillows at his back. "Do you think I'd really lose my wand? Although I really did run from the singing Muggles last night." He flicked his wand toward his foot and the cast disappeared. Wiggling his toes he said, "Ah, that feels better."

"What else can we do to make this the best Christmas ever?" Hermione asked sweetly.

"You tell me," he said with a smile.

"I think we should start by going out and getting a little tree. We can put it up in the corner of the room, decorate it with things we transfigure into ornaments, and then perhaps we can give each other presents of some sort."

"But you are my present, Granger," he revealed. "Nothing else can top that."

She smiled again, for the umpteenth time that day, and placed her head back on his shoulder. "I suppose you're right, Malfoy. Thank you for giving Christmas back to me. I was afraid I'd be all alone this Christmas, just like I've been for the last few years, but I'm not alone, and for that, I'm truly grateful."

"Thank you for the very same things, Granger," he returned.

They spent the rest of that day – the day that was almost Christmas – in each other's company, telling stories, decorating a small tree, laughing and even singing. And that night they found some mistletoe and who knows what happened after that.

The End