I don't own Harry Potter, but, thanks to LightofEvolution, I do own an advent calendar :)
This was written for the d/hr Advent and my prompt was "Advent Calendar". Thank you to my usual dream team LightofEvolution and In Dreams as well as to whomever nominated me for the fest!
If you read my other advent piece, Open Doors, you might see some similar themes, but when that one ran way too long, I tried to go a different route for the fest piece. I hope you enjoy it!
"Holy hell, what has Granger done now?" Without confirmation, he knows it was her. It's always her.
Draco follows his statement with a sound that he mastered it under the expert tutelage of Pansy Parkinson. It's a combination of annoyance and distaste.
Currently, he is gawking at the large open wall in the eighth year common room, a small gathering of students around him. Plastered to the wall is an incredibly large banner with 25 little baskets set within. Each one is numbered and has a name as well.
His fellow Slytherin, Theo, has his head tilted to one side, studying it. "Bigger than I thought it would be. She says it's like a calendar."
"Calendar? What the fuck are the baskets for then?" Draco asks him, gesturing with agitation. They aren't even halfway through the school term, and the entirety of the eighth year class has been slave to the whims and whimsy of Hermione Granger since classes began. She has been tasked by the Minister himself to share some Muggle traditions, all in the name of post-war peace and unity. So far, it's been ridiculous. She made them listen to Muggle music (appalling), try Muggle snacks (boring), and wear Muggle clothes (stup- well… alright, no, he will admit he sort of liked the trousers made of "denim"... but everything else has been completely stupid).
Not that anyone much cares about Draco Malfoy's opinion. He has about as much sway as a House Elf at this point. Except the witch behind all of this would actually listen more to an elf. She certainly doesn't seem to entertain any of Draco's opinions.
"They're for gifts."
Draco turns to find the swot in question staring him down with her arms folded and her brow raised. "Gifts for whom?" he asks with a sneer, positive the only student who would have given him one would be Theo, and they have already mutually agreed blokes don't buy each other gifts unless they are under the age of ten or dating.
"Everyone," she answers haughtily, pushing her way past him to the front of the room. The three or four other students part and let her through until she is standing right in front of the calendar. "Had you bothered to come to the house meeting, you would know."
"I had Quidditch," he bites back. It's true-ish… He had practice. Granted, he stayed longer than anyone so he didn't have to listen to her symposium on traditional Muggle cheer, but she doesn't need to know the details. His schedule is his own. Plus, he's holding on to his spot on the team by a thread. He can't afford to let anyone outfly him.
"Yet, somehow, Theo made it," she points out with a haughty cock of her head. Draco thinks it best not to argue and settles on a vague shrug.
"Anyway, since you missed it, I'll tell you. This is a modified advent calendar, larger than is typical. It counts down the days before Christmas. To Christmas, actually. Many of the more traditional ones stop the day before, but we had twenty-five students, so I've chosen a more modern design. Since Hogwarts is mandatory in session this season and we won't be going home, I thought it would be nice to count down together. Each day, one of us will receive a gift inside."
"Who bought the gifts?" It might seem like a silly thing to need to know, but Draco doesn't need any Muggle nonsense from her to make him feel even more of a shite than he already does. Okay, yes, fine, he was a bully and a complete cunt for years. If everyone could just stop rubbing his face in it, thanks ever so. He doesn't need reminders as to his checkered and regretful past.
"We all will," she informs him. "Each of us will purchase one non-specific gift, and I will disperse them at random. Nothing too large or elaborate is necessary."
"So, cheap, you mean."
He watches her lips thin into a line. "It's a casual gift exchange, Malfoy. Don't try to turn it into something classist."
Waving his hand to dismiss the entire conversation, he says, "Whatever, Granger. When do I need to have this bauble purchased?"
She takes a breath through her nose. "By the thirtieth, please."
Four days. She's giving him four blasted days? What a pain.
"Maybe I have something laying around," he throws out as he turns away. "Theo, dinner?"
Nott shrugs at him but follows, and Draco puts this entire exchange out of his mind. Ridiculous swot. Draco has more pressing issues on his mind. He'll deal with this later.
Days pass, and the end of term brings with it an increase in homework and exams. Draco has a lot to prove to the staff this year. He'd like to say he doesn't care what they think, but the reality is he would prefer his reputation be a little more shiny before he leaves Hogwarts for good. He won't be able to rely on his father or his family name as he always had. He's still wealthy, of course, but if he wants a position, a career, a good match, or a social life, he will have to… shudder… earn them.
It's been a long night of Ancient Runes and Potions theory in the library, and he's finally, exhausted and strained, on his way to the eighth year common room to sleep.
Draco groans as he turns. Hearing his name called in annoyance and disappointment is wearing thin. Halfway down the corridor, Granger is standing with her hands balled into fists at her side. He gives her a rather charming smile in his own opinion, considering he's tired and she is likely about to harp at him over something. "Can I help you, Granger?"
"I asked for one, small thing, you prat. A trifle. All you had to do was give me some Bertie Bott's or something, and you couldn't be bothered."
What is she going on about?
Oh. Right, that Muggle countdown nonsense. It had honestly slipped his mind, which has the unwelcome effect of making him feel guilty… which makes him irritable.
"I'm sorry. And by that, I don't mean it at all, and I could not give any fewer fucks about your holiday rubbish. If you'll excuse me…"
He turns away and starts to leave, but cringes because he hears her reply, "It's no more than I really expected of you."
That stings a bit.
"What've you there?" Malfoy finds Theo in the common room, fiddling with a trinket in his hands.
"It's my advent gift. From Finnegan." Theo is apparently the first in their lot to receive his gift.
Draco is watching Theo spin little colored squares that cover the outside of a cube, changing the patterns in various ways. "What does it do?"
"It's a game, he says. You have to find a way to get all the same coloured fields on their own side."
Draco snorts. "S'not possible. No way can you figure out that mess. Look, every time you get all the blues on that side, you cock up the green and the yellow. He's fucking with you," he observes, bemused by the entire thing.
Theo doesn't even look at him, just keeps at his odd little contraption. "No, mate, it was all perfect when he gave it to me. We messed it up, so I know there's a way to get it back. Just have to find it."
"Waste of time," Draco determines, looking across the room to find Granger smiling and laughing with her usual dundering duo. Weasley catches him watching and offers him a two finger salute. Draco returns the favor. This is precisely why he likes to keep to himself.
The season progresses, and Draco watches the students around him open up a variety of knick-knacks, snacks, and treats. Tracey Davis receives a type of chocolate Draco has never seen before, obviously having come from the Muggle world. Being a half-blood herself, she seems very excited at the prospect.
Potter opens a collection of chocolate frogs, complete with the recently added "white chocolate" and "fudge swirl" options, and receives two Harry Potter cards for his trouble. Draco has to stifle a snicker when the golden boy pins them to a board and introduces the common room to something called "darts". Maybe the prick does have a sense of humor.
It's the twentieth of the month when Longbottom taps him on the shoulder. Draco is tucked into a quiet corner by the fireplace, doing a pretty fine job of avoiding the other students if he does say so himself. "It's your day, Malfoy."
A lot of potentially concerning possibilities flash through his head. His day for what? Patrol? Tutoring the younger years? Kitchen duty? To have the sword of Gryffindor slice through his neck…?
"The calendar. It's your name up there."
"Oh, that. Didn't Granger tell you to skip me? I'm not included."
"Nonsense," the wizard tells him. "Your name's up there. Hermione wasn't going to leave anyone out, not even a tosser like you."
He bites a hole in his tongue rather than to tell the prick where he can shove his commentary. Rising from the sofa, he makes his way to the basket on the wall, his name indeed written on it, and pulls out a box wrapped in silver and white paper. Draco carries it back over to his corner, not particularly wanting other students to watch him open the gift. It's been a rather solitary year, only Theo seeming to have much use for him. Then again, Draco feels he has been virtually alone since he took the mark. Solitude is far better than the judgement, subtle or otherwise.
He flops back down into his place and tears into the box. Inside is a small bottle with an amber liquid. If he didn't know the gifts had been purchased anonymous, he would suspect poison. Or, at the very least, a potion to make him do embarrassing or harmful things.
Draco looks up to find Granger standing over him, gesturing to the bottle.
"That." She points again. "You've ended up with the gift I bought. It's a Muggle liquor called rum. You can enjoy it over ice or mix it with other drinks."
He's surprised by a couple of details of the exchange. First, and most notably, that Hermione "Good-Girl" Granger gave liquor as her gift. Second, and upon a few more seconds of reflection, that she is taking the time to explain the particulars to him. Not wanting to seem wrong-footed, he asks casually, "How would you recommend?"
"I prefer it mixed, myself. With Muggle drinks. I mean, you certainly don't have to…" She trails off, chewing her lip and seeming nervous.
It occurs to Draco she likely expects him to sneer about the origins of the drink. She's probably cursing herself for being in a position that she gave something Muggle to the biggest pureblood bigot she knows. Nevermind that his philosophies on purity have cracked beneath the weight of experience and logic in the past couple of years, it must seem a safe assumption to her. Yet she approached him anyway. Brave and bold, that's a Gryffindor for you. Anyone who says she wasn't properly sorted doesn't know her well.
"Do you have any?"
She startles and looks down at him. He repeats and clarifies, "Do you have any? Muggle drinks? Smuggle some in your trunk?" Draco grins to put her at ease.
A slow smile creeps up on her face. "Are you asking if I have muggle contraband?"
At the corner of his eye, Theo is watching them, giving Draco a knowing, and rather unwelcome, little smirk. Should he continue this path?
Fuck it. Why not? Hardly any other witch will even talk to him. Granger might not be his biggest fan, but when you're in a dry spell and a pretty witch approaches, you might as well push your luck. She's been receptive this far…
"Surely not. Perfect Hermione Granger breaking rules and sneaking in unregulated food and drink?" He lays one hand dramatically over his heart. Perish the thought, his pose seems to say.
She laughs at that, a rather joyful sound, and snatches the bottle out of his hand. "You're literally already holding contraband from me. Come on. I'll show you what happens when you add rum to Coke. My dad used to swear by this…"
And so, Draco was introduced to something he might have missed if he'd remained in his pureblood bubble any longer. The bottle she gifted him is a small amount of the liquor, but Granger shortly thereafter reveals that she has a larger bottle at the bottom of her trunk.
"Did you shrink down the other one?" he asks her.
"No, it was made that way. It's meant to be a single serving."
He thinks making anything that good into a package that small is a crime. She seems to know that he would enjoy dipping into her stash and invites him to stay. They share almost half of her larger bottle over the course of the evening, talking about the gifts students have received so far, some items revealing details he had previously never considered about the Muggle world and, by extension, about Granger. At some point, Potter and Weasley ask her to come down to dinner, and she refuses, opting to stay with Draco. She seems casual, casting them off politely and refusing to acknowledge any uncomfortable hippogriff in the room. The other two glare at him; Draco blows them a kiss.
They talk until half twelve that night, topics moving from the holiday traditions to any number of broad topics, and Draco learns more about Hermione than he might have ever guessed. By the time he bids her a good night, he grimaces to himself.
He has a crush. Fucking fuck, he has a crush. That's pretty inconvenient since he's a social pariah, and she's one of the most sought after witches in Britain. Not to mention, up until tonight, he's not been the most pleasant or endearing to her. Yet somehow, in the course of one blasted evening, he's let himself develop feelings.
On Christmas Eve, Weasley opens a pair of mittens, imbued with warming charms from Hannah Abbott, and the calendar has reached the end. Something strikes Draco, and he realizes immediately what it is. There had been twenty-five baskets originally, ending on Christmas Day. Granger had expressly mentioned it.
One has been removed, and it occurs to him, he knows whose it was.
With one day left and Hogsmeade as an entity trying to close up for the day, Draco races from shop to shop. It was easy to figure out what she'd done. Draco had refused to be a part of the exchange, but Hermione had been equally stubborn that he wouldn't be left out. So she had given a gift and then bowed out of receiving one in turn. Well, fuck you very much, Hermione Granger. Draco doesn't need any more guilt. She's going to get the best sodding gift of all.
The common room is quiet on Christmas morning. It's early. Much more so than anyone in their right mind would experience, but Draco wanted to sneak his gift into a basket on the wall, intending to charm Granger's name and a number twenty-five onto the outside of the last, unmarked basket. He's tip-toeing across the room and doesn't notice the figure on the sofa until she speaks.
Draco startles, eyes searching out the source. He finds Hermione by the tree, the soft lights twinkling and glinting off her curls. He clears his throat, searching for the way to answer. "No, I… I wanted to put this onto your… calendar. Advent thing. I suppose the surprise will be ruined now…"
He stands awkwardly for a moment before taking a breath and thrusting the box at the witch, willing her to take it. "Happy Christmas, Hermione."
She's looking up at him with wide eyes, her hands wrapped around a mug. Finally, she sets it aside and reaches out to take his gift. "What's this?"
"It's your calendar-thing present," he tells her, feeling uncomfortable and stupid and looking away. "I know you didn't get one, and I know it's because I was being a prick about it. You shouldn't have had to do that…"
The befuddled expression on her face morphs into something beautiful. Gratitude, perhaps. She's lovely. "Draco, I don't know what to say."
He shrugs. He doesn't know what to say either, really.
She opens it without further hesitation, tearing off the green and gold paper, and suddenly she looks younger than before. He can imagine her as a young girl, all frizzy hair and teeth, tucked beneath the tree and rifling through her gifts. It's the youth that was stolen from her, from them all, fighting the last generation's war.
"Draco…" She's holding the box very still, not reaching inside.
"You don't like it?"
Her eyes snap to his and she hisses out quietly, mindful of the early hour, "Are you quite daft?! Of course I like it!" Careful and hesitant, she reaches in and pulls out the quill he purchased for her. It is faceted crystal and erupts into pinpoints of light once removed from the shadows of the box. "It's just… it's too much…"
He snorts at her. "Absolutely it is not, Granger. You like quills. I found a quill, and it's exquisite. It's just exactly right for you."
"No, I mean… it's too generous-"
"I know what you meant. Stop being so bloody humble. Just… take the gift and say 'thanks', Granger."
She studies him for a rather uncomfortable moment, and Draco clears his throat. "Thank you," she finally breathes out. "But… why? You didn't even want to do the exchange? Why go out of your way?"
He considers her for a moment, wishing he had a little of that rum in him for the truth he shares next.
"Did you know what happened to my parents, Granger?"
She shakes her head in the negative. "Only vaguely. I think they are at your manor…?"
"House arrest. For five years, they can't leave, and I can't step foot on the property. Nor can they send anything. I didn't expect… " He clears his throat, hating that he's feeling a bit emotional. "I hadn't expected to receive any gifts this year. I didn't want to think about it, much less participate. But you stuck your nose in, which is just so like you by the way, and it was… well, it was quite nice to be thought of. Then, I realized, self-sacrificing Gryffindor that you are, you'd left yourself out of your own event so I could have a turn. I wanted to do something… that would be worthy of that kind of gift. The best and only gift I'll receive this year." He shrugs. "It's priceless."
She looks down, away from his gaze, and he's a little horrified to see tears standing in her eyes. "Granger?"
"Sorry, I just hadn't expected… I didn't really think I'd be receiving many gifts either. Harry and Ron of course. Maybe a sweater from Ron's mum… if she's not too sore at me for breaking up with him, which is very much in the cards. It's just… nice to have someone think of me, too."
Her parents, he remembers suddenly and feeling like a heel for not considering it before, don't know who she is. The Prophet did a huge write up on her, and he'd nearly forgotten it, distracted and self-centered as he had been. She'd erased their memories, orphaned herself, as it were. Experts at St. Mungo's are still working on it, but there are no guarantees, and it could take years...
"I guess we are both a little adrift this year," he says, voicing what they must both be thinking. "It's not such a terrible thing," he adds. "I certainly don't feel alone at the moment."
"Neither do I."
They sit there for a few minutes, Hermione studying her quill and Draco studying her. She's pretty in the low light. She's always pretty, admittedly, but in the soft glow under the tree, she's otherworldly.
"You know, I still have some rum. Shall we toast the day?"
Draco searches her gaze, eyes volleying between hers. A slow smile spreads his lips. "Do you have any of the Muggle drink left?"
She snorts and it's far more adorable than it should be. "Of course I do. Would I invite you if I didn't have anything to offer? My mother raised me better." She's already standing, tucking her gift box under one arm and offering her empty hand for him to take.
Draco accepts, rising to his feet and then following her toward her room. He glances up at the wall, pausing and letting her hand slip from his as he stops, noticing the empty basket with his name. It's the only one written in her messy scrawl as opposed to the magically charmed script of the others. He isn't sure what he did to deserve her attention, maybe it was just pity for the fallen Slytherin prince, but, as is indicative of his house, he intends to take what life offers him.
Standing in her doorway, a beautiful witch is giving him a chance. A choice. Looking at her warm eyes and soft smile, he's more sure than anything that he's making the right one. Draco crosses the distance in three long strides and presses a promise of more against her lips, the fire and twinkling lights glinting off her hair and in her eyes when she gazes back.
"Thank you," he tells her. Gratitude for more than rum, more than a kiss. She smiles and pulls him into the room, closing it softly behind them.
Much Holiday love to all of you for reading. Have a wonderful season, whatever holiday you may or may not celebrate. I appreciate your time and would love to hear from you in a review!