Draco proceeded to tell Hermione about Stella, how she was killed, and how he had tried all the healing spells that he knew to save her lifeless body that had been pushed under the tree amongst the presents.
“Father used her death as a lesson for me. ‘The Avada curse is not reversible, son. It’s a good lesson for you to learn now while you’re young,’” he quoted in a perfect haughty Lucius Malfoy imitation.
Her eyes closed for a moment as she easily imagined him as a devastated blond child trying to save his beloved dog… under a Christmas tree.
“The man is as cold as I am stubborn. The only thing that I wanted for Christmas was my dog back and so I refused to open any gifts then. Or the year after that… or the next year. So eventually, they stopped buying me gifts altogether.”
“That’s terrible,” she finally said, not knowing what else to say. The story was so sad, she could hardly believe it. She thought of how filthy rich they were… how they could’ve easily spoiled him rotten with lavish gifts, just like Ron had assumed.
But in reality, Draco Malfoy hadn’t opened a single Christmas gift since he was six years old.
Her heart broke for him, wondering what other sad and horrifying things might’ve happened in his home.
“Don’t feel too sorry for me. I held on to my bitterness and anger far too long and was determined to ruin Christmas forever just to get back at my father for what he did. So, really it’s only been my fault the past several years with my own stubbornness.”
He wasn’t sure why, perhaps it was her sorrowful expression, but he wanted her to understand something very important to him. It was something that he had never actually told anyone before now.
“Please understand. It is not material things that I want anyway. Things are not important to me. What do you give a wealthy child that can get anything he wants, no matter the time of year?” he paused. “A good memory, Granger. A good experience. A happy moment in time. Those are the things I crave most, as I don’t have very many of them,” he confessed.
Hermione looked up and studied him. She couldn’t believe what she was hearing. He was deep in thought, no doubt that his mind was searching for one… a good memory and quite possibly coming up short.
She thought of everything he had said and began to make the connection between his past and the future piece of his dream.
“So, when he killed Stella… he killed your happiness."
“Yes,” Draco answered, taking in the kind and thoughtful look on her face.
“And in your dream, I surprised you with a dog that looked like Stella and you must have freaked out because…” she trailed off a little, thinking it through and figuring it out. “Because it became a reminder of the pain of what your father did when you were seven?” she questioned as she looked up at him.
“It reminded me of everything my father ever did and probably future things he hasn’t even done yet.” He pondered that thought for a moment, but continued. “You were giving me the dog as a Christmas gift, which was the reason why I lost my mind over it.” he explained somberly. “Anyway… I ended up casting a curse at the thing. You survived, but…”
For a split second he thought of telling her the rest… that in his dream her last name was Malfoy and she was very pregnant with his child.
But he didn’t want her to become the first witch in magical history to die of laughter.
“Bad things happened after that,” he told her, looking down and shaking his head slightly. “As stupid and ridiculous as it sounds… just don’t ever give me a black dog.”
Since he stopped and didn’t elaborate on the rest of the dream, she figured that he wouldn’t tell her anything else about it, even if she asked.
“Okay, I promise. I swear that I will never get you a black dog. Dream prevented,” she declared, feeling a bit silly to be promising such a thing. “Now about those gifts…” she said as she folded her arms into her chest.
She caught his expression as it changed from solemn and sad to downright playful. She could tell that speaking of his dream and especially of his father was taking a toll on his mood. So she was happy to see his eyes light up.
“Don’t make it out to be any more than it is. It was not a big deal. I used things that I already had.”
When her head cocked to the side a bit, he explained. “You are a curious one, Granger. I knew that doing something completely out of my character would have you practically begging me to be alone with you so that I would explain myself. And to my brilliant credit, it worked.”
He gave her a smirk that was most certainly more flirtatious than his usual type.
“Not a big deal?” she repeated with a huff. “Maybe not for you, but in your scheming of things, you accidentally did something brilliant and brought joy to your enemies.”
He folded his arms together and gave her a look that she could not read.
“That yearbook was a huge hit,” she remarked as if he needed convincing. “It was passed around to everyone. We were all amazed at those pictures… seeing Harry’s parents, especially. We all got a good laugh at Snape at that age. Even Sirius and Lupin are in it. It’s hard to believe they were ever that young.”
She thought of Harry’s reaction. “It was bittersweet for Harry, of course. But he was very appreciative to receive such a gift. We just didn’t know who to thank! It was a wondrous mystery. And the Quidditch tickets!” she said with excitement. “They were all jumping about the place and cheering and hugging each other as if they’d won the lottery or something.” She laughed that sweet laugh that he loved so much. “It’s one thing to go the World Cup, but it’s an entirely different experience on the luxury suit level!”
There was an unmistakable joy in her voice that made Draco feel that whatever the consequence his father might dish out for giving the family tickets away to the Weasleys would be well worth it. Just seeing her eyes as she smiled at him was worth it.
Draco watched her face and how she described that morning with a glow of happiness. He was amazed and astounded that he had caused such a beautiful reaction in her.
“Ginny wouldn’t let anyone touch her Quidditch World Cup blanket. She wrapped herself in it and held it close all day long. And when Ron saw all of those authentic autographs on that bat, I thought his red head was going to explode!”
She laughed again at the memory, but then her expression changed to one of adoration and Draco couldn’t help but be mesmerized by it.
“Then we heard Mrs. Weasley crying,” she said, looking up at Draco almost lovingly.
“Yes. We all thought maybe something was wrong.”
Hermione placed a hand over her heart, thinking of the most touching moment of Christmas morning.
“That is, until she said, "Seven stones for my seven babies." Oh, Draco, she adored the mother’s ring. How did you manage it in such short timing?”
“I had one of my house elves fashion it out of my mother’s old jewelry scraps. I had him make a pendent for my mother and I just thought that since the Weasley mum had so many children, that a mother’s ring would be appropriate.”
“Appropriate?” Her jaw dropped as she gasped in shock. “It was so beautiful and meant more to her than you could possibly comprehend! That woman will cherish it until her dying day!”
Hermione shook her head, thinking of how incredible it all really was.
“None of us knew what to think, really. Molly thought someone in the room was responsible, but just wasn’t confessing to it. But I suspected otherwise. I knew it wasn’t Harry, because of the yearbook. And certainly none of us could afford all those luxury suite tickets either!”
“I may have gone a tad bit over-board.”
“No,” her tone grew sad. “They had no gifts for each other. Even Mrs. Weasley didn’t knit any sweaters this year because of the arthritis in her hands now. Most of it is magically done, but she still has to piece them together.”
She paused for a moment, choosing her words carefully.
“Draco,” she said looking up at him. “You have no idea the wonderful thing you did. You know they are poor. And what you did brought laughter and wonder and joy to them. And to me,” she admitted playfully.
“Laughter and joy are foreigners in my house, Granger.”
“That may be so, but you are not immune to giving them, which means there is hope for you yet,” she teased.
He gave her a shoulder shrug of doubt, but then cocked his brow, remembering, “Now about that book I gave you.”
“Yes, Delilah’s Black Book of Poems. Wherever did you get it? Of course you already know that it is banned and most of them were destroyed by the ministry.”
“It was in the library at the manor. My grandmother’s name is written in the front, but I put a concealment charm on it so that you wouldn’t see it.”
“Your grandmother’s? Oh, I can’t possibly keep a family heirloom like that.”
“Yes, you can. But if you ever want rid of it, please do send it back. I trust that you know the danger of it, right?”
“Yes. Never quote or recite it out loud.”
“Correct. There are hidden curses and spells within the text and sharp objects might go flying about and people might start bleeding, so do keep it to yourself.”
“Of course I will. And thank you so much for it.” Hermione’s face beamed. She was so happy to have that book that she could hardly contain herself.
“And make sure that password lock you put on it is a good one, so that no one else can start reading it out loud,” he warned. “Using, ‘MALFOY IS A GIT’ is too easy for someone to figure out.”
She giggled at his sense of humor. She never would’ve guessed that he had one.
“I assure you that no one will ever guess it. But do explain though. How did you know that I desired that particular book?” she asked curiously.
“I overheard you in a DADA class during our 3rd year, mentioning it to someone,” he recalled. “You weren’t feeling well that day. You said that the only thing that could possibly make you feel better was to get your hands on a copy of Delilah’s Black Book of Poems.”
Her eyes grew wide remembering. “I can’t believe you remembered that after all this time. That night I was surprised with chicken soup and crackers in my room,” she remembered, as she caught a guilty smirk crawl across his face. “You didn’t happen to have anything to do with that, did you?”
“I might have told a kitchen elf,” he admitted. “But I didn’t run to go get you that book, now did I?”
“It’s a good thing actually, as I don’t really think I would’ve been entirely ready for it. It’s quite heart-wrenching and sad.”
He shook his head adamantly. “Don’t you dare repeat anything that is in that book in my presence. I don’t need you to accidentally quote it and have hidden curses from a magical book to make my life worse than it already is,” he said in a half teasing tone.
She giggled softly, knowing he wasn’t really kidding, but being perfectly serious.
“So tell me. Must you do nice things in such secrecy?” Hermione asked with a flirtatious smile.
He snapped his eyes to hers and held her gaze. “I can’t very well be seen doing nice things for Gryffindors, now can I?”
“I suppose not.”
“And I definitely can’t be seen doing something against a Slytherin, like when I put a stop to Cole Devlin’s antics either.”
“That was you as well?” She was floored remembering Devlin’s pages fanning to the floor. “I can’t believe it. How did you do it?” She cocked her head to the side. “Why did you do it?”
“I brewed a simple potion that ate the glue from the bindings of his books.”
The ‘why’ was a little more complicated. “Why? Well, I’m rather possessive at what I think is mine, Granger. If anyone were to mess with you, it should be me. Unbeknownst to Devlin, he crossed an invisible line and I couldn’t let him get away with it.”
His words shocked her. He didn’t do it to stop Devlin from bullying the school and causing havoc. He did it to exact revenge of his own for messing with the wrong victim, his victim.
She was trying to make sense of it. He was revealing some sort of twisted affection for her and she felt a happy tingling sensation wash over her.
All she could do was look at him in awe and pleasant wonder. He liked her. He didn’t come right out and say it, but it had to be true. She could feel the sudden warmth on her cheeks as she blushed at the thought.
Silence grew between them as their eyes held. And it seemed to build a peculiar tension right along with it, the kind that leaves two people breathless.
She thought she knew Draco Malfoy. She thought she had him perfectly pegged. All this time she knew him as everyone else did; a cruel, arrogant, self-centered, bigoted, rich Slytherin prat that walked around Hogwarts halls as if he held title to the place… and not to mention, completely heartless.
But he had just proven that the general consensus had not been entirely accurate. He was still most of those things, but not all. He had just revealed a dimension to her that he’d managed to keep hidden from everyone. Everyone.
As she was thinking all of this, Draco’s thoughts went to how agonizingly difficult it was going to be to say goodbye to her.
His mission was accomplished. And as much as his heart desired to spend the rest of the night talking to her surrounded by tiny romantic lights and poetic graffiti of ages past, he figured that it was time to give her back to her friends. But he certainly didn’t want to.
“Malfoy,” she paused, unmoving. “You’ve revealed much tonight… things very personal and confidential. I have to admit that I’m quite surprised that you would confide in me with such a painful memory of your past, with your father and everything.”
“I had to tell you… to prevent a dream. Nothing more.”
“Still, you didn’t have to. And your gifts, they weren’t random, but rather very well thought out. So fitting for each person and remarkably personal.”
She looked into his eyes, his beautiful silvery eyes that looked as if worried about what she was going to say next.
“Clearly there is more to you than your reputation.”
“There is more to you than yours,” he said with a look so serious that it hushed her thoughts and had her wanting him to stare into her eyes forever.
Her staring at such close range was doing strange things to him. It made him want her, very badly. He fought certain urges. His mind raced for a smart way to end this soon.
She contemplated all that he had revealed and done. Draco had given so much and truly, shockingly, expected nothing in return. She wanted to give him something back, but what?
The only word that came to her mind was love. Something deep inside of her heart gave her instructions.
“I want to give you something,” she said softly as she stood, placing a hand on the graffiti wall, and stepping on top of the boulder she had been sitting on. As she did this, she mustered all of the Gryffindor bravery that she could while extending her arm, palm up, inviting him to join her.
“You don’t have to give me anything, Granger. That’s not what…”
“Just come here,” she gently urged.
With a reluctant sigh, he stepped to her, unsure if he should.
With her being elevated, they were now face to face, eye to eye, and only inches apart.
He had no idea what she was doing, but all he could think of was how she was dangerously close to being kissed… whether she wanted to or not.
Before he could think of anything else, she carefully placed her hands to his shoulders, leaned in close, and planted a simple kiss on his cheek, then proceeded to explain herself.
“That’s for sending me the wonderful soup when I was ill all those years ago, for taking revenge on Devlin for me, and giving me the most perfect Christmas gift.”
She leaned into him again and kissed him on the other cheek. “That’s for your kindness to Harry and the entire Weasley family, whatever your cunning motives.”
When he stood frozen, she took that to mean he would allow one more kiss.
Her hands slid from his shoulders to the back of his neck. When she felt no protest from him, her lips went to his in a soft kiss.
It wasn’t one of passion, it was just one small little slow kiss.
“And that’s for doing something so wonderfully out of character and showing me that there is indeed, a wonderful side to Draco Malfoy.”
She wrapped her arms around him, pulling him into a hug, and whispered into his hear saying, “Don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone.”
Her breath on his neck set his insides on fire. He could barely control himself.
“Thank you so much, Draco,” she breathed as she hugged him tight.
He could barely think. She had kissed him and was now pressing her body into his.
When he stood frozen and rigid, not responding to her at all, she thought he just might throw her across the room in disgust. She braced herself for an expected insult… something about a Mudblood having the audacity to kiss him.
But all he really wanted to do at that moment was to kiss her passionately, stake his claim to her, and make her his.
A battle was raging in his mind and he wasn’t sure which side to take. ‘What was best for her’ fought valiantly against ‘overwhelming selfish desires.’
He thought of the sweetness of her kiss… the perfection of it.
Draco could no longer contain himself and placed his arms around her, reciprocating her hug.
He leaned in closer to her and could feel her anticipation as the air between them intensified.
She wanted his kiss and he was about to give in. His head tilted to the side a bit as he inched closer to her face.
Just as he was about to forget why he was there and get lost in her intoxicating closeness, he heard the wise words of his grandfather’s portrait echoing in his head like a gentle warning of a distant thunder.
“Trying to start a relationship with her before an impending war would be disastrous.”
The words of wisdom took his breath and served as a reminder that felt like her weight had been magically cast on his shoulders, effectively keeping him from kissing her.
He scolded himself for getting too close. You must end this! But end it gently.
He backed away slightly and when he opened his eyes to look into hers, he saw a bit of insecurity at what she’d just done and Draco didn’t want her to feel that way or have any regrets for kissing him like she had.
Without further hesitation, he gave her a slight smile. “Hermione Granger. You are one brave soul,” he paused. “But we really should go before I do something you’ll regret in the morning. Besides, you’ve made me miss my dinner and now I’m hungry,” he said as he turned around so that she could easily climb onto his back.
Taking the queue, she took a small leap off the huge rock and wrapped her arms around his shoulders with a smile that she could not remove from her face.
Once they left the space, the tiny flames in the glass jars went out on their own and stone steps to the courtyard were illuminated by the moonlight.
But as he carried her back up the stairs, Hermione thought about how much she didn’t want their conversation to end. She wanted more time with him… with this Draco that she was falling for.
Her mind was telling her to run far, far away as soon as her feet touched ground. But her heart was telling her to go with him to the kitchens for more than just food.
“Do you mind if I tag along?" she asked bravely. "I’m hungry as well and honestly… I’m not quite ready for our conversation to end just yet.” She smiled at him shyly and added, “You’ve been such an open book tonight... and I still have things I want to ask you.”
Draco pondered her request.
He loved the thought of more time with her, but was worried that she would ask him more about his dream. After weighing the risks and thinking their conversation could still be somewhat private, he began walking.
“I can’t prevent you from getting something to eat,” he replied as if he couldn’t care less if she joined him or not. But he did. He was smiling on the inside and hiding it very well.
They would not return to the graffiti walls under the courtyard. But if they had, they would’ve seen a new message added to the perpetually changing wall.
For Hermione had touched it when she stepped onto the boulder.
In doing so, she left her print on the magical wall and it had read her heart, causing it to conjure a rather large pink heart that simply read, “Hermione was here… with her Prince.”
Whew... that was a lot to reveal...
I hope I didn't disappoint and bore anyone to sleep!
Up next... Draco questions Hermione about something VERY personal. And after a serious conversation in the kitchen, these two finally end up having FUN together!
Love you all...
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