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Christmas holiday was going splendidly. Draco and Hermione's shopping trip had gone off without a hitch. Kingsley Shacklebolt had accompanied them, much to Hermione's surprise. He was still acting minister, and it seemed a bit of overkill for him to accompany them. Surely they had other aurors for such jobs. Kingsley had explained that the auror department was very low on manpower since the war. This was the reason for allowing certain students to leave Hogwarts and begin their training as soon as possible.

 

They had each bought the gifts they needed. Hermione had bought gifts for Ron, Harry, Ginny and Draco. Draco had bought gifts for Blaise, Pansy, and Hermione. Together they had picked out a simple throw made of the warmest wool for Draco's mother. He knew from his previous visits that it was quite cold in her room. While she had not spoken in quite some time, he knew she tended to be cold most of the time and he hoped she might appreciate the added warmth.

 

*

 

Hermione woke early on Christmas morning. She looked down to the end of her bed and saw the large stack of presents that waited for her. She ignored the gifts, grabbed a small square box from her bag and ran excitedly through the bathroom door and into Draco's room. Her sense of urgency evaporated at the sight that met her when she opened the door. Draco was sound asleep in his bed. His normally well groomed hair fell over his face. He had kicked all of his linens off of the bed and he laid spread eagle on his bare mattress, with nothing but his boxer shorts on. Hermione couldn't help but stop and take a few moments to admire the beautiful model-like body sprawled on the bed. After a quick contemplation, she threw caution to the wind and laid down on the bed next to Draco. She laid on her side, supporting her head on her hand. She used her other hand to gently touch every inch of his muscular chest and abs.

 

He awoke to the feeling of someone laying down on his bed. He felt her soft fingers moving up and down his abdomen. The sensation was like fire on his skin. Where she touched, his skin burned and tingled in the most wonderful way. He kept his eyes closed as long as he could, just enjoying her touch. When he could take it no longer, he opened his eyes, his lips forming a smirk. "Can't help yourself can you Granger?" He reached up, grabbing her face, pulling it down to his.

 

His kiss was like a match igniting her flame. Before she realized what she was doing, she had rolled her body on top of his, her knees on either side of his hips. She supported her upper body with her hands on either side of his head, her lips never leaving his. Draco's hands wandered from her face, down her back, to her bum. They were a mess of tongues and limbs, tangled together, pushing them further towards the line they had not yet crossed. "I love you." It was all Hermione could think to say at this moment. The moment it took her to say it was all that was needed to snap Draco back to reality. He moved his hands back up to her shoulders and gently pushed her upper body upwards so she was now sitting on his pelvis, which did not make what he was trying to do any easier.

 

Hermione brought her hands to rest on his stomach, dragging her fingernails lightly down his chest. Draco's eyes rolled back, relishing the sensation. He grabbed her wrists and kissed each of her palms in turn. "Hermione, love, you are going to be the death of me I swear." A mischievous grin spread across Hermione's face.  She knew what Draco was trying to do, but due to her current seating position, she knew that he was not immune to her.

 

"If you insist." Hermione said, wiggling her hips before climbing off of him and standing up next to his bed.

 

"I know what you are trying to do, Hermione, and it's not going to work." Draco sat up, grabbing a tshirt from his bedside table and pulling it over his head. Hermione found it easier to focus now that his body was more covered.

 

"Rough night?" She said, gesturing towards his bed.

 

"Ya, I have nightmares." He didn't want to talk about this so he opened the drawer in his bedside table and retrieved a small black box. It had a single red ribbon tied around it. He handed the box to Hermione and kissed her lightly on her lips. "Merry Christmas Hermione."

 

Hermione blushed and pulled the string, releasing the small bow. She allowed the ribbon to fall to the ground as she opened the small black box slowly. Deep down she worried what it may be. They had hardly been together any time at all, hoped it was not an engagement ring. She sighed in relief when she saw it was not a ring, but gasped in awe at the absolutely beautiful bracelet that laid sparkling in the box. It was a silver link bracelet with alternating sapphires and diamonds along its length. Sapphire was her birthstone and she wondered how Draco knew when her birthday was. "Oh, Draco. It is so beautiful!" She wrapped her arms around his neck and squeezed him tight. "How did you know when my birthday was though?"

 

"I actually asked Harry. When he told me, I knew this was the perfect gift. It is also my mother's birthstone." His voice grew soft at the mention of his mother. "My father gave this bracelet to her many years ago. She had offered it to me to give to Astoria, back when she and I were together. I did not give it to her, though. It was too beautiful for her."

 

He took the bracelet from the box and put it on Hermione's wrist. "It looks perfect on you Hermione." He kissed her again before turning to look at the stack of presents at the end of his bed. "Did you already open your other gifts?"

 

"No, I was too excited to come and give you this." She handed him the black box she had brought that contained the gift she had bought for him. "It's not much. It is hard to know what to get for someone who already has everything." She looked at her feet.

 

"You are right." He said, placing his finger under her chin and bringing her eyes up to meet his. "But is only since I have been with you that I truly have everything." She smiled at him.

 

He opened the box to find a simple silver pocket watch. "It is a special watch." Hermione explained. "You press your lips to the face and it works like a 2 way mirror, except you see through the face of its mate. It also causes the other to vibrate softly so that I know you are trying to see me." She showed Draco the necklace she was wearing. It held a locket version of the watch she had given him.

 

"The same works the other way around. You cannot hear, but you can see. I saw a mirror like it once during the war, and thought it would be a good way for me to be able to see your face, even when I cannot be with you, and visa versa." Hermione blushed. "I got them from George and Fr... George's shop. They are called Lovers Links." It was still so hard to accept that Fred was gone. It seemed so unnatural to say one name without the other.

 

Draco pressed his lips gently to the face of the watch and saw the most beautiful girl he had ever seen, cheeks flaming red as she watched him stare at her face in the watch with complete adoration. "It is absolutely perfect Hermione. I pray that I am always close enough to you so as to never need it."

 

Hermione could not help but notice how he had referred to being around her forever. It was not a marriage proposal, and it was perfect. The best Christmas gift she could have received. "I'll be right back." She told Draco, exiting into the bathroom. A few moments later she returned, levitating her stack of presents in front of her before placing them on the floor next to Draco's.

 

"Do you want to open them now or go eat then open them?" Draco and Hermione looked at each other and grinned widely.

 

"Open them now!" They said together, before laughing hysterically for at least five minutes. Hermione couldn't help but be amazed at Draco when he was like this. He was so childlike and happy. She could almost see a small Draco on Christmas morning, eyes wide with joy as he opened his countless gifts as his loving parents looked on. She quickly corrected herself, the young Draco probably never had the happy Christmas mornings she had as a child. It was in this moment that she truly appreciated the word he had spoken to her before. It is only since I have been with you that I truly have everything. She was happy to be his everything and planned to stay that way.

 

Hermione had received a new sweater from Mrs. Weasley, it was actually quite pretty. The sweaters she usually received were bulky, and not at all girly in color. This year, she had made her a beautiful royal blue, form fitting sweater with a flattering v-neck. She loved it and put it on immediately.

 

Harry had sent her a new book that had been written about the war. She thought it amazing that she was a part of books such as this that students like herself would be studying from for years to come. Ginny had sent her a book on hair-do spells that Hermione planned to try out soon. Ron had sent her some candies from Honeyduke's.

 

Much to her surprise she had received a pretty pair of earrings as well. The attached card had said it was from Pansy and Blaise, but she imagined that Pansy had very little to do with it. Hermione made a mental note to get something for him before he returned after the holiday.

 

It was then that she realized that Blaise may not be returning. She was quite sure that Harry and Ron would not be. She had little doubt. The letter from Harry that she had received earlier in the break had said they were still considering it, but she knew before they did what they would decide. Ron hated school, and Harry needed to be saving someone. It was who he was. She would miss them, but she had Draco now. Also, Ginny would be returning. Since she was technically a year behind the others, she was not given the same opportunity not to return.

 

Later that day Hermione and Draco walked hand in hand toward Professor McGonagall's office. Draco carried the wrapped gift they had purchased for his mother. As they approached the door, they gave the password, gaining access to the office before exchanging pleasantries with the headmistress and using the floo powder to transport them to St. Mungo's.

 

*

 

Hermione sat quietly by Draco's side as he held his mother's hand. Draco had covered her with the blanket from the two of them. She had not spoken to them or acknowledged them in any way. Still he proceeded to tell her about his life and everything that had happened since he had seen her last.

 

"I am Head Boy mother. McGonagall said she was willing to give me a second chance. I knew you would have approved, so I accepted. It hasn't been as bad as I thought it might have been. It seems that everyone is finally starting to accept that I have changed. I shared my duties for planning a Halloween costume ball with Hermione, she is Head Girl." He paused, seeming to realize that if his mother had been coherent, that she would have noticed the familiarity with which he referred to the girl beside him.

 

"There is something else, mother. I have found someone. Someone who makes me happy. I know that she is not a pureblood, like father would have wanted. She is a muggle born," He looked at Hermione. "and the bravest, smartest, most beautiful witch I have ever met. I know that if you could understand me that you would be happy for me. She has shown me a whole new life. A life that is good and full of happiness." He sighed and leaned down, placing his forehead on her hand. "I know you would be happy for me mother. I know you would love her as much as I do."

 

Hermione gasped. As he muttered these last words, Narcissa's right hand reached over and stroked Draco's hair. His head shot up as he stared at his mother, opened mouth, tears forming in his eyes. "Mother!" He wrapped his arms around her neck and sobbed. Hermione ran from the room to get a healer. She returned moments later, a healer on her heels.

 

"Mrs. Malfoy! How are you feeling? Are you in pain anywhere?" The healer asked, waving her wand to and fro over Narcissa's body.

 

"I am thirsty. Could I have something to drink?" Narcissa said. Her voice was hoarse from months of non-use. The healer ran from the room to fetch a glass, returning and filling it with a tap of her wand. Narcissa drank it quickly and asked for more. This continued until she had drank 3 glasses. She then sat the glass down and turned to Draco.

 

"My dear Draco. Thank you so much for coming to see me today. I do not know how, but you have dragged me back from the darkness. For what seemed like an eternity all there was all around me was darkness. It was so cold and lonely. I was not aware of day or night, although it seems many days have passed." She grasped the ends of her hair that had grown several inches in her time here. "Then something changed today. I felt warmth for the first time." She absentmindedly fingered the blanket that covered her. "Then I could hear voices, they seemed so far away. I realized that it was your voice, Draco. All I could think was that I wanted to hear you. I prayed you would keep talking. Then your voice seemed to get closer. Then I felt your head on my hand. Thank you Draco." She hugged her son before lifting her head and looking straight at Hermione.

 

Hermione shrank under Narcissa's stare. Even though weakened from months of illness, Narcissa's face still held an air of royalty. Then, amazingly, her eyes softened. "Thank you so much Miss Granger." She held out her hand, and Hermione gently took it. "It seems you have been there for my Draco when I could not be. I will be forever grateful to you."

 

Her eyes were sincere and Hermione was touched. She could no longer control the tears that rolled down her face. "Mrs. Malfoy, I do not know what to say. Draco has grown very important to me over these last few months." She turned to Draco, love in her eyes.

 

"Please dear, call me Narcissa or Cissy."

 

"Ok...Narcissa. Thank you. It means a great deal to me that you are willing to overlook my... origins." She was still nervous, but her attitude towards Narcissa softened realizing that she did indeed love her son very much. Maybe they could focus on this common love and at least be civil.

 

"It was always my husband's opinion that the blood that ran through our veins was somehow superior to that of other witches and wizards. I was forced for a great many years to go along with him because I felt it my duty. With the fall of the dark lord, I no longer feel compelled to stand by my husband's views. Besides, it is clear to me by the look in both of your eyes that my son has finally found his soulmate. You obviously love each other very much. Also, I owe a great deal to you and your friends. It is because of your testimonies that I was able to avoid Azkaban, where I likely would have perished by now."

 

Hermione smiled sweetly at Draco before again facing his mother. "Yes, it is true Narcissa. I love your son very much. As far as my testimony is concerned, I only told the truth. You saved Harry's life. Thank you."

 

Narcissa and Draco took over the conversation from there, for which Hermione was grateful. They discussed everything from the Halloween Ball to the new dorm assignments. Narcissa surprised everyone when she let out a soft giggle when Draco told her of his "Harry Potter" costume.

 

Narcissa could feel the weight she had carried most of her life start to lessen, the one that had been multiplied during the war especially upon watching her husband be sentenced to life in Azkaban. She finally allowed herself hope for the future. Seeing Draco and Hermione so in love, so full of life, it gave her a new breath of life as well.

 

The hours passed as they spoke, interrupted only by the healers that came to give Narcissa food and strengthening potions. Several hours after the sun had set, Draco's stomach gave a loud growl. "Draco, I have been so selfish. You both must be starving! Please, don't let me keep you any longer. Besides, I think I need to rest if I want to be able to leave this place soon."

 

"Do you think you will be able to?" Draco looked hopefully from his mother to the healer who had brought her a potion.

 

"She needs a couple of days for the potions to strengthen her muscles back to their normal state. As long as all of her tests come back normal, I do not see any reason she will not be able to leave after that. She will be free to do as she wishes, but will need someone to check on her regularly to ensure she is alright."

 

"I am sure McGonagall will let us floo to the Manor every day or so to check on you." Draco said. Hermione nodded in agreement.

 

Narcissa's face fell for the first time since she had awakened from her trance. "Draco love, I do not think I can ever go back to that place. It feels like a prison, where I was held for too many years. We will work something else out. Do not worry about me." She then downed the sleeping draught. "I am going to rest now." She took Hermione's hand once again, looking deep into her brown eyes. "Please take care of my Draco. He is the only thing I have left."

 

Hermione looked at Narcissa, eyes wide. "Of course. Take care, Narcissa." She walked out of the room to give Draco and Narcissa privacy to say their goodbyes.

 

"Mother, we can buy a house somewhere else for you. You tell me where and I will make sure it is done."

 

"Do not worry son. We will figure it out." Narcissa took her son in her arms again, tears streaming down her face. "I love you so much, Draco. I am very happy that you have found that woman. She seems to be perfect for you. Someone who will love you as well as stand up to you."

 

"She most definitely does that." He smiled as Narcissa's eyes drooped, the draught taking effect. "I will let you rest. Happy Christmas mother."

 

"Happy Christmas, my love."

 

*

 

As Hermione walked out of the hospital room, down the corridor and into the waiting area, she noticed how deserted the hospital seemed to be. It must be later than she had realized. As she passed through the doorway into the waiting area, she suddenly felt a hand cover her mouth and another snake around her waist. "Quiet or else!" She heard a rough whisper behind her ear. She immediately stilled.

 

"Where is your dearest Draco?" Hermione didn't respond, her mind racing. She did not recognize the voice, although it was obviously male.

 

"I hope you enjoyed your safety whilst at Hogwarts. Now you are in my world, mudblood. I was worried I would have to deal with your stupid lover, but it appears he has left you alone. How convenient." He pulled her closer to him and apparated her away with a pop. She felt the familiar tug behind her navel. Once she felt her feet hit a cold stone floor, she looked up. The man's hands released her, grabbing her wand from her back pocket. "You will not be needing this." She jerked herself away and turned around. The sight that met her was unfamiliar. It was cold and damp. It seemed to be some sort of dungeon. There was a single door on the far side of the room. Through the barred window in the door, she could see stone steps that led up. Otherwise, it did not appear to have any other way out.

 

As she took in the face that stood before her, she suddenly realized it was familiar. It was the face of the Death Eater that had pursued her in the battle of seven Potters and one of the Death Eaters that had raided the Lovegood home when she, Harry and Ron had visited during the war. She had met with him on her way into Gringotts when she had been disguised as Bellatrix Lestrange. She remembered him being referred to as Travers, though she did not know his first name.

 

"That's right. I can see it in your eyes that you recognize me. I bet you didn't think you would ever see me again, did you?" He smiled at her, his mouth full of yellowed teeth. His busy grey hair was dirty and wild. His already thin build had deteriorated to the point of dangerously thin. "I have been waiting for my time. I knew eventually you would be stupid enough to leave that castle. Even I did not think you would be so stupid as to leave his side while unprotected. The master will be so pleased." He then turned and exited through the door and up the stairs, securely locking the door behind him.

 

Hermione stared after him, hate in her eyes. How dare he take her here. How dare he put his hands on her. She was startled when her necklace began to vibrate. She breathed a small sigh of relief when she looked down to see the face of the man she loved staring back at her from her locket.

 

*

 

Draco walked out of the hospital room to find Hermione with a smile on his face. He walked down to the waiting area, and was confused when he did not see her waiting there. He went to the healer's station. "Did you see where she went?" He asked, pleading.

 

"Where who went, dear? The girl who was with you? I saw her walk out to the waiting area."

 

His heart stopped as he once again checked the empty room. She was gone. He fell to his knees as he heard something fall from his robes onto the floor. It was the watch. How could I have forgotten? He pressed it to his lips and waited for her face to appear. When he saw the terrified look on her face, he knew for sure that the feeling deep in his soul was correct. She had somehow met with foul play.

 

"Where are you? What happened? Are you alright?" He screamed at the watch. She looked back at him, pointing at her ear and shaking her head. Of course, she had told him that you could see but not hear each other.


He took his watch and turned it around, pointing it around the room, hoping for her to do the same. Maybe he could figure out where she was. She nodded, seeming to understand. As he watched her surroundings passing in front of her, he gasped. There was no doubt, he knew where she was. She was in the dungeons at Malfoy Manor. 

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