Title: Holiday Sweets
Word Count: ~2100
Prompt: chocolate oranges
Warnings: mentions of a minor character’s death, fluff
Summary: Hermione is on the hunt for a certain holiday treat.
A/N: First, a huge thanks to akashathekitty for her speedy beta work. And thank you to Kalina for running this great fest and for giving me some much needed extra time. Also, I took a little liberty with the number of slices in a chocolate orange. They really have only twenty but for the purposes of my little fic there are twenty-four ;)
Hermione ran along the pavement, nearly tripping twice. She was late. Very late. It was the first day of December and Sugarsnaps would be closing in just a few minutes, but she was resolved to get there before it did.
She slid to a stop just in front of the shop’s door. A dishevelled looking shop manager was headed towards the door with the determination of someone who just wanted to go home after a long day. Hermione knew that feeling but she lunged for the door, opening it just before the man could reach it.
Out of breath, she panted, “I just need one thing. I know exactly what I want.”
“We open again at nine,” he replied, all but shoving her out the door.
“No. I need it tonight. Please.” She heard her voice crack slightly.
Sighing heavily, the manager opened the door. “Fine. What is it you need? I’m all out of Choc-o-Wands, so don’t bother asking. All the rage this year…can’t keep them in stock.”
She smiled in relief. “I just need a chocolate orange. You know the kind that you break into pieces.”
The old man stopped in his tracks and turned around. “I’m sorry to tell you this but I just sold my last one not a minute before you showed up. Thought it was the last sale of the day. I’m expecting another shipment in a few days.”
Hermione was crestfallen. It was all her fault. She’d been avoiding buying it because it hurt too much to face the fact that her father was really gone. At one point she had even thought about not doing their little Christmas tradition: starting at the first of December they’d share one slice of chocolate orange each night until Christmas Eve. A silly little thing her father had started doing since before she could even remember. But as silly as it was, it was their tradition and as the time got closer it felt worse not to honor his memory by continuing the tradition.
“Do you remember who bought it?” It was a long shot but she was desperate.
The shop manager pondered for a moment. “Don’t know his name. Rude boy. Wore a black cloak with silver trim along the front…oddly white blond hair. Tallish.”
“Which way did he go?” she asked, already half way out the door.
“North towards Madam Malkin’s”
“Thank you!” she called over her shoulder, running.
She had a very good idea who this rude blond person might be, if only she could catch up with him. There! She spotted a shock of blond hair. He was just about to walk into Madam Malkin’s. “Wait!” she called out.
He stopped. She breathed a sigh of relief. “Malfoy, wait for a second. I need to talk to you.”
He smirked. “Well, well, if it isn’t the Hermione Granger chasing me through the streets of London. What do you need, Granger? I’m in a bit of a hurry.”
This wasn’t going to be easy. Of all the people, it had to be him that bought the last chocolate orange. He was the one person who loved to make her life as difficult as possible. After she had stepped down from her position as co-chair for the Coalition for Post-War Education and Relief with him, she had been certain she’d finally seen the last of him. Yet it seemed she was not nearly that lucky.
“I’ll make it quick. I’d like to buy your chocolate orange. I’ll double what you bought it for.” Damn! She shouldn’t have offered that much. Now he was going to figure that she was desperate, which she was, but letting him know that was not very wise.
He grinned at her and seemed almost delighted that she needed him for something. “Spying on my Christmas purchases? I did know you were that interested in my personal shopping habits.”
She huffed. “I was not spying. The man at the candy shop said you bought the last one. I couldn’t care less what kind of purchases you make.”
He pulled the chocolate orange out of his cloak pocket and held it up to for her to admire. She was very tempted to hex him and pinch it right out of his hand. “It is one of my favorites. And you know how much I love sweets.”
She rolled her eyes. “Yes, we all you’re a six-year-old at heart.” Crossing her arms she added, “And mind.”
“But not body, eh Granger?” he said with a smarmy wink, moving closer, taunting her further with the candy.
“Ugh!” She pushed him away. “I don’t have time for your nonsense.” Her voice was being to show signs of emotional strain. She just wanted get her chocolate, eat a piece, ring her Mum, and cry herself to sleep cuddled up with Crookshanks. For a moment she contemplated telling Malfoy why she needed the chocolate orange, but considering he was incapable of basic human compassing, it would be more embarrassing than helpful. “Can I buy it or not?”
“What’s that supposed to mean? It’s a yes or no question.”
“It all depends on why you need it.”
“It’s none of your business why. I need it and I’m willing to pay a good price for it.”
“Is it a gift for someone?”
“No. It’s for me.”
He looked at her sceptically. “I don’t recall you liking sweets all that much.”
She sighed, as if he knew anything about her. “We spent all of two or three hours a week working with each other, I ate plenty of sweets during the other one hundred and sixty five hours! So again, can I buy it or not?”
“Hmm…I do really like chocolate oranges. Cracking them open is excellent fun. I’m not sure I can part with it.” He hesitated.
“Fine. Thanks a lot, Malfoy.” She started to storm off when she was suddenly pulled back.
“I didn’t say I wasn’t going to give it to you.”
She eyed him warily for a second and then decided that he seemed sincere for the most part. “Smashing! How much did you pay for it?” she immediately asked, while digging through her change purse.
“I don’t need your money.” Her mind boggled. He was just going to give it to her?
“I have plenty of money. What I need is a suitable date for the Ministry Yule Ball. And by suitable, I mean someone who will increase my social standing. A war hero would be a perfect choice. I plan to run for Minister one day.”
Merlin save us all! Malfoy as Minister of Magic, what a joke! “I hope you don’t mean me,” she replied with a chuckle.
He looked irritated. “You suit my purposes perfectly.”
“You really have a way with the witches, Malfoy.” Insulting tosser. His purposes! Of all the times she’d been propositioned by men, this took the cake. Then again, at least he was honest.
Defensively he sneered and said, “I can get a date, Granger. I just need to make an impression at this event and to do that I need a particular type of date. You.”
“You disgust me.”
“Enough with the sweet talk. Do we have a deal or not?”
She really wanted that chocolate orange but was a date with Malfoy worth it? Memories of Christmases past with her father flooded her mind, bringing tears just to the surface. Of course one silly date, even with a prat like Malfoy, was worth continuing her beloved tradition. She had to do it. To honor her father’s memory, and if she was completely honest with herself, to come to terms with his death.
A hand waved in front of her face. “Granger, you in there?” He actually looked a bit worried.
She startled. “Yes.”
“Yes, you’re here or yes, we have a deal.”
“Yes, we have a deal.”
He grinned and shoved the chocolate orange into her palm. “I’ll pick you up a seven on Christmas Eve.” He looked her up and down. “And try to look at least presentable. Wear something decent. Borrow a nice dress robe if you have to. Oh, and do something with that awful hair. We don’t want it to look too much like I’m on a pity date.”
She was sorely tempted to hurl something at the back of his head as he walked into Madam Malkin’s, but the only thing within reach was the chocolate orange and she wasn’t about to waste it on him.
Hermione stepped out onto the balcony under the pretense of needing some fresh air. What she really wanted was a few minutes away from Malfoy to collect her thoughts. He hadn’t left her side all night so when he had excused himself to use the loo, she’d quickly taken the opportunity find a quiet spot. She felt like she was in some sort of crazy backwards world where fish lived in trees and birds swam underwater. Even though she did not want to, she had to admit that this date with Malfoy had been surprisingly enjoyable. At first she’d chalked it up to him playing it up for the other guests, but he continued to be on his best behavior even when no one was within earshot. She couldn’t for the life of her figure out what his angle was. Not that it mattered much. She wouldn’t be going on anymore dates with him. There was no reason to try to puzzle it out.
Checking her watch, she noted that it was almost midnight. She took out a small piece of cloth and unwrapped it. Inside was the last of the chocolate wedges. She had to make sure she ate it before midnight.
“There you are,” a voice called from the doorway.
She looked up and saw that Malfoy had come to find her. “Just getting some fresh air.”
He walked over to join her at the railing. “Are you alright? You’re crying”
“I am?” She put her hands up to her face and felt the wetness of tears on her cheek. “I…”
Disappointment flashed in his eyes. “Am I that bad? And here I thought you were having a good time.”
She choked a bit on a sob turned laugh. “I am…it’s just been hard this Christmas.”
He sighed with understanding. “Your father.”
“How did you know?”
“I do listen. And when you’re not sleeping well and are overtired, like those few weeks in the past when we were working day and night to get that funding package approved, you tend to babble.”
“Oh.” She studied him for a moment and then turned away. “I didn’t realize you were listening.”
“Funny thing is, Granger, I was trying really hard not to. That’s when I realized that for some crazy reason, I can’t even explain to myself, I was. I actually wanted to hear all those stories about you and your dad. Hell, I even wanted to hear all your know-it-all ramblings about house-elves and unicorn preservation. I would even found myself listening to those lame tales about your little adventures with Potter and that red-headed git, what’s his name.”
“You know his name.”
“Shhh…I’m trying to tell you something here. Stop changing the subject.”
“Whatever. You like my stupid stories.”
“No. I like you. I missed you. When you stepped down and I didn’t get to see you every week…” He trailed off, looking a little embarrassed.
“You missed me? That’s…that’s—“
“Insane. Nutters. Bonkers. Craz—”
“Stop. Yes. I get the picture.”
“I thought so too, but it’s true. When you came to me, asking to buy that candy I couldn’t believe my luck. I knew you’d never go out with me if I had just asked.”
“That’s not true!” she interjected.
He quirked an eyebrow, “Granger.”
“Fine. You’re right.”
“I was hoping you would have such a good time tonight that you’d forget about how I’d asked you. But I’m going to take the hiding out on the balcony as a sign that you want to get away from me.”
She didn’t respond. This was crazy. She was looking around for signs of another person watching. Maybe this was some elaborate prank. Then again if it was a prank, Malfoy was an excellent actor. He seemed genuinely disappointed and maybe even a bit angry.
He started to walk away, but she reached out to stop him. “I had a really great time tonight. Thank you.”
“But nothing. I had a good time, and if you want to know if I’ll go out with you again you’ll have to ask.”
He smiled and stepped closer. “I think we should end our first date before I ask about a second one.”
“Okay,” she said tentatively, even though she wasn’t quite sure what he meant.
“Glad we could agree on something.” He leaned in, and as he brushed his lips softly against hers, whispered, “Happy Christmas, Hermione.”