Kalina (kalina_blue) wrote in dramione_advent,
Kalina
kalina_blue
dramione_advent

December 22


Title: Christmas Cards
Author: fangirlyness
Rating: PG
Word Count: 5225
Prompt: Christmas Cards
Warnings: Mention of character death.
Summary: Hermione just wanted to mail her Christmas cards. What she wasn’t expecting was abduction and a bizarre evening of introspection and confession with the enemy on the night before Christmas.
A/N: I was obscenely late in handing this in and owe poor kalina_blue a ton of apologies. Due to what appears to be incurable writers’ block, I drew a great deal of inspiration from other sources to write this story and am acknowledging them here. I am a late-comer to watching Buffy, and particularly liked ‘Conversations with Dead People’, from Season 7. The idea of the long-suffering heroine of the piece having a cathartic, introspective conversation with someone from the other camp appealed to me. This isn't a cheerful holiday fic, like my entry for last year, but then Christmas isn't always the happiest time when there’s a war on.


Christmas Cards


Hermione Granger wanted to learn how to fly a plane. This was an absurd skill to want to acquire given that she was afraid of heights. Especially when the heights in question were experienced from inside what is effectively a long metal tube with wings attached. All that kept a plane up in the air was science. Science had lapses occasionally. Science did not have backup spells to prevent the aforementioned long, metal tube from falling out of the sky when, horrors, all four engines failed.

Hey, it happened.

She wanted to lie under shade of an apple tree in an orchard and read one of the many novels she’d always agreed were important, but secretly found too boring to finish. She wanted to farm her own honey. She wanted to learn how to make perfect, chocolate ganache. She wanted to make a bed like only Molly Weasley could make a bed; with hospital corners so tight, you could strike a match on them.

What she really wanted to do that year was post her Christmas cards.

Even if there were no addresses on the envelopes, just names. Just this once, she'd said to Harry, let us pretend the war is over and doing something as mundane as mailing Christmas cards to friends and family was, well, do-able.

Ok, so it was Yule eve and they were in the middle of what was probably going to become a blizzard. Ron had been incredulous. Harry had merely eyeballed her for a good minute or so and then said, in that infernally calm and knowing way that he sometimes adopted, "She needs to do this. Let her go."

It had probably been latent cabin fever setting in. They were three months into their current mission and so far nothing more untoward had happened, other that Ron burning their breakfast each time it was his turn to cook it.

The village they were staying at was a tiny, a pin-prick on the UK wizarding map, but there was still a local post office, boarded up and disused since the magical exodus. Most of the smaller communities had packed up and moved to less hostile environments. That was, they'd moved into the Muggle world and did their best to blend in. Among the Light, this was agreed to be wise. Voldemort couldn't harm what he couldn't find.

Hermione trudged out into the snow, carrying her little sack of mail and was glad to have a purpose for the first time in weeks. Granted, it was a pointless task, but by God, she'd see those twee little cards off, in one way or another.

She'd made it past the abandoned post office and decided that a small, cleansing bonfire was in order. The cards would burn well enough and she'd pretend the Yuletide greetings, her neat synopses of the past year and her various inquiries as to how everyone was doing would actually be read by the cards' recipients. This would have be quite a feat, given that many of the recipients were in fact deceased. It was not an odd thing to write to the dead, among magical folk. Sometimes the dead appreciated it.

Hermione selected a clearing under a tree, not too far from the small, frozen fountain in the village square. She cleared the snow, took kindling out from her coat pocket, followed by her wand, and set to work.

That was when she saw him, over the heat-mirage and black and orange flicker of her fire. Hermione wondered if the cold was causing her to see things. The vision seemed corporeal enough and her mind was to be commended for its attention to detail. Her imagination furnished the image with ragged clothing, a dirty blond beard, the suggestion of what had once been a fine, black wool cloak and boots that were a mixture of animal hide and electrical-tape. He looked like grizzled hell and she wasn't to know, but the expression of astonishment on his face rivalled her own.

They must have stood there for a hundred years, just staring at each other over the small fire. Her imagination was casting a shadow, Hermione noted, and this realisation caused her grip on her wand to tighten.

"What are you doing?" Draco Malfoy asked, in lieu of the more traditional, "Don’t move!" or simply attempting to kill her on the spot. His eyes scried every inch of her for information.

Hermione didn't recognise his voice. The one she remembered was young and high, with a base of fear and arrogance. This one was low, flat and completely lacking in hyperbole.

"Posting Christmas cards," she replied, in lieu of the more appropriate, "Don’t move! You're under arrest!"

She couldn’t account for her hesitation. Maybe she still believed he was a figment of her exhausted mind? Draco Malfoy had died years ago. Everyone knew that. The apparition came at her quickly, vaulting the fire. It was a wonder how anything could even think that fast in this horrible, mind-numbing cold.

Ow.

That sharp pain was probably the back of her head clipping the edge of the fountain. And then darkness blanketed the cold.

**

Draco Malfoy lived in a cave in the woods. He had apparently been doing so for some time now, judging from the lived-in feel of his accommodations. She did not like what he had done with the place (on principle).

There was a mass of ragged bedding, a home-made net, candles, a small, dented cauldron and other primitive cooking implements, a few water-damaged books, piles of newspaper and a stack of tinned food.

All that was missing was a nervous, crazy person skulking in a corner.

No wait, there he was.

Malfoy observed her from the far end of the cave, on his haunches. He wasn't nervous, but was calm, contemplative and in dire need of several hot baths.

Hermione’s head felt like it was inside a giant bell that had just been rung for Christmas Mass. She pulled herself up against the cave wall and was completely unsurprised to find her wand missing. Gingerly, she prodded the back of her head and was dismayed to find crusted blood matting her hair.

"Sorry about that. I didn’t expect you to fall into the fountain." He was using that new voice of his again. There was a healthy fire in the cave. It crackled. The occasional bough of snow fell outside.

Hermione glared at him. "Painful accidents are one of the pitfalls of being kidnapped, one assumes."

Malfoy stood. The cave became too small. There wasn’t nearly enough room to scramble around if he came at her again. Hermione glanced around for a weapon, but couldn't find anything within reach, not even a pebble to throw at him. Say what you want about the man, but he kept a neat cave.

"This isn’t a kidnapping."

"Oh," nodded Hermione, who shakily got to her feet and dusted the snow off the seat of her trousers before it soaked through. "My mistake, then. If you’ll just give me back my wand, I’ll be on my way." She held out her hand, palm up.

"Ok, fine. This is something of a kidnapping, I suppose. Thing is, I-"

"They won’t pay a ransom," Hermione interjected. "You’re a fool if that’s your plan."

"Of course they’ll pay a ransom. They’ll agree to pay whatever I ask and then they’ll find us, rescue you and kill me in my attempt to escape." He paused to consider this. "Maybe not all in that order, but more or less."

"They won’t risk the mission for me."

His head tilted to the side as he regarded her with genuine wonder. "How can you be so unaware of your own worth? It seems to be a chronic failing among you Light-dwellers."

"Oh? What am I worth, then?"

"The freedom of a former Death Eater," he said, plainly.

"Ah." She walked over to him, aware that her knees were less than steady and trying not to stare at her wand poking out of the waistband of his ragged trousers.

The top of her head only reached his chest. This too, was new. They'd been the same height the last time she’d seen him. Hermione looked him in the eyes, nonetheless. "You’re looking alright for a dead man, Malfoy. How long have you been living here?"

"Two years, six months, a week and a day." His eyes narrowed in concentration. "Give or take."

"Bloody hell."

"Something like that. What were you doing in Edgely Village?"

"Holiday."

"Of course." He was smiling. In the flickering firelight, he was golden and catlike. "Charming this time of year, Edgely. What with the complete desertion and being half buried under the worst snowfall in years. Is the Hero and his lad-in-waiting also holidaying with you?"

Hermione chose to reply with a swift knee to the groin. She envisaged a great deal of high-pitched howling (him), falling over (possibly both of them) and complete ineffectualness (also him). Malfoy didn’t so much as grunt, but he did give her a look of incredulity before folding over. That was unfortunate because it prevented her from snatching her wand back.

Bugger the wand. She had no idea where she was, but it couldn't have been that far away from the village.

It had stopped snowing, not that this improved the ground condition. Moving through the recent snow was an exhausting combination of lunging and leaping. The fresh powder reached up to her shins. Hermione didn’t waste time looking behind her to see if Malfoy was in pursuit. Hopefully, she would be able to find a spot up and away from the snow so he would not be able to follow her tracks.

It was a sound plan, and might have worked if the ground didn’t suddenly decide to shift under her feet. There was a horrible sound; a deep, baritone rumbling that seemed to be coming from everywhere.

Hermione screamed, horrified to find the ground tilting her forward. She slid a few meters, frantically looking for purchase and finding plenty of roots and shrubbery. The trouble was that all of it was falling with her. The wave of dirty snow carried her swiftly to where the ground met purple-red, twilight sky.

She would have gone over had Malfoy not appeared, literally out of thin air, and grabbed the back of her coat. But her momentum was such that she took him with her, continuing through to the end of her slide and over the edge of the cliff.

There was no time for more screaming, though plenty of call for it. She held on to him, pressing her face into the scratchy warmth of his neck and noticing, in a strange moment of detachment, the madly beating pulse there. They must have fallen about ten meters into emptiness before he Apparated them.

They landed safely in the snow, far from the ledge. A good minute or so was spent simply remembering how to breathe normally again. When she opened her eyes, the sky was a little darker and the first stars had come out. Malfoy loomed over her.

He offered her his hand. Hermione took it and was hauled to her feet with more enthusiasm than was polite. The man was not pleased.

"Let’s try this whole kidnapping thing again, shall we?"

**

It was odd, as kidnappings went.

He didn’t need to restrain her. The weather outside the cave was enough of a deterrent. He did cast a barrier charm over the entrance to keep the wind out, though. This made it somewhat bearable in the cave, but still bitterly cold. She couldn’t fathom how he survived in the winter wilderness without the use of such spells. Having a wand again after so long must have felt exquisite.

A sore and bruised Hermione pulled a wooden crate before the fire and tried to get her shivering under control. She couldn’t remember feeling this cold in her life. Presently, she felt heavy warmth settle about her shoulders. Malfoy had thrown a thick blanket over her.

"It’s probably shock." He was holding a dented tin mug. "Drink this."

Hermione’s brain said ‘take it’, but her frozen hands seemed glued together.

He rolled his eyes. "Here." He pulled her hands away from her body, pried her fingers apart and wrapped them around the hot mug. "Warm up."

Hermione brought the mug to her lips and sipped. It was tea with rum, or rather, mostly rum with a token amount of tea. But it was warm, first on the tongue, then in her belly, followed by a languorous heat all over her body.

Malfoy was seated on the other side of the fire, regarding her with resignation and perhaps some amusement. He didn’t bother with tea, he drank his rum directly out of the bottle.

"Better?"

Three more sips and yes, she did feel better. "Am I free to go now?"

"No."

"Then no, not better," she said, icily.

He shrugged. "Leave if you like, but in this weather, you’ll be dead in minutes."

"Better dead than of use to you."

"Don’t be a twit."

"Don’t be a murdering son of a bitch. Oh, oops. Too late." Hermione tapped her finger against her mug. "You said you need something to swap for a pardon. You’re a fugitive from both sides, aren’t you? When did you leave Voldemort’s ranks?"

"Three years ago, although he wasn’t aware of it until the day I walked out."

"And so all this..." she gestured around the cave, "this is your repentance, is it?"

"Not so much repentance as avoidance. I would never do anything as pedestrian as repent." He inclined his head towards her sack, which he had brought to the cave with her. "You said you were posting letters?"

"Christmas cards."

"Ah, yes. Yule must be soon, then?"

"It’s tomorrow, Malfoy."

"Is it? Forgot to put up my advent calendar this year."

To her consternation, he picked up her mail sack, pulled out an envelope like it was some sort of demented lucky draw ticket, and read the name on the front.

"Molly Weasley."

It took every ounce of willpower not to snap at him to leave the envelope alone. He was obviously goading her into an outburst.

He sat cross-legged before the fire. "The fabled Weasley matriarch. A heart as big as her hips are wide, so I recall."

The look Hermione gave him was colder than the blizzard.

She tensed when he pulled out a knife and slit the top of the envelope open. Molly’s card was embarrassingly festive, with tiny bells that chimed. The card itself was imbued with the scent of gingerbread.

"Dear Molly," Malfoy began, with mock enthusiasm. He scanned the letter, translating perceived meaning as he read. "Blah, blah, all is well. Your youngest son is apparently still a dickless wonder who hasn’t sorted out his feelings for me yet, though his affection for his best friend remains a rather telling constant."

"Tosser," Hermione said, under her breath.

Malfoy smirked, but didn’t look up from his perusal of the card. "I’d have to be. It’s been two years since I was even in the same room as a woman." He resumed reading the card, this time, word for word.

"'You will be glad to know that Ginny has taken over the Yuletide baking this year, with better results than Bill and Charlie’s explosive mishandling from last year. With Ron’s assistance, they managed to send out all the fudge. The renovations at the Burrow are progressing, although..."

He glanced at Hermione, his expression unreadable. There was no taunting in his voice when he next spoke. "Molly Weasley is dead. Isn’t she? This is a message to a dead woman."

Hermione felt the telltale prickling of tears and hated herself for it. She stared at her fingernails. "Six months now."

"How?"

"Attacked while she was taking Charlie’s youngest for a stroll."

"And the child?"

"Do you care?" Hermione asked, without vehemence. She dashed the hem of her cardigan across her eyes.

Malfoy appeared to ponder this. "No," he replied, without malice. "It’s a detail."

"Also dead. Along with four other Muggles caught in the crossfire. Little Arthur’s card is in there somewhere, but I didn’t write anything in it because he was only three."

He was digging inside the sack again. "Which one is it?"

"The small purple one. Yes, that’s it."

Malfoy slipped the card out, snorted softly with amusement when he saw what was inside it.

"That's meant to be a dinosaur," Hermione explained.

Part of her wanted to muster up the energy to be uncooperative and not give Malfoy the satisfaction of succeeding in whatever he was doing right now. But she was confronted with the realisation that she wasn’t particularly concerned in revealing personal information to Malfoy. A facade was not necessary. He wouldn’t judge her because she was soft or spiteful or emotional. It was like confessing to your executioner, she supposed. He really didn’t care, and because of that, she could. Finally. It was a relief.

It was the mission, Hermione knew. Months of tension and belated grieving was catching up with her. It had been such a terrible year and no one had had any time to pause for a moment to catch their emotional breath.

"His father said he loved dinosaurs," she continued, of the late, little Arthur Weasley. "He thought they were dragons that had their fires put out."

"I used to think the same thing when I was a lad," Malfoy confessed. "Well, let’s send these off then, shall we? I believe I interrupted your little bonfire earlier."

Hermione didn’t protest when he tossed Molly's and Little Arthur's cards into the fire. It was exactly what she’d been intending to do herself before she’d been kidnapped.

"And the boy’s father, Charles? He lives?"

"Yes. Charlie is well."

"That is good to hear, at least."

Hermione scowled. "You have the audacity to talk to me like we have a history that doesn’t involve trying to kill or maim each other at every turn."

"What would you rather discuss, Hermione? My repentance?"

"I’d rather not speak to you at all, Draco," she snapped.

He peeled off his gloves and set about re-heating the water that was in the cauldron. "You know, what? I don’t think that’s true at all. I think this is the most you’ve allowed yourself to feel in a long time. I’m safe because I’m not...them."

The man was a bloody mind reader. "You’re barmy."

"Says the woman who writes to the dead."

Malfoy scooped out some tea leaves from a little tin and put them into two mugs. Then he stuck his hand into the mail sack once more. The next envelope was a sharp tangerine. He looked surprised when he read the name on the card.

"Rita Skeeter. Is she even alive?"

Hermione had two options at this point. Ignore him and watch him read her embarrassing personal messages to friends and family that she had never intended anyone else to see, or do what felt less painful, as counter-intuitive as it seemed.

"I always felt quite badly about what I did to her in fourth year," she muttered.

"And what, pray tell, did you do?" Malfoy asked, as he took the card out and read the attached note. A moment later he threw his head back and laughed. "Granger, I didn’t realise you had it in you! Unlawful second-party Transfiguration carries a mandatory prison sentence, last time I checked."

"Yes, I know that. Hence the feeling bad about it part. And it was only temporary," she added, defensively.

"So you thought to apologise after all this time?"

Hermione shrugged, feeling foolish. "I heard she was quite ill at St Mungos. It seemed as good a time as any."

That card, too, was tossed into the fire. They watched the envelope and card darken and then shrivel into ash. The next card was produced.

"Jonathan Granger, of Melbourne," Draco read. He gave her a quizzical look. "Your-?"

"Father. He moved to Australia."

Hermione picked up a twig and poked morosely at the fire. Malfoy waited for the rest of her sentence to catch up.

"He and mum split up shortly after my fifth year."

"And you blame yourself?"

Hermione snorted. "No, I blame the tart who worked for him as a receptionist."

"Oh," said Malfoy, pointedly. He opened the envelope in question and pulled out a card that was rather minimalist, as Christmas cards went. "Perhaps I shouldn’t read this?"

"You really shouldn’t be reading any of it, you sodding bastard," said Hermione, stabbing her twig in his direction.

"I’d be a piss poor villain if I did the good and right thing all the time, wouldn’t I?"

"Newsflash, Malfoy. You’re not exactly an arch-villain in your current circumstances. Arch villains don’t drink tea from chipped mugs that say-" Hermione leaned forward, peering more closely at the front of his mug.

"I’ve never been sure what it says, frankly."

"I think it says ‘tea off!’."

He gave her a blank look.

"Novelty golfing mug."

"Ah," he said, now pouring hot water into the other mug, for Hermione. "Sounds tacky."

"Definition of," she agreed, taking the tea from him.

They stared at each other. Malfoy cleared his throat. "You’re awfully calm after nearly dying less than an hour ago. That was a lacklustre attempt at escape that nearly ended up killing both of us. Maybe I should have let you fall?"

Hermione leaned back against the cave wall. Just thinking of their earlier predicament made her palms sweaty again. "You’re not wrong. But it was my utility as a bargaining chip that swayed your decision, I gather?"

Malfoy answered her from behind the rim of his mug. "Or maybe I was secretly impressed with your ability to wrap your legs around a man and hang on for dear life and wanted to explore that further?"

She wished she had a quick comeback for that, but unfortunately she let his words hang in the air for too long.

Malfoy was done with his tea now. He ripped open the card to Mr. Granger. "Let’s see what you have for your dear, old dad..." He read the first line before his eyebrows rose, then he whistled.

Hermione cringed. "I was...troubled when I wrote that."

"Who or what is a Muffy?" Malfoy was doing a shite job at trying not to laugh.

"That’s the, um, girlfriend."

"Muffy?"

"Muffy," Hermione confirmed, with a dark expression.

"Your poor mother."

"It’s been a harrowing few years. She’s doing as well as can be expected. What with her sudden fondness for red wine at breakfast and all..."

He snorted. "Oh, that kind of thing I know all about. Or knew all about."

Hermione looked speculative. "How is Narcissa, anyway?"

Malfoy flashed her a hundred-watt grin. It didn’t reach his eyes. "Show me my pardon and I’ll tell you all about her."

"You’d give up your mother along with all your other secrets?"

"Sure, if that’s the deal I’m offered. I really don’t know how you continue to be surprised by the things I do or say. Hello, evil villain remember?"

Now she looked suspicious. "I don’t recall you being this self-aware."

He shrugged. "Introspection is about all you can do once you take to living in a cave. That and cave art." He stroked his short beard. "And I’ll thank you to hold off on the Neanderthal jokes until after I’ve had a shower."

The next envelope was a rich, tactile cream. The card inside was black, with a small enchanted window that looked out into an endless, snowing, moonlit landscape.

"Moody," said Malfoy, approvingly. "Let's see... This is addressed to both Albus Dumbledore and Severus Snape." He looked up at her. "But there’s nothing written in it?"

"I couldn’t think of anything to say that didn’t begin and end with me shouting at them. Also, I can’t think of one without remembering the other. So they get a combined card."

He nodded. "Fitting."

A red envelope was next. It contained a cheerful, colourful Christmas card purchased from a Muggle shop. Nothing on it twinkled, moved or was scented. Everything about it was quite ordinary, except the recipient.

"You wrote to Voldemort." Malfoy was staring at her like she’d grown a second head.

Hermione was suddenly very interested in reading the tea leaves at the bottom of her mug.

Malfoy read the long note, crammed over every spare bit of space that Hallmark hadn't already utilised. When he was done, he set it gently into the fire.

"Persuasive argument, although wasted on the clinically insane."

Cautious hope flared in her eyes. "You don’t share his views any longer?"

"Oh, no. I’m still on board with the whole pureblood supremacy thing," Malfoy assured, cheerfully. "It’s his methods that identify him as being completely off his nut."

She couldn't believe him. "You don’t deserve a pardon. You deserve to pay your dues. And the last time I glanced at your arrest warrant, it was a lengthy list."

"But that’s not the point of pardons, is it? Pardons can be given to the undeserving."

"You’re asking for too much."

"I don’t think so." The look he gave her was intense. "Not when I have you."

He stood, picked up the sack of remaining Christmas mail and emptied the cards into the fire. The flames flared briefly, magical elements in the wizarding cards causing the odd, minor whizz and bang.

When it was done, he reached into his pile of bedding and tossed her an extra blanket. "Get some sleep. We move in the morning."

**

Hermione awoke feeling like she was drowning. It was the same dream, just a different location and different death. She much preferred the dreams where she fell. They didn’t end with panicked screaming or feeling like you were being choked. She liked heights in her dreams, probably because her dreams where the only place where she never minded the end result of an inevitable fall.

But she was freezing. The threadbare blankets Malfoy had given her were not doing much to keep out the chill. She felt cold inside her clothes, and lying on the icy stone floor was not doing much to improve the situation. She inched closer to the fire. And when that didn’t work, she inched nearer still.

"If you move any closer, you’ll catch flame."

She startled. Malfoy was lying on his side, facing away from her.

"How long have you been awake?"

"I haven’t been asleep yet. You’re a noisy dreamer."

She wrapped her arms around her knees and hugged them. "I’m just so sick of the cold," she whispered. It could have easily been a metaphor, but she meant it literally.

"Then don’t be cold," Malfoy said.

When she looked now, he was facing her and was holding open his blankets.

Again, Hermione figured she had two options. Scoff with indignation, turn around and hope her chattering teeth didn’t shatter before morning. Or she could pretend she was still dreaming and standing at the edge of a precipice. The falls were always spectacular in her dreams. No fear, just an addictive relief.

She could feel Malfoy’s surprise when she crawled across the cold stone and settled under his blankets beside him. The long, lean length of him tensed and the arm that settled over her ought to have been much heavier than it felt. He pulled the blankets over them and the resulting warmth was too good to describe.

"I hate this war. It should have ended years ago," she said sleepily, to no one in particular. Maybe that was why he didn’t immediately respond. "Sometimes I wish I never got my Hogwarts letter. I wonder what it would be like growing up not knowing I’m magical."

"That is the difference between you and I, Muggle-born," said Malfoy, into the base of her neck. "My magic is my responsibility to wield. It should not be a choice."

"You truly think people like me are not worthy to use magic?"

That question went unanswered for a while. Hermione descended into that muzzy, time-elastic place between wakefulness and sleep.

"Yes," he whispered, after eons.

It hurt. She was floored for a moment, amazed that anything he said could still upset her after all the more serious grief and sorrow of the past few years. Even after knowing she was fighting on the right side. It hurt because he was telling her that there was nothing she could do, say or achieve that could change his mind. He hated her because of what she was. She shut her eyes, willing the pain in her chest to ease.

Hermione shifted the blankets and made to rise.

"No. Stay," Malfoy said, his lips on the back of her nape. She felt the full weight of his arm holding her tightly to him like she was a life-buoy in rough waters. He sucked in a deep, shuddering breath, and then another, and another. It was some time before his grip over her finally eased.

He slept.

She wondered if he had the same kinds of dreams she did, though Hermione guessed that maybe his weren’t about falling.

Maybe they were about drowning.

**

The handover was simple, thanks to the cooperative weather. Malfoy had made successful contact with Harry and Ron via a Howler. Hermione had accused Malfoy of being unnecessarily juvenile. He said he was merely being nostalgic. The men turned up with two Ministry officials and the correct paperwork at two o’clock the next afternoon.

They met in the village, by the fountain.

Malfoy tethered Hermione to his wrist by way of an enchanted gossamer chain. After he signed the papers (and there were many to sign) he severed the tether with Hermione’s wand before returning it to her.

Ron, Harry and the officials waited some distance away, watching. There were Aurors stationed in sniper positions all around the village. They also watched. The tether dissipated and Hermione stood there for a moment, in the lightly-falling snow.

"Run along back to the fold, little lamb," said Malfoy. Despite his casual demeanour, he was holding on to his pardon with white-knuckled fingers.

"Use that well, Draco."

"I plan to."

She turned to walk away, but he caught her hand.

Harry had to restrain Ron. Sixteen Aurors popped out of their hiding positions like meerkats from their burrows, wands aimed.

"I meant what I said last night," he whispered, "you don’t deserve to be magic. But if I know anything at all, I know that you, Granger, and anyone like you has earned the right to use it."

"That doesn’t make any sense," she countered hotly.

"Was there a card in there for me?" he persisted. "Did I burn that last night with the rest of them?"

"Let me go-"

"Was there a card?"

"Yes! Damn you, I wrote you a sodding Yule card! I wrote one for every stupid, dead Death Eater from our year."

"What did you say in it?" His thumb was rubbing frantic circles into her palm. She knew he wasn't going to relent until he got an answer.

"It said...'Merry Christmas, Draco. I hope you’re at peace, wherever you are.'"

"Done," he smiled, and released her.
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