Perhaps, it was how fate intended it to happen- but there was also her will power. She decided to give it a shot after all, all this Draco Malfoy vice- err- business. She was never the type to even notice boys for their qualities, but now that she was grown-up (almost) and had gone over her first bittersweet relationship, she supposed it was high time she understood more than just her oversimplification of men.
It was the night before Christmas and the remaining Hogwarts students and the Hogwarts staff, including Mister Filch (who had dressed up Mrs. Norris in a little sweater; the color of dirty looking pink and green, making her look like a furry house elf) were having a get together in the Great Hall. A total of twenty students were present, some dressed in muggle clothes. Draco and the rest of the Slytherins kept a good distance from the other houses as they all shared one long table with Professor McGonagall at the head of it.
With a few opening words, Professor McGonagall invited them to feast. Hermione ate like she hadn’t eaten the whole day, chewing surely throughout the fourteen course meal. The pumpkin soup came first, followed by some salad, then honey-dipped chicken, lasagna- and Hermione lost count of how many spoonfuls she had taken.
She glanced every few minutes towards Draco’s direction. He was busy laughing and sneering in that Draco way of his. She almost smiled but quickly shifted her concentration into talking with a younger Gryffindor, who was asking her if there were any other activities aside from the lip-smacking dinner. Hermione assured her there might be a little fireworks spectacle tonight outside the castle, not just for the students but for the people in Hogsmeade too.
An hour later, with the remaining staff and students atop one of Hogwarts’ many turrets, the fireworks spectacle began. With almost synchronized oohs and aahs and laughter from the younger students, Hermione felt Christmas spirit was right at home at the top of the castle. As the booming from the fireworks went on, she saw Draco seated beside the statue of a hunched gargoyle, one of the few gargoyle statues found only on the turret they were in. She smiled at him and he ignored her. She shrugged and went back on admiring the fireworks.
Draco smiled as she turned her head. This bloody Christmas spirit was infectious, especially seeing her smile like that. Now why wouldn’t this Christmas be a better one than all the ones that he had? Nothing was better than this. He could almost imagine himself rubbing his hands together with glee.
Hermione put her hands in her pockets as the fireworks spectacle died down and the students along with the Hogwarts staff began exiting the area. There was something in her coat pocket. She pulled it out. A tiny piece of parchment with something written on it…She read it.
Meet me again after an hour right here.
P.S It’s now your cue to smile.
Hermione did, suppressing an even bigger smile coming onto her lips. She was acting like an idiot. And she liked it. She left the area, wondering what she could do for an hour as she waited for that hour.
She decided to walk around Hogwarts for an hour wrapped in three layers of coats and an extra warmth charm. The rose bushes were frozen right now and so were the many other flowers Professor Sprout loved to take care of. The green house which had the dangerous and stranger plants was closed and the windows were covered in frost. She peered in to see the plants still looking as healthy as if it were spring. One of the plants moved to her direction, sensing a vibration. She stepped back and continued walking, snowflakes falling like soft rain.
She looked up Hogwarts and saw how much it looked like a fairy tale castle. At this time of year, it seemed to be made for a fairytale and not for students. One hour…she had a lot to think about. She suddenly felt apprehensive and uneasy all of a sudden. Why? It wasn’t like she didn’t want to be with him…in fact she wanted to be with him for a few hours- everyday. She smiled to herself, wondering why she allowed herself to feel something like this again and she couldn’t push it away easily.
She came back inside another large stone archway and stepped back into the warmer temperature of the castle. There was not a single person in the hallways, except for a few spirits who sang Christmas Carols together, their voices soaring throughout in baritones and arias. She nodded passing by them, greeting them a ‘Merry Christmas’ and the carolers nodded back and continued singing, louder this time, probably inspired by her simple greeting.
She passed by the Great Hall which was still open, the banquet table filled with food fit for a whole village. Three younger students were inside, still drinking butterbeer and munching on freshly baked muffins. They were laughing, two boys and a girl, sharing a joke. She smiled a bit, feeling a pang of melancholy run through her. That was them before, the aptly named Golden Trio- she could only keep it in memories now. She walked further ahead, determined not to recall painful events. It was the season to be jolly, after all.
She decided to return to the dormitory. Upon entering, there was a large fire in the Common Rom and she was alone- except for an owl in the middle of an oak table. She scooted down and saw a little package beside it; the owl had a note on one of its legs.
“What do we have here? “ she asked.
The tawny owl hooted a bit, demanding for a treat. She smiled and grabbed something from her pocket, a tiny meat pie wrapped in a napkin, reserved just for owls. The owl hooted, as if in thanks as Hermione proceeded to read the note. It was Harry’s handwriting, she recognized it instantly. It read:
Happy Holidays. Don’t go bitter on me, because I know that you know I’m at The Burrow right now. It took me a small amount of discretion to send this to you (you know how some people might over react to this).
Anyway, do take care. Don’t do anything stupid- seriously. You’d better wear my gift.
Hermione smiled. A letter from Harry…not all was lost in the world of friendship then. She grabbed the little box and tore apart the wrapper.
“Oh, Harry, “ she murmured, taking out the exquisite looking hair clip. She held it up against the light of the fire and the room was suddenly filled with a burst of color, different shades of the rainbow, all coming from an average sized semi-precious stone.
“Wait here, “ she said to the little owl, who was nibbling the remaining pieces of the meat pie. She ran up to her dorm and picked up a package bigger than Harry’s but not heavy for the owl to carry around with. She beckoned the owl to come over and quickly wrote a letter to Harry. Tying it carefully, she whispered to the owl a few instructions.
The owl hooted, understanding the purpose of carefulness and hooted again, eyeing Hermione’s pocket. Hermione grinned and gave another meat pie into its mouth.
“Thank you and Merry Christmas. Stay clear of a blizzard, now. “
The owl soared out of an open window, package in its claws, still nibbling the meat pie while flying into the cold night.
The grandfather clock rung loudly, three times. Hermione gasped. She was late. Three seconds late already! She ran out of the Common Room, running all the way to the designated turret. She reached there, breathless.
“Bloody hell, do you want me to keep performing warming charms? “ the churlish voice greeted her.
She smiled weakly. “Sorry, I forgot the time I was sitting in the common room. “
“A letter kept you busy? “ he smirked. “Please don’t tell me it’s from he-who-must-not-be-Ron?”
She laughed, despite still trying to catch her breath. “God no, it’s from the other person you loathe. “
His eyes narrowed. “I just highly dislike him. Loathing is reserved for annoying people and a person who dumped you out of idiocy. “
Hermione’s eyes shone a bit and her cheeks reddened more. “You care that much, then? “
“I’m marking my territory. “
“Like a dog? “
“Like a Malfoy, “ he corrected.
“I don’t want to be a Malfoy object. “
“You’ll be one. “
“I’m not Pansy- “
“Thank god! “ he interrupted. Then he smiled. “Seriously, Thank god you aren’t. Another Pansy in my life is like staying in St. Mungo’s for life. “
“So you do care- “
“About myself? Of course. “
“Narcissist, “ Hermione said with a smile.
He pretended to look hurt. “I’ll forgive you, because this Christmas thing is contagious and all and you look engaging in your dark coat. “
“And that’s what you call nice looking? “
“Shut it. You do. Or do you want me to take it back? “ he growled. “Besides, I’ve never ever seen you wear anything dark. It suits your face once in a while. “
Hermione kept herself from smiling. “Thank you, “ she said in a stoic face.
“You’re a terrible actress. “
She laughed out loud. “Fine, you got me. “
He suddenly thrust a package in front of her. “Here... “
It was an intricately wrapped package with a silver bow to finish. Hermione was afraid of the thought of taking it apart just to see what was inside. It was light to the hands and she wondered what was inside…
“Not a book, mind you. “
“I didn’t think it was. “
“You were hoping. “
“It’s getting cold here- “ Draco interjected. “I have to get back to the Common Room; I’m expecting a package from my mother. “
“Nice way to interrupt my reveries. “
“Sorry, “ he said in a rather charming manner. “I do hope you like it. “ And without warning he pulled her close to him and kissed her softly on the lips. He let go quickly.
She stood there, almost shocked, trying hard to regain poise. And then she put a present in his hand and tiptoed to kiss his cheek. “Thank you. “
She walked away calmly, leaving Draco staring at the expanse of Hogwarts’ grounds, wondering why the feeling of being kissed gently could leave such an overwhelming effect on him. Her kiss put warmth in him. The sun was in her mouth. He shook his head, surprised at the metaphor. Damn kiss.
She was in the Common Room faster than she thought she’d get there. She was alone, perhaps the younger Gryffindors were already asleep, stomachs full, dreams scattered across the expanse of snow.
She dashed for her room, three other beds empty and cold, hers; warm and comforting. She had the gift from Draco on her lap, and she slowly opened it, for fear of breaking whatever was inside. She didn’t shake it. Her thin fingers took the ribbon off deftly. When she came upon a plain looking brown box (after neatly setting aside the ribbon and wrapper), she took a deep breath.
It’s just a gift; Hermione, she reminded herself as she stared into one more packaging of thin paper, wrapping her gift. She took the thin paper apart and stood up staring at his gift, holding it an arm’s width away from her body.
“Oh…oh god…it’s- “
Hermione felt like crying. No one had ever given her something like this. She laid it on the bed, the way a mother would lay her child down, the way a lover would lay a lover down…her hand was on her mouth and she bit one finger. It was too overpowering for words- too exquisite beyond description.
It’s a dress, she told herself, just an amazing dress. But she couldn’t shake off the instant feeling of being attracted even more to the polar opposite of her behavior. She placed it on a coat-hanger and then on a coat stand. It looked even more amazing against the soft lights in her room. Tastefully chosen by Draco, it was a formal dress, with a strapless top and a little flare at the bottom of the dress. There was an intricate pattern of beadwork that changed hues depending on the light that hit it.
She almost couldn’t believe a man had chosen it, let alone Draco. She looked up and saw herself in the mirror. She was smiling again, as if she had begun to fall in love for the first time.
He looked at the doorway to the turret, it was wide open, the snow and cold winds were rushing in through it and Hermione was no longer there. He looked at his clenched hand and opened it once more to reveal the gift. He hadn’t opened it yet, but suddenly, it meant so much- like it was something priceless- something that could only be given by a soul mate- okay, maybe that was too much- something that could only be given by Hermione.
He tore apart the wrapper quickly, carelessly tossing it on the ground. He opened the box and stared at what was inside for a few seconds. His eyes were concentrating on the gift, like a scientist would do to an experiment about to come to life, like the way a lover realizes that the eyes of the one he loves are hazel brown…it was almost as beautiful as her.
It’s just a pendant, he told himself, just a silver pendant. But he couldn’t shake off the feeling of being attracted even more to the polar opposite of his behavior. He held it up, against the sky, the snows had gone down and the stars were popping out everywhere to illuminate the gift he held, dangling down from his left hand. She had given him a pendant, the size of a ring, with a little green gemstone in the middle of the circular pendant. It hung from a thin silver chain.
He began to smile, a smile of contentment- the knowledge that this was something else now. Something new, something beautiful, something fragile- and he couldn’t feel the panic for the fragility, only the fierce need to protect it. He could feel his heart pounding, his veins bursting with exhilaration.
He was responding to the call of gravity.