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Chapter 1 : Mistletoe Mishap
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Obviously, that had been a rather large miscalculation.
It had been an uneventful year thus far – which Draco could admit to himself he could be nothing but grateful for. His sixth year had been stained with evil and had ended in tragedy. He could only thank Merlin that he had opened up to Professor Snape before it was too late.
Dumbledore had still died, but not at his hand, and Snape had assured him that the old man would have died anyway. Had they not worked things out the way they had, the world would be a much more terrifying place now. Hogwarts had closed for a year to protect the students. Potter had been triumphant. The Dark Lord was dead. And Draco, whose future had seemed almost non-existent a couple of years ago, was now free.
It shamed him – and oh, how he hated to admit it – but it shamed him to remember how easily he and his parents had fallen into the Dark Lord’s trap. Power was a seductive thing, especially to the Malfoys, and by the time they had realized their mistakes, it was too late. It was over now, though, he reminded himself. He owed Potter and his friends for that.
It grated him to no end.
Though he could admit he had a lot more free time now that he didn’t feel the need to constantly bait the Gryffindors. Not to mention that he was no longer wrapped up in a murderous plot against the headmaster… All things considered, he had much more time for leisure.
Not that it was always a good thing to have extra thinking time, Draco reminded himself. It made you apt to let your mind wander over things – or rather people – that it ought not to. Or in his case, one person in particular. A girl, and in fact, one of the very people to whom he owed so much. Tricky little circle it was, he thought.
Since the dropping of animosity between them this year, he had begun to notice things he told himself he hadn’t noticed in the past. Or rather, to be honest, things that he wasn’t supposed to notice, because of who she was; and frankly, as of sixth year, he hadn’t the time to notice much else besides his own fear. Now, he had more time than he knew what to do with, and no reason not to notice those things.
Things like her hair. It wasn’t brown, he had realized. It was more of an amber, really. Shining, curling amber, shot through with dark gold and bronze and auburn… but definitely not anything so simple as brown.
Her eyes weren’t brown either. They were burnt honey, flecked with bits of copper, sparkling with light when she laughed, darkening to chestnut when she was focused. Brown? No; they were something else all together.
And her skin… the lightest of caramels. He often found himself wondering if it felt as warm and tasted as sweet as it looked.
Her lips were plump raspberries. The amount of time she spent absentmindedly biting them while she studied in the library drove him mad. He wished she would stop, if only so he could stop imagining replacing her teeth with his own.
For someone who wasn’t particularly tall, she had ridiculously long legs. Surely they hadn’t been that long in years past? All the boys at Hogwarts had a love/hate relationship with the girls’ uniform skirts – they offered a wonderful view, but they made it very difficult to concentrate in class, especially if you were a leg man. Draco was definitely a leg man.
The increasing amount of time he spent thinking about that particular someone was precisely what had led to his current predicament. His distracted thoughts had been centered, yet again, on her – specifically those long, curvy legs and how they might feel wrapped around him…
So really, he reasoned, it wasn’t entirely his fault – he felt it only fair that at least half the blame fall on Granger’s head as well.
Of course, he couldn’t discount McGonagall’s role – if the Headmistress hadn’t insisted he stay a prefect for his final year, he wouldn’t have been roaming the fifth floor’s east corridor tonight to begin with.
But really, it was mostly Granger’s fault.
He stared balefully up at the mistletoe that was dancing above him. Damn Christmas, he thought to himself with a sneer. He’d had a bit of a problem mustering up the appropriate amount of holiday cheer this year – considering how terrifying those of the past few years had been – and his present situation wasn’t exactly helping him find more.
Draco had already tried everything he could think of to get the damn thing to let him go – Defensive spells, blocking spells, Illusion charms, even a couple of hexes – all to no avail. They had all bounced harmlessly off or been absorbed with a slight golden glow, neither of which seemed to be doing any good.
He was trying to resolve himself to the idea that he may very well wind up staying there until morning when he heard the sound of footsteps coming in his direction, and was immediately torn between relief and embarrassment. He’d been standing there for almost an hour, after all, but the idea of anyone seeing him right now was… less than pleasant.
He could only hope that it turned out to be a teacher, even Filch would be preferable, as long as it wasn’t –
“Malfoy,” he heard a voice behind him say. “There you are.”
“Hello, Granger,” he said resignedly. Of course it was her.
“What are you doing?” she asked, walking around to stand in front of him.
“I’m dancing a bloody ballet, Granger, what does it look like?” he asked irritably. Did she have to be so damn pretty in the middle of the night with moonlight on her face and her ridiculous hair in even more disarray than usual? She’d changed out of her school robes and uniform, he noted. Her Muggle jeans and long sleeved white t-shirt really shouldn’t have been so appealing. “What are you doing here anyway? You weren’t on the patrol schedule tonight. Are you really so lacking in a social life without Wonder Boy and his ginger sidekick around that extra patrols are all you have?”
“It’s past midnight and you never checked in,” she said after a moment, raising her brow at him and pulling a coin out of her pocket, a copy of which was resting in Draco’s pocket. All the prefects had coins this year that they used to check in with her at the end of their patrols. It was also a way to signal if they found someone out after curfew or needed help. It was the same Protean Charm that she’d used on the coins for Dumbledore’s Army in sixth year, with a few differences, and after getting the go-ahead from the Headmistress, she’d implemented the new system. It was quite the handy little spell, and was working out very well, which pleased her immensely. “I just followed your tracer.”
“Right,” he muttered, coloring slightly.
“Did you forget to bring it with you again?” she asked sharply, narrowing her eyes at him.
“No, I have it,” he returned grumpily, pulling it out to show her. “I just forgot it was there,” he muttered as he shoved it back into his pocket.
“Then what are you doing?”
“What do you mean, you’re stuck?”
“You know, stuck. Immovable. As in, I can’t move. Surely you’ve heard of the concept before.”
Hermione ignored his sarcasm. “How are you stuck?”
“Ask your bloody friends,” he snarled, pointing upward in annoyance
Hermione looked up with a furrowed brow and saw the mistletoe, bouncing merrily about four meters above Malfoy’s head. She was surprised she hadn’t noticed it earlier – it wasn’t exactly small and was hanging in mid-air. She supposed that was the point though, to not see it until you were trapped by it. She could see the bright purple ‘Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes’ tag from where she stood.
Gamely swallowing a chuckle, she said, “So… you’re stuck.”
“Quite,” he replied dryly. “Now can you help me undo the damn enchantment so I can go to bed?”
“I’m assuming that you’ve already tried to do so yourself –”
“So I don’t know what you expect me to do that you couldn’t.” At his surprised look, she continued, “I’ve no idea how to undo what is undoubtedly a very intricate charm, especially without researching it first. And since it’s a Weasley product, I don’t know what would even be safe to try.”
“Sorry, Malfoy,” she said with a shrug.
“But – but,” he spluttered, “how can you not know? You know how to do everything!”
Hermione’s mouth dropped open in surprise. “Was that actually a compliment?”
“I hardly think it complimentary to be called an insufferable know-it-all.”
She narrowed her eyes at him. “That’s not what you said.”
“Well, it’s what I meant,” he insisted, coloring again.
“Either way,” she said after rolling her eyes, “this is one of the things that I don’t know. So I can’t help you.”
“Actually, I rather think you can,” he said after a moment. When she just looked at him, obviously not catching his meaning, he elaborated. “It’s mistletoe, Granger. Think about it.”
Hermione’s eyes went wide. “You’re not actually suggesting that we –”
“That’s exactly what I’m suggesting.”
“Oh, no. No, no, no,” she said emphatically. “Not a chance in hell.”
Under different circumstances, he might have found her flustered panic rather adorable – the way she was waving her hands in front of her, and how her eyes rounded and her mouth dropped open. At the moment, however, it just annoyed him to no end. “Then what, exactly, am I supposed to do?” he asked through gritted teeth.
“I’ll go wake up the Headmistress. She’ll be able to think of something.”
“No!” he yelled, grabbing her arm as she went to walk around him. “Don’t get McGonagall. I’ll be even more of a laughing stock than I am already.”
“She’s not going to tell anyone, Malfoy,” Hermione replied gently after a moment. “And neither will I.”
“These things always get out, Granger. Always.”
“Look, Malfoy –” she began, then stopped, looking down at her feet in shock. When she looked back up at him, she was scowling darkly. “You son of a bitch,” she said hotly.
“Huh?” Draco raised a brow at her language. Granger didn’t curse.
“Let go of my arm,” she demanded, wrenching it from his grasp before he had a chance to comply. “Damn it!” she said after trying and failing to move her feet.
“Um… I know you don’t want to hear it, but my original plan would help both of us right now.”
“Get stuffed, Malfoy,” she replied, practically growling at him.
“How the hell I was supposed to know that you would get stuck if I touched you?” he replied defensively.
She gave a disbelieving snort. “Right.”
“It was an accident,” he said.
“A rather convenient one for you.”
“Yes, because this is exactly how I planned to spend the evening,” he put in sarcastically.
“Oh, Merlin, what are we going to do?” she said, ignoring him. She dropped her head into her hands.
“I should think the answer would be rather obvious.”
“I’m not kissing you, Malfoy!” she said fiercely, looking up at him again.
“Right, so we’ll just stand here all night then, shall we?”
“Fine by me!” she returned, glaring at him.
“Oh, come on, Granger! Do you have to be so stubborn?”
Hermione simply crossed her arms and looked away from him.
“Look,” he said in a softer voice. “I’m not going to go bragging this around to anyone, if that’s what you’re worried about. Your boyfriend won’t know unless you tell him, so just don’t.”
“What?” She turned back to look at him.
“I know you Gryffindors are all about the loyalty and honesty,” he said, dragging out the words as if they were the most ridiculous of concepts, “but in this situation –”
“No, what boyfriend are you talking about?”
“Er… yours.” When she continued to stare at him in confusion, he asked, “Aren’t you dating Weasley?”
“Where did you hear that?”
“Well, I just sort of… assumed,” he admitted. He had seen the photos of them in the Daily Prophet that had been taken after the Final Battle, holding hands and kissing. Everyone had. Seeing them together had bothered him even then, before he’d begun to consciously think about her that way.
“Well, I’m not.”
“You’re single?” he asked, an odd quality to his voice.
Hermione assumed he was mocking her. “Explain to me how that’s any of your business.”
“Just curious,” he said, deliberately nonchalant. When she stayed silent, he continued with a derisive sneer, “He didn’t want to be tied down, eh?”
“No, I didn’t,” she replied defensively. Draco raised his brows at her. “I didn’t mean it like that. I just wanted to be able to focus on preparing for N.E.W.T.S. and being Head Girl. I didn’t want any distractions,” she stated matter-of-factly. Hermione didn’t bother to mention all the fights and demands and ultimatums that had preceded her final decision. Malfoy certainly didn’t need to know about that. “We decided to revisit the idea of dating after I finish school and he finishes Auror training. Satisfied?”
Draco tried to ignore how much he enjoyed knowing that Granger was unattached; after all, it hardly mattered in regards to him, as he was quite sure that she would never see him as anything other than the son of a Death Eater. He couldn’t help it, though – just knowing that she was single made him happy. Instead of saying so, however, he commented, “I’m surprised the Weasel agreed to that so easily. I would have thought he’d want you to sit around waiting for him.” One look at Granger’s face said it all. “He did, didn’t he? Selfish prat.”
“Well, I suppose you’d be an expert on that, wouldn’t you?”
“Exactly,” he agreed easily. “Which means I know how to spot them.”
Hermione ignored the urge to smile. “I’m done talking to you about this. I don’t even know why I started.”
A couple minutes of strained silence passed before Draco said, “I don’t get it. If you don’t have a boyfriend, then why can’t you just kiss me so we can get out of here?”
“Did it ever occur to you that I might not want to kiss you?”
“No,” he answered honestly.
“Well, consider it.”
“That’s not very nice, Granger,” he commented with a frown. “I’ll have you know that I’m an excellent kisser.”
“Yes, I’m sure you think so.”
“Don’t believe me?” he asked.
“I don’t particularly care either way, really,” she answered with a shrug. “I’m just not surprised that you think you’re a good kisser.”
“It’s not just my theory – it’s been confirmed by many a Hogwarts lady. Would you like to see a list?”
“Physical attraction plays a large part in whether or not one person enjoys kissing another,” she commented, sounding as usual as though she was reciting from a book on the subject. “Therefore, I find it highly unlikely that you could add me to your list.”
“You really don’t think you’d enjoy kissing me? Not even the tiniest bit?” he questioned with a furrowed brow.
“Oh, I’m sure I’d have a reaction - you know, nausea, vomiting, headache, that sort of thing.”
“Oh, for Merlin’s sake,” he said crossly. “That’s a utterly ridiculous.”
“More like ‘utterly honest’, really.”
“A kiss from me would induce vomiting? That’s what you’re saying?” His tone was brimming with incredulity.
“I may have exaggerated,” she hedged. “But I still think kissing you would be disgusting.”
“You know what I think?”
“Oh, please, do tell,” she replied sarcastically. “I’m simply dying to know.”
“I think,” he said, ignoring her, “that you would love it.”
“In fact, I think that’s the whole reason you’re so adamant about not kissing me – because you’re afraid you would love it, and you don’t want to have to admit it.”
“Yeah, no, that’s not it.”
“Daring me isn’t going to work, Malfoy,” she told him, smirking. “I’m not Harry. Nice try, though.”
Damn, Draco thought to himself. He’d forgotten who he was dealing with. He should have known better than to try to goad her like that. She was still a Gryffindor, though – there were other ways to get want he wanted. And he wanted her. Had for some time, and this was likely his only chance to find out if he could make her feel the same. Draco was an expert at self-preservation, as all Slytherins were. If he played his cards right, he could find out without giving himself away.
Though, as he looked at her deliberately not looking at him, teeth tugging at her bottom lip, and fingers playing nervously with the hem of her shirt, he thought it might be worth the risk of exposure if he got her at the end of it.
“Are you going to the New Year’s Eve party the Hufflepuffs are throwing in the Room of Requirement tomorrow night?”
“Um, probably,” she responded, thrown by the abrupt change in topic. “Why?”
“Got a date yet?”
“No, I’ll just go with Ginny. Why?”
“I’d like to propose a bet, Granger.”
“Oh, for Merlin’s sake,” she muttered, shaking her head. “What does one have to do with the other?”
“Hear me out.”
“I’d rather not.”
“Look, you may not have Potter’s reckless nature, but you’re still a Gryffindor, and competitive as well. You’re probably the most competitive person I know, and I’m a Slytherin. I’d bet you hate losing almost as much as you like winning. Plus,” he continued before she could argue, “I’ll make it worth your while.”
Now that was intriguing, she thought. “Explain,” she said after a moment.
“We’ll kiss – which, though you may not want to admit it, would be enormously beneficial to both of us right now – and if I’m right, and you enjoy kissing me, then you go with me to the Hufflepuff’s New Year’s Eve party.”
To say she was stunned would be a massive understatement. “As a date?” she finally managed after picking her jaw up off the floor. “An actual… date?”
“Well, we’d not be going as friends, would we?”
“You’re a clever girl, Granger. Figure it out.”
Hermione’s eyes narrowed as she studied him, but his face was a carefully blank mask. If it were anyone other than Draco Malfoy… but it was Malfoy, so the very idea that he was interested… no, that was impossible… Wasn’t it? “I’d rather you explain yourself without me having to guess, thanks,” she finally said.
“Do I really have to spell it out for you?” he said with a growl. He let out a frustrated sigh, clearly annoyed that she was making him say it aloud. “I fancy you, Granger. Obviously.”
“Obviously?” Hermione repeated incredulously. Her face was a study in surprise and confusion as she gestured emphatically. “That doesn’t make any sense! You don’t even like me! You’ve never acted the least bit friendly towards me, or –”
“Because I don’t just want to be your friend,” he interrupted. “That wouldn’t be enough for me. And just for the record,” he added, “I never said that I don’t like you. I do like you… quite a bit, actually.”
“You…?” She shook her head as if to clear it. Then, with a dubious look on her face, she quietly questioned, “Since when?”
“I don’t know, exactly, I… Do you have to question every bloody thing?” When Hermione didn’t answer, Draco dragged his hand through his hair and took a deep breath. He hadn’t realized that putting his heart on the line would be quite so daunting, or make him feel quite so inarticulate. “You’re smart, and you’re kind, and you’re witty, and you’re the only girl I know that regularly calls me on my shit. And you’re beautiful, Granger. You… you drive me to distraction.”
“I do?” Hermione asked softly before she could stop herself.
“Yes,” Draco answered, his eyes on her soft mouth and his voice low. “You do.”
“Oh,” was all she could think to say in response.
“So I take it that you’ve never… considered it, then?” he asked, not quite looking at her.
“I haven’t,” she admitted, feeling absurdly as though she should apologize. “You were always you, and I was always me, and… I mean, what would have been the point? We’ve never been on good terms before now.” No one had been more surprised than she at the ease with which she and Malfoy had managed to work this year. Oh, he still had a snarly attitude and made his pithy comments, and she always retaliated in kind, but it wasn’t malicious anymore, even when they were about her Muggle upbringing. It felt more like a formality, as though that was just how they talked to each other. It was almost comfortable in a way. It was fun. And, she realized abruptly, she would miss it if it were to stop. She would miss him. When the hell had that happened? She pushed those thoughts away for the moment and continued, “Besides, there was always Ron.”
Draco snorted in derision. “Now there’s something I’ve never understood.”
Hermione furrowed her brow in confusion. “What do you mean?”
“You and the Weasel. It doesn’t make sense.”
“Stop calling him that. And why not?”
“Because he doesn’t deserve you; he never did. You, Granger, are now and always have been way out of Weasley’s league.”
Hermione blushed, but didn’t look away. It seemed she couldn’t. So this, she thought to herself, is what Draco Malfoy looks like without the mask. He could, of course, just be saying all of this to trick her somehow, but she didn’t think so. Over the years, she’d learned to recognize all the faces that Draco wore – the cold indifference, the bravado, the sneer, the bully, the liar, just to name a few – but she didn’t see them now. It was him, just him, and he was… well. She had to admit, now that she was taking the time to notice, that he had grown into a good looking young man. His face was no longer pointy and pale, but angular and fair. His platinum hair hadn’t changed much, except that it was no longer slicked back with gel – a vast improvement in her opinion – and was left instead to fall about his face naturally. His eyes, she noted, weren’t a cold, wintery grey, but rather the soft grey of a warm spring rain. And if his physique had benefitted as much as Harry’s and Ron’s had from Quidditch training… It was hard to tell when he was wearing robes, of course, but… hmm…
It occurred to Hermione that kissing Malfoy might not be the hardship she had originally imagined.
“Well?” he said, effectively derailing her train of thought (and just as well, too, considering the direction it had been headed). “Have you made a decision?”
“What if I win?” she asked after clearing her throat. “You said you’d make it worth my while.”
“That’s up to you, Granger. You can picks the terms.”
Hermione’s eyebrows rose. “You’re really that sure of yourself?”
“Yes,” he stated matter-of-factly.
“You know, I could just lie. I am capable of it,” she added when she saw his skeptical look.
“Trust me, Granger,” he replied self-assuredly, “I’ll know if you like it. I’ll feel it. You won’t be able to lie about that.”
Ignoring his smirk, and the fact that her mouth was suddenly very dry, Hermione took a moment to consider what to ask for. The possibilities were endless… but she really only wanted one thing. “If I win,” she finally said, “the teasing stops. Stop making fun of Luna, no more antagonizing Harry and Ron when they come to visit, and stop calling Neville ‘Slongbottom’. It’s ridiculous.”
Draco noticed that she’d left herself out – apparently, Granger didn’t mind it when he was teasing her. Interesting. “Agreed,” he said, grasping her hand to shake it.
“One more thing,” she said.
“Yes?” he asked, a slight note of hesitation in his voice.
“If you really think of me in…” she trailed off as she looked down at her hand, the one he’d yet to let go of, the one that was tingling as he gently rubbed the sensitive skin between her thumb and forefinger with his own thumb. It was incredibly distracting. “The way you think of me,” she finally continued, looking back up at him. “Why didn’t you just ask me out?”
“I thought you were dating the Weasel,” he answered.
Hermione raised her brow. “Right. Because I’m sure encroaching on Ron is a huge concern of yours. In fact, I would have thought you’d consider it quite the coup if you were able to lure me away.”
She had a point, he conceded with a nod. Besides, it wouldn’t have been the first time he fancied a girl that had been dating someone else, and it had never stopped him before. Admittedly not his finest moments, but it had happened. “Maybe I assumed you wouldn’t accept.”
She looked at him intently for a moment before saying, “I think that’s a stupid assumption.”
Draco wished he could move closer to her. This whole feet being stuck to the floor thing was getting damn inconvenient. So instead of shifting closer, he trailed the fingers of his free hand up her arm slowly. “Would you have said yes, then?”
“I…” she had to stop to catch her breath as his fingers skimmed over her shoulder. Even through the thin cotton of her shirt, his touch felt like it was searing her skin. She wasn’t quite sure how she’d gone from snarling at him to wanting him in a matter of minutes, but quite obviously, she had. “I would have found it… intriguing.”
“Intriguing,” he repeated, smirking at the breathless quality of her voice. He laid his hand just beneath the hollow of her throat. “Your heart is racing,” he murmured.
“I thought you were supposed to kiss me, Malfoy, not check my pulse,” she managed, vaguely surprised at the throatiness of her own voice. She didn’t sound at all like herself, but then, she wasn’t acting at all like herself either. Neither of them were. She rather liked it.
“Oh, I will,” he promised quietly. He caressed her collarbone with his thumb, fascinated by the way that simple touch caused her breath to catch and tremble. “Patience, Granger.”
Hermione slipped her hand from his and grabbed his collar, pulling him closer until their mouths were only an inch apart. “I’m finding my patience to be wearing rather thin at the moment.”
“Are you?” he asked, his voice a low growl. His hand slid from her collarbone, up her neck, and into her wild hair, absently noting how soft it was. He slipped his other hand around her waist, tracing small circles into her lower back and enjoying her resultant tremble. “The thing is,” he continued in that seductive tone, “this may be the only chance I’ll have to kiss you, Hermione. I intend to savor it.”
She shivered at his use of her first name, spoken in that sensual voice. “Then you should get to it, Draco. Don’t you think?”
“Good point,” he murmured, and pressed his mouth to hers.
The second their lips touched, Draco felt his feet loosen and heard the mistletoe fall to the ground next to them, but it barely registered. He had imagined kissing her for months, in any number of ways and scenarios. They all paled in comparison.
There was something about the sudden freedom of her limbs that Hermione knew was important… but she couldn’t think past the burning of Draco’s mouth against hers. His hand slid up her back and pressed his body against hers; her mouth opened under his, and it was brilliant. Hermione moaned ever so softly when he nipped at her bottom lip. He pulled her impossibly closer, feeling suddenly possessive and reckless.
Knowing that if he didn’t stop now he wouldn’t be able to until he had taken her – possibly up against the nearby wall – he pulled back just enough that they were no longer kissing and he could touch his forehead to hers.
They stood like that for a moment, the silence around them broken only by the sound of their harsh breaths. Draco didn’t let her out of his arms, and she didn’t move away.
Hermione opened her eyes to find Draco staring at her, looking almost vulnerable. She cleared her throat gently and said, “I, um… I’d still appreciate it if you stopped calling Neville ‘Slongbottom.’ If you don’t mind.”
Draco smiled – a real smile, possibly the first she’d ever truly seen from him. “I’ll think about it,” he returned, leaning down again.
“Hermione? Malfoy?!” Ginny Weasley’s voice cut into the silence around them, effectively killing the mood.
“Gin!” Hermione nearly screeched in response, jumping a full two feet away from Malfoy. “What are you doing here?”
“You said you were coming to check on a prefect that hadn’t checked in and you’d been gone for a long time, so I was worried…” The initial shock was starting to fade from Ginny’s face, only to be quickly replaced by amusement. “Obviously, I shouldn’t have been – seems like you’re doing just fine.”
Hermione blushed deeply. “I, um, we were just – Draco – I mean, Malfoy – I mean, we were, er, I was –”
“Right, yeah, fine,” Ginny cut in, talking through her laughter. “Don’t stop on my account. I’ll just, ah… I’m going to go. Carry on,” she finished with a barely suppressed giggle before slipping back down the hallway and out of sight.
Hermione put her face in her hands, utterly mortified. “That was so embarrassing,” she muttered between her fingers. At Draco’s quiet chuckle, she turned her head to glare at him. “Thanks for the back-up, by the way.”
He merely smirked at her. “I’ll pick you up at eight, shall I?”
Pursing her lips so he wouldn’t see the smile she was trying to hide, she answered, “7:30,” before stalking away down the hall after her friend.
Draco grinned as he made his way back to his dormitory. Christmas might not have been all that exciting, but he had a feeling he was going to have a very interesting New Year.
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