Helping House-Elves

After finishing their last exam before Christmas break, Draco and Blaise headed to the Quidditch pitch to blow off some steam. Snape's potions final had been particularly brutal and Draco was glad to be done with it. They hopped on their brooms and flew fast, weaving in and out of the Quidditch hoops in reckless figure eights, laughing as they dangerously brushed by each other at lightning speed. For the first time in ages, Draco felt like he could do anything.

So, when they finally came to a stop to catch their breath, Draco made a challenge. "Ever try a Wronski Feint? I bet you a hundred Galleons I can get closer to the ground without crashing than you can."

"Forget it," said Blaise.

"Scared?" Draco taunted.

"Yeah, scared you won't pay up," Blaise quipped.

Draco frowned. Blaise had a point. The Malfoy money was old, but unfortunately there wasn't much left thanks to the houseguest from hell they'd had that summer. It was all Potter's fault. If that lazy bastard had killed him just a little bit faster, the entire Malfoy fortune wouldn't be gone. And Draco wouldn't be Weasley poor. Blaise was lucky. His mother was the very happy widow of several very wealthy, very dead wizards. Throwing away a hundred Galleons wouldn't mean anything to him, and Draco had his eye on a new racing broom.

"Well," said Draco, pretending to think about it. "How about if I win, you give me a hundred Galleons."

"And if I win?" prompted Blaise.

"You won't," said Draco confidently.

"But if I do?"

"What do you want?" Draco asked warily.

"World domination."

Draco rolled his eyes. "As you well know, that's not something I can deliver on."

"Well," said Blaise, giving him a predatory look, "I could just dominate you."

"That sounds a little too kinky for me," replied Draco dryly.

"Not like that," Blaise scoffed. "You're definitely not pretty enough for my taste. I meant you could fetch me stuff. Do my chores. That kind of thing."

"For one," said Draco, glaring at his friend, "I'm plenty pretty enough for you. You dated Pansy Parkinson, for Merlin's sake. And two, I'm not being your frigging house-elf."

"What's the matter, Draco? Not as confident as you thought?" Blaise taunted.

"I'm confident. I'm just not stupid."

"Well, I'm not just handing you a hundred Galleons. You have to make it worth my while."

"Fine," Draco grumbled, knowing he would have to appease Blaise's power trip to sucker him into this bet. "You can make me do one thing."

"Only one?" Blaise protested.

"One really unpleasant thing," Draco amended.

Blaise's eyes sparkled mischievously. He held out his hand. "Deal."

On the count of three, they pitched their brooms forward into a nosedive.

As they zoomed toward the ground at breakneck speed, Blaise yelled, "I just thought of the unpleasant thing you have to do."

"Give me your worst," Draco shouted cockily.

"I'll give you a hint. It involves Granger."

The last thing Draco remembered before he blacked out was the triumphant smirk plastered across Blaise's face.

After spending the entire night regrowing all of his bones, enduring a Howler from his mother and suffering through Blaise's ribbing all through breakfast, Draco made the grueling walk over to the Gryffindor table. Blaise may not have out-flown him, but he had definitely out-Slytherined him. And knowing that was almost worse than the unpleasant thing Blaise was making him do. Almost.

"Seven Sickles," said Draco, throwing down the money Blaise had generously loaned him.

"Pardon?" said Hermione, looking up from the forkful of eggs she was about to put in her mouth.

"For my button."

Hermione looked around the empty table. "I'm sorry. Are you talking to me?"

"Believe me, I'm the one who's sorry," Draco muttered. "Yes, I'm talking to you. You are the founder and president of S.P.E.W., are you not?"

"Yes, but–"

"Then I would like my button, please," said Draco, holding out his hand.

Hermione stared at him blankly, not sure what to do.

Draco wiggled his fingers in response.

When Hermione finally decided that he was actually serious, she replied, "No," and went back to her breakfast.

"But I paid you fair and square," Draco protested.

"It's not about the money," Hermione explained, buttering her toast. "You're just not really S.P.E.W. material."

"What do you mean, I'm not S.P.E.W. material?" asked Draco, offended. "What kind of elitist club are you running here?"

"It's not elitist. You just have to like elves to join."

"I like elves," Draco insisted.

"Let me rephrase that. You have to like elves in a way not pertaining to them being your personal slaves."

Draco opened his mouth and then shut it again. He wasn't sure how to respond to that. His whole life, he had only thought of house-elves in relation to how they served him. It never occurred to think of them in any other way. He had no idea how he felt about them. While he contemplated this, Hermione went back to smugly eating her breakfast.

Finally, Draco said, "I think house-elves are helpful."

Hermione snorted. "That's the best you can do?"

"I wasn't finished." Draco scowled. "I also think they are hardworking, generous and kind. And I like them better than most wizards I know."

Hermione stared at him so intently, she may as well have been performing Legilimency on him. And Draco couldn't say for sure she wasn't. After she seemed satisfied that he was telling the truth, she said, "Fine. You can join, but in order to get the button, you're going to have to be an active member."

"Can't wait," said Draco, forcing some enthusiasm. "When's the next meeting?"

Since she was the only one who actually attended meetings, Hermione usually did all of her S.P.E.W. business in her room on her bed. But that didn't seem appropriate now. "This afternoon, and every afternoon until Christmas, at two o'clock sharp in the Room of Requirement. I expect you still remember where to find it," she added snidely.

Draco scowled. As if he could forget. He had spent all last year in there with that damned Vanishing Cabinet. It wasn't something he was exactly proud of and he didn't need her to remind him of it. "I'll find it," he muttered. "Is there a secret password?"


"A secret knock?"


"A secret handshake?"


Draco gave her a disdainful look. "This club kind of sucks."

"You're welcome to quit," Hermione snapped.

"Don't think you're going to get rid of me that easy." Draco smirked.

Hermione smirked back. "We'll see about that after the initiation."

Draco's smirk faltered. "Initiation?"

"What's he up to, I wonder?" said Ron, dusting off his button on their way to the Room of Requirement. He'd had to dig it out from the bottom of his trunk, and it was a little dented.

"Whatever it is, I'm sure he's up to no good," Harry replied. "Probably something with his Death Eater buddies again."

"Have you two considered that maybe he's changed?" Hermione asked.

Ron snorted. "You don't seriously believe that. After all he's done?"

"People grow up, Ron. Not everyone stays their eleven year-old self," she said pointedly.

"So, you think he joined S.P.E.W. because he wants to help elves out of the goodness of his heart?" said Harry skeptically.

"No," Hermione admitted. "I definitely think he's up to something. I just don't think it's as nefarious as you two do."

"Maybe having You Know Who in his house screwed up his head," suggested Ron. "Why else would anyone voluntarily join S.P.E.W.?"

Hermione responded by punching him in the arm.

"Maybe he has a crush on Hermione," Harry joked.

Ron snorted but then looked serious. "You don't think he really does, do you?"

"No, of course not," scoffed Hermione.

Ron let out a little laugh. "Yeah, I guess you're right. It's not like you're really his type, are you?"

"And what is that supposed to mean?" asked Hermione angrily.

"Well, he dated Astoria Greengrass, didn't he? And she's..." Ron held his hands out in front of his chest in an obnoxious manner. "And you're–"

"Ron, knock it off," said Harry, giving him a shove. "If there are any dead bodies I will have to help cover up, I'd prefer it was Malfoy's."

"I was just saying what Malfoy thinks," grumbled Ron.

"Because you know exactly what Malfoy thinks. You two being best friends and all," said Hermione sarcastically.

"So, what is Malfoy thinking?" asked Harry, eyeing Hermione curiously.

"How would I know?"

"I don't know." Harry shrugged. "But I kind of get the feeling you do."

"Don't be ridiculous. I'm not a mind reader," said Hermione, just as they reached the Room of Requirement. "Oh," she said in awe when the room revealed itself. "Look at all of the yarn. And knitting magazines!"

"Yippee," said Ron without any enthusiasm, flopping himself down in a chair.

"You don't have to be here, you know," Hermione snapped. "It's not like you've come to any of the other meetings."

"But Malfoy's coming."


"So, we have to protect you," said Ron.

"I can take care of myself," Hermione huffed.

"We know that," said Harry quickly. "We just want to help."

"Then help me knit some socks," said Hermione, tossing them each a ball of yarn.

"What am I supposed to do with this?" asked Ron, unraveling the ball of yarn into a tangled mess.

Hermione threw a Knitting for Dummies book at his head.

Ten minutes later, Draco strolled in. He took one look at Ron covered in yarn, and said, "So, what are we doing? Decorating Weasels for Christmas?"

"We are knitting socks," said Hermione. "And you are late."

"Why are we knitting socks?" asked Draco, picking up a ball of yarn and some knitting needles before choosing the chair farthest away from Harry and Ron. "House-elves hate socks."

"No, they don't," Hermione insisted.

"Yes, they do," said Draco. "The only house-elf I know who likes socks is Dobby, and he has enough already. I saw him wearing six pairs this morning."

"Well, knit something else then. Do you need a knitting guide?"

"I think I can figure it out by myself. I'm not a moron," said Draco, giving Ron a sideways glance.

Ron scowled. "Why are you here?"

"I want to help the elves, same as you." Draco smirked.

Not having a reply, Ron went back to angrily stabbing his ball of yarn.

Apart from the grumblings and occasional expletives (mostly from Ron), they knitted in silence with only one minor scuffle when Ron lost control of his knitting needles and accidentally poked Harry in the eye.

Trying to sound casual, Draco finally asked, "So, what's this initiation all about?"

"Oh, um," began Hermione, struggling to come up with an answer. She had completely forgotten about it. "Well, you have to... uh..."

"Initiation?" Ron interrupted. "What's he going on about?"

"You know," said Hermione, giving him a hard stare. "The initiation."

Ron was still looking at her blankly, but Harry slowly began to smile.

"You remember, Ron," said Harry, an evil glint in his eye. "The initiation."

Finally catching on, Ron said, "Oh yeah, the initiation."

"Is this part of the initiation?" asked Draco, "Me having to listen to you three say 'the initiation' over and over again?"

"No, you have to–"

"Wear Gryffindor colors and tell everyone you see that Slytherin sucks," finished Harry triumphantly.

Draco's face noticeably paled.

Hermione glared at Harry. "You are not using the initiation for house rivalry," she reprimanded. "It should at least have something to do with house-elves."

"I know!" shouted Ron excitedly. "He has to be our house-elf for an entire week."

"Brilliant," said Harry.

"That completely goes against S.P.E.W.'s principles," Hermione admonished.

"It does not," protested Ron. "We're allowing him to experience what it's like to be a house-elf in order to better understand their plight and what not."

"You don't care about the plight of house-elves," Hermione accused. "You just want him to get you snacks."

"It has a twofold benefit," said Ron, thinking himself clever.

"We are not enslaving anyone," Hermione snapped.

"Well, what's your brilliant idea?" asked Ron.

"He has to read S.P.E.W.'s manifesto aloud..." As she watched Harry and Ron both yawn exaggeratedly, she impetuously added, "completely naked."

Ron's mouth gaped open like a fish and Harry looked at her as though she had lost her mind. And maybe she had.

"What does being naked have to do with S.P.E.W?" Ron protested. "My idea was better than that."

"Well," began Hermione, trying to come up with a legitimate reason for Malfoy getting naked. "House-elves owners refuse to give their house-elves clothes, don't they?"

"Because house-elves don't want clothes," insisted Ron.

"That is beside the point. They should at least have the option."

"Do I have the option of not seeing Malfoy naked?" asked Ron.

"No. Perhaps then you will understand the value of having options. And by listening to Malfoy read the manifesto, you will also learn what S.P.E.W. stands for. The benefit is twofold," said Hermione smugly.

"Let me get this straight," said Draco. "In order to get my button, I have to take my clothes off?"

"Yes," Hermione replied, standing her ground.

"Is this some kind of sex club?" Draco asked.

"It's not about... sex," said Hermione, looking embarrassed. "It's a metaphor. And you don't have to do it. S.P.E.W. wasn't really looking for any new members anyway, so–"

"I'll do it – for the elves," said Draco, gritting his teeth.

Hermione's mouth dropped open in surprise but she quickly regained her composure. "The manifesto is on the chalkboard."

"How convenient," Draco replied dryly.

Hermione glared. "You can begin anytime."

"I will."

"We'll be waiting."

"I bet you will," retorted Draco, giving her a sly look.

"Do you really want to make that bet?" asked Hermione. "It might result in something... unpleasant."

Draco's eyes narrowed. "I guess we'll find out," he said, unbuttoning the top button on his shirt.

Hermione swallowed hard. "I guess we will."

After a few more buttons and a few more moments of extreme awkwardness, Ron stood up and said, "I have to go."

"The initiation isn't over yet," protested Hermione.

"I have to study for N.E.W.T.s," Ron replied, already at the door.

"But N.E.W.T.s aren't for another–"

"Jeez, Hermione!" Ron exploded. "Are you seriously going to lecture me about studying too early? I don't even know you anymore!" With that, he fled the room, slamming the door behind him.

"One down," said Draco, popping another button.

Hermione turned pleading eyes on Harry.

Harry sighed. "I would lay down my life for you, Hermione. You know that. But this," he said, gesturing to Draco, "is too much."

Hermione watched him leave and then nervously turned back to Draco.

"Guess it's just you and me," Draco said, forgoing the last few buttons and pulling the shirt over his head.

"Oh my," Hermione breathed, taking in the sight of Draco Malfoy with his shirt off. He was like a perfectly chiseled statue of a Greek god. Catching him smirking at her reaction, Hermione cleared her throat and calmly said, "Well, go on then."

"If you insist," said Draco, not taking his eyes off her as he unbuttoned his trousers.

"I do."

However, at the sound of Draco's zipper being pulled down, Hermione lost her nerve and ran from the room.

As he watched her go, Draco let out a chuckle. Perhaps this whole S.P.E.W. thing wasn't going to be as unpleasant as he had previously thought.

"So, did I pass the initiation?"

"Yes," said Hermione, not looking up from her knitting or bothering to mention his lateness.

"Can I have my button now?"


"Why not?"

"You still have to prove yourself as a valuable member."

"They haven't proven themselves as valuable members," said Draco, gesturing at Harry and Ron, who were both struggling with their yarn.

"They are the reason I had to make the rule. Don't want to get stuck with any more duds."

"Hey," said Ron indignantly.

"She has a point," said Harry diplomatically.

Ron shrugged indifferently.

"So, what's on today's schedule?" asked Draco.


Ron groaned. "Kitting is so boring."

"Probably because you're horrible at it," replied Draco.

"I'm better than you are," said Ron. "What are you even making? A rectangle?"

"Well, we civilized people refer to it as a scarf, but yes, I am making a rectangle."

"You'd think with something so easy, you'd be a little farther along," said Ron snootily.

"I'm not using magic. And by the looks of whatever it is you're making," said Draco, sneering at Ron's knitted monstrosity, "you shouldn't be either."

"It's not finished," said Ron defensively, holding up an enormous, lumpy-looking jumper with multiple sleeves. "It just needs a few more tweaks is all."

"No, it's perfect... for the Giant Squid."

Harry let out a snort, but at Ron's glare, pretended to concentrate really hard on his knitting.

The rest of the meeting was conducted in silence only interrupted by Ron's eventual snoring.

"What's on the agenda today?" Draco asked, ambling in late. "Let me guess. Does it involve yarn?"

"Leather actually."

"Ooh, kinky," replied Draco.

"Since Ron is so bored with knitting, I thought I'd switch things up a bit." She then lugged an enormous book out of her satchel.

Ron rolled his eyes. "You think a book is going to make things less boring?"

Hermione scowled. "Would you prefer Malfoy take his clothes off again?"

"No," Ron muttered.

"This," said Hermione, holding up the book, "is going to help us give the elves the best Christmas ever."

"You do realize that is a Muggle book of fairy tales, don't you?" Draco drawled.

"So?" said Hermione, her temper starting to flare.

"So, it's not really true, is it?"

"There is a surprising amount of truth in Muggle fairy tales, but you wouldn't know, because you haven't read any," Hermione accused.

"You should not presume you know everything about me just as you shouldn't presume you know everything about elves," Draco replied. "I know which story you're talking about, and I can tell you that elves do not like shoes any more than they like socks."

"If you've read the story, which I doubt, you would know it's not about shoes but about kindness."

"Somehow I don't think the elves will look on this as an act of kindness."

"Well, I'm in charge, and we are going to give the elves a happy Christmas whether they like it or not."

"That's the spirit," Draco joked.

Harry and Ron snickered, but at Hermione's glare, they quietly took their places on the assembly line, wisely keeping their mutterings about the 's' in S.P.E.W. standing for sweatshop to themselves.

"Why are you always ten minutes late?" Hermione demanded.

"Am I? I hadn't noticed."

"Well, I've noticed."

"Have you now?" said Draco, smirking.

"Yes. No!" she said, getting flustered. "I mean... You are messing up my schedule!"

"I don't see what the big deal is. Potty and Weasel aren't even here yet."

"I've already sent them off to deliver shoes to the elves. By themselves. They are probably mucking everything up."

"Well, let's show them how it's done then," said Draco, walking out the door and leaving Hermione to grab the shoes.

"It's not that easy," said Hermione, rushing to catch up with him. "In fact, it's rather difficult to give an elf anything. They're quick."

"I think I can handle it."

"Just remember, you have to be fast or–"

"Petrificus Totalus! Got him!" Draco exclaimed excitedly, grabbing a pair of shoes from Hermione and tossing them at the poor elf lying on the floor.

"You can't hex them!" Hermione exclaimed.

"Why not?"

"Because it's not nice."

"If you really want to catch elves," said Draco, his eyes twinkling, "you need to forget about nice."


"Let me show you how a Slytherin gets things done. Can you do a decent Disillusionment Charm?"

"Of course I can," Hermione snapped.

"Let's see it then," said Draco, tapping his own wand to the top of his head and blending into the wall behind him.

Hermione glared at a space on the wall which she very much hoped was Draco's face and cast the spell.

"Not bad," Draco whispered, so close, his lips brushed her ear.

Hermione jumped, her heart racing. He had practically kissed her ear.

"Give me your hand," said Draco.

"Why?" Hermione squeaked.

"So, we can skip through fields of daisies holding hands, making googly eyes at each other," said Draco sarcastically.

"You want to... hold my hand?"

"How else are you going to follow me? I cast an excellent Disillusionment Charm."

"It's not bad," Hermione grudgingly admitted.

"Then take my hand."

Hermione reached out and after a little fumbling made contact.

"That's not my hand."

Hermione could hear the laughter in his voice. She snatched back her hand.

"Try again," Draco urged.


"Come on. For the elves."

"Okay. I'll meet you halfway."

Draco reached out and felt something soft and wooly like mittens. However, when he went to take hold, Hermione let out a squeak. Those were definitely not mittens. "Oops. Sorry."

"This is ridiculous," Hermione huffed.

"I guess we're both pretty good at Disillusionment Charms," said Draco awkwardly.

"Maybe we should try something else," suggested Hermione.

"No!" exclaimed Draco. "I mean, we're both smart people. We can figure this out. Hold still."

Hermione sucked in her breath nervously. She felt his hand fondle her hair. It moved gently to her shoulder and then slid down her arm, making her whole body tingle. When he reached her hand, he laced his fingers through hers.

"There. That wasn't so bad. Was it?"

Hermione had the sudden urge to giggle but suppressed it and said, "Let's go."

Draco dragged her down the corridor and down several sets of steps.

"Where are we going?" Hermione asked breathlessly.

"To the Slytherin dorms."

"You're taking me to your dorm?" Hermione gulped.

"Tippy and Pogo always clean the dorm at this time. If we hurry, we can catch them."

"You know their names?" said Hermione in surprise.

"Of course. Don't you know the names of the elves who clean your dorm?"

"Um, sure. Of course, I do." And she did, because it was just Dobby now. But she had no idea of the names of the elves who used to do the job. For some reason, she had never thought to ask. She had always just thought of them collectively as the elves. It made her uncomfortable to think that she had never made an effort to get to know them as individuals. Not that that was an easy task, what with them always fleeing at the sight of her.

"I'm not a horrible person, you know," said Draco. "Maybe I've never thought about elves in any terms other than what they could do for me, but I appreciate what they do, and I would never hurt them. Ooh! There they are. Let's sneak up on them and jump them!"

Before Hermione could respond, Draco pounced on one of the elves and held him down. "Quick! Give him the shoes!"

Not knowing what else to do, Hermione shoved a pair of shoes at the poor elf. Terrified, the elf squirmed out of Draco's grasp and started running down the corridor. Draco cast a spell, and the shoes took off after him, clacking down the hall.

"Well, they can't run forever, can they?" quipped Draco.

"I was up all night thinking about it," said Hermione, pacing back and forth across the floor, "and I've decided that we've been going about this all wrong."

"You think?" asked Ron sarcastically. "I hate to say it, but Malfoy was right. House-elves hate shoes. I specifically volunteered to go to the kitchens because the house-elves are always so accommodating with the snacks and such, but as soon as they saw the shoes, they wouldn't so much as give us a scrap of day-old bread. It was a complete waste of time."

"Would you quit thinking about your stomach? We need to think about what's best for the elves."

"If we had done what was best for the elves in the first place, I wouldn't be thinking about my stomach now, would I?"

"How was I supposed to know elves didn't like shoes? Or festive knitwear?"

"Come on, Hermione. Nobody likes your horrid knitwear. It's time you found a new hobby."

"You know what?" said Hermione, a murderous glint to her eye. "You're right. It is time I gave up my knitting needles. And I know exactly where I'd like to shove them."

"What did I miss?" asked Draco, sauntering in.

"Hermione confessed she was wrong. Ron admitted you were right. And Hermione threatened to stick her knitting needles where the sun doesn't shine," reiterated Harry.

"Huh," Draco mused. "I really need to start coming to these meetings on time."

"We were just discussing how we can better help the elves," said Hermione, glaring at Harry.

"Maybe we should give them a break," Draco suggested. "I keep seeing their big, terrified eyes in my dreams. I think I might be developing a conscience." He let out a shudder.

"That's it!" Hermione exclaimed, her eyes lighting up. "They do deserve a break. Let's throw them a Yule Ball!"

"That's not what I meant," began Draco.

"We'll have it in the kitchens just after dinner. Harry and Ron, you two can be in charge of decorations. Make it festive. A tree, streamers, magic falling snow, the works. I'll provide the refreshments, and Malfoy, you can be in charge of music. Something tasteful. Oh, this is going to be so much fun. The house-elves are going to love it!" exclaimed Hermione happily, sweeping out of the room to start her to-do list and look up some new recipes.

"They're going to hate it, aren't they?" asked Harry.

"Definitely," said Draco and Ron in unison.

To say that the Yule Ball didn't quite go off without a hitch was a bit of an understatement. Harry and Ron had put off the Christmas decorations until the last minute and then had gotten distracted by Quidditch and forgotten about it completely. After receiving a rather rude Howler from Hermione, they succeeded in acquiring one small, rather wonky Christmas tree and some slightly used streamers leftover from a Ravenclaw party. As neither of them knew how to cast a proper snow spell, they only managed to make the room really cold.

Hermione discovered that her cooking skills were even worse than her knitting skills. The biscuits she had spent so much time researching had turned out hard as rocks. Even magic couldn't help them. And the punch hadn't turned out much better if the house-elf spewing by the punch bowl was any indication. The rest of the house-elves were all standing around looking cold and miserable and bored.

"This party is a complete disaster," moaned Hermione.

"It's not a complete disaster," said Draco, sitting down next to her. "At least the music is good."

Unable to find a decent band on such short notice, Draco had used his Slytherin cunning and a bit of magic. What could be more tasteful than a string quartet that played by itself? Unfortunately, it soon became apparent that the spell was rather short lived as the instruments suddenly began playing the wrong notes very loudly. Draco frowned and whispered something to a house-elf who quickly scurried off.

"You were saying?" shouted Hermione over the screeching violins.

"Okay, now it's a complete disaster. But don't worry," Draco reassured her. "I've called in reinforcements."

Hermione looked up to see house-elves rushing around the kitchen, decorating, cooking and wrestling instruments.

"But this party was supposed to be for them. I didn't want to make more work for them."

"Look at their faces. Do they look like they mind?"

Hermione looked at their faces. They were smiling. They were happy. And it suddenly dawned on her. "They like helping."

Draco nodded and smiled at her. "Just like you."

Hermione took a deep breath. "I have something for you," she said, handing him his button. "Your freedom."

Draco looked at the S.P.E.W. button in his hand and then looked at Hermione quizzically. "What do you mean?"

Hermione looked embarrassed. "I know the only reason you joined S.P.E.W. was because you lost a bet. Now, that you have your button, you can quit."

"How did you know about the bet?"

"I kind of used Legilimency on you," Hermione confessed.

"You knew it was because of a bet, and you still let me join?"

Hermione nodded. "Because when I was in your head, I saw something."

"You did?" asked Draco nervously.

"I saw an opportunity. I thought I could teach you something about house-elves. And here you go teaching me."

"I have something for you, too," said Draco, holding out a lumpy package. "Happy Christmas."

Hermione opened the package and pulled out a long, wooly scarf. It was the exact same color as the dress she had worn to her first Yule Ball. "You made this... for me?"

Draco shrugged, looking slightly embarrassed. "I'm a Slytherin. We're crafty. I thought you might like it... more than the elves would."

Hermione smiled at him. "Thank you. I love it."

"So, uh, did you see anything else when you were in my mind?" asked Draco.

Hermione kissed him on the cheek. "Does that answer your question?"

"Depends if there's more where that comes from." Draco smirked.

"Happy Christmas, Draco," said Hermione, wrapping her arms around his neck.

Three months later, Draco was still a member of S.P.E.W. Grudgingly accepting the fact that Malfoy wasn't going anywhere and that there were much better forms of Muggle protection anyway, Harry and Ron went back to being members in name only. With a renewed vigor, Hermione returned to conducting S.P.E.W. business on her bed. Only now, the meetings were definitely not boring. And Draco was never late again.