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The Christmas Gift
Chapter One: Snowy Encounters and Hot Cocoa Revelations
Written by: Dizzy
Author's Notes: Revamping this fic, after all initial edits are completed will begin Part 10 after over a years worth of waiting for an update of this fic. I apologize to all of the reviewers who have waited patiently for the update. Here they are. I am seeking a beta to help me with the completion of the revamps of my other fics, any interested parties should email with BETA somewhere in the subject. I get a lot of email, so make it clear to avoid deletion.

Basically I just went through and corrected any issues with plot continuity, its and it's, your and you're, corrected dialogue placement etc. If anyone would like to beta THIS after I've posted feel free. Run-on's are not my forte, and I have a phobia of the semi-colon apparently.

The snow had fallen lightly all day and night, till the ground was covered in its whiteness, shiny and sparkling in dim sun. It was like being stuck inside a diamond, all glittering prettiness and bright sheen, covering the trees and the walkways. Hermione Granger hugged her books closer, her knit cap snug over her curls, her scarf wrapped securely around her neck. For the first time since the start of exams she found herself smiling. It was so peaceful outside, as if everything was asleep, leaving a quietness that was as unnerving as it was calming. Her cheeks were flush with the cold, biting at her cheeks and whipping her curly hair about her face, soft tendrils brushing by her nose.

The school itself was ready for Christmas, trees in every corridor, decorated with bright shiny ornaments, glowing with their own light while the little tiny trumpets, drums and flutes that hung from their boughs played an endless array of carols. It was actually starting to get annoying, all the Christmas cheer. Little bits of Wandering Mistletoe had been tripping up everyone lately, sparking romance in the oddest places which was why she found herself taking the long way to the Great Hall. She didn't want to be caught under the bright red leaves and berries, forced to pucker up with some random person she didn't know. And frankly she was getting a bit sick of the Santa portraits ho ho hoing all the way to Arithmancy and asking her what she wanted for Christmas all the bloody time. She was Christmas spirited out. Exams were finally over, but they ended at the expense of hours and hours toiling away in the dim library light, hunched over books and straining her eyes. She couldn't wait to get into the Great Hall, to finally sit down at a peaceful dinner with Ron and Harry and enjoy her vacation. She had worked far to hard for far to long. She hadn't seen Ron and Harry in days, and she was actually beginning to miss those bright green eyes of Harry's, that messy hair, and Ron's lanky fire headed figure.

So absorbed was she in her musings, thoughts of exams and various other stresses, that she didn't see the pale-haired boy emerge from the copse of trees that lined the grounds just at the edge of the Forbidden Forest. His stride was quick and sure, his cloak billowing behind him in the wind, his unusually pale cheeks tinted red from the cold. He carried his Nimbus in his hands and pride on his face. Long ago he had left behind the puffy cheeked, lanky figure of his boyhood, and what was left was a sight to be seen. Long white blonde hair curled just above his collar, keen blue-grey eyes watched her with purpose, and what had once been lanky and skinny was now muscular and full-shouldered. She didn't see as he fell into step just behind her, his gaze focused on her and her alone. She didn't catch the scowl of contempt on his face, the angry pursing of his almost blue lips, or the raising of perfectly winged eyebrows.

"Avoiding the mistletoe Granger?" Hermione cast a head over her shoulder to glare at him for a brief moment before continuing her walk to the Great Hall. "Afraid to get vomit on your robes?" Draco gave a sympathetic nod, matching stride with her. "Personally if I was you I wouldn't want to watch the disgust on those poor boys faces either. It really is better if you walk around." Hermione stopped.

"Go away." Draco crossed his arms.

"Now why, would I want to do something like that? You're so entertaining." He took in her appearance. "I mean the beggar costume alone is worth the freezing temperatures."

"What's your excuse for being out here then Malfoy?" Hermione snorted. "Afraid to have to relive kissing some of your old conquests?" She rolled her eyes. "Then again Pansy Parkinson is enough to make anyone take the long way."

"Finally we agree on something, Mudblood. Fancy that." He resumed walking, leaving her standing there, her anger growing with every stride he made.

"You know what Malfoy?" Hermione started. Draco stopped in the snow, but didn't give her the satisfaction of turning around to face her. He merely stopped.

"What?"

"One day you're going to regret everything you do," her words were full of purpose. "One day you're going to realize what a big pit of misery you've dug yourself by being this way." Draco turned his head, smirking at her.

"Just consider it your grave Mudblood." His tone was pleasant and a little scary. And with that he continued to stroll, lazily as if he had not a care in the world to the Great Hall.

Ron handed her a mug of hot chocolate, his smile broad and his eyes glittering with the promise of excitement. He had passed his exams, he was sure of that, and Christmas was only days away, the joy of presents in the air. Christmas had always been his favorite holiday, turning him into the little 12 year old boy she remembered. At 17 he was tall and lanky, quite handsome if you were into that sort, with fiery red hair and freckles to match, a pale complexion that would never tan only burn and bright sparkling eyes that seemed to brim with excitement over the silliest things. Like Quidditch, or Wizards Chess, or Christmas for that matter. He had taken to wearing the traditional colors of red and green this past week, a little Santa pinned to the sweater bearing his famous R. Harry too had been caught up in the spirit, but his came from a different place entirely. His new-found respect for the holiday had stemmed not from good cheer and promise of presents, but the errant moving mistletoe which had just a week ago earned him a kiss and a new romance from his beloved Ginny quite by accident. Ever since then he had been making a fuss about the spirit of Christmas and how wonderful it all was. Frankly they were both making her sick. Nonetheless she smiled her thank you to Ron, taking the hot cocoa in her hand and curling up in her armchair.

"You've never stayed for Christmas before have you?" Ron said. Hermione shook her head. Not while conscious anyway. There had been that time in her 2nd year, but being petrified kind of put a damper on the Holiday.

"It's great. There's a big feast and presents and snowball fights..." Ron went on and on. Nothing he mentioned seemed all that exciting to her. Hogwarts seemed to have a feast at a drop of a hat, she could get presents at home with her parents, and not a day went by when there wasn't some snowball fight or wrestling match. But she was stuck here, her parents heading off to her Grandmother's for the holidays and saying it would probably be easier if she just stayed there to celebrate, a new experience they called it. Frankly it wasn't all that great. But she would be with Ron and Harry, so things weren't all bad. The only downside was that the only people who stayed for the holidays were bumbling first-years and as of the past two years Draco Malfoy. No one could explain his sudden change of plans; he had simply stopped leaving for vacations, offering no explanation as to why. He still got loads of presents according to Ron and Harry, displaying them for all to see at the Christmas feast, and she was sure that was all he cared about anyway.

"Cheer up," Ron punched her shoulder playfully. "It's not the end of the world. Everyone has to celebrate Christmas without their mums once in awhile." Hermione nodded. He had a point, she was seventeen now, time to find a new source of Christmas joy. But still, she was hurt they hadn't wanted her to come home. She saw too little of them as it was. "And we're here," Ron went on, puffing out his chest. Except there was no we right then. Harry had just left her side, off somewhere to grope Ginny. Hermione smiled at the thought, not that Ginny minded the groping of course, as long as Ron didn't find out she was happy. He would kill both of them if he did. So naturally Harry had been missing a lot lately, and Ginny too, sneaking off to God knows where to do...whatever it was they did. Personally she didn't want to think of it. They were like siblings to her, and frankly it was more then a little weird to see them together. Not that Ron noticed of course, he was so oblivious to everything, stuck in his own world of Quidditch and chess that he never noticed even the most obvious events.

"What do you want for Christmas?" Ron asked, he plopped himself into a chair across from her, large unstockinged feet dangling dangerously close to the fire. Hermione shrugged.

"For Draco Malfoy to get hit by a bus." She said finally. Ron nodded.

"God bless us, every one," he replied. "What happened?" Hermione shrugged.

"He was out doing God knows what and he decided to pick a verbal fight," Hermione shrugged. "Typical Malfoy behavior. But I'm sick of him. Someone should teach him a lesson."

Ron was only too happy to agree, he hated Draco with a passion that was only rivaled by his love of Qudditch, and his eyes flashed dangerously every time the name was mentioned. His fists clenched and he looked like he would very much like to hit something.

"It'd be a fitting Christmas gift, teach him a bit of manners," Ron cracked a knuckle in what he assumed was a macho manner. Hermione bit her lip, a thought coming into her head. It was a nasty crazy thought, but one full of promise.

"What a lovely idea Ron," she stood up, handing him her hot cocoa.

"Where are you going?" He sat up. "What idea?"

"I'm going Christmas shopping."

It was almost three hours before she found what she was looking for, a lot of work for one spell she was sure, but it was going to be well worth it to see the look on his face when it was all over. It was more then he deserved. Usually Hermione was against such actions, using magic against a student was expressly forbidden, but the spell itself was simple and not in the least bit dangerous as far as she could see. That was part of the reason it had taken so bloody long to find it, she had found it in the most unlikely of places. Picking up her quill she unrolled the bit of parchment she had brought with her scribbling the spell onto it, relief making her finally relax. And to think she had thought this vacation was going to be a relaxing one. And here at the start of it she was still deep into research. But it would be worth it, so very worth it. Finally she could get the revenge she had wanted since she had entered Hogwarts as a bushy haired, big toothed, 11 year old. Rolling the parchment back up she shoved the quill and parchment into her satchel, returning the books to their proper places on the shelves before she strolled out, the ingredients would be relatively easy to get, nothing to complicated or hard to find, and the potion itself was an easy one. Which was why she had found it buried deep in what would be ordinarily a first year level research book, not that any first years would recognize it for what it was. She exited the library a smile on her face, and a little bit more dance in her step. Draco Malfoy was going to get what he deserved, and that was enough to make any Hogwarts student a little bit more into the Christmas spirit.

Draco scowled into his bowl of hot wheaty mush, picking up a spoonful with his soup and letting it plop back down into the bowl with sickening wet slaps. The table was virtually empty; his usual court of followers had all gone home for Christmas, leaving him alone with nothing but hot mush to eat and chatty annoying first years to worship him. It was embarrassing really, the Great Hall was almost empty as it was but to be sitting pretty much alone, no friends to laugh or joke with was kind of sad, and there across the hall was the Golden Trio, giggling over something Weasel had said, Potter sneaking glances over at the littlest Weasel and the Mudblood almost shooting milk out her nose. They made him sick. If not a little jealous. He pushed away from the table with a scowl, the mush untouched, and flounced out of the Great Hall.

Out of the corner of her eye Hermione watched him go. She knew where he was going. She had seen him herself on her way back from the library. Even in the cold and snow he practiced, pushing himself to the limit, hidden away in a secret place only he knew about. He was driven by the desire to be the best, everyone knew that. Which was why he did it, despite the wind and the freezing temperatures he flew, diving and whirling around in intricate patterns, chasing that silly golden ball that seemed to be so important to every wizarding boy she had ever met. Some more so then others. It was the perfect opportunity. She took a final bite of her oatmeal, a final sip of her milk and stood up.
"I'll see you guys later in the common room okay?" Questioning stares followed her out, but her friends said nothing, they never did. Hermione was a strange girl prone to odd bits of whimsy and it wasn't exactly like she was going to tell them what she did everyday, it was her private business. They returned to their breakfasts, conversation turning to Quidditch and everything beautiful about it.

The simplicity of it all unnerved her, and the more she did and the more she read made her wonder why. The effect itself was complex, at odds with its easy preparation. The potion took her only 10 minutes, brewing and bubbling; announcing its readiness. Slowly she spooned some of it up, pouring it carefully into the mug, where she mixed it in with the hot cocoa that sat within its depths. Then she dipped into it a small glass vial, putting a cork stopper to hold the contents. It was almost too easy. Shrugging she grabbed the mug, shoving the vial into her bag and headed out to the Quidditch pitch to set her plan in motion.

He was there of course, and if it wasn't for her he would have been there long after. She looked up at him curiously, darting around in the air at speeds she could only imagine. Her own skills with a broom left a lot to be desired, and she vastly preferred the solidness of the ground to the unstable air. He caught sight of her almost immediately, it wasn't hard. She was the only dot of dark in the whole area, taking small calculated steps across the snow, a mug clutched in her hand.

"What are you doing?" she called up to him. Draco angled the broom towards her, stopping just short of hitting her.

"What does it look like?"

"Isn't it a little cold for practice?" She looked around, shivering slightly in the air. Draco shrugged.

"Doesn't bother me," but she could see he was lying. He was shaking just as much as she, his lips tinted that same shade of blue they had been two days ago, his cheeks red and raw from the wind. But there was a glint in his eyes, an almost cheerful tilt to his lips. He put his feet to the ground, swinging off the broom. She eyed him for a moment.

"I think you need this more then I do," she held out the mug, praying he would take it. Which he did, predictably, Draco may be a wanker but he wasn't stupid, and he wasn't one to turn down a hot beverage in the cold. The mug was warm in his hand, delicious steam rising from its contents smelling faintly of cocoa and cream.

"What are you doing out here?" He asked taking a sip. It was slightly spicy, an odd blend of sweet and tang, but still good, warming him to his toes with every small sip.

"I was on my way to the library when I saw you," she rolled her eyes. "Just wanted to observe the insanity for myself." He shrugged.

"It's actually a lot of fun flying in the cold." He took another sip. Hermione watched him with careful eyes, it wouldn't take that much...just a few sips more. For a moment she had her doubts, guilt eating away at the back of her mind, but it was too late now. Whatever had possessed her to do this was not letting her back out now. Besides it would do him some good and perhaps get him to stop being so cruel and spiteful all the time. He took another sip. "Not that you enjoy flying in mild weather." He added as an afterthought. Hermione shrugged.

"It never appealed to me."

"To each his own I suppose." Again guilt nagged at the back of her mind as he took another sip. He was actually being civil. Two whole minutes and not one insult. Then again his cronies weren't around to impress. He took yet another sip. It was then she noticed the changes.

Draco's head felt very odd at that moment. For a moment it felt like his eyes were crossed, his vision going a bit blurry. Hermione took a step towards him as he stumbled, the mug falling from his hands and sinking into the snow, the contents splashing in a long tannish line across it.

"Malfoy," her hand was on his shoulder.

"Perhaps flying today wasn't such a good idea," at least that's what he had meant to say. Instead it came out a garbled mess of slurred words. He sank to his knees. He felt very odd indeed. The world swam in shadow for a moment, blurred and dark, and then he felt himself falling, the ground coming up awful fast.

"Draco!" Hermione reached for him, she hadn't expected that. But the moment he hit the ground he was gone, nothing more then a brief shallow imprint of his body left. It was now or never she supposed. Hands shaking from cold and nervousness she brought out the small vial.

There was no going back till this was over and he learned.

"Don't let this be for nothing," she prayed to whatever higher power would listen. She suspected she would be dealing with a very angry Draco when she got to wherever it was. And perhaps for a very long time depending on how long he took. She uncorked the vial, knocking back its contents quickly and then drew her wand.

"Delorum baltoshoy malianrus contreetay samoy." She whispered and instantly she knew what Draco had been feeling. She felt like her brain was liquid and would at any instant just seep out of her head, her eyes were heavy and her body was weak. It was quite a bit like being drunk. Although she had only experienced that particular sensation once in her whole life at her Aunt Majorie's wedding two years ago, she remembered it vividly. The loss of rational thought, the warm fuzzy feeling and apathy that went with it. She sank to her knees into the snow, just as Draco had done and felt her eyes begin to close, the effort of keeping them open was just too much at that moment. She didn't know if she was going to be sick or pass out. She did the latter, her body vanishing just as Draco's had the moment she hit the ground, nothing more left of them then two overlapping imprints in the snow.

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