A Morning of Ginger, Icing, Elves, and a Kneazle

By Jedi Tess of Gryffindor

Summary: Simply put – the morning after "Ginger and Icing".

A/N: This is, technically, the morning after "Ginger and Icing." But it's so wholly different than what I intended. Oh, well. Either way, enjoy, and I apologize for a severe lack of editing. It's 2am – I just haven't the time! Enjoy this year's Christmas fic!

Disclaimer: I think Santa'll bring me more presents if I do this right for once, so here goes. All character and situations belong to J.K. Rowling and Warner Bros. respectively. I am making no money off the creation of this fic and wouldn't want any if offered. It's all for the love of writing, baby. And the love of Harry. Always for the love of Harry.

Merry Christmas, all!


Ginny awoke early the next morning with a strange excitement in her chest.

Quietly, she climbed from her bed. The sun was barely visible through the thick layer of dull grey clouds that hung in the sky, but it was still low enough for Ginny to know that it couldn't have been later than seven o'clock.

Dull grey clouds! Snow!

Ginny rushed to the window and beamed out upon the pure white landscape below her. It had continued to snow into the wee hours of the morning, she knew, because she had watched it on her way back from the kitchen and lay awake watching it until her eyes ached and she could no longer keep them open. She remembered her joy in first seeing the fluffy white flakes the night before when she and Draco stood together in the courtyard.

Draco.

Ginny's heart gave a little flutter and she scolded herself for being so flighty. So he had kissed her. It was Draco Malfoy – who hadn't he kissed?

Ginny nearly gagged when she imagined him snogging Hagrid.

Sufficiently disturbed, she nearly forgot about the pile of presents at the end of her bed. But when she turned to leave the room, she noticed that the pile was even larger than usual and was teetering precariously. Ginny shook her head and smiled. Having seven brothers and several in-laws, in addition to two adopted siblings, was a particular advantage on holidays that involved gift-giving.

She crossed to her bed and reached for a large package from her mother, knowing perfectly well that it was a new jumper. Then she paused, glancing around the empty dormitory and feeling suddenly lonely. Not only were her brother and his two best friends home for Christmas this year, but thanks to the ever-increasing threat of You-Know-Who, most families wanted their children at home for the holidays. There were no other Gryffindors who had chosen to remains, and while it was fun to have run of the tower, it made Ginny feel pathetically alone not to have anyone to say "Happy Christmas" to.

She sighed, then smiled suddenly as she remembered that she was meeting Draco sometime that morning to eat his gingerbread house. In fact, they hadn't really arranged a specific time, as Ginny had been too busy gaping at him after he had kissed her and said, "Funny thing. You taste like vanilla, too. Sweet dreams, Ginger" to think of anything else. Mulling it over now, she rather thought him the type of person to stay up very late and sleep very late. Perhaps he wouldn't be there yet.

Still, the House Elves were better company than an empty dormitory, she decided. She could take her gifts down to the kitchens and open them in the company of Dobby, Winky, and Crinkle – or "the conniving little things", as she had begun thinking of them. They had, after all, maneuvered her and Draco under the Mistletoe, hadn't they? Not that she was entirely ungrateful, of course. She blushed as the memory flooded back. She didn't know why – it had been she who had initiated the second, and rather more passionate, kiss when the elves had complained that Draco hadn't done the thing properly the first time.

Wonder what he'll had to say about all that this morning, she thought. She grimaced. Probably something along the lines of 'don't take it too much to heart, Ginger'. Even with her mild annoyance at the boy for being such an enigma, she couldn't help grinning at his nickname for her. No one had ever called her Ginger before – she rather liked it.

Gathering her presents into her arms, she started for the dormitory door. She was nearly there when she paused and bit her lip uncertainly. While it was broad daylight and she wasn't trespassing on any of Filch's numerous curfews, she was going to the kitchens, a definite out-of-bounds. Would the Invisibility Cloak be necessary?

A sudden loud crack from behind her cut off any further reveries on the subject. With a barely stifled shriek, Ginny jumped a foot in the air and dropped the parcels in her arms. One made an unfortunate tinkling noise and Ginny hoped against hope that whatever was in it hadn't broken.

"Oooh, I am sorry, Miss!" squealed a sincerely regretful voice from just below her waistline.

"Dobby!" she gasped, her hand pressed against her pounding heart as she stared down at him. The elf was twisting his hands and looking mightily guilty for startling her so.

"Dobby is so sorry, Miss!" he exclaimed again, diving to the floor and beginning to gather her fallen gifts into his arms. "Dobby is only wanting to wish Miss a happy Christmas, since Dobby knew Miss was all alone up here. And now Dobby has broken Miss's gifts." His enormous eyes were bright with guilty tears.

"It's fine, Dobby," she sighed, bending down and pulling the packages out of his arms. "Really, it is! I think the jumper from Mum was on the bottom."

"But Dobby is sure he is hearing something break, Miss!" the elf wailed, starting wringing his hands again.

"I'm sure no one I know is foolish enough to send me anything fragile," she assured him, reaching out with her free hand to pat his head. "I'd have broken it myself the moment I opened it."

The elf didn't look in the least reassured by this, so Ginny cast about for something else to say.

"What're you doing up here this early, Dobby?" she asked, suddenly realizing how queer his presence was. Had he been doing cleaning, he would not have appeared loudly and obviously in the middle of the room. There was a reason House Elves prided themselves on efficiency and subtly, and it was because their owners – or, in Dobby's case, employers – never saw them.

"Oh, and now I is forgetting to give Miss her message!" the elf cried in utter anguish. "Dobby is a wicked, bad elf! Bad Dobby!" And away he went, bounding across the room to her bedside table, from which he pulled a lamp with which he proceeded to mercilessly beat himself over the head.

"Dobby, no!" Ginny cried, dropping her presents onto her bed as she passed and grabbing hold of the lamp. "Put . . . the lamp . . . down! Down, boy!" She felt bad for addressing him as though he were her cocker spaniel, but what else was she to do? She tugged the lamp out of his hands. "That's enough! You're not helping anyone by giving yourself concussion."

Dobby swayed a moment, then blinked and stilled. He hiccupped once and then met Ginny's gaze with a sheepish smile, which might have surprised her had it not been Dobby.

"Miss is right, of course," he said, rubbing his head. "Sometimes, Dobby forgets, you know."

"You mean, you forget," Ginny corrected.

"I forget," the elf said slowly, sounding almost awed, as though talking about himself in the first person was a new and magical privilege that he would never quite adjust to.

"So," Ginny prompted. "Message . . . ?"

"I is being sent to Miss's room to give Miss a message," Dobby told her, straightening rather importantly.

"Someone sent you from the kitchens at seven o'clock in the morning?" Ginny said incredulously.

"Yes, Miss," Dobby told her. His eyes suddenly went rather narrow and Ginny swore he was trying to restrain one of his trademark massive grins. "Master Draco does not like to be kept waiting."

"What – Draco's there already?" Ginny demanded, staring at the elf in disbelief.

"Master Draco is an early riser, Miss," Dobby informed her.

Well, Dobby would know, wouldn't he?

"Was he cross, Dobby?" she asked warily, unsure whether she was up for a cross Malfoy this early in the day.

"Impatient is the word I is using, Miss," the elf said, now abandoning all restraint and beaming at her. "He is not liking his Ginny to sleep later than him."

"He called me his Ginny?" Ginny said in utter surprise.

"Oh, no, Miss," Dobby assured her.

Well, good. Draco wasn't the sentimental type. She might have expected foul play if Dobby had answered her in the affirmative.

"Good," she said. "Good."

"He is calling you his Ginger, Miss," the elf went on in a falsely placid way.

Oh. Nice.

"Is we going then, Miss?" Dobby asked after she hadn't said anything for several seconds.

"Okay," she said, wondering again how she had gotten herself involved in any way with enigma that was Draco Malfoy. "Erm, Dobby," she said a moment later, having gathered all of her gifts into her arms. "Do you reckon I'll need the Invisibility Cloak?"

"Oh, no, Miss," Dobby assured her. "I is knowing all the right ways to go so no one is seeing you near the kitchens."

He led Ginny out the door of her dorm and down through the common room. Beside the portrait hole, he insisted on relieving her of all of her gifts and sent her back upstairs for a warm robe ("Miss will freeze in the cold, cold passages, she will!").

When Ginny returned, Dobby led her off toward the staircases. A few minutes later, she was thoroughly lost as he led her through obscure, obviously little used passageways and dark, secluded staircases. Within almost no time, however, they had reached the kitchens.

"Wow, Dobby!" Ginny said, staring admiringly at the house elf. "That route shaved nearly five minutes off the trip!"

The elf beamed. "House elves is in the business of know their ways round, Miss," he told her, reaching out a long finger and tickling the pear in the portrait of fruit that blocked the kitchen door. The portrait swung open to admit them and Dobby led her through.

The kitchen was surprisingly calm when Ginny arrived. She would have expected frantic preparation in time for Christmas breakfast. A moment's reflection, however, made her recollect how few students had remained this year. The elves didn't have many people to prepare for this year.

The thought made her rather sad.

"Master Draco is this way, Miss," Dobby coaxed, tugging gently at her sleeve. She allowed him to lead her through the relatively unoccupied kitchens toward the doorway through when she had ventured the night before. She paused on the threshold and then peered through.

"Took your time, Ginger."

Two grey eyes met hers over the top of a spectacularly crafted gingerbread house.

"I'm sorry, I hadn't realized there was a terrible rush," she quipped, stepping into the room.

"You stole my idea," he went on lazily.

Ginny blinked and then saw that he was indicating his own pile of presents, which lay beside him on the table. It was, unsurprisingly, far larger than her own.

"I didn't," she said, smiling tentatively at him. "How could I have known you'd bring your presents down here? Anyway, you know what they say – great minds and all that."

To her relief and surprisingly, her delight, he smiled crookedly at her.

"Hurry up, then, Weasley," he said imperiously, waving her over to the table. "I've been waiting to open these for ages."

"You poor thing," she said in mock-sympathy, seating herself opposite him at the table as Dobby set her packages in front of her.

"Thanks," Ginny said to the elf, who beamed in a decidedly mischievous way at her before retiring to the kitchen again. Ginny watched him go, then chanced a look at Draco. The Slytherin was staring at the doorway through which the elf had vanished with an unreadable expression. After a moment, he shook himself and, catching Ginny's eye on him, smirked.

"You came off well this year," he said, indicating her tottering pile.

"Having lots of brothers and the like," she said. "It's a pretty neat deal." She glanced at his pile. "You didn't do so badly yourself."

He snorted, not looking particularly impressed.

"I know what everything is already," he said dryly. "My mother never knows what to get so she asks me what I want and gets me what I ask for."

"Oh," Ginny said, although she wasn't really surprised. He had told her a bit about his family the previous night and they didn't sound especially caring or festive. "That – doesn't sound like much fun," she ventured a minute later.

"Good guess," he retorted, although without much venom. He glanced at her pile again. "And you?"

"Oh, I know that I've got another Weasley jumper," she smiled. "The rest, though – no idea." A thought occurred to her. "Draco, suppose you open my presents and I open yours?"

"What?" He looked surprised. "Why?"

"I have no idea what you got and you have no idea what I got," she said with a shrug. "Might be fun to be surprised, at least."

Draco paused for a moment.

"Fine," he said at last, reaching out and pulling the first package off the top of her pile. Ginny grinned and took a large, square parcel from the top of his. Always impatient, she ripped the beautiful silver paper off and impatiently tossed the lid of the box inside to the floor. Inside were a matching set of gloves, scarf, hat, and socks. The latter three items were made of the softest wool Ginny had ever felt, while the gloves were lined dragon's hide. All were variations of the Slytherin House colors – the green was dark and the silver was bright against it.

"Okay," Ginny said slowly. "One present in and I'm already jealous."

"What? You'd want to be seen parading around in Slytherin colors?" Draco said dispassionately. Ginny glanced up at him, noting that the small box in his hands was hardly missing any wrapping.

"Of course not," Ginny said quickly, her eyes unwillingly returning to the box in her lap. "Only – oh, never mind." She didn't have hundred-Galleon winter clothing sets in her House colors, but at least she would have cared if she had. "What about my gift?" she demanded. "What's taking so long?"

"Ginger, it's been years since I opened a gift and didn't already know what was inside," Draco said sharply. "Let me enjoy it, will you?"

"But I wanna know …" Ginny whined, watching as his long fingers picked carefully at the tape against the pale gold tissue paper. He freed one strip, then another. "Errgh!" Ginny reiterated impatiently.

Draco glanced up at her, and grinned amusedly. "Patience is a virtue, little Weasel," he said imperiously.

"You can take you patience and –" Ginny began hotly. He was definitely taunting her now. "And don't call me Weasel!" She reached out to snatch the small package from him but he pulled easily out of reach.

"Miss Weasley," he said in shocked tones. "Violence will get you nowhere! Behave like the lady you are. We wouldn't want an episode like last night's, would we?"

"I'm sure if I asked Dobby, he would dig me up some more icing," Ginny retorted, sinking back in her chair.

"Why, Miss Weasel, I meant the Mistletoe!"

"Shut up."

"You're ears are red."

"Shut up."

Draco subsided in sniggers and continued his painstakingly slow opening her present. Ginny glowered at him, willing the heat in her ears to recede. Finally, as neither Draco nor her ears seemed at all inclined to cooperate with her, she returned her attention to Draco's gifts and reached for another. It was smaller and squishy. Ginny squeezed it a couple of times, until curiosity overcame patience. She ripped the brown packing paper away, then the dark blue paper beneath, unfolding what appeared to be a stuffed Kneazle.

"Er – Malfoy," she began uncertainly, glancing from the plush toy up to Draco, who had an arrested look about his features. "You didn't – um, did you ask for a stuffed Kneazle for Christmas, did you?"

"Give me that," he commanded, putting out his free hand.

"Um … how about no?" Ginny said, a slow grin spreading across her face.

"Ginny …" he said warningly.

"Draco …" she retorted, eyeing the as-yet-unopened package in his lap meaningfully.

"Unless you wish to be very sorry indeed, I suggest you hand me that Kneazle," Draco said dangerously, getting to his feet and carefully setting aside Ginny's unwrapped gift.

"Or you'll what?" Ginny asked, getting up as well and backing just out of reach. "Throw a tantrum? Suck your thumb?"

He growled and lunged, but Ginny wasn't a Quidditch player for nothing and dodged easily.

"Violence, then?" she teased from the other side of the scrubbed wooden table.

"Don't make me resort to drastic measures, Weasley."

"Ooh, now I'm scared."

Draco snapped his fingers.

"Elves. Frosting. Now!"

Ginny gaped at him. "You wouldn't dare!"

Draco grinned a shiny, shark-toothed grin.

"Hello? Draco Malfoy," he said, as Dobby, Winky, and Crinkle deposited tubes of icing into his outstretched hand with identical looks of glee on their faces. "Now, Ginger," Draco said, as the elves beat a hasty retreat. "Hand over the Kneazle. Nice and easy."

"Why is it so important to you?" Ginny wanted to know, still gripping the plush toy. She was getting attached, after all.

"Why is it so important to you?" Draco asked, advancing menacingly. "Present snatcher."

"Fine, fine!" Ginny conceded, tossing him the Kneazle in fear of another hair disaster like that of the night before. Hours and hours in the shower and she still wasn't convinced that her long hair was clean.

"You're far too trusting," Draco said, catching the Kneazle and setting it far out of her reach and continuing his advances with an evil gleam in his eyes.

"Ooh!" Ginny said indignantly, fumbling behind her for the door handle. "You're such a – if I had my wand –"

"Don't you? Dear, dear."

"You're despicable! Do you have any idea how long it took to get the frosting out of my hair last night?"

"Pity you're not wearing that shirt you had on last night. Then I wouldn't have to go for the hair."

Ginny found the door handle, turned it, and slid out the door, pulling it shut behind her before turning and dashing away across the frozen courtyard. Unfortunately, she hadn't taken into consideration the snowfall of the night before and almost immediately slipped on the icy bricks. Draco, right behind her, let out a yell and grabbed her around the waist. Slipping and sliding, they landed in a mass of tangled limbs in a snow bank. Seconds after impact, Ginny felt something slimy and cold on her back.

"Malfoy!" she shrieked, arching against the feeling of icing slithering up the back of her shirt.

"Sorry! If it helps, I think I got some in my eye!"

Ginny twisted awkwardly to look down into his face, which was quite near, and couldn't help laughing. Apparently, when they had hit the ground, Draco had compulsively squeezed both hands. One had been on her waist, which explained the frosting up the back. The other hand had apparently been outstretched the break his fall. The result was a streak of frosting running from his collarbone into his hairline. Draco scraped most of the icing off his face, but didn't bother with any of the below-the-neck stuff.

"Why does this feel familiar?" Ginny inquired rhetorically.

"Yes," Draco said darkly. "The snow, the frosting. The wet trousers. Does sort of ring a bell." He looked up at her, a slow smile on his lips. If Ginny hadn't known it was Draco Malfoy, she might have thought it was hesitant.

"The frosting down the shirt," she continued softly, scrutinizing him.

"The redhead on top of me," Draco went on thoughtfully. "Oh, wait. I don't remember that part." He continued to look over her face, as if searching for something. "Ginger and icing. Huh. Can't seem to have one without the other."

"What?"

Draco grinned a dangerous sort of grin.

"You do taste nice together."

"Draco Malfoy, is that a line?"

"A crooked one, at that."

Ginny grinned and Draco's face relaxed into a lazy smirk. He snaked his hand up to caress the back of her neck and drew her face to his.

"But, wait," Ginny said. He was so close that his face was a blur.

"What?" he demanded impatiently, though his voice was pitched as low as hers.

"There's no Mistletoe."

"Oh, for –" Though she could not see him clearly, she knew he was glowering at her. "Fine. Elves!"

"No, no, that's all right!" Ginny said quickly, clamping her hand over his mouth. Ginny felt his lips stretch across her palm in a satisfied smile. He kissed her palm, his eyes not leaving hers. Slowly, he pulled her hand away, kissing her knuckles before lacing their fingers together and using his free hand to drawn her face to his. The kiss was unhurried and sweet (not words Ginny would ever normally have associated with Draco Malfoy), and tasted of the spun icing that formerly streaked Draco's pale face. Ginny smiled against Draco's lips.

"Mmm," was all she could immediately manage when he pulled away at last.

"See?" Draco said, sounding a bit breathless. "Everything is better with icing."

"Muh," Ginny said agreeably, unable to tear her eyes from his lips. In an effort to make her brain work, she thought about the events that had precipitated this little snow bath. "Draco?" she said, and nearly groaned when he trailed a stream of feathery kisses across her cheek to her ear. "Draco?"

"Hmm?" he hummed into her ear.

"Why? Why the – the – the – oh, dear." Her higher brain functions had promptly cut out as he began doing interesting things with her earlobe.

"Take you time," he chuckled against her neck.

"You, too," she invited with what she would later disgustedly recognize as very little pride and a good deal of eagerness.

"Really, though," she tried again a few minutes later, taking advantage of momentarily free lips. She was still having a hard time thinking, due to his hand sliding up and down her left side. "The – the Kneazle! Why the Kneazle, Draco?"

He stilled and stared up at her.

"You still on about that?" he said, eyeing her inscrutably.

"Curious," Ginny managed

"Too curious," he corrected, twisting and rolling her over so that she was pinned on the snow beneath him. Then he grinned a wicked little grin that made Ginny's ears go very red indeed. But now that the word Kneazle was out there, Ginny wasn't to be so easily distracted.

"Curious, I may be," she said, holding him back with both hands when he began to eye her neck in a decidedly hungry way. "But you're being evasive and I want to know why."

He stopped moving and, to Ginny's surprise, a splash of pink appeared on each of his high cheekbones.

"Stupid," he mumbled.

"Sorry?" Ginny said, leaning closer.

"Just a stupid idea," he muttered sullenly, rolling off her and sitting hunched over in the snow. Ginny sat up beside him, watching him closely.

"Look," she said at last. "It's no big deal. So you asked for a stuffed Kneazle for Christmas. They're cute. They're fuzzy. Who cares –?"

"It wasn't for me!" he snapped.

Ginny stared at him. "I don't get it." She caught a look at his profile as his lip twitched. "Not a word. Don't you say a word."

"I wasn't going to say anything," he said with dignity, sticking his aristocratic nose in the air.

"Of course not," Ginny said, frowning up at him. "Now what's this about the Kneazle?"

"Ooh, but you are nosy," he said, the sulk returning to his voice.

"Who's it for if it isn't for you?" she prodded mercilessly.

"Crinkle, of course," he said sarcastically. When she continued to stare at him like a goose, he snapped, "Put it together, Ginger, it's supposed to be for you."

"I – but – you –?" Ginny said articulately.

"I couldn't have put it better myself." Now he was definitely laughing at her. Or at least, smirking in an aggravatingly superior way.

"Draco," Ginny said sharply, pushing herself up into a sitting position and turning her head to watch his expression closely. "Why in the world do you get me –"

"A Kneazle?" Draco cut in sharply. "Duh – girls like fluffy things with large ears that bear remarkable resemblances to overgrown cats."

"Yes, I think we've established that," Ginny said with a straight face. "I do appear to quite like being around you."

"Oh, very clever," Draco groused. He finally turned an offended glare on her. "That was below the belt and extremely bad sportsmanship, Weasel."

"Who's hitting below the belt? What have I said about calling me Weasel?" Ginny returned his offended look with one of her own. "Anyway, I wasn't going to ask why you got me a Kneazle. I was going to ask why you got me a present. How did you find the time? We only really sorted of … well, became friends last night."

"And yet we've come so far …" Draco said with a wicked look, leaning invitingly forward.

"No, no, no!" Ginny said, jumping to her feet and nearly toppling herself as she slipped on ice. "That trick is low and dirty and it won't work again. Answer my question immediately!"

"I was always sort of … inspired by authoritarian attitudes in women," he began. Ginny blushed at the insinuation, but glared threateningly at him until he held up his hands defensively. "All right, all right! Merlin, you're violent, Ginger!"

"Your point?"

Draco snorted. "The present. Look, it's really not a big deal. Like I said, it's stupid –"

"No, it isn't," Ginny said, softening as the sullen, caught-with-a-hand-in-the-cookie-jar look appeared again on his pale face. She carefully returned to the snow bank, reaching for his hand. He didn't resist when she twined her fingers through his. "How did you know that Kneazles are my favorite animals?"

"Oh, you know," he said, a trace of the old drawl back in his voice. "When you are the great Draco Malfoy, leader of Slytherins, master of Quidditch –"

"Sorry I asked," Ginny said, rolling her eyes and biting her lip against a laugh. It died as she said guiltily, "I didn't even think to get you anything."

"Well, not everyone has my foresight," he said haughtily, squeezing her fingers. He shivered. "Look, this is all very endearing and romantic and rubbish, but I'm freezing, Ginger. Let's take this romantic moment inside, shall we?"

"You'll never be romantic a moment in your life, Malfoy," Ginny assured him, allowing him to help her to her feet. "Know any good drying charms?"

He adopted a disdainful look.

"Why bother when the House Elves can do them for me?"

"That'd be a no, then?"

"Shut up."

Together, they slipped and slid their way across the frozen courtyard to the kitchen door. Ginny took a last look out at the serene scenery and couldn't suppress a smile. The courtyard looked pristine, its pathways glittering in the weak morning sun that was trying to push its way through the dull grey clouds. The fountain, charmed to continue flowing even in sub-arctic conditions, burbled and sang as if proud to contrast so sharply with the still landscape all around.

Ginny's laughter had come when her eyes fell on the entrance to the courtyard, which bore evidence of a tussle and a layering of footprints. Such desecration to such beauty might once have saddened her, as it sometimes did when she was at home and her brothers used all the snow in the backyard to build armies of mutant snowmen, leaving nothing but crushed grass on the ground where once had rested a fresh, glistening blanket of new snow.

"Something on your mind, Ginger?" Draco asked.

"No, not really," she said, grinning at him. He rolled his eyes.

"Well, come on, then! I'm like a Malfoy popsicle! If I don't defrost soon, my hair might get fluffy."

"Oh, what horror."

"Below the belt again, Ginger." And Draco looked mortally affronted. It was a look she could adjust to with great enjoyment, Ginny thought.

"Master and Miss, you mustn't be getting so damp!" wailed a voice in dismay. Abruptly, Ginny was separated from Draco in a whirl of House Elf arms. The next thing she knew, she was in a seat in front of the blazing kitchen fire. A thick wool blanket was around her shoulders and Winky was curling her stiff, frozen fingers around a mug of steaming liquid.

"Miss had best be drinking that, Miss had!" Dobby said threateningly as he settled a bemused Draco into a chair beside Ginny and forced a similar mug on him.

"Here you are, Miss," Crinkle said eagerly, appearing at Ginny's elbow with a plate of gingerbread.

"Thanks," Ginny said, accepting a large piece and taking a sip from her mug. The liquid had a sharp, sweet taste and sent a warm tingle from her left ear to her right pinky toe. Almost immediately, she felt the warmth of the kitchen seep through the icy wet of her clothes.

"This has Fire Whiskey in, doesn't it?" Draco demanded, eyeing his mug appreciatively.

"We is having no idea what you is meaning, Master Draco," Dobby said blandly. Ginny saw him glance at Winky with a twinkle in his eye.

"You aren't to tell anyone, mind, but I really never gave these elves the credit they deserve," Draco murmured to Ginny, looking almost embarrassed. "Wonder where they got Fire Whiskey."

"No idea," Ginny said, taking another gulp of the hot liquid in the cup and feeling the warmth spread through her in a way that was additionally emotional. "Crinkle," she said suddenly to the elf, who was forcing more gingerbread on Draco. Draco didn't appear to need much convincing. "Crinkle, will you fetch the – my new stuffed Kneazle from the table in there?" she asked, pointing to the little room. "I want a cuddle." She caught Draco sniggering into his tea.

"Wait, let me guess," she said, eyeing him shrewdly. "You know where I might find a good cuddle."

"I might," he said, meeting her eye with a mischievous one of his own.

"Well, not until I'm into some dry clothes," Ginny said firmly, accepting her stuffed Kneazle from Crinkle with a nod of thanks and hugging the animal (yes, it was definitely a boy stuffed Kneazle) to her chest.

"The elves can – " Draco began in piteous tones.

"No," Ginny said self-righteously. "We are the ones who foolishly went out in the snow without proper attire. Anyway, I don't wish to wear this ridiculous jumper for the rest of the day. I think I'll go up to Gryffindor and change in a few minutes."

"Then do I get a cuddle?" he wheedled, turning big irresistible grey eyes on her.

She smiled reluctantly. "We'll see." Draco scowled. Ginny pretended to consider. "Perhaps if Leopold and I can bear to be parted –"

"Leopold?" Draco demanded. "You've named it Leopold? Good lord, could you possibly have settled on an uglier name?"

"What? I can call him Leo for short," Ginny said affectionately, giving her new inanimate pet a squeeze.

"I'm rife with envy," Draco deadpanned, covering his heart unenthusiastically with his hand. "With competition like that, how will I ever stay in the running?" He leaned toward Ginny. "If I can persuade you to tear yourself apart from Leopold for a brief moment, you might notice the little pocket on his front."

Ginny set Leo on her knee and took a look at his belly. He did indeed have a flat little pocket stitched into him. Ginny glanced at Draco uncertainly. He looked mildly annoyed. "What, do you need an instruction manual, Ginger?" he said impatiently. "Look inside."

Ginny harrumphed at him, but obligingly put her hand into the pocket and felt around. Something cool brushed her fingers and she withdrew her hand.

She gaped.

In her hand she held a silver necklace, glittering with magic. The chain wasn't long; perhaps long enough to fit around her neck with give. It was true silver, not the dark, dull grey of sterling silver. But Ginny's eyes soon left the chain for the charm hanging from it.

It was a flat silver replica of Draco's gingerbread house that she could still see on the table.

Ginny grinned, staring down at the sloping roof, the tiny dots that she somehow knew to be the oh-so-carefully set gumdrops, the intricate web of frosting that held it all together. The roof even glittered with the sprinkles Ginny had helped Draco add. Magic illuminated the silver, giving it color.

"It's lovely," seemed a poor expression of gratitude.

"It's nothing special," Draco muttered, sounding uncomfortable. "I just didn't want you to think I'd let you forget this."

"Forget what? That was the best Christmas Eve I've ever had and Christmas Day is shaping up to be brilliant as well." Ginny smiled, knowing that Draco had no desire for lengthy thanks or expressions of gratitude. Instead, she moved to fasten the chain around her neck. Suddenly, she paused. "Is this an amulet, Draco?" she asked, realizing that the magic might be for more than show.

"Maybe," he said evasively. She raised an eyebrow. "Fine," he growled. "It does have a few magical qualities." He sobered. "It's a dangerous world, Ginger."

She smiled. "But for now, that doesn't concern us. And when I look at this, I'll remember being down here and not worrying about any of that."

"Very sentimental," Draco said in a voice that might have been contemptuous if Ginny hadn't recognized the grim satisfaction in it.

"No; very nostalgic," she corrected, fastening the clasp at last and getting to her feet. "Mind if I ask where you got it?"

"Overnight owl order, of course," Draco said, as though it were obvious. "How it got mixed in with Mother's gifts to me, I don't –" he broke off, his face a mask of dawning comprehension. "Elves!" he bellowed.

"Cheeky little blighters," Ginny murmured as Dobby, Winky, and Crinkle assembled in front of Draco with looks of pure innocence on their faces, apparently unconcerned at his interrogative look. Ginny listened to him shout with a smile, glancing down at Leo. Her smile slipped a little.

"I didn't get you anything," she murmured to Draco, aware that he probably couldn't hear her over his own raised voice.

"Of all the ill-conceived, sneaky, boar-headed stunts!" he was shouting. "You mock my dignity and shall pay!I can't believe – what, Weasley?"

"Oh," Ginny said, caught off-balance at suddenly having his attention. "I was just saying that I didn't get anything for you for Christmas." She sighed.

"I've got plenty – I don't want anything, Ginger," he said, his voice softening a bit. He waggled an eyebrow. "Except a cuddle."

"Yeah, yeah," Ginny said, getting to her feet. "Well, I'd best go and … change …" she trailed off. Sitting on a counter just behind her was something that made her frown for a moment before a slow smile began to spread across her face. She reached down and scooped the lone frosting tube into her hand. Then she turned to face Draco. He was watching her incredulously, probably trying to sort out why she seemed suddenly caught up in a hose of green icing. Possibly he was wondering if they were in for another frosting war. Ginny met his gaze with a grinned. Then she tilted her head back and forced a swirl of the green goo into her open mouth.

"Weasley, I've told you, that's really vile," Draco said, watching with unholy fascination as she squelched the frosting around her mouth, reveling in the vanilla sweetness. She ignored Draco, letting the icing dissolve and ooze down her throat. Then she moved to stand in front of Draco. She took the briefest moment to watch his face, which even the night before might have been unfathomable to her. Now she saw meaning. She saw a person, she saw fault lines, she saw humanity. She saw icing.

Smiling, she leaned down and kissed him. He didn't reach for her, but let her guide the kiss. She let him soak in the taste of the frosting, and then pulled away.

"There's your present," she said briskly. "Happy Christmas, Draco. I'll be back in a few minutes. Try not to kill the elves while I'm gone. And take good care of my baby." She reached over and plucked Leo from her chair, settling him in Draco's lap for safekeeping before she turned away.

She was almost to the door out of the kitchens when Draco spoke.

"You see, elves?" he said, and Ginny could hear his smirk. "It's the best of both worlds, Ginger and icing."


This didn't turn out at all like I wanted, but for some reason, I still like it. I hope you all enjoyed it, too. "Bridging the Gap" is drawing to a close, "Bend It" has a loffly new chapter in the works that I just dug out of a delightful writer's block (thank the lord), and a newly updated chapter of "Sometimes, I Even Amaze Myself" should be on its way to my beta soon.

Happy Christmas!