December 22, 2015
Author's Note: Written for Boogum in the DG Forum's Secret Santa Gift-Fic Exchange 2015! My three-word prompt was "scarf, window, blush." This turned into a meandering monster, but I hope it's entertaining all the same. :) Reviews appreciated!

~*The Twelve Knights of Christmas*~

On the first day of Christmas
My true love gave to me...

A car cut in front of the purple, triple-decker bus, but Ginny didn't bat an eye. As if frightened, the car jumped out of the bus's path, preventing the disastrous collision that would have occurred had the Knight Bus not been enchanted. Ginny lifted her mug of hot cocoa to her lips and took a delicate sip, hissing when the scalding beverage burned her tongue. She returned the mug to the cup holder in the console with a frown.

The windshield wipers worked furiously to clear the front window of snow, which was a nice, though unnecessary, gesture, Ginny thought. She'd been the driver of the Knight Bus for two weeks and hadn't had an accident yet, not even when she'd plowed down the M1 during a traffic jam, heedless of the stalled cars that littered the motorway. She'd even charged through a toll once without stopping to pay; the entire tollbooth had jumped out of her way to avoid her. So while she appreciated the windshield wipers and their tireless work attempting to increase Ginny's visibility, there was no need for the bus to go to such lengths. Magic was on her side.

Until the bump. Ginny had swerved and sped down roads, but so far her ride had always been smooth. Coursing down a deserted country road, Ginny hummed a tune when the Knight Bus jerked and rocked violently. Decidedly unsmooth. It happened again a moment later as the back wheels hit the bump, too, and shocked by this sudden turn of events, after two weeks of safe, magical maneuvering, she stopped the bus in the middle of the road.

A harsh wind blew snow into the bus as she opened the door and stepped out. She peered down the road, squinting against the chill. Her eyes had already begun to sting and water. She couldn't remember the last time she'd experienced a cold this sharp.

There was something at the end of the bus, a dark lump obscured by the wildly swirling snow. As she watched, a figure lifted itself off the ground with a moan that was carried up to her on the wind.

She gasped and raced to the end of the bus.

"Sir! Sir! Are you all right?" she called.

"No, I'm bloody well NOT all right! I just got hit by a bus!"

The man turned, and Ginny stepped back, wondering what she had done to be punished by fate this way.

Draco Malfoy glared at her, his teeth clenched from anger or pain, Ginny couldn't tell. And even though she knew the situation was dire indeed, she had to stifle a laugh at his appearance. His usually meticulously groomed hair was disheveled and soggy, covering his eyes and dripping onto his shoulders. He was coated with snow from his eyebrows to his shiny black shoes, looking like an abominable snowbeast Luna had told her about once.

"You couldn't have got hit by a Knight Bus," Ginny said with more composure than she felt. Her heart was racing. She couldn't afford to lose this job, not until she'd saved up for her mum's Christmas present.

"Well, I did! If I hadn't used a shield spell at the last second, I would have been roadkill!"

Ginny rolled her eyes. Why, oh why, did Malfoy have to test her like this today? Her day had been going so well until a few moments ago. Because of the snow, she'd hardly had any customers at all, so she'd spent most of her afternoon cruising through the countryside, drinking hot chocolate and listening to tunes.

"It's not possible for a Knight Bus to hit someone, Malfoy," Ginny explained patiently. "You see, it's enchanted. With magic. Everything jumps out of its way."

Malfoy limped closer, and this time Ginny stood her ground, though the limp did worry her for a moment. But that moment passed when she remembered how he had exaggerated his injury after he'd provoked Buckbeak the hippogriff to attack him in her second year. If she knew Malfoy—and though she hadn't spoken to him since they'd left Hogwarts, she did feel quite assured that she knew him well—he had manufactured this accident in order to extort her.

"It's enchanted with magic!" he said in a mocking voice. "I'm not an idiot, Weasley. I'm aware of how the Knight Bus works, but the fact remains that you struck and injured me. I'm going to have to report this. Don't think there won't be an enquiry into this matter, because I will do everything in my power to see that you no longer continue to drive the Knight Bus or any other magical vehicle in Great Britain!"

He stomped back into the snow, but his flair for the dramatic came back to bite him in the arse as he hissed with every other step, stomping with one leg and limping with the other.

Ginny stared after him, her mouth hanging open in gobsmacked frustration. "Who do you think you are to try and get me fired!" she yelled, her hands shaking.

He spun with a flourish of his cloak. "Merely the undersecretary to Henrietta Edgecomb. You know her, I'm sure." His lips lifted in a devious smirk. "She's the Head of the Department of Magical Transportation and your boss."

With another flourish, he turned away once more and continued his arduous trek to wherever his destination.

Ginny's mouth finally closed, but her whole body had gone numb, a reaction that had nothing to do with the snow that continued to fall and accumulate at a great pace around her.

This was a disaster.

...An enquiry at the Ministry!

On the second day of Christmas
My true love gave to me...

The Knight Bus lurched to a stop in front of a red telephone booth, and as Ginny pulled the lever to open the door, she scowled.

"What are you doing here?" she asked as Draco climbed aboard.

He had a bit of difficulty entering the bus with the cast that covered his foot and half his calf. Ginny noticed five blue-ish toes peeking out of the cast from the hem of his robes before Draco twitched the material into place to cover them. He used a cane to help himself limp along.

"I'll be observing you for the next few days to make sure you maintain all safety standards established by the Department of Magical Transportation."

Ginny pulled the lever to close the bus doors. "I was already observed when I got the job. Obviously I passed or I wouldn't be driving now."

Draco settled into the first seat on the left, in just the right position for Ginny to see him out of the corner of her eye as she drove. And, of course, it was the perfect place for him to observe her driving as well as the expressions that passed her face while he annoyed her—as he undoubtedly would.

"Well, striking a pedestrian is grounds for another observation. Be lucky Madame Edgecomb didn't decide to fire you on the spot. After a week, if you've convinced me that you are a safe and reliable driver, I'll put in a good word for you. If not, you'll get the axe." He glanced around the empty bus with a critical eye. "Where's your conductor?"

"Stan went on vacation, same as Ernie. I wasn't assigned a replacement."

"No conductor, eh? That's no good." Malfoy reached into his robes and pulled out a clipboard, to which was pinned a sheet of parchment. Next he withdrew a self-inking quill from his pocket and began to scribble something down.

"For Merlin's sake!" Ginny said.

"Do you always speak to your customers as if they're annoyances? That's another point off."

Ginny glanced in the rear-view mirror before putting the bus in Drive. The git was smiling with so much glee, Christmas might have arrived early.

...Two points deducted
And an enquiry at the Ministry!

On the third day of Christmas
My true love gave to me...

Ginny kept her eyes lowered, focusing her attention on the suitcases she was trying to lift into the luggage compartment instead of on Malfoy, who sat at the window watching her from inside the bus. She could see the feather of his quill waving through the glass as he made some note on his obnoxious clipboard.

Ginny's fingers had gone numb from the lack of circulation due to the heavy bags as well as the cold, and she let the current suitcase she'd been wrangling drop to the ground again. "Mrs. Schuyler, you've exceeded the weight requirement for your luggage and you've brought along one too many bags. I'm afraid you're going to have to pay a fee or repack them."

Mrs. Schuyler, who stood ankle-deep in the snow wearing a housecoat and hair rollers as though she didn't notice the frigid weather, made a scoffing sound. "I have never had this kind of trouble with Mr. Shunpike. What a nice boy he is. He has never asked me to pay any sort of extra fee." Her eyes narrowed. "Are you trying to bully more money out of me? If that's the case, I'll report you straight to Magical Transportation! Don't think I won't!"

Ginny sighed in defeat and withdrew her wand to levitate all three bags into the luggage bin as she should have done from the start. She smiled at Mrs. Schuyler and said, "There. That should do it."

"That's what I thought," Mrs. Schuyler replied. She turned her nose up as she climbed aboard the Knight Bus and ascended to the second level to claim a seat.

As soon as Ginny sat back down in the driver's seat, she heard Malfoy's voice behind her. He'd moved to the other side of the bus to have the best view of Ginny struggling with the luggage, and now his voice, unexpectedly close as it was, sent a shiver down her spine.

"Those suitcases looked far too heavy. Did you perchance take an overage fee before Mrs. Schuyler boarded?" As if he hadn't watched the whole scene take place already!

"No," Ginny said, her jaw clenched in anger.

"Oh dear," Malfoy replied. "I'm afraid I'm going to have to take another point. You know, you could have avoided the whole mess with the luggage if you'd had a conductor."

Ginny made sure their trip was extra jerky that day.

...Three heavy suitcases
Two points deducted
And an enquiry at the Ministry!

On the fourth day of Christmas
My true love gave to me...

Malfoy had been unusually quiet throughout the morning, directing a pensive stare out the window instead of finding new points to deduct from Ginny's observation form.

She'd been waiting all day with tense shoulders and a steel grip on the Knight Bus's steering wheel for his next obnoxious jab at her driving, her customer service skills, or whatever he could find to annoy her about. He delivered no such jab.

By midday, Ginny had finally relaxed enough to turn the radio on, the volume soft as a whisper so Malfoy couldn't accuse her of driving distracted, and it didn't take long after that for her to start singing along.

"What is that nonsense?"

Ginny jumped at the sound of Malfoy's voice and jerked the steering wheel in surprise. She got control of the bus again before turning her head to glance at Malfoy.

"It's a Muggle Christmas carol. This radio only picks up Muggle stations."

"I wasn't talking about the music; I was talking about your singing." The git was smirking when she glanced in the rear-view mirror, but she didn't comment. "What kind of person gives gifts of partridges and pear trees for Christmas?" he continued.

"Maybe it's a Muggle tradition," Ginny said.

She turned the volume of the music up a little more, and both of them remained silent as they listened to the final round of the song, which listed twelve days of ridiculous Muggle gifts.

Malfoy shook his head. "Now, five golden rings, I understand. That's a perfectly acceptable gift." He ignored the choking scoff sound that fell out of Ginny's throat. "But ten leaping lords? Eight milking maids? I thought Muggles frowned upon treating people like objects?"

"And what's their obsession with birds?" Ginny added, fueled by the ludicrous nature of the song. "How many birds can one person own?"

"Hey, don't discriminate against birds just because you don't understand the appeal."

Ginny giggled. "Oh, right, I'd forgotten you've got albino peacocks. Though I think peacocks would make a better gift than calling birds, don't you?"

"What even is a calling bird?"

"Exactly!" Ginny answered with another giggle.

When she looked in the rear-view mirror again, Malfoy's lips were lifted in a smile that made her heart thud heavily against her rib cage. Then his eyes met hers in the mirror, and she blushed, returning her gaze to the road.

They remained silent for the rest of the day, the Christmas carols the only sound that filled the bus.

...A four-minute chat
Three heavy suitcases
Two points deducted
And an enquiry at the Ministry!

On the fifth day of Christmas
My true love gave to me...

Smoke billowed from the engine as Ginny raised the hood. She coughed into her gloves, turning her head from the fumes, and used her free hand to blow the smoke away so she could get a good look.

Unfortunately, Ginny knew nothing about Muggle mechanics and had no idea what she was even staring at.

She pointed her wand at the smoking engine and said, "Reparo!" Nothing seemed to change.

Malfoy swung his head out the door. "Oh, good effort, Weasley. Should I make note of your proficiency with automobile repairs in my observation? I'm not sure if that tidbit would help or hinder your case."

"Bugger off unless you know how to fix this!" Ginny said with another cough.

She took a step back, dismayed by her luck. This would happen while Malfoy was riding with her, wouldn't it? If she couldn't figure out how to get the Knight Bus started again, she would have to contact Magical Transportation to come out and retrieve it. She'd miss an entire day of work—or more!—waiting for some incompetent at the Ministry to fix it.

Malfoy muttered a water-wicking spell before disembarking the bus and lumbering through the snow to Ginny's side with cane in hand. He still wore the cast on his leg even though Ginny suspected his injury had been healed five days ago when he'd received it. Unless he'd opted not to see a Healer for it, which Ginny couldn't fathom. Malfoy had exaggerated a healed injury before; why would he keep one that could be easily fixed?

He took a look at the engine and grunted, though whether the sound was one of understanding or commiseration, Ginny couldn't tell.

He raised his wand in the air and called out, "Accio, toolbox!"

A muffled, heavy rattling sound could be heard moving through the bus until a red, metal toolbox burst out of an open window. It crashed into Malfoy, whose grunt became a loud groan, and threw him backwards onto the ground.

From the uppermost deck, a customer shoved his head out the open window. "When are we going to get moving? I'm a busy man, you know!"

"Then you should have chosen a faster mode of transportation!" Ginny called back up in irritation.

She ignored the man's hmph of disapproval and lowered a hand to help Malfoy up. For some reason, she was surprised when he accepted her help instead of plodding to his own feet with wounded pride. But perhaps accepting her hand was the more dignified choice to the tango he would have endured due to the cumbersome cast.

"Do you know what you're doing?" she asked, as he cast a spell to hover the toolbox in midair while he rifled through it.

"Believe it or not, this is not my first Knight Bus meltdown."

Ginny took a few steps back to let him work in peace, but her eyes kept returning to his face and the expression of deep concentration housed there. His gaze was focused as he inspected the engine and used a particular tool on it, and his lips were curved downwards in a frown, rapt by his work. Without the derision that he usually displayed, he looked like a completely different man. A serious man.

In fact, it only hit her just then how absurd it was to see Malfoy in an expensive, hand-sewn cloak and leather gloves—both of which probably cost more than her measly bus driving salary—hunched over the engine of a triple-decker bus on a country road in northern England. He gripped and used the tools with a confidence she never expected of him, and though his shoulders were obscured by a thick scarf and a cloak, she couldn't help but imagine how the muscles worked together as he cranked and turned wrenches and whatchamacallits.

Malfoy straightened up and returned the tool he'd just been using to the toolbox. "There, that should do it. Why don't you give it a crank and see if it starts."

When Ginny didn't move, his gaze turned to her, and she blushed to have been caught staring.

"Right," she said, her cheeks warm.

She jumped back into the driver's seat and turned the key in the ignition—then let out a whoop when the engine roared to life.

"Finally!" another customer seated at the back of the bus said. "If you hadn't spent so much time flirting, maybe we would have got back on the road sooner!"

Ginny didn't reply, but her blush deepened.

Malfoy closed the hood of the bus and used his wand to levitate the toolbox in front of him as he climbed aboard again.

Ginny grabbed it from the air and returned it to the compartment where it was usually kept on the second level. On her way back to the driver's seat, she stopped next to Malfoy. "Thanks. You saved me some days of missed work." If she didn't sound more grateful, it was only because she was reluctant to admit how much she appreciated his quick action.

"No problem at all, Weasley, but I am going to have mention your lack of mechanical skills on my form."

The git smirked, and Ginny's appreciation dried up in an instant.

...Fiiiiiive nuts and boooooolts!
A four-minute chat
Three heavy suitcases
Two points deducted
And an enquiry at the Ministry!

On the sixth day of Christmas
My true love gave to me...

Ginny's fingers tightened on the steering wheel as the Knight Bus plowed through a snow bank that had accumulated in the middle of the road. Though the bus was not prone to collisions, icy roads could still be potentially hazardous and always made her nervous. The night shift only heightened her apprehension. Snow, ice, and darkness were not a good combination for safe driving, which meant Ginny would need to concentrate even harder until her shift ended at four in the morning. Though the Knight Bus did not require much effort to drive, after (supposedly) hitting Malfoy six days ago, Ginny was extra cautious out on these country roads.

In fact, she was surprised when the Knight Bus was hailed in the same spot where she'd first seen Malfoy. She scowled when she opened the door to find the man himself waiting on the side of the road.

"Reminiscing?" Ginny asked, her tone sardonic.

"You do know that my house is right down that drive, don't you?" Malfoy replied, pointing behind him toward a driveway that led straight to the most obnoxiously ornate and the largest house Ginny had ever seen. The moon seemed to bathe Malfoy Manor in a spotlight of moonlight because the rest of the landscape was a shadowed abyss. The only way Ginny could tell the earth apart from the sky was the stars that twinkled brightly like a blanket of glitter from horizon to horizon and the snow that covered the ground reflecting the minimal light.

Her mouth gaped open, and Malfoy smirked.

"Yes," he continued as he pulled himself up into the bus, his good foot, his cast, and the cane making three different sounds as he stomped aboard, "you hit me right outside my own home. Can't a man check his mail in peace?"

"Your mail?" Ginny asked, the absurd statement snapping her out of her shock for a moment.

"Sometimes my family has need of the Muggle postal service." He shrugged as if this wasn't the most unexpected, the most un-Malfoy thing he could have said. "Your bus assaulted me while I was checking the mailbox."

She saw it now, right where Malfoy had been waiting. Six days ago, the snow had been coming down so hard, Ginny hadn't been able to see anything, not a mailbox, not Malfoy, and not Malfoy Manor in the distance. Her vision had been filled with white. Maybe she had somehow hit him with the bus….

Even in the darkness, Ginny could see the mailbox, Malfoy, and the manor now, of course, and her face burned at the thought that she had been so careless. She'd depended on the magic that made the Knight Bus work to such a degree that she hadn't bothered to be cautious herself.

She would never be so careless again.

The seats had been replaced with beds for the Knight Bus's night service, and Malfoy sat down on the first bed to his left, the same spot he'd sat in for the last four days.

Silence reigned between them as Ginny departed and Malfoy tried to make himself more comfortable. She drove carefully, much slower than usual, and she kept her eyes glued to the road before her, looking for any sign of life or any obstructions barring their way.

After a few minutes, Malfoy spoke.

"What are you doing driving the Knight Bus anyway? I thought you worked at your brother's joke shop?"

"How do you know that?" Ginny asked, her eyes never straying from the road.

"I've been in a couple times. Seen you there. Did you quit?"

"No," Ginny answered. "I picked up another job. There's a scarf I want to buy my mum for Christmas, but I needed a little extra income to afford it."

Her face burned at the admission. She'd been concentrating so hard on driving safely, she'd answered Malfoy's question without even thinking about who she was talking to. Then she took a deep breath to steady herself enough to finish what she started.

"I'm just working part-time through the Christmas season while Stan and Ernie are on holiday. I'm still picking up shifts at the joke shop when I'm not here."

Malfoy's silence irritated her as she filled in his lack of reply with an imagined reply of her own. Undoubtedly he was laughing to himself about how poor Ginny was that she had to take on two jobs just to afford Christmas presents. Unlike him, who didn't need a job to sustain himself and probably only worked in Magical Transportation as an amusing diversion. He probably didn't buy his own Christmas gifts, either. A servant or a house-elf or something probably did all the shopping and wrapping and decorating. Maybe Malfoy had no idea what Christmas spirit was all about.

The silence continued to irk her until she finally removed her eyes from the landscape outside the windshield to peek into the rear-view mirror. Malfoy was perched at the end of the bed, his back propped up by some pillows against the headboard. His arms were crossed over his chest, and a frown pulled his face down into an expression of deep thought.

She glanced away before he caught her looking, but she was confused by his reaction. No smirk, no smile of glee to hear about Ginny's financial situation, no supercilious expression. Nothing. Just a frown and a look of concentration.

"What about you?" Ginny asked when the silence became too much to bear. "What are you doing for Christmas?"

"Oh, nothing," he answered. "My parents left for a holiday a couple days ago, but I stayed home."

His response perplexed her with its honesty and lack of sarcasm or insult. "Why?"

She only knew his cheeks had grown pink because of another glance in the rear-view mirror. "They wanted to go sit on a beach somewhere, but it's not Christmas without snow."

"I'd say it's not Christmas without family," Ginny said, her heart aching at his reply.

He shrugged. "You've got more family than I do, so of course you'd say that."

Ginny automatically bristled, but there was no bite in the words, no slight intended, and she realized his parents' abandonment stung him more than he wished to admit.

Before she could stop herself, words fell out of her mouth, words that she should have regretted but couldn't.

"You should spend Christmas with my family, then."

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw movement as if he'd sat up straighter.

"Are you serious?"

Ginny shook her head, just slightly, just enough for her to clear her mind and be sure of what she was doing. "Yeah, unfortunately, I am. You said so yourself; I've got more family than you do. More family than most people need, right? Plenty of family to go around. You should join us."

Silence met her statement, but Ginny didn't push him. She figured he'd say no anyway, but at least she extended the invitation, right?

"It's just the most absurd thing I've ever heard!" he finally said in a baffled tone.

Ginny pressed on the brake until the Knight Bus rolled to a complete stop, and then she put the bus in park. She spun around in her seat to address Malfoy with her full, impassioned attention.

"No more absurd than hearing that there's a mailbox outside Malfoy Manor because the Malfoys use the Muggle post system! No more absurd than seeing you hobble around in a cast even though a Healer very well could have healed your injury for you. No more absurd than discovering that Muggles traditionally give gifts of geese and calling birds and partridges! I've heard and seen many absurd things in the last week, but my inviting you to my family home for Christmas was the least of them!"

She spun back around and put the bus into drive again, continuing their journey as if nothing had happened at all, even though her whole body flushed from her outburst. She didn't know why she wanted to make a charity case of Draco Malfoy of all people, but it was important to her that he knew he didn't have to spend Christmas alone.

As the bus trudged carefully down the snow-covered road, Ginny saw Malfoy settle back against the headboard out of the corner of her eye. A small smile graced his lips.

...A six-hour night shift
Fiiiiiive nuts and boooooolts!
A four-minute chat
Three heavy suitcases
Two points deducted
And an enquiry at the Ministry!

On the seventh day of Christmas
My true love gave to me...

The crash, when it happened, was sudden and unexpected, much like most car accidents, she supposed. (Never having participated in one before, Ginny had no experience to compare the incident to. She would have to remember to ask Harry and Ron about their adventure with the Ford Anglia again later.)

"What the hell!" someone cried. A male voice. Maybe Malfoy? Had to be Malfoy, there weren't any other passengers on the bus that she could remember.

Ginny's head pounded so ferociously, she almost mistook the car crash for a troll clubbing. Her eyes fluttered open to be sure of her surroundings, but the moonlight reflecting off the snow stabbed her retinas and forced her to close them again. She groaned and laid her head against the steering wheel, which emitted a single, continuous, blaring note from the punctured horn.

"Weasley, are you all right?"

She groaned again in response, which prompted a palm to cup her cheek and fingers to stroke her hair. It actually felt quite nice, nice enough that Ginny could drift off to sleep to dream of snow on her eyelashes and scarves and blue-ish, frosty toes.

Suddenly, that gentle hand smacked her cheek, just hard enough to startle her back awake. The light tormented her eyes again, but the sudden influx of sensations overwhelmed her, robbing her of the serenity that could have lulled her into unconsciousness.

"Keep your eyes open, Weasley. Don't you fall asleep on me."

Malfoy was on his knees next to her, blood gushing from his split lower lip and a shiny, red knot above his left eye.

Her eyelids drifted closed again, to which Malfoy said, "No, no, no. Don't do it! Tell me about the scarf you're going to buy with your Knight Bus money."

It took her a moment to remember, though how she could have forgotten, she wasn't sure.

"I saw it at Madame Malkin's," she said.

She let her eyes shut but focused on the feel of Malfoy's hand on her face, cold but soft. He must have taken off his gloves. Or maybe he hadn't been wearing any? She couldn't remember and didn't care. She suddenly realized he had an arm wrapped around her somehow. Oh, she wasn't sitting in the driver's seat anymore. He'd pulled her out of the chair and into his lap. When had that happened?

"What did it look like?" he asked, his voice surprisingly calm. Still, there was a firmness in it, and in his grip, that suggested he would not let her drift away from him, and that was quite a nice feeling, too.

"Orange. Soft. So soft. Like a pygmy puff, but softer. Like Crookshanks, but curlier. So orange."

"Hey," he said, shaking her a bit as her voice meandered. "That sounds like a dog or something, not a scarf."


She couldn't resist unconsciousness when her face was pressed against Malfoy's warm chest and his cloak was draped around them both and his fingers were stroking her cheeks, her hair, her lips.

Just a little nap. Five minutes, tops.

...Seven bumps and bruises
A six-hour night shift
Fiiiiiive nuts and boooooolts!
A four-minute chat
Three heavy suitcases
Two points deducted
And an enquiry at the Ministry!

On the eighth day of Christmas
My true love gave to me...

Ginny's eyes opened to the worried face of her mother, hair askew and housecoat wrinkled from, supposedly, sitting in a chair all night.

"Arthur—Arthur, she's awake!"

Ginny's field of sight continued to widen as she regained her faculties and took stock of her surroundings. Nearly her entire family was packed into the room, and all of them jumped out of chairs and stepped away from windows to approach the bed to inspect Ginny for themselves.

Bill and Fleur stood at the foot of the bed with their toddler, Victoire. Percy and George stood at Ginny's right, eyes creased with worry. Her parents were at her left, her mum sitting in an armchair that had been pulled up to the bedside, and her dad standing, grasping one of her mother's hands. Ron, Hermione, and Harry filled in the open spots, expressions of relief on their faces.

"What happened?"

"You were in an accident," her father said as he patted her knee. "You must have lost control on the ice. The Knight Bus hit a tree."

Ginny struggled to sit up, but her mother was there before she collapsed against the mattress again, tucking a pillow behind her to make her more comfortable. "That's not possible. The Knight Bus is enchanted."

Another voice sounded from the doorway. "You keep saying that."

Malfoy walked into the room, and as the Weasleys parted to see who had arrived, Ginny saw that the cane he'd been carrying for the last several days was missing, and the cast on his leg had been removed. A closer inspection of his face showed that his new injuries, the split lip and the knot on his head, had also been healed.

He lodged himself between Arthur and Harry, a smirk on his lips just for Ginny. "Why can't you accept that magic isn't infallible?"

"What are you doing here?" Ginny asked, though her family looked neither surprised nor angry at his presence.

"As a representative of Magical Transportation, I came to let you know that your Knight Bus has had a cursory inspection. Its enchantments were out of date, which was no fault of yours. That's why you've been having these accidents. I'll no longer need to observe you, so as soon as your bus has been fully inspected and re-enchanted, you can get back on the road."

"How long could that take?"

"With the holidays only a few days away, you probably won't be operational again until after Christmas."

Ginny's stomach sank. "It will be too late by then," she said with a groan.

Malfoy's smirk deflated into a frown. He knew why it was so important for Ginny to work before Christmas, and being in St. Mungo's had already lost her some hours at the joke shop, too. She would never earn the money she needed to buy her mother's Christmas present in time.

"All right now," Mrs. Weasley said with a glare at the group surrounding the hospital bed. "I think it's time for Ginny to get some rest. The sooner she heals up, the sooner she can come home."

"I'll take my leave, then," Malfoy said at once.

Her father held out his hand to him, which Draco stared at in confusion for a moment before returning the handshake.

"I want to thank you for being with Ginny after the accident and staying with her until we arrived. You have no idea how relieved we are that she wasn't out there on that icy road unconscious and alone. Thank you, Draco."

Malfoy's cheeks pinked at the attention showered over him. "Er, it was no problem. Really."

"You must join us for dinner on Christmas Eve. I insist you do," Mrs. Weasley chimed in.

Ginny's eyes widened. Matching expressions of shock were echoed on the faces throughout the room, including Malfoy's.

"Er, sure. I suppose I can drop by for a moment," he said.

"Wonderful!" Arthur and Molly replied, smiles lighting their faces.

As Malfoy and Ginny's friends and siblings filed out of the room, Ginny closed her eyes. Alone in the hospital room, she began to laugh at the absurd conversation that had just taken place.

But it had been no more absurd than Ginny inviting Malfoy to the Burrow for Christmas herself a couple days ago, so she laughed even harder.

...Eight worried Weasleys
Seven bumps and bruises
A six-hour night shift
Fiiiiiive nuts and boooooolts!
A four-minute chat
Three heavy suitcases
Two points deducted
And an enquiry at the Ministry!

On the ninth day of Christmas
My true love gave to me…


Sorry for running you over with the Knight Bus. But as you said yourself, I was not at fault. Looks like you finally healed up though!


. . .


Just because the enchantments weren't working properly does not mean I will not continue to blame you for injuring my very expensive person. You should count yourself lucky I am not pressing charges or suing you.


. . .


It is the Ministry you should be considering for a lawsuit as it is their duty to keep the Knight Buses up to date on their enchantments, not mine! In fact, since I was also injured in this last accident, I think we could file a joint suit, which might make our case even stronger. I'll have to ask Hermione about it. As an employee in the DMLE, she'll know the ins and outs of the court system.


. . .

I have to admit, this conniving side of you is hot. Please, tell me more about your plans to extort money from the government.


. . .

Ginny stared at Malfoy's letter, wondering how much of it was a joke. Surely all of it? Yes, they were only teasing each other about the accident. That was all. He was jesting; he did not think she was hot.

But what if he did? Her whole body warmed at the thought as she let herself imagine just for a moment that they weren't just teasing each other, that they were flirting. She giggled. The potions she was taking were behind these ridiculous thoughts. They had to be.


I'll admit I haven't got a conniving bone in my body. All I must do is ask myself "What would Malfoy do?" and then suddenly I become a master of extortion.

I just asked myself that very question, and now I am overcome with the desire to cry all my woes to my father. But as he hasn't got much pull in the Ministry, that seems like a futile endeavor—at least toward the end of getting money out of the Ministry.

Your turn. What would Draco Malfoy do?


. . .

...I would indeed run to my father. Alas, he is out of the country until the new year, so it seems we are stuck suffering with our injuries until he returns.


. . .

Your injuries have been healed, Malfoy. It will be difficult to prove these accidents have lowered your quality of life when you don't have a single scratch on your body. I think we should accept that the Ministry is not going to give us a single Knut for the harm they've caused us.

And what do you need money for anyway?


. . .

I know your simple family doesn't understand the concept of wealth, but the more money you have, the more you win at life.

And who said I don't have a scratch on my body? I'll have you know that the bones in my leg ache in the cold. I never had this problem before you crushed it under the savage wheels of your Knight Bus! And I limp! Or, at least, I can pretend to limp. See? I'm still very much injured.


. . .

You know, I'm starting to think we shouldn't put such words on paper. If anyone got ahold of these letters, we'd REALLY be in trouble for conspiring to extort the Ministry.

...Perhaps we should move this conversation to a private, face-to-face meeting?

. . .

Ginny waited for a response that never came.

Maybe he was offended she'd taken the initiative instead of waiting for him to make the first move. Maybe he was laughing at her for daring to ask him out in such a blunt manner. Maybe the very thought of meeting her in person, for a reason other than work, after a series of teasing, maybe-flirtatious letters was disgusting to him.

Had she read that flirtatious tone in his letters incorrectly? She didn't know because her silly question had been met with silence.

Which she was going to think about obsessively until she saw him again.

...Nine letters sending
Eight worried Weasleys
Seven bumps and bruises
A six-hour night shift
Fiiiiiive nuts and boooooolts!
A four-minute chat
Three heavy suitcases
Two points deducted
And an enquiry at the Ministry!

On the tenth day of Christmas
My true love gave to me…

Ginny was back at work at the joke shop as soon as she was released from St. Mungo's. She'd even picked up an extra shift to try to make up for the hours lost while in recovery, but she knew she didn't have enough time to make the money she needed.

She wished she could say the conundrum of her mum's Christmas present was at the forefront of her mind, but when a vial of Weather in a Bottle slipped out of her hand and shattered on the floor, causing a miniature snow storm inside the shop, it was Malfoy she was thinking of.

A jar of U-No-Poo, three bottles of Ten-Second Pimple Vanisher, two Decoy Detonators, and three Screaming Yo-yos later, George sent her home in concern that she hadn't healed up enough (or that her prescribed potions had detrimental side effects).

So Ginny returned to the Burrow and boredom… and too much time left alone thinking.

...Ten broken products
Nine letters sending
Eight worried Weasleys
Seven bumps and bruises
A six-hour night shift
Fiiiiiive nuts and boooooolts!
A four-minute chat
Three heavy suitcases
Two points deducted
And an enquiry at the Ministry!

On the eleventh day of Christmas
My true love gave to me…

The day before Christmas Eve was the busiest day of the year for Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes. Ginny didn't have a single moment to think about Malfoy's radio silence or the Christmas gift she still hadn't bought for her mum. The constant flow of customers kept a smile on her face and her mind occupied on business matters instead.

There was a lull just before closing. Ginny restocked a display of Patented Daydream Charms, her attention now focused on making the display presentable once more after a day of near-constant crowds and careless customers.

"Eleven, please," a voice said from the other side of the display.

Her gaze lifted to meet the mercurial depths of Draco Malfoy's eyes, where a playful glint sparkled.

Ginny's face reddened. "What are you doing here?"

"I was doing a bit of shopping when I saw you through the window. Thought I'd stop by for a last minute purchase."

"Of Daydream Charms?" Ginny asked, her eyebrow lifting as Malfoy inspected the packaging of a limited edition Christmas-themed charm.

"Does it shock you to know I like to fantasize?"

Ginny's already-red cheeks burned with a heat that suddenly caught, igniting her whole body.

"I'm not sure if I should find that disgusting or not."

He leaned in closer, the warmth from his body adding to the flames that incinerated her from head to toe. "You should find it flattering. I'll think of you when I use them."

He scooped up eleven boxes and carried them to the counter, but, unlike Ginny, George did not display any sort of judgment toward his customer's purchase. He was professional like that.

"You didn't answer my owl," Ginny called before Malfoy exited the store.

He stopped and turned, his smirk lifting into a grin. "Don't worry, you'll get my answer soon enough."

...Eleven charms for dreaming
Ten broken products
Nine letters sending
Eight worried Weasleys
Seven bumps and bruises
A six-hour night shift
Fiiiiiive nuts and boooooolts!
A four-minute chat
Three heavy suitcases
Two points deducted
And an enquiry at the Ministry!

On the twelfth day of Christmas
My true love gave to me…

The Burrow's living room was crowded with Weasleys and friends as everyone gathered together for a night of festive cheer. Harry and Ron laughed at a prank George had pulled on Percy while Victoire screamed in delight at the feathers that rained down around her. Even Molly's scolding didn't have as much heat as it normally would on another day of the year.

Ginny giggled with Hermione at the hi-jinx that ensued whenever the Weasleys reunited, but part of her was a bit disappointed that one person in particular hadn't shown his face. He'd told her mum he would stop in, though he had never specified a time exactly.

She should have figured Malfoy hadn't meant what he said. Though why she cared was the mystery of the season.

He'd been an annoyance to her at first, with his snide comments about Ginny's driving and her lack of Knight Bus conductor. He'd impressed her with his knowledge of Muggle mechanics, and then she'd pitied him when he'd told her he would be spending Christmas alone. She didn't understand how her feelings could have changed from dislike to pity to… to… whatever this was in twelve days. Her inexplicable desire to see him again bothered her more than she cared to admit, and it didn't help that no one in her entire family—not even Ron!—had complained about having Malfoy over as a Christmas guest.

Did they all feel that grateful to him because he'd stayed with her after the accident until help had arrived? Had they all been infected with the Christmas spirit or something?

Frustrated, Ginny slipped out of the room and donned her boots and cloak to take a walk outside.

As if summoned by her thoughts, Malfoy stood on the other side of the door, a startled expression on his face as the door was thrown open in front of him.

The shock was mutual for Ginny, but it wore off quickly enough.

"Hiding?" she asked, a teasing grin lifting the corners of her lips.

"No. Waiting."

"For Father Christmas? He isn't due to arrive until tonight, after all the children are asleep."

"Who?" Malfoy asked, his eyebrow lifting as if he doubted her sobriety.

Ginny waved her hand in dismissal. "Never mind. Why didn't you knock?"

"Sounded like there were a lot of people in there. I didn't want to intrude."

"It's not intruding if you're invited." She grinned. "Come on, walk with me."

They took a turn around the yard, past the bushes in which the garden gnomes liked to make their homes, past the chicken coop and its sleeping chickens, nearly all the way to the field where Ginny and her brothers had played Quidditch growing up.

The chill in the air was a startling comfort, refreshing after the stifling heat inside the Burrow from the hearth, the people, and the food being cooked for dinner.

Malfoy stopped and dug inside his cloak pocket until he produced a package, which he held out to Ginny.

"What's this?" she asked, her heart racing. Why was he giving her a gift? What did it mean?

"Open it." As she began to peel apart the paper, he continued, "It seemed a shame for your mum to go without a gift because the Ministry screwed you out of your second job."

He didn't have to explain any further because the fuzzy, orange material that Ginny had spotted on a shelf in Madame Malkin's shop exploded from the wrapping. She gaped at the scarf, tears stinging her eyes until her throat worked enough to form words.

"You didn't have to do this."

"I know," he said, looking agitated. "I wanted to," he added a moment later.

She threw her arms around his neck and kissed his cheek before either of them knew what was happening, and then she jumped away from him just as quickly.

"This is completely unexpected," she said, blinking the tears away before he could notice them and think her foolish.

"Yes, because if you had expected it, that would have ruined the surprise."

She snorted and slapped his arm, her smile widening.

"Have you got any other surprises?"

"Just one," he replied, pulling another package out of his pocket.

Ginny unwrapped a bird made of painted glass and five Patented Daydream Charms, including one of the limited edition Christmas-themed charms George had concocted. She looked up at him in befuddlement.

Draco shrugged. "If I like to fantasize, I figured you might, too. I thought we could have dinner together after the holidays and talk some more about our plans of extortion, but, until then, maybe you could think of me."

Ginny rolled her eyes, but her grin returned, spreading wider across her face.

"You silly man. I don't need these to think of you."

"You don't?" he asked, his eyes wide in surprise.

She shook her head and held up the delicate glass. "What's the bird for?"

"It's a partridge. Muggle Christmas traditions are absurd, but I wanted to get in the holiday spirit."

Ginny laughed and threw her arms around Malfoy's neck again, planting her lips on Malfoy's until both of them grew quite breathless and had to part for air.

Malfoy looked down at her with a dazed expression, his smile a little awed. "If I'd known you'd react like that, I would have got you the pear tree, too."

...Twelve snowy kisses
Eleven charms for dreaming
Ten broken products
Nine letters sending
Eight worried Weasleys
Seven bumps and bruises
A six-hour night shift
Fiiiiiive nuts and boooooolts!
A four-minute chat
Three heavy suitcases
Two points deducted
And an enquiry at the Ministry!

~*Happy Holidays!*~