Holly Harper was a quiet, queer sort of girl. She was intelligent, kind and compassionate, with a soft-spoken sort of beauty that made people gravitate towards her unthinkingly. She never raised her voice, yet was always heard, made herself available to listen should a friend or stranger need it, and she had an objective sort of way of looking at situations she was directly involved in, which was novel by itself.
Draco Malfoy couldn't stand her.
She was too soft, too open, too honest. Too un-Slytherin for him to be comfortable with. He could handle those self-righteous Gryffindors, he knew how to rile up, how to best them. He knew how the Ravenclaws ticked, and he most of all knew how his own housemates worked.
But quiet, unassuming little Hufflepuff Holly was a thrice damned headache to figure out.
She'd been around since first year, but was nothing important enough for him to notice, not like the famous Harry Potter had been. Just another name that went in through one ear and out the other that first night, and dismissed immediately when she'd been Sorted into Hufflepuff. There was nothing noticeably special about her, nothing conspicuous. She wasn't a Hatstall, nor a near Hatstall: it took less than a minute to decide she belonged with the Badgers. She wasn't overly pretty then either, her eyes just a bit too big for her face, her nose just a little too small, and her pale skin wasn't anything anyone hadn't seen before. She was 11 years old, with flushed cheeks, bright blue-violet eyes, and a wide smile ready for anyone.
It wasn't until fourth year that Draco finally realized the girl existed, and that was merely because they had been paired up to work together in their first Herbology class of the year. The assignment (due the second to last day of the year) was to grow and care for a magical plant of their choice. It was an unspoken blessing to have a partner, otherwise Draco surely would have failed, as Herbology typically required having a Green Thumb; something Draco would never admit he was not in possession of.
After Professor Sprout finished pairing the students, Draco watched as the girl gathered her book and her bag, and made her way to him with an easy lopsided smile.
"Hello," she greeted calmly, "I don't think we've been introduced yet, despite having several classes together for years already. My name is Harper. Holly Harper."
He glanced at her outstretched hand with barely concealed disdain, knowing that this Holly Harper was definitely not a Pureblood. He knew all the respectable family names, Harper was not one of them.
And she expected him to touch her.
She was pretty now, he supposed, with her thick, curly mane of dark mahogany colored hair and wide, long-lashed framed eyes that still almost looked violet. And with him being fifteen years of age now, he supposed he could appreciate her still developing curves, even if she wasn't as slim as he was used to. But the status of her Blood was a deal breaker, so he sneered and turned his nose up at her, turning his face to his good side, because he knew he had a jawline that made most girls swoon.
"Draco Malfoy," he said loftily, "I'm sure you've heard of me. It's quite hard not to have, unless you live under a rock."
In his peripheral, he noticed one of her eyebrows rise and her smile turn into something more of an amused smirk. "Of course, Mr. Malfoy, your black thumb is something of a legend already." Startled, his neck snapped as his head turned too fast to look at her. He thought he had been doing a good job covering that particular fact up. "Oh, don't worry, I doubt anyone else has noticed besides the Professor. Well, maybe Neville too, but only because he hates to see the creations he has connected with so well slowly wither and die. Specifically by your hands no less. Gryffindors and Slytherins are just destined to be at constant odds, apparently."
"Do you always talk this much?"
"Not usually. I can talk even more if you'd like, you seem to be enjoying it judging by the peculiar expressions your face is making." He quickly schooled his face into something more severe and disgusted, causing her to laugh. "Nice save."
"Whatever," he scoffed, "let's just pick a damn plant and get this over with."
"See, there's where your first problem is. You don't respect the plants. They know it. They pick up easily on negativity."
"They're plants," he pointed out dryly. She shook her head.
"They're living creatures. A living creature cannot thrive in a negative environment," she told him. He remained silent for a time, fiddling with his dragon hide gloves as he thought. "I have an idea," she said suddenly. "We'll grow some Fanged Geraniums."
"Are you daft? Those things bite."
She smiled knowingly. "Especially if you mistreat them. It will help you learn, Draco. Trust me."
"I'm a Slytherin, I don't trust anyone."
"You will learn," she said again.
"Leave it to the Hufflepuff," he grumbled as he rolled his eyes. She had remarkable patience in dealing with him, however, as she choose the seeds for their Geranium and put up with his snarky remarks. Her gentleness and tolerance threw him slightly off kilter, having had very little interaction with Hufflepuffs before now, but he imagined that even if he had, she would still manage to surprise him. He knew, instinctively almost, that there was something just a little different about her compared to her housemates.
"What's your favorite color?" she asked, as she investigated the stock of flower pots Professor Sprout had available.
"Green," Draco automatically responded.
Without looking at him, she said "I didn't ask for your house color, Draco."
How she knew he'd been less than honest about his answer, he didn't know, but he took it in stride and told her "Blue," in a quiet tone so no one would hear. He watched as she picked out a terracotta flower pot with a blue and yellow mosaic smiling sun design. The sun's smile wasn't nearly as bright as the one she wore when she faced him.
"I'll go get the fertilizer and the dirt; you can take this and the seeds back to our table." With the pot and the sack of seeds in each hand, he did as she ordered without really thinking about it.
Holly ended up doing most of the work really, since Draco was otherwise distracted with her talking as she scooped dirt into the pot. She was speaking of her brothers (she had three), all of whom were older than her and graduated already. He asked what they were doing now, involved with Auror work or perhaps with Ministry, and she paused before gently smiling and explaining that her brothers were Muggles. In fact, her entire family was made up of Muggles. He recoiled unthinkingly, but her small, understanding smile remained.
"So you're a Mudblood," he accused. She shrugged, going back to settling the dirt.
"Possibly? According to you, everyone in your family are Muggles. So, Mudblood then."
"I'm also adopted," she said flatly, and that was the first time Draco had ever seen her less than open and cheery. "And I would greatly appreciate it if you would refrain from using that particular term in my company, thank you."
Again, she'd managed to knock him off his game without even actually trying.
She shook out two seeds from the little packet, kissed each of them lightly, and then handed them to Draco. He stared. "Well, go on. Kiss them," she prompted.
He glared at her viciously. "I'm not going to bloody kiss them, you mental girl," he hissed, looking around to make certain no one was watching them.
"It's the first step of bonding. It imparts a bit of your magical essence, making you recognizable to the Geraniums when they've grown. Of course, you can always bond with them as they grow, but this bonding method is easier, stronger, and longer lasting. And they're less likely to bite you."
"I've never read that in any book."
"It used to be a hypothesis of mine, and after testing did it become a rather definite theory. Remember what I said about trusting me, Draco. You'll never learn if you don't try."
But Draco still wasn't convinced. "I'm not kissing a pair of seeds, that's stupid."
Holly was amused. She knew there was more to the Pureblooded blond Slytherin who could more than occasionally be a prat. Sometimes she could see it, when he thought no one was watching. It was in his eyes. He could make his face as blank as humanly possible but his wonderful grey eyes could hide nothing. It intrigued her, to see such warmth in them as often as she did, but it seemed that no one else noticed his cleverness, his capacity for something greater than whatever his family expected him to be.
It seemed that Draco didn't notice himself, and Holly decided in that moment to take it upon herself to rectify that.
So, she grinned and changed tactics. "I'm quite losing patience with you, Draco Malfoy. You won't like me when I lose my patience."
That got a smirk out of him. "Yeah?" he challenged. "And who says I like you now, Holly Harper?"
"Don't play dumb, it's unbecoming of a boy of your stature."
"Boy? I'm fifteen years old-"
"And acting like you're five," she shot back, throwing him a winning smile. They were quiet as he glared at her, considering her instructions grudgingly. But Holly did nothing, only continued to stand there with her palm outstretched and the two seeds lying on top. She could wait him out.
Finally, he sighed heavily and impatiently, snatching the seeds from her hand and quickly kissing them as inconspicuously as he could before thrusting them back at her.
"There. Can we get a move on now? I haven't all day, you know."
"No need to get your panties in a twist, dear." she teased with chuckle, turning back to the pot and sifting through the dirt to make two small holes. She placed a seed in each one, and covered them up, patting the dirt almost lovingly. "Right. Now we just need to water them." He handed her the watering can grumpily, but she didn't take it, instead urging him to do it since this was as much his plant as it was hers. Only, she hadn't said "plant" so much as "love child", making his nose screw up in distaste. He supposed he'd have to get used to her odd sense of humor sooner than later if they were going to be seeing each other nearly every day for a year.
Class ended shortly after that, and he left her without so much as a wave goodbye, not that it bothered Holly at all. She knew quite a bit about Draco Malfoy and his character through rumors and her own personal observations. She wasn't expecting something groundbreaking on the very first day of officially meeting each other. So, with one last whispered departure to their still ungrown Geranium seeds, she left as well.
And so the weeks passed in much the same fashion; doing regular class work before the Professor would allow some time at the end for her students to tend to their own plants. Holly and Draco's Fanged Geraniums grew slowly, and Holly fretted over them like a mother with her children. Draco found it amusing, if not endearing, though slightly irritating when she continued asking, "Do you suppose we're watering too much? Or maybe there's too much dirt? Oh, Draco, I know you're not overly fond of them, but really! Show some concern, would you?"
She would talk to him like they'd been friends for years, rather than just two weeks. It was a confounding experience for Draco.
Finally, on the fourteenth day, the plants sprouted, and the ecstatic excitement Holly displayed was nearly contagious, and he found himself smiling with her as she doted on the little green baby plants.
"We should name them," she said one afternoon, three days after the geraniums had first sprouted.
Draco sighed; she had been saying something similar numerous times, but he'd dismissed her musings before as being too girly or stupid. Now, he was done, she could name the damn things whatever she wanted. "What do you suggest?"
Rather than look surprised at him finally giving in, she looked like she quite expected it, and was proud of herself for wearing him down finally. It grated on his nerves to be steadily brought down a few pegs. "I like Tufty and Frou-Frou," she said, gently smoothing the head of one with her index finger.
His answering scoff was the most severe thing she'd seen from him yet. "Merlin's sake, no! Those sound like house elves." he said scathingly.
She grinned. "You caught me, they are. Hm, all right then. How does Wilhelmina sound, and Urseplagus?"
"Where the hell did you come up with Urseplagus?" Draco asked with a half horrified, half stunned expression that Holly found difficult to not outright laugh at.
"When I was younger, my brothers convinced me there was a goblin living in our fridge named Urseplagus who ate all the moldy food and drank all the milk," she stated casually. Draco had no idea what a "fridge" was (another absurd Muggle thing, most likely), but after that explanation he thought it best not to ask. She looked up at him suddenly, cocking her head curiously.
"What?" he snapped irritably.
"You can laugh, you know. My blood status may be somewhat of a mystery to you- to the both of us, but it's not going to kill you to at least smile at something I say. Genuinely, for once."
"Maybe I just don't find anything you say amusing."
At this, she turned back to her beloved plants. "You do," she said with absolute certainty, "Your lips may not smile, but your eyes do it for you." Draco took an unconscious step back, suddenly very uncomfortable with the direction the conversation was quickly heading, and didn't say anything else to her for the remainder of their class time.
In fact, in was a good two weeks before he deigned to talk to her again.
He had heard her sigh lightly through her nose as he was staring fixedly at the plants she was petting. Her plants... Their plants were still growing slowly but steadily, and were about the size of Holly's small hand. The little seedling head was nuzzling into her finger, making some kind of purring noise Draco hadn't thought possible for a plant to make, and he was suddenly overwhelmed with curiosity. He reached out to the one she wasn't giving affection to and paused, his hand hovering uncertainly over it. Holly tried not to stare with anticipation but found it nearly impossible, since this was the first time he had ever intended to touch the seedlings. She almost didn't want to say anything, for fear of startling him out of it. He was, after all, a very proud and stubborn boy and it was usually best to leave him alone if he was in the middle of making a decision; he'd hate for anyone to think someone was influencing him to do one thing or another.
But she didn't have to worry too much. A good fifteen seconds later, his hand settled down on Wilhelmina's head with a softness Holly had never seen him physically display, and stroked the seedling slowly. Wilhelmina's short stem stiffened and it seemed maybe she was a little agitated for a moment, but after sniffing the air, she relaxed and leaned into Draco's touch. She had recognized his magical signature, just as Holly had theorized.
Holly was overcome with pride for him. Draco himself looked stunned, but content, and on the verge of a personal epiphany. She left him to it, retrieving their watering can (Urseplagus was looking a little dehydrated) before Draco's sudden shout drew her back with concern and she hurried to his side.
"What? What's wrong?" She asked. He was holding his hand to his chest, fixing Wilhelmina with a look of absolute betrayal.
"The ruddy thing bit me! I told you-" Holly was only half listening as she gently pried his supposedly injured hand from his chest and inspected it with a critical eye. Her fingers were soft and warm, and smoothed over his palm with a feather light touch that had Draco flushing and he abruptly stopped in the middle of his sentence.
"This finger?" she questioned, taking a hold of his middle finger, where the pad was reddened and swelling slightly. He nodded, and she laughed softly. "It was a love bite, Draco. She likes you. Our little Wilhelmina's just a smidgen aggressive, she did the same to me yesterday. Think of it like marking territory."
"She... did?" Draco was suddenly mystified, and Holly nodded affirmatively.
"Urseplagus tried the same thing a week ago, only it was more of a nibble since his fangs were smaller. And he's much gentler than his sister." She turned then to address Wilhelmina. "Oh Willie, you darling thing, you musn't be so hard on daddy," she cooed, scratching beneath Willie's head with the utmost affection.
"Oh, for Merlin's sake," he grumbled when she called him the father of that stupid plant.
Holly suddenly grinned slyly, eyeing him mischievously and Draco was struck with the thought that he could very well mistake her for a Slytherin with that look, if he hadn't already known her that is. "The little Slytherin Prince is very sensitive, you know," she added to Wilhelmina. He knocked her shoulder lightly, snorting in amusement.
"Shut up, Harper."
"Make me, Malfoy." she shot back and stuck her tongue out at him, emboldened by his new set of reactions towards her. His grey eyes flashed to meet her violet ones and suddenly her sly grin was downright innocent compared to his. He took a step closer to her, invading what she liked to refer to as her personal bubble.
"Well, since you seem so willing, it seems my finger is still a bit sore. Maybe you should kiss it and make it better. That should shut you up for a small second or two, and then I'm sure I could find something more... time consuming, after."
His insinuation was not lost on Holly, and she blushed violently, her mouth opening and closing like a fish out of water. "I- well that's not- I mean- oh, piss off!" she finally settled with, and shoved him away from her, though still in good humor. He laughed, and Holly was intrigued by the way he threw his head back, and the way his mouth opened to release the sound, and the way his Adam's apple moved with the action. She'd never seen him so carefree in his amusement.
And Holly was enraptured.
A/N: I took this criminology class in college a few years back, and my professor said something that really stuck with me: "The way you see things could be totally different from what someone else sees. You go outside right now, look up, and tell me the sky is blue. But your blue could be fuchsia to someone else." I don't know, I kind of just wanted to explore that.