A/N: This is silly and clichéd and pointless and DRAMIONE. It's holiday-oriented fluff. If you take it seriously, that's your loss. XD

I owed Marmalade Fever a Christmas present with the prompt "concrete," so I decided to combine it with a few nebulous ideas I'd had for a while, and the fic was born, bloodily and screaming. :P

I've always wished I could spend Christmas in New York. Which, coincidentally, is exactly what my roommate is doing this year. But she doesn't write FANFICTION. (Oh, yeah. I went there. XD)


HEX AND THE CITY

It wasn't her fault that they were eviscerating the sidewalk.

It wasn't her fault that they'd torn up half the street.

It wasn't her fault that they were going to be playing with the plumbing for a few days.

And it certainly wasn't her fault she had to stay with Danica.

It wasn't that Hermione wasn't going to be very glad when they fixed the pipes—the idea of having hot water for more than five minutes during the New York winter sounded very palatable indeed; whoever had originally botched the plumbing had had no concept of how long it took to get shampoo into all of her hair—but staying with Danica was… an experience.

A harrowing one.

Hermione had a love-hate relationship with the Big Apple. It was a juicy city, to be sure, but there were also lots of halves of worms.

"You'll love my place," Danica was gushing, dragging Hermione along and making remarkably good time given the impressive impracticality of her stiletto leather boots. "It's gorgeous. And there are even books."

"Um, great," Hermione managed, trying not to lose either of her duffel bags in the mad, stiletto-tripping dash towards their destination.

She wasn't sure why they were dashing in the first place, to be honest; books or not, loveable or otherwise, Danica's apartment couldn't be that exciting.

"We're going to have so much fun," Danica pledged, squeezing Hermione's arm enthusiastically. "We're going to party like rockstars."

That wasn't in the contract.

Well, it wasn't in the plea/agreement they'd arranged over the phone, which had consisted of a lot of squealing on Danica's part and a great deal of cringing on Hermione's.

"I'd hate to be a burden—" she'd begun.

"Don't be ridiculous!" Danica had sung back. "We'll have the time of our lives! Do you know, I've always wanted to drag you out of your shell and force you to enjoy yourself—"

"I don't think anyone has to be forced to do anyth—" Hermione had started to counter hastily.

"It'll be amazing!" Danica had chirped before she could finish. "Divine! Oh, gosh, I'm so excited!"

I hadn't noticed, Hermione had thought dourly.

"We'll party like rockstars!"

Hermione wasn't quite sure what was at the root of this rockstar fixation.

Back, or forward, or somewhere in the present, she stumbled on her sensible shoes and marveled at Danica's unlikely stability. The girl must have practiced daily to be able to take the sidewalk on those stilts.

Maybe the local shopping mall hosted classes.

"But we're not rockstars," Hermione protested helplessly, dodging a manhole cover as Danica led her over the pale stripes of a crosswalk, white lines dotted with slushy snow.

"Precisely," Danica confirmed, beaming at the blushing doorman who ushered them into the sumptuous foyer of the towering complex they'd reached. "Which is why we have to party like them, not as them."

If the downright unbelievable crystal chandelier dangling from the molded ceiling hadn't already rendered the voluble Hermione Granger quite speechless, that comment probably would have done it.

By the time they'd blipped up eight floors in the glass elevator, she had retrieved her voice from the dank warren into which it had retreated to breed with other silences, and she inquired, quite sagely:

"You live here?"

Danica winked, her gold eyeshadow sparkling. "When I wanna."

Now, Hermione had known Danica Smythe's parents were loaded.

But she hadn't realized that "loaded," in that particular sentence, meant "on a par with Bill Gates, but without that pesky humanitarian stuff to worry about."

The elevator's doors parted unctuously when they reached the top floor, and Danica led them down to end of the hall, where there was a gleaming mahogany door that read, Penthouse.

Someone somewhere was playing a very elaborate and none-too-funny joke, and she was about to discover that Danica was actually one of the many impoverished homeless folk aimlessly wandering the streets in search of shelter.

Right?

Was it strange that she'd probably be more comfortable with that?

Shattering all notions of sociopoetic justice, Danica unlocked the door and ushered Hermione into the apartment beyond—though "apartment" didn't really do it justice by any stretch of the imagination.

Danica gave her the grand tour, which made Hermione wonder first just how big this hotel was, and second just how much ornamentation you could fit into that square footage before the authorities cracked down on you for blinding your guests.

Surely that was illegal.

As was the size of Danica's closet. Weren't there building codes?

"Pick something out," Danica recommended. "We're going to hit the bar tonight."

"It's a weeknight," Hermione protested, forcing herself to tear her eyes and imagination away from the sparkling cocktail dresses and the shining ball gowns. Why Danica had a bevy of ball gowns was a different question, and one that she would save for later. "Why do we have to hit a bar?"

She stifled the mental image of smacking a signpost with an open palm.

"Because," Danica answered, straightening one of about six billion pairs of shoes, "neither of us has a date for New Year's." She winked. "Yet."

"That's in eleven days," Hermione pointed out.

"Exactly why we need to get started," Danica replied.

Hermione sighed—but she was stuck here. And, as everyone knew, when in a highly gilded, ostentatious, implausibly-fashionable Rome…

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Hermione hated to admit it, but she was beginning to understand the appeal of stiletto boots, which was twofold: they were dressy, due to their heels; and they actually covered one's feet.

Now, the sling-backs she was wearing, on the other hand, were torturous, and her feet were slowly freezing into blocks of ice with purple-painted toenails.

That was what she got for being a footwear snob.

Heels clicking on the slick sidewalk, she huddled uselessly in her coat and trailed a briskly-striding Danica, who apparently held her head high come goosebumps or high snowdrifts.

They could only get to the bar too soon (she never thought she'd catch herself thinking that), which of course meant that it was about a thousand sidewalk-marching miles away. Hermione wondered if the bartender would be willing to hook her up with a gallon-jug of hot chocolate.

Perhaps if she tipped well?

Wrinkling her nose at the thought of the response she'd get to that particular request, she reluctantly trailed Danica into the neon-strobe-lit fray and looked around for somewhere to hide. This club had not been designed for wallflowers, which, come to think of it, was probably precisely the reason Danica had selected it.

Devious woman.

Danica nudged Hermione's ribs with a shapely, attractive elbow (everything about Danica was shapely and attractive, including her joints; Hermione wasn't entirely sure how this phenomenon was possible but didn't dare to ask).

"Pick out a cute one," Danica urged, "and use your feminine wiles."

Hermione's feminine wiles had never been rustier. It had been four full years since, after drifting like two lifeboats pulled by opposite currents, she and Ron had finally and amicably broken it off. He had answered the summons of a start-up Quidditch team in Argentina, and she… had lost her mind. And had accordingly moved to New York City, snapped up a degree from Columbia, and forged fearlessly into the editing world.

There was nothing quite as satisfying as defeating the nefarious powers of pretentiousness with a few deft strokes of a red pen, after all.

It hadn't been easy. She'd invested a lot of time in Ron Weasley—and a lot of herself. They still talked on the phone sometimes, which was something he'd learned to negotiate rather better in the intervening years, but the calls had been getting increasingly infrequent as the split paths of their lives diverged even further.

Hermione surveyed the scene at the club. She saw some cute ones, some not-so-cute ones, and some ones that made her want to cower in a secluded corner and go into the duck-and-cover position. The room wasn't designed to facilitate hiding from creepers, however—quite the opposite, in fact, probably deliberately—so Hermione did the next best thing.

The bartender, who was bald, buff, and wore an earring, smiled indulgently when she asked for hot chocolate.

"Clean or dirty?" he inquired.

"Spotless," she replied with a grin that was only a little bit sheepish.

There was some rummaging about for a mug, and then she heard the humming of a microwave beneath the pounding of the bass beat of the music, and then her newfound friend pushed a steaming mug at her, a plastic martini-olive sword substituting for a stirrer.

She paid him, tipped him, and swiveled leftward on her barstool to nurse her cocoa and watch some extremely drunk individuals attempt to reinforce their delusions about their ability to dance.

Danica, predictably, was gyrating in the middle of a cluster of young men, most of whom fell into the cute category (though Hermione spotted at least one duck-and-cover). Hermione smiled and let the hot chocolate mist in her face. The bartender had even tossed in a few mini-marshmallows; she might have to order another and tip him even better.

Speaking of the bartender, just when she had begun attempting to dredge the cocoa powder from the bottom of the mug without prominently violating any etiquette laws—an impossible task, as far as she could tell—he got her attention with a wave of a hand.

"Hey," he said, "guy down the bar would like to buy you another of—and I quote—'whatever the hell she's having.'"

Hermione followed the indication of his shaved head as he inclined it, directing her attention down the bar. Turning, she discovered a man looking determinedly in the other direction, only the faintest profile of him visible. He had bright, almost airy, strangely familiar hair, nearly white in the strobe lights and the fluorescent ones behind the bar, and a series of somethings glinted on his hands as they toyed meticulously with his half-empty bottle of winter ale.

Smiling slightly mischievously, Hermione turned to the bartender. "Please tell him," she remarked, "that there are better ways to appeal to a girl than by trying to get her drunk."

Snickering, the barkeep sauntered over to the blond and leaned down over the counter, mano a mano, to relay the message. Hermione's victim grinned guiltily, then shot a glance at her.

They both froze.

"What the hell are you doing here?" he demanded incredulously (or so she gathered by his facial expression and the exquisite emphasis he placed on 'hell,' as she couldn't actually hear him from this distance).

"What the hell are you doing here?" she countered, hoping he was as adept at reading lips as she and rather glad that he couldn't hear the squeak that had hijacked her voice.

The bartender said something surprised that must have been to the effect of, "You two know each other?"

"Really," Draco said, sliding off of his barstool, abandoning his drink (which was a bad idea; he fit into the cute category—not that she had just thought that, or anything), and moving uncertainly closer. "What are you doing in New York?"

"Editing," she answered in a voice about as stable as the American economy. "What are you?"

It was just a convention of speech, but some part of her brain answered, Strangely hot.

"I got into law," he said blankly, "and one thing led to another thing, which led to another still. Hermione?"

Oh, hell. That pretty unequivocally confirmed it.

She eschewed meeting his pale eyes in favor of looking at his hands where they were laid flat on the bar counter. A gold band encircled each of the last three fingers of his right hand and the last two of his left.

"Why are you—"

"There was a bet involved," Draco interjected, looking pained. "It's the twentieth, which is five days until Christmas, so the fifth day of Christmas, and therefore 'five gold rings.'"

Hermione frowned. "But that would be counting backwards," she pointed out. "You should have Christmas as the twelfth day, which would make today's…" She calculated quickly. "Eight maids a-milking."

There was a very long pause as the leaden awkwardness settled in, unpacked its belongings, and cordially greeted all of its new neighbors.

"Um," Draco said. "Did you know that the play Twelfth Night—"

"I did," Hermione replied. "Excellent segue. Did you see the performance of it that the one local company did last year?"

Draco frowned. "I don't recall seeing it too recently," he replied, "so I must have missed that one. I saw the Othello that was on just before that one thing with the turkey—"

Hermione grinned. "Thanksgiving?" she supplied.

Draco rolled his eyes. "Right. Who but Americans would have an entire holiday dedicated to stuffing yourself?"

Hermione chose to ignore the pun. "I take it you crossed the pond recently, then?" she inquired.

Draco grinned. It was a very Han Solo grin—bangs in his face, spark in his eyes, the whole thing just slightly crooked.

Further proof that Hermione had undergone a rather profound integration with the United States: she made Star Wars analogies in her head.

"What," Draco prompted; "just because a man doesn't appreciate Thanksgiving, he must be new around here?"

Hermione made a very wide-eyed, sincere face and nodded.

Draco sighed, but not discontentedly, and ran a two-gold-rings hand through his hair. "For what it's worth," he responded, "you're right. I moved in August—which was terrible; what is wrong with the weather in this place?—after doing a bit of work at the Sorbonne. Took the right tests, sucked up to the right people, and here I am to slander the good name of Thanksgiving to anyone who'll listen."

And she was listening. That was the odd part. He was strangely easy to listen to, and to talk to as well—perhaps it was the glibness he'd presumably learned for the courtroom, but Draco Malfoy had somehow become dreadfully accessible.

"So," she remarked idly, "what are you going to do for the other days? Put some doves in turtle shells?"

Draco flashed another smirk-grin, and the lights played on it.

"I was thinking for the twenty-third," he divulged, "that maybe I could convince three Parisian girls to walk around with me chattering in French."

Hermione smiled, raising her eyebrows. "Bonne chance," she bid him.

He scoffed. "You think I ca—oh," he amended, cutting himself off. "Never mind. I'm not making any more goddamn bets. That's how I got into this in the first place."

One way or another, that got them onto the subject of sports, which led to Quidditch, which led to her making a slightly melodramatic declaration that figure skating required much more skill, which led him to outline a detailed, rather eloquent treatise on Quidditch's merits. Maybe it was just hearing a familiar accent after being stranded so long among Americans, but she couldn't stop listening now.

"You can pirouette on a broomstick," Draco was asserting as the bartender came up, presumably to ask after their alcoholic well-being. "It's just on a different axis, right?"

The bartender paused, and then he tactfully retreated.

Hermione coughed into her hand to cover a laugh, though it was probably still quite obvious that she was grinning—a hypothesis substantiated when Draco smirked in reply, leaning contentedly back on his stool. The complacency gave way to surprise as an insistent beep came from the general region of his pocket.

Draco fished out his cell phone, smiling apologetically.

"I still can't make head or tail—or road or rail, I should say—of the subways here," he explained, "and the idiot I came with is my only hope of making it home alive." He thumbed a button and pursed his lips as he glanced over the text he'd received.

Why was she noticing that?

Noticing what? the part of her brain still entrenched in denial—which as a large part—asked innocently.

Draco held the phone out to her, displaying the text. "Apparently he's very concerned about me," he noted of the message, which read: hope ur havn fun cuz i am wher th hel r u?

Draco withdrew the phone and tapped at the buttons with both thumbs, his five gold rings gleaming, before offering the screen to her again. His response was Ran into an old friend.

Friend?

…really?

Hermione smiled her approval without showing any of the ambivalence that was (appropriately enough) snaking slowly around her heart. What the hell was she doing?

She didn't have much time to wonder; Draco's idiot-savior was a remarkably quick draw.

u dont hav n e frendz was the latest pearl of wisdom.

Hermione raised an eyebrow. "Then what is he?" she inquired.

Draco grinned and bent to his phone.

Momentarily, there was another scathingly witty retort:

its 4 ur money duh. i found a hot girl

Hermione couldn't think of any suggestions, but Draco seemed to have this one covered, at least judging by the alacrity with which he turned to the task of his riposte.

He didn't show it to her, however, which was… interesting.

Feeling a bit awkward again, she glanced out over the crowd. Danica was easy to pick out; she was wearing teal.

And stiletto boots, of course.

She was also so close to a sandy-haired young man with broad shoulders and a blinding grin that Hermione expected his skin to start leaching teal dye from her dress any second now.

"That's my friend Danica," she informed Draco, pointing. "We roomed together at university. I'm staying with her while they shred the sidewalk in front of my place." She frowned, considering the boytoy. "I hope she doesn't intend to take that home; she might forget to feed it."

Draco paused, squinted, and stared. "That's—God, that is."

"Is what?" Hermione prompted.

"Brandon," Draco answered.

"Your not-friend?" Hermione hazarded.

"The very same," Draco reported. "He seems to be on very good terms with your hostess…"

"…oh, my," Hermione agreed, feeling like a voyeur just watching. "Isn't he… helping you get home?"

"Supposedly," Draco muttered. "Though I get the feeling he'll be following Danica back to your place if he can manage it."

"Well—" She'd lost her mind; she had; it had sprouted legs—presumably legs adorned with warm stiletto-heeled boots—and sauntered out the door to try its luck in the cold. "—if he does—I suppose you could come, too—um."

Were his eyes lighting up? Oh, God. They were, and her face was much too warm. This was all just—unnatural. That was what it was.

"We could… sit around, and… watch that one show that girls like," Draco was suggesting, looking faintly pinkish himself.

"…what show is that?" Hermione managed.

"The one with all the friends," Draco answered. "I think it's set here, actually—New York?"

"…'Sex and the City,' do you mean?"

"Yes. That's the one."

She blinked, thinking maybe something would change while she had her eyes closed. "…you want to watch 'Sex and the City'?" she asked.

He got a little pinker still. Maybe he needed another drink. "I didn't say I wanted to watch it," he reasoned. "I was just trying to be accommodating…"

"…you think I want to watch 'Sex and the City'?" Hermione amended bewilderedly.

"Well," Draco muttered, "how the hell should I know?"

"I'm sure we can find something to watch," Hermione decided, a strange tingle going through her at the very thought of it. "Given the rest of her furnishings, I imagine Danica has super-mega-extra-god cable. And very likely a television the size of a small car."

Draco's eyes widened. "You're probably right," he noted. "Now I definitely have to drop by for a visit."

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Unsurprisingly, Danica elected to make it easy.

She had a very contented Brandon in tow when she made her stiletto-booted way to the bar to collect Hermione.

"Oh!" she exclaimed, looking positively delighted, when she saw Draco. "You've found one!"

"Hey, man," Brandon said.

"Hey," Draco replied, somewhat less enthusiastically.

"We're staying with Dani tonight," Brandon informed him. "It's totally cool. It's all arranged. Right, Dani?"

'Dani' nodded emphatically. "This is your friend Draco?"

"Yup," Brandon reported, gazing at her. "It was destiny, I'm telling you, when I met this crazy kid. We were the only people at the bar, and we wanted the same drink, and there was only one bottle left, so we got to talking."

Hermione glanced at Draco, who shrugged.

"He has good taste," he explained.

"Particularly in women," Danica remarked cheerily.

"Shall we head off, then?" Brandon inquired cheerfully.

Draco glanced at his watch—which was nice, Hermione noticed; elegant, silver with a white face.

Brandon winked and threaded an arm around Danica's waist. "Yeah, it's kinda early," he interjected before Draco could comment. "I like having time to do a good thing thoroughly."

Danica giggled hysterically, though that was probably the alcohol talking.

Well, it certainly wasn't the feminism, at any rate.

They collected their bits and pieces of warm raiment from the coat check, and Hermione tried not to admire the way Draco's dark red scarf brought out the angles of his face as he bundled it around his neck and zipped his jacket.

She made the conscious decision to become very interested in her coat buttons.

The four of them forged out into the cold, Brandon and Danica joined at the hip, their arms about each other, Draco and Hermione side-by-side with their respective hands crushed into their respective pockets, respective shoulders squared against the resp—universal cold.

Draco glanced at Hermione's feet, which, in the practically-nonexistent heels, were making her feel as though she'd replaced all her blood with ice cream.

"Aren't you cold?" he asked.

"Are they blue yet?" she replied.

He bent a little to look. "Can't tell," was the verdict. "Insufficient lighting and too much movement."

"You can take a look when we get there," she promised, unsure why she was saying any of these things.

Was this flirting?

Oh, yes. It probably was.

That would explain it.

Trying to shake those thoughts out of her head without literally shaking it—because that would have made her look a bit the lunatic, and she'd been doing very well so far—as they progressed through the lobby to the elevator, Hermione wondered just when the universe had decided to grab her by the (still very numb) ankles and toss her around like a rag doll.

Uncalled for, if she did say so herself.

Once they'd emerged from the elevator—and once Brandon and Draco had finished gawking at the penthouse—there was a great blur of newfound casual clothing and a wave of innuendos, and then Hermione and Draco were sitting on the couch in front of the plasma television, both of them eyeing the incomprehensible master remote on the glass coffee table, as the resident loopy lovers disappeared down the hall towards Danica's bedroom. Hermione was wearing blue pajama pants with sheep on them, and the top two buttons of Draco's shirt were undone.

Not that she'd paid much attention to that, or anything. It was just an observation. For further reference.

Further reference, if you know wh—

She was going to stop this nonsense in its tracks, right now. Then she was going to hog-tie it and leave it exposed in this weather until it died of hypothermia. She was acting like—like—

Like someone lonely. Like someone who'd been lonely for a long time.

She realized after a moment that they were very likely both waiting on the other to reach for the remote first, since avoiding one of those extremely clichéd but oddly plausible hand-brushing moments was highly advisable. Accordingly, she watched his arm out of the corner of her eye for a moment, making sure he wasn't shifting, and leaned forward to pick the thing up.

Thus it was that, courtesy of her caution, they both walked away un-brushed. It was brilliant.

Uncertainly Hermione regarded the buttons. There appeared to be approximately fifty of them, and most of them looked deceptively similar. Only a few were labeled, and one of those labels appeared to be in Spanish.

¿Que?

"Let me see?" Draco requested, and she moved to hand it to him, and he moved to take it, and their warm hands ghosted over one another, and all her careful efforts went down the proverbial drain to languish in the proverbial sewer.

It was a struggle, but she managed not to shiver happily.

Draco stared at the impossible device for a long moment, and then he very dramatically closed his eyes and hit a button at random.

Nothing happened.

"Try 'Power,'" Hermione suggested.

"Just crazy enough to work," Draco muttered thoughtfully.

It took a while, but between the two of them, they eventually succeeded in navigating the remote control and found themselves with one of those exceedingly complicated, semi-fantastical drama-mystery-sci-fi serials that had lately gained popularity in leaps, bounds, and visually-appealing advertisements.

Draco paused. "Do you know what's going on?" he asked, sounding less than optimistic.

"Haven't the faintest idea," Hermione sighed.

Draco drummed his long fingers on his chin. "Are your feet still cold?" he inquired next.

Hermione looked at them where they were curled under the blanket she'd hijacked from the hall closet—which was velvety purple and clashed horribly with the classy beige of the suede couch.

"A bit," she admitted.

She watched, dumb, mute, and dizzy, as his pale hand settled over her feet. His palm was warm, and he didn't look inclined to draw it back.

She gazed unseeing at the television screen. Blind now, too, eh? Dear God, this was a whole new tier of terrifying.

And weirdly kind of romantic.

And what the hell was going on in this show?

Two hours later—naturally, it had been a marathon of last season's episodes—they finally gave up, and Draco reclaimed his hand, and Hermione led the way to the hall closet, where they found enough sheets to arrange a palatable pallet on the couch.

He seemed to be waiting for her to leave, and after a long moment, Hermione realized that he probably wasn't going to be sleeping in his nice slacks.

Which meant he had to drop them.

Which he wasn't likely to do with her standing there, huddled in her purple blanket.

She was the next Holmes, honestly.

"Goodnight," she said, attempting to make up some ground.

He smiled. "Goodnight," he replied.

She scuttled off to her bedroom, feet getting chilly again, face a bit toastier, and wondered just how she'd so suddenly lost her mind.

It was a pity she hadn't taken a picture of it; she could have put signs on all the posts.

…then again, in a completely mad world, the kind of world in which Draco Malfoy and Hermione Granger ended up in the same bar in New York City, maybe sanity wasn't as advantageous as she would have thought.

Besides, the people who wrote that show certainly weren't sane, and they probably made lots of money.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

When Hermione dragged herself off of the mattress the next morning—damn thing certainly felt like it cost more than her life, which might have been why it thought itself entitled to devour her—she rubbed her bleary eyes and headed for the kitchen.

She didn't even get lost; it was quite a feat.

She had, however, forgotten Draco, at least until she saw him lounging against the countertop, getting toast crumbs on the morning's outfit. The outfit in question consisted of last night's shirt—sleeves rolled up, front hanging open over the A-shirt beneath it—and the black slacks.

Hermione was not examining his monochrome raiment and wondering if what was underneath it might be more colorful. Certainly not.

Hoping the renewed heat in her face was attributable to an extremely sudden fever, Hermione crossed the room to the counter, where slices of bread spilled from the bag by the little tub of marmalade.

"'Morning," Draco bid her, raising his toast.

"Good morning," she replied, pretending not to notice that it took her two tries to shove the bread into the toaster slot. "Have you seen—" Head or tail was not a good idiom. "—hide or hair of either of them?"

On second thought, that wasn't all that much better.

Draco shook his head and took another bite of toast. He smirked faintly. "They are probably pretty worn out," he noted.

Hermione served herself some apple-strawberry-kiwi juice and joined him in leaning against the counter. He'd taken off his bet-induced jewelry.

"What are you going to do for today?" she asked. "Four calling birds and all."

Draco nodded. "Not sure," he confessed. "It'd be a lot of work to rig up a couple of tape recorders, even if I could find some fake birds to carry around."

Hermione considered. "Why don't you take it as a pun?" she prompted. "I bet we could find you fake birds at a crafts store, and we could probably get an old telephone at a thrift store. You could just glue them onto the receiver."

He looked at her appreciatively, and she strove not to start blushing again.

"You're good at this," he decided.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Hermione had wisely elected to shower the night before. Heading out into this weather—exceedingly warm, fluffy, orange scarf or no exceedingly warm, fluffy orange scarf—with wet hair would have been coif-related suicide.

Hermione was not known for having cooperative hair, but "uncooperative" was better than "block of ice."

In short—and it certainly felt short, which was strange and rather more telling than Hermione would have liked—their quest for punning bet-deflection succeeded, and Hermione somehow agreed to meet for lunch the next day while her brain had its back turned.

Or perhaps her brain had finally up and bought some real estate in the Caribbean. She could hardly have blamed it.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

When she arrived five minutes early at the designated café, Draco was already seated in the window, and he waved at her brightly. There was no maliciousness in his smile, and it was startling.

And oh, how she admired punctuality. Damn it.

It was only after they'd ordered and she'd started nursing her hot cocoa protectively that she noticed the wicker basket sitting on the table next to his glass of water. She raised her eyebrows in question, and, grinning, he motioned for her to look.

Nestled amongst the Spanish moss were three white eggs, upon each of which Draco had drawn a beret and a moustache in black Sharpie. One of them also had a cigarette.

"Three stereotypically-French… eggs?" Hermione inquired.

Draco shook his head. "They could have been hens," he pointed out. "We'll never know if they would have been hens or roosters. They're like… Schrödinger's hens."

She wanted to say "That's not quite the same," but she laughing too hard to get the words out.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

The next afternoon, as they walked through the park and attempted to absorb a few rays each of weak, pale yellow sunshine, Draco unveiled his latest creation, which was a store-bought banner reading NOEL, each letter adorned with a white dove.

Well, a once-white dove: Draco had taken his Sharpie to this innocent object as well, resulting in doves with extremely identifiable turtle shells.

They also wore goggles and carried guns, and one appeared to have a grenade belt.

She pointed. "What's that for? Battle turtles?"

"Wartortles," Draco corrected triumphantly.

Hermione looked at him blankly, and his triumph faded fast. He glanced around for an egress.

"Hey," he interjected, pointing towards a street-side coffee shop. "I'll bet they have hot chocolate."

She was about to press the issue of the belligerent turtledoves, but she forgot everything else when he looped his warm arm through hers and towed her towards the restaurant.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Draco Malfoy had her phone number.

Hermione was having trouble adjusting to the idea. She supposed it was—well, weirdly reasonable, but… he had her phone number.

He might give it to telemarketers or sell it on eBay or call while she was in the shower and think she didn't want to talk to him because she hadn't picked up—and then what would she do?

She sat on her—well, technically Danica's—bed on Christmas morning and stared at her cell phone. God forbid he should get her answering machine; her leave-a-message recitation was hideous.

The phone beeped loudly and buzzed, its violent vibrating carrying it a full two inches across the comforter. Hermione snatched it up and pressed the button to show the text.

There's a farm at 1053 Augustine Rd. Please follow the fence on the roadside. ;)

Well, now she was curious.

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Armed—or equipped, she supposed—with warm boots, her thickest coat, and her good orange scarf, Hermione parked on the gravel by the abandoned farmhouse at 1053 and started walking along the fence, pining for earmuffs and squinting out over the gleaming snow, wondering what exactly she was looking for.

Then she saw the bare tree stretching its spindly limbs towards the sky—and, more importantly, the shivering idiot sitting in it, wearing a very thin-looking, extremely tacky shirt that the 70s had understandably relinquished for him to borrow. They probably didn't want anything to do with that pattern.

As Hermione neared, ruefully shaking her head already, she noticed that his hair was different, too—fluffier.

She looked at the tree, and then at its unusual denizen.

"Oh, God," she said. "A member of the Partridge family… in a pear tree?"

Draco cackled happily.

And then, of course, before she could warn him how painful and inconvenient it would be to break his neck, he jumped down, snow exploding about his feet at the point of impact, and raked his fingers through his hair. He had at least tempered his suicidal impulses—he was wearing a thermal shirt underneath the 70s reject one.

He kept on grinning as they strolled back towards the barn, where she noticed a modest sedan that must have been his. It looked kind of nice next to her battered station wagon with its backseat filing cabinet.

She took a deep breath, crossed her heart, and hoped to die.

"Would you like to go out for dinner, Draco?" she asked.

Slowly, but grandly, with twin sparks in his pale eyes, he grinned a little wider. "It's Partridge Day," he pointed out, looking no unhappier for it. "Won't everything be closed?"

"The Chinese places won't," Hermione replied.

He blinked. "Really?"

"Truly," she confirmed. "Didn't you know? It's a Jewish tradition to go to the movies and then for Chinese food on Christmas."

"I wasn't aware of that," he said.

She smiled. "Clearly," she noted, "you haven't been in America long enough."

"I have to admit," he remarked, rubbing absently at his chin, "I've had a pretty nice time so far. Maybe I should invite a few old friends to sta—"

"No."

He was still chuckling at intervals when they ordered their chow mein.

Which she supposed was all right.