Disclaimer: I own nothing.
A/N: My first (and only) completed Dramione! It takes place the week before Christmas. Hope you like. =D Thanks to Medea Smyke for looking this over.
Breaking the Ice
Holding up the two canisters in her hand for inspection, Hermione decided that weighing the merits of cocoa mix with marshmallows versus cocoa mix without marshmallows was much more difficult than people realized.
Sure, the little white specks looked more like the rocks used to line the bottom of a fish bowl than marshmallows, but it would cost nearly two pounds less to purchase the cocoa with the marshmallow impostors already mixed in than to buy a separate bag of marshmallows and manually toss them in herself. Of course, buying a bag of marshmallows and adding them to the hot cocoa tasted better, but she would have to carry two items back to her lodgings instead of just the one. And that was another thing, why didn't her bed and breakfast have hot chocolate to begin with?
Hermione shook her head. This was taking entirely too long. Each minute she used to make this decision was another minute of enjoyment lost from her mini-holiday, which was not allowed. She had given herself a strict set of rules for this vacation, and the most important one (designated so by the way each letter of said rule was written in a different color and underlined five times) was relax and have fun. Granted, these were things she could have done easily from the comfort of her home, but it didn't seem quite as exciting as coming to this cozy little town on the fringes of nowhere. In any case, it was time to make a decision.
Cocoa mix with marshmallows had economy and efficiency. Cocoa mix without marshmallows that had authentic marshmallows added in from a bag had taste.
Well then, that was that, she thought mournfully. Hermione's left hand, the one with the marshmallow-less cocoa mix inched closer to the shelf as she looked longingly at the bag of fluffy white confections. She was just about to deposit the rejected canister on the shelf when her taste buds overthrew her common sense. Not allowing herself to think about it, Hermione flung the cocoa mix with faux marshmallows back onto the shelf, grabbed the bag of genuine marshmallows and bolted for the cash register with her prizes in hand before she could change her mind.
"Good evening, Miss. Terrible weather we're having, isn't it?" the older man behind the counter said, peering at Hermione over his horn-rimmed glasses as he took the items from her. She suspected he was the owner of the small grocery store. As the name on his name tag, Stewart, was identical to the one painted on the door, it seemed a safe assumption.
Handing over the money she owed to Stewart, Hermione smiled. "Actually, I think it's perfect. It makes reading in front of a fire that much more enjoyable."
"While that may be true, right now you aren't in front of a fire. And from the looks of things when you entered, you have a bit of a walk back." At Hermione's confused look, he elaborated. "You were covered with snow when you first arrived."
Being a muggle, he couldn't have realized she cast a warming spell on herself during her walk. Inside she felt downright balmy, which provided the most interesting sensation when the wind and snow licked at her face and ears. The frost melted upon contact with her skin, leaving small tingles in its wake.
"It's only a mile, give or take. I can handle it," she said, adjusting her coat and scarf. She was in the process of putting her wallet back into her purse when the sound of tinkling bells drew her attention to the front door and subsequently to a very handsome specimen of the opposite sex waltzing into the store.
Whoever he was, he certainly knew how to present himself. Smartly dressed in black slacks, boots, and overcoat, the beautiful man stopped just inside the door and scanned the aisles. His neck was wrapped in a gray scarf, and a matching hat sat on his head. The light dusting of snow on his person made Hermione wish for a powdered donut. Her eyes moved to his face, latching on to his cheekbones, which at the moment were the loveliest shade of rose. Merlin, he was gorgeous.
"Good evening, sir. Just so you know, we will be closing shop in about five minutes," Stewart called out across the way.
Hermione forced herself to look down at her cocoa mix and marshmallows as if they were the most interesting things in the world, lest the mystery man catch her stalking him.
"Just came in for some liquor. Where is it?" the beautiful man said.
That was interesting. His voice sounded familiar. Almost like…
Hermione's head snapped up and to her horror, she realized that the voice belonged to none other than Draco Malfoy. Immediately dropping her gaze, she fervently prayed he had not noticed her.
What was he doing here? In a muggle shop? In the middle of nowhere? Looking physically attractive to her? Impossible. She must be mistaken.
"Now that's one way to keep warm on a cold night," Stewart said, winking at Hermione. "You sure you don't want that instead of your cocoa, Miss?"
"No thank you," Hermione mumbled quietly, keeping her head bent over her purse.
"The liquor, sir?" Malfoy asked again.
"Oh, yes, I had forgotten. It's at the very back of the store, lining the wall. Just head straight that way. You can't miss it."
Certain Malfoy's doppelganger was facing the other way, Hermione stole a quick glance over her shoulder. The light of the grocery store shone on top of his head, highlighting the pale, silvery strands, which were now exposed by the doffing of his hat. No question about it. It was Draco Malfoy.
Bollocks! Though why she should find this upsetting, she did not know. After all, it had been eight months since she'd seen him last, when they had graduated from Hogwarts. That last year of school spent together had been markedly quiet. No name calling or bullying. He kept out of her way except for the few classes they had together. And their interactions in those classes, few as they were, were always formal and polite. Yes, public humiliation and family dishonor suited Malfoy well, if Hermione did say so herself.
"Here is your change, Miss," the clerk said cheerfully.
Hermione blinked, startled by the man she had all but forgotten. "You can keep it," she mumbled again, determined to keep her voice low so Draco could not identify her.
Grabbing her things, Hermione hurried out of the store, but darted down a nearby alley. Perhaps she was acting slightly unhinged, but she had to know what Malfoy was doing here. It couldn't be for innocent purposes, could it? And even if it were, she had to admit she was a little curious to see what he had been up to these past months. It was like he had fallen off the face of the planet since graduation.
A few minutes later, she heard the store door open with another tinkle of bells. Though she could not see him, Hermione assumed the sound of crunching in the snow emanated from Malfoy's dragonhide boots as he made his way past the alley that was concealing her.
Casting a quick silencing charm on her shoes, she waited thirty seconds after he had gone by before sneaking out after him. There was no one on the small sidewalk, which abruptly terminated 30 yards ahead into a small country lane that in certain spots only permitted one car. Hermione had learned that the hard way.
As she reached the end of the side walk, she debated whether following Malfoy was truly worth it. Her lodgings were back in the other direction. Should he turn around, there would be nowhere to hide. How would she explain herself if she were caught? Well, you see, Malfoy, I just happened to see you in the market and was struck with an insatiable curiosity concerning your altered physical state, which for some reason I find attractive for the first time in my life. No. That would not do. And yet, she did not turn around and walk the other way, which was stupid since she was cold and growing increasingly more so by the second. In all her rush to spy on Malfoy, she had forgotten to cast her warming spell.
Well, that was easily remedied. Pulling out her wand, she had just voiced the first syllable of the incantation when the stick of vine and dragon heartstring evaporated from her hand and her skin felt like it had dropped thirty degrees in temperature.
Hermione stared down at herself in shock. Everything but her bra, underwear, boots, cocoa mix, marshmallows, and purse had disappeared. Poof!
Malfoy spun around fully and said, "Thought I wouldn't—"
Hermione stared at Malfoy, speechless for one of the few times in her life. Malfoy stopped mid-sentence, clearly as gobsmacked as Hermione, though recovering much more quickly. His eyes focused in on the top of her head and slowly made their way down to her boots, and though she was standing in the freezing winter air, Hermione began to feel warm all over.
He finally made his way back to her face, and for the space of a few moments they just stared at one another. Finally, Malfoy broke the silence. "Well, I do believe I've caught a Granger."
The sound of his voice triggered something in her, and she jumped to action, clamping her thighs together and folding her arms across her chest. "Malfoy!" she screamed. "Give me back my clothes."
"No can do," Malfoy said, pocketing his wand and walking towards her, hands raised in surrender. "The spell is irreversible."
"Why would you do this?" she accused, trying to stifle the chattering of her teeth.
"I thought you were Zabini."
"Are you in the habit of undressing Zabini on cold winter nights?" she said, lending her voice the most withering tone she had available.
If Malfoy understood her insinuation, he didn't seem to mind. "No, actually, this would have been the first time," he said, casually sweeping off some snowflakes from his left shoulder.
Hermione's anger and embarrassment and whatever other feelings Malfoy elicited from her were beginning to wear off, and she realized she was starting to lose feeling in her fingers. "Well, don't just stand there, you idiot. Give me your coat."
Draco shook his head at her as if she had the brain of a small child. "Bad plan, Granger. I would catch my death of cold."
"It won't matter, because if you don't fix this in the next thirty seconds I will kill you myself."
"You will forgive me if I find your threats less than compelling. It's nothing personal, I assure you. I just find it difficult to take the words of someone in their underwear very seriously. You understand, don't you?"
Releasing the tight hold she had around her body, Hermione threw her hands up in the air. "You are impossible! Just conjure or transfigure me some clothes. Do you think you can handle that, or is it beyond your limited capabilities?"
Malfoy broadened his stance, stuffing his hands into his pockets. "No, I don't think I will. I dislike your tone."
"You would really let me just freeze to death out here?"
"Of course not. That would be barbaric."
Hermione's palm met her forehead and she groaned. "Then why am I still in my underwear?"
Draco laughed loudly, the sound echoing off the nearby trees. "And you think I'm the idiot? How often do you think a wizard finds himself in this position?"
"I can't speak for other wizards, but it would seem this doesn't happen very often for you at all."
Again, Malfoy ignored the slight against his manhood. "I wasn't speaking of witches in general, but of Hermione Granger. Tell me, do most people know you like your bra and knickers to match? I suppose it would be a safe assumption, since you seem so anal about everything, but I never envisioned your meticulousness extending this far."
Even the thought of Malfoy picturing her in her underthings could stir no outrage inside Hermione. The cold was turning painful now, and Hermione dropped her head, tired of these immature exchanges. "You've won whatever game it is you're playing at. My toes are freezing, and I'm starting to hurt. Please, Malfoy."
"Why didn't you say you were cold?" he said, voice loud with accusation. Instantly his wand was in hand and a warming spell was cast over her. As the heat returned to her body, it brought another kind of pain, and Hermione flexed her fingers and toes to relieve it, glaring at Malfoy all the while.
At least he had the grace to look abashed. "I thought someone of your intellect would have mastered a simple warming spell long ago," he muttered.
"I forgot to cast it when I left the store, and then some prat had the nerve to steal my wand."
"Still, you should have said something sooner."
"Look, Malfoy," Hermione rounded on him, finger nearly touching his nose, "I refuse to have this argument in my underwear. So unless you want me to sic Harry and his band of merry aurors on your arse, I suggest you fix this. Post haste!"
Before he could reply, the sound of honking and a flash of headlights signaled the arrival of someone else on the country lane. As the car drew closer, Hermione saw it was inhabited by two guys. One of them was wearing a red jumper and a black cap, which would normally have been difficult to see on this dark winter evening but for the fact he was leaning out the window, howling and whistling at her like a deranged primate.
The car slowed to a stop, and Hermione felt herself pushed behind Malfoy. "There's nothing to see here," he said, waving them down the lane.
"Obviously you're not looking at the same thing we are, mate," the guy, clearly drunk, slurred out. The driver, while not intoxicated, was just as perverted. Hermione could see him leering at her as she snuck a peek from behind Draco's coat.
Malfoy's hands clenched to fists at his side, and Hermione placed a tentative hand on his arm. The last thing she needed were the authorities being brought in over some wizard-muggle altercation. There were already too many people who had seen her in her under things today.
"Perhaps I wasn't clear enough. There's nothing for you to see here. Now if you'll excuse us," Malfoy said curtly, pointing his thumb in the direction he wanted them to go.
After some protesting they took the hint and sped towards the small town. Just as they were entering, Malfoy pointed his wand, whispered a few words, and smirked as both of their back tires blew out.
The look of triumph was wiped off his face the instant Hermione ripped the wand from his grasp. Pointing it menacingly at its owner, she hissed, "I need clothes, and I need them now."
"Which do you prefer, joining me inside my coat or apparating to my place?"
"What do you think?"
Draco opened his jacket and gave her the friendliest and most inviting smile she had ever seen grace his face. Hermione promptly pushed him over into the snow.
"Alright, apparition it is. If you would be so kind, my wand." From his seat on the ground, Malfoy offered up his open palm.
Thrusting the wand into his hand, Hermione waited for him to stand and take hold of her. His gloved hand wrapped around her wrist, and the next second her stomach twisted as they apparated into his lodgings. The sudden movement sent Hermione stumbling, and she would have ended up sprawled on the floor if not for Malfoy's grip on her arm.
"Watch your step," he said, smiling down at her as his fingers slipped down the length of her arm.
Pushing him away, Hermione reached for a blanket and wrapped it around herself. "You're just as bad as they are, and don't pretend you aren't," she shrieked, venting her ire at Malfoy.
"Than whom?" he asked, calmly. The placidity of his countenance made Hermione want to break something.
"Than those…jerks in the car," she spluttered, clutching at the blanket around her.
"Once again you're wrong, Granger. I have your best interest at heart. Those two hooligans were only concerned with the gratification of their baser instincts."
Hermione rolled her eyes. "Spare me. You had me standing around in my underwear for ages." The second the words passed her lips, she blinked. All the events of the evening hit her with the force of a snow drift landing on her head. Malfoy admitted to picturing her in her underwear. Had looked her over as she froze in her panties and bras. Hid her from the sight of other men and acted possessively towards her. The entire situation was highly unusual, but for it to happen to her and with Malfoy was inconceivable. And what did it all mean? Was Malfoy attracted her or was this some sick joke of his?
Ugh. Why should she even care! He was a slimy pervert, and it was time for her to leave.
"Clothes. Now," she demanded.
"Of course." Malfoy disappeared down a hallway and returned a few moments later with a small bundle of clothes. "The bathroom is that way," he said, indicating a room just off the hallway.
Hermione snatched the clothes and rushed to the bathroom, slamming the door behind her. Unwrapping her new outfit, which consisted of nothing more than a a t-shirt, boxers, and robe-all black-she angrily yanked on his underwear, uttering very unladylike things in the process.
Through the door, Malfoy's muffled voice pestered her. "I would have given you more clothes, naturally, but they wouldn't have fit." Hermione bit her lip, holding back another curse and a reminder that he could magically alter his clothes. Obviously, he already knew that. And just as obvious were his attempts to upset her. Well, she would rob him of that source of entertainment by no longer rising to his bait.
Reining in her temper, Hermione slipped on the black robe, tying it firmly around her waist. Her reflection in the mirror caught her eye, and she stared at herself. Her hands went straight to her hair, tucking unruly strands behind her ears. Taking a step back, she looked at her outfit. The clothes fit perfectly, which meant he had altered them to fit her, since he had a good six inches and forty pounds on her. Cheeky bastard. When she was satisfied with her appearance, Hermione opened the door.
Stepping back into the room, she noticed that in her absence, Malfoy had removed his winter outer wear. He was now before her in a light gray sweater, black slacks, and pale, bare feet.
"As you can see, I like for my under things to match too," he said.
Hermione threw the blanket at Malfoy, who promptly folded it and set it on the couch.
"I do not care, and I am leaving. Just give me a pair of boots and I'll be on my way," she declared, gathering the marshmallows, cocoa mix, and purse that had fallen to the floor when they had apparated in.
"Leaving? But you've only just arrived. And you still haven't explained why you were stalking me."
"Stalking? I was not stalking you!"
"What other reason do you have to be in this remote region other than to follow me around? Last I checked, this is the only house available for rent on this lane for the next five miles. So unless you were planning to walk that entire distance to your lodgings, I will have to go with my earlier assumption that you have been sent to spy on me."
"Don't be ridiculous. You're not that important," she said with a laugh, relieved that he assumed she had followed him because of work and not some compulsion related to the unsettling stirrings he'd produced in her at the market.
Malfoy opened his arms wide, gesturing to the cozy cottage surrounding them. A fire crackled quietly in one corner of the living room, and there were a few books laid open on a coffee table. Really, it was all quite harmless. In fact, the only thing that wasn't innocent was the look on Malfoy's face. "As you can see, I have been up to my usual nefarious activities. No doubt the Ministry will be expecting a report, so I give you leave to search the premises. We can start in my bedroom."
"I'd rather not."
"Good, because at the moment I am only accommodating pleasure. You see, Granger, I'm taking something called a holiday. It's a time where people relax and have fun, a concept I'm sure is foreign to a workaholic like you."
Not true! Relaxing and having fun was number one on her list of holiday rules! "I know what a holiday is! I'm on one right now!"
"Then why are you so uptight? And constantly yelling?"
"I AM NOT-" Hermione cleared her throat, modulating her tone. "I am not uptight, and I am not yelling all the time. But if I were, I have cause. You stole my wand and clothes and made me stand in the freezing cold while you ogled me for ages."
"I told you, I thought you were Zabini."
"Yes, but that excuse only works for the first second. After that, it was quite clear I wasn't Zabini!"
"Yes, there are a few very noticeable differences between your physique and his. Namely, you have—"
"I was only going to say you have light skin, and he has dark skin."
Hermione raised her eyebrows. "Of course you were. But why would you have a spell like that for Zabini in the first place?"
"He hid all my liquor and socks," he said, wiggling his toes. "This was my retaliation."
"But that doesn't explain why you kept me out in the cold for so long."
"No, I suppose it doesn't," Malfoy said, turning away from her and heading toward the kitchen.
"Wait, where are you going?" Hermione asked, scrambling after him. His habit of changing the subject was confusing and more than a little annoying.
"I'm famished. Would you care for some dinner?"
Hermione was hungry; it was thirty minutes past her usual dinner time. But she did not feel comfortable accepting anything from Malfoy. However, if she could broker some kind of exchange…
"Fine. You make dinner, and I'll make some hot chocolate. Where do you keep your mugs?" Before he answered, she started opening and closing cabinets until she found what she was looking for. Taking the mugs to the sink, she filled them up with water. When she turned around, she found Malfoy looking at her cocoa mix.
"What is this?" he said, a sneer forming on his mouth.
"Hot chocolate mix."
Malfoy took another look at it, then threw it in the trash.
"What do you think you're doing!" Hermione cried, outraged. She had spent nearly ten minutes deliberating over that canister of cocoa, and it was now a symbol of her spontaneity and recklessness, two qualities Harry and Ron were always complaining she lacked. That cocoa canister was proof that they were wrong.
"That is not hot chocolate," Draco said.
"Obviously. I still needed to heat up the water and stir it in!"
Draco shook his head, then called out, "Snotface!" so loudly, Hermione jumped.
With a loud pop, a light gray house elf appeared before them. "Snotface is here, Master Draco," the spindly creature said, bowing low to the ground, the tea towel he had tied as a cape around his neck falling over his face in the process. "Snotface is ready to make your dinner, Master Draco."
"While you are at it, prepare some hot chocolate as well."
"Yes, Master Draco. Of course, Master Draco," the house elf said.
Hermione walked over to the trash can, pulling out the unopened canister of cocoa. "I refuse to drink anything made by a house elf."
"And I refuse to drink anything made by a Hermione Granger. Especially wrongly-prepared hot chocolate."
"Just because it's made by a human does not mean it's wrongly-prepared."
Draco took a seat, sighing exasperatedly. "Snotface, show Miss Granger how genuine hot chocolate is made."
"Yes, Master Draco," the house elf said, bowing once again to the ground before shuffling to the refrigerator and pulling out some milk. After gathering a pan and a block of milk chocolate, Snotface began to melt the chocolate in the pan, then added milk, bringing the concoction to a light simmer.
When it was ready, Snotface poured the liquid into two mugs and placed the glasses in front of them. "Snotface is going to Malfoy Manor to prepare dinner. Snotface will return shortly."
"Thank you, Snotface," Malfoy said, and then the house elf disapparated.
Malfoy held his mug under his nose and inhaled deeply. "Hmmm. Vastly superior to your muggle powder."
Hermione rolled her eyes. "I could have made that. There was nothing magical about it."
"I never said there was. But no wizard would think of creating a disgusting powder as a substitute for the real thing."
Hermione watched Malfoy as he enjoyed his hot chocolate, still refusing to partake of the slave-made drink. Normally, she would not have been so rude as to blatantly stare at someone, but she figured after what he had put her through, he deserved a little discomfort. Unfortunately, Draco was an exhibitionist. After the third time he had run his tongue slowly over his upper lip, Hermione could no longer take it. She giggled.
"I'm glad you find me so amusing," Malfoy said.
"I just don't understand. During seventh year, you hardly said ten words to me, and now you're flirting outrageously with me."
Hermione drew back, suddenly uneasy. He had been flirting with her, hadn't he? Oh, Merlin, she didn't know! And this is why she hated dealing with men. They were always so confusing. Trying to save face but failing miserably, Hermione stammered, "Well, uh…"
Malfoy reached across the table and took her hand. "Have you ever considered that I've always been an outrageous flirt, and you never noticed because you never really took the time to get to know me?"
Of course she hadn't. "Why would I think that? You obviously hated me."
Relinquishing her hand, Malfoy pushed the mug towards her. "Drink it."
Hermione closed her mouth, firming her lips into a tight line and shaking her head. Well, that explained the flirting. A nice diversionary tactic, she had to admit, but she would not drink Snotface's hot chocolate.
"What if I told you Snotface is a free elf?" Malfoy asked, looking keenly at her.
"Really?" she said, scooting towards the edge of her seat in interest.
"No," he said, holding up his hand to forestall Hermione's anger. "Before you embarrass yourself by yelling at me, I did try to free him, but he would not accept it. Apparently, he likes my family. Well, at least me anyhow."
"Hmph. I can't imagine why. Did you really have to name him Snotface?"
"Granger, Snotface is at least a fifty years old, so I had no part in giving him his real name, which is Goober. Snotface is just a nickname I gave him as a child, and he doesn't have any objections to it, so neither should you. We both consider it a pet name."
"Thank Merlin I could never be your house elf. I could only imagine the horrible names you would give me. Rat's nest? Bucktooth?"
Malfoy crossed his arms on top the table and rested his chin on his forearms. It was the most informal pose Hermione had ever seen him strike in all the years of their acquaintance. "I think you would like belonging to me…I would call you Smartypants."
Hermione laughed. That was actually kind of cute. Then remembering who she was speaking with, she mentally scolded herself. Reaching for the still warm cup of chocolate, she took a sip.
"Good, isn't it?" Malfoy asked.
"Hmmm," Hermione answered noncommittally, though it was delicious.
"But I think it's missing something." Picking up both their mugs, Malfoy went to the living room, Hermione hot on his heels. Once there, he began rooting around his coat, and pulled out his acquisition from Stewart's Market: a bottle of Baileys. Opening it, he poured a liberal dash into both their cups. Raising his mug, he tapped it against Hermione's and said, "Cheers."
Hermione eyed the glass suspiciously. She was already feeling strangely. Alcohol was probably not a good idea.
"Since when do you drink Muggle alcohol?" she asked.
"Since I discovered that it tastes bloody terrific." Pouring some more into his cup, Draco took another sip of what was by now more Baileys than hot chocolate.
Hermione sat down on the nearest seat, which happened to be the couch. Draco soon followed, and while there was plenty of space for three people, he was so close to her their knees were touching. Hermione sat entranced, studying the contrast between the black of his slacks and the white of her legs. Black and white. A trite, but apt, summation of the last eight years of their interactions. For so long he had been such a nasty, repellent little toad, fighting on behalf of the greatest evil she'd ever experienced, fighting against her and everything she knew to be right. And now here he was, vacationing amongst muggles, attempting to free house elves—well, one house elf-being friendly in a very off-beat way, and flirting with her. And yes, he was flirting with her, she decided. What she couldn't figure out, though, was how she felt about it. Or him.
Hermione lifted her head, only to find Malfoy's eyes mere inches from hers. His gray gaze arrested her, and she studied all the flecks of colors hidden there. Gold, blue, white. Who knew? It occurred to her then that there were many things she hadn't noticed about this man, because, as he had earlier said, she'd never taken the time to get to know him. But now, there was all the time in the world. If she came closer to him, really got to know him, what else would she discover? The possibilities were terrifying.
Draco blinked, and the sudden movement broke the enchantment. Not wanting him to see her confusion, Hermione shielded her eyes, lowering them to his mouth. A leftover bead of moisture from his drink rested in the indentation of his upper lip, and she could smell the mixture of chocolate and Baileys on his breath.
"Granger," he repeated again, his voice lower and softer than before.
She felt the couch shift as he leaned closer. Was he going to kiss her? Would she let him?
Before Hermione could determine that answer, a loud pop from the kitchen told her Snotface was here with dinner. And just in time, too. It wasn't safe here any longer. Not when she was hallucinating that kissing Malfoy would actually be a pleasant occurrence instead of the end of the world. Hermione jumped to her feet and said,"I really should be going."
Draco didn't move from the couch, but his hand wrapped gently around her wrist. "Can't allow it. Those two lechers are probably waiting for you in town. I insist you stay here, for your own protection."
"I wouldn't need protection if I had my wand. And they're most likely still occupied with trying to fix the tires you blew out," but even as she was protesting, she settled back down on to the couch next to Draco, knees touching and all. "And they're probably no worse than the lecher who won't let me leave his house and has me dressed in his own underwear," she said pointedly. "Who is to protect me from you?"
Draco merely smiled. Turning towards the house elf, he said, "Snotface, Miss Granger and I will be taking dinner in the living room."
The house elf walked towards them, setting both their plates, utensils, and wine on the coffee table in front of the couch. Before Hermione could thank Snotface, he popped away.
Now it was just her and Malfoy. And dinner. At least that was safe. Hermione tucked in, hoping Malfoy wouldn't press her for conversation with her mouth full. Thankfully, he didn't. But the reprieve ended the second her plate was clear.
"So, Granger, are you finally going to tell me why you were stalking me?"
"I was not stalking you. I was merely curious about what you were doing in a Muggle town. And I still am. Why are you on holiday here?"
"Can't I be curious too? Or is it only Hermione Granger who has been granted that privilege?"
"Stop being evasive. We both know how much you hate Muggles. So vacationing amongst them makes no sense at all."
Malfoy shrugged, resting his head against the back of the couch and staring up at the ceiling. "It seems you have it all worked out. Any further explanations from me would be redundant." Lolling his head to the side, he looked at her. "How long were you following me?"
Hermione forced herself to look at him, telling herself she had nothing to be embarrassed about. "I saw you in the market."
"Why didn't you say hello?"
"Yes, because in the course of our relationship we've always been perfectly cordial to one another."
"That last year at Hogwarts went well."
He closed his eyes momentarily, and a tiny smile appeared on his mouth. "Hmm, I remember it differently."
Hermione searched her brain, trying to remember that last year with Draco. Unfortunately, for a few months she had been too preoccupied with her long distance relationship with Ron Weasley to notice anything. Ugh. What a waste of her time. In any case, there weren't many memories she could conjure. But he did seem a constant presence in her last year. They shared many of the same classes, and she did remember that he would always sit behind her. At first, it had set her on edge, as she expected him to insult her or hex her while she wasn't paying attention. But neither of those things ever happened. He was a quiet and industrious student.
"You barely ever spoke to me," she said.
"But we didn't fight. And we aren't fighting now. That must count for something."
Hermione chewed her lower lip, thinking it over. "I suppose you're right, but it doesn't count for much."
"It's a starting point at least."
Hermione nodded her head in assent. And in an effort to be charitable, she said, "So, you are curious about muggles. As you are well aware, I'm muggleborn, so feel free to ask me anything you like."
"Do you normally wear matching under things, or was this a one off?"
Hermione gasped, then smacked him on the arm. "That question has nothing to do with being muggle," she said, laughing.
"Then perhaps you should be more specific when granting your favors."
"Next question, Malfoy."
Malfoy reached for his wand, which was resting on the coffee table, and with a flick of the wrist, he produced a sprig of green with white berries. At the sight of the mistletoe, Hermione's stomach plummeted to the vicinity of her feet.
"Where were your conjuring skills when I actually needed them?" Hermione grumbled, pretending not to be affected.
Twisting the mistletoe in his fingers, Malfoy looked at Hermione, eyes wide and innocent. "What is this?"
"You know what that is. Professor Flitwick would hang it everywhere around the Christmas holidays."
"Yes, but that is what wizards used it for. In muggle tradition…?" Malfoy pressed.
If he was going to play stupid, so would she. Rattling off the facts she could remember, Hermione stated, "Mistletoe is a parasitic plant. The origin of its name is uncertain, but there are arguments that the mist of mistletoe comes from the German word for dung. In Norse mythology, the god Balder was killed by an arrow made of mistletoe. And…that's it." Hmm, now that she thought about it, why would anyone choose a plant with such a gruesome and unromantic background to be the symbol under which festive couples locked lips.
"That's all?" Malfoy dangled the sprig between them, slowly turning it between his thumb and index finger. "There's nothing else associated with this thing you call mistletoe?"
Would it really be that bad if she showed him the other use for mistletoe? As she weighed her options, the number one rule flashed before her eyes in all its rainbow and underlined potency: Relax and have fun.
Relax and have fun. Relax and have fun. Relax and have fun. The refrain pounded in her head at nearly the same speed as her overtaxed heart.
Taking her life in her hands, she said, "Just one more thing." Then she grabbed onto Malfoy's gray sweater and pressed her mouth to his.
It was supposed to be brief. No more than a few seconds. And there wasn't supposed to be any use of teeth. Or tongues for that matter. But about ten seconds into Hermione's brief holiday from sanity, that all got thrown out the window.
Everything seemed hazy. Things would register slowly, but she could not focus on them all at the same time. At one point or another, she knew Malfoy's fingers were in her hair. One instant he smelled of pine, another of cinnamon. Then there was his mouth, which tasted like Baileys, hot chocolate, and shortbread. And his skin and sweater felt so warm and soft, she wanted to pillow her head there.
Hermione sighed, allowing Malfoy to pull her into his lap. His mouth moved to her neck, and she felt more than heard him whisper, "Hermione."
At the sound of her name, she pulled away and looked into his eyes. His pupils were dilated, the silver-gray of his irises thin rings. The dark fringe of lashes fluttered once, twice, but he stared steadily back at her, breathing heavily.
Her hand went to his face and caressed the stubble she felt but could not see on his cheek. "Hi…Draco," she said, smiling tentatively. He returned her smile tenfold, and it was such a breathtaking sight, Hermione responded in the only way possible: she snogged him senseless.
This went on for some time, though for how long Hermione did not know. What she was certain of, though, was that they would not be stopping any time soon. No, she would kiss him till the sun rose. And she would have too, if not for a loud banging sound from the kitchen, which drew her attention from Draco.
"What was that?" she asked, trying to turn her head to look behind her.
Draco shrugged, "Who cares?" And with even more persuasive movements of his mouth, he coaxed Hermione into a lovely state of ambivalence to anything besides him. Really, she thought, his kisses are more effective than an Obliviate. She threw her arms around his neck and pressed herself against him, ready and willing to forget she had heard anything.
"Helping yourself to your presents a little early, aren't we?"
Hermione instantly drew back, embarrassed to be caught in this position. And when she saw Blaise Zabini's smirking face, she blushed harder.
"Granger?" her former classmate and current coworker at the Ministry exclaimed. Hermione groaned, burying her face in Draco's neck.
Zabini chuckled, no doubt amused by the spectacle of her crawling all over Malfoy. "I suppose I shouldn't be too surprised. After all-"
"What do you want, Zabini?" Draco interrupted.
"While I do hate to crash your merrymaking—"
Draco cut across Zabini again. "Then by all means feel free to leave."
"As I was saying, I apologize for my intrusion, but it was unavoidable. While I was in my room, and most definitely not watching you both eat each other's faces off-"
"Get to the point," Draco bit out harshly.
"Where's the eggnog?" Blaise asked.
Hermione felt Draco's hands on her waist clench. "You drank it all yesterday."
Finally composed enough to speak, Hermione volunteered some information. "There is a store not more than a mile away. Just down the road. I'm pretty sure I saw eggnog for sale there." She neglected to tell Blaise it was already closed.
Blaise laughed, seemingly onto her plan to be quickly rid of his company. "So, Granger, what brings you to this neck of the woods? I assume it wasn't for a tryst with Malfoy," Zabini paused, smirking at Draco, "though one never knows these days."
Hermione could hear a low growl in Draco's throat, and she looked at him, surprised. He never struck her as a man of strong emotions. Of course, after that passionate snog session on the couch, she probably needed to revise her views.
Hoping the sooner she answered Zabini, the sooner he'd leave, Hermione said, "I wanted to do something a little different for the holidays, and the bed and breakfast I'm staying at looked so lovely in the brochure, I decided to pay a visit."
"How fortunate for you to bump into Malfoy in so isolated a place," Zabini said. "If I didn't know better, I'd almost say it was planned."
Hermione coughed, remembering how this night had started with her following Draco out of the store. "I can assure you, it wasn't planned." At least that part was true. Never in her wildest dreams had she imagined that following Malfoy out of that store would end with her cradled in his arms and swathed in his boxers and robe.
"Perhaps this wasn't planned from your end," Zabini said. " But Malfoy's been thinking up this little rendezvous from the instant I informed him you were spending your holiday here."
Hermione's head snapped to Draco, who was now scowling at his (ex) friend.
"That's enough, Zabini."
But Zabini, much to Hermione's relief, ignored Draco. "He'd never tell you this, but he's fancied you since last year." Zabini chuckled, his mirth growing the more upset Draco became, and Draco was livid. "Just about cried with joy when you broke up with the Weasel. Tried to free his house elf, but that was an utter disaster. And he's been pestering me about muggle culture so he could prove to you he's changed. As if I would know more than him about muggles."
Malfoy stood to his feet, sending Hermione onto the couch. Snatching up his wand, which had fallen onto the cushions during Hermione's lesson on mistletoe, he pointed it in the vicinity of Zabini's throat.
"And where do you suggest I go? We rented this place together, remember?" As an aside, he said to Hermione, "Malfoy needed my moral support before he finally confessed his love to you."
"Go back to your Manor. I'm sure your mother misses you," Draco said.
Zabini looked like he was about to protest, but the mischievous sparkle in his eye alerted Hermione he had changed his mind. "I'll go, but you owe me, Malfoy. Again."
"The only thing I owe you is some broken bones, and you will receive them with interest."
Zabini winked at Hermione. "Be kind to him. I've never seen him this enamored of anyone except himself. And give Potter and Weasley my greetings. I'm sure they'll be as delighted as I am of your and Draco's budding relationship," and then he disappeared in a glow of red, barely missing the hex Draco sent his way.
Hermione turned to Draco, who was shaking and cursing under his breath.
"Is it true you've liked me since 7th year?" she asked.
"Of course not! Zabini is a Slytherin. You can't trust a word he says."
"But you are also a Slytherin, so it follows that I can't trust you when you say you haven't liked me since 7th year," Hermione smugly pointed out.
Draco said nothing.
"And did you really cry when I broke up with Ron?"
As she expected, that got a response from Draco. "Honestly, Hermione, what do you take me for? A Hufflepuff?"
"And did you come here just to see me?"
Clearly agitated, Malfoy began tugging at the edge of his collar. "If I did, what of it? This is a free country, and if I want to holiday in some backwater muggle town, I will!"
It was in this instant that Hermione realized that Draco Malfoy was more to her than a way of obeying her number one holiday rule. More than a hundred canisters of cocoa mix. With or without marshmallows. In truth, she was well on her way to being as enamored of him as he was of her.
"Draco, no one is stopping you from holidaying anywhere you like…though in the future I hope it's with me."
The change in Draco's demeanor was instantaneous. He smoothed his hair, which she had earlier ruffled, and walked towards her, pulling her into his arms. "Before I commit to anything, I will need to consult my schedule. But out of curiosity, where will you be this New Year's?"
"There is a muggle tradition known as the countdown I would like some more instruction on. Actually, we needn't wait till New Year's. My lessons can start right now."
Hermione placed her finger against Draco's over amorous but lovely mouth. "Just one thing more."
"Anything," he said, kissing the pad of her index finger.
"The whole underwear thing wasn't planned, was it?"
"No, that was just a bonus. I really did think you were Zabini. And I'm sorry for not realizing sooner that you were cold." Draco's finger lazily traced the seam where her neck and the robe's collar met, causing her to shiver.
"It's alright," she whispered, drawing closer to his warmth.
"I didn't even plan on seeing you until tomorrow, so finding you in your knickers was a bit of a shock. Not that I'm complaining."
"Of course you wouldn't complain. You were fully dressed."
"If it bothers you so much, I could teach you the spell. Even up the score, as it were."
"You forget I don't have my wand."
"Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe the same effect can be achieved manually."
Hermione raised herself on her tiptoes and kissed him briefly on the mouth. "Later." Leading him to the couch, she pushed him down and settled on his lap. "Right now I think it's time for you to confess your love for me. Starting from the beginning."
Draco wrapped his arms around her and she felt him smile as he rested his cheek on top of her head.
"As you wish, Smartypants."
A/N: Please Review. It would make my day. =D