A/N: Thanks to everyone who reviewed and favourited, etc! Also, thanks again to DragonMaster65 for betaing this!
I was quite upset to find that the charts that tell me how many people looked at the first half said 0 for TWO DAYS, which I knew were LIES because I got reviews and people favourited and put on alert, which would be hard to do without actually clicking on the story... It was saddening. BUT it came back now, so I can once more check it.
Anyway, here's the second half, enjoy!
She woke up to the delicious smell of cookies and who knows what other manner of delectable things baking, which was strange, because Malfoy agreeing he would do the baking was the last thing she remembered, so the smell should be burning, shouldn't it?
Stretching tentatively, she was pleased when she found that there was no more twinge of pain in her shoulder. That last potion Malfoy gave her must have been a strong one. Wait. She had fallen over in the kitchen and Malfoy had been there to catch her and carry her to bed.
Frantically, she lifted up the warm blankets covering her and peeked underneath. Good, he'd left her in her clothes; she wouldn't have to hex his balls off.
She rolled out of the bed she stayed in when at Grimmauld Place and shuffled over to her bureau to pull out some clothes. At the sight of her still striped arm, she groaned; the glamour charm covering her stripes had worn off.
A little worried about the state of the kitchen, Hermione hesitantly walked down the stairs and peeked around the doorway. Malfoy was nowhere to be found, but lined up along the counter were cookies, cupcakes, fudge, and what looked like strawberry shortcake. Her eyes were huge as she took in the sweets she could only assume Malfoy had made.
"Surprised, Granger?" Malfoy asked, sneaking up behind her. She jumped and hit her head on his chin; he was standing closer than she had thought.
"Merlin, Malfoy! Don't sneak up like that!" She snapped, rubbing her head.
"Why? Will you hex me with your war sharpened reflexes?" He asked dryly, a hand over his chin.
Scowling at him, she moved to investigate the food he had prepared. So her reflexes weren't quite up to par when she thought she was somewhere safe; she should be finishing her last year at Hogwarts, not fighting a war!
The chocolate cupcakes were the only thing other than the cookies that she could taste without having to cut into something, so she grabbed one of them and tentatively took a bite. Malfoy was watching her smugly from the other side of the kitchen, with his Santa hat still on, but askew; it seemed he'd been able to wash his hair while wearing it, as his hair was wet underneath the hat.
Surprisingly, the cupcake tasted as good as it looked, possibly better. "Where did you learn to cook like this?" She asked, taking another bite.
"I was an only child and the House Elves were always willing to entertain my by showing me how to cook," he shrugged, looking like he would appreciate it if she dropped the topic of his childhood.
There wasn't really anything she could say to that, so she just nodded to show that she'd heard and took another bite of her cupcake.
Hands on her hips, Hermione regarded the sad little tree she had picked out. Sure, it needed to grow a few metres and fill out a bit, but after that, it would be perfect. The book she had found on the subject in the Grimmauld Place library was lying open in front of her. Looking from the book to the tree one more time, she pursed her lips and narrowed her eyes before casting her spells.
She watched with satisfaction as the tree grew and grew until it was a perfect specimen. It became obvious that she had forgotten something when the tree toppled over, knocking her wand out of her hand and pinning her to the floor.
All of the breath in her lungs escaped with a whoosh and the pine needles scraped her face and hands, but otherwise, she was fine. She was also trapped; the tree was too heavy for her to move herself.
Sighing as much as the weight of the tree would allow, and knowing she would regret it, Hermione called for Malfoy, who was supposed to be looking for book on festive transfiguration in the library, but she suspected he was in there napping – not that she really blamed him; that library was more likely to have a book on ways to transfigure your enemies into trees than it would on how to decorate for the holidays.
A few loud thumps signalled the arrival of the blonde, it seemed he wasn't quiet all the time after all. "Granger, how the bloody hell did you manage to get the tree to attack you?" He demanded as he levitated the tree off of her and leaned it against a wall. "I've seen you in battle, you're perfectly competent. How is it that with your help, one little tree nearly offs you when hoards of Death Eaters can't?" The lecture continued uninterrupted, as he pulled her to her feet and started brushing the pine needles off of her.
"In case you haven't noticed, the tree isn't so little anymore," she snapped at him. Bringing a hand to her face, Hermione winced when she felt the scratches there. Malfoy noticed this and waved his wand, erasing all of the minor scratches for her skin.
"You make my job so much harder," he muttered.
She frowned and caught his arm as he turned away, stuffing his wand in his pocket. "What job?"
He paled a little and his eyes darted away from her face. "Nothing."
Refusing to let go of his arm despite his escape attempts, Hermione persisted. "No, it's something. What is the job I make harder?"
His jaw tensed and his eyes hardened as he resolutely looked away from her, refusing to break his stony silence.
"The Order didn't ask you to do something like watch over me, did they?" This was supposed to be a joking question to make him correct her, but he stiffly nodded his head a fraction, telling her she had actually been right.
"What?" She screeched. "They think I'm not capable of taking care of myself, so they send you of all people to look after me?" Had it not been Draco Malfoy she'd been yelling at, she would have sworn that was hurt flashing across his face before it rearranged into a snarl.
"No. They thought it might be a good idea for you to have some extra protection since the Death Eaters are targeting you specifically. I was the best one for the job because-" He abruptly stopped his growled speech, seeming to realize he'd said too much. He then whipped around and stomped away, slamming a door somewhere deeper in the house.
She glared after him and huffed, but turned back to her previous task.
As she decorated the tree, Hermione thought about Malfoy. In the last few days alone, he'd helped her numerous times, and despite some light teasing, he'd been nothing but gentle and kind to her. A frown settled on her face when she realized that he'd actually helped her many times in the field as well, seeming to appear when she was ambushed and alone or starting to tire.
She tilted her head to the side and examined the flawless job she'd done on the tree, but couldn't enjoy it knowing she owed Malfoy an apology. Glancing at the clock, she saw that it had taken longer than she'd thought it would to finish the tree. Deciding her apology couldn't wait, Hermione walked to Malfoy's room, only to hesitate outside the door. Should she knock? What if he didn't want to speak to her after she was so unappreciative and downright mean to him?
She was about to turn away and come back in the morning when she heard him say her name somewhere on the other side of the door. Taking this as an invitation to come in, she turned the doorknob and walked in, surprised to find that it was pitch dark inside, it seemed he was sleeping.
"Hermione... No! Stop! ... Not her!" She felt a jolt when he called out her first name instead of her last. He was rolling around on his bed having a bad dream. And she was in it?
"Malfoy?" She asked hesitantly, unsure about what to do, but unable to just leave him when he was so obviously distressed.
He didn't respond to her calls, he just kept thrashing around in his bed. Moving carefully through the dark, Hermione made her way over to the bed and hesitantly perched on the very edge. "Malfoy?" She tried again, but it still didn't work.
"Draco?" She asked, reaching out to lay a calming hand on his bare shoulder – of course the git didn't wear a shirt to bed, but then, she already knew that. The whole thing was a bad idea; he was going to kill her when he woke up!
To her great surprise, either her touch or her use of his first name stilled him, and he seemed to fall into a more restful sleep. He looked so peaceful when he was sleeping normally, without anything weighing on him he looked younger, almost vulnerable.
He voluntarily added to the already large burden he was carrying by trying to keep her safe. She wasn't sure what made her do it, possibly as the thanks for helping her that she could never really express with words; she leaned down and pressed a kiss to his forehead.
As she was pulling away, his arm came out from under the covers, pulling her against him. She made a distressed squeak and tried to struggle out of his hold without waking him up, but he was strong and she was thoroughly trapped; if she wanted to get out she was going to have to wake him up.
"You're going to kill me when you wake up," she whispered to the sleeping body beside her as she settled in and resigned herself to her fate.
Malfoy was just as warm as she remembered from her trip in his arms during her potion induced haze; she was surprisingly comfortable against him once she'd tugged the blankets to cover her as well. Just before she fell asleep, she felt him pull her even closer and nuzzle her hair, letting out a content sigh.
Hermione woke up feeling better rested than she had in a long time, but her contentment quickly faded when she caught sight of her surroundings. Face scrunched up in fear of what she was going to find, she slowly turned her head until she could see his face.
Malfoy was watching her, obviously awake, but he didn't look near as mad as she had been expecting him to be. Now that she was looking at him closely, he didn't seem mad at all. "You're not furious with me for coming into your room?" She asked him, turning over so she didn't have to bed her head at a funny angle to see him.
"Quite the contrary. Feel free to crawl into my bed whenever you feel like it," he told her with a grin, his voice still slightly gravelly from sleep.
"You were having a nightmare and I was in it." The sentence slipped out of her mouth of its own volition, it was a curse from her curious brain!
Instead of avoiding her eyes like he would have normally, he kept them steady, staring back into hers. "Nothing terrifies me more than the thought of something bad happening to you."
Her eyes widened in shock as she took in this new piece of information. He was so fervent with his revelation, and it was reflected in his eyes. There was no mistaking his sincerity, it took her breath away.
They were so close already that he barely had to move to cover the rest of the space between them and kiss her. She froze at the first little touch of their lips, and he pulled away looking mortified, probably about to apologize.
"I was just surprised idiot," she mumbled, bringing her hands up to pull him back to her. If she thought she had been warm before, she was burning up now, starting from where their mouths were connected and everywhere his hands touched as they wandered down her sides and up her back and radiating out from there until she was sure she was going to be consumed by it.
He surprised her again by nipping her lip, making her gasp, which seemed to be just what he wanted; she felt his brief smirk against her lips.
"That better be a candy cane," she whispered jokingly a while later upon feeling something poking her. It seemed to be the exact wrong thing to say, because he pulled away and groaned. "Get out," he ordered huskily.
She looked at him in confusion, but he seemed to be completely serious. "Out!" He ordered again, sharper.
Feeling bewildered, hurt, and rejected, Hermione got up and walked out, making sure to shut the door behind her. She seemed to be a master of saying and doing just the wrong thing when it came to him. Maybe he'd just been screwing with her head until he realized he liked it too much and then sent her away before he did something he'd regret. She'd always just be a Mudblood to him.
Fighting tears now, she walked into her room and grabbed a change of clothes before getting into the shower, where she adjusted the water to just short of scalding and let it soothe her.
Hermione sighed when she got to the kitchen; it was Christmas Eve and she was supposed to cook most of Christmas dinner the day before and then just put stasis spells on the food, like they had done with the desserts. She was going to make enough to feed almost the entire Order, in hopes that they'd all show up in time to eat it with her.
She decided the turkey was probably the place to start, but had no idea how to go about it. She pulled it out of the freezer and staggered; the thing was heavy! How in the world had Malfoy managed to carry all the groceries and drag her down the street at the same time?
Heaving the turkey onto the counter, she regarded it skeptically. What now? She seriously doubted she'd be able to use the cookbook she'd been using before to help her cook a frozen turkey... Deciding removing the plastic was the logical place to start, she pulled out the scissors and started cutting.
To her immense relief, there was cooking instructions on the plastic. Struggling to lift the thing without getting raw poultry germs all over her clothes, the evil bird managed to slip out of her hands, slide off the counter and onto the floor. Lovely.
"I'm never doing this again," she muttered angrily as she tried to get enough of a hold on the thing to lift it off of the floor. Finally, something occurred to her, and she glanced at the doorway to make sure Malfoy wasn't there about to make fun of her for not remembering sooner, but then she reminded herself that he seemed to be mad at her... She almost missed his teasing and it'd only been a few hours.
She pulled her wand out and levitated the turkey onto the counter, casing a disinfecting charm on it to remove anything it may have picked up while on the floor. She levitated it into the waiting pan and then consulted the instructions on the wrapper again.
When the turkey was finally prepared to the specifications on the wrapper and in the oven cooking, she moved on to the vegetables, something that was actually easy to do. She was planning on mashed potatoes; steamed broccoli; baked sweet potato, carrots, onions, and normal potatoes; corn; and squash. She'd cheated and bought the cranberry sauce and a ham already made to save herself attempting to make something she'd never made before and avoid trouble like what she'd experience with the evil turkey.
When Malfoy finally decided to come out of his room, she was starting to get really frazzled; her hair had dried into a frizzy mess, she had some carrots in the pocket of her apron, tears in her eyes from chopping the onions, and a was dealing with a slice she'd managed to cut across her palm when she'd been chopping potatoes.
"Granger, let me see that cut," he sighed, walking forward and reaching for her injured hand.
She took a step back, pulling her hand away from him and cradling it against her chest. "You're not coming anywhere near me!" She snapped as she turned her back on him and healed her hand herself with her wand. If he was going to pull things like he had that morning, then she was going to regress back to how she'd treated him in Hogwarts, back when he couldn't really hurt her because he was just an evil little Slytherin prick, maybe then the hurt she felt now would fade.
Having healed herself, Hermione continued to ignore the blonde, imagining he was the potato she was cutting into tiny little cubes, it was strangely comforting.
"Have you ever wondered why I joined the Order?" He asked quietly from behind her. She didn't answer, but she tilted her head slightly to show that she was listening. "Remember when I said the Death Eaters were targeting you specifically? Well, I was still one of them when I found that out, but I couldn't just let them go after you when you were completely unaware of the danger. Your moronic friends are so fond of taking you for granted and just sending you into danger thinking you're immortal or something just because you're 'Hermione Granger'. I came to the Order the same night I found out they were after you." There was a scuffling sound, probably him turning to leave the room.
"Why?" She questioned without turning around.
" Because... I care about you," he muttered in a rush, as if he didn't want to say it and it'd just come out.
She turned around and looked at him then. He was standing there looking defeated with his eyes closed and an expression of pain on his face. It was like he really hadn't intended that to come out and was expecting some sort of fallout now. Was he expecting her to hit him or something?
"If you care about me, then what the hell was that in your room this morning?"
A scowl developed on her face when he turned his head away from her once again. Stomping forward, she grabbed his chin and turned him back to her, not caring that she was getting various vegetable juices all over his chin. "Stop looking away and answer!" She practically screeched, not sure why it upset her so much.
"I wasn't completely awake when I kissed you... I realized you'd regret it later and didn't want to hurt myself further."
"I never would have thought you'd be one to be so hard on yourself." She scolded. "You underestimate me Draco; I knew exactly what I was doing." She felt him start a little, but wasn't sure why until she realized she'd called him by his first name.
Grinning, Hermione decided to push his buttons. "What's wrong Draco? Not used to me calling you Draco?"
"Hermione, you should probably stop unless you want me-" She interrupted whatever he was going to say by kissing him.
Wow, if that was what it felt like for him when she said his name, she didn't blame him for starting a little whenever she said his. His response to her kiss was immediate and passionate; he swiped the poor vegetables off the counter and sat her on it, probably to avoid getting a crick in his neck from bending down to reach her.
Hermione made a surprised squeak when he picked her up and sat her on the counter, and was working her way to indignation over the vegetables on the floor, but then he was kissing her again and she couldn't care less.
He'd moved on to her neck when he mumbled: "You smell like a candy cane."
She giggled, partly because he was ticking her a little bit, and partly because she'd bought peppermint body wash at the store as a joke while they'd been getting the food.
They were interrupted by the dinging of the oven, signalling it was time to check the turkey. "Evil bird," Hermione muttered once again, for an entirely different reason this time. She gently pushed Draco away before navigating the vegetable graveyard that the floor had become on her way to the stove.
"You know, I was never overly fond of candy canes, but I think they're growing on me," Draco said behind her, straightening his askew Santa hat as he watched her bend down to check the turkey.
She waved her wand and disinfected the vegetables and put them back on the counter, sending Draco a look for being so careless with food, everything was probably bruised now. He just grinned at her, unabashed. Picking up her knife again, Hermione started chopping once more – there was a lot of chopping to do if she was going to make enough food to feed all of her friends.
"You could help you know," she told Draco, who seemed content to watch her as she chopped things.
"And you could be done a lot faster if you just did it with magic."
Huffing in annoyance, but knowing it wasn't worth the argument to explain that she preferred the sense of accomplishment that came from doing it by hand, she went back to chopping. He eventually relented and joined her in chopping, and they spent an enjoyable afternoon together chopping and cooking.
Finally finished with the meal preparation for the next day, Hermione went in search of Draco, who had wandered off the second the chopping was done, muttering about carpal tunnel or something. She was holding two cups of hot chocolate with little marshmallows floating around the top and candy canes as stir sticks.
She found him in the sitting room, sprawled out on the sofa and looking contemplatively at the tree. Plopping down beside him, she handed over the hot chocolate. "I think tomorrow's going to be the best Christmas ever," he told her, sipping his drink.
Hermione grinned and snuggled against him, smiling wider when he flung an arm over her shoulders and pulled her closer.
"I think you're right," she told him.
Hours later, Harry and Ron came in search of Hermione to tell her they were alive and well after their task. They found Grimmauld Place looking more festive than it had ever been, and smelling of many delicious things baking. They were both exhausted from their difficult task, but the sight of their headquarters lightened their heavy hearts.
"What happened here?" Harry asked rhetorically, unable to remember the place ever seeming more welcoming.
"Harry, come see this," Ron whispered from the sitting room, sounding unsure whether to be awed or angry.
The first thing Harry noticed about the room was the huge, beautiful tree sparkling and lighting up the whole room. His eyebrows drew together when he noticed Hermione; she was striped like a candy cane, wearing a Slytherin bow, and snuggled up sleeping against Malfoy, who was wearing a Santa hat.
"About time," Harry said as his face relaxed into a smile; Malfoy had always had a bit of a thing for Hermione, and he wasn't the foul git he'd been as a child anymore. He wondered if the explosion of Christmas cheer all over the house was the cause or a result of the new relationship between the two on the sofa.
Ron glanced at his watch, seeing that it was past midnight. "Merry Christmas, Harry," he whispered, leading the way out of the room to their own rooms and beds.
The next morning Hermione woke up to a room full of people grinning at her, still asleep against Draco. "You're all back!" She yelled, jumping off the sofa and attempting to hug them all at once.
Draco woke with a start at her screech and fell off the couch, amusing their audience further. He glared around the room, muttering profanities.
"You two seem to have had an interesting few days," Ginny said with a knowing grin, causing Hermione to blush and Draco to smirk.
"We made a Christmas dinner for everyone..." Hermione said uncertainly, noticing how everyone perked up a little at the mention of food, it seemed they were hungry, "which we could heat it up and make a Christmas lunch if everyone's hungry."
Ron actually whooped and rushed into the kitchen after the food.
The evil bird ended up being a hit with everyone, and Hermione relished getting her revenge by eating it. Even more popular were Draco's desserts.
"Hermione, what'd you put in this fudge? It's amazing," Ron asked around a mouthful of said fudge.
"I don't know what's in it; Draco made it while I was sleeping."
Ron sputtered and started choking. Everyone laughed as he fought to regain his breath and glared at Draco, who just shrugged and grinned.
"I get you and I nearly killed Weasley. Best Christmas ever." He whispered into her ear when the attention was off of him. She tried to glare, but it melted into a smile; she couldn't help but agree with him, it was the best Christmas ever.