Author's Note: Here we go! The last chapter. I was very proud that I managed to write this in 6 chapters rather than turning into some 20+ chapters epic!
Thank you for all your reviews, favourites and alerts. And a big thanks, as always, to swirlsofblack for her brilliant betaing skills and to Scarlettcat for giving me such a good prompt to work with.
Chapter 6: Mistletoe Mischief
Hermione smiled as she surveyed the decorations that she'd just helped put up in the Great Hall. Christmas at Hogwarts was a magical time.
"So this is where you got to. I've spent the last hour trying to track you down. I thought you spent all your time in the library," Malfoy said grouchily behind her.
She suppressed a sigh and turned to face him. "What's wrong?"
"I wanted to go over the conclusion on the Wolfsbane project. It's due in two days and I thought we should start writing it."
"Oh, I finished it a couple of days ago," she said, summoning it from the desk in her room with Accio.
"And you didn't think I deserved to know this or have an input?"
"Are you really complaining because you didn't have to do any work? This coming from the boy who told me at the beginning of the project that I'd be lucky if you did any work?"
"Yeah, well, that was before. I've spent just as many hours as you researching and writing up sections, which entitles me to know if you are writing conclusions behind my back with zero input from me."
"Oh keep your hair on, Malfoy. You're moodier than a Hippogriff," she teased.
He glared at her as the rolled-up parchment zoomed into her hand. She handed it over to him. "Here. Read it and let me know if you find it unsatisfactory," she said smugly, knowing that it was better than anything he could've written.
Malfoy snatched it out of her hand. "What are you doing in here anyway?" he asked.
"Professor Flitwick asked me to help him charm the decorations for the Christmas trees. What do you think?"
He glanced around briefly, looking distinctly unimpressed. "You've actually finished?"
She narrowed her eyes at him. "Yes."
"Really? They're alright, I guess. Not very imaginative."
Hermione's mouth turned down as she studied the Christmas trees once more. She thought they looked beautiful, glittering and glimmering with candles and icicles. She'd been particularly proud of the one she'd decorated with tiny little sparkling stars.
"Here," he said, and with a flick of his wand he turned half of the stars into shooting ones that sped across the tree, twinkling in and out of the branches. It was a small, simple change but the effect was dramatic, turning the tree into a moving, shimmering mass of silver stars.
"I could have done that!" she huffed.
He shot her an amused look. "Of course, but it would've required imagination."
She put her hands on her hips. "I have imagination!"
"Sure you do. Probably in organising your books," he said dismissively, and with a wave of his hand he left the Hall.
She stared after him, half-infuriated by his implication that she was dull and the other half-amused by his antics. Despite their best efforts to return to the hostile sniping of the past, their relationship had changed. Whilst they still threw insults at each other, it was good-natured and teasing, as if there was affection behind it. You couldn't tackle phobias or share confidences without becoming closer. However, she sometimes felt that there was something else, almost as an outside force was at work, that was determined to throw them together. It didn't help that she appeared to have developed an ill-advised affection for the snarky blond. Despite her best efforts to suppress it, it was growing, which was more than a little worrisome.
She shook her head, took one last look at Malfoy's improved tree and made her way out of the Hall.
Minerva observed the interaction of her two fated students with a mixture of satisfaction and fear. She was pleased to note that Hermione and Draco were on much friendlier terms. Gone were the threats and hexing, replaced by teasing that bordered on the affectionate. However, it still wasn't enough and time was running out. The Headmistress also had the Ministry on her case, which was nervously following events from London. The Minister for Magic was arranging a contingency plan just in case the prophecy wasn't fulfilled but he also spent an inordinate amount of time sending her owls. If this is what the previous Minister, Cornelius Fudge, had done to Albus, no wonder the previous Headmaster had always been so exasperated.
The pressure coming from the Ministry certainly wasn't helping matters. She and her team were doing all they could to move the stubborn pair together but they needed time that they – unfortunately – didn't have.
At least Christmas opened up possibilities that weren't available at other times and she held that evidence in her hand. She'd also co-opted the help of Peeves. Well, she'd used his fear of the Bloody Baron to make sure that he was willing to help. The poltergeist was likely to refuse just to be contrary and Minerva hadn't taken that risk, just getting the Slytherin ghost to speak to Peeves directly.
Now the Headmistress needed to let the plan unfold.
Draco was frustrated. It appeared that Peeves was dogging his footsteps. Everywhere he went, the pesky poltergeist was there, loitering in an unsavoury manner. Draco could put it down to coincidence but he was naturally suspicious and rightly so when you considered Peeves' track record. It didn't pay to ignore him as that path usually ended with you being the centre of some outlandish prank.
To make matters worse, Draco was confused over Granger, who was getting under his skin. Ever since they'd been partnered on the blasted Potions project, they had been thrown together in all sorts of bizarre circumstances, which ended with the annoying witch dominating his thoughts. He wanted to go back to the more simple times when he hated her, but that now he'd seen her scared, vulnerable, grateful and then warm and comforting – it was impossible to go back. It was as if he was seeing a different person and one he was becoming increasingly affectionate towards. It was beginning to keep him awake at night.
And to top it all off, Professor McGonagall had channelled the mind of Gilderoy Lockhart and had decided to make Christmas in the castle 'fun' by hanging endless amounts of mistletoe – and not just ordinary mistletoe but a Weasley Wizarding Wheezes product that kept you locked under it with whoever you'd accidentally stepped under there with - until you kissed. So far, he had managed to avoid this fate but his traitorous mind had recently began to wonder what it'd be like to be trapped under this mistletoe with Granger. Potion lessons had become torture as he'd tried to stop his eyes wandering down to her lips.
He did not like this one little bit. It was bloody Granger!
"This is taking forever!" Ron grumbled to Harry.
"Give it time, it's only been four days."
"Yeah, but we only have three days before the Christmas holidays start. I thought roping Peeves into this would mean it was a sure thing and would have been done by the end of the first day."
"I hate to agree with Weasley, but he's right. We're running out of time," Nott said pessimistically, coming up behind the pair of friends.
"It'll happen, have some faith," Harry persisted.
"It better! I'm starting to have anxiety attacks about becoming a Muggle," Ron said.
Nott visibly paled. "I can't be a Muggle!"
"Calm down! It's not going to happen. I reckon this last idea of Professor McGonagall's will pull it off. Haven't you noticed how friendly they've been getting?"
"Friendly, yes! Lover-like, no!" Ron objected.
"You heard what the Headmistress said: if you give them time then they will fall in love with each other. They were picked because they are meant to be."
"We don't have time!" Ron wailed.
"That's one messed up prophecy. I'm glad it's Draco and not me," Nott said.
Ron shuddered and nodded enthusiastically in agreement.
"And even if you don't have faith in the prophecy then have faith in George. Has he ever invented a product that didn't work?" Harry asked.
"No, I guess that's something," Ron commented.
"Exactly. Don't worry, come this New Year's Day, we'll still be using magic."
"We better or otherwise I'm hunting you down and killing you, Potter," Nott said.
"I'd be more scared of that threat if it didn't mean you wouldn't have magic on your side. I've dodged Muggle methods of pain for the majority of my childhood, so I fancy my chances against you."
Nott and Ron grimaced, not wanting a reminder of what awaited them if the prophecy wasn't fulfilled.
Hermione sighed as she left the library and slowly made her way along the corridor back towards the Gryffindor common room. She needed to get Malfoy out of her head. The suppressed feelings towards him were beginning to play with her imagination. She'd spent the better part of Ancient Runes doodling their initials enclosed in little hearts. It wasn't healthy - it was Malfoy for goodness sake! The nasty little prat who'd bullied her for the best part of her school life and who'd seen her being tortured by his aunt. This could not be happening to her. Thankfully he wasn't a Legilimens and so wasn't aware of her feelings. She doubted she'd be able to live with the humiliation.
"Granger, wait up!"
Speak of the devil and he shall appear, she thought before turning around. Malfoy was jogging down the corridor, his hair getting ruffled by the wind created by the action. Wow, she even liked the way he jogged. She was losing it.
He stopped just in front of her and waved their finished Potions project in her face. "I read it and it's excellent. Probably better than anything I could write."
She stared at him in confusion. Did he really just say that? His expression seemed as bewildered as hers.
He coughed and cleared his throat. "Yeah… anyway, I think it's ready to hand in."
She took the parchment out of his outstretched hand. "Good, especially considering the hand-in date is two days away."
"So, is there anything else you need me to do?" he asked a little awkwardly.
"No, I don't think so. You gave me your parts last week and I just need to bind it all together."
He scuffed his toe against the floor. "I guess that's the assignment finished, then."
"It would appear so."
Malfoy looked at her, almost as if he wanted to prolong the conversation, but didn't know how. She wished she could think of something to say, too. She'd enjoyed working alongside him once they'd settled down. He was smart and witty and, once he forgot to project the snotty Slytherin persona, he was actually pretty decent. Maybe, if they didn't have all the history between them, they could have been friends. Perhaps, if she could think of a way to phrase it without sounding desperate, they still could.
Unfortunately she wasn't given that opportunity as a loud, rude sounding raspberry was blown above them. She looked up and mentally groaned. There was Peeves, floating and looking far too happy for him not to be up to something horrible and nasty.
"Ooh looky here! It's Malfoy and the Muggle-born and they're all gooey-eyed."
"Get out of here, Peeves!" Hermione snapped, not bothering to give the poltergeist the attention he craved.
"Temper, temper!" Peeves mock-scolded.
"You heard her – get lost!" Malfoy snarled.
"What's up? Does the ickle Malfoy want a kissy kissy with the little missy?"
"I'm warning you, Peeves. The Bloody Baron has taught us Slytherins more than one way to deal with you."
Predictably, Peeves didn't respond to the threat with anything close to fear. Instead, and much to Hermione's horror, he brandished a sprig of Mistletoe Mischief, developed by one George Weasley, and held it over the pair. She felt her feet stick to the floor and watched as Malfoy tried to lift first one foot and then the other but failed.
"Looks like you got your wish," Peeves said gleefully, his eyes glittering with excitement.
"Peeves! I'm going to kill you!" Malfoy yelled.
The poltergeist just grinned wickedly before whizzing down the corridor singing:
"Malfoy and Granger, no longer two strangers,
There'll be lots of kissing now they know what they're missing."
He completed his loathsome rhyme with several loud smooching noises.
Hermione looked self-consciously up at Malfoy, who was muttering furiously to himself. Her own heart was pounding and the adrenalin was pumping from anticipation. She'd secretly been craving this but she wished he didn't look so angry about the idea. It was off-putting knowing that he was so upset by something she was actually looking forward to. What was it with her and unrequited feelings? First it had been Ron during their sixth year and now she was going to end up mooning over Malfoy when it was clear he had no interest in her.
"How about we just get this over and done with?" she suggested hesitantly.
He ran a hand through his hair. "Sorry about this. I mean… I doubt you really want me kissing you."
Her heart sank further, but at least he was being a gentleman about it. There could've been snide remarks about her blood or her general unattractiveness. Well, she wasn't going to let him know that he was far from the truth and she really did want to kiss him, so she nodded, closed her eyes and puckered her lips, waiting for the inevitable peck.
Her breath hitched as Malfoy clasped her hands in his and drew her in a little nearer. He laced his fingers through hers and she couldn't help but compare how much bigger they were; they dwarfed hers. She peeked her eyes open and saw that he was staring at her with an intense look. Her lips felt dry and she licked them nervously.
He squeezed her hands reassuringly. "Okay?" he asked.
But he didn't wait for an answer, instead dipping his head and pressing his lips to hers.
The kiss should have lasted for five seconds. That was how long it took for the mistletoe to burst into green and white sparks. Hermione heard the pop but she had no interest in pulling away from Malfoy, who was kissing her with increasing enthusiasm. In fact, they didn't spring apart until they were barged into by a group of passing fourth-year Ravenclaws.
"You should get a room," one said scornfully.
Hermione blushed and looked anywhere but at Malfoy.
"Finally!" another Ravenclaw added. "We've been waiting for this since the prophecy was revealed."
That got Hermione's attention from the floor, which she'd been studying intently from embarrassment. "What?"
The first fourth-year nudged the other. "Shut up! They weren't meant to know," she hissed.
The second girl clapped a hand over her mouth.
"Not meant to know what?" Malfoy asked.
"Er … about the prophecy and your role," the Ravenclaw said, visibly flinching under his glare.
"Way to go, idiot! You'll be the one explaining to McGonagall why you opened your big mouth," her friend snapped.
"I couldn't help it! He was looking all murderous," the second girl said, as they scurried down the corridor and out of sight.
Hermione groaned. "I knew it wasn't a fake! Harry was adamant the night Trelawney made it that it was real."
"You mean everyone lied to us because we're the ones it spoke about?"
"It seems that way," she said, pursing her lips in annoyance.
"Are you really asking me that? It's not as if we were exactly on good terms. I didn't even want to work with you on a Potions project, let alone fall in love with you."
"All those incidents! The stupid detentions, the broomstick lessons, that blasted cupboard – they must have been a set up!"
"Ooh I'm going to kill Harry and Ron!"
"The note from Heather Armitage – that had to be either Blaise or Theo! I'm going to make their lives a misery."
With a final look at each other, they sprinted off in separate directions to confront their friends.
"Harry James Potter! Get your scrawny bum over here NOW!" Hermione yelled as she barrelled her way into the Gryffindor common room.
Conversations broke off and every head turned to face her in surprise. If she had been calm enough to care she might have felt self-conscious, but right now she was angry with her two best friends for lying to her.
"And bring that gangly ginger with you!" she snapped.
From the back of the common room, Harry and Ron emerged, looking confused by her angry tone.
"Hey, Hermione. What's wrong?" Ron asked.
"How dare you lie to me?!" she shouted.
"About the prophecy. How could you lie and tell me it was a fake when in fact it was about me!" she yelled, her voice going up at the end.
Ron visibly gulped.
"How did you find out?" Harry asked, looking paler than usual in the face of his friend's anger.
"Some fourth-year bumped into Malfoy and I kissing and let the cat out of the bag."
"You wait until I get my hands… What? You and Malfoy were kissing?" Ron asked.
Hermione, realising what she'd said, flushed. She hadn't meant to tell them that! "Er … yeah."
Cheers rang around the common room and she soon found herself at the centre of a hugging, back-slapping scrum. Once it'd subsided, she was located and dragged into the corner by her two best friends. The rest of the Gryffindors didn't notice as they were too busy celebrating in the noisy, rambunctious way only they knew.
"You've earned my everlasting, undying gratitude, Hermione," Ron said enthusiastically.
"Are you dating Malfoy, then?" Harry asked.
Hermione, first checking that no one else was listening and then casting the Muffliato spell, tugged her hair anxiously. "No! We got trapped by Peeves under some Mistletoe Mischief and we had to kiss."
"Oh!" Ron said, deflating. "So you're not in love with him?"
She perched on the window behind her and put her head in her hands. "I can't stop thinking about him," she confessed.
"Surely that's good," Ron said.
She jumped up and began to pace back and forth in front of them. "No, it's not. Six weeks ago I hated him. I was so sure about that and now, I'm confused. Don't get me wrong, he's still a snarky git but he has a sweet side and I like it. He was so thoughtful about helping with my broomstick phobia and then opened up to me when we were trapped in the cupboard and my emotions are engaged and I have no idea how he feels about me. And now I find out that unless we fall in love, magic disappears forever. Do you even understand how confusing this all is?"
Both boys looked taken aback by her rant. They were used to calm, rational Hermione, not this ranting version. She was the one who they usually went to for advice.
"Don't worry about the prophecy, from the sounds of it, you're already in love with Ferret Boy," Ron said cheerfully.
"Yes, but I don't know if he is in love with me!" she wailed.
"Why don't you ask him?" Harry suggested.
Hermione shot him a scornful look. "It's Malfoy! I'm not about to wear my heart on my sleeve where he's concerned. He'll probably shoot me down for fun."
"Er … did he look disgusted after kissing you?" Ron asked, his face flaming red at his discomfort at such a question.
She paused, looking pensive. "No, not that I noticed. In fact, we kissed for longer than necessitated by the mistletoe."
"There you go then!" Ron said encouragingly.
"Yeah, that sounds really promising. Why don't you go and tell him that you like him? I bet he likes you too," Harry pushed.
Hermione looked at them suspiciously. "You're just saying this so there's a hope the prophecy might be fulfilled."
"It might already be fulfilled. It said nothing about you having to date or marry or have kids, just that you had to fall in love and you seem well on your way and who's to say that Malfoy isn't?" Harry said.
She sighed. She did want to know if Malfoy felt the same but she was afraid that he might just stomp all over her feelings. "What if he laughs at me and calls me an ugly Mudblood troll?"
"Has he called a Mudblood since you started spending time with him?" Harry asked.
"No. In fact, he hasn't called me a Mudblood since we returned to Hogwarts."
"There you go then."
"But that doesn't mean he doesn't think I'm an unattractive troll."
"Look, do you want to do that unrequited love thing you had going on with Ron for ages? It was possibly cute when you were fifteen but you're an adult now, Hermione. Don't you think you should take a few risks? Besides, you and Ron got boring really quickly in sixth year and it wasn't even worth all the angst when you actually dated for all of two weeks."
"Hey!" Ron objected. "But he does have a point, Hermione. We spent a ridiculous amount of time trying to work out if the other one liked the other when we should have just gone for it."
"But what if he says no and laughs at me? I don't think I could handle that."
"You're Hermione Granger! Brightest Witch of Her Age! You hex him until he bleeds!" Harry encouraged.
"Or set those vicious birds on him. That's enough to scar anyone for a lifetime," Ron said with a shudder.
"You really think I should do this?"
"Yes!" they chorused.
She straightened her shoulders and started to march purposively towards the door. "Oh, don't think I've forgiven either of you for lying to me," she said over her shoulder before barging her way through the partying Gryffindors and exiting the common room.
"Did we really just send her to Malfoy to confess her feelings?" Ron asked.
The redhead shrugged. "She'll thank us if she lives happily ever after."
"Or kill us painfully if she's just gone to commit social suicide," Harry replied dryly.
Draco still wasn't sure if he was happy with his friends' excuses for trying to set him up with Granger.
"Mate, seriously, what did you want us to do? If you don't hurry up and declare your undying love for Gryffindor's resident bookworm, then we're Muggles. Muggles!" Theo said, looking horrified.
"Besides, we had to sit there in endless plotting meetings listening to Potter and Weasley drone on and on. I got enough of that in Potions so really you should be grateful that we gave up our time for you," Blaise said.
"Er… I'm sorry – when did you do any of this to help me out?" Draco asked. "I believe this has all been put in place to save magic, not to make me happy."
"Oh, so you admit Granger makes you happy?" Theo asked.
Draco swore internally. He hadn't meant to make that slip-up. "That's not what I meant. I was making the point that you were being self-serving."
"But you do want Granger, right?" Theo asked insistently.
He was saved from answering by a third-year calling him over to the entrance to the Slytherin common room. He glared at Theo before making his way over.
"Don't think you're getting away from that question, Draco. I need to know for my well-being. I'm beginning to have sleepless nights," Theo said, following him.
"Draco! Granger's outside asking for you," Maximilian Greene said as he neared the door.
Draco nodded his thanks and stepped out into the corridor. Standing just to the right was Granger, looking anxious and wringing her hands. Theo peered past him and made to follow him out the door but Draco turned around and put his hand on his friend's chest to stop him.
"Don't even think about coming any further. There's no need for you to be a part of this conversation."
"Spoilsport," Theo muttered but went back into the common room.
"Granger," he greeted. "What can I help you with?"
"It's about earlier," she replied, twisting her hands and struggling to look him in the eye.
He lounged against the stone wall and tried not to smile at how adorable she looked. Granger was rarely unsure, which made this experience all the more enjoyable.
"What about earlier?"
That got her to look at him even if it was just an annoyed glare. "Don't play dumb, Malfoy. You know exactly what I'm talking about."
He studied his fingernails, perfecting a nonchalant pose that he was far from feeling. "Oh! The kiss."
"Yes! The kiss!"
"What about it?"
"You know what? This is pointless. I'm not even sure why I'm doing this," she growled in frustration, before whirling around and starting to walk back up the corridor.
He sprinted after her and caught her wrist. "Granger, what were you going to say?"
"Are you going to stop being a prat and making me feel awkward?"
He rolled his eyes. "Okay, but only if you spit out what you want to say."
She took a deep breath and appeared to mentally steady herself. "What did it mean?" she asked in a rush.
He shrugged. "I don't know. We were coerced into kissing by Peeves and that stupid mistletoe."
She visibly deflated in front of him, her shoulders slumping. "Oh! Well I guess I'll see you around," she said in a small voice.
He closed his eyes for a second. She looked so disappointed that it tore a little at his heart. Could that possibly mean that she liked him? He let himself dare to believe for a minute and refused to let go off her wrist, despite her constant tugging.
"I'm not good at this," he said, running his free hand through his hair.
"Good at what?"
"This whole feelings thing. I don't like baring my soul to anyone but if you're asking me if the kiss meant anything then yes it did. I don't know when it happened but I've come to like you. I'm not even sure if it's the prophecy messing with me or my own feelings."
"Prophecies can only be made, they cannot force feelings or make two people fall in love. That said, a love prophecy is only made regarding two people who are destined to be together," she informed him in a matter-of-fact tone.
He smirked and tucked a loose curl behind her ear. "See, that swotty explanation would've driven me nuts a couple of months ago, but now I find it a little adorable and more than a bit of a turn-on. I think that means I like you."
She blushed and raised her eyes shyly towards his. "I think I've fallen in love with you," she confessed before clamping a hand over her mouth in horror at what she'd said.
He rested his forehead against hers. "I'm sure that should scare me but I think the prophecy already foretold that."
"If that's the case then I'm pretty sure you more than like me."
"You could be right," he said with a wink before closing the small space between them and kissing her.
Back in the Slytherin common room, Theo let out a whoop and pulled in the Extendable Ear he'd been using to listen in on the conversation. "Panic over, guys! Draco and Granger are officially in love!"
An almighty cheer went up.
Draco briefly lifted his head. "Bloody Theo!" he muttered before resuming the pleasurable task of kissing his new girlfriend.
Minerva McGonagall smiled as she surveyed the chattering students. It was the night before the Christmas holidays and the Great Hall was ablaze with candles and abuzz with noise. It was the most light-hearted it'd been since the blasted prophecy had been made and she was pleased to see that the two students who had brought about this change were shooting each other intimate glances across the Hall.
The Headmistress could relax once more now that magic was no longer in danger. Despite the firm reassurances from Arwydd back in November, that, given time, everything would turn out well, there had been moments where she'd been close to panicking. She really hadn't believed that those two particular students could be brought to like each other, let alone fall in love. But she was happy to say that she had been proven wrong and was now looking forward to the New Year.
She was also looking forward to saying goodbye to her seventh-years. There hadn't been a peaceful year in Hogwarts the whole time they'd been enrolled students. That would hopefully change once they left.
AN: I hope that wrapped that trope filled story up for you all. And if you enjoyed that, then please check out the other story I wrote for Hawthorn & Vine's Treasured Tropes prompt fest. I published the first chapter tonight and it's called The Demise of Severus Snape.
I also have another WIP The Accidental Malfoy, which I'm updating again after suffering from some rather severe writer's block.