Draco Malfoy had never felt so miserable in his entire life. He had assumed that returning to Hogwarts would guarantee his former notoriety and formidable reputation. But now, at Hogwarts, he realised he had been far too presumptuous. His cold reception in the Slytherin Common Room had demonstrated that nothing could be the same after the war. And Draco didn't like it. He hated being ignored and treated like vermin. He was a descendant of a powerful family- or at least he had been. Kingsley had mercifully spared his father from imprisonment in Azkaban but both his parents had been placed under house-arrest; Aurors constantly standing post at all times. Draco himself had been escorted to Platform Nine and Three Quarters by an intimidating looking Auror called O'Keefe, who had roughly searched through all of Draco's belongings before finally allowing him on the train. It was as though he was a criminal.
There was much cheer in the Great Hall on the eve of Christmas but Draco could partake in none of it. Those Slytherins that had remained for Christmas purposefully distanced themselves from Draco. With an appetite that had long disappeared, Draco rose from his seat and wandered outside to the castle's grounds.
The air outside was still and cold. Snow brushed against his pale cheeks as Draco rested on a bench that overlooked the Black Lake. The clarity of the night began to soothe his mind, allowing him to wallow in his misery alone. However, Draco felt movement to his left; looking up he saw a young girl he did not recognise and, even more strangely, she perched herself next to Draco. The yellow and black badger crest that sat on her robes indicated that she was a Hufflepuff- possibly a year younger than. She did not acknowledge him; instead she cast a small fire that hovered in front of her face and illuminated a band of brown freckles across her nose. Dark ringlets cascaded to her waist burst out from underneath a woollen, cream beanie. Snowflakes clung to her long eyelashes and her nose glowed red from the cold. She was pretty, there was no denying that, but she was far different to the girls Draco usually fancied. Still, there was an innocence about her that intrigued him. Finally, she broke the silence.
"It's cold out, isn't it?"
She rubbed her hands together in front of her tiny flame.
"I guess," said Draco coolly, shrugging his shoulders. "If it's too cold, go inside."
The girl merely smiled at him and shook her head. "No, I'm not complaining," she explained. "I'm just making conversation. It's a family tradition to sit outside under the stars on Christmas Eve and watch the sunrise- It's beautiful!"
Draco had to take her word for it, as he had never sat outside with his family on Christmas Eve.
"I suppose so," he muttered, blinking his eyes to keep snowflakes from falling into them. He had no idea why he was talking to this girl, but perhaps his exile from the rest of the school had made him desperate for social interaction. "How do you stand the snow?"
"Oh, it's lovely!" cried the girl, looking at Draco incredulously. "Don't you like snow?"
"You're a very miserable soul, aren't you, then?"
Draco shot her a glare, but he soon realised she hadn't meant to insult him. Her dark eyes grew sad and she regarded him with pity, as though she felt sorry for him. Feel sorry for me? Draco scoffed. He had never met anyone who felt sorry for him. Most felt jealous about his wealth and his family's reputation, but no one ever pitied for him.
"What's your name?" he blurted out.
"Daphne Greengrass," she said sweetly, holding out her hand. When Draco stared at her hand coldly, she drew it back. "I suppose because I'm a half-blood you don't want to touch me. I might get your hands dirty."
Draco ignored her remark and kept staring at her. Greengrass. Where had he heard that name before?
"Astoria!" he cried, suddenly remembering the surname of a Slytherin sixth year.
"Yes," Daphne sighed. "Of course you know my sister." Daphne gave him a scrutinizing look. "You probably know her very well."
Draco knew immediately what she implied. Astoria Greengrass was a tall, blonde sixth year who had been rumoured to have shagged the entire Slytherin Quidditch team. Of course, Draco knew that wasn't true- he himself hadn't shagged her; but she certainly got around. And as an attractive, confident girl, most didn't deny her.
"Astoria is your sister?" asked Draco, surprised. He was unable to see the connection between Daphne and Astoria. Their looks and personalities already contrasted differently. Plus, Astoria was a Slytherin and Daphne a Hufflepuff.
"Yes," said Daphne. "She is my younger sister. I suppose you're one of her beaus?"
"Merlin, no!" frowned Draco. "I wouldn't go near that sl-"
"Hey! That is my sister!" cried Daphne, somewhat defensively. "I don't want to know about what she does in her spare time."
Draco rolled his eyes. "Haven't you have heard the rumours?"
"That doesn't mean I want to believe them."
Silence existed between them for a long time. Minutes turned to hours and yet neither Draco nor Daphne was inclined to move. Every now and then, Draco would cast a glance at the girl, who remained fixated on the stars. The rapt in her eyes was unbelievable. Studying her intently, Draco found Daphne interesting; she always seemed to smile. However, he quickly turned his gaze upwards when a blush crept up his face. As they gazed up at the glittering Christmas night sky, Draco could not help but feel comforted by Daphne's cheerful aura; like a rising sun's rays penetrating Draco's bleak world of neglect and shame.
Daphne's head began to droop lower, resting on his shoulder. Draco froze. He wasn't used to such intimate contact from anyone since his interlude with Pansy Parkinson. Yet, Parkinson had never stirred up such feelings that he was experiencing at that moment, from a mere touch. His heart began to throb achingly in his chest, for some unfathomable reason. His hand, against his own will, reached out and grasped Daphne's hand gently. Her tiny hand was surprisingly warm for such a cold evening. It was comforting. Daphne snuggled closer to Draco, her curly hair tickling his neck. Not really knowing what he was doing, Draco tucked her head underneath his chin and watched fondly as cold mist wafted out of her mouth with each breath.
"Look, Draco," said Daphne softly, sitting back up but keeping hold on his hand.
"What?" he asked, brushing a snowflake off her cheek, where a pink blush slowly decorated her porcelain skin.
"The sunrise," she exclaimed, cheerfully as she pointed to the horizon. Sure enough, a faint golden light illuminated the furthest regions of the Black Lake. Daphne beamed up at him. The sight of seeing such pure joy sparked something inside Draco and, without thinking, he bent low and kissed her. Her lips were soft and warm, though hesitant. He heard her gasp and instantly pulled away, ashamed of his actions. What was he doing?
"Draco," she whispered, her dark eyes sparkling with something he couldn't place. "There's no mistletoe."
"Well, we'll have to fix that, won't we?" smirked Draco playfully, pulling out his wand. A tiny thistle of white lilies appeared above their heads as Draco cupped Daphne's face and kissed her again. And they kissed until the whole of the Black Lake was shining in the light of the new day.