Chapter 4: Wrapped in Red

Christmas was upon them before Hermione realised it. She was loathe to admit to it, but she’d been in something of a daze since snogging Malfoy under that awful mistletoe. Ginny had teased her about her having snogged someone when Hermione had stumbled up to the girl in Hogsmeade afterwards, her hair all in a mess with sprigs, leaves and berries tangled in it. Hermione hadn’t been able to admit to anyone what she’d done and as far as she knew Malfoy had been just as Mum on the subject.

She was sitting on her bed in the process of trying to put together the gift she’d made him. It felt entirely too odd to be giving him a gift after the snog they’d shared. However, despite the way it made her feel squirrelly, Hermione had gotten together something to give him. She was embarrassed to say she’d exceeded the cap that had been put on the purchases, but there was little to be done about it.

Waving her wand to enlarge the gift box she’d purchased, Hermione compiled the gift she’d assembled for him. She’d been unable to forget the words he’d said about wanting clues to who his Secret Santa could be. Hermione didn’t know why she was bothering but she’d decided she might as well make the most of the game, even if it was Malfoy. And so in the spirit of giving him a clue, Hermione placed the first part of his present in the box.

She’d designed and knitted him a scarf with his family crest on it, using bottle green and black wool of the softest ply she’d been able to find. In one corner, right at the end in tiny letters she’d stitched the words “Secret Santa” followed by the year.

To be on the safe side she’d also bought him a packet of each type of sweet she’d seen him eyeing in Hogsmeade – Pepper Imps and Sour Apple Bites. Hermione would admit she’d also gone a little silly and had tracked down a textbook on the complex lore of Wandmaking in addition to finding the most complicated set of metal puzzles she could find and had added those to the box as well.

When she’d finished placing all four items inside, Hermione penned a simple note.

Dear Draco,
Happy Christmas. You’ll never guess who I am.
Your Secret Santa.

Dropping the note in on top of everything else Hermione used magic to wrap it in plain gold wrapping paper, tying it off with a silver bow on the top. Then, using the scrap of parchment with his name scrawled on it that she’d pulled out of the stocking to pick her recipient, Hermione marked who it was for.

The rest of the gifts she was giving this year – for her friends and family – had already been packaged and wrapped, ready to be taken by an elf to their recipients.

“Dobby?” she asked quietly, smiling when the elf popped into the room next to her.

“Miss Hermione?” Dobby asked, bowing to her despite how often Hermione had asked him not to.

“Hello Dobby, how are you?” Hermione asked him politely.

“Very well, Miss,” Dobby beamed, “We elves is extra busy making the feast for tomorrow what with so many staying over Christmas this year and so many presents to deliver.”

“Oh… well I don’t want to trouble you if your busy with other things Dobby,” Hermione began, feeling bad for even thinking to ask him for assistance.

“Dobby is honoured to serve any friend of Harry Potter’s, Miss Hermione,” Dobby assured her, “How can Dobby be of service?”

“I was hoping you could deliver these presents for me Dobby,” Hermione admitted, waving her hand to the large stack of presents she’d purchased. Having gone overboard for Malfoy’s gift Hermione had felt guilty and bought several things for her friends.

“Dobby would be delighted, Miss,” Dobby assured her, “Dobby will come back when everyone is sleeping and sneak them into their piles.”

“Oh thank you Dobby,” Hermione said, “And don’t forget to stop by and see us all tomorrow, alright? We’ve all got you something too.”

Dobby burst into tears to hear that. Hugging her leg, he promised he would return before he disappeared again.

When Hermione woke on Christmas morning there was a heavy weight pressing down on her feet and she blinked blearily at the sight of so many presents piled on the end of her bed. Her eyes bugged out at the sight of so many of them, the most notable of which was a large rectangular box wrapped in red wrapping paper.

It was tied with a pair of green and white bows and Hermione knew none of her friends would ever have gone to that much trouble with a box. Harry and Ron were usually hard pressed to even get the wrapping paper on properly, and she recognised the wrapping styles of her other friends too. Luna’s gift for her was typically whimsical – the paper appearing to have been painted by the girl herself. Ginny’s rush-job wrapping was also a dead giveaway. Ginny always left her wrapping until the last minute.

Unable to resist the urge to know even a hint about who her Secret Santa was, Hermione reached for the large box eagerly. The rest of her presents she would hold off on opening – as was their tradition – until she could open them with Harry, Ron and Ginny. This however, was something she wanted to open in private. Carefully, Hermione searched the package for any tell-tale notes and was dismayed when she found only the strip of parchment in her own handwriting with her name on it.

She unwrapped the box carefully, untying the fancy bows and peeling back the bright red wrapping. Inside it was a simple white box, but it too bore no giveaway indicators of who her Secret Santa was. Hermione felt a smile pull at the corners of her mouth as she lifted the lid of the box. She had butterflies fluttering in her stomach, wondering who the gift might be from and just what it might be.

Her breath caught at the sight of the things inside the box.

A velvet box filled with sterling silver knitting needles drew her attention first. There were seven pairs of needles in different sizes and the silver gleamed brilliantly.

Hermione’s heart raced inside her chest. There was no way whoever had bought her this gift had stuck to the suggested monetary cap.

In addition to the needles, the eagle-feather quill she’d admired in Scrivenshaft’s store could be found among the collection of gifts. A packet of sugar quills could be found inside, along with twelve enormous balls of the softest and most wonderful wool she’d ever laid eyes upon. It was in an eye catching shade of pale purple and Hermione wondered how her secret Santa had learned that mauve was her favourite colour. She couldn’t remember ever telling anyone so.

Hermione was so overwhelmed with the gift that she almost missed the small velvet box of pristine black.

Tucked in beneath the sweets and the wool, it was easy to overlook. She brushed her fingers over it, her stomach swooping strangely at the sight. The feel of the velvet beneath her fingertips prickled goosepimples across her skin and she picked the small box up with trembling hands.

She was afraid to open it.

Swallowing harshly, Hermione bit her lip as she pried the lid up the reveal the treasure nestled within and she dropped the box in shock at what lay inside.

Glinting at her from within the ring-box was a large emerald ring. If she had to guess she’d say it was set in white gold. The emerald itself was rectangular, flanked either side by what appeared to be small diamonds. The green gemstone was the size of the nail on her pinky finger and Hermione couldn’t breathe.


Who could possibly have gone to such lengths to learn what she liked?

Who could have afforded to give her such a fantastically expensive gift?

Hermione could think of no one she knew who would ever go to such lengths to purchase her a gift. Her friends certainly wouldn’t, and there was no one else in the school she could think of that had the type of money to afford such expensive things for an anonymous stranger. At least, none who would willingly buy such expensive things for her. The only people with that kind of money that Hermione knew of were some of the old pureblood families and none of them would ever buy a lowly muggle-born like her such a gift.

Yet someone certainly had. She couldn’t deny that. Hermione bit her lip almost fearfully as she touched the cool metal of the ring, prying it loose of the box where it had been kept. She almost couldn’t bear the thought of trying it on. She would have to return it. It simply wouldn’t do to hang onto such an extravagant gift. Surely she’d been given such lovely things by accident?

Yet, the urge to try it on for size and admire the large rock glinting on her finger was undeniable.

Hermione squeaked with concern when she tried it against both her middle fingers unsuccessfully. She bit her lip, glancing about her bed with its drawn curtains carefully before indulging the hopelessly romantic side of herself and slipping the ring onto her wedding-ring finger. The cool metal heated quickly to match her skin temperature, and it slipped snugly over her flesh to rest snuggled against her knuckle like any proper ring would.

The sight of it on her finger made her insides flip-flop wildly and Hermione scolded herself for being so silly as to try it on for size. The fact that it was a perfect fit was surely coincidence alone. She admired the ring on her finger for merely a moment, before closing her hand around it and trying to remove the jewellery.

Hermione felt her heart leap into her throat in panic when the rock and metal wouldn’t budge a bit. Not even a little. She could turn it to some extent to view it at different angles, but the rock wouldn’t move away from her knuckle. It remained stubbornly snug against her skin, glittering in the early morning light.

Sweet Merlin what was she going to do?

Hermione cursed, tugging on the ring and trying to move it. It simply refused to slip back off her finger. She noted that it wasn’t due to poor sizing either. The ring didn’t slide up to her first knuckle before becoming stuck. It wouldn’t move at all from the ordinary place were any regular woman might wear her promise ring.

Giving up on tyring to remove it when she couldn’t budge it an inch, Hermione seized the box it had come in, tearing out the pillow where the ring rested in the hopes of locating some explanation. It had to be a charmed ring. That was the only explanation.
Her blood ran cold when she came across the package information.

Qunitonians Promise Rings
By the donning of this ring on the ring finger, the witch in question becomes bound by the promise of the ring. The item cannot be ever removed, just as the promises made can never be broken. May you find your happiness.

There was nothing else, except the logo of the company that manufactured the rings.
Godric, she was doomed!

What kind of barmy git would have purchased her a promise ring?

Burrowing through the box once more, Hermione frantically searched for something that might indicate who had given her the gift, hoping they might know how in Merlins boots she was going to get the ring back off her finger. Right at the very bottom, buried under everything else, Hermione uncovered a strip of parchment that made up a hand written note.

I imagine by now you’re panicking. Good luck getting that ring off your finger, Hermione. You’ll be stuck with it forever unless you can work out who I am. Happy Christmas.

It hadn’t been signed.

There was nothing to indicate who had even written the note. The handwriting was loopy and elegant, but she didn’t recognize it. Who did she even know who would think something like this was funny?

Panicking, Hermione leapt out of bed, reaching for her clothes quickly. She made sure to pull on some gloves to conceal the ring on her finger, not at all fancying having to explain this mess to her friends should they spot it. As desperately as she wanted to, Hermione realised she was going to have to be careful with how she went about fixing this matter.

She didn’t want to go drawing any unnecessary attention to her predicament. She was embarrassed just thinking about having anyone find out. Surely the information would be easy enough to find. She just needed to use the clues she’d been given to work out who could possibly have bought her such a gift. She would start by working out who knew she like knitting; who knew her favourite colour; and who would have enough money to have pulled this gift off.

What she wouldn’t do was involve her friends in this mess. Which meant she was going to have to spend the day pretending she was just like everyone else. Gathering together the remainder of her presents from friends and family, Hermione marched out of her room, wishing everyone she saw a Happy Christmas and feigning indifference to the ring that somehow felt heavy on her finger.

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