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                 Chapter 6: Tis the Season

Hermione jerked her face back from Malfoy’s at the feel of the cool draft coming through the slowly opening door to their fort. She blinked at him, wide-eyed in horror for a moment. She was sitting in his lap, her legs straddling his hips intimately and both his hands were inside the back of her shirt.

He looked dazed, his eyes feasting upon her lips the way his mouth had just done. His legs were curled up like a pretzel beneath her and he showed no indication of wanting to let her go. Hermione had to do something. She could see from the way his eyes flashed hungrily and feel from the way his hand gripped her needily that he meant to pull her to him again, to snog her until the feeling inside her shattered.

Before she could think better of it, Hermione reached for a snowball, stuffing it down the back of his shirt.

Malfoy hissed in shock, his eyes snapping wide and his focus returning.

“Fuck!” he cursed, shoving her out of his lap as he squirmed, trying to fish out the hard little snowball under his collar. Hermione ignored his plight in favour of collecting more snowballs. As soon as to door to the fort opened, Hermione began hurling the missiles at their assailants, catching Nott in the face and Harry under the chin. Ron shouted in surprised and returned fire before ducking out of the way of her fury when Hermione lost her temper. Malfoy was still cursing behind her and as she pelted snowballs at everyone outside the door, he did the same.

Kneeling behind her, he lobbed them over her shoulder, catching Pansy in the eye hard enough that the girl cried out and dropped her missiles in favour of falling back. She clutched her eye and whimpered; no doubt it would leave a bruise. Hermione knew the snowballs she made were hard as stone and from such close range, thrown by a furious Draco Malfoy, they were bound to leave marks.

“Bloody hell, Hermione!” Harry shouted when she caught him with one hard enough to crack the lens on his glasses.

Malfoy’s aim was deadly when he took out Harry’s other glasses lens, driving the boy back. Crabbe and Goyle lobbed snowballs back at them, but Hermione hit one of them below the belt with a precisely thrown missile, causing both to fall back in fear. Her hands were going numb from holding the snow without gloves, dimly recalling Malfoy had relieved her of them because they were wet and cold.

The return fire coming from their combined group of friends was hammering against her but Hermione was too furious with the lot of them to care about the pain of being hit by their missiles. She suspected Malfoy was feeling the same way because though he grunted when Ginny caught him on the chin with a snowball, he didn’t stop throwing the snowballs. He had his wand in one hand, waving it to transform the nearby snow into balls, and levitating them close enough to throw.

If Hermione weren’t so busy throwing her own snowballs and being angry with her friends for their mistletoe trick, she’d have been extremely impressed by Malfoy’s magical display.

“Bloody hell, they’re barmy!” Ron shouted when Hermione hurled a snowball in his direction, causing it to explode on his chest and spray his chin with snow.

“Hermione? Truce?” Harry called out, still groping around with cracked glasses. Hermione knew he just wanted her help to mend them because he could never remember the spell to fix them himself.

“You can shove your truce, you bastards!” Malfoy growled in return, jostling her a little with the violence of his throws. Hermione was only grateful Malfoy was left handed, otherwise she was sure their combined throwing out of the small doorway would’ve resulted in them accidentally clobbering each other.

“Blimey, who pissed them off?” Ron wanted to know and Hermione heard Theodore Nott begin to chuckle.

Focusing her efforts, Hermione aimed all of her remaining snowballs at Nott, pelting him with them furiously. She’d never been so furious with anyone in all her life. Not even Malfoy himself, and that really was saying something. The boy gave a shout as they mercilessly hounded him, noticing that Malfoy had copied her and was also aiming exclusively at Nott.

“You lot, come on!” Harry complained, “He’s down.”

Nott was indeed down. Hermione didn’t know if she or Draco had effectively caused him to double over in pain thanks to a well-aimed throw, but he was certainly no longer fighting back and no longer laughing.

“Damn it, Hermione, you win!” Ron grumbled when they finally ran out of snowballs, Malfoy was still making more in case they were needed but everyone else seemed to think the game was over.

Everyone except Luna. Hermione shrieked in shock and heard Malfoy shout in surprise when a bucketful of snow was dumped on the pair of them from above, plummeting through the open door of their fort and slithering under their collars.

Luna giggled.

“Does this mean I win?” the dreamy girl asked and Malfoy growled like an animal before going after her with his snowballs. Hermione cursed when Malfoy got to his feet to pelt Luna, toppling her forwards a little and out the door of their fort.

“I think it’s safe to say Hermione and Malfoy win,” Ginny said dryly when Luna surrendered a few minutes later under Malfoy’s feral attack.

“Damn bloody right we win!” Malfoy growled and Hermione squawked when his arms slithered around her ribs where she was still trying to extricate her legs from where they’d become tangled with his. He lifted her with ease until she was on her feet before he nudged her out the door of their fort.

“Something the matter Draco?” Nott wheezed from his foetal position in the snow, smirking cruelly at Hermione and Malfoy. Hermione realised that he must not have told them what enchantment he’d used to distract them before the rest of the group could mount their ambush.

“I’ll kill you, you bastard,” Draco growled warningly and Hermione hissed in annoyance when he almost knocked her off her feet with his menacing steps towards Nott.

“Bloody hell Malfoy, it was just a friendly match,” Ron rolled his eyes.

Nott laughed at Ron’s words and Hermione felt her cheeks stain pink. She was panting with exertion from their battle and her shoulder was beginning to ache from all the throwing. Her hands were numb.

Turning back towards the fort Hermione glanced at Malfoy, who returned her glance with a glare of annoyance.

“You’re making it worse,” she hissed at him as she stepped around him, intent on retrieving her gloves, “Cool it, Malfoy. Before they all realise.”

He narrowed his eyes on her but Hermione ignored him, tucking a lock of hair behind her ear before crawling back into the fort and snatching up her gloves. She grabbed Malfoy’s discarded pair as well before exiting the fort and stuffing them into his hands.

“Who wants hot chocolate?” Luna asked, clearly still cheerful despite Malfoy’s relentless attack.

“I do,” Ginny piped up, “My hands are freezing.”

“Let’s all have some,” Harry suggested and Hermione was surprised when he included the Slytherins in his grin. He stomped towards Hermione and Malfoy purposefully, both glasses lenses destroyed but still allowing him to see better with them than he could without them.  He handed them to Hermione wordlessly and Hermione sighed before she tapped them with her wand to mend them for him.

“Thanks,” he said, ruffling her hair playfully when she handed the spectacles back to him, “You two make a formidable team. Next battle you can’t be paired.”

Hermione was surprised to hear the compliment and evidently so was Malfoy because he dropped one of his gloves in shock. Harry must’ve been in a particularly cheerful mood to not only have been decent to Malfoy but to have acknowledged their superior snowball fighting abilities.

“Let’s get warm,” Ginny nagged, shivering a little.

Hermione waved her wand to begin drying her clothes, starting with her gloves. When her robes were dry she turned to Harry, waving her wand to dry him too.

“Thanks Hermione,” Harry told her, grinning. Hermione nodded before turning her wand on Malfoy and drying him too. She didn’t know what was going on with the lot of them getting on for the afternoon, perhaps it was simply the Christmas Spirit at work, but she didn’t want to ruin the moment.

Malfoy tensed when she pointed her wand at him, but when his robes began to steam as they heated up and began to dry he looked surprised and then perhaps just a little bit grateful.

“Thanks Granger,” he grunted when his clothes were dry.

Luna, Terry and Ginny were also using their wands to dry themselves and others.

“This is weird,” Pansy announced after a few moments of tense silence as they all began to make their way towards the Great Hall.

“Could you not ruin the moment, Parkinson?” Ron suggested, “Let’s all just be on our best behaviour, have some hot chocolate and enjoy Christmas like normal people.”

Hermione was surprised to hear the suggestion coming from Ron, of all people, but pleased nonetheless when as a group everyone muttered their acquiescence to that notion. She also noted that Malfoy stayed close to her as they all trooped back towards the Great Hall, laughing and talking as group about the battle.

“That was some fort, Granger,” he commented quietly when they fell a little behind the rest of the group all trying to get through the double doors of the castle.

“You’ve got pretty good aim with those snowballs,” Hermione replied, shrugging modestly and offering her truthful opinion.

“You never answered my question, you know?” he pointed out as they crossed the Entrance Hall.

“Which question?” Hermione asked. She didn’t know if he was trying as hard as she was to not even think about the fact that they’d snogged. Again. But she suspected he might be.

“About you being my Secret Santa,” he told her.

“You never answered my question either. Are you my Secret Santa?” Hermione wanted to know, realising suddenly that she still hadn’t donned her gloves.

She pulled them out of her pocket hurriedly and began trying to put them on but before she could Malfoy seized her left hand quickly. He stopped walking, pulling her to a stop too as he tilted her hand in his grip until he could see the emerald and diamonds glittering on her ring finger.  He eyed the rocks for a moment before releasing her hand, his eyes lifting to meet hers.

“Guess you’ll never know,” he smirked down at her and Hermione noticed idly that his lips were swollen from snogging her.

“Malfoy,” Hermione warned in a low voice, “Don’t be a git. Did you pull my name out of that stocking or not. This isn’t funny!”

“If that’s what I think it is, then it’s bloody hilarious,” he told her, his fingers toying with the ring on her hand.

“If you don’t know what it is then you weren’t my secret Santa,” Hermione said through gritted teeth.

He smirked wider at that, clearly enjoying her annoyance.

“I know a promise ring when I see one, Granger. And it’s laughable that you’re wearing one when you don’t even know who it means you’re promised to.”

“Was it you Malfoy? This isn’t some joke. I can’t get the stupid thing off!” Hermione hissed, grabbing his arm tightly when he made like he was going to walk off, chuckling.

“Why would you think it was me?” he wanted to know, his eyes glittering with something Hermione couldn’t name.

“No one else in this place has enough money or enough gall,” Hermione said, her fury growing once more, “Just tell me how to take the damn thing off!”

“They don’t come off Granger, unless the person who gave it to you personally removes it,” he laughed coldly, “And I’m not the only person in Hogwarts with money. You don’t have any other evidence for your accusations?”

“I didn’t tell anyone else I like knitting,” Hermione growled at him, “And you’re the only other person who saw me admiring that eagle feather quill. It had to have been you. I just don’t understand why you would do something this barmy? You realise that if you gave this to me, and I’m wearing it on my wedding finger it makes us practically…”

“Anyone could’ve seen you knitting in the past Granger, you don’t hide it,” Malfoy cut her off, “And maybe whoever was buying your gift just liked the look of some quill.”

“Are you being purposely dense about this?” Hermione demanded in a low voice. Their friends were all gathered together at the table in the Great Hall drinking hot chocolate. She caught of few of them looking in their direction as they argued quietly. Nott looked particularly amused.

“Do you really think I’d buy you a promise ring? You and I despise each other Granger,” he told her coldly.

“We do,” she agreed, “But that doesn’t seem to matter to you whenever you snog me!”

Malfoy narrowed his eyes at her for that.

“You’re more than capable of letting your feelings be known on any matter,” he replied nastily, “And I didn’t hear you protesting.”

“Just tell me!” Hermione snapped, burying her fingers inside her gloves to hide the evidence from everyone else. If it wasn’t Malfoy who’d given her the gift, he would undoubtedly laugh with his friends over the idea of her wearing a promise ring from someone she didn’t even know. If it was him, she had no idea what to make of it all.

His smirk was one of pure wickedness and his eyes glittered with smug amusement as he tapped the back of his gloved-fingers to her under-chin and replied;

“Where would be the fun in that?”

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