Bathwater

Of Jingle Bells and Sleepovers

"Jingle Bells—"

"Shut up."

"Jingle Bells—"

"Shut up."

"Jingle all the way! Oh, what fun it is to ride on a one horse open-sleigh!"

"Ginny!" Hermione bolted up from her cot inside of the redhead's room and threw a pillow at her; an intense glare on her face. "Shut up!"

Ginny Weasley smiled widely at her friend, laughing mockingly, and danced her way towards her; spinning dramatically every third step. "Happy Christmas, Hermione," she said cheerfully, hopping down on the foot of Hermione's cot.

Inhaling deeply twice, the brunette erased the frown and anger away from her face as fast as it had come. "Happy Christmas, Gin." She leaned forward and the two girls embraced in a tight hug. "Why are you up so early, anyway?" Hermione asked as she rubbed her eyelids.

"Well, I heard mum arguing downstairs with dad about Angelina Johnson," Ginny sighed. "Mum has met Angelina before and she liked her very much, but that was back then when Fred...you know..." Ginny cleared her throat, not wanting to get into the subject of her dead brother. "Mum just thinks that Angelina's trying to hold on to a piece of Fred with George. She reckons maybe Angelina is not exactly in love with George and will end up hurting him."

"That's horrible," Hermione said, thinking back to Angelina Johnson's glowing face whenever she looked at George Weasley. She had noticed that shine that radiated off both of them, and although she was no expert on the matters of the heart, Hermione could see the spark between them. It was something extremely pure and powerful, and she doubted that it was due to a single memory.

"I understand Mrs. Weasley's concern, but George is no fool either, Gin. You know that if he thought the same way as your mother he would've never agreed to his marriage so easily. I'm sure Kingsley would have obliged him in that."

The redhead nodded slowly, breathing in calmly. "Anyway," she wiped off the sad look on her pale face and bounced a bit on the cot, "that's not technically the reason I awoke, 'Mione. It was also due to a bloody owl pecking on my window for an hour."

"McGonagall or Kingsley?"

"Neither." Ginny grinned, reaching into her shirt. "It was a rather refined owl, Hermione." She pulled out a small piece of parchment from where it was tucked underneath one of her bra-straps.

"…Malfoy?" The brunette whispered.

"There you go, 'Mione. You truly are the Brightest Witch of the Age!" Ginny laughed teasingly, tossing her the square of parchment. "Read it out loud, if you're kind."

With cold shaking fingers, Hermione pulled on the melted wax of the Malfoy crest holding the parchment together and then unfolded it to reveal its content.

Miss Granger,

I know you mentioned that you will be spending the Holidays with the Weasleys, but I ask if you would please join me at my manor for some time this afternoon. I will not keep you from your friends for so long, I would just like spending a few hours with my fiancée.

And also, my parents will like to meet you as soon as possible, properly. Don't begin to fret, my Gryffindor, it won't be anything formal or complicated, just simple introductions. Proper introductions.

I expect to see you.

Merry Christmas,D.M.

"Well that's short and down to the point," Hermione huffed, folding the parchment back to its original square. "And he wants me to meet his parents? He can't be serious. I'm positive both of them still hate me."

"Oh, Hermione, I hate when you get stubborn." Ginny stood from the cot, pulling Hermione's blankets away from her body. "There never is a point of your fussing because in the end you always give in."

"I do not."

The redhead rolled her eyes and then gave her friend a snort. "I'll tell mum you are going to the Malfoys soon." Ginny opened the door to her room as Hermione began to complain.

"No, Gin, don't—"

But the redhead ignored her and continued out. "Dashing through the snow! In a one horse open-sleigh! Over the fields we go! "

"Ginny!"

"Laughing all the way! Ha!Ha!Ha!Ha!" And the door closed.

X

"Happy Christmas, Drake!"

Wham.

"What is this?" Draco Malfoy lifted off the package from the floor that had slammed into his chest and bounced to his carpet.

"A gift, thickhead." Blaise Zabini took a seat on one of the armchairs in the Malfoys sitting room and made himself comfortable. "I would assume that the shiny wrappings would've tipped you off."

"I don't usually get assaulted by my gifts, Blaise." Draco glared at his friend, spinning the package in his hands as he inspected it. (With Blaise you never knew, and Draco knew for a fact to never just trust that the contents were actually a gift.)

"That's because none of them are from me, mate." Blaise took a Chocolate Frog from the pile on the center table. "Pansy sent you these? She sent me a supply to last a lifetime too, that bloody unoriginal witch." He threw back the chocolate with a disgusted face. "Nonetheless, I scuffed down half of them before my arrival."

Draco tore the silver wrappings off the package as he ignored him. And a second later, he frowned a bit when he saw that Blaise had given him a book. " The Evolution of Muggles." Malfoy gazed up with hard gray eyes at his friend as he read the name of the book aloud. "Had a real laugh when you nicked it from the Muggle Studies professor, Blaise?"

The dark-skinned teenager snorted. "I'm hurt that you would think so low of me, Draco. I would never steal anything. I am too sophisticated for that, I can assure you." Blaise tossed his legs over the armrest of the chair and laid perfectly on it. Letting the armchair cradle him as he turned his green eyes to his friend.

"I had a laugh when I bought it just for you."

"And why," Draco kept holding on to the book tightly, hoping that with some extra strength he could rip it in half, "did you assume, Zabini, that I would fancy reading this?"

Blaise shook his head in annoyance; like he expected his friend to already know why he bought him such book. "Well, mate, you are marrying a Muggle-Born and that means that your in-laws will all be muggles, right? So, technically, you're going to have to socialize with them at a point without involving magic. I did it for your benefit."

"Who knew Slytherins were the best of mates?" Giving up, Draco tossed the book to the center table, making it land on top of his other gifts. "Why are you even here?"

"Well, certainly not to wish you a jolly Christmas, mate," Blaise said casually swinging his legs animatedly over the armrest. "I've come to see if you've put a stop to your devious plans."

Leaning lazily on his armchair, the blonde Slytherin raised his brow a centimeter as he looked blankly at the other boy. "No, Zabini. I still am sending Weasley and his family a pot of gold from a Leprechaun."

"You know what I'm talking about, Drake," Blaise interjected, obviously not humored by his friend's joke. "Are you still thinking about fooling Hermione into falling in love with you or not?"

"I'm not thinking about it, Blaise," Draco breathed, pulling on the sleeves of his black blazer, "I'm already doing it."

Blaise swung his legs abruptly from the armrest and stomped them down on the carpeted floor. "Are you bloody serious?" Growing more infuriated as his friend nodded indifferently, Blaise contracted his palm into a hard fist. "You're wasting your time, you know? You will end up doing the right thing in the end, Draco, so I see no point of wasting your time for so long when you can do something beneficial with it — since it will not work."

"Been talking to Trelawney, have you, Blaise?"

Ignoring him, the dark boy kept his glare upon his best friend. "You can fool yourself, Malfoy, but I've been noticing you for the past week. Ever since you and Hermione began holding hands, snogging, and acting like a couple, you've been different. You still are as cold and serious as ever, but there's something else there. And believe me, that confusion bubbling inside of you is noticeable by others even as you try to dissimulate it. Goyle wonders if you have already fallen in—"

"Goyle doesn't wonder anything, Zabini. He doesn't have the brain power for that," Draco snapped. "I'm not in love with the Gryffindor Princess, nor am I different since we made our relationship public. I'm doing this for my benefit only, Zabini, not because my heart is in it. So I suggest you stop worrying about the know-it-all like she meant something to you and shove off. This isn't your matter, Blaise, and I would hate if we row over it."

Blaise let a smirk tugging on his mouth appear. "You sure get frantic quite fast over the subject." He stood from the chair, fixing his robes from the wrinkles his seat caused. "And just so you know, Malfoy, Hermione is a matter to me. She has turned out to be quite a great friend and person. And, come off it, Goyle isn't as thick as you assume."

Draco continued to frown deeply, his pale complexion was being invaded by a red tint.

Blaise smiled warmly. "Happy Christmas, mate." And then a crack followed that smile away.

"…Bastard," Draco hissed through his teeth, looking at the air in which his best friend vanished from.

"Master Malfoy," there was another sound of an apparition in the sitting room, "there is a girl here. She says she was summoned by you today."

"Is it Pansy?" Draco asked the house-elf who had appeared with an annoyed tone as he continued to tug on the sleeve of his blazer. "Because if it is, tell her she's not welcomed today."

"No, Master." The small house-elf shook its giant head. "This girl is very pretty, if Beta is allowed to say, Master."

Malfoy tensed his back immediately, knowing exactly who the creature was referring to.

"Shall Beta let her in, Master? She is right outside these doors."

"Do so, Beta," the Slytherin ordered, clearing his throat hastily as he tried to push away all other hesitant feelings and nerves.

Opening the right door of the sitting room, the house-elf let an alluring brunette inside. "Pass Miss, Master Malfoy is willing to have you."

"...Willing." Draco heard the witch mutter, scoffing slightly with a shake to her head. "Malfoy," Hermione Granger, the first Gryffindor to step foot in the Malfoy Manor as a guest, came to a stop in front of the man she will soon marry. "Happy Christmas," she said politely, uneasiness in her voice as the house-elf stared at her with giant blue eyes.

"Granger," Draco breathed, momentarily stunned by the sight of her.

He had to resist the urge of approaching her so he could run his slender fingers around the fabric of her surprising velvety, sleeveless dress. He noticed that the dark color of it contrasted with the color of her creamy skin that he found himself longing to move his fingers from the softness of it to the softness of her pale skin. He also noticed that her brown curls were slick straight and flowing gracefully behind her back like a silky curtain.

"Didn't I say it wasn't a formal thing, Granger?" Malfoy cleared his throat again, but this time to rid those strange thoughts of being attracted to her from his head.

"Who said it was for you, Malfoy?" Hermione scoffed, patting down the velvety dress she'd bought earlier during a summer holiday for a special event that may occur. (Just not this one, that was for sure.) "I did agree to be here for possibly an hour, after all. I would've arrived in regular robes, but I assumed I wouldn't have time to get ready later for the Weasleys dinner." She crossed her arms over her chest, rather aggravated as she explained indirectly the problem his invitation had caused her.

Malfoy smirked through the desire of rolling his eyes and then took a step to approach her. "Happy Christmas," he said, reaching down to the center table and lifting up an emerald-wrapped rectangular box. "This is for you," he leaned forward and whispered in her ear, slowly placing the box in her hands.

Hermione's eyes shot open, her skin feeling inflamed and tingly. "Malfoy, you shouldn't have. I didn't even know we were exchanging gifts. If you would have—"

"Just accept it, please. I don't need anything else but you," he murmured expertly, making sure that he sent shivers up her spine so he could feel them too. "That will be enough, Granger." He pressed his cold lips to her warm cheek, then waited for her face to flush before pulling away.

Hermione let out a shaky breath. "…Should I open it now?" She asked resigned. She knew Malfoy would never let her give it back.

"If you wish."

Slowly, the Gryffindor ripped off the emerald wrapping of the box; secretly a bit excited to discover what laid inside. Half of her head was screaming at her to drop the box and run, certain that it was filled with a cursed object, but the other half had Ginny Weasley's voice shouting to surrender to reality.

"Malfoy," Hermione managed to form a gasp as she opened the box, her eyes landing on the object resting inside of it.

And laying on the silk fabric was silver hair pin. Two metallic snakes with deep green emeralds as pupils joined together in the middle of the pins to form a silvery heart. It was the most beautiful hair piece she had seen, and for a Gryffindor, Hermione found herself captivated of the beauty of the snakes.

"Do you like it?" Draco asked in a gentle voice, having had watched every second of her reaction. "It used to be my mother's. It was a Black Family heirloom, passed to every generation of the female Blacks. My mother was the one to receive it from her sisters, seeing as my Grandmother thought she was more worthy of it."

She shook her head, giving out a puffed exhale. "Malfoy, I can't take this." She extended the box back to him. "This is your mother's. It belonged to generations of Pureblood women that will roll around in their graves for my having it. I really can't."

This time, the Slytherin rolled his eyes at the witch without trying to subdue it. "They're dead, Granger. It's no matter. Besides, I want you to have it, honestly. It would mean a lot to me if you could accept something that has been in my family for so long." He reached out for her hands, quite dramatically for his tastes, and looked into her brown orbs. "You'll be part of my family soon enough, Granger, and I want you to feel part of it. Please take it."

Looking away from his silver eyes, Hermione shook her hair again; quiet stubborn looking. "I honestly can't—"

"Of course you can." The doors of the sitting room opened and in came a graceful, tall, blonde woman. She was dressed in the finest black robes that contrasted with her white-blonde hair and bright blue eyes.

"Mrs. Malfoy," Hermione whispered, pulling her son's hands away from hers. "This gift... I can't take it. It's—"

"Yours," Narcissa Malfoy offered as she joined her and her son by the center table of her sitting room. "I am aware that Draco has decided to pass it to you, Hermione, and I had no objections. I've no daughters, so it's only reasonable that my daughter-in-law should have it." Narcissa reached for Hermione's hands and closed the box with hers; pressing it tightly to the brunette's palms. "It is a Christmas gift, Hermione, not a death sentence."

Hermione bit her lip, feeling the weight of the box multiply extremely in her hands. She couldn't really say she was pleased that Draco and Narcissa Malfoy were giving her something that was breaking through the barriers that the Purebloods had brought up against the Muggle-Borns, especially if she felt ill-eased about it. Because it was much more than a damned gift, it was a step to the future, she knew it.

And looking over that and onto another terrifying thing, she didn't know how to accept that the hair pin was a symbol to her joining the Malfoy Family. (Perhaps it was a death sentence.)

"Will you take it, Hermione?" Mrs. Malfoy asked softly, her blue eyes staring at the teenage witch kindly. A look in her eyes that wasn't normal for the wife of Lucius Malfoy. It was the rarest thing the brunette had seen. "I can call you Hermione, right?"

Hermione took a deep breath, pushing her insecurities aside and nodded her head with all of her courage. "…Of course, Mrs. Malfoy," she gave the woman a dim smile. "And — and I will be delighted to accept the gift."

Narcissa Malfoy smiled too, something sparkling in her eyes as Hermione looked down to gaze at the box she was holding. And taking it as a sign that it was alright to proceed with the girl's visit, she took a step forward to her. "Now, darling, we've a lot to discuss about—"

"Draco, have you seen your mother?" Beta, the house-elf that was watching the interaction between her Mistress and the unknown girl, opened the doors quickly as she heard footsteps outside; allowing access for another blonde to storm into the sitting room.

Carrying a pile of newspapers that appeared to be editions of the Daily Prophet, and a tired expression on his aging face, Lucius Malfoy's gray eyes, alike his son's, grew narrow as he took sight of the young witch in his sitting room.

"….Miss Granger," he said gradually, letting the idea of the Brightest Witch of the Age being inside of his once-prestigious manor sink in.

As he spoke, the tension in the room grew thicker than a Polyjuice Potion.

"Mister Malfoy," Hermione replied in a less hesitant way, inclining her head slightly as she stared at the man that tried to kill her several times like he hadn't attempted to do so and he was just a random stranger. "I...hope you are doing well, sir."

Lucius Malfoy gave a failed attempt of a polite smile at the girl. "As I do to you, Miss Granger."

Hermione resisted the urge to snort and roll her eyes. (She liked to believe the best in people and what not, but ha. She was sure that was a pile of rubbish spat out by a troll.)

Exchanging a disturbed look with his mother at the sight of the two interacting, Draco cleared his throat once more.

"Lucius," Narcissa grabbed Hermione's arm, pressing her oddly warm fingers on the bare skin of Hermione's in a swift and unexpected movement. "Hermione and I will be discussing the terms of their upcoming wedding," Narcissa ignored the wince that escaped from Hermione and her husband's body and continued on simply, "and I want everything to be perfect, of course, so there's a lot that needs to be discussed. Stay here with Draco while I show Hermione our gardens, will you?"

Holding on more firmly to the newspapers, Lucius replied, "of course, Cissy. Take all the time you need. I will be...discussing a few terms with our son meanwhile."

"…I rather be eating flobberworms right now," Hermione whispered low enough that only Draco heard as his mother began steering her towards the doors.

Her fiancée gave her another eye roll

"Come, Hermione. You'll love our gardens, I promise you. It might even be a good place for the wedding," Mrs. Malfoy said with what could be identified as joy.

Lucius waited until his wife and the soon-to-be wife of his only son to depart from the room to turn and face Draco, his chest heaving with anger. "Hermione?"

Draco shrugged at his father, sitting himself back on his armchair as they were now alone. "Mother has adapted to first name bases, it seems."

X

In the night by the moonlight one who'd travel the Malfoy Manor in years past, or even a week ago, would have to stop from where they walked and perked their ears to focus all their attention in a noise that never existed in that house. It was strange, that noise, it held something far more odd than the sounds and it would throw anybody off if they saw who it was that was giving it.

"You're joking!" Narcissa Malfoy gave another loud laugh, so much curiosity and animation than what was expected from a refined Pureblood woman such as her. "There really are places in the Muggle world where you can marry in less than five minutes?"

Hermione nodded, grinning as she took a sip of her Pumpkin Juice; a little entertained by the woman's amusement. "Yes, ma'am. There's this place in Muggle America, in fact, that's famous for these weddings." She placed the goblet back on the garden table, laughing lightly along with Mrs. Malfoy. "It skips all the dramatics and stressing of a formal wedding, sort of ideal in some ways if you think about it."

A pause in the conversation was taken as Mrs. Malfoy waited until her giggles and outrage died down until she spoke again to the brunette witch.

"Well, Hermione, a Magical-Bonding Marriage is an important matter. Especially since they last all eternity.

"I want your wedding to my Draco to be absolutely perfect. I think the two of you deserve it. Granted that the Marriage Law was behind it and all, but it shouldn't stop you from having the wedding of your dreams. I do believe that Kingsley Shacklebolt was right all along when he formed the couples that are to wed," Narcissa Malfoy said sincerely, her eyebrows knitting themselves together as she did.

With the amusement now leaving her expression, Hermione cleared her throat and stared skeptically at the woman before her. "…Mrs. Malfoy, you can't possibly be telling me you're glad that I'm marrying your son?"

The blonde woman picked up a serious expression too. "But I am, Hermione," and again, more sincerity than what Hermione expected. "I know that you and my son have had your difficulties in the past, and not to mention everything Lucius tried to do to you and your loved ones, but I do believe that a marriage with you is what would be best for Draco.

"Sadly, I never believed that he would ever learn the pureness of what being selfless actually means, and I've feared that after the war he'd still be the arrogant boy we raised him to be...He wouldn't last in the world now like that." Narcissa, for the second time that evening, reached for Hermione's hands; holding them firmly across from the garden table. "You're what is best for him, Hermione. And when I found out of your alignment with him, I supported it a hundred percent. Because after everything you fought and stood for publicly, dear, I know you've the power to change anything...And I hope that power can change my son."

The brunette pressed her lips into a tight line, feeling the cool wind of the night blow through her skin that wasn't covered by her dress. "It isn't for love, Mrs. Malfoy, I hope you do realize that." It was now her turn to be honest. "I will admit that your son and I have...developed a strange friendship, or comradeship in the past weeks, but we will not wed with love."

"Not yet, dear." Narcissa patted Hermione's hands optimistically. "But soon, perhaps."

Hermione narrowed her eyes in an uncomfortable way, trying not to show the woman that her hope made her feel dizzy and sick inside.

But with some of that great luck she had left, she noticed a figure approaching them; ready to save her from the weirdness of that entire night.

"Mother," Draco Malfoy strolled into the garden from the long pathway. "Have you not realized what time it is? You've been out here for three hours. Granger must go back to the Weasleys before they threaten to send Aurors to search for her."

Narcissa gave her son a parental stare. "Hermione, Draco," she replied, correcting him quickly in the process of his lack of manners towards his fiancée, "has sent Beta to the Burrow to inform them that she will be staying the night."

"She what?" Draco's eyes snapped opened, instantly horrified.

And copying his action, Hermione stared up confusedly at Mrs. Malfoy like if she had suggested something completely insane. "I what?"

"Well, Hermione, it's absurd for you to leave now, it is night fall. And, besides, I assure you that a night in the manor won't do you harm. You can get to know the place a bit better because after your marriage I demand that you two visit quite regularly."

The brunette leaned back against her chair, not even letting the last piece of her response sink into her head just to avoid herself from vomiting. "But I-I...I didn't—"

"Of course you didn't, Hermione," Narcissa gave another gentle laugh. "I had Beta inform the Weasleys that you will be staying the night, completely safe and sound, obviously." Narcissa stood from her chair and pulled the young witch up with her at the same moment. "I sent her with a bottle of Veritaserum in case they thought she was lying, so don't worry — either of you."

Draco frowned past his little gawk of shock. "When did you do this, Mother? Granger was with you the entire time." He couldn't believe that his mother had taken such a liking for the Gryffindor Princess, enough to let her sleep in their anti-Muggle-Born home in just a few hours.

"When she was looking at the Tulips I planted, darling." Narcissa smiled at her son. "Now, show Hermione the guest room on your floor and make sure she is comfortable." Mrs. Malfoy placed Hermione's hand onto Draco's, clasping their hands together. "So adorable."

The couple frowned instantly, wanting to pull away.

And ignoring that, Narcissa patted her son's cheek and gave the girl a smile. "Have a pleasant night, Hermione. I shall see you in the morning."

Waiting a few seconds, Draco hissed a, "What did you do to her?" with great suspiciousness as he led Hermione, fingers intertwined, back to the manor.

"What did I do?" Hermione huffed. "What did she do? This was not planned, Malfoy." She stopped abruptly on the pebble pathway that led to the entrance doors of the Malfoy Manor. "I was suppose to be enjoying Mrs. Weasley's excellent cooking, not stuck freezing my butt off out here and playing sleepover with you."

Draco glared, pulling her arm to continue their way out of the cold as he mumbled a curse. "Well, I can always convince her to let you go back to Potter and Weasley, Granger."

"No, no, no," she clucked her tongue at him disapprovingly. "I can never do that to your mother." She spun to face him, swallowing the image of how the moonlight reflected off of his white face and made his silver eyes shine profoundly; making them glow. "That would be immensely rude of me, and she has already gone through the travel of sending your house-elf to the Burrow. I think I should stay, it's common courtesy, isn't it?"

Draco raised his eyebrow, suspicion bubbling deeper in his blood as he wondered why in hell the Gryffindor would agree all of a sudden. "Alright, Granger, what did she do to you?"

"Nothing, Malfoy, she just likes me." Hermione flicked her finger on his forehead, swaying his blonde hair away from his eyes. "Maybe even more than you, I expect."

"I doubt that will ever be—" Draco Malfoy was cut short as Hermione pressed her lips quickly onto his; silencing him completely with the shock of her action.

"Your mother's right, you never shut up." She flicked her fingers against his forehead once more and began to walk towards the manor without him, not even thinking once about what she had just done. (It was Christmas after all, it was the season of giving and being humble.)

Taking a moment to process the kiss, Draco chased after her. "What did she tell you?" He asked loudly, breaking into a run as his fiancée started running as well. "Granger!"

"It's Hermione, Draco!" The brunette laughed as Malfoy chased her, the cold air blowing right past through her but she felt warm inside.

Up above, from the tallest room in Malfoy Manor, staring down at the two teenagers running in the garden with ease and no thought, Lucius Malfoy frowned at them. A kind of hatred still boiling in his eyes for the young witch, but more for the boy chasing after her like he was having the time of his life before heading to bed. He scowled deeply at the look of Draco's happy eyes and the magnitude of his smile as the moonlight washed over him and his fiancée.

"…That poor idiot," Lucius hissed under his breath, hiding half of his pale face behind the silk curtains as he watched. "He will end up failing like in everything he has attempted to do."

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