Hermione looked around the eighth year common room and sighed. It was almost Christmas, and the eighth years still hadn't bonded. Each House had staked out their own little corner, and no one ever crossed the invisible lines (McGonagall hadn't let them draw real ones) except when they had to leave. And even then, it wasn't done without fear of getting hexed. It was obvious she was going to have to do something. Merlin knows, no one else would.

Luckily, she had a plan. Hermione held up her wand and cast a spell she found quite useful for getting people's attention. When everyone was glaring at her with their hands clasped over their ears, she silenced her wand and smiled at her peers in a nonthreatening way, just like she'd practiced in the mirror.

"My fellow eighth years, it's come to my attention that after everything we've been through together, we continue to be a school divided. It's still every House for themselves. Many of us," she said, looking directly at the Slytherins, "continue to cling to old prejudices. We must rise above this. Have we forgotten the wise words of the Sorting Hat?"

"Was it, 'You stay here. I'll go on a head?'" joked Ernie Macmillan.

Daphne Greengrass giggled meanly. "The last thing he probably heard the Sorting Hat say was, "Another pathetic loser. I know just what to do with you..." The Slytherins all shouted, "Hufflepuff!"

Hermione scowled. "If you're not going to take this seriously, you can leave." When almost everyone stood up, she pulled out her wand and hissed, "Sit."

They grudgingly sat back down.

Smoothing down her skirt, Hermione gave herself a quick internal pep talk and then continued her speech. "The Sorting Hat actually said that we must unite inside Hogwarts or crumble from within. Do you understand what that means?"

"Unite is code for sex," replied Blaise Zabini. "Probably some kind of archaic sexual magic. Not to brag, but I'm somewhat of an expert in this field. A sexpert if you will. I know I've done my fair share of uniting around here. What have you virgins done?" he asked the Ravenclaw corner of the room.

"Unite is not code for sex," Hermione snapped. "It means we need to come together."

"That's what sex is. Oh, I forgot," Blaise said, feigning pity. "You dated Weasley. You wouldn't know about coming together."

Crabbe and Goyle let out huge guffaws.

Ron tried to lunge at Blaise, but Harry held him back. "Don't listen to him, Ron . He's a Slytherin. He has no idea what it's like to come in first," he joked, earning high-fives from his housemates.

Hermione let out an exasperated sigh. This speech was not going as planned. She probably should have factored in that the audience she was was delivering her speech to was a bunch of idiots. "The Sorting Hat meant that we should work together instead of against each other because if we don't, we fail. I don't know about you, but Hermione Granger does not fail."

"I failed that Potion's exam yesterday," Crabbe admitted.

"Dude, that was hard," agreed Goyle. "What the hell's a Runespoor egg good for?"

"I guessed breakfast." Crabbe grinned.

"It's actually used to increase mental agility," Anthony Goldstein corrected.

"Nerd," coughed Crabbe and Goyle into their hands.

"My point is," said Hermione, seriously regretting reading that how-to book on making speeches that claimed dramatic pauses were a good idea, "now is the time for change. As eighth years, it is our duty to be role models for the younger students. To show them that we can work together and even become friends. Or, at the very least, noncombatant, somewhat amiable acquaintances. And to accomplish this seemingly insurmountable task, I've decided to embrace the holiday season and promote good will by hosting a Secret Santa Exchange!"

She looked around the room expectantly. It was not filled with the holiday cheer she'd hoped for. It was filled with a bunch of scrooges bah-humbugging her extremely clever and festive plan. The Slytherins were worried they might get stuck with a Gryffindor, or even worse, according to Daphne Greengrass, a fashion-backward Hufflepuff. Crabbe and Goyle called the idea "dumb." The Ravenclaws felt that getting anyone other than another Ravenclaw was a complete waste of time. Anthony worried his IQ might drop a notch.

The Gryffindors weren't any better. Ron complained that with his luck he'd get a Ravenclaw, and he already had enough boring books from Hermione. Seamus went as far as saying that if he got a gift from a Slytherin, he would feed it to the Giant Squid. Even the Hufflepuffs were mocking her. Ernie had the gall to call her idea "lame."

"Participation is mandatory. And that's final," she snapped.

Pansy looked up from her magazine and sneered. "You actually think you have the authority to make us participate in some stupid Secret Santa Exchange? Who made you Head Girl?" Smirking, she added, "Oh, right, no one. McGonagall gave it to Weasley's sister."

Hermione scowled. This was a sore spot for her, and everyone knew it. "I earned that position. If I hadn't had to miss seventh year because I was out SAVING THE WORLD, it would have been mine."

"Oi! I think we had a little something to do with that," interjected Ron. "Right, Harry?"

Harry didn't bother to reply. These days, he just enjoyed not having to save anything and that included Ron's pride.

"Whatever," said Hermione. "The point is, I was born to be Head Girl, and I'm not going to let some stupid little thing like not being officially appointed stop me. I hereby declare myself Head Girl of the eighth years."

"You can't do that," Pansy protested.

"I believe I just did."

"Well, I object."

"Too late. I've already cleared it with Professor McGonagall. She thought it was a wonderful idea."

Completely unfazed, Pansy replied, "Then we should vote."

"Vote?" echoed Hermione in surprise. She hadn't seen that one coming.

Pansy smiled smugly.

"Who else would even want to be Head Girl?" Hermione asked rhetorically.

Every girl in Ravenclaw and a couple of Hufflepuffs raised their hand. The Gryffindor girls knew better than to get in the way of Hermione's lifelong goal, and the Slytherins probably felt it beneath them.

Hermione looked around in disbelief. "Even with N.E.W.T.s coming up?"

A few hands lowered.

Gaining confidence, she added, "And you'll have to enforce the rules which some people will NOT appreciate." She not-so-subtly nodded her head at the Slytherins.

The rest of the hands dropped – all except Padma Patil's.

"I think I can handle the Slytherins," Padma proclaimed boldly.

"You can handle me any time," quipped Blaise suggestively.

Padma blushed.

Not totally oblivious to the telling exchange, Hermione finished her argument with, "And of course, there will be no time for a social life."

Wavering, Padma reluctantly lowered her hand, and Blaise winked at her.

"Looks like it's unanimous," said Hermione triumphantly. "I guess there's no need to vote after all."

"I beg to differ," Pansy drawled.

"Oh, did you want to have a go, Parkinson?" asked Hermione, quirking her eyebrow. "I'm surprised you're interested in the job, what with your busy social schedule. I hear you're quite popular."

Pansy glared. "I am definitely not interested."

"I thought so. Now that we have that settled–"

"However," interrupted Pansy. "We still need to vote on Head Boy."

"Head Boy?" repeated Hermione, wrinkling up her nose. "Why would we need one of those?"

Pansy smirked at her. "To keep the Head Girl in check of course."

"I'm a strong, intelligent, independent woman. I don't need some stupid Head Boy to keep me in check."

"I agree. We don't need a stupid Head Boy. We need a very clever one. That's why I nominate Draco Malfoy."

"Malfoy?" Hermione spat, her eyes unwillingly searching out the bane of her existence. He was lounging near the fire smirking and pretending to read a book. "No way. If we have to have a Head Boy, it should be Harry. He was the one who defeated Voldemort. With my help," she couldn't help adding.

"And mine!" growled Ron.

"But he's a Gryffindor," protested Pansy.

"He's a hero," replied Hermione. "We have a lot in common like that."

"I don't want to be Head Boy," Harry declared.

"Shut up, Harry. Of course you do," said Hermione dismissively. "It's not like you have to do any work. I'll take care of everything. It will just be a title. Like The Chosen One."

Harry glared at her. "That wasn't just a title. I actually had to die for that."

Hermione rolled her eyes. "You don't have to be so dramatic about it, Harry. It's not like you have to die to be Head Boy. You just have to follow my orders."

"I think I'd rather die," Harry grumbled.

"I'm not interested either," said Ron. "Wouldn't want it interfering with my social life."

"Like you were a consideration anyway," huffed Hermione. She was still a little bitter over their failed romance. While she'd been the one to break it off, he'd gotten over it awfully quickly. "Well, I iguess/i there's always Neville."

"We can't have two Gryffindors," Pansy objected.

"Yeah, but it's just Neville."

"True," agreed Pansy, "but I think one of the other Houses should be represented. Like Slytherin."

"Hey," objected Neville, offended by the way his Gryffindorness was being maligned. "While you were out camping, I led a school-wide revolution. I killed a giant snake. How much more Gryffindor can you get?"

"How about a Ravenclaw?" suggested Hermione, ignoring Neville.

"Too bookish, A-K-A ugly," replied Pansy.

"There's nothing wrong with being bookish," insisted Hermione. "Some people say smart is sexy."

"If you have to advertise it on your shirt," sneered Pansy, looking directly at Anthony Goldstein, "it's obviously not true."

Embarrassed, Anthony awkwardly folded his arms across his chest, and Terry Boot, who was sitting next to him, discreetly buttoned his robes over his "Nerds do it Better" t-shirt.

"We are not deciding on a Head Boy based on looks," Hermione huffed.

"You're right," agreed Pansy slyly. "We should be more practical. A swotty Ravenclaw telling you what to do is exactly what we need."

Hermione hadn't thought of that. A swotty Ravenclaw bossing her around is exactly what she didn't want. "I guess we don't have to be that practical. What about a Hufflepuff? They're, you know, loyal."

"They're also pushovers. No offense." Pansy sneered over at the Hufflepuff corner of the room.

Ernie puffed out his chest. "I'll have you know that Hufflepuffs are— "

Hermione cut him off. "Face it, Ernie. I'd eat you for breakfast."

"You see? Draco's the only choice," said Pansy.

Hermione made a face. "If I had to pick a Slytherin, I guess it would be Crabbe. Or Goyle. Which is the one not stuffing his face with sausages?"

"Seriously? Oh, I forgot you like them dumb." Pansy looked snidely at Ron.

"Did someone say sausages?" asked Ron, suddenly paying attention. "I'm starving."

"How about Zabini?" Hermione suggested.



"Definitely not," said Pansy, glaring at Theo.

Theo shrugged. "We broke up recently."

"See?" said Pansy. "There's no one else."

Hermione looked desperately around the room. "Um, how about Millicent Bulstrode?" she suggested, grasping at straws.

Millicent scowled. "Did you seriously just suggest that I was qualified to be... Head Boy?"

"No," said Hermione quickly. "I wasn't suggesting you're qualified to be anything." Realizing what she said, she flinched. "Please don't hit me!"

"You're lucky. I gave that up for Lent," grunted Millicent. "Otherwise, I would have smashed your face in."

"But Lent is— " Hermione checked herself before she said something her face would regret. "The best ever. Keep up the good work."

"I slip up sometimes," Millicent said ominously.

Completely flustered, Hermione stammered, "Yes, well, er... what were we talking about?"

"Draco," replied Pansy.

Hermione let out an exasperated sigh. "I'm sure Malfoy doesn't even want to be Head Boy," she said, trying to be optimistic.

"I'll do it," said Malfoy, snapping shut the book he had been pretending to read.

"Why?" asked Hermione, narrowing her eyes.

"Why not?"

"Because I'm Head Girl. We'll have to work together."

Draco shrugged. "I've worked with difficult people before."

"I am not difficult!"

"Yes, you are, but I'm willing to look past it. For the cause."

"The cause?"

"House Unity. Your speech moved me."

"Oh yeah?" said Hermione skeptically. "Exactly which part of my speech moved you?"

Draco smiled. And it wasn't a nonthreatening kind of smile like the one she'd practiced in the mirror. It was most decidedly wicked. "Why the coming together part, of course."


Working with Malfoy went better than expected. He offered the use of his minions for enforcing participation and even helped come up with a particularly nasty hex to prevent people from trading names. Best of all, he let her do things exactly how she wanted. All in all, he was the perfect Head Boy. It was very suspicious.

The morning after drawing names, Hermione woke to a beautifully wrapped present at the foot of her bed. The enchanted wrapping paper featured a partridge flitting around a pear tree. It was so lovely, she almost didn't want to open it. Of course, she couldn't help herself.

The card said, "On the first day of Christmas, my Secret Santa gave to me..." Careful not to ruin the beautiful wrapping paper, she opened the gift and discovered an expensive-looking bottle of pear-scented shampoo. Unscrewing the cap, she took a whiff. It was heavenly. Humming her favorite Christmas song, she headed to the shower very pleased with her Secret Santa.

When she came down to the common room an hour later, her mood had drastically changed.

"What in Merlin's name is in your hair, Hermione?" gasped Lavender.

"Pears," Hermione growled.

"When I said you should do something with your hair, I was talking about Sleakeasy's, not something tacky like fruit."

"I didn't do it on purpose! I was tricked."

"Have you tried defruiting yourself?"

"I've tried everything. Nothing works."

"Let me try. You never were good with hair."

"I wouldn't if I were you," warned Hermione.

Not listening, Lavender went for her hair and let out a scream. Sucking on her finger, she asked, "What was that?"

"A partridge," said Hermione bitterly. "A vicious, blood-thirsty—"

"A partridge in a pear tree," said Lavender, getting the joke. "That's funny."

Hermione was about to tell Lavender how not funny it was when she heard some familiar words being recited from across the room. Words that made her cringe.

"The world is a chessboard, and you are my knight. While your words sometimes cut me like a sword, I know your intentions are always right. With each move you make, whether one square or two, you come closer to winning my love that is true. The checkmate you seek is nearly at hand. For I am yours, awaiting your command."

Practically flying across the room, Hermione snatched the book out of Malfoy's hand. "What the hell are you doing?"

"Reading a really horrible poem I found in my Secret Santa gift," Malfoy replied, grinning.

"Your Secret Santa gift?" She was going to kill Ronald Weasley.

"Do you mind?" Draco asked, holding out his hand. "I'd like to see if there are any other hidden gems in this otherwise dull book."

Hermione shoved the book at him. "Enjoy," she snapped.

Draco gave her the once-over. "I see you're rockin' the Christmas spirit today. What is that? Partridge in a pear bush?"

Hermione glared at him. "It's my Secret Santa gift."

"Quite practical." He plucked a pear from her hair. "Thanks. I was feeling a little peckish."

"How did you do that? That nasty, little bugger nearly took my hand off."

Draco shrugged. "I guess I have a way with creatures."

"Like you did with Buckbeak?" she asked snidely.

"Funny," said Draco, glowering at her. "Speaking of funny, I wonder what you'll get on the second day of Christmas?"

The second day of Christmas? Crap. She hadn't thought of that. "Is that a threat?"/p

"I'm guessing more of a theme."

"Are you my Secret Santa?" Hermione asked accusingly.

"If I was, I wouldn't tell you, now, would I?" Draco smirked.

Hermione scowled. "Well, whoever my Secret Santa is, he's an idiot. The twelve days are supposed to take place after Christmas."

"Perhaps you'll get lucky and get gifts after Christmas as well," he retorted, standing up to leave.

"Hey, where do you think you're going with my pear?"

"I'm going to eat it."

"I forbid you!" That pear was a part of her! Well, sort of anyway.

"I always have been partial to forbidden fruit." Smirking, he took a bite and walked away.

Hermione stared after him in shock. How dare he eat her pear. How dare he make her bear fruit in the first place. There was something sort of pervy about it. The more she thought about it, the angrier she got. She looked around the room. Everyone else was enjoying their Secret Santa gifts. It was sickening. She had to get out of there. Unfortunately, she had to pass by those damn, happy-go-lucky Hufflepuffs.

"Look what I got from my Secret Santa," gushed Susan Bones, holding up a pot filled with exotic-looking flowers.

"Shut up, Susan," Hermione snapped, pushing past her.

"What's wrong with her?" asked Susan.

"Bad hair day," replied Lavender.

"You think she'd be used to it by now."

"I know, right?"


Hermione waited behind a suit of armor, ready to pounce. She knew her target would soon be passing by on his way to breakfast. When she saw him, she grabbed him.


"Shhh!" Hermione hissed, clapping her hand over his mouth. "It's only me."

Ron shoved her hand off of his mouth. "Geez, Hermione. You almost gave me a heart attack."

"Sorry," Hermione said dismissively, "but I needed to talk to you."

"Can't we talk over breakfast? I'm starving."

Hermione rolled her eyes. "You're always starving. And no, we cannot discuss this over breakfast. It's a secret."

"Fine," said Ron with a big sigh. "What's so important that I'm going to risk Crabbe and Goyle eating all of the sausages?"

"I want Malfoy."

Ron turned a deep shade of red. "Look, I know we've been broken up for a while, and we swore we'd still be friends or whatever, but I really don't want to know about this kind of stuff. Especially if it's about Malfoy."

"What are you talking about?"

Ron put his hand on her shoulder. "What I'm trying to say is your sexual needs aren't really my problem anymore. And Malfoy? You could do better."

Hermione glared. "I'm pretty sure my sexual needs were never your problem. This has nothing to do with sex. I just want to bring Malfoy to his knees and make him beg for mercy."

"Sounds like sex to me," Ron joked.

Hermione jabbed him in the chest. "I want that slip of paper with Malfoy's name on it. I know you have it."

"You don't know anything."

"You gave him a book, the exact same book I gave you last year for Christmas."


"And is it also a coincidence that it had the poem I wrote you inscribed on the inside cover?"

"You wrote me a poem?"

"You never even read it!"

"If you wanted me to read it, you shouldn't have put it in a boring book."

"Give me that damn slip of paper!"

"I can't trade with you even if I wanted to. According to rule number 47, which you wrote, trading is strictly prohibited."

"I can take care of that." Actually, she didn't know if she could. Malfoy had come up with the hex. But it's not like it would kill him. "I have Tracey Davis," she said temptingly.


"The Slytherin with the big boobs."

Ron smiled. "Oh, yeah, her."

"So, you'll trade with me?"

"I don't know," hedged Ron. "Malfoy is easy. I don't have to put any effort into it. Tomorrow I'm going to give him a rock." He smiled satisfactorily.

"I hear Tracey Davis is easy, too," said Hermione coaxingly.

Ron shook his head. "I'm dead broke. I can't afford Tracey Davis."

"I'll give you the money."

"Too much work."

"I'll take care of everything. Just give me Malfoy's name," Hermione pleaded.

"Sorry, Hermione, but you can't be trusted. You'd probably give her something lame like a book. I have a reputation to uphold."

"You mean your reputation as an illiterate?" asked Hermione sarcastically.

"No. My reputation as the non-bookish, athletic type."

"Give me that paper," Hermione demanded, poking him hard in the chest.

"Ow! Forget it. I'm not giving you anything."

"You will give it to me, or I'll get it myself," said Hermione, reaching toward him.

"You wouldn't dare."

Hermione's eyes narrowed. "You have always underestimated me, Ronald Weasley." She lunged at him.

"Stop!" screeched Ron as she rooted through his pockets. "You know I'm ticklish."

"I know," said Hermione, relentlessly searching.

Ron let out a high-pitch squeal as she hit a particular ticklish spot. "That's it. I'm leaving."

"The hell you are," said Hermione, jumping him and wrapping her legs around him.

"What's going on in here?" asked Harry, poking his head into the alcove. Seeing his two friends wrestling, he quickly put his hand over his eyes. "Oh, my God. Are you two back together?"

"God, no," blurted Ron, earning a glare from Hermione.

"Why would you think that, Harry?" she asked, discreetly extricating her legs from around Ron's waist.

Harry rolled his eyes.

"We're fighting over Malfoy," Hermione admitted. "I want him, and Ron won't let me have him."

"He's mine," Ron proclaimed. "I won him fair and square."

"You're fighting over Malfoy?" asked Harry incredulously.

Looking sheepish, they both nodded.

Harry's face darkened. "Malfoy? My sworn enemy? I suspected Hermione had the hots for him. But you too, Ron? I thought we were friends."

"I don't have the hots for Malfoy!" they both exclaimed at once.

"I'm not gay," said Ron emphatically.

"And I'm not insane," said Hermione just as emphatically.

"Then what's going on?" asked Harry, looking confused.

"I want to get revenge on Malfoy. For this," said Hermione, pointing at her hair.

"I didn't know you had food," said Ron, reaching out for a pear. However, before he could touch it, the partridge popped out and pecked his hand sharply.

"Ouch! What was that?"

"My Secret Santa gift," said Hermione bitterly.

"A partridge in a pear tree. Hey! That's clever." Then remembering whom he was calling clever, Ron said, "I mean, it's outrageous. Completely outrageous."

"Malfoy's your Secret Santa?" said Harry.

"More like Secret Satan," Hermione grumbled. "He's using my favorite Christmas song against me."

"Your favorite song is iThe Twelve Days of Christmas/i?" Ron scoffed. "It doesn't even make sense."

"It's not supposed to make sense. It's just for fun."

"Are you having fun?"



Four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves and one stupid, annoying, horribly vicious partridge later, Hermione found herself wallowing in feathers and plotting revenge.

"I'm so sick of his crap," complained Hermione, scraping bird poop off her robes. "I just want to put him out of commission."

"Maybe you should give him some U-No-Poo," Ron joked.

Hermione's eyes lit up, and she said something she never thought she would. "Ron, you're a genius!"

Harry laughed. "Malfoy's full of so much crap as it is, he'll probably explode."

"Let's do it," said Ron excitedly.

"I don't know," hedged Hermione. "Not that Malfoy doesn't deserve it, but I don't know if I can be that cruel." She'd been brought up believing constipation was no joking matter. Her mother had always made sure she ate plenty of fruit to prevent getting stopped up which according to her mother could actually kill you. And while she was pretty angry with Malfoy, she wasn't angry enough to kill him. Not yet anyway.

"I'll get some just in case," said Ron. "You might change your mind after a few more gifts.

"And a few more birds," added Harry.


She was actually looking forward to the next gift. Five golden rings. Besides not involving birds, it was also quite useful. She was already fantasizing about putting a ring on each finger and punching her Secret Santa right in his pointy face.

Unfortunately, instead of jewelry, she found herself receiving a very nasty wake up call at five o'clock in the morning. Five golden bells hovered above her, violently ringing at an ear-piercing pitch. The ringing went off every hour on the hour with no way to silence them.

Hermione was so tired, she didn't even bother getting out of bed on the seventh day. She and the geese had a lie-in. On the eighth day, nobody had a lie-in. The eighth years woke up to Hermione shouting, "Enough with the goddamn birds!"

When she finally came down to the common room, she was followed by seven swans. She was planning on taking them to the Black Lake to send them a-swimming.

Snickering, Pansy said, "Look, it's seven swans and one ugly duckling."

"Lay off her, Pans," Draco mock scolded. "A little bird told me this Santa Exchange is really taking a toll on her. I hear it's been a real albatross around her neck."

"Don't be a silly goose. Granger doesn't care what people think. It's like water off a duck's back."

"I don't know. Her feathers look awfully ruffled to me."

Hermione walked over to him and got in his face. "Don't think I don't know what's going on here. I'm watching you," she hissed.

"Like a hawk?" suggested Draco with a smirk.

Gritting her teeth, Hermione stomped out of the room, the seven swans flying after her.

Draco followed not long after.

"What's he up to?" Harry asked Pansy.

She shrugged. "I think he's flirting."

"He's a dead duck," Harry replied.

Pansy laughed.


On the eighth day of the Secret Santa exchange, Hermione received a note. By owl. "Ever seen eight house-elves a-milking? Well, you can if you visit the Kitchens! Sorry, this gift is probably not S.P.E.W.-approved."

After an emergency trip to the Kitchens, Hermione returned to the common room exhausted. Her robes were torn and she was covered head to toe in milk. Whatever the hell those house-elves were milking went completely crazy when it saw her red scarf. The damn thing chased her through the castle, destroying everything in its path. Luckily, she was able to lose it on one of the moving staircases. After that, she ran as fast as she could without looking back. For all she knew or cared, it was still roaming the halls.

Since it was the wee hours of the morning, she was hoping she could sneak in without being seen. Or smelled. The milk was starting to sour. All she wanted to do was take a shower and go to bed. When she crawled through the portrait hole though, she was dismayed to see all the boys in the middle of the room. She couldn't help but wonder what on earth would bring them all together like that. That's when she saw the new addition to the common room. Stripper poles. And nine strippers stripping. Lovely.

"Mione!" yelled Ron. Hermione rolled her eyes. He only called her Mione when he was drunk. "Look what your Secret Santa brought you. She's a Healer."

"I see that." The stripper was indeed a 'Healer', dressed in the skimpiest Healer robes she had ever seen.

"Do you have any Galleons to spare?" Ron slurred.


"Hermione," Lavender called from across the room. "Come over here."

When she walked over, Lavender made a face.

"Ooh! You stink."

"I know. It's been a long night. All I want to do is take a shower and go to bed, so if you'll excuse me—"

"Before you go, Pansy and I were talking—"

"Wait. Did you just say that you and Pansy were talking?" Hermione didn't know how to process that information.

"Yes, we're trying to figure out which one comes next."


"We want to know what number ten is going to be," Pansy explained.

"Oh. It's the ten lords a-leaping."

Lavender clapped her hands together. "I told you! I hope they're hot."

"Who?" asked Hermione, too tired to understand.

"The strippers!" squealed Lavender and Pansy together.

"You think I'm getting strippers?"

"Why not?" asked Lavender. "We already have the poles. Do male strippers use poles?"

"They come with poles." Pansy smirked.

Lavender laughed loudly at that.

Seeing Lavender and Pansy getting along was too weird. "I'm going to bed."

"Don't forget to take a shower!" Lavender and Pansy exclaimed in unison.

After the nine ladies dancing and her conversation with Lavender and Pansy, Hermione thought the ten lords a-leaping might not be too awful. So, waking up to ten horny toads leaping about was a bit disappointing. The eleventh day was even worse. The pipers piping turned out to be sandpipers chirping. Once again, her room was filled with birds. And poop.


On Christmas morning, Hermione came down to the common room tired but relieved. It was finally the last day of the Secret Santa Exchange. After today, there would be no more presents and no more birds! The whole ordeal had taken quite a toll on her. She had even broken down last night and stayed up late baking a special batch of cookies laced with U-No-Poo. But now that it was a brand new day, the whole thing just seemed petty and mean. She didn't need to sink to his level. She was better than that.

"Merry Christmas, Hermione!" yelled Ron and Harry in chorus.

"Happy Christmas," replied Hermione, giving them both hugs.

"You're in a good mood," Harry noted.

"I am. The Secret Santa Exchange is officially over."

"I can't wait to find out who my Secret Santa is," said Lavender, overhearing them. "Whoever it is, they have really good taste."

"Mine too," agreed Pansy. "I have to admit, Granger, this Secret Santa Exchange wasn't as dumb as I thought it would be."

"All my Secret Santa gave me was a lot of knitwear," complained Tracey Davis. "I do really like this tube top though," she said, modeling a very tiny knitted top under her robes.

"That's a headband," said Hermione.

"Oh," said Tracey. "Well, I really like it. Thanks."

"That is the most awesome headband I have ever seen," said Ron, ogling.

"You're cute." Tracey giggled.

"He's illiterate, too," said Hermione dryly.

She was just wondering where Draco was when she suddenly heard him whisper in her ear, "Ready for the big reveal?"

Not realizing he was so close to her, Hermione jumped. "Don't do that!" she snapped.

"Nervous?" Draco asked.

"Just get on with it," Hermione growled.

Draco cleared his throat. "My fellow eighth years, the Head Girl and I would like to thank you for participating in our Secret Santa Exchange. I think I speak for both of us when I say what a pleasure it has been to see unity between the Houses finally come to fruition."

Hermione snorted.

"And I think we can all agree that we have Hermione Granger to thank for coming up with the idea in the first place. This achievement really is a feather in her cap."

Everyone laughed. Well, everyone except Hermione.

"Now, time to get on with the reveal. Can I please have three volunteers from each House? Drum roll please."

The twelve drummers banged their hands down on their knees, the walls or whatever was around them, and with that, the reveal began. Tracey found her and thanked her again for the tube top before going off to find her gift recipient. Hermione couldn't help but notice how happy everyone was. Pansy and Lavender were sitting together sharing fashion magazines. Neville and Susan were using the mistletoe he had undoubtedly given her for her final gift. Even Anthony was sharing a box of bonbons with Crabbe. Her plan had actually worked. Those twelve days of torture had actually been worth it. At least, she thought that was how she would feel when she finally got some sleep and could really appreciate it.

Draco found her sitting by herself and sank down onto the sofa next to her. "In case you're wondering, your Secret Santa is... me."

"I know."

"Who told? I'll kick their ass."

Hermione rolled her eyes. "I kind of figured it out."

"I heard you were the smartest witch of your age. What gave me away? The clever nature of my gifts?"

"More like the annoying nature of your gifts," said Hermione sourly.

"You didn't like my theme?"


"But it's your favorite Christmas song."

"It WAS my favorite Christmas song," Hermione groused.

Draco shrugged sheepishly. "I guess that's what I get for picking out your Christmas gift from a Weasley's Wizard Wheezes catalog. In my defense though, it did say, 'Guaranteed to make the girl swoon or your money back'."

"I guess I'm not the type of girl to swoon over bird poop," she retorted.

"Apparently not." He smirked.

"How did you know that "iThe Twelve Days of Christmas/i was my favorite Christmas song?"

"Because you hum it every year. It seems to make you happy."

"My grandmother used to sing it to me when I was little. It's my favorite memory of her. She died when I was seven."

Draco's face dropped. "That song reminds you of your dead grandmother?"

"Well, now it reminds me of my dead grandmother and you."

"Sorry. I thought this would be a little more romantic than it's turned out. Normally, I'm much more suave."

Hermione laughed. "You're not serious."

"Yes, I'm very suave!"

"No. I mean about trying to be romantic. Why would you want to be romantic with me?"

"Because I like you."

"No, you don't."

"Yes, I do."

"If you do, then why did you give me bird poop?"

"I didn't give you bird poop. I gave you this," said Draco, gesturing around the room.

"The common room?"

"A united common room. I gave you House unity for Christmas."

"YOU gave me House unity?" said Hermione, not believing her ears. Was he seriously taking credit for this?

"Yeah. Your Secret Santa idea wasn't going over very well, so I made it not so lame. Everyone couldn't wait to see what clever and funny gift you'd get each day. I brought the Houses together through the universal language of laughter. And I thought that after I gave you what you most wanted for Christmas, maybe we could 'unite' as well," said Draco, giving her his trademark smirk.

Through the entirety of his speech, Hermione could hardly contain her anger. He did all of this because he wanted to hook up with her? Unbelievable. She forced a smile on her face. "You know what? You're right. This is exactly what I wanted for Christmas. I just feel bad I didn't get you anything. You know what you deserve? A cookie." She pulled out a brightly wrapped cellophane bag filled with chocolate chip cookies. "It's my grandmother's recipe with my own little twist. I wasn't going to share these cookies with anyone, but you really have earned it," she said sincerely, ready to finally put an end to his crap once and for all.