‘It’s not even funny,’ said Draco, a grim expression on his face. This, however, made it even harder for Hermione to control her laughter. When her secret boyfriend sent a memo pleading her to go to their secret meeting place immediately, she had never expected to find two little golden bells perfectly adorned with holly dangling on top of his shirt collar. Not to mention they were even tied to his neck with red and green ribbons.
‘Well,’ said Hermione once she had finally managed to rearrange her features to match Draco’s, ‘at least Pansy’s been rather thoughtful about her punishment. You can just say that it’s your way of showing Christmas spirits. Nobody would question it.’
‘Much,’ she added lamely as Draco shot a glare in her direction.
‘I don’t think you’ve realised the seriousness of the situation,’ he winced, clearly upset. ‘This was meant for Potter after his failure to fight off Romilda Vane’s advances. And it’s Pansy’s creation. There must be something more.’
‘Honestly, Pansy’s conduct is none of my business,’ she huffed. ‘If she doesn’t want her boyfriend to be chased after, then she shouldn’t keep their relationship secret in the first place.’
‘You’re the one to talk,’ he pointed out, but Hermione simply ignored this and proceeded to ask, ‘How in Merlin’s name did you get hit anyway?’
‘Well, you didn’t think I’d miss seeing Potter get hexed, now did you?’
‘So you followed Harry to their date?’
‘Naturally,’ replied Draco with a smirk, his current misfortune momentarily forgotten. ‘Don’t look at me like that. I did offer him emotional support, and he didn’t seem to mind.’
‘Then it looks like someone’s got what he deserves.’
‘You didn’t mean that,’ said Draco.
‘Fine, what do you want then? You didn’t just call me down here to listen to your rant, did you?’
‘Honestly, Hermione. Help me get this thing off!’
Hermione rolled her eyes. ‘Why don’t you ask Pansy?’
‘Are you mad? She’d probably hex me again! She'd already marched off, all upset about misfiring as it is.’
'All right,' sighed Hermione, frowning as she contemplated the bells. ‘Hmm, these things don’t jingle when you move, do they?’
Draco tapped at the bells. They swung back and forth but didn’t produce any sounds.
‘In that case, I'm afraid there is no counter-curse.’
Hermione waved her hand dismissively. ‘It’s nothing serious, really. Just a pair of “ward-your-house-from-greedy-thieves-while-simultaneously-decorating-it” bells, which for Pansy probably translates into a pair of “ward-your-boyfriend-from-lusting-girls-while-simultaneously-embarrassing-him” bells.’
Draco raised an incredulous brow, signalling Hermione to continue.
‘My guess is that if any girl except Pansy goes within a certain distance of these bells, say to kiss Harry, they will chime.’
‘What is the exact distance?’
‘I don’t know. Not long, probably just a few inches. I mean, she wouldn’t want to have too many false alarms. And don’t worry. It’ll come off in three days.’
‘Three days?’ he shrieked.
‘Come on, it’s not that bad.’
‘Not bad? Yeah, right, three whole days without even kissing. Sounds bloody fantastic.’
‘Aren’t you just being melodramatic?’ said Hermione before her face broke into a grin. ‘On the bright side, it’s the cutest thing I’ve ever seen,’ she added. ‘Maybe except for an extremely adorable white ferret.’
‘What the hell are you doing here?’ Hermione looked up, aghast to see Draco unceremoniously strut into her office.
‘I can’t stand it anymore. Just one kiss, please!’
‘It’ll trigger the bells.’
‘Not if you manage to stay out of their danger zone.’
Talk about having a whiny bastard for a boyfriend. But Hermione decided to satisfy his wish anyway, if only for the sake of getting him out of her hair. Besides, he did say please, didn’t he? She stood up and walked around her desk to where he was standing. Hermione tiptoed while Draco bended down a little. They inched closer, ever so carefully not to disturb the little devils on his neck. Their lips barely touched when—
Ding dong ding dong.
Startled by the noise, Hermione jumped back, lost her balance and… Well, when Hermione’s secretary burst into her office, the situation looked much worse than it really was, not that they hadn’t tried more questionable positions before. Then again, there had never been any audience or chiming bells or half of the building rushing in to see what had caused such an earth-shaking toll.
‘Yes, we’ve been dating secretly for six months. Happy now?’ snapped Hermione at the gathering crowd before slamming her door in their face.
‘I thought you didn’t want to make it public,’ observed Draco as though he hadn’t been the one who brought about all this mess.
‘It’s still better than leaving it to the imagination of gossipers everywhere.’
‘Like what? Because of Draco Malfoy’s irresistible charm, Hermione Granger decided to ravish him in her office?’
She thumped him on the shoulder, a little too close for the bells’ comfort. They rang again.
‘No more kisses until Christmas!’ declared Hermione gruffly as she backed away from her now-official-but-still-horrendously-infuriating boyfriend.
He shrugged. ‘Fine by me. Don’t want to lose my hearing anyway.’
Draco dashed out of Hermione’s office just in time to avoid a paper-weight flying his way. Popping his head through the door, he added smugly, ‘Remember that we’re going to the party together, girlfriend.’
‘By the way, don’t you and Potter want to make it public?’
‘Not yet. I still want to enjoy my privacy a little longer.’
‘Ouch, Hermione! What was that for?’
‘Not controlling your girlfriend properly.’
‘Girlfriend? What girlfriend? I don’t have a girlfriend.’
‘Stop pretending, Harry. Everybody will know soon enough.’
‘Hey, wait, Hermione. What is this supposed to do?’
‘Come on, it’s not that bad.’
‘Hey, Mister, should I remind you that you are the one who’s not getting anything for the next three days?’
‘Not from you, to be exact. The last time I checked these bells are only Pansy-proof,’ teased Harry against his better judgement.
‘You dare check?’
‘Just kidding, Pans,’ he replied hastily. Harry’s natural reaction was to wrap his arms around Pansy and soothe her rage. It usually worked quite well but this time turned out to be a disastrously wrong move. Ding dong ding dong, sang the bells merrily.
‘I hate Hermione Granger,’ hissed Pansy once they had restored a safe distance.
Harry’s groan was audible. ‘Believe me, you wouldn’t want her to hear that.’