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Startlingly Familiar

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***

One thing was certain about working in the Beast Division of the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures: it was never dull, especially during the Christmas season. At this most magical time of the year, shop vendors of questionable repute tried to outdo each other in the magical creature trade. After all, who wouldn't want a rare, deadly Lethifold as a pet? Any sane witch or wizard, that's who, was Hermione's standard reply, but that didn't stop the shopkeepers from trying.

The current Exciting Thing of Questionable Repute was the giant wooden box that occupied half the office. It was painted with enchanted nature scenes on all four sides, complete with monkeys swinging from rainforest branches and lions chasing hapless gazelles through a sun-kissed savannah. There was no discernible lid, but on one side there was a single hole, dark as night. It was lined with black velvet and was large enough to insert your entire arm, but since the box kept emitting alarming, distinctly animalistic noises, none of Hermione's co-workers had yet dared to stick in their hand. (After all, what if there was a Lethifold in there?)

Hermione stood in front of the box peering into the hole, hands on hips and muttering to herself, intent on the mystery before her.

"Did someone call for Magical Law Enforcement?" a cultured voice drawled in her ear. She yelped, practically jumping out of her skin. She turned and glared at the handsome yet infuriating man who had appeared unannounced beside her. 

"Malfoy, you prat! How many times have I asked you not to sneak up on me?" she said indignantly. 

"Eh, I've lost count," Draco said with a self-satisfied smirk, dusting off his Auror robes. 

"Listen to me carefully: stop doing it," Hermione said, poking him in the chest. "It isn't funny!" 

He covered her hand with his and squeezed her fingers gently. "But it's such fun for me, Granger. You make it too easy. Whatever happened to 'Constant Vigilance'?" 

She pulled her hand away with a huff as Draco chuckled. "Maybe when you stop being so cute when you're startled, I might put an end to it." He turned away from a highly flustered Hermione and pointed at the box with his chin. "So what's this? Did you confiscate another collection of Hagrid's Blast-Ended Skrewts? Did Looney finally catch a boatload of Nargles?" He snapped his fingers. "No, wait, is it a huge load of dirty laundry from your ex-boyfriend Weaselbee?" 

Hermione quickly regained her senses and scoffed. "Ha. Skrewts are now extinct, Nargles don't exist, and Ronald knows if he ever sent me his dirty clothes he'd get them back shoved right up his jacksie." She crossed her arms. "Take a look for yourself. What do you think it is, Mr. Auror?" 

Draco, hands in his robe pockets, ambled thoughtfully all around the box, tapping each side with his toe and listening to the resulting screeches and gibbering. When he came back to stand beside Hermione, he looked into the hole, shrugged, and said, "It looks like a glory hole for an elephant." 

"That's a good one," said Luna, who drifted in from the back room. "We hadn't thought of that. I'll add that to the list." 

Hermione stared at the two of them in shock, then shook her head. "I'm pretty sure it isn't a glory hole for elephants, people," she said. 

"Why not?" asked Luna. 

"It's nowhere near tall enough, for starters." 

Draco shrugged again. "Alright then. What do you think it is, Ms. Smarty-witch?" 

"I haven't had much time to examine it," Hermione hedged. "We only confiscated it from Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes a little while ago." 

Draco groaned. "Oh no, not them again." He raised both hands to the heavens. "Why is it always on my shift?" 

"We always plan the WWW raids for when you're on duty," Luna said blithely. "Didn't you know?" 

Draco narrowed his eyes. "Is that so?" 

"Yes, Hermione asked especially to save this one for when you were scheduled to work—" 

"That's enough, Luna!" Hermione said quickly, slapping a hand over her co-worker's mouth. She cleared her throat. "We'd heard rumors of the Weasleys mishandling magical creatures. The twins weren't around and their clerk, Verity, couldn't explain anything, so we took the entire display." 

Draco looked at the crate and raised an eyebrow. "It's a bloody great box with a hole in it and it sounds like a jungle exploded, but that's nothing special. Lots of things can be magicked to make noise." 

"Yes, well. I think it's what is inside that's the important part," Hermione said. 

"I've recently realized that myself," Draco murmured, gazing at her intently. She looked back at him in surprise. 

"We need to determine its contents," Luna said, seemingly oblivious to their exchange. "But Accio doesn't work and revealing spells don't have any effect." 

"Well, why don't one of you just stick your hand in there and find out?" Draco suggested, one eyebrow raised in challenge. "Or are you afraid? Worried a Lethifold might grab you?" 

Hermione straightened her shoulders. "Of course not! The Weasley twins would never traffic in Dark creatures like that. As a matter of fact, I was about to reach into the box when you so inconveniently distracted me a few minutes ago, so just you step aside." 

So saying, she nudged past Draco, pushed up her sleeves, mustered every ounce of Gryffindor courage she had, and thrust her left hand into the hole. (She wasn't foolhardy enough to use her wand hand.) Draco and Luna watched with interest. 

"Oh!" she exclaimed.  

"What? What's in there?" asked Luna as Hermione squirmed. 

Draco stepped forward, his wand at the ready. He looked worried. "I've changed my mind. Pull your hand out of there, Granger," he said. "This isn't safe." 

"No, it's all right. Nothing's hurting me. It feels…soft…and tickly," Hermione said. She began to giggle. "Oh, gosh, something's climbing my arm! Something soft and furry." She withdrew from the box carefully so as not to dislodge whatever it was. 

When her arm cleared the hole, the three of them gawped. Clinging to Hermione's arm was a little pink unicorn, complete with silver horn, mane, and tail. It was covered in soft plushy fur and around its neck it wore a black ribbon with a little silver star dangling from it. It nodded its head and whinnied happily. 

Hermione stared at the little creature. "What in the world—" 

Just then the door to the increasingly-crowded office banged open. Hermione suddenly found herself squished up against Luna and the box. Draco had thrown himself between her and the possible attackers, wand raised. His body was pressed hard against her and she could feel the tension in his shoulders and back. She'd be rather turned on if it weren't for the fact that the intruders were actually— 

"Fred and George Weasley!" she cried, pointing awkwardly at them from behind Draco. "You two have some explaining to do." 

"We could say the same of you," declared Fred, panting. He pulled a snowy red and green hat off his head and shook it dry over Hermione's desk. 

"What's the big idea, raiding our shop and stealing our merchandise?" asked George, hotly. He was wearing snowflake-patterned earmuffs - minus one muff. He stomped the snow off his boots. 

Hermione tried to slide around her tall, blond protector, but Draco kept one arm outstretched in front of her. She protested, "Oh, Malfoy, move over. It's just Fred and George!" 

"I don't completely trust these two," he muttered. He swung his wand back and forth between the twins. 

"Gosh, Hermione, got yourself a bodyguard now?" Fred said with a smirk. 

George looked Draco up and down. "Blimey, I thought you went for the sturdy, muscular types, Hermione," he mused. "Not long, lean, and pointy."

Draco scowled at him. 

"Actually, I asked Auror Malfoy to be on hand before I investigated this box," Hermione said primly. 

"That's right. I'm here to make sure you two aren't up to anything unseemly." 

At that, Fred and George grabbed each other as they roared with laughter. 

"That's rich coming from you, Mr. Peruvian Instant Darkness Powder!" they hooted. 

Hermione wriggled out from behind Draco's nice, firm backside. "Care to explain this?" The animated plush unicorn was still clinging to her. It was humming loudly. "Hush now, unicorn," she said soothingly, petting it. She leveled her gaze on the twins. "You should know that we took the display because we'd heard rumors of real magical creature mistreatment, but obviously—" 

"Obviously," interrupted Fred, "these are not real animals." 

"What do you take us for, Hermione?" asked George, a hurt expression on his face. "Complete cads?" 

"Welll…" began Draco. 

Hermione looked askance at the twins. "You have to admit that your reputations are not exactly squeaky clean." 

"Only with you, Herms," retorted Fred. "In the general wizarding world, we're much-loved and respected." 

"They have a point," remarked Luna. 

Hermione sighed. "All right, all right. I may have a biased view. Please, then, explain these things." 

George said, "Well, since you asked so nicely." He gestured to the unicorn now whinnying happily in Hermione's arms. "It's simple, really. We've invented an animation charm for stuffed animals. All kinds: unicorns, cats, owls, lions, tigers, and bears—" 

"Oh, my!" quipped Fred. 

"We've cast our patented animation spell on special ribbons, which we put around each animal's neck, see?" George pointed to the unicorn's starred collar. "The charm keeps the plushy critter animated until it's removed." He pulled a fistful of colorful, be-starred ribbons out of his pocket and passed them to Hermione. She studied one closely, trying to read the writing on the star. George said proudly, "It says Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes Terrifically Friendly Fantastic Fur-miliars." Draco rolled his eyes. George ignored him. "They can fly, make noises and play with their owners all day long. They'll even sleep at night so you can, too." 

"How considerate," said Draco. 

"The extra-fun part of them is that they are collectibles that collectyou!" Fred added, making finger-guns at Hermione. "Each Fur-miliar chooses its owner, not the other way around. That's the reason for the big Mystery Box." 

"You are guaranteed a Fur-miliar each time you pay for one but not a particular type," continued George. 

"And there are some super-rare ones included, which almost—" 

"But not quite—" 

"Never choose a person. If you are chosen by a rare Fur-miliar—" 

"Like a phoenix, or a unicorn, or a dragon—" 

"You're considered extra-lucky." Fred pointed at Hermione's new friend. "And look at that, a unicorn picked you on your first try." He winked. "I always knew there was something extra-special about you." 

"He's right, you know," piped in Luna. She patted Hermione on the shoulder. "You are very special." 

"They're already popular with the kiddos. Parents'll be knocking down our doors for them this holiday season," said George. 

"But how can the parents buy them for their children?" Hermione asked. She gave the handful of charmed collars to Luna. She was glad to hear that no actual creatures were harmed in the making of the Fur-miliars, and her curiosity was getting the better of her. "The Fur-miliar will be bonded to the parent, won't it? That's not any fun for the kids." 

George grinned. "It's not a problem. We give the parents a gift voucher, not an actual toy. They bring in their kid with the voucher and the kid gets to find their own Fur-miliar." 

"Of course," she murmured. The unicorn took the quiet moment as a chance to fly up onto her head. It curled up and fell asleep. Hermione turned to Luna. 

"What do you make of them?" she asked. 

Luna smiled dreamily as she reached up to pet the unicorn. "I don't see anything dangerous about them," she said. She looked at George. "I assume that when the collar is removed, the charm is broken?" 

"That's right. And we make absolutely certain all buyers are aware of that fact," he added hurriedly, seeing Hermione's eyebrows converging in a frown. "We don't want unhappy, uninformed customers." 

"If the collars are removed, can they be re-animated?" 

Fred and George nodded in unison. "Yes, but it resets the Fur-miliar, which means just because it chose you on the first go around doesn't mean it will choose you again," answered Fred. 

Hermione stroked her unicorn's leg absently. "That's… kind of sad." 

Draco had been closely inspecting the unicorn as it lay on Hermione's head. He smirked when she caught him looking. "They seem harmless," he admitted. "Really, I don't see anything here that crosses the line of illegal magic use." He yawned. "Once again, it looks like the twins aren't breaking the law." 

"I'm sorry to have bored you, Malfoy," Hermione said. 

Draco smiled and nudged her with his shoulder. "On the contrary," he said. 

Fred coughed. "So may we have our box—" 

"And our merchandise—" 

"Back?" the twins chorused. 

Hermione shook her head. Their faces fell into matching woebegone expressions. 

"I want to keep them over the weekend," she said. "I'll take this unicorn home with me and see if anything unsavory happens. If all goes well, you can have your things back on Monday." 

"But it's Christmas in a few weeks!" they exclaimed, then backed off when Hermione tapped her wand meaningfully against her palm. 

"Plenty of time for me to see what transpires when a Fur-miliar is in a normal magical home." 

"Look, Hermione. It's simple. As long as you keep the WWWTFFF collar on, it will be your best friend. Take the collar off, and you have a boring old stuffed animal," said George. "We promise, that's all that's going on." 

"Good! Then waiting a few days shouldn't be a problem, should it," said Hermione tartly. "With your clever advertising skills, demand for your product should rise in the meantime, right?" She opened the door to the cramped office. "Ta ta for now!" 

"Fine," grumped Fred. He grabbed George's arm. 

"Wait!" George said. He pulled several flasks out of his robe's many pockets. "We want to give you these as a token of our gratitude for all your dogged perseverance and hard work." 

Luna put down the ribbons and took a couple of the flasks. "Deer Beer? Frog Grog?" she read aloud from the labels. "What is this? If I drink it, will I become a frog?" 

"Try it and see," George said with a wink. 

Luna smiled and took a swig. 

"Ribbit!" she said, from floor height. 

"Salazar's soul patch!" Draco exclaimed. He bent down and scooped up an eight-inch long Luna the Frog, placing her on her desk. Luna took a couple of hops and then sat ribbiting contentedly. 

"Well, that's not disturbing at all. How long does that last?" Draco asked. 

"About fifteen minutes or so," Fred said. "You retain all your own thought processes, not to worry. It's a variation on our Canary Creams." He gave Luna the Frog a Jelly Baby. She croaked in a thankful way and munched it happily. 

Hermione was reading the labels on the other flasks. "Musk Ox Mead, Crup Cuppa, A Flagon of Dragon, Elephant Elixir..." She unscrewed the cap of the Musk Ox Mead flask and sniffed it. "Smells like pumpkin juice. Is it the contents or the container that works the magic?" she asked, shrewdly. "And if I drink this, will I become a full-sized musk ox?" 

Fred clutched his hands together and fluttered his eyelashes. "I love it when you talk smart like that, Herms," he said. "It's the container," he added. "Thanks to another set of patented WWW charms. You can put whatever you want in it to drink: water, milk, wine, Firewhiskey. We're planning to sell them as sets of enchanted dinner goblets, but flasks are much easier for demonstration purposes. 

"And no, you won't be full size. Blimey, can you imagine a full-sized dragon crammed into this room?" He shook his head and gestured at Luna the Frog. "See Luna? You shrink to about the size of the Fur-miliars. Big enough to not get stepped on—" 

"We hope." 

"And small enough to not exceed a room's occupancy capacity." 

"There's great fun to be had by all," George said. "Keep the lot. Consider them an early Christmas present. Try them out on your friends." 

"Try them out on your enemies," Fred suggested. 

"Like our stupid younger brother," added George. 

"Bloody hell, enough about Ron!" Hermione exclaimed. "He and I are over and we're just friends. Remember that I broke up with him? Stop trying to torture the poor man." 

"You've gotta admit, Herms, it's fun to torture him at least a little bit, don't you think?" Fred stage-whispered. He nudged her. "Especially when you have tall, blond, and many shades of grey hanging around all the time?" He wiggled his eyebrows and jerked a thumb in Draco's direction. Draco obligingly gave her a sexy wink. 

"I don't know what you're talking about," she said woodenly. 

"Right." 

"Sure." 

"We're out of here." 

"For now." 

"But we'll be back," they intoned. Hermione shut the door in their faces and turned to Draco, who wore a smug grin. 

"Well then," she said brightly. "It's quitting time. I, um, guess I'll lock up and take Eunice home with me." 

"Eunice?" Draco asked. Hermione indicated the unicorn. 

"Oh, right. Of course, Eunice the Unicorn," he said. He stepped forward. "Hold on a minute, Granger," he began. 

"Yes?" Hermione asked, looking up at him. Eunice snored gently from her perch. Luna ribbited on the desk. A blush started to crawl up Hermione's cheeks as Draco leaned toward her, one hand braced on the wall. 

"Tomorrow's Friday. I was wondering…would you like to have dinner with me tomorrow night?" Draco asked. He played idly with a lock of hair that framed her face. "We could have a nice meal, then take a stroll up and down Diagon Alley and admire the Christmas decorations." He tucked the hair behind her ear. "We could do some people-watching and invent stories about them. Perhaps we'll find some mistletoe to stand under. Maybe we'll even," he nuzzled her ear with the tip of his nose, "buy some books," he whispered. 

Hermione caught her breath. "Buy some books?" she asked eagerly. Draco nodded. 

"Yes. Yes, I'd love to. Why don't we meet right here after work?" 

A smile slowly spread across Draco's face and he leaned even closer to Hermione. Their lips were practically touching. If she moved forward just a fraction of an inch... 

There was a sudden, wet SQUELCHY noise and Luna was back, sitting on her haunches on her desk. 

"Oh, that was fun!" she said. "Who's going to go next?"

 

**** 

Hermione arrived at the office the next morning looking stricken. She squeezed her way past the infernal WWWTFFF box and dropped a little cloth bag onto Luna's desk blotter. 

"What's this?" asked Luna. 

"Look inside," Hermione said in a quavering voice. 

Luna reached into the bag and pulled out wads of white, fluffy stuffing. Then some pink fur. Then even more stuffing. A shredded black ribbon and a tiny silver unicorn horn completed the sad little autopsy scene. She stared at the mess for a few moments before looking up at her friend. 

"Crookshanks?" she asked. 

Hermione nodded miserably. "Crookshanks." 

"Oh my," Luna said. She imagined the half-Kneazle's claws and teeth. "Poor Eunice didn't stand a chance." 

"Not even close," Hermione wailed. "Crooks hissed at the poor thing all evening, but he waited until I was asleep before… before…" she trailed off, gesturing at the Fur-miliar carnage. 

"Perhaps the twins should add a warning about interactions with family pets." 

"That would be an excellent idea," Hermione muttered through gritted teeth. She blew her nose. "Poor little Eunice. She was just a stuffed animal, but she was so sweet! She really grew on me in those few hours." She sniffled as she carefully placed Eunice's remains back into the sad little bag, and then looked more closely at Luna's desk. 

"What have you been doing?" she asked. Luna had haphazardly pushed the flasks of animal drinks aside. Most of her desk was covered with furry little toy beasts. 

"Oh, I brought these plush toys from home. I wanted to test out the collars," Luna said. "Watch!" She tied a Fur-miliar collar around the neck of a rhinoceros. It immediately came to life and began to blow and stamp. "It works just as they said it would," she said. She picked up the snorting rhino and stuffed him through the hole in the box. 

"What did you do that for?" Hermione asked. 

"So some lucky child can have him," her friend said. "He isn't mine anymore, after all." 

Hermione gave her a watery smile and went to her own desk to start the day. After the untimely death of her Fur-miliar, she was doubly looking forward to her date with Draco. Some genuine sparks had flown between them yesterday. She hoped nothing would happen to jinx it.

 

*** 

Fridays in the Beast Division tended to drag, but at long last, the clock read 4:30 pm. 

Hermione stuck her head into the back room of their office. "Luna, I'm going to dash to the loo to freshen up and change for dinner. Draco should be here soon." 

Luna was twitching her wand, sorting out paperwork and sending it to various filing cabinets. "I'll finish filing these reports. Don't worry, I'll make sure the Nargles stay away from him," Luna replied. Hermione rolled her eyes, nodded her thanks, and bustled away. 

Luna began to loudly sing The Twelve Days of Christmas in time with her filing.

 

*** 

Draco sauntered into the empty Beast Division office a few minutes before five. He wasn't concerned; he could hear Luna singing Jingle Bells lustily in the back and saw Hermione's handbag lying on her desk. He smiled and sat on the edge of Luna's desk, facing the door. He looked resplendent in his black velvet dress robes, which were covered with silvery, sparkling constellations, and he wanted Hermione to get the full effect when she entered. 

He waited. He waited some more. He fidgeted restlessly. He twiddled a couple of the Fur-miliar collars between his fingers. He picked up a plush elephant and smirked, eyeballing the hole in the box. Then he saw the small flasks the twins had left and picked up the nearest one. 

"A Flagon of Dragon," he read aloud. "Ha, that's the only one of these things I'd drink." 

More waiting ensued. He fiddled with the flask. Minutes passed. He sighed. Luna had switched to belting out Oh Come All Ye Faithful in Mermish and there was still no sign of Granger. 

"Bored!" he exclaimed to no one. He tied two of the collars together and fastened them around his wrist for something to do. He blew his hair out of his eyes. Where was she? He wanted to get out of here. He couldn't wait to see her reaction to the new display of wizarding pop-up books at Flourish & Blotts. He snickered. Some of them were strictly for adult viewing. 

Distracted by wicked, naughty thoughts, Draco unscrewed the top of the Dragon Flagon flask and took a swig. The little bottle fell to the floor and rolled under a bookcase. 

"Roar!" squeaked the little black velvet dragon sitting on Luna's desk. "Roar!"

 

*** 

Luna finished her filing and entered the office. 

"Oh, hello," she said, as a star-covered, black plush dragon dive-bombed her head. It roared at her and blew tiny gouts of flame from its nostrils. She plucked it from the air. 

"Did you escape from the box of glory?" she asked, petting it. It had a cute tuft of white fuzz on the top of its head. It squeaked indignantly and tugged at the starred ribbon tied around its front left leg. 

"That's funny - why didn't the boys tie the collar around your neck?" She shrugged. "Well, judging from the way you are acting you obviously aren't meant to be my Fur-miliar. Let's get you back into the box with your friends." Luna went to the crate and pushed the now wildly thrashing, squeaking dragon through the opening. Thumping and howling noises ensued. 

"Have a nice reunion," Luna called through the hole just as Hermione returned, wearing a lovely set of red velvet dress robes. 

"Whom were you talking to?" she asked. 

"The Fur-miliars are raising a ruckus," Luna said. She examined her friend. "You look lovely, Hermione. Draco will especially like your breasts in those robes." 

Hermione blushed. "Are they too revealing?" 

"Oh, no, your breasts are doing just the right amount of flirting," Luna assured her. "They aren't making it too easy for him." 

"Um, thanks, Luna," Hermione said. She looked at the clock. "Oh, Merlin, he should be here any minute." 

"Here." Luna handed her a few ribbons. "Let's tie the rest of these on while we're waiting."

 

*** 

Forty-five minutes later, the plushies had all been collared and added to the box of Fur-miliars. The cacophony was tremendous and Hermione had a horrible headache. She glanced yet again at the clock. It was almost six. 

"I guess he's not coming," she said in a small voice. 

"Don't lose heart, Hermione," Luna soothed. "He's an Auror. Maybe he had an emergency assignment." 

Hermione took a shuddering breath. "I suppose that's possible. I'll try fire-calling Harry when I get home." She drew her shawl around her shoulders and picked up her handbag and wand. 

"Wait," Luna said. "You're in need of some TLC. Let's try again with the Fur-miliars. I'll take one home, too. After all, it's the weekend. You can introduce it to Crookshanks slowly this time." 

"I don't think that's such a great idea—" 

But Luna had already pushed her hand through the opening in the box. After a moment, she pulled out her arm to find an iridescent plush octopus twining its tentacles around her elbow. She laughed delightedly. 

Hermione gave in. At least preventing Fur-miliar murder would be a good distraction from her woe. She slid her hand through the opening. 

The thuds and howls reached an ear-splitting crescendo. Hermione gasped as she felt plush animals battering themselves against her. She felt something hot grab hold of her arm and she yanked it out to safety. 

Clinging to her with all four legs was a beautiful star-covered black dragon. He squeaked out a triumphant roar and scrambled up her arm. She cuddled him to her instinctively. He sighed and happily nuzzled her chest. 

"Ooh, how lovely! He definitely wants you, Hermione," Luna said. The octopus was sitting on her head and its tentacles were wrapped around her ears. 

"He is rather handsome," Hermione admitted, stroking the dragon's white tuft of fur. "And cuddly. Let's hope Crookshanks likes him better than he did Eunice." She opened the door. The dragon was still nestled in her arms. "Let's go home."

 

*** 

Hermione took the Floo from the Ministry directly to her flat. She immediately closed the connection and tossed her bag, wand, and the dragon onto the couch. The dragon spluttered, righting himself, but then snapped rigidly to attention to watch Hermione unzip her robes and drop them in a puddle on the floor. Smoke curled from his ears. She was wearing green lacy underthings. 

"I'm home early, Crookshanks," she said as he padded into the room. "Malfoy didn't show up for our date." She gave a small sniff. "I really hope it was due to an emergency assignment and not because he had second thoughts." As she bent over to pick up her discarded robes the dragon made a strangled noise. 

She whirled around. "Crookshanks, you leave him alone! Don't you dare commit Fur-miliarcide again!" 

The half-Kneazle was up on the couch beside the little dragon, but Hermione realized he wasn't hissing. He was holding the dragon down with one paw and was grooming him. The dragon was wriggling and...chuckling? Small gouts of flame issued from his snout. 

"Crooks, are you purring?" He was. He licked the dragon's front leg thoroughly, and when he came to the ribbon tied around the dragon's paw, he began to chew on it. 

"Oh no, Crooks, stop! That will negate the—" 

PUFF!

"...spell?" Crooks jumped down from the sofa as Hermione stared. Sitting there instead of a black plush dragon was none other than— 

"Draco!" she yelped. "But how—" 

Draco's left sleeve was damp but otherwise, he looked impeccable. He sat back languidly, shook his hair out of his face, and drawled, "Hello, Hermione. Have I overdressed for the occasion?" His eyes gleamed wickedly. 

Hermione gasped and hastily pulled her robes back on. 

"Don't rush on my account," said Draco. 

She glared at him. "Explain yourself! Why did you stand me up?" 

Draco rolled his eyes. "It's those red-headed buffoons' fault. I arrived at your office a little early. You were out so I sat down to wait. I got distracted and accidentally drank the Flagon of Dragon flask. Then Looney appeared and stuffed me into that Plushy Box of Horrors!" 

"But why didn't the drink spell wear off? It was just supposed to last fifteen minutes!" 

Draco looked sheepish. "I might have tied one of the ribbon collars around my wrist while I was sitting there waiting for you. After I changed, I couldn't remove it myself. Stupid, really. The collar's magic must have countermanded the transmogrification spell. Crookshanks set me free when he bit through the ribbon." 

She sat down beside him, stunned. He turned to face her and took her hand in his. 

"Hermione, don't you think things have been dragon on long enough between us? Let's become better acquainted." 

She side-eyed him. "But doesn't Fur-miliarity breed contempt?" 

He tugged her into his lap. "Quite the opposite," he growled and kissed her soundly.

 

~ FIN ~