Christmas seemed to bring a different mood to the grounds of Hogwarts castle. The decorations that were draped around stair banisters sparkled in the dim light. The magical piles of snow in corners of classrooms drew attention to stunned first years, and the usual fairy lanterns on the twelve large Christmas trees in the Great Hall glimmered at dinner. Everywhere the students went, there was the smell of pine wafting through the air. The teachers seemed to be more lenient, and one could see Professor Dumbledore swishing through the corridors arm in arm with Professor McGonagall. A story that had gone around the classes for weeks had been one of Professor Dumbledore persuading Professor Snape to wear his tinsel crown. He had worn it for a maximum of three seconds before throwing it to the ground.
"Ahh, now Severus," Dumbledore had said, "where's your Christmas spirit?"
It was a chilly morning on the fifteenth of December when Harry Potter rushed across the Transfiguration courtyard towards the entrance hall. The warmth hit him when he closed the solid oak doors behind him, and he stomped his feet on the concrete. The snow melted when it hit the floor, leaving no wet patches or any sign that there had been snow there. Harry took the stairs two at a time, eager to get to the common room.
"Baubles," he said to the portrait of the Fat Lady, to which she nodded and swung forwards to admit him. Harry stripped off his scarf and gloves, hanging them up on the coat rack which shivered and began to steam, drying the hem of his cloak for him. Harry saw Annie and Hermione sitting by the fire, playing wizards chess. He came up behind Annie and slid his hands around her neck, kissing the lobe of her ear.
"Hey," he said, "where's Ron?"
"Here," came a voice from the doorway. Ron was in his maroon pyjamas, his hair rumpled from where he had been sleeping. Hermione went over to him and smoothed his hair down, kissing his nose. He pulled her onto his lap as he sunk into an armchair, and absentmindedly stroked her cheek with his thumb.
"Hey, Ron," came a breathy and excited voice from behind them. Lavender Brown stood behind them, staring at Hermione as if she was a Blast-Ended Skrewt.
"I got you a Christmas present." Said Lavender, holding out a box. Ron took it warily and put it on the floor.
"Um...thanks." he said, not looking at her.
"Well aren't you going to open it?"
"Not yet, I'm relaxing." He said breezily.
Lavender's face began to redden, starting at her neck and creeping up her face.
"Fine." And with that, she stalked off, her hair swishing behind her.
Ron bent down to pick up the package; he gave it a wary shake and there came sounds of what seemed to be hard contents from inside the box.
"You should burn it," said Annie, gesturing towards the fire. Ron ripped off the wrapping paper and laughed at the box.
"Chocolate cauldrons. They're alright." He said, and picking one out, he took a large bite into it as Hermione, Annie and Harry said as one;
Ron jumped, chocolate smeared across his face. Hermione picked up a cake and smelt it.
Ginny, who had been watching events unfold came over, smirking.
"Ron, you idiot. She's laced them with Amortentia!" she said smugly.
"And you couldn't have told us before?" said Harry angrily. Ginny's smile faded as quickly as it had come, and she stalked off to be on her own.
"Oh, Ron!" said Annie. Ron was looking into the embers of the fire, but he looked up at the sound of his name.
"Oh crap. Lavender's coming," said Hermione, her voice straining.
"Hey Ron," said Lavender in a false sweet voice. She frowned at the sight of Ron's left arm still around Hermione, but then smirked at the tears in Hermione's eyes.
"Hi Lavender," said Ron. He didn't look at her, but his hands were in fists on his knees.
"Erm…you okay, Ron?" asked Harry tentatively. Ron nodded shortly.
"Ron?" Hermione said quietly, her eyes brimming.
"Yeah? What's-wait….why are you crying?!" he asked, and he took her face in his hands and stroked her cheeks.
"You…you still like me?"
"What?" said Ron laughing, "of course I still like you! You got nearly all your O.W.L's! I didn't think you'd need me to figure out that I love you!"
"Wha-?" said Lavender.
Lavender's faced went from white, to pink, to an ugly puce.
"But she put Love potion in the cakes! She practically used up a whole stock!" said Ginny from the corner.
"Did she? Hmm. Maybe it doesn't work if the person doing it is a complete and utter cow." Said Ron.
Lavender stared at Ron, and then she rushed out of the common room, her face in her hands. Hermione leant against Ron, relieved, and he put his arms around her and kissed her hair.
"So you don't love Lavender?" she asked.
"Course not, you dafty. This is going to sound really cheesy, but I think it didn't work because I love you so much."
Tears spilled down Hermione's cheeks as she kissed Ron, and Annie nuzzled into Harry as he cuddled her close.
"I think it's going to be a good Christmas." Said Harry.
And Ron threw the cakes into the fire, and they watched as the box melted, along with the chocolate and the potion inside them fizzed and crackled.