Chapter 14

Confession

When Draco exited the Hospital Wing, a wave of pain crashed over him. He wanted to scream, to punch something, throw something. He bloody wanted her and he felt like nothing could change that. For the first time in a while, he wanted to cry. Who was she to bring these emotions out of him? He didn't even know he could feel these things, but Hermione, being the stubborn Gryffindor she is, changed that. Why was it her, out of everyone in the whole school?

God, now he wanted to do something about the fact that she couldn't go home. And as he walked around and around the castle, he found himself thinking of plans to get Hermione home without her knowing it was him who brought her to it.

Without even knowing where he was going, Draco realized that he was in front of Professor McGonagall's office. He sighed and said the password before he could change his mind. The gargoyle hopped out of the way and revealed a door that he knocked on. A simple, "Come in" was said before he entered the office.

"Oh," McGonagall said, shocked to see him standing there. "What do you need, Mister Malfoy?"

"Professor," he started politely, "is there any way Granger can get home today?"

Again, she was shocked at his question. "Well, Madam Pomfrey wishes for her to go back tomorrow. She is not fit to travel." She looked down at him over her glasses. "Why do you ask?"

"It's the last Christmas she'll be able to spend with her father, Professor," he told her with his teeth gritted. It was hard for him to stay polite.

"I'm sorry, Malfoy, but Madam Pomfrey knows what's best for Miss Granger right now."

They don't even know a sodding shit what the best for her is. "What's best? I'm sure it'd be best for her to spend her Christmas as perfectly as she planned." His hands clenched into fists.

"For her health, Malfoy. And it may not be what she planned, but she should be happy that she can still have this holiday with her father."

"After seven years of being her teacher, do you not know how she is already? If one little thing goes wrong with what she plans, she feels terrible about it and all she'll focus on is what went wrong instead of what went right." It always shocked him when he figured out something new he knew about Hermione.

"I cannot change what she thinks, but this is what's best for her health."

"So you're going to break her because you and Pomfrey don't think she can stay warm on a train for a few hours?" Professor McGonagall was about to say something about his attitude, but Draco kept speaking. "She deserves to get this one perfect holiday after all the things she's done for us this past year, and all the years she's been here. If you go into the Hospital Wing and take one bloody glance at her, you'll see that she's miserable. Granger's a tough person and a couple hours on a train will be nothing compared to what she's went through before."

Professor McGonagall stared at him, surprise still etched on her face. She was surprised at the fact that Draco Malfoy cared for Hermione Granger. She never thought she'd see this as long as she lived. Something was going on between the two and it didn't take a genius to figure that out.

"Plus, she has my cloak and she's still wearing it. It's charmed to keep you warm even in the coldest temperatures," he added as an afterthought. God, why was he being so… nice?

She was tapping her fingers on the desk, still staring at Draco with the most professional incredulous look.

"Very well, I'll talk to Madam Pomfrey about it right now. But I cannot guarantee anything, Malfoy. I'm merely just trying to convince her," Professor McGonagall said, standing up from her seat and walking around it. Draco's mouth almost went agape. He was almost sure that she would say no…

"You care a great deal about Miss Granger, don't you?" she asked, making Draco look up in surprise.

"Care?" He said it as if he never heard the word before. After all, it wasn't something he felt towards someone very often. Let alone Hermione Granger.

Professor McGonagall merely smiled at his silence as she walked past him, out the door. After quite a long time, Draco realized that he didn't tell her to not tell Hermione that he came and talked to her. He didn't want her to know it was him. But by the time he came to his senses, she was already out of sight and she wasn't exactly a slow walker.

- x -

When Professor McGonagall walked into the Hospital Wing, she spotted Madam Pomfrey almost immediately, giving Hermione a potion. The student in bed had an upset look on her face, still thinking about the fact that she couldn't go back home today. Professor McGonagall walked up to the two.

"Poppy, you've informed Miss Granger that she cannot go back home today because of her health, am I correct?" she asked in that strictly professional voice that intimidated many.

Hermione looked up curiously at the mention of her name. The glass of potion in her hands was forgotten as she listened intently to the two adults speaking.

"Yes, Minerva. Because of the conditions she went through last night and the fact that she just woke up barely half an hour ago, it would not be fit for her to face those kinds of things right now. What she needs is plenty of rest," Madam Pomfrey explained, as if she were reading from a script. She looked at the Professor curiously. "Why do you ask?"

"I assure you that she can get more than enough rest while making her trip back home. The Hogwarts Express is comfortably warm and there's much room in the Heads' compartment to lay down and rest."

A smile was beginning to crack onto Hermione's face.

"But what about the potions and remedies she must take to get fully better as soon as possible?" Madam Pomfrey asked.

"Oh, that's not a problem at all. The potions and remedies can be taken onto the train. If you would just create a set of instructions of which ones to give her, how often, how many times, and how much she should take, that would be exceedingly helpful."

"But of course," Madam Pomfrey agreed, nodding her head reluctantly. "Someone should be with her at all times to make sure nothing goes wrong. And they must make sure she is warm and comfortable and not moving around much. Unless she has to go to the loo, of course…" She was still talking as she scurried off to her office to create the instructions already.

Hermione was beaming when Professor McGonagall looked at her with a twinkle in her eye.

"Thank you, Professor. It means a lot-"

"I'm not the one you should be thanking, Miss Granger," she interrupted. Hermione looked up at her with the most confused look on her face. She was about to ask who she should thank, then, but Professor McGonagall interrupted the student. "I'm sure he'll reveal himself sooner or later. But I must go and seek for one of your friends, or the Head Boy. Poppy surely won't even consider letting you out to pack your things unless you're with someone… " She then walked out, a small smile on the Professor's face.

Before Hermione could even think about who it could be that she had to thank, Madam Pomfrey came out of her office probably to retrieve the glass of potion she was supposed to have drank by now. She chugged it down in a remarkable two gulps before the mediwitch came into view and had a disgusted expression on her face when she did.

"I'll take this off your hands, then, Miss Granger," she said, taking the glass from her hands and scurrying back to her office again.

It was then that Hermione was able to think about what Professor McGonagall just said moments ago. Who got her to come down to talk to Pomfrey and convince her to let her go home today? She had a big hunch, but she pushed that boy's name to the back of her mind. It was either Ron or Harry, but would they even think of going to her office?

She pulled what she thought was Harry's cloak tighter around her. It made her feel so comfortable and the material was exquisite. It must have cost a great deal of galleons. Harry didn't usually spend his money on expensive things such as this, but she guessed that he just made an exception this time. It was a great cloak.

Her mind wandered to what happened the night before. Her heart might as well have just broken again. She didn't want to think about it and if she didn't have to, she wouldn't. Why was he always haunting her thoughts?

Then, someone entered the Hospital Wing and Hermione waited once again for whoever did to come into view. She let out a sigh of relief when she saw it was Professor McGonagall again and Harry.

"That was fast, Professor," Hermione said with a smile on her face.

"I know. Potter was just exiting the Great Hall when I found him. I'm grateful I didn't have to search all over the castle. Now, I'll leave Mister Potter here to assist you to the Gryffindor Common Room to pack up your things. I must return to my office now. I expect there to be some letters that need replying on my desk." Professor McGonagall nodded towards the two of them before she exited the Hospital Wing.

"Good news, huh?" Harry asked, a smile that Hermione decided to look too much into on his face.

"Amazing," she said, a happily suspicious look on her face.

Harry looked at her confusedly. "Why are you looking at me like that?" he asked as Hermione got off her bed. They started walking to the Gryffindor Common Room.

"Are you the one I should be thanking for getting Professor McGonagall to talk to Madam Pomfrey?" She couldn't stop smiling at the way things were turning around.

He furrowed his eyebrows. "I have absolutely no idea what you're talking about."

The smile faltered from her face a little bit. Then, who was it? "Did Ron talk to her?" she asked, knowing the answer was going to be no. Ron wouldn't think about going to the Professor.

"No, I was just with him. He's probably in the common room by now. Why are you asking?" When he looked over at his best friend again, the smile wasn't evident on her face anymore.

"I don't know," Hermione said at first. "I was thanking Professor McGonagall for talking to Madam Pomfrey, but she interrupted saying that she wasn't the one I should be thanking. She slipped that it was a boy, so I figured…"

His name came into her head, but she refused to believe it was him.

"Bet I can guess who," Harry said, trying to make a joke, but failing miserably.

Hermione was silent the whole way back to the common room.

- x -

One and a half hours later, Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Ginny were in the Great Hall with their trunks, ready to leave Hogwarts for the holidays. The boys were playing a game of Wizards Chess, while Hermione and Ginny conversed about what they were doing for Christmas.

"Well, you know how things are at my house. Mum'll probably make enough sweets and cookies to blow all of us up and Fred and George will be coming up with new inventions for the joke shop. And I'm sure you know what we're all getting for Christmas from my mum. It's the same every year," Ginny said, rolling her eyes.

"But can you honestly imagine a Christmas without one of your mum's sweaters? I sort of look forward to it now. Though the sweaters are simple, it always has that warmth I can't find from another."

"That's true," she admitted. "So, we're going to be able to ride in the Heads' compartment? I hear it's enormous and extremely comfortable. And that it's loaded with sweets!"

"Yes, it really is. But I never got the chance to ride in it because of the person I'd have to share it with. I was only there for a second to grab a parchment that Professor McGonagall left for us to take." Hermione pulled the cloak she was wearing tighter around her when she felt a draft come in. "Harry, how much Galleons is this cloak worth? It never fails to keep me warm."

"Beats me. Ask Malfoy," he said with a shrug.

Her heart fell into her stomach. "Why?"

"It's his cloak, isn't it? I would never buy a cloak with material as expensive as that. You know I'm just fine with cheap ones just as long as they keep me warm."

As she pulled to cloak closer to her face, she realized that the familiar scent coming from it was Draco's not Harry's. She might as well have thrown it off of herself. It landed on the chessboard, knocking over quite a few pieces. The three of them looked over at Hermione confusedly. Now, all she had to keep her warm was a sweater. Another cold draft came into the Great Hall as someone opened the doors and she shivered, hugging herself.

"Hermione, are you crazy? Keep the cloak on. Malfoy says it came with a charm that keeps you warm through anything. Madam Pomfrey highly recommends that you wear this cloak," Ginny said, picking it up and handing it to her.

Hermione ignored her and lifted her trunk up to the table. She opened it up and dug through all the clothes until she found one of her cloaks. She took it out, put it on, and shut her trunk. It wasn't nearly as warm as Draco's, but she just had to manage.

"I'll be just fine without it," she said, pulling her cloak tighter around her. "Can you return it to him when you see him?"

Ginny sighed, rolling her eyes, and grabbed the cloak to return it to Draco, who was sitting at the Slytherin Table with Blaise, Pansy, Crabbe, and Goyle. The five of them looked up at the redhead when she came to them. Ginny held the cloak out to Draco.

"She wants me to return this," she said, a little hint of anger in her voice.

He took it, confusion etched on his face. "She's supposed to wear it."

"Well, it looks like she doesn't want to have anything that has to do with you." Ginny put her hands on the table and leaned in forward more. "This whole thing is ridiculous, you know that? I understand why she doesn't want to wear your cloak, but why did you make her like this? She's usually able to deal with it herself and give it back on her own."

"I didn't 'make her like this,' Weasley. If she chooses to react in that way, then that's not my problem," he snapped.

"What are you two going on about?" Blaise asked. Both of them ignored him completely, not even realizing that he spoke.

"Malfoy, you know you didn't want to do that to her-"

"Of course I didn't want to! That's just the way it has to be."

"Who said that? Who said that it had to be this way?" Her voice was so close to yelling, but she tried to hold it in. Harry and Ron were looking towards them. Hermione stared carefully at her hands as she listened to the conversation. She didn't want Ginny to talk to him, but what was she supposed to do now?

Draco looked around at his friends and then back to Ginny. No one was supposed to know about what was going on between Hermione and him, but she had to come and yell it out to the world in his face.

"We've done enough talking about this. I'm done," Draco confirmed, slapping his hand on the table.

"No, we're not because it's not in your thick head yet. This is the first step, Malfoy. How about you stop caring about what your dimwitted friends think?" she asked smartly.

"Dimwitted?" Pansy asked, offended. She was ignored.

"Weasley, it can't happen. Bloody hell, just drop it."

"Ginny, it's okay," Hermione said, who was suddenly behind her. Everyone at the table was shocked at the sudden appearance of her. Draco swore he stopped breathing for a bit.

"No, it's-" Ginny started, but was interrupted by Blaise.

"This whole time, you two have been going on about the mudblood?" he asked incredulously. Draco's hand on the table clenched into a fist and his expression turned into a glare towards his friend. Hermione noticed this, but brushed it off quickly. There was no point since this moment was going to come into her head later.

"You want to yell at him, Malfoy. I can see it. But you're too afraid to get laughed at which is just ridiculous," Ginny said.

Draco didn't say anything. His eyes switched over to Hermione, who was trying to be very careful in not looking at him. She didn't succeed because when she dared to glance at him, he held her stare.

All he wanted to bloody do was kiss her until this all became better. This was a dangerous thought because he could easily just pull her in and do so. His eyes went down to her lips and that's when she spoke.

"Stop looking at me like that," Hermione said in a tone that could probably kill if she wanted it to.

Another cold draft entered the Great Hall and Hermione shivered, pulling her thin cloak tighter around her. She was still cold no matter how tight it was around her already. Draco desperately wanted to put her in his arms and keep her warm.

He wanted to hit himself for having these thoughts. They were so corny.

"Let's go, Ginny," Hermione told her friend as she tried pushing her away from the table.

Ginny looked as if she just failed an important mission while she let Hermione push her back to the Gryffindor table. Hermione felt his eyes on her the whole time.

- x -

When Harry, Ron, and Ginny entered the Heads' compartment, happy expressions took over their faces and they sat down on the comfortable seats, satisfied. Hermione now had Harry's cloak around her, on top of her own. It was a little warmer, but she couldn't deny that she felt better in Draco's cloak.

There was a cart of sweets that the boys immediately dug into. Harry got Ginny a Chocolate Frog and she smiled up at him, muttering a thank you. When he asked Hermione if she wanted anything, she just shook her head. Ron already had a chocolate stain on his cheek.

Hermione stayed quiet unless she was spoken to. She didn't really feel like talking right now.

Professor McGonagall stopped by their compartment a couple of times to make sure she was all right and to give her the potions she needed to get better.

Well into the train ride, Hermione had the need to go to the loo. Ginny asked if she would be fine and she said that she'd be right back. Hermione went outside the compartment, wrapping the two cloaks she had on tighter around herself. She went into the girls' lavatory and looked into the mirror. She looked terrible. Her hair was frizzy, she looked pale, and her eyes looked tired even though she slept for quite a while the night before. She tried to fix her hair at least a little bit, but nothing would do. Tired of trying to make herself more appealing, she walked out of the girls' lavatory and started walking back to the compartment.

Draco was walking out of the compartment he was sitting in right when Hermione was about to walk past it and literally bumped into her.

"Oh, I'm so-" She stopped abruptly in the beginning of her apology when she saw who it was she bumped into. Her breathing became shallow.

For the first time, he avoided looking at her eyes. Draco took a bottle out of his pocket and handed it to her.

"McGonagall said she forgot to give you this. Told me to give it to you. Drink it as soon as you can," he said. "And isn't someone supposed to be with you at all times?"

"I just went to the loo really quick, Malfoy. I don't need someone to assist me there also," she snapped. "I can take care of myself."

"Right," he said. He stayed there for just a second, wondering how she could still look breathtaking when she looked like this.

Just when Hermione was going to continue walking, a door a few feet down the hallway at the end of the train opened. It was a door that led outside that a worker entered through probably from repairing something at the exterior of the train. A big draft swooped through the hallway and even a little bit of snow flew in also. Hermione felt as if her breath was taken away as she fell back against the wall, pulling the two cloaks she had on as tight around herself as she could to make herself warmer.

"Shit," Draco muttered as he hurriedly took his cloak off. Now he was cold, but he figured at that moment, Hermione was more important than himself - that's monumental, especially coming from a Malfoy. The man still didn't close the door that was sending this freezing weather through the hallway. Hermione was shivering now, and he had no idea what to do.

All of a sudden, she pushed herself off the wall and tugged on his shirt to bring him closer, burying her face in his chest. When his mind stopped wondering why she was doing this, he hesitantly put his arm around her to make the girl warmer. He then started walking her to the compartment that seemed as if it were on the other side of the world.

"D-Draco…" She was getting weaker and soon, it was him holding her up.

"Hold on, Granger," he said, opening up the door to the Heads' compartment. The surprised faces of the three of her friends immediately turned to their direction.

"Hermione!" each of them yelled, shooting up from their seats.

"What happened?" Harry asked.

"Some man opened a door that led outside and cold air started blowing through the halls," he said as he walked her to a seat. "I thought she wasn't supposed to be left unattended." He shot them an accusing glare.

"It was just the loo. And she said she wouldn't need anyone to assist her there," Ginny said, her voice rising.

Draco set her down in the corner by the window. Just when he was going to slide his arm off around Hermione, she grabbed his shirt again and buried her face in his chest. He was forced to sit down awfully close to her, his arm still around her shoulders.

Harry, Ron, and Ginny were surprised by the gesture and could do nothing but stare at his confused form.

"Granger, let go," he told her while putting his other hand over hers, trying to pull it away.

Her eyes were still closed, as if they were too heavy to open. "Stay," she managed to get out. Everyone in the compartment was taken aback by her demand.

"Why the hell would you want me to do that?" Draco asked. No matter how much he wanted to, he knew that shouldn't happen.

The grip on his shirt loosened. "I stayed with you."

As he stared speechlessly at the girl who's been making him mad these past few months, Harry, Ron, and Ginny exchanged confused looks, wondering what in the world she meant by that.

"That was different." A flash of the time he woke up that one morning in the Room of Requirement to find her sitting on a chair, leaning over the bed he slept on with her head in her arms came into his head.

Her eyes opened slightly and he hated that because now he wouldn't be able to look away.

"No, it wasn't," she said.

"How about this, Malfoy: if you stay, we'll go," Ginny suggested. Both Harry and Ron yelled out, "What?" and looked at her as if she were the craziest person in the world.

"No, I'm not staying," he stated, trying to get up once again, but failing when Hermione tightened her grip on his shirt.

"I don't think you have a choice, actually," Harry pointed out. Hermione looked as if she had already fallen asleep.

"Are you agreeing to this arrangement?" Ron said incredulously. "It's Malfoy and Hermione!"

"We already talked about this, Ron," Ginny snapped dangerously. "Forget about it." She turned her attention back to Draco. "We'll go."

"Somebody just take my place. I can't stay here with her," he said. He felt Hermione's grip tighten once again on his shirt.

"She obviously doesn't want anybody else in your place," Harry told him.

"Come on," Ginny said, looking at the other two boys. "Let's go." Without thinking about it, she grabbed Harry's hand as they exited the compartment. He seemed surprised by the act, but followed her out as well. Ron sighed dejectedly as he walked out.

Draco stayed completely still, shocked at what just happened. He was now alone in the huge Heads' compartment with Hermione in his arms. What was the world doing to him?

He looked at her now sleeping form and just studied her face. Something happened to him in that moment that he didn't understand. The way it was right now seemed to just click. And no matter how corny it sounded, he couldn't help but think that this just felt right.

Draco reached to tuck a stray piece of her hair around her ear. Watching her, he thought about how it would be if the two of them became something. Imagine - he'd be able to kiss her without having to worry about any kind of feeling because she'd already know he felt that way. He'd be free to tell her things no one else knew without worrying. He'd have someone to care about.

But now it was too late. All the things he already said to her couldn't be undone. The chance was lost. He already broke her heart, so why would she accept him again? The only reason she wanted him to stay now was because she wasn't in her completely right state of mind. She was sick and couldn't think straight. That's why he's here right now, right? It's not because she actually wants him to be there, but because she just wants someone there, and that person just happens to be him.

Draco made sure she was fast asleep. When he shifted, her grip didn't tighten on his shirt and she was breathing deeply and rhythmically.

This was probably the only time he'd be able to say it to her, admit everything he's been feeling in just a few simple words.

This was big. When did he ever plan to say these words to anyone? Let alone her?

He didn't even think; he just said it. The words felt odd coming out of his mouth, but when he said them, he felt as if a huge weight was taken off his shoulders. Then, that huge weight came back again when he realized that she would never know he said those very words to her. He's never confessed anything so honest in his life.

"Hermione," he whispered. When she didn't shift or show any sign that she heard him, he continued, "I think I may be in love with you."

- x -

Hermione woke up, feeling very warm under the three cloaks she had on her. Opening her eyes, the first person she saw was Draco, who made himself comfortable on the opposite seat of the compartment. His back was leaning against the wall and his legs stretched across the seat. A book laid in his hands as his eyes roamed across the pages. She briefly wondered why he was there, but vaguely remembered that she had asked him to stay. Why? She had absolutely no idea.

She pushed the three cloaks off of her. The sudden movement caught Draco's attention and he looked over at her. He picked up the potion she was supposed to drink long ago and held it out towards her. She took it and gulped it down quickly.

After making a sour face at the horrible taste of the potion, she asked, "How close are we to Kings' Cross?"

"Half an hour or so," he replied, taking another bottle out of a case McGonagall had provided Hermione with. He gave it to her and she gulped it down the same way.

"Where are the others?" she asked, referring to Harry, Ron, and Ginny.

"They left when you told me to stay." Draco met her eyes for a moment, then looked back down at his book.

Hermione thought about the day he got drunk and told her to stay with him in the Room of Requirement. That was the day she realized her feelings for him without actually admitting it to herself - if that was even possible.

"Oh," she finally replied.

There was an awkward silence as Draco stared at his book, unable to read it, and Hermione played with the threads of her cloak.

And for the next twenty minutes until her friends came by to check on her, it was silent between the two of them.

-x-

Hermione got out of the train, finding her friends as she did so. Draco was somewhere, probably with Blaise and Pansy or something as Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Ginny walked through the train station, dragging their trunks behind them. They found Mrs. Weasley almost immediately since she was right there, waiting for them. It was as if she had a front row seat to a big concert. She rejoiced when she saw them, giving them all bone-crunching hugs.

"Hermione! Oh, are you all right? I've already heard," Mrs. Weasley asked, still holding on to her shoulders.

"I feel so much better, actually. Almost as if it never happened," she replied, smiling at the woman's motherly care.

"All right, dear. Just make sure to drink your potions and remember, you are always more than welcome to stop by and celebrate the holidays with us!"

Hermione smiled. "Thank you, Mrs. Weasley," she said. "I think I should get going now. I need to find my parents." Her eyes noticeably brightened at the fact that she would be able to see her mum and dad soon.

"Okay, feel better, dear! I'll see you soon." She hugged her again and then Hermione turned her attention to her friends.

They all took turns hugging her goodbye and after a couple minutes, Hermione was on her way through the train station, trying to find her parents.

Then, she saw them. Her mum was waving her hand in the air and her dad was in a wheelchair, looking as happy as ever, regardless of his current state. Her pace quickened immensely as she ran as fast as someone could run while dragging a trunk behind them. When she got close enough, she let go of her luggage and threw her arms around her mother and did the same thing to her father.

"Sweetheart, it's so good to see you," Mr. Granger said to her daughter. The three of them looked like the happiest people alive, the biggest smiles on their faces.

They lightly chatted for a bit. Hermione told them about some things that have happened around Hogwarts. She talked about Harry, Ginny, and Ron a whole lot and wanted to mention some happenings that occurred with Draco, but didn't want to speak about him right now.

As she was speaking, however, Mrs. Granger's attention was diverted to someone walking towards them. He was alone and didn't look too happy, but she felt a big burst of motherly feelings rush through her when she saw him.

"Oh, dear God, is that Draco?" she said, putting a hand to her heart. The boy stopped in his tracks at the mention of his name and could do nothing but stare at the family. Hermione didn't expect this to happen. Mrs. Granger walked up to him, a shocked expression on her face. "Oh, my, have you grown!" She looked as if she were about to cry. "You've grown up so much, I can't believe it," she breathed.

"Hi, Mrs. Granger," he greeted for the sake of being polite. There was no woman that acted more motherly towards him than Mrs. Granger in his life. Sure, his own mother loved him, but she didn't know how to show it most of the time. Like right now, for instance. His own mother wasn't even excited enough to see him that she'd get out of the Manor and meet him at the station. He was met by no one and would be going home without any kind of warm welcome.

He remembered all those years ago whenever he'd go to Hermione's house and Mrs. Granger would greet him as if he was her own son and treat him just as she would treat Hermione - like family.

Mrs. Granger's eyes got shiny looking at him and she let out a laugh to cover it up. "Your face looks as if it hasn't experienced a smile in years! Oh, I can't believe this is what you've grown into. Last time I saw you is when you were ten and now you're seventeen… This is so overwhelming. My, you're so handsome! Isn't he, honey?" she finished as they both turned their attention to Mr. Granger.

He nodded, a kind smile on his face. "How have you been, Draco? Seven years and you've barely uttered a hello!"

Draco considered lying to them, but looking at their faces, he couldn't find the heart to. "Things can be better." His eyes flashed to Hermione, who looked horrified at the scene in front of her. Obviously, this was not how she planned this meeting to go.

"Would you like to stop by, Draco? We have dinner ready and you're always more than welcome to join us," Mrs. Granger suggested.

Hermione's eyes widened, but she didn't dare say what she desperately wanted to.

"No, it's okay," he replied. "I have to head home. My… mum is waiting for me." In the back of his mind, he also said, "Not."

"Are you sure? It'd mean a lot to my husband and me," she insisted.

"I can't. Sorry," Draco told her.

She looked discouraged. "All right. But if you'd stop by on Christmas, it'd mean a lot. You're always welcome, Draco. You remember that, don't you? I used to say that to you when you were younger, but it still stands when you're older."

"Thank you," was the last kind thing he could think of to say to her. It's been a long time since he's been around adults who truly cared about him, despite everything he's done in his life.

She still remained standing there, not quite believing that the little ten-year-old she knew so well could grow into this handsome man. A tear escaped one of her eyes and she hastily wiped it away.

"Oh, I'm so sorry, it's just been so long since I've seen you - you were like a son-"

A warm feeling filled Draco at the amount of care Mrs. Granger was showing just by laying her eyes on him. She looked as if she were proud of him, even though she hasn't even known what's happened throughout the years. She looked as if he actually meant something to her and that was enough to make Draco smile.

Yes, Draco Malfoy smiled. Hermione wanted to be horrified by this, but she wasn't.

"Draco, you must stop by just for a couple minutes. You don't even have to eat dinner. Your company hasn't been in our house in years," Mr. Granger said.

"I can't." He looked as if he regretted saying that. If it was up to him, he certainly would accept the invitation, but he knew Hermione's wouldn't like that, so he refused.

"Mum, can I talk to him for a minute?" she asked, putting a hand on her mum's shoulder, but looking at Draco.

"Of course, sweetheart."

Hermione and Draco walked far enough so they were out of earshot of her parents.

"Look, I don't care anymore. Come if you'd like. I know my dad would love it if you did and though I don't prefer it… It doesn't matter, okay?" she said, looking uncomfortable and staring at anything but his eyes.

"I don't want to," he lied.

"You do, Draco." He looked up at her at the sound of his first name slipping off her tongue. She didn't even try to stop herself anymore. For God's sake, if she wanted to call him Draco, then she would call him Draco. Who cares? "Haven't we already clarified the fact that we seem to know a lot about each other by now?"

He couldn't recall when they actually clarified it, but he's certainly been thinking the same thing.

"And plus," Hermione started again, "your mum isn't here and that's a bit sad. You probably didn't even want to return home for the holiday, but felt obligated to or something."

Draco stared at her. "How is that even possible?"

Hermione looked back at him. "You mean, how did I know you felt that way?" she asked. When he didn't say anything(which meant 'yes'), she sighed. "I just went over this. Whether you like it or not, I know you."

"You definitely don't know me," he said in a tone that signaled an argument was about to start.

"I didn't mean it in an offending way, Malfoy," she said back, returning to calling him by his surname. "If you continue to keep this wall up where you block people from trying to know you, then I don't know what you're going to do. You need someone in your life that you'll let that wall down for."

"I don't need anyone. I'm fine on my own and I don't need anyone to help me cope with things. I've been on my own for a while and I'm fine."

"Well, that's the biggest lie I've ever heard you say," she said. "If you were fine, then you wouldn't be talking to me right now."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"If you were fine," she repeated, "then you'd be at home happy with your mum. You wouldn't be here with me, trying to decide in your head if you're going to accept my parents' invitation or not."

"I've already decided that I'm not going," he confirmed.

"Fine," she said. "Then, this conversation's over."

"Tell your parents I said bye," he told her as he rose the handle from his trunk.

"Are you trying to break my mum's heart, too?"

Draco stopped. It would have been enough just to leave it at the, "Are you trying to break my mum's heart?" But to add the "too" to it just made it even worse for him to hear.

"She cried just looking at you and let's face it, you were like her son and you're just going to leave without telling them goodbye?" Hermione obviously wasn't going to let him go without a proper farewell.

"Yeah, it'll show her the actual person I've become. The one who doesn't need anybody to be fine," he said.

"Now you're pushing my parents away? God, Draco, you have got to stop doing that." She pointed a finger in his face. He backed away from it cautiously.

"Doing what?"

Hermione sighed, tired of repeating herself. "Can you listen? Stop pushing people away."

"I told you I don't need anyone."

"And when the time you do need somebody comes, don't expect anyone to be there for you anymore." She muttered it so low that she didn't even expect him to understand it all.

"I have to go," he said, giving her one last look before he turned the other way and walked on.

And for some odd reason that Hermione could not comprehend, she felt like crying. Maybe it was the fact that it felt as if Draco just walked out of her life once again or it was the fact that he broke her heart the night before or maybe it was the fact that he just made her so angry that she wanted to cry.

Either way, she felt a pang in her heart and something told her that this was not how things were supposed to go.

Hermione walked back to her parents with shiny eyes and a fake smile. Her mum was about to ask her where Draco went, but she was way ahead of her.

"He said he 'had to go'. Which is complete rubbish." She mumbled the last part.

"That's all right, sweetheart," Mrs. Granger said soothingly as she put a hand on her daughter's shoulder.

"No, it's not," Hermione decided to say, looking her mum in the eye. "You cried looking at him and you two were probably the only real parental figures he's ever had and he just runs away without at least saying goodbye?"

"It's okay, Hermione," her dad said. "I know he'll come around."

"He won't because that's just how he is. No matter how much you tell him or imply it or how much you cry your eyes out for him and pour your heart out, it just won't happen."

Mr. and Mrs. Granger curious exchanged looks.

"Did something happen, Hermione?" her mum asked.

"Yes, but that doesn't matter now." She never could lie to her parents about anything. "I'm here with you two and I couldn't be happier." She smiled at her own words.

"But I'm telling you, Hermione," Mr. Granger said, pointing a knowing finger towards the blonde who just walked away from them, "he'll come around."

- x -

A/N: Did you miss me? I'm back. Sorry for the long wait, though I know you're probably used to it now! School started again and my mind has been set on that lately. I also had writer's block and didn't get off of it until… a while, let's just say. I wrote this longer than most, if that makes up for anything.

Anyway, I hope you liked that chapter, or maybe you didn't exactly like it, but I sure hope you found it interesting in some way or another. And just a kind little reminder: I will not abandon this story. No matter how long it's been since I've updated, I will definitely complete this. I swear, this thing is always on my mind, but I can never update regularly. Please leave a review! And don't give up on me, please?

Oh, and by the way, I love you guys. I really do, and your reviews put a smile on my face every time. (: