A/N: I can explain… so clearly, it's been around 11 years since I updated this story… after I promised for so long that I wouldn't abandon it… and I seem to unluckily have left the story at the worst possible time. It started out as writer's block when I was literally almost done with the chapter, then eventually something happened with my email that I couldn't figure out, then I forgot the password, then I just stopped trying to get back into this account. I have honestly thought about this story periodically in the last literal decade, if you can believe it, but I couldn't get back in.

Amid the shutdown orders during COVID-19, this renewed motivation to figure this shit out materialized. I sent out some emails, I even made a couple phone calls to AOL to revive my old email connected to this account, and here I am. 11 years later. I didn't originally intend to end the story in this chapter all those years ago, but I feel this will provide a little more closure to whoever the fuck would still be interested in this story after all this time.

I am much older now, obviously. I don't know how old you all thought I was when I started writing this, but I was basically an infant. I cringed so hard when I read through all this again. (Especially my author's notes, dear god. Did I really talk like that?)

I wrote most of this chapter shortly after I posted the last one and just added some final words to it now. It's been sitting in the depths of my hard drive all this time. I have felt actually guilty about this. So part of the reason why I'm posting this is for selfish reasons because this guilt can be alleviated knowing I finally was able to post somewhat of an ending. And then also obviously a huge reason why I'm posting this after so long is because I read through all the reviews left over the past years (and recently! I couldn't believe people were still able to find this! Hi!) and saw that people were actually sad about this! I couldn't believe that I was a kid writing this for fun and people actually read it, you know?

Anyway, whoever is still interested in this after 11-12 years, here is the last chapter. I hope you enjoy.

-x-

Chapter 15

Stay

As Draco walked to a safe, secluded area where he could Apparate undetected by any Muggles, he couldn't help the cold feeling from forming inside of him. He felt hollow and had to repeatedly ask himself if what he did was right. At first, he told himself yes, that what he did was just fine. Then, after a few more times of getting the right answer out of his head, it turned out to be a no. A "hell no, you should have at least said goodbye, you git" to be more exact.

And when he got into a deserted alleyway, he Apparated with a crack to the Malfoy Manor. From the outside, it looked absolutely beautiful and breathtaking. The royal entranceway that included tons of perfectly-arranged flowers and a huge fountain and a black metal gate gave people the false impression that the inside was just as extravagant and beautiful.

Well, technically, that supposedly "false" expression would actually be correct, but to Draco, all he saw when he went inside was a big house with hundreds of pretty things that his parents bought just to show off the fact that they were rich. Whenever people would enter their manor, awe would cover their faces and without even knowing it, they would be walking around the house with their mouths hanging open in a way that almost made Draco laugh in their faces.

He entered Malfoy Manor with dread and as he expected it to be, it was quiet and lifeless. Little and hurried footsteps were heard as Pippy, their house elf came to his service.

"Master Malfoy! Pippy didn't know you would be arriving so soon. Shall Pippy take your coat? Shall Pippy go fetch the Mistress Malfoy?" he said in his usual frightened voice.

"I'll just go to her room myself, Pippy," Draco told the house elf, dismissing him.

As he said he would do, Draco went through the maze of hallways and rooms and up the long staircase. The double doors that lead to the master bedroom had a dim light shining under the crack of the doorway. He slowly and quietly walked towards it. After knocking on the door, he pushed it open and the shocked expression of his mother was the first thing he saw.

"Draco! Oh, I had no idea you would be here this early," she said, snapping the book she was reading shut and standing up with a start.

"You say that every year even though I always arrive on the same exact day at the same exact time," Draco told her.

"I forget things, Draco. I'm getting old and it's hard to remember."

Rubbish. "Okay, Mum."

It was silent for a couple seconds as Narcissa searched for the words to say. There were many things Draco wanted to hear, so many things she could do that would make him feel welcome in this big home, but she wasn't doing or saying any of it.

"I'm glad you're back." She sounded as if she were obligated to say that. "It gets lonely around here."

"Even when I'm here, it's still rather lonely," he muttered.

"What was that, dear?" Narcissa asked, though she knew exactly what her son had just said. In her head, she couldn't help but agree with him.

Draco met his mother's eyes for just a second before he turned around and left without another word. There were so many ways that this confrontation could have been better. There were so many things she could have said, done, shown to him that she missed her son while he was at school.

As he walked into his ordinary room and exlied down on his bed, he thought about Hermione's parents and the expression on Mrs. Granger's face when she laid her eyes on him.

He regretted the decision he made to come straight home as opposed to stopping by the Granger house.

- x -

When the Grangers arrived at home, Mrs. Granger hurried into the kitchen to get dinner settled as Hermione helped her dad into the living room. As she was doing this, she was explaining a story about school.

"Professor McGonagall told us about the dance two weeks before it was to be taking place!" she said enthusiastically, reliving the feelings she experienced at that moment. "It was so infuriating and hard, but it was a good turnout."

"How is it working with Draco? Are you as nasty to each other as you've told me in the past?" Mr. Granger asked curiously, looking up at his daughter.

She looked crestfallen at the sound of his name. "Basically, I guess. I'm just used to it now," she replied, the enthusiasm she had before lost.

It was quiet for a few moments as Mr. Granger studied his daughter carefully.

"Is everything all right, Hermione?" he asked, putting a hand on her shoulder.

"Of course, Dad," she said, smiling at him. It faltered quickly.

"With you and him, I meant. Is there something going on between you two?"

The clattering previously heard in the kitchen noticeably slowed. Mrs. Granger wanted to listen in on the discussion also.

Hermione couldn't look him in the eye. "No," she said at first. "Well… not anymore. I mean -"

"Honey, I see the way he looks at you," Mrs. Granger said suddenly, appearing into the living room from the kitchen with a dish towel in her hands. "And the way you look at him also."

It was completely quiet as the parents waited for their daughter to respond to them.

Hermione had no idea what to say. This subject didn't exactly make her feel happy, considering everything that has happened with him. Was there something going on between them anymore? There certainly was, but now, she was not so sure.

She wished there was, that there was still a chance that things could change. The damage had already been done, however, and he couldn't take his words back. Her heart still ached about the situation, though she never really noticed it anymore because she got used to the feeling.

"I suppose there is," she decided to say, still not meeting their eyes. "Or was. Not really anymore…"

Hermione stayed staring at the floor, trying to make sense of her feelings inside. As she went through her memories with him this past year, she couldn't help but feel angry. He was so idiotic. Didn't he see how much he broke her heart, how much she cared about him no matter how rude they were to each other? Didn't he realize the way he looks at her, the way she tries to pull him in, but all he does is push her away?

"He makes me go mad. I just want him to get it. How can he be so dense? Why can't he just do whatever he wants, without letting what everyone else thinks get in the way?" she found herself saying.

"He will, Hermione," her father said to her soothingly. When she looked at him, Hermione felt better. His expression was so sympathetic and knowing that it caused her to believe him. "Trust me."

"Come on. Let's eat. I made my famous lasagna," Mrs. Granger said, sending a comforting smile to her daughter. Hermione helped her father to the table and they ate as a family, reminiscing about old times. It made her forget all about the bad things happening in her life and she was able to enjoy the evening fully.

After dinner, Hermione picked to watch an old holiday movie that they would watch when she was younger. It only crossed her mind for a second that she would also watch it with Draco, but then she forgot about him.

They laughed as if it was their first time watching the film and reacted to surprising parts enthusiastically. When the night came to an end and they went to their rooms, Hermione felt satisfied. She couldn't wait for tomorrow. Though her family was very small, they could still have fun on these big holidays with great ease. Being together was a present in itself.

"I'm telling you, he'll come around. Trust me."

Her father's words were the last she thought about before she drifted off to sleep.

- x -

Draco woke up from the sun pouring in through his windows and rubbed the sleep away from his eyes. For a split-second, he thought he was in the comfort of his dormitory, but no. He was at home. Which wasn't as great as it may be for everyone else. Few presents were placed at the front of his bed and it took him a few seconds to realize that those were there because it was Christmas.

The joy that was supposed to be felt on this holiday wasn't present in this house. It was only him and his mum after all. Lucius remained in Azkaban, making up for all the misdemeanors he's committed in his life from working for the Dark Lord.

Draco sighed and decided that he might as well get started on his presents. There were four. He didn't have a huge flock of friends that would give him presents.

Blaise got him a new cloak that he would probably not even wear. Crabbe and Goyle both gave him food - muffins and cookies - that he wouldn't even eat. Pansy, who still believed they would be together one day, got him an extremely girly picture frame with a bunch of hearts flashing and moving around it. He gave her present the most ridiculous look before he dropped it carelessly back in the bag.

Tired of looking at his pointless presents, he walked out of his bedroom and made his way through the confusing hallways to go downstairs. In the kitchen, he found his mother fixing something up to eat. The sight was odd, for she usually made the house elves make breakfast for her.

Narcissa turned around at the sight of her son. "Good morning," she said, soundlessly warming her eggs up on a plate with her wand. "Merry Christmas, Draco." She tried to sound enthusiastic, but failed miserably.

"Merry Christmas, Mum," he muttered back as he took a seat at one of the high chairs at the counter.

"Do you want some breakfast?"

"Sure."

She conjured a plate and floated the cooked eggs, bacon, and sausages onto it and gave it to her son. He conjured a fork and ate it quietly. Shortly after he started eating, Narcissa joined him at the counter. An awkward silence hung around the two as they ate their Christmas breakfast.

"How's school been?" Narcissa asked, trying to make conversation. Narcissa wasn't the mean person that people so often think of her to be. Her husband was a cold, cruel person, so that made her look cold and cruel also.

The first person that popped into his mind at the mention of school was Hermione. "Okay," he replied lowly.

"Anything interesting? Any girls?" she asked in a desperate attempt to have some sort of conversation with her son.

It took a few seconds more than needed to answer the simple question. "No."

Narcissa dropped her fork and studied her son carefully. His posture noticeably changed and the look on his face showed that he started thinking about something.

"Are you sure?"

"Yes, Mum," he replied, growing tired at her efforts at making conversation.

"I don't think so. Who's the girl?" she said, not giving in to her son's lies. Narcissa could not even mask her excitement that she may have a conversation with her son for the first time in years. She had been trying and trying to no avail. Draco had become so dark and brooding for years now—not too long after he lost contact and his friendship with Hermione.

"There is no girl." He knew his mum wouldn't believe him. No matter how distant they were from each other, she still knew him. Which meant that she'd know when he was lying or not.

"I know there is, Draco. I know that look."

"Mum, it's nothing," he said coldly.

"That's no way to talk to your mum, Draco," she snapped at his tone.

"Mum? You've barely been a mother to me my whole life."

"That's because you won't let me, Draco!" she blurted unexpectedly. The mother looked restless, as if this had been going through her head for so long, but she was only able to get it out now. Her son looked up at her, a surprised expression on his face. "Every time I attempt a conversation, you put up these walls that not even me, your own mum, can break down."

Hermione's voice made its way into his head again.

"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."

The very thought of her voice, so clear in his head, was enough to frustrate him and get himself to say what he said next.

"Well, do you want to know who the goddamn girl is, Mum? It's Hermione Granger."

Narcissa's face transformed from restless to awestruck. Never in her life did she ever think she'd hear about this girl again in this way.

During the days when they lived in a Muggle neighborhood, unable to afford a decent flat in the Wizarding World, little Draco would talk about Hermione Granger all the time. This was before her husband was recruited to join the Death Eaters, before they earned enough money to move to this very manor, before "mudblood" became a common vocabulary word in the house. When Lucius became a Death Eater, she and him fought as if nothing would ever be right. She was worried about her son's life and didn't want Draco to be harmed. However, being his wife, she stood by him and respected his choices. When they moved away from the Muggle world, she saw how depressed Draco was about Hermione. He was only ten-years-old! Boys that young never felt much for girls.

The next year, when he went to Hogwarts for his first year, he told Narcissa about how he saw her. Draco could never talk to his father about such people. He would talk about how he hated her and her new friends for being so close to her. Those were the days when Draco would talk to his mother about things, when he didn't have so many walls up. As the years went on, however, things changed.

"Thank God it's not that Pansy Parkinson," she said, actually sounding relieved.

Draco looked at her in surprise and almost smiled at her response. Almost. He was glad it wasn't Pansy also.

"Your father thought she was the rightful person for you just because she's a pureblood and she can actually stand being in your presence. To be honest, I've always thought she was dafter than a troll with a pug face to make her all the more ridiculous."

Narcissa was taken aback when she heard the sound of her son's laugh. He immediately stopped when he realized the happiness he showed.

"Draco," she started, putting a hand on his shoulder that he surprisingly didn't shrug off, "whatever it is you did to her that is making you feel all this regret-"

"How do you know it was me who did something?"

She let out a laugh. "See, that was just a hunch. But whatever it is can always be undone."

"I've already done enough," he said. "She doesn't need me in her life. She even told me that since I came in, I've made things harder."

"How?"

"Claims I don't help her with Head duties, which is absolute rubbish since she doesn't exactly let me help sometimes, and that I didn't help her plan the Christmas Ball a couple days ago, which I definitely did. I don't even understand why she worried so much about it even when all the planning was done. It turned out rather perfectly, besides the fact McGonagall made us dance. And that bloody mistletoe thing."

"Mistletoe?" Narcissa questioned, her face lighting up at the mention of the word.

He looked away from his mother, suddenly uneasy about where this topic was heading. He considered lying, that Peeves put the mistletoe over two other people, but he couldn't find the heart to. To be honest, Draco was quite enjoying the fact that him and his mum are talking to each other, but he could never let anyone know that. It was as if he was back to being a kid when he used to tell her everything. It was so easy to bounce back once he let the conversation happen. He decided to just let it happen.

"Peeves cast a spell on this mistletoe that couldn't be undone unless the people under it… kissed." For some reason, he felt funny saying 'kissed' in front of his mother. "And that stupid poltergeist put that very mistletoe over me and her."

Narcissa remained unable to speak for a moment, trying to mask her excitement. "Then?"

"For Merlin's sake, Mum, what do you think? I kissed her. And it's not as if that was the first time it happened either."

Draco shut up after his last statement, unable to believe that he just told his mother that. It just felt so good to finally have to tell someone about his life and vent out about it. He didn't have friends he could do that with. Of course, Blaise was there, but Blaise was so… Blaise. He'd judge and be annoying and he was just not someone Draco felt comfortable venting out to.

Narcissa beamed and told her son to go on. He felt embarrassed and didn't even want to talk anymore, but he went on.

Before long, she knew everything from his point of view and being a woman herself, Narcissa could guess how Hermione felt about this, too. When she was done asking him questions, and he was done regretfully answering all of them, she gave him advice.

"Go to her," she said.

"What?" Draco asked, unsure of if he heard her right or not.

"Now."

"No."

"I am your mum and you will do what I say. Go!" she commanded, pointing out the door.

"Why the hell would I do that?" He asked, standing up. "I'm going to my room." He was tired of this conversation and just wanted to get away.

"All right. Do whatever you like. I'll let you make your own mistakes on this one," she said before he walked away. "Pippy? Clean this up, please."

- x -

On Christmas morning, Hermione woke from a blinding sunbeam sneaking through a little crack in her curtains. When she got up from her bed and over to the window, she saw that snow covered her lawn, streets, and trees. She beamed at the perfect setting for a wonderful Christmas and when she turned around, the girl was surprised to see a mound of presents at the end of her bed.

It was Christmas and she would be able to spend it exactly how she planned instead of the hospital wing. She tried not to think about how Draco was the reason for this.

She opened her presents and then met with her parents in the kitchen. Her dad was helping his mum mix eggs as her mum cooked pancakes.

"Happy Christmas, Hermione!" her parents exclaimed when they noticed Hermione had arrived.

Hermione beamed. "Happy Christmas!" She went to hug both her parents.

They proceeded to having the simplest Christmas and it was perfect. Hermione helped cook, her parents laughed at her as she cried while cutting onions, and they ate breakfast together as Hermione updated them on Harry, Ron, and Ginny. After breakfast, they opened presents. Hermione bought her mum a planner and journal from Hogsmeade that would automatically organize thoughts, lists, and plans as she wrote

"You always say how you can't read your own handwriting when you need to find important information," she said.

"Honey, I love it!" her mum said happily, hugging her daughter.

Hermione gave her dad a keychain with a moving picture of she and him laughing over dinner on some day in the past year. He looked very touched.

"Since I won't be able to be here all the time, I figured I should buy you something of us that you can bring with you or put in your pocket," she said.

"This is very special, Hermione. Thank you," he said sincerely. He extended his arm and Hermione went over to him and hugged him.

"This gift is from me, dear," Mrs. Granger said, handing Hermione a small box.

Hermione opened the gift. It was a simple gold chain bracelet with green gemstones and a charm of a book. Something about it being a bracelet and having those specks of green brought to mind the image of seeing Draco tear the bracelet off in front of her not too long ago. She was able to shake it off quickly.

"Thank you, Mum. It's beautiful." Hermione put the bracelet on her wrist.

She saw her dad grab the guitar in their living room and prepare to play it. Hermione's eyes lit up. She hadn't seen her dad play or sing in years! He used to play often when she was growing up.

"I didn't buy anything for you this year, but I did write this song, if you would be so kind to listen to me play it," Mr. Granger said with a smile.

Hermione already felt like crying despite the fact that the song hadn't started yet.

"Of course," she said, teary-eyed.

He played a beautiful and simple song written just for her. The song and his voice were soft and comforting and sincere - just like the man playing it for her. By the end of the song, tears were streaming down her face.

"Dad, that was beautiful. Thank you so much," she said, going over to hug him tightly.

"I've got a lot of time these days to write," he said with a smile. He pulled a paper out of his pocket and handed it to her. "Here are the lyrics. I wrote them down for you so you can keep them with you."

"Thank you, Dad," she said.

The rest of the day was spent watching Christmas movies, baking cookies, and playing card games that Hermione may have gotten too excited and loud about whether she lost or won. It was the perfect day and everything Hermione wanted for her father. She tried not to think about the fact that this would probably be his last Christmas. She was able to enjoy the time she had with him now without feeling sad about the inevitable… and without feeling sad about an idiotic blonde boy miles and miles away.

- x -

The day after Christmas, Hermione had woken up. Her parents left a message for her that her dad had a routine doctor's appointment and that they wouldn't be very long. Hermione was slightly upset that she hadn't been woken up to go with them, but knew that they would have told her if something was wrong. Just to make sure, she called her mum and she had assured her that everything was fine and they were finishing up now.

The doorbell rang and Hermione, wondering who it could be, walked over to the front door. It was the day after Christmas, so who would come and visit now? Her aunts, uncles, and cousins came yesterday and left this morning. Her mum and dad didn't say anything about anyone else coming and plus, the house was a mess at the moment.

And when she opened the door, she realized that maybe she should have looked through the peephole and prepared herself.

Draco stood there, looking up at the sound of the door opening. And, to be honest, he looked terrible. His hair was disheveled, his eyes had bags under them, and he looked as if he hadn't slept in ages. Hermione took a moment to catch her breath before she spoke.

"What- ?" she began, but he cut her off.

"I'm sorry," he said shakily, not sounding like himself at all.

And she felt her heart break all over again.

"You're going to do this right now?" Hermione asked him helplessly. "After the terrific holiday I've been having… you come now? I thought this was all done!" A draft came through the house and she shivered. "Aren't you freezing?" She tugged on his sleeve and he stepped inside as she closed the door.

"Yes, I'm going to do this now," he stated, "because I've barely gotten one bloody hour of sleep in three days and it's all because of you."

"Me? Wh-" Hermione was ready to go off and yell at him for blaming his lack of sleep all on her, but he cut her off.

"Let me get this out before I get some sense knocked into me and change my sodding mind, all right?" Draco silenced her. "I'm sorry," he said again, "and I know you're not going to accept that apology because you don't accept apologies that easily-"

"Stop it, Draco. I think both of us have had enough of each other in our lives and you know what? You're right," she said.

"About what?" he said, slightly infuriated by the fact that she interrupted him when he made it clear that she shouldn't.

"You're right!" she yelled, throwing her hands up in the air in frustration. "It would never work out because, as you said, nothing ever works out with you. Why would I want to put myself through that? I don't need to be wasting my time on you anymore."

"No, I was an idiot. I am an idiot. Haven't you noticed that yet? Damn it, Hermione, are you willing to even consider the fact that I've never felt anything like this before? I don't know what to do! And when I was lying in my bloody bed, awake, I knew, I just knew, that I'd be coming here because I couldn't even last a couple bloody days without knowing what would happen if I came here. It's only been three sodding days and you know what? I missed you."

He was trying to kill her. She was sure of it.

Tears were threatening to spill out of her eyes, but she blinked them back. Why was he saying this? Why was he even here? This was not Draco Malfoy! He didn't do things like this. For anybody. So why, now, was he doing this… for her?

Draco was thinking along the same lines as Hermione. But he wasn't being himself at the moment. This was some crazy, insane person that erupted from him because of his act of making troll-like decisions. This was a boy who actually felt something incredibly real for the first time in his life and this boy just wanted something to go right. This was Draco Malfoy in love with Hermione Granger.

"I didn't even think that was possible!" he continued. "Why would I miss you if all you do is make me go insane and do things that I would never normally do? I missed every sodding aspect of you. You know what else I did? I tried to convince myself that no, I most certainly did not notice the way your face falls when something that you planned on going right goes wrong, or the fire in your sodding eyes when you're riled up, or how you bite at that - that - nub of a nail on your thumb when you're thinking of something to do next, or how you still look so bloody breathtaking even when you're not well."

Her tears were on the brink of spilling over the edge. He looked like an absolute lunatic, but his words were truer than ever, and she could hear that.

"Damn it, do you know how hard it is to realize that I'm in love with you, Hermione?"

Then all was silent.

No, he most certainly did not just say that.

"No, you're not," she said lowly, on the brink of blowing up. Her voice was ominous, the calm before the storm. "You're not in love with me."

"You don't think I've tried telling myself that? You don't think I haven't done everything I could to push myself away from you so I wouldn't feel this anymore? The Weasley girl made me say it. Out loud, right in front of you when you were unconscious. What a little-"

"That was real?" Hermione asked, her voice small, as if her breath was just recently taken away.

"Malfoy, I want you to look me directly in both eyes and tell me with the surest voice you can speak with that you are not in love with her."

"I can't."

His eyes widened, making him look like even more of a lunatic. "Don't tell me you heard it. Don't tell me you've known this whole time-"

"No, I didn't actually hear you! I thought it was a dream… I was slipping in and out of consciousness."

"Damn it, you heard me say it, didn't you?" he went on, disregarding whatever Hermione just said.

"What did I just tell you, Draco? I didn't. I just heard what came before that!" She was yelling, but he still wasn't listening to her.

"Next, you're going to tell me you heard what I said on the train while you were sleeping. Bloody hell, Hermione-"

"Draco!" she shouted, putting her hands on his shoulders in effort to get him into his senses.

He looked surprised at the gesture and considering how close they now stood, he now had to hold himself back from doing something he would probably get slapped for later.

"Shut up, will you?" she said, dropping her hands from his shoulders. She looked tired and fed up with it all. Her expression showed that whatever she would say next would not be good. "I'm finished with this."

"No, you're not," he said, shaking his head disbelievingly. "Damn it, I love you, Hermione. You wanted to know I felt about you, right? Well, that's it! What else do you want me to say?" He looked so lost, so confused, as if he was going to break any second. It looked unreal.

"Nothing! There's absolutely nothing you need to say anymore! You don't love me! You don't!" she yelled, pushing him repeatedly towards the door. "Stop doing this to me, Draco!" And then tears began rolling down her face. She hit at him pathetically on his chest over and over again, even when his back was already on the closed door. "Stop it! Leave!"

He grabbed her hands so she would stop hitting his chest. She struggled to get out of his grasp, but he held tight.

"No!" he yelled back at her. "I'm not leaving, Hermione."

Then, she stopped trying to wrestle her way out of his grasp, which then caused him to let go, finally. She brought her hands up to her face to wipe her tears away that quickly got replaced with new ones.

"Please, go," she said in a small voice, looking up at him. At this point, they both looked like lunatics.

Though she clearly said go, all Draco could hear in her voice was stay.

"No," he said clearly. "I'm not going to leave again."

And that caught her attention. The expression on her face lightened and she could feel her heart begin to mend itself back together. Slowly.

"How do I know you're not lying?"

"Just look at me, Hermione!" He looked down at his state and then back at her. "I'm here, aren't I? I haven't gotten any sleep and you can see that. And now, sense is getting knocked into me and I feel like a bloody idiot, but it's too late to leave now."

"Yes, you are an idiot to even consider the fact that you're in love with me because you're not. I want you to leave. Right now. You don't need to be here-"

"For the first time in my life, I don't think I'm being so idiotic. And I do need to be here," he stated, grasping her shoulders. She looked down at her feet as she wiped her tears away. "Look at me, Hermione."

She didn't. She merely just shrugged his hands off of her and took a small step backwards.

"I need you to leave now. My mum and dad will be back from the doctor soon."

"Good. I know they'll ask me to stay."

Hermione looked up at him, her tears halting. "Not if you leave right now."

"I don't think I can do that."

"Just think of Malfoy Manor clearly in your mind and you'll be there in just a couple seconds."

"I can't really think clearly right now," he said.

"Then go away."

"I don't think I want to."

"Well, it doesn't matter if you bloody well want to or not. You're in my house, so get out," she said forcefully, pointing towards the door.

"This is your parents' house and I believe we should leave it to them to decide whether I should go home or not," he said smartly. "Why don't you leave if you're so uncomfortable being in my presence?"

"You're not going to run me out of my own house," she sneered.

"And you're not going to run me out of it either," he remarked.

Hermione groaned. "You are impossible and absolutely infuriating! Why can't you just make it easier for me and just leave? I don't want you here! I really don't!"

He raised an eyebrow at her. "Do you really?"

And for some ridiculous reason, it took her more than a second before she responded with a forced exclamation. "Yes!"

Draco smirked at the hesitation as he looked around. "Mind if I walk into the kitchen?" He didn't even wait for her to answer before he continued walking on. He was glad that they were bantering as normal again.

"No! I want you to get out!" she yelled, trailing behind him.

"I haven't been here in years, Granger. You could be a tad more hospitable," he commented, walking into the living room located next to the kitchen. He still remembered where everything was. He felt a pang in his chest and suddenly felt very emotional being in this house again, so many years later, after a war and all the trauma they had been through. It was like coming back into a preserved memory that was still pure.

"Not if you're not welcome here!"

"Where are your parents anyway?" he asked, making himself comfortable on her couch. All the furniture was rearranged from how he remembered and they had gotten new couches, but he had vague memories of the pair of them watching telly on this couch.

"Doctor. My dad had a routine appointment and they didn't want to wake me, so they left. My mum just called and said he's fine,," Hermione explained, momentarily forgetting that she was supposed to be mad at him.

"Called?" Draco looked up at her with a puzzled expression.

"Honestly, it wouldn't kill you to take a Muggle Studies class! It's called a telephone, remember?"

"That contraption you talk into?"

"Put simply, yes, that's what you could describe it as." She crossed her arms and put an intimidating expression on her face once again. "Now, get out."

Draco seemed to ignore her last imperative statement as he let his eyes wander around the familiar household, a million and one memories floating into his mind. He wished that they could go back to being children again, a time when she actually liked his presence. Or he wished that she would feel the same way he did and let him kiss her senseless.

Hermione walked before his sitting form with that fire he loved so much in her eyes.

"Was your Christmas really that bad that you had to come here, the day after, to play with my emotions once again? Do you have nothing better to do with your time anymore? Leave, Malfoy."

He stood up, which caused their bodies to be dangerously close to each other. He clenched his fists at his sides in attempt to prevent himself from reaching out for her.

"No, actually. Though it wasn't as happy as yours may have been, this past Christmas was the best one I've had since I was a child. I have no intention of toying with your emotions and despite how much I want to stop, my time is now occupied with thinking of you."

"Thinking of ways to build up my hopes to think that you may be in love with me and then proceeding to crushing them into smithereens to leave me heartbroken once again? Did you need an encore of that night, Malfoy? Did you need to bring the muggleborn down to tears again to boost your ego?"

"If I really hated you, as you think I do, do you really believe I'd think about you that much to come to your house with shadows under my eyes? Face it, Hermione. You can't explain my act of coming here with dirty words and insults. You bloody well know none of it is true."

"You could be a sadist, who thrives on seeing people suffer."

"Sure, maybe Potter and the Weasel," he said, pausing for a moment as he clenched his fists at his sides, "but not you."

She looked puzzled at his reply and he saw something entirely new begin to swirl in her eyes. It was only for a second, however, until the fire ignited again. Draco's fists unclenched and he almost pulled her in, but he stood his ground.

At that moment, they heard somebody fiddling their keys at the front door, which meant that either a muggle murderer was trying to pick the lock or her parents were arriving home. Probably the latter.

Hermione looked horrified and prepared herself for her parents' faces when they walked into the living room to find Draco Malfoy standing in it. Hermione looked at him and with one last pleading look asking him to leave and his slight shake of the head, she gave up.

"Hermione dear, we're home!" Mrs. Granger exclaimed as both her mom came into the living room wheeling Mr. Granger in.

Both their faces lit up in happy surprise. Draco felt rather awkward, but told himself to curl his lip a little upward to acknowledge that he was actually a human who could show any other facial expression.

"Draco! Oh, my, it's so good to see you! Please make yourself at home. We're so happy you decided to stop by after all!" Mrs. Granger said excitedly and she went over and hugged him. Draco momentarily stiffened at the show of affection, but was able to find himself returning the hug minimally.

"I knew you'd come around, Draco," Mr. Granger as he shook Draco's hand. Draco noticed the knowing and boastful look that he sent over to Hermione.

"I'm glad one of us did," he responded. Hermione's parents chuckled.

"Let me get you something to drink. Apple juice?" Mrs. Granger asked him knowingly. "You always asked for apple juice when you came over."

Draco felt warmth in his chest at how she remembered this detail.

"That would be great. Thank you, Mrs. Granger," he said politely.

Hermione looked ready to sink into the floor.

"So what brings you here, Draco?" Mr. Granger asked, though he already knew the answer.

"I've come to talk to this woman right here," he responded, gesturing and looking toward Hermione, who looked so embarrassed that she could burst, "but I dare say, she hasn't been so welcoming…"

Hermione snapped. "Not so welcoming?" she seethed. "What gave you the right to come to our front door in the first place?"

"If you don't remember, Granger," he started, switching over to her last name for the fun of it, "I was invited. I also had a few words to say to you. You also didn't want me to leave."

"How many times did I tell you to leave just now, Malfoy?" she almost screamed.

Mr. and Mrs. Granger were quiet, very much enjoying the conversation enfolding.

"I seemed to have lost count, but you hesitated the last time I asked if you wanted me to leave and I probably know more than anyone that you don't hesitate to say what you want," he said.

"But-" she interjected.

"Also, come on, Granger. If you really wanted me out, you would've found a way. If you just hexed me, maybe I would've actually gotten the message and-"

"Why would I hex you?"

"You did a couple months ago when I didn't want to work, remember?" He smirked.

Hermione almost smiled at the memory. She hated how she was actually having fun right now bickering with him. Her parents were completely invested in this conversation, moving their heads back and forth as the pair spoke. Mrs. Granger still had Draco's apple juice in her hand, but didn't dare give it to him and break this conversation.

"Look at that," Draco said. "Were you really about the laugh about hexing me and possibly causing bodily harm? You sick, sick person."

"Please, Malfoy. If I actually wanted to hurt you, I would."

"And if you actually wanted me to leave, then I would have."

"What makes you think you know what I want?" She crossed her arms. Draco smirked. He loved when she got this way.

"Just as you claim to know me, that doesn't mean you're exempt from it working the other way around. Also-did I imagine it or didn't you actually tell me to stay with you when you almost passed out on the train from the cold? My assumption isn't too far off considering recent circumstances."

Hermione was shocked. She almost forgot her parents were in the room. She looked toward them.

"We're going to need to talk alone. Sorry, mum and dad," Hermione said.

Her parents looked slightly sad that they wouldn't get to see the show anymore, but understood.

"Of course, dear. You two can go talk upstairs. We'll cook up something to eat. Just come down when you're ready," Mrs. Granger said.

Hermione grabbed Draco's arm and almost dragged him up the stairs.

"Do you not think I would've had the sense to follow you? You don't need to drag me-"

"Oh, be quiet, Draco!"

She brought him into her room and closed the door. Draco was hyper aware that they were alone in her bedroom where there was a bed… and they were alone… in her bedroom… where there was a bed. Draco had to mentally shake himself out of this thought process.

"Draco, you bullied me for years! You made fun of my hair and my teeth and called me a know-it-all and offensive names! You broke me just a few days ago and you expect me to believe that you know what I want? That you know me at all?"

"Yes, I do," he said simply. "Because I've also known you since we were four-years-old. I've worked closely with you this entire term and I've seen you more often than you've seen your friends."

"Amount of time spent together does not equal knowing-"

"Hermione, bloody hell, I am constantly thinking about you. You are constantly in my head and honestly, I don't mind! I want to be thinking about you and I want to know more about you than I already do..."

She felt something in her stomach at these words. Butterflies… or something.

"I - I - I don't want to put myself out there again if you're just going to-" she started nervously.

At that moment, Draco reached into his pocket and pulled out a very familiar bracelet. He seemed to have revived it and it looked as new as it did when she first gave it to him.

Hermione felt her breath catch in her thought. "I thought-"

"I picked it back up when you left, you idiot. You actually think I meant everything I said that day? I was trying to protect you!"

"Protect me? Malfoy, I can take care of myself. I don't need you protecting-"

"I know, Hermione, bloody hell. Or maybe I was just protecting me… I don't know… It's all muddled up now… I just didn't want to hurt you more in the future, but now both of us hurt…"

Hermione didn't even want to try making sense of his words.

"I'm really putting myself out there right now… I've never done this before, can't you see that ? I really do feel for you and I probably always have..." His voice was low now. He felt his defenses breaking down and he was beginning to feel embarrassed for coming here in the first place. He broke off eye contact with her. "I can just go… I feel like a git-"

Before Hermione knew what she was doing, she grabbed his face and kissed him.

The butterflies in Hermione's stomach felt like they turned into straight up fireworks that filled her entire body. Draco immediately had his arms around her waist pulling her closer. He couldn't believe she was kissing him. He felt so happy and actually excited? He didn't even need anything more. The fact that Hermione Granger initiated this kiss was more than enough.

This was exactly what Draco wanted when he arrived at her house. He began to feel undeserving and had the slight feeling that he needed to pull away and leave. But he stayed where he was, kissing Hermione Granger, feeling undeserving, yet feeling that he was exactly where he needed to be.

-x-

A/N: And there you have it. Again, this isn't where it was originally going to end, but I hope this can provide as much closure for you as it did for me. Thank you guys for… sort of sticking around, I guess? I could hardly call it "sticking around" when it's been this long, but if you were one of the people who started reading this 11 years ago… I applaud you. And wow. I don't deserve any of you.