Wow. That is all I have to say. Wow, this has taken longer than expected. I am extremely sorry. I had originally decided to give this story up completely but recently I rediscovered it and just thought that I couldn't let it go; besides I couldn't leave all of you hanging like that. So I'm back and I PROMISE that my other chapter will come out A LOT sooner than this one did; I am currently mid-way thru its completion. I can't believe how long ago I last updated; so much has changed since then. Again, I apologize profusely and I hope this chapter lives up to your expectations. Enough of my rambling, on with the show…

Chapter 14 The Best Christmas Gift

"Merry Christmas, Malfoy family!"

Hermione grimaced as Blaise waltzed through the living room, immaculate as always, spreading merriment and greeting to everyone around. In contrast, it was starting out to be a very un-Merry Christmas for Hermione. Spending Christmas day with Draco Malfoy was not something she had ever wished for nor dreamed of.

The lingering thoughts of the fight from the day before didn't help the merriment, or lack thereof, either. After storming out of the room, with the words "I can't" ringing through her head, Hermione immediately flooed out of the building and into her apartment. All day, Draco's words and her response occupied her thoughts, playing with her emotions and toying with her hope. Hope for what? she wondered. Hope for something she wasn't ready to admit.

She refused to believe his words, refused to believe his motive. He would never, he could never…unfinished thoughts and unanswered questions plagued her thoughts, driving her further and further into hysteria. Why me? Why him? Why?

And she chastised herself for the response she gave him.

"I can't"

It wasn't what she wanted to tell him. She wanted to tell him to go to hell, tell him that he'd be one righteous bloke to assume she felt that way. But she had said it because she DID feel it, she just couldn't possibly put herself through that again—especially with Draco Malfoy. But that's what scared her, the fact that she felt that way. It was too much for her; she had hoped, even prayed, after Oliver that she'd never feel like this again. She had hardened her heart to men and love, so then how was it that her childhood enemy could easily change everything? It wasn't love; no, she knew it wasn't. But it was a lot like it.

And the fact that he felt it too, that was something entirely different.

For Draco, he opted to just forget about the whole situation. Or forget about it as hard as he could at least. For awhile after Hermione had left he stayed in his office, thinking over everything that had happened. Just like Hermione, the words "I can't" rang clear in his mind. He didn't know what exactly he had tried to accomplish with his words; he half expected Hermione to slap him and call him a chauvinistic pig. But she didn't. From the two last words she uttered it was apparent that she felt it. And that surprised him. He had anticipated everything else, but he never expected her to return the feelings.

They hadn't seen each other since the encounter. For once it seemed like the gods were working with them instead of against; they didn't even have to try to avoid each other, it just seemed to happen naturally. Dinners were taken separately and beds made up in different rooms of the manor. It was perfect for the two, until the next morning of course.

Hermione was sitting on one of the couches, cup of hot chocolate in hand, watching her daughter as she scrambled through all the gifts and presents beneath the tree. Monsieur Deville sat next to her, laughing as little Ana happily tore through numerous amounts of gift wrapping. Draco stood idly by, just close enough to keep up the family facade for Monsieur Deville.

"What's the matter Malfoy family?" asked Blaise as he strolled past Hermione and patted Draco on the back. "Come on, where's the Christmas spirit?"

"I've always wondered," Draco started as Blaise took up a seat next to Ana on the floor, "how in Voldemort's name do you always manage to get in here?"

"If I told you that, then I'd have to kill you," he responded nonchalantly while he laid out more presents for Ana to open.

"How does your wife put up with you, Blaise?" Hermione asked, chuckling, setting down a mug of hot chocolate in front of the dark haired wizard.
"With a smile," he responded as he graciously took the cup and sipped the warm contents.

More gifts were opened and more hot chocolate made. Draco and Hermione had not said a word to each other nor tried to make any eye contact either. It was tense, but only for the two of them; for everyone else, everything seemed almost normal. Christmas morning carried on peacefully, with no squabble or banter from either Draco or Hermione. Despite the given situation, Christmas turned out alright.

"Ana really likes her presents"

Draco turned around to find Hermione behind him, walking forward with a mug in hand. He was standing in the doorway, watching as Blaise and Ana happily played with her new toys while Monsieur Deville looked on merrily. Hermione had gone upstairs to phone her parents and her friends.

She saw him standing there as she descended the stairs. She had wanted to just walk by, without a word or gesture of recognition. But she had decided differently. Hermione Granger, the brave and level-headed third of the infamous trio, shying away from adversity? Unheard of. She summed up all her courage, locked away yesterday's questions and confusion, and spoke.

"Yeah," he responded stiffly, turning back to the scene in front of him. He was vividly aware of her presence next to him, unwavering and standing strong. "I'm glad she does."

Silence followed, awkward silence. Neither really knew how to react.

"Look Malfoy about yesterday-,"

"Are you sure she likes the dolls?" he interrupted her. "They aren't too childish are they?"

Hermione was mildly taken aback at how easily Draco had changed the subject. He didn't want to talk about the day before, of course he didn't. And that was fine for Hermione; better, even, for her. She smiled, a genuine smile, and nodded.

"There's so much 'adult' in that little girl," she said, "more so than in me sometimes. But with all her maturity and sensibility, she's still just a little girl."

Draco smirked, nodding his agreement to Hermione's statement.

"Malfoy I'm surprised you actually knew what to get her," she added, with no sign of malice or mockery in her voice or appearance.

Draco turned to her with a smirk and a raised eyebrow. "Well, I was a child once. Granted I know I didn't have what you fondly call a 'typical childhood,' but I had one nonetheless."

"I didn't mean it like that," she chuckled and shook her head. "You know what I mean, you oaf."

With that, the intensity from the day before vanished and everything seemed to go back to normal, as normal as things were before.

"It worked," Draco responded moments later, staring out at Monsieur Deville and Ana. She was showing Deville all her presents and teaching him how to properly hold her doll; the elder man let out a hearty laugh as he played along with her. "Bloody hell I can't believe it worked."

"Who would have thought that Draco Malfoy and Hermione Granger, one of Hogwart's greatest rivalries, would play family so convincingly?" Hermione smiled as she too watched the scene in front of her.

"Oh come now Granger," Draco responded with a smirk and the haughty air that he was infamous for. "You of all people should know that we've surely outgrown that 'Hogwarts rivalry' stage of our lives. We're not children anymore."

She turned to him and smiled. No we're definitely not she thought, memories of the past few weeks running through her head. It had been crazy, demanding, luxurious, emotionally straining; yet she, in all honesty, wouldn't have had it any other way. It was a far cry from a vacation, what with being forced to spend a whole month with the Slytherin King and all; but he was right, they had surely outgrown their Hogwarts rivalry. To her surprise, Draco was bearable; a little crazy and egotistical, but not nearly as horrible as she had previously remembered him to be. Unknowingly, and surely inadvertently, he had helped her; the bruises on her heart were beginning to heal and Oliver Wood was almost, not entirely, a thing of the past. Hermione realized that all she really needed was to talk, honestly, openly, without judgment or looks of pity to anyone other than Ron, Ginny, Harry, or her parents. Draco was it. Maybe it was the holiday season, or maybe it was because of their forced proximity; whatever it was, he was there when she needed someone, anyone. Hermione knew, though, that if it had been any other guy she would've felt the exact same way. But she was glad it was Draco.

Silence engulfed them once again as they watched the merriment before them.

"Well," Blaise's booming voice cut through the room. At once, all eyes were on him. "Look what we have here." The smirk on his face and the sing-song tone in his voice didn't bode well for the two. He pointed upwards, staring directly at Hermione and Draco.

Hermione looked up, her worse fears suddenly made into reality: mistletoe. Draco hadn't even bothered to look; even before his friend's gesture, he already knew. And he was none too pleased about it.

They looked at each other; silent questions acknowledged, yet remained unanswered. They didn't know what to do; all throughout the facade, they had never been required to do anything more than an occasional hug or hand holding. And now they were expected to kiss. Under the mistletoe. On Christmas morning.

Monsieur Deville spoke. "Oh come now," he chuckled. "There's no need for you two to be shy. Monsieur Malfoy, you and are you're wife are so much in love. Don't be shy." He winked at them and smiled, urging them to show just a little more affection towards each other.

They kept eye contact, not once breaking. They were suspended in time, frozen in front of questioning eyes, standing under mistletoe. This really wasn't happening, was it? There was definitely no way out of it, yet neither was willing to make the first move.

A million different thoughts raced through Draco's mind, the deal, the farce marriage, the fight from the day before, Hermione. Hermione. Hermione. He could hear his father's cold voice, interrupting all thoughts of everything else. 'That Mudblood beat you again, Draco? Not good. Malfoy's are never second best.' Not now. 'What's this? A Malfoy has feelings for a Mudblood?' Draco could practically see his father, in all his Malfoy arrogance and pride, standing in front of him, spitting out the word "feelings". Fight or flight, Malfoy, his subconscious kept saying. What's it going to be? It had always been his father, Draco had never been able to form his own thoughts, feel his own feelings, live his own life. Would he walk away now, like he had done on so many various occasions in his life? Or would he stay and fight, against Oliver, against his father, against his past? Fight or flight. Fight or flight. Fight or flight…

Hermione stood there, staring at Draco. She couldn't read him; his grey eyes were raging a storm. He showed no emotion; his eyes cloudy with thoughts Hermione could barely read. He was looking at her, but he couldn't see her. And good thing too. She made no effort of hiding her emotions; doubt, fear, and uncertainty resonated from her almond colored eyes. She was scared, and damn well had reason to be. Oh she had kissed men of course; there had been a few, before and after Oliver. She was no expert, mind you, but she certainly knew what she was doing. And she definitely was never as nervous as she was at that moment. But this? No, this was different; it was personal, real even, much more than she had ever wanted it to be.

This is insane, she thought. This isn't real. We can't do this…I can't-

And suddenly it happened. Warm lips descended onto hers, soft and gentle. Butterflies formed in her stomach, a knot tightened in her throat, she released a breath she didn't even know she was holding. He wasn't demanding or forceful; his kiss was tender, uncertain and full of nervous energy. It was so foreign yet it felt comforting, like a warm fire during a snow storm; safe, soothing, home. There was nothing sexual about the kiss, no lust or desire from either one of them. But it was hope; hope for something new, something different, something better.

Fight, Draco thought, feeling the weight of his father's influence finally lifted off his shoulders. I'm fighting damn it and there's nothing that that heartless bastard can do about it. It's my turn.

"I hate you!" And it all stopped; Hermione and Draco came crashing back to earth at the sound of Ana's shrill voice and near hysteric sobbing. "I hate you," she repeated, in between tears and hiccups.

Her eyes were bloodshot and her little face was tinged pink with frustration. Tears were streaming down her face and her hands were balled in fists beside her. She repeated the mantra as Hermione, followed by Draco, ran to her.

"No!" Ana yelled as Hermione, worry splashed across her face, squatted down to give her daughter a hug. "No!"

"Ana love-" Draco started, attempting to calm the little girl down

Ana shot daggers at him, her eyes still wet with fresh tears. If it had been a different situation, a more pleasant situation perhaps, he would have commented on Ana's surreal likeness to Hermione at that moment.

"Stop it," she spit back at him.

Blaise and Monsieur Deville stood back, allowing the family to resolve the issue on hand. They stayed out of the argument and just watched as everything unraveled.

"Ana, you have no right to act this way," Hermione chastised her daughter, reprimanding her while holding back tears. Her daughter was acting very unusual, and it terrified her.

She glared at both of them, her tears finally subsiding. She wiped her nose with the sleeve of her pajamas and straightened herself.

With a firm stare and a steady voice, she walked right up to Draco and said "You're not my daddy." And with that she ran out of the room, up the stairs and into her bedroom.

The whole room was engulfed with silence; Monsieur Deville stood shocked, confusion plainly visible on his tired face. Blaise stared at Monsieur Deville, analyzing the different emotions passing through the old man's face. Hermione glanced back at the trio of men behind her and, without a word to any of them, ran towards the direction of her daughter.

"Hermione," Draco said, grabbing her arm before she was fully out of reach.

"Don't," she turned towards him, suppressed tears now falling freely down her face. "Don't." And with that she bolted up the stairs and headed straight for her daughter's room.

"Bugger," Blaise swore beneath his breath, knowing that the tightly woven strings that kept the whole farce together were now unraveling; Monsieur Deville would now surely know of their deceit.

Almost abruptly, Draco turned and headed in the same direction as well, without a single word or gesture.

"Draco," called Blaise to his friend. No response; the blonde Malfoy just continued walking. "Draco," he called out again. Nothing. Blaise rolled his eyes and jogged after him.

"Malfoy, you bloke," he said, grabbing his arm and turning him towards to him. Draco had a blank look about him, an almost cold and heartless quality to it.

"Let me go," he ground out through clenched teeth. He attempted to shrug off Blaise's hold, but to no avail. He felt sick, physically sick like he was about to vomit. This was all too much; he had to get out of the manor. Anywhere, he didn't care. His mind was too muddled with thoughts to think coherently about Monsieur Deville and the deal that he ultimately just ruined.

"Malfoy we have a situation at hand to resolve," Blaise responded, cocking his head towards Monsieur Deville who was watching the entire exchange with confusion and a bit of frustration.

Finally Draco broke free of Blaise's grasp.

"I don't care," he spit out, heading towards the front door. He grabbed his coat, wand in hand of course, draped it over his shoulders and turned back to look at Blaise. "Deal with it."

And with that, he was out of the door and into the cold Christmas morning.

"Bloody hell!" Blaise roared, momentarily forgetting about Monsieur Deville. Instantly, he turned towards the older man, and with cheeks tinged pink he apologized. "So sorry," he began to walk towards him now, dreading the ultimate conversation to come. It was only fitting that he, Blaise Zabini, would be the one to break the news to Monsieur Deville; after all, this whole debacle was his idea.

"So," he started, now standing directly in front of the older gentleman. Monsieur Deville crossed his arms, mildly glaring at the raven haired man. Oh he was angry all right but confusion, and a bit of worry, surpassed all his disagreeable feelings.

"Lover's quarrel?" Blaise offered meekly, shrugging his shoulders and avoiding all eye contact with the older man.

Monsieur Deville cleared his throat, his eyes now boring holes into Blaise.

"Fine," Blaise said, a defeated tone laced in his voice. He let out a sigh, half frustration and half relief. They moved to the couch, settling in as Blaise braced himself for the long and elaborate explanation that was soon to follow. "Fine. It all started out…"

"Wood, you insufferable git!" Draco Malfoy's voice boomed through the flat, his incessant knocking stirring the quidditch player from his light nap.

"Bloody hell, Malfoy," Oliver responded groggily, as he stood up and walked towards the door. As soon as he opened the door, a raging Draco stormed through and pinned Oliver against the wall.

"What is your-"

"Shut up," Malfoy spat out, his face within centimeters of the other man's. He pushed the man further up against the wall, his eyes nearly black from all the emotions and anger. He was breathing heavily; he looked about ready to burst. And frankly, Oliver Wood was terrified.

"Shut up," he began again. "If I hear that you've hurt them again, I will come after you. I will ruin your pathetic little life; your quidditch career, your personal life, everything. If they ever feel an ounce of pain again, Azkaban be damned. I will-"

"Malfoy, you prick, what are you on about?" Oliver interrupted. He pushed the blonde haired wizard away from him, straightening his clothes and staring intently at him. Yes he was angry, a visit from a raging Malfoy would put any wizard or witch in a sour mood, but more than that he was baffled and a bit intrigued as well.

"You heard me," Draco hissed. He straightened his robes, his glaring eyes never once leaving the Quidditch star. His breaths came in rough and ragged, his nose flaring ever so slightly with every exhale. He was doing his damn best to keep the raging storm at bay.

"Yes Malfoy I heard you loud and clear, but what's it to you?" Oliver questioned.

"Nothing," he lied. "Absolutely nothing."

They stayed there for what must have been ages, staring at one another, neither backing down from the unspoken challenge. Stupid, Draco cursed himself. Bloody stupid. A million and one emotions were raging through his body: anger, confusion, defeat. For the life of him he couldn't remember how he suddenly appeared in front of Oliver Wood's apartment door. He didn't understand why Ana's outburst bothered him so much; or even why he threatened to all but kill Oliver if he ever hurt Hermione and Ana again. It was all so different, so new; he let his emotions get the best of him and look where it led him. At Wood's apartment. Bloody brilliant.

"When can I see them?" Oliver broke the silence in the room, his voice low and weary. He was tired of all this, of Draco Malfoy, of carrying the weight of his stupid decision, of being so close, of everything; he just wanted a chance to make it right again. He wanted the nightmares of days past to stop haunting him, he wanted to feel alive again; he wanted Hermione. If she'll take you back, his subconscious mocked.

Malfoy remained silent, not knowing what to say or what to do next. Then he turned around and headed for the fireplace.

"Malfoy," Oliver followed suite, walking a step or two behind him. "Look I'm done with your stupid games." He grabbed the blonde wizard's arm, turning Draco around towards him. Both men were glaring, ready for the punches that were they were almost certain would follow.

"Get in the fireplace," Draco forced through gritted teeth. "Get in the fireplace right now Wood before I do something that you and I will both regret."

Rather than adding flame to the fire, Oliver did as the other man requested, nay demanded, and stepped in. Draco inhaled deeply, trying to keep his emotions from taking over, and stepped in right after. He grabbed a familiar powder, grunted out "Malfoy Manor," and in a flash both men were gone.

They flooed into Draco's study within mere seconds. Instantly, Draco plopped down at his desk and poured himself a glass of scotch. He traded between holding his head between his hands and taking sips of the amber colored liquid. His head was throbbing, he didn't want to deal with any of it anymore.

"Where are they?" Oliver spoke.

Draco didn't even bother to look at the other man. "You have legs Wood, go find them."

"This is a bloody manor!" he exclaimed. "It will take me hours to find them in here."

"How is that my problem?" Draco drawled. He took another sip of his scotch as he finally looked up.

Oliver rolled his eyes, turning away from the desk and towards the door. "Insufferable arsehole," he said under his breath as he walked out of the study, shutting the door behind him.

And then Draco was alone.

He was silently cursing Draco and the Malfoy family in general when he suddenly stopped dead in his tracks. The bedroom door straight ahead was wide open; a visibly shaken Hermione sitting on the floor, cradling Ana, was the sight that greeted him. She was stroking her daughter's blonde curls, soothing the little girl. He could clearly see the distress in Hermione's face as she held their daughter close, kissing her forehead and whispering words to make Ana smile. It was beautiful, truly magical; with every move Hermione made, Oliver's heart beat harder and faster. She was more beautiful than he last remembered and Ana, oh she was so much more than he ever imagined. His heart wrenched for the little girl, his decisions of years past coming back and making itself ever-present in the form of his five year old daughter; all the years that he had missed were right in front of him. And Hermione, beautiful Hermione. He didn't deserve her, he was well aware of it, but he had to try. He wasn't going to walk away again; no, he learned his lesson and he'd be damned if he were to ever hurt the two again.

And then she looked up. Her eyes locked with his, blue on brown, piercing holes into each other. Her brown orbs widened with shock and surprise and his with anguish and uncertainty. I'm sorry his piercing blue eyes seemed to plead, so sorry.

This can't be happening her mind reeled. She was breathing heavily, her heart pounding louder and faster within her chest. She was on the verge of hysterics, minus the crying, and felt as if the whole world around her just suddenly stopped. The past came rushing back, everything from their first kiss to the last goodbye, the pain so fresh within her. Her heart broke a million times over with every minute they spent staring at each other, the pain inside nearly unbearable. She would've fainted if it wasn't for her daughter.

Sensing the sudden tension and the rapid increase of her heartbeat, Ana turned to Hermione. "Mummy," she spoke softly, worry clearly present in the little girl's face. She turned to where her mother was staring and saw a man she had never seen before in her life, but who looked increasingly familiar, standing a few meters away.

Her mother broke out of her reverie and pulled herself together. She turned her daughter's attention towards her and whispered softly in her ear.

"Mummy loves you, ok? Be a good girl and play with your new toys. I'll be back soon." Her daughter nodded as she slid off her lap and ran towards the pile of dolls and stuffed animals.

All the while Oliver's eyes had never lifted from Hermione. He watched as she slowly stood from the floor, her eyes once again locking with his. He breathed harder as she walked towards him, closing the door behind her. His heart skipped a beat as she came within arm's distance to him.

"Hermione," he whispered.

And she slapped him, hard. Pain and anger washed away the shock and surprise; she was left with a broken heart and a personal vendetta.

"That's for Ana," she said maliciously, her nostrils flaring. Years of pent up anger suddenly had their chance to break free.

"I deserve that," he looked defeated and broken. "I'm sor-"

She slapped him again, this time harder than the first. The sting of the slap coursed through his whole body, the pink handprint visible on his pale cheek. Tears were slowly streaming down her face; her breathing became ragged and forced.

"That's for me," she croaked out, her reserve slowly breaking.

"Hermione," he tried again.

Her arm went up to slap him a third time but he caught it swiftly this time around. She struggled to break free from his grasp, but he just held on tighter. I'm not letting you go this time he thought as his tears silently fell. The more she struggled, the harder he held her.

She pounded against his chest with her left arm, her sobs engulfing her body now. Pain coursed through every part of her body, she felt physically sick and weak. How could this be happening? The strings that held her life together were slowly unraveling; Oliver Wood was back. She pounded harder, cursing him through her tears.

He couldn't feel it, none of it. All he felt was the guilt in his heart and the anguish from Hermione. He was so stupid, so bloody stupid. Suddenly he realized that he would trade every Quidditch trophy, every magazine cover, every adoring fan, everything if it meant that he could still call Hermione his. He would give up his entire world for a retake, to be able to pick correctly, to make the right decision, to undo the damage. To hell with Quidditch.

She fell into his arms then, her sobs racking her body. He held her tight, crying along with her as they fell to the floor clinging onto to one another.

They sat there for a few minutes to let their tears subside and allow the shock of the moment really sink in. And then she started yelling. They fought, yelled, called each other appalling names, and shed a tear or two in between. Hermione was so distraught with emotions that she was unable to contain herself; every single emotion that she had been feeling for the past four years, from depression and sorrow to anger and regret, all spilled out of her mouth. She cursed him for leaving her, for leaving their daughter, for choosing what he did, for not returning sooner; she was a babbling mess, but her words pierced Oliver straight through the heart.

He could do nothing but listen and weep silently to himself; she wouldn't let him get a word in edgewise, and besides what could he really say? He had realized early on that a simple apology would not suffice, but he had to try. He held her closely and tried desperately to calm the angry witch. A steady stream of whispered "I'm sorry, so sorry" escaped his lips, not feeling like he could say or do anything else. He just wanted to make it better.

"Mummy," Ana's little voice broke through the screaming and yelling. Her eyes were watering, instinctively feeling the pain that her mother must have felt. Hermione straightened out then, untangling herself from Oliver and wiping the tears from her eyes as best she could. Her daughter ran to her then, tears now flowing freely from her eyes.

"Shh don't cry, love," she whispered, picking up her daughter.

Oliver just stared at the two with shock and awe; he hadn't seen his daughter since she was a one and now she was a beautiful little five year old. His heart ached at the thought of this—how many firsts had he missed? He was a complete stranger to his own daughter; knowing Hermione, he knew that she hadn't mentioned him to Ana. And who could blame her really? It was a god-awful thing that he did and his daughter didn't deserve to feel abandoned and unloved by her father.

Ana wiped her tears away with the sleeve of her pajamas. She looked at the man in front of him and Oliver just nearly lost it. She was definitely Hermione's daughter, no doubt about that, but so much of her was him as well. They had the same eyes and nose, her hair color was a mix of both her parents and her facial structure was very much his. It was so unreal for him, to be standing so close to Hermione and Ana after such a long absence.

"Who are you?" Ana asked bluntly. Hermione could see the pain in Oliver's eyes, the knowledge that his daughter had no idea that he was her father was probably killing him inside.

Hermione's heart pounded nervously; this was it, the moment of truth. She knew that she couldn't keep the identity of her father a secret from Ana her entire life, but she wasn't ready to face it so soon. How could she tell her? Where would she even begin? Mustering up all her courage she finally spoke.

"We've got a lot to discuss," she said, turning around and heading back into Ana's room. Oliver, still silent after all that had occurred, followed them into the bedroom.

A slight knock at the door stirred Draco from his thoughts. Hermione, Oliver and Ana appeared in front of him, bags packed and ready to go. Oliver and Ana smiled happily at one another, laughing and just enjoying each other's company; Hermione held a strained smile on her face, a façade of happiness. She looked run down and tired, but she was holding it together for the sake of her daughter.

Hermione nudged Ana forward; the little girl ran to Draco, threw her arms around his neck, and gave him a tight hug.

"I'm sorry Mr.Malfoy," she apologized. "I don't really hate you."

Draco chuckled softly at her sincerity and innocence. He patted her back and untangled her arms from around his neck. He held her hand and walked her to around his desk, letting her go to run back to her father and mother. Father. It took everything in him to not scowl or curse Oliver Bloody Wood.

Said father walked up to Draco then. He stared blankly at the Slytherin and held a hand out, as if to thank the other man and shake his hand. Draco merely glared at him, arms crossed indignantly over his chest. With just a cool stare, he easily reminded the Quidditch star of his threats from earlier on. Oliver clenched his outstretched hand, pursed his lips, and nodded lightly.

Hermione just looked at him, not knowing really how to go about with this goodbye. She nodded curtly to him, he following her actions; his eyes were cool and dark, unreadable to Hermione. She didn't want to think of their fight from the day before or the kiss from earlier; she was too tired to think or feel much of anything at that moment.

With suitcases in hand, the family turned away from the silver haired man and headed towards the fireplace. Right as Oliver and Ana stepped in, Hermione turned back to look at Draco. He was leaning against his desk, staring idly at the carpet beneath his feet.

"You two floo ahead," she said to the pair. She let go of her daughter's hand and smiled weakly at Oliver. "I'll follow in a few minutes." The two grabbed a pinch of powder and flooed out of Malfoy Manor and into Hermione's flat.

"So it went well then," it was more of a statement than a question. She turned back to look at the other man. Now what?

"Thank you," she said softly moments later. Draco shrugged his shoulders, nonchalant as ever. She walked slowly towards him. "Thank you," she repeated more firmly this time, grabbing his hand and squeezing gently. He looked at her this time as his lip curled into what must have been a half smile.

"Don't mention it," and he was being serious. He had no desire of ever speaking about this failed marriage proposition again. What was he thinking? That this whole thing would actually work? Frankly, it was rather embarrassing to think that this marriage would actually be believable.

"You definitely are one of a kind, Malfoy," she chuckled to herself and shook her head.

He smirked at her. "Well of course," he responded in his usual arrogant air. "We Malfoys are truly something special."

"Arse," she hit him playfully on the arm. It was unbelievable to think of Hermione and Draco's current relationship; in a matter of a few short weeks it had transformed into something akin to friendship. "You are arrogant, childish, bratty, insufferable, and annoying; you are still so much like your old Hogwarts self. And yet there's something so entirely different about you, so much better than what you once were. Thank you for opening up to me," she smiled her and looked down, a bit embarrassed of the amount she was telling him. "It's the best Christmas present I've received in a long time."

"Likewise Granger," he smirked. "Especially the bratty and annoying bit." Her head shot up, her eyes slightly peeved and indignant. He wore his classic smirk and winked at her. She smiled lightly at his joke; a few weeks ago she would have angrily flooed out of the Manor, but they were above that now. No more petty childish antics.

"You've raised a wonderful child, Granger," he added. "You both deserve happiness."

Silence. The air was heavy with awkward tension and…and what?

"I should go," she choked. Keep it together Granger her mind reprimanded. A rush of feelings and emotions swept through her; she had to get out fast, before she'd get lost within it.

She hurriedly turned around and headed for the fireplace. A firm hand stopped her from moving forward, turning her back around and bringing her a little closer to him.

They stared at each other for a bit, unsure of what to say or how to react. He suddenly raised his hand to her cheek, a battle raging within him. His grey eyes were stormy, his face expressionless. Hermione held her breath, a slight pink tinge forming on her cheeks. He moved his hand to the back of her head, her brown curls entwined within his long slender fingers. She closed her eyes then and breathed deeply, accepting whatever happened next. He pulled her to him, and kissed her gently on the forehead. His lips lingered a bit before he pulled away and rested his chin atop her head.

"Apparate, Hermione," he whispered softly.

She pulled away and looked him sternly in the eyes, as if he had just gone crazy. And he may have just done that. If she remembered correctly, no one other than a Malfoy, not even Blaise Zabini, was allowed to apparate into or out of Malfoy property. That's just not what Malfoys did; trust came hard for them, it just wasn't in their nature to trust a non Malfoy enough to grant them that special access. And if Hermione had heard right, Draco Malfoy had just allowed her that privilege.

She smiled up at him as it suddenly dawned on her: he trusted her. She was speechless, her eyes expressing everything she was unable to voice.

"Merry Christmas Hermione Granger," Draco started, his trademark smirk ever present as she pushed slightly away from him. She smiled, a true genuine smile. No, she thought, this is the best Christmas gift I've received.

"Merry Christmas Draco," she responded as she apparated out of the Manor.

And for the second time that night, Draco Malfoy was left alone in his study.