…………………………………………

Without You

…………………………………………

Hermione Granger had been on the covers of all the magazines Draco Malfoy had seen for the past month. Those lovely brown eyes haunted him every moment and he could swear that the smile that curled those peach colored lips was taunting him.

The most recent magazine she was in was Witch Weekly. The cover title read:

Hermione Granger, Most Eligible Witch of The Year

She was in a blood red gown with the straps falling off those pale, freckled shoulders, and she wore matching hand gloves. Her long hair was in thick waves down her back, and the make-up she had on enhanced those eyes and lips seductively. She was sitting in a chaise lounge and the dress was slit from her thigh and fell open to reveal a long pale leg and feet adorned with matching strapped stilettos.

Draco had never seen her look so alluring, but underneath the beautiful face, he could see an emptiness; her eyes didn't shine the way they had during her school days. Maybe it was the years, but they were barely twenty-five and still young. He had to admit that his life was lonely. Oh sure, he had plenty of lady friends, but they didn't mean anything important to him. Only two women had mattered in his life, and he had lost them both. One of those women was sitting in a magical picture in front of him.

He skimmed through the article inside after staring at her large photo for a long moment—watching her smile and wink and pout her lips—but then decided to read the entire thing. He hadn't seen her up close for a long time, so he indulged himself in reading some things about her, granted that many were probably made up by the writer.

Bookworm No More

By Rita Skeeter

The last remaining third of the triad that had been formed with 'the chosen one' Harry Potter and Ronald Weasley, granted me a personal one on one interview in her brand new, sumptuous flat. She is single and fabulously enjoying her bachelorettehood at the age of twenty-five. Through her years at Hogwarts, she hadn't cared much for her looks, but after the war, she underwent what muggles would call a "metamorphosis."

Her looks changed dramatically and she easily became one of the most beautiful and sought after women in our society. Though a very intellectual at heart, she can now be found at the heart of society, attending with single, handsome, rich men to openings of restaurants, museums, parties, and plays. At the moment, there is no man in her life, and she mentions that there is no hope for her and childhood beau Viktor Krum, who just recently announced his engagement to rich and beautiful Hannah Abbott, daughter of renown healer Jack Abbott.

Ms. Granger quoted, "I wish Viktor the best. He was always a great friend and a wonderful boyfriend. I hope he and Hannah are happy together." This was said with no malice at all, surprising, for Mr. Krum appeared to be hopelessly in love with Hermione only six months ago. After their impromptu break-up Hermione has been linked with Cormac McLaggen and Blaise Zabini for the past month, but she confirms that these two handsome gentlemen are only close friends whom she likes to spend time with whenever they are available.

Hermione lives in a large, luxurious flat in a secret location which yours truly was exclusively invited to. Her taste in style and design are exquisite. Her plans for the future are very clear, for she has just signed a contract with famous witch fashion designer Mali Jenkins so that she can model her designs and be photographed for ads in various witch style magazines.

It appears that she wants to busy herself so that the memories of the rest of her triad do not haunt her every waking moment. She kept her thoughts about the deaths of Harry Potter and Ron Weasley private, but when asked about them, it is obvious that she is still in mourning, for those two men had been her best friends and brothers for nearly nine years. Her fame grew as the second war approached, and skyrocketed when it was known that she was the one who created the spell that helped Harry Potter defeat you-know-who.

Hermione refused to answer any questions concerning the war and those few years after the war when she disappeared from the face of this earth. That time she spent away are a secret from everyone and I doubt that there is a single person who really knows where she was. Though she is thankful for her health, she let me know that the price she paid for her life came at the expense of her loved ones and that was a price that she wishes no one will ever have to pay. She lives her days to the fullest and honors those that gave their lives for her.

But Hermione Granger's last comment to me came as a question.

What good is fame when you can't enjoy it with the ones you held dear?

My answer to her was that we move on and find other people to love, though we will never forget those we hold close to our hearts. There was man love Hermione Granger spoke of that she never forgot, but she chose to keep the name of the lucky man to herself. One can only speculate as to whom this man was, and Hermione guaranteed us that this love was past and that she only thought of it now as a fond memory. We wish Ms. Granger the best and hope that she finds true love someday.

Draco sighed heavily and closed the magazine, turning it away so that he wouldn't have to see that face that troubled him even in his dreams. Rita Skeeter was no longer the self-proclaimed arch enemy of Hermione Granger. She'd had almost all the exclusives of Hermione for the past few months so the two were at peace with each other.

He wasn't even aware that he was sneering at the last words he had just read. He knew who that nameless man had been. Oh, he had a name all right, but Draco knew that Hermione probably wanted to forget all together. After the war, he had spent a year in the states and had bumped into her while in Miami, Florida. They had spent so many nights together, talking, having dinner, going to muggle movies. He had felt the broken shards of his heart begin to heal with the prospect of a new love in his life, for he had lost the one before to the war.

But Draco suspected that Granger had never really intended to find someone to love in him. Even though they had gotten to know each other, she had always kept her distance. Just like the photo on this magazine, her eyes had been distant and a tad dull whenever they had gone out. Then she had left. Hermione had only left a note on the bed after a night of passion where she apologized and told him that her heart was incapable of ever loving anyone again. That she was sorry but it was for the best that she left him alone.

He hadn't seen her in nearly four years, and there was not a day that passed by when he didn't think of her, dream of her, remember the feel of her skin under his fingertips, the taste of her lips… he snarled in frustration. He was driving himself crazy with those thoughts. She hadn't felt anything for him like Skeeter said in the article, had she even remotely cared, she would've stayed and tried things out with him.

"Sir?"

Draco looked up at his secretary and was aware that he was scowling meanly and the young girl looked frightened. He let out a slow breath and slowly relaxed. "What is it?" he asked heavily.

"I just wanted to remind you that you have theatre tickets for tonight. Would you like me to contact a female friend of yours to go with you?" she asked.

Draco shrugged. "See if you can get Amarie Zabini. Send her a dozen roses with the invitation," he said with a wave of his hand. Amarie Zabini was Blaise Zabini's cousin; Draco had dated her for about a month last year, but she was a social butterfly who wanted to remain single for as long as she could. He was fine with that; he wasn't looking to get with anyone either.

He turned the magazine over and stared at Hermione again. It was like hitting himself on the head with a hammer—yes, he knew what a hammer what a hammer was and what its function was too—but it didn't matter. This particular hammer was the kind that you wanted to hit yourself with.

Just seeing her from far away was good enough for him.

………

Then that evening he saw her up close at the theatre. She was wearing a jade green form-fitting gown of satin with a corset style that cinched her waist and gave her the shape of an hourglass, with thick straps that nearly fell off her shoulders. The skirt trailed in a long line behind her and on her feet she wore a pair of sparkling strapped heels. Around her neck she wore a necklace of pure silver and green emeralds and he wondered where she had gotten that from. Her hair was in heavy curls and held up on one side with a butterfly pin.

She looked beautiful; like some sort of jade goddess he only saw in his dreams. His perusal was halted when he saw on whose arm she was. Adrian Pucey, ex-Slytherin and a rich pureblood. His father had been a Voldemort follower who had died in the beginnings of the war, and his mother was the owner of Witch Weekly. Draco had honestly never trusted him those few years they had shared in school.

He wondered if Hermione had any interest in Pucey at all—or maybe he was just another "close" friend of hers like Zabini and McLaggen.

"Draco, dear, your eyes are supposed to be on me. It wouldn't do my image good if the camera's caught you eyeing another woman," Amarie said quietly, she turned to gaze at him with those azure eyes that stood out because of the short black curls framing her pretty face.

"It appears that every woman here radiates beauty, but none like you, my dear," Draco said with a smirk, bringing her hand to his lips.

"No," she said snootily. "I saw your eyes when you spotted her, Draco. There's no use in denying it. I just hope that none of those vultures notice you too," she spat quietly.

Draco seethed in silence, regretting having invited this vain prima-Donna on this date. "Come along, darling, let's go say hello to an old friend of mine," he said, pulling her along before she could protest. He watched Hermione as they approached and felt a stab of anger when she barely reacted at all.

"Draco and Amarie, I didn't know you two would be here tonight," Adrian said in surprise, his eyes running over Amarie appreciatively.

"Hello Adrian," Amarie purred, looking at Hermione with a slight sniff. "Who is this?" she asked, nodding towards Hermione as if she wasn't of importance.

"This is my beautiful Hermione, I'm surprised you have to ask when she's been on so many covers of magazines—" He turned to Hermione and kissed her hand. "This is Amarie Zabini and I hazard to guess that you remember who Draco is?"

Hermione nodded once. "I may remember who he is," she said, staring right back at Draco whose eyes looked as if they wanted to burn a hole right through her. "It's good to see you, Draco," she said distantly.

Draco just nodded once but said nothing. Then he turned to look at his date and smirked slightly. "Shall we go to our seats, darling?" he asked her.

Amarie smiled and nodded, looking at Hermione darkly before wrapping her arm around Draco's and walking away.

Adrian gave Hermione a curious look and sighed. "He's in love with you," he said dryly.

Hermione looked at him sideways and then smiled sexily when a reporter approached and asked for her picture and a short interview. Once they were gone she shook her head. "He can't love someone who doesn't have a heart."

"What do you mean you don't have a heart?" Adrian murmured. "Do you think I don't know about the orphaned children you donate half of your paychecks to?"

Hermione glared at him. "You have no right to investigate me or what I do with my money. I help those children because they need it, but I can't love anyone anymore. I lost everything and it closed me off to ever letting anyone back into my heart. Now, if you don't mind, I want to see this show in peace. If you can't handle that, I'm sure any man here would be more than happy to—" She smiled sexily and fluttered her lashes at some men nearby before turning back to Adrian, "—accompany me for the remainder of the night."

Adrian nodded and decided to drop the subject. "Just let me tell you one last thing before I drop this completely," he said. Hermione gave him a bored look. "If you were half of the hero I heard you were during the war against Voldemort, then you would give yourself a chance. You had a heart once upon a time and if anyone can find it, Draco Malfoy can. I saw that shine in your eyes when you saw him, even though you barely reacted at all. Give yourself a chance."

"Why do you care so much about what I do or don't do about my heart of ice?" Hermione asked him in annoyance.

"I care because you're my friend, aren't you? Very few people know about the fact that you helped hide me when I turned in information to help in the war," Adrian said as they began to walk towards their box seats.

Hermione's lips twitched into a small smile. "Draco deserves someone who can love him completely and who doesn't have so many issues in her past. I'm not that person. I can't just forget all that happened and be happy and carefree, it's not that easy. I can't love him."

"You can. You just need to let go," Adrian said before they made it towards their seats and he helped her into hers.

To Hermione's annoyance, Draco and his date were seated right next to their box and she could feel his eyes on her, angry and hurt. She didn't know why he was reacting like a spurned ex-boyfriend. She had been clear with him from the very start. She hadn't been looking for any kind of relationship and that was why she had decided to leave, before he got too attached.

It seemed to Hermione that she should've left sooner because apparently even Adrian could tell that Draco was in love with her. She schooled her face into a cool mask of indifference and smiled as she leaned against Adrian's arm, knowing that Draco was still watching. It was better for him that he became disappointed in her now. If he continued to have hope, he would be hurt far too much.

Hermione couldn't deny that after four years, Draco looked absolutely handsome. But that was the only appreciation Hermione could afford. She felt as if there was a void where her heart had been and that was something she couldn't really help.

An hour into the show, she couldn't concentrate. It was a beautiful tragedy that reminded her of her life, but her mind was elsewhere. Three bloody guesses where. She really didn't understand why it was happening.

"I'm going to the ladies room, I can't concentrate with our dear Mr. Malfoy staring a hole into my head," she said quietly.

Adrian's eyes slid towards the ex-Slytherin prince and he noticed him turn away quickly. He smirked. "He's jealous. I can tell. It's so very obvious," he said with a small chuckle.

Hermione shrugged. "Don't worry about me if I don't come back. I'll just meet you at the after party," she said before moving stealthily towards the exit without anyone noticing.

Adrian turned his attention towards the show, but a few moments later he noticed that Malfoy was already gone from his seat. He smiled. He was right. If there was anyone who could find that heart of ice inside of Hermione Granger and melt it, Draco Malfoy could.

……

Hermione brushed back her silky hair from her shoulders and stared at the woman in the mirror. Hermione Jane Granger was all grown up. The woman she saw now was a stranger. She didn't have many close friends except for Adrian and Blaise. It was curious and bitterly ironic that she had found friendship again in two males. She had no female friends and all the women she knew either hated her for who she was and what she had, or they wanted to be like her and were complete hypocrites.

Her life was dull and to fill the empty voids in her frozen heart, she spent her time with orphaned children who had lost their parent to the war and those who had been also hurt in the struggle to survive a fight where they had been civilians. Doing those things made her feel remotely better about herself, but still, every day that passed, her heart was slowing down and she was dying inside.

She wasn't suicidal, but she wondered sometimes if it would be better if she just ended her misery. It wasn't like anyone would cry for her over her grave. Well, maybe Blaise and Adrian would miss her to some degree, but no one else. She sighed heavily before leaving the lavish ladies room. She had been in there for about fifteen minutes already, thinking about her failed life.

She had to admit that those few days she had spent with Malfoy had made her feel more alive than she had ever felt. Maybe that was why she had decided to end things with him. She had been afraid of what Draco would become to her and she didn't want to lose anymore people she cared about. If she lost anymore loved ones, she was sure she would off herself without a thought.

Being with Malfoy had been like touching a livewire. He had been pure lust. Raw passion. More than once had she woken up feeling sore and tired after spending a night with him and more than once had they had to use repair charms on her hotel room. Passion was all she had been able to offer him back then. Now, she couldn't offer him anything. It just wasn't in her to make the effort.

As she stepped out of the ladies room, she regained her seductress composure and put a sway into her walk as she made her way towards the lobby. She wasn't going back to the show, she just wasn't in the mood to see it anymore. Her eyes swept the second floor as she made her way to the majestic staircase and her step faltered slightly when she spotted a familiar face.

He wasn't looking at her, but he was gazing down at the first floor. Once again she had to admit that he looked good. He may have been stuck up in his younger years, but the boy had always had style when dressing. She wasn't afraid of being alone with him, so she squared her shoulders and walked towards him.

She stood there for a moment without speaking, but judging by the tightness in his shoulders, she wondered if he knew she was there. "How has life been treating you?" she asked as she stood behind him.

"Do you really care? Or is this just a preliminary for useless small talk?" he asked bitterly.

Hermione rolled her eyes. "Sweet Merlin, forget I asked," she muttered before she began to walk towards the staircase again.

"Running away? Is that all you're good at?" Draco called before she was too far away.

That stopped her completely. "There was nothing I saw that made me want to stay," she said darkly. The rebuke was hard and cold, the way she was feeling now. And she was satisfied to see the hurt in his eyes before it was gone in the next instance. He was as cold and ruthless as she and he knew how to mask his feelings as well or even better than her.

"What happened to you, Granger? What happened to the Hermione you were before the war?" he asked her, his eyes burning with intensity.

"She died with all my loved ones. The Hermione I was in school is gone and there's nothing but a shadow left now," she replied with a shrug, as if she could care less.

"Was it all for nothing?" he asked quietly.

"What?" she questioned, genuinely puzzled.

"All that happened between us those days after the war. When we were together. You felt nothing then?" Draco asked softly, taking a step towards her.

Hermione stared at him. "The pain was still raw. You were a welcome distraction from all that I felt—the confusion, anger, despair. Time passed and began to heal the wounds; the problem was that if left me bereft. Now I don't feel anything," she said with a small shake of her head. "I'm sorry that you were expecting more from me, but there's nothing I could've offered you. My heart no longer beats. I'm dead inside," she replied.

"I guess I was expecting more from you, the Great War hero, one of the people responsible for the peace the wizarding world is enjoying now," he said with a shake of his head. "I pity you."

Those words made something deep inside her shake but she didn't show it. She didn't care. She parted her lips to give him a piece of her mind, but he cut her off. "I wanted you, back then, did you know? As more than some occasional romp between the sheets. I wanted more."

"Move on, Draco. Dwelling in the past is no good for your sanity. Believe me, I know," she said before leaving him standing there and walking to the first floor.

Draco watched her go and felt the insane urge to scream profanities at her, but there was no use and he didn't want to make a spectacle of himself. Maybe he would knock some sense into her at the after party.

……

Adrian slid his hands up the bare skin of her back. "Why so tense, my sweet?" he asked.

Hermione sighed heavily and told him about her conversation with Draco. "I felt something. When he said those words to me, I felt something," she replied as they stood out on one of the balconies in the grand room where the after party was being held.

"That's good, isn't it?"

"No, it's not good," she bit out. "That means I bloody care about what he thinks. I don't want that! I don't need that," she spat angrily. "I'm done caring for people. I don't want to go through the pain of losing one more person I care about."

"Ah, so you do care for him," Adrian said smartly, his greenish eyes sparkling merrily.

Hermione shot him a glare. "I don't want to care. I don't want to care. I don't want to care!" she ranted. "We're wrong for each other. And in the long run, we'll only hurt each other more."

"You don't know that. He's waited for you these four years. What if he gets tired of waiting? What if he finds someone new to care about? Are you prepared to lose him to another woman? Wouldn't it be just as bad as losing him the way you lost Potter and Weasley?" Adrian asked smartly.

Hermione took the offered champagne when a waiter offered it to her. She took a moderate sip while Adrian stared hard at her. "Do you really want to die alone?" he asked softly.

The dainty glass shattered in her hand and Adrian took a step back when he felt the force of her magic shiver over his skin where his hand had been resting on her shoulder.

"I need to be alone," she said quietly, deliberately threatening.

Adrian nodded. "I didn't mean to upset you. What I say to you is out of friendship and love for a friend. Just think about what I said," he said before walking back into the hall.

Furious. That was the only word to describe what she felt at the moment. Not just because of what Draco had said to her, but what Adrian had been drilling her with for the pas two hours since they had arrived at the show. She didn't want to be alone. She didn't want to die alone.

Her magic was on edge and she was having similar reactions to Harry's magic when he had been just a kid. The sky was clouding and she heard the crackle of thunder before the rain began to fall in torrents. Her long hair hung heavily around her, and her dress was completely soaked as she stood there and let the rain wash away her pain.

"Come inside, Granger, or you'll catch a cold," a voice said from behind her.

Hermione didn't turn. "Leave me alone, Malfoy. Just leave me the fuck alone," she spat before storming back into the hall and towards the exit. Everyone who was enjoying the party stopped to stare at her, all wet and with an expression on her face that was fit to scare Voldemort himself.

Draco stepped back into the grand hall himself with a look of puzzlement on his face before he walked after her. Why had she been so angry? Had she been the one to precipitate the storm? Things like that didn't happen unless the witch or wizard was in extreme distress or anger and were powerful enough to affect nature. Merlin had been one of the most powerful wizards to ever have done that, as well as Potter and Dumbledore himself. Realizing that Hermione was as powerful as the aforementioned men amazed him.

Draco thought twice about going after her, then he worked up his courage and started for the main doors. The people inside the hall watched him go and began to murmur amongst themselves.

And in one corner an ex-Slytherin with green eyes smiled to himself.

Hermione needed a knock back into reality and she was about to get it.

………………………………

"Granger! Granger wait!" Draco called as he ran after her across the street.

She stopped and whirled around, her wand jammed into the side of his neck. "Stay. Away. From. Me."

He held up his hands. "Things aren't over between us," he grit out.

"They have been over for four years. You just don't know when to let go," she said darkly. "I don't want you. I don't want to be with you. Four years without you have shown me that I don't need you."

Draco watched the raindrops fall over her smooth, beautiful face. It was like watching her shed tears. But by the way he had seen her act, it had become obvious that she no longer cried, no longer felt.

"I was destined to be alone. I lost everyone and everything I loved. Even Crookshanks," she said with a bitter laugh. "I don't need you disrupting my life and everything I have gained."

"You don't have a life," Draco said with a sneer. "You think that parties, money, and men is something that can be called a life? Why don't you open your eyes and see that? Stop being so bloody stupid and give yourself a chance—"

"A chance to what?" she spat, moving her wand away from him, but keeping it in her hand. "To be happy? With who? You?" she asked cynically. "What is it that you truly feel for me, Malfoy?" she asked as the rain came down harder, making it difficult to see each other clearly.

"Make the rain stop," he said calmly. He was soaked through too and his hair hung flat over his eyes. He pushed at it in agitation so that he could look at Hermione.

"What makes you think I'm doing it?" she asked.

Thunder and lightning struck a nearby tree, bursting it into flames.

Hermione stared at the slowly doused flames, and the damage she had caused to the tree. "I can't," she finally said. "Once it starts, I can't just turn it off like a switch. I have to go home and relax."

"Why do you fight so hard against your own happiness?" he asked as he stepped to her, his hands moving up her bare arms.

Hermione shrugged. "You think you're my happiness?" she asked disdainfully. "Please Malfoy. You and I are entirely different. We're worlds apart and always will be. I don't know why you think otherwise."

Before she could keep saying more discouraging things, he leaned forward and kissed her. He kissed her as if he would crawl into her mouth, his tongue sweeping over every inch of her mouth, tasting the rain and her lips combined. Hermione didn't reply right away, instead staying submissive and letting him do what he wanted to her.

"Why do you hurt me this way?" he murmured.

"So that you can move on and be happy."

"I have moved on. I've found someone to share my life with," he said haughtily.

"Liar," she said.

Draco kissed her again and she wasn't even aware that he had apparated them out of the rain and into his Manor. He trailed his hands down her back to the strings that held the corset of her dress in place. Hermione was allowing him this, though she knew that before the night was over, she would leave and never come back.

He was hurting himself by feeding the feelings he felt for her, but she couldn't stop him, even if she wanted to. He trailed his lips down her damp neck and over her bare shoulder, shoving her heavy dress off of her. All she was wearing was a pair of lace panties, her expensive necklace and her shoes. He pulled away only to nearly tear off his own clothes in a flurry of speed before he pressed himself against her.

Hermione arched her back as his hands wandered to places that hadn't been touched since the last time she had been with him. His fingers and hands were gentle as he laid her on the bed and touched her here and there, removing her shoes and running his fingers through her long damp hair. He didn't want to waste time with preliminaries, at least not when he knew that this could very well be the last time he was ever allowed to touch her this way, and Hermione couldn't agree more as he spread her thighs and surged into her with a choked groan.

All she could manage was a moan that was half a gasp as he started to move. He kissed every inch of her face, sliding her hands above her head as he tucked his head in the crook of her neck. His breath was hot against her cool skin and her fingers dug into his hands as he hit the right spot at exactly the right time.

She had given up her fight easily, but she had wanted that feeling again. The feeling of being whole, of forgetting that her life was a disaster, that she was alone and had no one who would ever fill that void. It was foolish to keep thinking that, especially when he had offered her to be the one who would find her heart, but there wasn't much she could do about. The fear of losing someone else was just too much.

Draco's movements had sped up, causing her breath to speed up too, her hips meeting his in a frantic dance of friction and pleasure as he bit into her shoulder, not hard enough to break the skin, but enough to sizzle her nerves. He kissed her again, his hands leaving hers to grope at her body, his movements faltering when the first spasms hit her, tightening her body around him.

His lips met hers again, trembling and barely touching. In that moment, Hermione wondered what it would be like to actually let him into her life, to give him what was left of her cold, frozen heart. What would her life be like? Was she even capable of loving again? No. She couldn't. So there was no use wondering. Then every thought was wiped from her mind as they both exploded in pleasure.

They lay there, entwined and shivering with the aftereffects of their little romp, everything quiet, the rain outside subsiding. Hermione blinked and ran a hand over her face as Draco moved off her and sat on the bed, his back to her. "You're not nearly as cold as you think," he said. He knew what was coming and what she would do. He hadn't harbored the hope that he would be able to hold her in the afterglow.

She scoffed softly. "I hope you and that other girl you're moving on with are happy. Especially if you're so prone to cheating on her the way you are," she spat before getting up and drying her gown before transfiguring it into an identical over coat that would cover her from head to toe. She was angry. Angry because she had allowed herself to be weak and for giving him more hope when it was all hopeless. She knew he was lying about moving on.

"Have a good life, Malfoy, when you move away. I know I will," she said before apparating home.

Draco cursed himself and ran a hand through his nearly dried hair. Of course he wasn't moving on. She was the only person he wanted to move on with. He was just as stubborn as she was and he wouldn't give up. One more try and if she said no, he would let it go. No matter how much it killed him.

He had to do something to get her to see him, really see him.

He knew he could give her her heart back if only she let go of the past and the pain.

…………………………………………………

"Where's your Christmas spirit?" Blaise Zabini asked as he sat sprawled on her expensive red couch.

Hermione looked up at him, then around at her bare flat. There was no tree, no ornaments, no Christmas spirit. She shrugged. "Just call me Scrooge."

Blaise smirked. "Come on, sweetheart, we need to buy you a tree with all those ridiculous ornaments. You need to stop moping. What happened between you and Malfoy was over three months ago. Move on. We'll have Christmas dinner together."

"Who says I'm moping?" she asked testily.

"I can tell, baby. You forget that I know women fairly well."

Hermione gave him a bored look. "I'm going out. When I come back, you better be gone. Happy Christmas," she said sarcastically.

Blaise smirked to himself and stood. He had a fair amount of things to do, and one of them happened to be his gift to Hermione. The poor girl needed Christmas, no matter what she said about the whole 'bah humbug' deal.

First, he needed to write a last minute letter to Santa.

………………………………………

He watched her skate around the frozen pond in the park. The trees were barren and not many people were there, seeing as the sun was going down. She was wearing a thick white coat, with fur on the edges, a pair of tight black pants and white skates, a white hat on her head.

Her long curling hair blew around her as she skated in a circle, speeding up little by little. He'd been thinking about her these past few months. But he agreed with her way of thinking, at least to a certain degree. He needed to get her out of his system at any cost.

Though he kicked himself mentally, he was mesmerized by the look of intense concentration on her face as she did a magnificent twist in the air and landed with such an ease, that she made look simple. His boots crunched on the snow and the frozen grass as he approached her.

"I didn't know you could skate," he commented.

"There's a great deal you don't know about me. And though I knew you could skulk, I was beginning to wonder when you would show yourself," she said as she began to slow down little by little.

"How long have you known that I was there?"

"Since you arrived. I saw your hair and let me tell you that you're hard to miss," she said as she stopped completely and looked him in the eye. "How can I help you?" she asked him casually, placing her gloved hands on her hips.

Draco let out a slow breath as the cold air blew around them and made his cheeks go cold. "I wanted to know if you finally left that ridiculous state of mind you were in those few months ago when we met at the theatre again."

Hermione started to skate a small circle backwards, her eyes narrowing. "Are you on that same tired subject? Don't you have somewhere else to be instead of being here, pestering me with stupid questions?" she asked boredly.

Draco sighed; apparently she hadn't changed her way of thinking. "I'm not here to argue with you. Don't go on the defensive. It's Christmas Eve, Granger. Aren't you going to spend it with people who care about you? Or have you stopped believing in Christmas too? I didn't think your bitterness with life stretched that far," he said evilly.

Hermione bit the inside of her mouth in anger. "Get bent," she sneered before skating away from him, towards the other side of the pond.

Draco looked around, checking to see if any muggles were nearby before he transfigured his boots into ice skates and followed her. Keeping his balance wasn't an issue—he was a Quidditch player after all—as he followed right behind her, grabbing her arm and pulling her to him. "Granger—" he started, but was cut off by her angry reply.

"What I do or don't do with my life is none of your business. You and I are nothing to each other, so I don't understand what you're doing here. I never gave you hope. I never said I would give you more than what I have given you so far!"

"And what's that?" he growled, his silver eyes burning into hers, going nose to nose with her as he kept a hold of her upper arms. "Pity fucks? Is that all you're capable of giving now?" he spat.

Hermione shoved at him, eyes alive with anger and though she was loathe to admit, hurt too. She pushed at him, but he was not so easily shoved off. "Unhand me!" she nearly yelled as they also struggled to maintain balance on the ice. "You have no right! No bloody right!"

"I have every fucking right. Goddammit can't you see that I fucking love you?" he screamed at her, freezing her on the spot. It was starting to snow around them and the sun was nearly gone now.

"What?" she asked slowly. Stupid Adrian and Blaise. They had been completely right. Suspecting that Malfoy loved her was one thing, but actually hearing him say it was an entirely different thing. "You're being stupid."

"I came here to ask you for the last time if you won't change your way of thinking. Give me the chance, Granger, let me in. You can't keep like this. You're driving yourself—not to mention me—mad!" he said, voice cracking at the end in despair. "You're what kept me alive those months after the war. I lost everything too, including the woman I was going to marry. You gave me—unwillingly, I know—that small spark of hope that kept me going. Otherwise I would've—" he swallowed hard, debating whether to say it or not. "I would've—"

"Ended up like me," she cut in, anger in her voice.

Draco heard something else though, that tremble that she had lost. That fear of life that they all needed to survive, to get through the day, to have a freaking heart. "You asked me what I was doing here, pestering you? Well, in case you didn't give me the chance, I also came by to say goodbye."

"Why? Where are you going?" she asked, going for nonchalance and failing.

"I'm leaving the country. I'm moving away," he replied.

In that moment she swore she felt a twitch in her so called cold heart. He was leaving? Had her indifference forced his hand? "Where are you going?" she asked quietly.

"I've sold the Manor. I bought a Villa in Ireland. In the country, away from everyone and everything," Draco said, putting his cold hands inside his coat pockets. He noticed the disconcerted look on her face but pushed away the fact that he was willing to stay in order to erase that look off her face. He convinced himself that it was no use. She didn't care that he was leaving.

"I wish you the best of luck," she said uncomfortably.

"I was hoping that you would come with me," he said softly.

Hermione stared at him. "I can't. I don't want to. I have a career and things to do here. You should go. You need to be as far away from me as possible. That way I won't keep hurting you with my words and actions."

"So you do care if you hurt me?" he asked with a smirk.

She had to be honest. After not seeing him for four years, then shagging him once and not seeing him for another three months, she had missed his mannerisms. He was handsome and intelligent, but that's as far as she went. He really needed time away from her. She was on a self-destructive path and she honestly didn't want to take him or anyone else with her.

"Then I came here in vain? Nothing I do or say will change your mind?"

Hermione shook her head. "Just go, I'll only cause you pain. I'm not the best person to have a relationship with. Move on, get married, have children. Do all the things that I'm not capable of doing or giving you," she said, brushing snow off his shoulders.

He moved forward, but she moved back, shaking her head and keeping distance between them. "Don't," she said softly.

Draco wasn't discouraged, even though his cheeks were pink from the cold and his hands felt numb. He moved forward and grabbed her hands, pulling her forward and pressing a gentle kiss to her chin, her nose, her cheeks. Then he kissed her soft and slow on the lips.

He pulled away and just looked at her, beautiful and young in the glow of the park's lights now that it was after dark. "Think about it, Granger. I leave in a week. If you decide that you won't go with me, that you won't give up your past, then this is our final goodbye."

"Draco, don't do this. I refuse to be the evildoer in this little charade that we have been playing. I never promised you anything. And I never told you that I wanted more from anyone. I'm too damaged to make anybody happy now," she said with a slight sneer.

"If you're not there when I go, I'll know that you valued your pain and bitterness over your own happiness. And I know Granger, I know that I can make you happy, if only because I love you like no other man will ever love you. You just have to give me the chance. If you're not there with me, I'll move on and you will only be a distant memory of my past. Take care of yourself," he said before skating towards the edge of the pond and transfiguring his skates back to boots.

Draco turned one last time and gave her a longing look before walking away.

Hermione watched him go and was very aware that her heart was doing a funny little jump in her chest, telling her to go after him. The heart that she had thought frozen, dead, really wasn't. She felt the prickle of tears in her eyes, but they didn't fall. she hadn't cried for years. Not since the day she had buried Ron and Harry.

She'd been a right mess those days, she had cried herself out after the funerals. Never again had she allowed herself to shed a single tear. She wasn't about to do it now. The snow was getting heavier and the wind was picking up, forcing Hermione to realize that she was cold. But she stood there for a long moment, turning Draco's words over and over in her head.

The sun was completely gone and the darkness was nearly black except for the lights around her. She was freezing and she wanted nothing but to go home and have a glass of wine before going to bed. She apparated into her flat, directly into her bedroom so that she could pull off her large coat and her skates. She pulled off her hat and tied her hair into a tail before walking out towards the kitchen.

As she passed her living room, she nearly tripped over her own feet when she saw what had been done to it. The entire room was decorated in the season's colors amd ornaments. There was a big tree by the window, shinning with real icicles, bells, fairies, and spinning golden snitches. What caught her attention the most were the assorted gifts underneath it.

She could hear noises coming from the kitchen and she turned towards them when she saw Blaise, Adrian, and…… "Ginny?" she asked, her heart rising into her throat.

The once red-head was now sporting hair as dark as ebony, making her freckles and eyes stand out. Ginny looked at her and smiled. "Hermione," she said happily.

Hermione looked at the two men behind Ginny. "What's all this?" she asked, waving a hand towards the tree, her shinning living room, and the set dinning table.

"We're here to bring you to life. It took us a while to track down this wild child, but we did it just in time for Christmas," Blaise said with a grin.

"Where have you been all this time?" Hermione asked her.

Ginny had also disappeared after the war, with the only difference that she hadn't returned home. She had last a lot of family too. her parents, Percy, Charlie, and Ron. The twins and Bill had married women they had met a few years before the war, and led something akin to a normal life. Ginny had lost Harry too, yet Hermione didn't know how she had dealt with her losses.

"I've been traveling, on the road across our country and North America. I've seen you on every bloody Magic Fashion magazine for women. You look beautiful in every single one," Ginny said with a grin. "Living the life of luxury, have we?"

Hermione shook her head. "Living an empty life of luxury," she murmured.

Blaise took a step towards her, apparently he knew her more than she had assumed. "What's wrong, love?"

"I saw Malfoy. He's leaving the country," she said quietly. She was already on the brink of breaking down, she just couldn't allow herself to do it in front of them.

"Are you going with him? Did he convince you?" Blaise asked.

Hermione swallowed hard and stared at him. "He found me through you? Why are you two so hell bent on getting us together?" she nearly yelled, anger taking place of the anxiety she had been feeling.

Blaise shook his head. "No sweetheart, please calm down, but we'll talk about it later. Let's just enjoy this dinner that we prepared just for you, okay?"

Hermione glared at him but conceded. The food looked delicious and she didn't know when she would see Ginny again. She'd given up on holiday cheer a long time ago, too. It was depressing to realize that she had basically cut herself off from every warm feeling a human needed to survive. She sat at a table with her closest and only friends and realized again that she wasn't so dead inside.

They spoke about old times, when they hadn't even thought about giving each other the time of day. Of schoolyard crushes and their first loves. Three glasses of the most expensive red wine later, and Hermione was feeling more than tipsy. Her altered state was also making her aware of the fact that her carefully guarded heart was melting piece by piece.

Adrian saw her growing agitation and decided that they had to cut the night short. "Gin, how about you and I go out for a night on the town. I think our Mione needs to get some sleep," he said as they set the dishes to wash and dry themselves.

Ginny nodded and stood, pulling Hermione to her feet and hugging her tightly. "You and I are like peas in a pod. Life dealt us many crushing blows in quick succession, but we're fighters. We're Gryffindors, and we can't give up. Life goes on and we wither move with it and adapt, or we stay in the past and die with it. You and I both know that we deserve better than emptiness. Let him in, Hermione. Give love a second chance," she said before pulling away and walking towards the door.

Adrian kissed her forehead and smiled. "We'll be by you no matter what you decide," he said before walking out with Ginny and leaving her alone with Blaise.

Blaise watched her as she left the dinning room and entered the living room. "Love?" he asked as he walked after her.

"I need to be alone," she said, sitting on the floor with her back against the arm of her favorite red couch.

"Aren't you going to open your presents?" Blaise asked as he looked at the mountain of cheery wrapped boxes.

"Isn't it usually done tomorrow?" she asked snidely. And for the record, she was a mean drunk. "Just go away and leave me alone," she said as she laid her chin on her bent knees.

Blaise ignored her words. "This one here doesn't look like it's going to wait," he said as he pointed to a red and green gift box.

Hermione looked over and realized that there was a small rattle and a bell ringing inside. She sighed heavily but crawled over to the tree on hands and knees. The box looked expensive, and it had holes in strategic places she hadn't seen from far away. She undid the bow and pulled off the top, her already frazzled nerves got worse when she saw what was inside.

"Oh," she practically sobbed, pulling out a black cat with arctic blue eyes that were nearly white. It was a bizarre color of eyes, even for a cat. He was beautiful, with a shinning ebony coat of fur and mellow attitude. The cat was young, but not a baby, and he warmed up to her quickly, the bell on its red collar jingling as he purred.

"Read the card," Blaise said as he handed a white envelope to her.

Hermione hugged the cat and took it reading the card. It said:

His name is Simon, not very original, but he came with the name. He's here to make you realize that you can regain all that you lost. It will never be the same, but you can find a way to be happy with new things. A new life, a new home, a new cat, a new love. We will never replace all that you lost, but we can show you that starting anew is not a bad thing. I'll miss you, baby.

Love,

DM

Hermione dropped the note and set the cat down, watching him as he took a look at his surroundings and began to explore. She took a deep breath and tried to calm down, but her raw feelings couldn't wait anymore as they burst from under the ice. She took a deep shuddering breath and stood, moving towards her sliding door and outside.

Blaise followed her and felt his heart break when she started to sob, giant tears falling from her eyes. She fell to her knees and doubled over as her cries wracked her body. Snow was falling in big clumps, and he realized that she wasn't wearing a coat or shoes; she'd die of hypothermia or something just as bad.

He scooped her into his arms and pulled her inside, waving a hand and closing the door. He wrapped her in a big, warm blanket before hugging her tightly. She cried for a long time, moving from loud sobs, to gentle shudders, and finally just tears.

"Why can't I let him in?" she murmured against his shoulder. "I want to. Merlin, do I want to."

Blaise hugged her tightly. "Go with him. Go with him and let time decide if you two were meant to be. If he's your true happiness," he murmured against her hair.

Hermione took a shuddering hiccup and rubbed the cat when he jumped onto her lap and meowed. "I want to keep helping all those orphans," she whispered.

"And you will," said Blaise.

"Malfoy is moving to the country, I don't know if I can leave everything behind," Hermione said.

"You have to make a decision, love. Either way, you have to decide what you want to do."

Hermione nodded and snuggled into him as the cat curled up on her lap and went to sleep. She had to choose. She had to choose. She had to choose.

…………………………

Draco took a look at his surroundings and smirked. His father never would have thought of living in the country, so far away from society and people. His closest neighbors were a few thousand acres away. The villa was just as big as the manor had been, and he was quite content with it.

The only problem was that he was alone. He had been alone for New Years, Valentine's Day, and he assumed that he would still be for Halloween and the next Christmas.

He had waited for her the day he had left his homeland. But Hermione hadn't been there. It had hurt more than he cared to admit, but there was nothing that could've been done. He wouldn't beg or try to convince her anymore. She was too into her past to realize that she had a future right in front of her. He couldn't wait for her. He could very well get old and die waiting for her to come to him. Besides, there was a pretty little thing next door who had been coming over to tend to the front yard's garden.

She was there in his front yard now. She was pretty, but she was a muggle with absolutely no magical knowledge. He wasn't the way he had been long ago, but he just didn't want to be with another woman who wasn't his stubborn Granger.

"Hello, Mister Malfoy," she said with a shy smile. She was a dark blonde with brown eyes and a slim yet attractive figure.

"Please call me Draco, Cassie. I don't know how many times I've asked you to. You make me feel old," he said with a small smile as she stood and dusted off the dirt from her hands on her faded blue jeans.

"Okay……… Draco. Um… I was wondering…… Well, you see, we're having an Irish Festival and I was wondering if I… if you—Will you go?" she asked, her cheeks going pink.

Draco chuckled. "I'll try to make it, but I can't guarantee you anything. Okay?" he asked.

She nodded and turned to the garden again.

Draco smiled to himself and looked up. He did a double take and wondering if he was going crazy because standing in front of him was none other than the woman of his dreams and nightmares.

"Granger?" he called.

…………

She should've stayed home. She'd been stupid to come here without telling him and without knowing what she was going to see. He had been talking to some girl who was tending to the garden. She was too pretty to be the hired help and she looked as if she had worked on this garden many times before.

Just as she was turning to go, her long white coat blowing in the wind, cat in her arms, he turned and spotted her. She had come to see him very nicely fixed. Tight blue jeans, a red turtle-neck, black furry boots, and her expensive coat. Her hair was in curls, and she hadn't worn much make-up, just enough to show that she was still young and beautiful.

"Granger?" he called, starting towards her.

She shook her head and began to walk towards the apparition point. "I don't know why I came here," she muttered.

"Wait," he said, grabbing her arm and turning her around. "What are you doing here?" he asked, noticing the cat in her arms.

"I don't know," she said with a shake of her head. "I've been thinking about you since the day you left. But I didn't know whether to come here or not."

"You've been thinking about it for eight bloody months? That's ridiculous. Now, what can I help you with?" he asked darkly. He couldn't deny that his heart was beating a mile per minute, but he couldn't just assume that she was here to be with him.

Hermione flinched slightly at the tone in his voice. She looked over at the young woman and noticed that she had stood and was looking at her too. "Who is she?" Hermione asked.

"I don't think it matters. What matters is what you're doing here. You weren't there when I left. It took you eight months to come and see me. Tell me why you're here," he said roughly.

"I was there," Hermione blurted, her voice cracking slightly. "I was there when you left. I had worked up the courage to leave with you, but then I lost it. I was a coward and I didn't stay. I couldn't watch you leave. I went back home and… and I cried," she admitted.

Draco stared at her. "Why are you here?" he asked her again, this time softer. He wanted to know if she was there to stay with him, or if she would leave again.

"I'm here to say I'm sorry," Hermione said. "You made me realize so many things… I don't know where to start."

"Start by telling me that you're here to stay," he murmured, stepping towards her. The cat meowed.

Hermione shook her head. "I can't."

Draco sighed heavily and shook his head. "Then I don't know what you're doing here," he said before turning and walking towards his home.

Hermione followed and glared at the girl when she called Draco. "Draco, will I see you at the festival?" she asked.

"I'll think about it, Cassie. Thank you for your work," he said before he took out his wallet and paid her for her work. "The garden looks great."

Cassie nodded. "You're welcome. I'll see you on Friday," she said before looking at Hermione again and then walking away.

"You didn't let me finish," Hermione snapped as she followed him into the house and set the cat down.

"Finish telling me what? That you haven't let go? That you're only here out of curiosity?" he nearly yelled at her.

"I was going to tell you that I wasn't here to tell you that I wanted to stay. I was here to tell you that I love you, you bloody wanker! If you'd only shut up for a moment, I would've been able to tell you. But no, you're too busy being a dickhead and you're trying to pick up some gardener girl…"

Draco stared at her, his gray eyes going wide. "You're—you're what?" he stuttered.

"You don't expect me to repeat my heartfelt confession," she muttered with a roll of her eyes. "But I guess you don't care," she said, turning for the door and calling for Simon.

Draco grabbed her and whirled her around, pressing his forehead to hers and wrapping his arms tightly around her waist when she tried to push away from him. "Say it again. If only for the sake of my sanity," he murmured.

"Do you believe me?"

"Only if you say it again," he replied.

Hermione sighed heavily. "I'm sorry about all I said and did to you. Knowing that you were gone, because of me was enough to realize that I didn't want you to be hurting. I was just... I was just so scared that I would fall in too deep with you and then I would lose you the way I lost Harry and Ron."

"You still haven't said what I want to hear," he said before he kissed her.

Hermione pulled back to look at him. "Why are you taking me in so easily? Haven't I been the bain of your existence?"

"Yes, but I also never thought I would live to see this day, that you would accept me," Draco replied, kissing her again, longer and hotter this time.

"Are you going to tell me who that gardener girl is?"

"She's my neighbor. She comes down to help tend to my garden," he said evilly.

"I'll tend to your garden from now on," she said with a grin.

"Does that mean that you're moving in with me?"

Hermione smiled. "Maybe. If you tell me why you love me."

"What isn't there to love? I love you for everything that you are. Your strength, your fear, your heart. Everything. I was dying here without you. All I thought about was you."

"Things will never be easy," she said, cupping his face in her hands.

"I know, but we can work through that. I can be your hero, baby. I can be your happiness. If only you'll give me the chance," he said, running his hands through her long hair.

"I've given up everything to be here with you. How can I not? I couldn't be without you either," she murmured before she kissed his chin.

"You'll let me make you happy?"

"Yes."

"You'll be my friend?"

"Yes."

"My lover?"

"Oh yes."

"My wife?"

"What?" Hermione asked abruptly.

"Will you be my wife? Will you have kids with me? Will you be with me until the day I die?"

"The day you die, I'll go with you. You gave me my heart back, and only you will hold it for the rest of my life. I love you, Malfoy. And yes, I will be your wife."

"That's good," he said before he took her in his arms and carried her up the steps. "That's very good."

The End

How was that for a one shot? I hope everyone enjoyed it. I was taking a break from my other fics and gearing up for the ending of 'Make Me Forget His Name,' so I hope everyone enjoyed this long piece. Let me know what you thought and I hope to see you guys at the ending of my best fic up to date.

Byebye