Here we go...last chapter...
Hermione went over to Draco and knelt down in front of him. He didn't look up at her and she wasn't sure what to do. Was he upset about this? His kiss had told her a different story.
"Draco?" she used his name as a question. His only answer was to reach out and take her hand, still keeping his head bent. She took this as a positive sign but his reaction was still disconcerting. Hermione squeezed his hand and spoke quietly again. "Draco - is this okay - it's what we wanted, isn't it?" Draco still didn't speak, he didn't look up and he just nodded his head. Hermione felt a bit emotional at this strange reaction. "What is it then? What's the matter?" she asked, her voice breaking a little.
Now Draco looked up and to Hermione's utter astonishment his eyes were moist, his face pale. He spoke very quietly, not quite meeting her gaze. "I've switched them off - it's a bit of a shock feeling like this."
"Switched them off?"
"I told you - I keep it easy, no real emotions involved," Draco answered. "It's never been like this." He looked down again and Hermione stared at him in shock. He'd told her she was the only one he'd felt anything real for but it hadn't really registered with Hermione that this meant Draco had never had a proper relationship. He'd never been in love! She had trouble comprehending this because of his confident, positive and self-possessed approach to women. So, he was good at the undemanding things, he could charm and seduce any woman with skilled excellence. This was different, this was a different entity and here he was inexperienced and raw and by the look of him it was completely perplexing him.
She didn't know how to help him and for a moment she just knelt in front of him, unsure what to do. She then acted on instinct and leant closer, wrapping her arms around his broad shoulders and pulling him into her. She felt his arms slide around her and he buried his head in her shoulder. He felt tense, she could feel his muscles clenched but after just a few moments in her arms she knew he was relaxing. She felt him loosening against her until he was leaning into her. They didn't have their connection but it didn't matter because this felt as good as when they had. Draco still hadn't spoken but as their embrace lengthened, Hermione knew it would be okay.
Hermione apparated to Draco's house, arriving in the large entrance hall exactly at the arranged time. At first she thought the hall was empty and then she noticed him, sitting on the bottom of the sweeping staircase in his familiar, casual but stylish manner. Like a catalogue model! Hermione could have spent an hour trying to look so impressively styled but she wouldn't have managed it.
"Hey, you," Draco said, affectionately and she gave him a grin.
"Hey, you," she replied. She looked down at herself and waved her hands. "I had to choose a dress myself tonight!" she said, sounding outraged and Draco laughed.
"You did a good job," he jumped up and walked over, looking up and down. "Not quite up to my standard but not bad."
"Wow - thanks!" Hermione said, sarcastically.
Draco smirked at her. "You look beautiful," he said in just the right tone of voice and Hermione rolled her eyes.
"Too late to back track now, Malfoy."
Draco grinned, grabbed her hand and pulled her into the kitchen. Kathy was at the sink and she turned as they came in the room, smiling widely at them.
"Well, here you are!" she said. She then came over and gathered Hermione into a huge hug. "I knew you'd be back."
"You're working so hard for us again," Hermione said, glancing over Kathy's shoulder.
"It's my pleasure," Kathy nodded. "Really it is."
"I'm just going to check on a few things," Draco said. "I'll be back in a minute." He indicated for Hermione to sit down at the large table and she willingly did so, feeling at home in this lovely room.
"It all smells delicious again," Hermione complimented Kathy.
"Thank you." Kathy wiped her hands and took a seat opposite Hermione. "He's prepared something for you so getting the meal down to you will be interesting."
"Down to us?" Hermione asked, curiously. "Down where?"
Kathy smiled and tapped the side of her nose. "You'll know soon enough." She grabbed Hermione's hand and squeezed it. "So, I should be seeing a lot more of you, shouldn't I?" she asked and Hermione bit her lip, feeling a little awkward.
"I hope so," she said.
"Oh, I know so," Kathy nodded again, enthusiastically. "Draco hasn't stopped talking about you." Hermione's eyes widened and she gave a small smile. She was happy to hear Kathy say this and she sincerely hoped it was true because she had been worried about Draco's reaction. She knew he loved her, she had proof of it with the spell broken, but he was still Draco Malfoy. People didn't change beyond recognition overnight and it scared Hermione that Draco might not be able to handle the intensity of their feelings. Kathy's eyes were on her face and Hermione was beginning to wonder if this woman could do Legilimency she was so good at knowing what Hermione and seemingly Draco were thinking. "You needn't worry- I know him and he has never been like this." Kathy stood up and gave Hermione's shoulder a squeeze. Her next words made Hermione's heart pound in her chest. "You're definitely the one and I am as pleased as punch about it."
Draco returned at that precise moment and Hermione couldn't question Kathy any further. "Is everything okay?" he asked Kathy who nodded.
"Fine - you go now and dinner will be ready in ten minutes."
Draco took Hermione's hand and she let him lead her through to the summerhouse. She looked around, drinking in the wonderful, glass room.
"Is this where we are eating?" she asked.
"No." Draco smirked at her, purposely not giving her a more elaborate answer. He lead her to the far side of the summerhouse and to a door that Hermione hadn't even noticed was there. He opened the door and lead her through it, out into the gardens. They followed a small path through some ornate bushes and then out into the proper gardens. It was dusk now, darkness drawing in but the sky still showing hews of colour and light. "Are you warm enough?" Draco asked and Hermione grinned.
"So we're eating in the garden?" she asked but he didn't answer her.
He reached a point half way down the garden and then stepped around a large bush into a slightly less manicured part of the garden. They then walked along the edge of the bush and finally reached the end of the garden which was marked very easily by a small stream. There were several very tall trees here and Hermione looked skyward, somehow sensing that they had something to do with Draco's surprise.
He took his wand out and Hermione watched him curiously. "I thought I owed you a treat and an apology," Draco said.
"How I was - when we broke the spell."
"It was a shock, I know."
"You didn't fall apart though did you?" Draco asked. "It was me collapsing on a chair and not able to answer you."
"You did scare me a little," Hermione confessed. "You can't change your mind!"
Draco's eyes softened and he took her other hand, pulling her closer. "I won't be changing my mind, Hermione, I promise." He let go again and lifted one hand containing his wand. "It wasn't very romantic was it? So I thought I'd make up for it." He waved his wand and Hermione gasped as hundreds of tiny, sparkling, white lights lit up in front of them, showing a path up into the trees. There were smaller wooden planks leading upwards to several platforms, growing larger as they rose higher into the trees. It was beautiful and Hermione felt emotional just looking at it.
"It's gorgeous," she said. "Are we going up there?"
Draco nodded and took her hand again, leading her up the narrow walkway, up to the first small platform. As they ascended again, Hermione felt like she was surrounded by a million tiny, sparkling lights. They reached another platform and Hermione looked down, realising how high they were and they weren't at the top yet.
"Wow - this is amazing!" she said. Draco lead her up again and she held on a bit tighter because now there were really high. The view was wonderful, over the fields to one side and Draco's wonderful house the other. Draco stopped and Hermione stepped onto the top platform. It was big, resting almost on the top branches of the trees. It contained a small, round table and two chairs. The table was laid with a white tablecloth, plates and napkins.
Draco flung his arm outwards. "Madam's table awaits," he said, in an exaggerated, waiter type fashion and Hermione walked past him, giggling. He pulled out her chair for her and then sat opposite before pouring them a glass of wine each. He took a sip of her drink and then looked over at her. "How am I doing on the romantic scale?"
"I think you're doing wonderfully," Hermione said. "What an incredible place to eat dinner!" She received a devastating smile in return and then suddenly, out of the blue, and just like had happened at Hogwarts each dinner time, their plates filled with food. Hermione stared in astonishment. "How did Kathy learn to do that?" she asked.
"She's been practising ever since we planned this," Draco confessed. "I've had my dinner turning up unexpectedly for days."
Hermione chuckled and, as always eat enthusiastically. She was never going to let Draco call her a fork pusher! They talked quietly while they ate but eventually Hermione had to give up because she really was very full. "Kathy is a wonderful cook but I can't let her keep feeding me or I won't fit in my clothes!"
"You did remember to bring something to change into - you are staying over?" Draco asked.
"Yes - although I do feel like I'm completely abusing your hospitality."
Draco dabbed his mouth with his napkin and then waved his wand, clearing the table with a pop. He then leant across the table, taking Hermione's hand again. "This isn't hospitality," he said and then he stopped and looked down at the table. Immediately, he had Hermione's full attention because the moment he started acting nervous she knew he was going to say something important.
"What do you mean?" she asked.
Draco looked up again. "I have a few things I need to say."
"Oh." Hermione tried not to sound as she was feeling, which was terrified. Despite his reassurance that he wasn't going to change his mind she still felt scared.
"I acted terribly when we broke the spell..."
"You've already apologised for that."
"You have to let me say all this without interrupting," Draco said. "I acted terribly because I haven't felt like this before and it scared me to death."
"That was an interruption," Draco pointed out and Hermione felt mildly amused by his insistence for her to keep quiet. "I've never felt like this," he paused and looked down at the table again. "So when I left the shop I felt terrible and then I felt pressurized..."
"Wait!" Draco said. "Don't have a meltdown - let me finish."
"But I knew you weren't comfortable with this..."
"Hermione - I'm half way through my tale..."
Hermione stood up, all her worries and anxiety making her act irrationally. "I want this more than anything but not if you're feeling under pressure." She was silenced by Draco taking one of his long strides around the small table, grabbing her by the shoulders and pressing his lips to hers. He kissed her forcefully but tenderly and Hermione felt that lovely, tingling warmth run through her. Draco pulled away, still grasping her shoulders.
"Now will you sit down and listen to me?" he asked and Hermione nodded before doing as he had asked. He took his own seat.
"Do you know what else I felt?" he asked and he didn't wait for her to answer him. "I felt happy, as if gap I didn't know I had was filled." Hermione's anxious, worried expression left her face a little and he smiled at her. "And then the next day and the one after that I just found myself thinking about you - all the time." He looked slightly awkward admitting this but his words were making Hermione melt. "So I came up with this." He waved his arms around them.
"You didn't need to but it's wonderful," Hermione reassured him. "I don't expect anything, Draco - we just need to work at this together."
"I know, that's why I want to ask you," he paused and she wanted to shake him until he continued. "Why don't you stay here...for a while...? This place suits us..."
Hermione blinked rapidly, her breath catching in her throat. She liked his term of phrase - this place suits us. "Are you suggesting I move in?" she asked, quietly.
"Yes, I am."
"That's a big step."
Draco nodded. "I know - that's why I understand if you don't want to."
"I meant a big step for you," Hermione said. "This is your home and having someone here all the time isn't like a visitor."
"I told you this house needs people and right now it needs you," Draco said, his eyes twinkling at her. "I've got so used to being with you - I feel strange without you."
Hermione felt a tear on her cheek and wiped it away. His confession was so touching that she couldn't help herself. "You know I'd love to stay here - I love your house," she paused, knowing she should add three other important words but not wanting to scare him to death. He already knew how she felt but hearing it spoken out loud was different.
"My house loves you," Draco said, his amazing eyes were almost black and Hermione could feel the charged atmosphere between them. He had stopped speaking but Hermione knew he hadn't finished. She was unconsciously holding her breath, not daring to believe he might say it. She saw his lips part then close again and she couldn't tear her eyes from his face, her breathing shallow. "I love you," he said it and Hermione put her hand across her mouth, tears on her cheek again. She stood up and walked to him, bending down in front of him.
"I'm so glad I punched you," she said with a little smile that he returned. "I'm so glad Lee fell over and I don't care what happens now. I don't care if we have to share magic again as long as we're together but I can't see us ever having to do that again," she leant forward and kissed him, quickly on the lips. "Because right now I can't imagine ever losing it."
Draco cupped her chin. "We're not going to lose it."
"I love you Draco Malfoy," Hermione felt astonished to hear the words leaving her lips and she giggled. Luckily, Draco seemed amused as well.
"I thought it was me who wasn't being romantic!" he said.
"I'm sorry - it just didn't sound like anything I could ever imagine myself saying." Hermione grabbed his arms. "But I mean it - I really love you...how ridiculous!"
Draco's lips twisted. He loved their teasing and it didn't suit them to be ridiculously romantic, so her silly answer made him feel happy. Nothing was changing here, they would be fine together.
So, it's over - hope you liked it. It had a life of its own and I wasn't planning the ending when I started so it all went very smoothly. Thank you for all the reviews - I love them and they keep me going.
I'm debating with an epilogue. I don't like them (even the best ones make me cringe). Even JK's at the end of the most well written, clever and astounding books ever didn't do it for me. So, I've only written one once and I wasn't entirely happy with it. This story is sort of crying out for one so I'll continue with my debate and if I can get it right I might post one.
I have already started the next story - the idea just came to me so I started it before I forgot it. So, I'll be posting that soon, maybe before the epilogue to this to get the new story going so please put me on author alert and check it out - I need you all! x