Everybody! I am deeply saddened, excited and sort of relieved to announce that this little Christmas story has come to an end. (I hate when Christmas ends…) First, I want to thank each and every one of my readers, followers and reviewers for taking the time to give my story (and sometimes stories, you know who you are) the time of day. It's a wonderful feeling for a writer to know that they have readers who care and I look forward to seeing any and all reviews all the time! So thank you, thank you, thank you.
Second, I hope that everybody had/is having a great holiday and that this holiday ending does justice!
[Eight – Epilogue]
"I don't want to go."
"You have to go."
"I just don't feel like-"
"No," Ginny says firmly, stomping her foot. She looks sternly at her friend sitting on the couch, still wearing her pajamas from the previous night. "You've been sulking around ever since you got back – you're not backing out. I'm not letting you."
Hermione sighs, sinking further into the back of the sofa. She's supposed to be going out with her friends for New Years. Last week she could hardly wait, but now she doesn't even want to leave the house. "Ginny-"
"I thought you spoke with your parents and that everything is fine now," the redhead interjects, folding her arms over her chest.
"I did. It is."
"And didn't you and Caroline go have tea the other day?"
Hermione rolls her eyes. "Yes, but-"
"Is it Draco?"
She blinks, taken aback. "What?" Where did that even come from?
"Is it Draco? Is that why you don't want to go – because he's going to be there?"
"No, I don't care if he's there," she replies quickly - perhaps too quickly. She curses herself inwardly for being so defensively.
Ginny raises a perfect, skeptical eyebrow. "Are you sure?"
"Yes – look, I just..."
"Please?" the redhead begs, sitting on the sofa next to her. "Please come, it won't be the same if you're not there."
Hermione groans, glancing sideways at her best friend – more-so at the look of desperation mean for tugging at her guilt strings.
Hermione walks into the busy, gold, silver and black decorated pub with Ginny and Harry and the second she sees a head of very familiar blond hair through the incredibly crowded lobby, butterflies attack her stomach with vengeance.
Everyone – Ron, Luna, Neville, Seamus, Dean, Lavender, Blaise, Theo and, of course, Draco are already there, taking up an entire wall of tables at the back of the building. The trio walks towards the rest of the group and greetings of holidays and new years along with friendly hugs and kisses are exchanged.
Blaise gives her a playful grin and tugs on one of her curls like he always does so she slaps his hand away. Theo flirts with her teasingly, deliberately trying to make her uncomfortable with his sexual jokes and innuendos.
She slips her jacket off and throws it into the corner of the booth along with everyone else's before adjusting her long, silver sequined top over her black leggings. The bar is noisy; the music is loud and the conversations are louder – and yet she doesn't even seem to mind. She catches Draco's eye from across the table and her pulse races, her heart jumps into her throat and a million small thoughts hit her at once. He winks and she looks away.
She's been standing at the bar counter waiting for the female bartender to tend to her for nearly 10 minutes now. She feels his presence before she hears his drawl.
"Avoiding me, are you?"
She stiffens. "Not at all," she replies, but doesn't look at him.
"Really?" Draco asks skeptically, obviously not believing her.
"Why would I be avoiding you?"
"I dunno, you tell me," he challenges.
"I already told you I'm not-"
"Then look at me."
She sighs and does as she's told, turning her face to the side to look at him over her shoulder. He's staring heavily at her, his dark grey eyes boring intimately into hers and she feels entirely too uneasy so she looks away. "The bartender hates me," she says a moment later.
"'Cause you're female. Watch." His chest brushes against hers – causing an involuntary shiver over her whole body – as he leans forward to get the bartender's attention. And sure enough, it works. "I'll get a whiskey on the rocks and whatever this beauty wants to drink," he says, cocking his head toward Hermione.
She can't help the blush that creeps its way onto her cheeks as she places her own order. She tells him he doesn't have to pay but he insists, tossing money onto the counter.
When the drinks arrive she takes hers and turns to walk back to their table but he stops her, taking her elbow in his hand. The contact is exhilarating and she gasps softly, looking back at him.
"Talk to me here for a minute," he murmurs.
She blinks. "Why?"
He shrugs. "I feel like we haven't talked in days."
"That's because we haven't."
He smirks knowingly. "I knew it. You're mad at me."
She rolls her eyes. "Not everything is about you, Malfoy."
"Malfoy? We're back to that, huh? Now I reallyknow you're mad at me."
"Why would I be mad at you?" she asks innocently.
"For the same reason you're avoiding me, it would seem."
She cocks an eyebrow. "And what reason is that?"
"I haven't got a clue."
"Well that's too bad," she mutters, slipping her arm from his grasp before walking away.
"Avalon," he says, sitting next to her at the table.
"My name is Hermione, but thanks," she replies sarcastically.
"No – Avalon is the reason you're mad at me," he says smugly, leaning forward so he can face her.
She rolls her eyes. "I don't care about Avalon."
"So you don't care to know how it went then?"
Her jaw tightens. "No, I don't."
"I think you do."
"I don't care."
He grins. "I think you care too much about my date with Avalon and I think it's driving you mad - which is why you're so mad at me. Because, really, you're mad at yourself."
"That doesn't even make any sense," she scoffs.
"Sure it does. Think about it."
She scowls at him.
"I can tell you how it went if you want."
"I don't care-"
"Technically it was great," he starts, resting the side of his head against his fist as he gazes at her, gouging her reaction. "She was very nice, polite, well-mannered, extremely well-groomed, beautiful. And she was okay with the fact that we tricked her into going on the date in the first place."
Despite her best efforts, she finds herself listening – and interested.
"Otherwise, however, it was horrible."
She blinks, taken aback. Surprised. And, well, sort of enthusiastic. "How so?"
He smirks. "She's dull. Both in intelligence and in excitement, meaning she's boring as hell," he says. "She has no fire or passion or drive or anything in life. She's got this extremely annoying monotonous tone. Not to mention she's extremely prissy and stuck-up, you know, the pureblood princess type."
"I thought that wasyour type."
He scoffs, rolling his eyes as takes a rather large sip of his drink. "Yeah, perhaps when I was but a spoiled, selfish, stupid teenager," he smirks. "My type is more...intelligent. Passionate. Driven. A little more...laid back."
She sighs. "What are you trying to say, Draco?"
He stares at her for a moment. Silent. "I miss you," he says suddenly.
She rolls her eyes, shaking her head as she looks down at her drink. "Yeah. Right."
"It's true," he insists. "From the moment you dropped me off."
He shrugs. "Hell if I know."
She shakes her head and turns to leave him, pushing herself to her feet to walk away.
He grabs her arm and stops her once more before she can get away. "Granger, c'mon," he says, laughing nervously as he tugs her towards him. "We got along just fine when we were away-"
"-because we hadto. That's the only reason you came and that's the only reason you cared – because your reputation was riding on your performance."
"I could say the same thing about you," he points out.
"All the more reason to just forget this – this-"
"Yes!" she yells, pushing herself away from him.
He growls low in his throat, stepping toward her which forces her to move back until she can't move any further because of the table behind her. "You want to know why I went with you? You reallywant to know why I decided to go?"
"I already know-"
"Because I was hoping that maybe we couldfigure out a way to get along – that maybe we could be friends, or something like it," he admits despite the voice in his head telling him to stop talking. "The rest of your friends and I get along just fine now – hell, Little Red Weasley seems quite fond of me, don't you think? That's why she came to me and told me that you were going to ask me to-" He cuts himself off at the shocked look on her pretty little face and he recognizes the fact he said too much. "Shit," he mutters.
"What?" she asks, her eyes wide with disbelief. "G-Ginny told you I was going to ask you? So you already knew when... What else did she say?"
He sighs. "She told me I should help you. Said it might finally 'fix the rift' between us and that maybe we could...sort out our differences."
"I can't believe she would... Why does it matter to you so much that we get along?" she asks suddenly, more interested in his own motives than in Ginny's. "I thought you liked our petty little arguments."
"I do," he smirks. "Getting you all riled up is a trait in me that I actually like to embrace."
"Then why would you possibly want to get along?"
He pauses for a moment, hesitating before he decides he might as well go all in. "Because you're the only one who still hates me. Because you're the only one who hasn't forgiven me for what I did and what I was. Because sometimes I want to be able to have an intelligent conversation with you without it turning into a fight, 'cause Merlin knows you're the onlyone who can keep up with me. Because as much as I – regrettably – like Potter and Weasley, talking to them gets old fairly quickly. Because you...intrigue me," he murmurs, taking a step towards her.
She blinks, staring at him blankly. She doesn't know what to say so she dismisses herself to the loo, slipping past him before he has another chance to stop her.
She sees him sitting at the bar, drink in hand. A fairly beautiful and sexy woman in a figure-hugging red dress approaches him but he doesn't even look at her before sending her away. She smiles to herself as she approaches him because she knows what he's doing. He's sulking. And he's making it painfully obvious that he's turning down all sorts of women. "You're breaking hearts tonight," she teases, standing behind him.
"I'm not the only one," he mutters bitterly, taking a sip from his drink.
She blinks, staring at him strangely. He couldn't mean... He's not actually serious, is he?
"Sit down if you're sitting, Granger."
She does, sliding onto the bar stool next to him. "My mother told me what you said to them about me," she tells him casually. "Thank you for sticking up for me."
He glances sideways at her. "You're welcome. You spoke, then?"
She nods vigorously, looking happy. "Caroline and I went out for a tea the other day too. She told me she was sorry for ruining everything. Apparently while I've been jealous of her my whole life for being beautiful and popular, she's been jealous of me for being, well, me," she says, pausing for a moment as a light blush spreads across her face. "She said she's kind of more upset with the fact that we aren't a real couple than with the fact that we lied to her. She thinks we have chemistry."
His brow furrows in confusion. "I don't know what that is."
"It's like potions."
He blinks and then nods once, like he understands.
"I don't hate you," she whispers, leaning closer to him as she cranes her neck to get a better view of his face. "And I haveforgiven you. I just... I guess I figured the more hostile I was toward you the further I could keep you," she admits softly.
"I don't know what that means either," he mutters, staring into his glass.
She sighs softly. "You're the kind of guy who commands attention – especially from women," she starts, running her fingers absentmindedly around the rim of her own glass. "They love you because you're handsome, you're charming and you know how to talk to them confidently without coming on too strong or desperate. But you're also extremely cunning and you always get what you want when you want it, which makes it so easy for women to fall for you – because you makeit easy. And I didn't want to be that woman. I think I thought that since you got along so well with Harry and Ron it would become inevitable that we would too, so I fought against it," she admits.
He's watching her like he's trying to figure her out. Like she's an enigma.
"I guess...I guess it's kind of like skiing and Quidditch. It's nice in theory and it looks fun from afar, but I won't do it because-"
"You're afraid of falling," he finishes.
She smiles weakly with a slight nod of her head.
"Afraid of falling – or afraid of falling for me?"
She shrugs, "both, I suppose."
He turns his body to face her, one arm on the edge of the counter and the other hand resting on his thigh. "And now? Still afraid?"
"I don't know. I don't know how I feel or whatI feel... It's like sometimes I want to hit you over the head with a bludger and then five seconds later-"
"You want to snog the life out of me."
She blushes, dipping her head.
He leans in, placing his finger under chin as he lifts her face to look at him. "Why don't you?"
"Because I don't know if I should," she says truthfully.
"Give me one good reason why I should."
"I'm a damn good kisser," he smirks, inching closer to her as he wraps his hand around the back of her neck.
"You said one-"
"Give me another," she presses challengingly.
"Midnight is only a few minutes away."
She sucks on a breath as he presses his forehead against hers. "Give me a realreason."
He blinks, his dark grey eyes boring intimately into hers as he holds her face firmly in place so she can't shy away from him. "Because I haven't been able to stop thinking about you – since before we even got back. Because even though Christmas Day fell apart, it was still one of the happiest Christmases of my life. Because if we can make a damn good fake couple, we can make a helluva couple in real life," he murmurs, moving his fingers to stroke across her cheeks. "Because I'm falling too."
She giggles softly, her finger closing around his silver tie as she pulls him closer. "This is entirely wrong and completely illogical."
"The chances of this working out are probably incredibly small-"
"We're going to fight more-"
"I look forward to it."
"We're going to drive each other mad-"
"We've always driven each other mad, why stop now?"
"I...I lose myself when I'm around you," she whispers admittedly. "That's why I get so riled up when you pick fights with me."
He smirks. "Why do you think I go out of my way to fight with you?"
She giggles softly, leaning against him as she cranes her neck to see him. "Kiss me," she whispers.
He grins, curling his free arm around her waist as he captures her lips in the most passionate, mind devouring kiss of his life.
Blaise smirks from across the building, elbowing a certain redhead in the ribs.
"Ow!" Ginny protests, turning to face him. "What?"
"What'd I tell you?" He cocks his head in the general direction of his best friend and the brunette of his friend's wildest fantasies.
Ginny smiles. "Finally! God, it took them long enough, didn't it?"
"I told you he'd come to his senses."
"Only because I convinced them to go out of town together."
"'Only because I convinced them'- shut up Weasley," he mocks. "The pointis that I was right."
"So was I."
Silences falls over them as they watch the couple at the bar unable to keep their hands off each other.
"They're kind of adorable, aren't they?"
He shrugs. "I suppose."
"This also means they're going to fight more," she points out.
"At least they'll have an excuse now, instead of those petty little 'She's an annoying know-it-all'."
Ginny laughs. "Or 'He's vile, somebodyhas to put him in place."
"Excuses, excuses," he chuckles/
"Look at them – they're like horny teenagers!"
He smirks. "'Tis the season, I suppose."
The End. [But the end is only the beginning. (But not actually.)]