A Feeling Unknown

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Chapter 15: A Perfect Christmas, Ruined:

Hermione always loved Christmas. The same could be said for almost everyone. What was there not to love? Presents were nice, both the giving and the receiving. Decorations could make anyone feel like a child again. The sweets and cakes were to die for, and there were always plenty of them to go around.

Everyone sang carols and people kissed under the mistletoe. Lucky people lived where it snowed, which only added to the ambience. Hermione knew this year would be no exception. She was prepared to go home for Christmas, and she was determined to make it the best Christmas ever.

She loaded her car with presents and dirty laundry. Theo, who was helping her pack, threw her suitcase in the back and said, “Don’t forget to write to me.” She opened the driver’s side door and leaned her hands on the top, near the window.

She smiled and said, “Don’t worry, I’ll write every day if you want.”

“No, just every other,” he said. “I wish I was going with you.”

“You’ll have fun at home, won’t you?” she asked.

“Probably, but Mum is always a bit morose these days, without my father around,” he answered.

Hermione became quiet for a moment and nodded. She never liked it when Theo talked about his father, but she could never tell him as much. Only Draco knew why. Theo leaned against the other side of the car door and said, “Anyway, give me a Christmas kiss before I leave.” He offered her his cheek. She stood up on her tiptoes, leaned against the car door, and kissed his cheek soundly.

Hermione smiled and said, “Don’t forget to give Draco his present from me.”

Theo looked serious for a moment and then said, “About that, you’ll have to give it to him yourself. I packed it in your bag. He’s not coming home with me this year.”

“I thought he was. That was the plan,” she said as she climbed in the car.

He shrugged and said, “I invite him every year, but he always says no. He just told you he was coming because he didn’t want you to feel sorry for him.” He looked at his watch and said, “If I don’t apparate right now, I’ll be late. See you!” He ran down the sidewalk, waving as he left.

Hermione sat in the car and frowned. She didn’t want Draco to be alone for Christmas. No one should be alone anytime, let alone at Christmas. She had invited him to come to her house, but he had said no. She promised him that Harry and Ron wouldn’t be there, because she was visiting with them on New Year’s Eve. He still said no. He told her it was tradition to go to Theo’s house. Apparently he lied. It must be tradition ‘not’ to go to Theo’s house.

She was about to shut her car door, determined to drive right up to Draco’s building and drag him outside to force him to join her, when a hand grabbed the car door and stopped her from shutting it. She looked up. It was Draco.

“Were you leaving without wishing me a Happy Christmas?” he asked. He opened the door all the way and stood between the door and the car.

She looked up at him and said, “Theo already left for his mum’s house.”

“I know. I saw him leave. I’m going to meet him later,” he explained, or rather, he lied.

Hermione turned toward the front windshield and gripped the steering wheel tight. He leaned down in the car and said, “Is something wrong?”

“I thought we were friends,” she said without looking at him.

“We are,” he said in return, a frown on his face.

“No, we aren’t,” she answered. She turned to face him. He kneeled down and grabbed one of her hands from the steering wheel.

“Why would you say that?” he asked.

She removed her gloved hand from his and said, “Friends don’t lie to each other.”

“When have I lied to you?” he asked. He stood back up.

She said, “Move and let me close my door. I think I’m done with you.”

When he didn’t move, she started out of the car. She stood right in front of him. She was so close to him that they were touching. She put her hands on his shoulders and started to push him out of the way. He wouldn’t budge. He removed her hands from his arms and held them tightly in his.

“What’s wrong with you?” he asked. “How did I lie?”

“If you didn’t want to spend Christmas with me, you could have been truthful and told me outright,” she said. She wanted to manipulate the situation, to make him feel as if she thought she was being slighted. She didn’t want him to think she felt sorry for him, or that she was sad that he was going to be all alone. Instead, she had to use a different angle, and she could only hope he wouldn’t know what she was doing.

She continued her diatribe. “Theo told me that you aren’t going with him, and you told me you that were, so that means one thing: you didn’t want to spend Christmas with me, ergo, you lied to me. I don’t care if you don’t want to go, but friends don’t lie to each other, so I can only assume you aren’t really my friend.” She sat back in the car. She moved her left leg inside, and then her right. “Let me shut the door. It’s freezing outside.”

“Hermione, please, don’t be angry,” he said. He kneeled down again. He looked up at her and said, “I just prefer to be alone. I really do. I didn’t want to spend Christmas at the Nott’s, because I would have to see all the old faces, which I would rather never to see again. I can’t go home, as you know, and I didn’t particularly want a pity invite from you.”

Now she really was angry. Her anger was no longer an act. She felt like pushing him over, but she didn’t. She said, “My invitation to you was not a pity invitation! Don’t insult either of us by ever assuming that it was. That belittles us both, and it only goes t o prove that my previous statement was true: we aren’t the friends I thought we were.”

She suddenly felt incredible sadness. He stood up, said, “Think whatever you want,” and shut her car door.

He walked away, and she drove away and both assumed that was that.

However, that wasn’t that.

Two days later, Hermione found that she was all alone on Christmas Eve, and she suddenly decided she hated Christmas. She felt horrible for telling Draco he wasn’t her friend, her mother wasn’t home because she had to go to Hospital to tend to a teenager who had a car accident and needed reconstructive surgery, including dental surgery, and Harry and Ron were spending Christmas at the Burrow, and she didn’t want to impede on their holiday.

She was alone on Christmas Eve. Draco was alone on Christmas Eve. Moreover, if she had just been truthful with him (which was the very thing she accused him of not being), and had told him that she really wanted to spend the holiday with him, neither of them would be alone. She mucked up everything.

What's more, she knew that she was now completely in love with Draco. She had long since viewed him as more than a friend. Every time she wanted to tell him, she chickened out. Sometimes he seemed so distant and remote, and sometimes she felt as if he was her best friend in the world, and she didn’t want to mess things up.

Besides, he couldn’t love her in return. She knew that deep in her heart.

They had been friends for a year and a half now, and he was never anything but friendly toward her. She had to accept that and move on.

That didn’t mean she had to be happy about it. She grabbed a whole fruitcake, a glass of milk, a fork, and went to the den. She sat in her dad’s old chair and turned on the telly, to an old holiday movie. She said, “Happy Christmas, everyone,” and took a big bite of fruitcake.

There was a knock on the door. She wasn’t certain she wanted to answer it. She didn’t usually answer the door when she was alone. It was one of her little phobias. She went to the front door and looked out the side window. It was Draco.

She threw open the door and jumped into his arms, throwing one arm around his neck, the other hand still holding the fruitcake. He gladly accepted her embrace, by throwing his arms around her waist and picking her up from the ground.

“Whoa, Granger,” he said. He placed her back down on the ground. He looked at the front of his coat and said, “What’s all over my coat?”

“I forgot I had a fruitcake in my hand. Sorry.” She began to pick pieces of gooey fruitcake off his jacket.

“What the hell is a fruitcake?” he asked.

“No one really knows so never mind. What are you doing here?” she asked.

“It’s Christmas, and forgive me if I’m wrong, but I’m sure I was invited.” He walked in the door. She ran to the kitchen to deposit the fruitcake. He looked around. There was a bright tree in the window of the front room. He could hear the sounds of a television from another room. The thing that struck him as strange, however, was that besides himself, she seemed to be alone, and on Christmas Eve.

Later, they were sitting on the floor of the living room, the only light coming from the fireplace and the tree lights. They were laughing, having spirits, and reminiscing about their best and worst Christmas presents.

“Well, that doesn’t seem too bad,” she said.

“I’m sorry, Granger, but when you’re nine years old, and you want a new broom from your great aunt and you get a copy of Hogwarts a History instead, you’re a bit disappointed. I know in Grangerland, Hogwarts a History would be your little wet dream, but for me, I was devastated.”

“Watch your mouth,” she said.

“Sorry, replace ‘wet dream’ with the phrase, ‘ideal present’,” he laughed.

“I meant, don’t ever say disparaging remarks about Hogwarts a History,” she said back.

He laughed. “What’s your worst present?” he asked.

Just then, the phone rang. She put down her cup of ‘Christmas Cheer’ and went to get it without answering his question. She came back in the living room with a frown on her face. “I think my worst Christmas present just came to pass, because my mum is still in surgery, and will have to stay until morning.”

“I’m sorry,” he said.

“I’m glad you came,” she said softly.

Standing in front of the tree, with the red, green and gold lights illuminating her from behind, and the gentle glow of the wood fire highlighting her from the side, he had one thought and one thought only. She was so lovely. He held out his hand. She continued to frown as she placed her hand in his. He pulled her down to the floor, where his back was against the front of the sofa. She started to sit beside him, but he steered her so she was sitting in front of him.

She leaned against his chest, and he placed his arms around her. She leaned her head against his shoulder, to look up in his eyes. “I hate being alone.”

“I do, too,” he said.

“No, I mean, I really do. I can’t tell you what it means to me that you’re here,” she said. She turned to look at the roaring fire. Even though it was warm in front of the flames, she shivered.

He held her tighter. “I’m glad I came,” he said, repeating what she had just said moments before. He felt as if for the first time in his life everything was right. She fit perfectly in the circle of his arms. He wanted to tell her so badly how her felt about her, but he was afraid. Sometimes he thought she had feelings for him as well, and sometimes he wasn’t sure. He whispered in her ear, “You’re my best friend, Hermione.” It was as close to “I love you” as he felt he could muster.

She cocked her head to the side, and put her arms on top of his. She rubbed his arms up and down and said, “I don’t know what I would have done if you hadn’t been in my life. My early years might have been a bit brighter, but I wouldn’t bet on a happy ending for my future.”

He chuckled and said, “I was always so horrible to you in school.”

“Sometimes boys treat girls horribly because they like them. Maybe you had a crush on me back then,” she said, smiling. She looked up at him.

“No, I’m pretty sure I hated you,” he said.

They both laughed.

“Okay,” she said. She suddenly felt brave. “What about now?”

“I’m pretty sure I don’t hate you, now,” he said as a joke.

“I don’t hate you, either.”

They held each other for so long that she soon felt drowsy, and she let her eyes droop until they closed completely. He continued to hold her, his back supported by the sofa, his long legs on either side of hers, and bent slightly at the knees. He took advantage of her sleepy state to kiss her cheek, gently, almost like a whisper. She opened her eyes, and he flinched. She knew what he had done, and it made her happy. She said, “Tell me what you want for Christmas.”

In his mind, he had but one thought – her. He wanted her. He began to tell her about his best Christmas growing up, instead. The sound of his deep voice reverberated against her back, and the steady cadence and deep vibrato of his soothing voice soon lured her back into a complete relaxed state. She couldn’t even tell what he was saying any longer. She just knew he was there, and that was enough.

She leaned over slightly, so her head angled on his shoulder, instead of his chest. His arms went from around her arms, to envelope her waist. His right hand was flat against her stomach, and his left hand came up to her neck. She felt her chest constrict. She wanted him to kiss her. She closed her eyes, and angled her face toward his.

He wanted to kiss her. He hunched his shoulders, and placed his cheek next to hers. He moved his hands from around her waist and let them travel lightly from her shoulders down to her elbows, to her hands, his fingertips and fingernails skimming her lightly, making her arm hair stand on end. The warmth of him against her made her feel safer than she had ever felt, safer than she felt she had a right to feel.

Minutes passed with his hands continuing their up and down pursuit of her arms. His lips grazed her neck, soft as a feather, and she fought to control her breathing. Was this real? Was this a dream? Was this a Christmas miracle?

She was afraid if she asked him what was going on he might stop, and she didn’t want him ever to stop, unless he wanted to kiss her lips. He could stop to do that. He placed one of her hand in his and examined her palm with his free hand, while holding it with the other. His touch was soft, but electric. He traced each line, crevice, and contour of her palm, and then he brought it to his mouth and kissed the center of her hand.

She opened her eyes to peer up into his face. His eyes were closed. He kissed her wrist. He opened his eyes, and brought her arms, along with his, back around their bodies. He smiled at her. She said, “Draco.” That was all the encouragement he needed. He was going to kiss her.

Then their perfect Christmas present was ruined by the sound of the doorbell ringing. Hermione actually shook her head. Draco started to breath hard, as she scrambled to stand. She went to the door as he struggled to sit up on the couch.

There at the door was Theo. He looked a sight. He was quiet, and it appeared he had been crying. Hermione rushed from the door, back to the archway, which opened to the living room. Draco was on the sofa, his head in his hands. He looked up and asked, “Who’s at the door?”

“Draco, come quick, something’s wrong with Theo.”

Draco heard the urgency in her voice. He stood up and raced to the front door. On the doorstep stood their friend, white as a sheet, and shaking all over. Hermione ushered him in the foyer.

“What’s wrong, Theo?” Draco asked. Hermione placed her hand on his arm.

“My father’s been killed. He died in prison. On Christmas Eve, can you believe it? My mum’s hysterical. I couldn’t stay there, I just couldn’t.” He walked farther into the entryway, his tears flowing freely. Hermione looked at Draco, he looked back at Hermione, and they both thought the same thing: Thank God, the bastard was finally dead. Then, as if in harmony, they thought of their friend’s pain, and they helped him to the couch, and they sat up with him all night as he cried.

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