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Clandestine Wishes by ethereallie

Format: Novella
Chapters: 30
Word Count: 97,439
Status: COMPLETED

Rating: Mature
Warnings: Contains profanity, Mild violence, Scenes of a mild sexual nature, Substance abuse, Sensitive topic/issue/theme

Genres: Drama, Romance, Young Adult
Characters: Hermione, Draco
Pairings: Draco/Hermione

First Published: 07/15/2015
Last Chapter: 01/13/2018
Last Updated: 01/13/2018

Summary:
True love only comes once in a lifetime and when it goes, it always leaves a scar that even time cannot fully heal. Do people really get their 2nd chances? Can a bruised heart really forgive and let love in for the second time? Can Draco win his Mi back?


Chapter 1: My Sacrifice
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Chapter One:

"Hello my friend we meet again, it'sbeen awhilewere should we begin" - My Sacrifice – Creed

It's almost night fall yet she still sat there alone. Not moving, just peacefully gazing at the Black Lake. When the wind blew its cold December breeze Hermione Granger shivered and embraced herself tightly. It's been awhile since she last been here, but it seems like nothing has changed; the place is still magical and outmost enthralling. She let her gaze wander for a couple more minutes before gracefully standing up. She walked towards the old oak tree and ran her finger through its rough body. She let out a wistful smile as memories of her not so distant childhood came into mind. She used to spend her lazy afternoons here with Harry and Ron, frolicking childishly. After a few minutes of reminiscing, she checked her watch and decided that it was time to leave. She quickly fastened her cloak and took her wand out of her pocket to dissapparate. She swished her wand but hastily stopped when something luminous caught her peripherals. She turned her gaze back to the water and felt her heart stop; "Fire flies" she gasped. Her whole body stiffened as painful recollection from her past started assaulting her in waves.

- Flashback -

She watched him as he silently stood near the lake; his shoulders slumped, his eyes fixed firmly on the still water.

"You're late" Draco turned to face her, his sad eyes, piercing through her heart.

"Draco…I-"

"Don't...please don't say it Mi" he cut her off, his voice shaking with emotions.

Tears stung her eyes so she hastily averted her gaze.

He crossed the distance between them and hugged her tight, silently begging her to reconsider.

She kept her arms to her side, wordlessly letting him know that she hasn't changed her decision. With her heart breaking into millions of pieces, she moved her lips towards his ear, whispering the dreaded words that will surely break them apart.

His whole body stiffened, his arms slowly loosening its grip as every painful second passes.

- End of Flashback -

She touched her cheek and her fingers came back wet, "I'm okay - I should be okay, it's been years."

- Flashback -

She ran away so fast and didn't stop until she felt her legs give in. She grasped a branch of a tree to keep herself from toppling over. She clutched her hand to her chest willing her mind to somehow forget the way he fell down on his knees and begged for her to stay. Gut wrenching sobs escaped her lips as implacable tears continue to trail down her cheeks. It killed her to leave him as broken as she felt, but what other choice does she really have? They both know that they're only living in a borrowed time when they first started this. She shouldn't feel guilty for ripping the band aid long before its due, right?

- End of Flashback -

The emotions that she thought she buried a long time ago started resurfacing and she can't seem to make it stop this time. His memories and his promises came back in full force, slowly unravelling the truth that she forced herself to believe. She thought that she's already moved on from all this, but basing it from the way her heart reacted to the petty luminescent lights - she's clearly been fooling herself.

All these years, she kept questioning herself if she did the right thing. Her heart says that letting him go without a fight was a huge mistake. But her mind refuses to agree. It kept telling her that leaving him was the only solution, staying together would have cost them both their lives and she can't let that happen. Fresh batch of tears sprung from her eyes, making her vision blurry.

With trembling hands, Hermione unclasped the silver chain that dangled around her neck. She placed the pendant on her palm; trailing her finger along the words that's been magically engraved on the charm. Waves of pain started crashing inside her chest, making it hard to breathe. She closed her eyes as she clutched the pendant tightly inside her palm, "You can't undo what's already been done Granger. He's long gone and he won't ever come back. You made your bed, now you have lie on it," she said, her voice full of remorse.

oOo

On the other side of the lake, a man with silver-grey eyes stood, his gaze firmly fixed on the starless night sky. Draco Malfoy held his cloak tighter as the cold December breeze started pick up its pace. He scanned the dark castle, the corner of his lips arching up. It's been 2 years since he last visited and yet nothing has changed. When the war broke and the battle began he always thought that Hogwarts would just be nothing but a memory, but looking at it right now - he's clearly mistaken. Dumbledore's magic managed to protect the ancient citadel, keeping the entire place unscathed; the old coot is really damn impressive.

Briskly, he walked towards the huge bolder near the waters and sat down. He took out his good old wand and pointed it directly above the lake. He swished his wrist, shooting tiny sparks of light from its tip. Tiny luminous bulbs glided and danced above the still waters, making him smile. He amused himself further by sending more sparks, unconsciously unearthing memories that are too painful to remember.

- Flashback -

There he was, standing in the same spot he stood two years ago, waiting patiently for a girl who managed to steal his heart. He felt her presence even before he saw her, a single fact that still amazes him. He turned around, his eyes instantly seeking the beautiful face he hasn't seen in days. "You're late" he said in lieu of a greeting.

"Draco…I-" she started, her voice heavily laden with sadness.

Searing pain erupted from his chest, sucking all the air out of his lungs, "Don't...please don't say it Mi" he cut her off, his voice shaking with fear.

She avoided his gaze, her ambers eyes pooling with tears.

He couldn't stand seeing her like this; he crossed the distance between the two of them and pulled her to his chest. He buried his face into her familiar curls and hugged her as tightly as he can.

She didn't move and kept her arms pinned to her side. After a few seconds, he felt her face shift, her lips brushing against his ear, "We can't do this anymore Dray...we have to stop" she whispered.

He knew that this day was bound to happen, but he didn't expect that it would be this soon. Slowly, he loosened his grip, his eyes never leaving hers; "I love you Mi…so much" he whispered, his voice thick with emotions.

She opened her mouth to speak again but he placed his index finger to her lips, silencing her. He doesn't want to hear it; he already knows what she's about to say. He let his eyes rake over her beautiful face for the last time, etching every inch and every detail into his mind. Once he's sure that he won't forget, he moved his face closer, pressing his lips to her forehead just as a lone tear managed escape his eye.

"Dray…don't do this…please" she begged.

Overcome with so much emotion, he did what he thought he'd never do. He loosened his hold on her and hastily dropped down to his knees. He clutched her cloak as he bowed his head, hiding his tears from her. "Don't do it...don't leave me" he croaked.

She followed him and levelled her face with his, "I-I have to...I'm sorry..." she said miserably. She pressed her lips to his before she hastily stood up and ran away.

- End Flashback -

He shook his head to clear his thoughts, it's been 2 years since it happened, yet remembering it still stings like hell. He buried those painful recollections in the deepest recess of his mind, conjuring the lights for the first time in years was a bad idea, it managed to cajole it out from its hiding place. He closed his eyes and willed his mind to push the memories back to its niche, but alas, his brain is not cooperating. He sighed, he knew that thinking about her is no longer allowed and he has to stop now, but no matter how hard he tried to convince himself, his heart won't seem to let him. He took a deep breath as he opened his eyes, "Fire whiskey, it is" he said as he hopped off the bolder. He shoved his hands inside his pockets and started making his way towards the dry walkway. He was following the familiar route towards the gates when he sensed movement from his peripherals. He halted his steps and turned his head to the side; "What the..." his voice trailed off when he saw a woman standing near the oak tree. He squinted and tried his best to figure out who it was, "Couldn't be McGonagall, it's late, she's probably sleeping" he mumbled to himself. As if in cue, the light from the moon seem to shift towards the figure, illuminating her further. He felt the air get knocked out of his chest when he saw wisps of honey brown curls dancing with the wind. He closed his eyes tightly before opening them again, checking if she's just a figment of his over reactive imagination or not. His heart started pounding loudly when his gaze fell down to her hand; a familiar long silver chain dangling from her closed fist. "Bloody hell."

Chapter 2: Last Flight Out
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Chapter Two:

"I'm so scared that you will see all the weakness inside of me. I'm so scared of letting go all the pain I feel will show..." Last flight out by Plus One

Draco seems to be rooted on the ground. It took him a minute before he was able to move again. He blinked many times and tried think hard; should he approach her or should he just walk away? He exhaled and straightened his cloak, "It's now or never Draco, you have to do it", he said to himself. He walked towards her and started to practice the most charming smile he can muster.

Hermione snapped out of her stupor when she heard footsteps closing in. She quickly wiped her cheeks and turned around. She squinted and indeed saw someone coming towards her. She felt her breath hitch in her throat when she noticed the stranger's familiar features; tall, pale and his tell-tale silver blonde hair. Her eyes grew bigger as her heart started thumping wildly inside her chest, "Oh my Merlin..." she gasped.

He walked towards her, his trademark smirk firmly in place.

She felt her nerves go haywire when she got a better look of the face she missed so much. She shifted on her feet as she tried her best to let out a smile that can be considered passable given their awkward situation.

He moved closer but made sure to stop at a safe distance. The tension between them seems to double when their eyes meet for the first time, he felt his knees buckle but he'll be damned first before he let it show. He arranged his features, masking the resurfacing feelings that are running havoc inside his chest.

She held her breath as she watched him stop. She made a mental inventory of his features before she found the courage to speak, "It's nice seeing you again Draco, how have you been?"

"I'm doing well," he replied. He then slipped his hands inside his pockets and kept his face passive, "And you?"

"I'm also doing well…weird place to meet, eh?" she said with a nervous chuckle. "How can he be so bloody calm", she thought.

"Yeah, of all the places to meet - we meet here" he replied, his eyes raking over her face. "God, she still beautiful," he thought.

Complete silence...

She shifted on her feet again, "Uhm - it was nice seeing you again, but I have to go" she said as she averted her gaze. "Oh god no…if I stay here longer I might end up crying," she thought.

He fisted his hands inside his pockets, "Yeah...go on ahead, it was nice seeing you too" he replied. "She's running away again," he thought bitterly.

"Okay then, goodbye," she said with a hint of sadness. She spun on her heels and started walking away. She was almost back on the pathway when she suddenly stopped; she turned her face towards his, "I'm so sorry for everything Draco...so sorry" she said softly before continuing with her trek.

He watched her leave, taking every piece of his broken heart with her for the second time.

oOo

It's been minutes since Hermione left and yet Draco can't make himself leave. He kept replaying every second of their conversation, hoping that he missed something - anything that can lessen the ache in his chest. "Damn it!" he yelled in frustration. He braced his hands on his hips and bowed his head in defeat. He was doing fine at the beginning; he was able to hold his fort and kept his mask of indifference in place. But then, she had to open her mouth at the end and decided to use an apology as parting words. He closed his eyes and clenched his jaw tightly. He thought that after all that have happened, after all that she put him through, he'll be able to face her again and feel nothing - clearly, he miscalculated. "Stupid, so stupid..." he whispered.

oOo

Physically exhausted and emotionally wrought, Hermione finally made it to the gates. She wrapped her arms around her waist and hugged herself, "What did you expect? That he'll tell you he missed you and kiss you like nothing happened? Stop kidding yourself - forgiveness doesn't come easy" she said to herself. She took a deep breath before pulling her wand out of her pocket. She threw the lake one last glance before flicking her wand, disapparating on the spot.

oOo

"Is it really her? Does she still love me? Why the hell did she cry?" Three questions that keep on running through his head. It has already been hours since their encounter, but he still can't make himself leave. He walked aimlessly along the silent grounds, his feet unconsciously taking him to the Quidditch Pitch. He plopped down to the grass and fell on his back; he fixed his eyes on the sky, his hand rubbing his chest. "Just forget it Draco, it would be a hell lot easier," he said to himself. The corner of his eyes began heating up as his vision started to be blurry; he closed his eyes and let the floodgates to his aching heart open.

Chapter 3: You first believed
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Chapter Three:

"It was you, who first believed and all that I made was made to be, it was you looking in my eyes, you held my hands and you showed me life and I've never been the same since you first believed.." You first believed by Hoku

-Flashback -

It all started one afternoon...

It was almost nightfall when Draco skirted his way towards the Lake. When he reached his spot, he sat comfortably on top of his favorite boulder. He inhaled deeply, filling his lungs with the frigid evening air, his eyes automatically closing. For him, this place is one of his secret havens' in Hogwarts - a sanctuary where he can be himself without all the pretensions and pressures from the outside world. He loved this place, because every time he needs comfort and peace; it caters to him.

Slowly, he opened his weary eyes and held his cloak much tighter. The wind is blowing colder than usual, a sure sign that the season is about to change. Winter has always been his favorite season. It reminds him of what used to be good; his fond memories of childhood and how less complicated his life used to be. He shook his head to clear the depressing thoughts and took out his wand. He swished his wrist and muttered a silent charm that his Mum taught him. Tiny luminous light erupted from the tip and danced its way above the dark rippling waters. "Fire flies" he muttered.

A small smile curled up his lips as he watched the spectacle he made fondly. Every time he conjures these lights, it reminds him of the tale his Mum used to tell him back when he was just a little boy. According to legend; fireflies are one of the most loyal creatures that ever graced the face of the earth. Just like the human race, they also wait for their true love to come. They glide across the forest and dance among the trees. They flaunt their beautiful light, attracting their suitable mate. They spend their little time together, never leaving each other's side. And when the time comes when one of them dies, the other left behind won't even bother finding another mate. It will just bid its time, until it also succumbs to death.

He flicked his wand again, altering the color of the orbs, turning it into Slytherin green. He rested his elbows on top of his knees, his thoughts drifting towards the person he misses most, "I miss you Mum," he said dejectedly.

oOo

"Come on, what are you really up to?" Hermione mumbled, her eyes never leaving her arch nemesis slumped form.

It has been a month since she started following Draco Malfoy and up to this point; she hasn't seen anything unusual. At first, her main purpose of following the git is to check if he's dipping his fingers into something that can incriminate him. But much to her chagrin, his foot didn't even cross a single line. She was ready to put a stop to her Sherlock gig, but for some unfathomable reason, every time she sees him head to the lake - her feet seems to follow.

Every day, before dusk, he heads towards the same place. He climbs up the big boulder near the shore and perch himself on top. He will then pull his wand and point it towards the water - creating pretty little orbs that seem to dance above the rippling surface. She's always been puzzled about those lights, wondering how he was able to create something so beautiful, yet he's been nothing but foul and loathsome.

"An enigma, that's what he is," she said as she tore her eyes away from him. She adjusted her cloak and checked her watch, "Blimey! It's almost dinner, where did the time go?" she muttered as she spun on her heels and made her way back to the castle.

After the evening feast, Hermione decided to swing by the library to make some changes to her Potions essay. Ginny volunteered to accompany her, but knowing her friend's short attention span, she declined politely.

She was scanning through the shelves when she suddenly stopped. She turned her head to the side and noticed someone sitting on the floor. Unconsciously, her eyes started to study his features, mentally ticking some imaginary boxes inside her head. She felt her breath hitch inside her throat when she realized what she's doing - she's checking Malfoy out! "What the bloody hell? He's the enemy Granger! Pull yourself together!" she mentally scolded herself.

"You've been standing there for quite some time Granger,"

Her elbow hit the shelves, clearly startled by his unexpected acknowledgement. "Ouch!"

A smirk curled up Draco's lips, his eyes still stuck on the page he seems to be reading. "Do I have something hideous on my face? You're staring" he drawled.

She lifted her chin defiantly, ignoring how much her cheeks are burning. "What are you doing here? Didn't know you can read," she spat, her tone full of disdain.

"Then I guess, there's just a lot of things you still don't know about me Granger," he said just before he lifted his gaze to meet hers.

A shiver went down her spine as her traitorous heart started pumping wildly inside her chest. She opened her mouth to speak, but words seem to evade her.

The smile on his lips morphed into his trademark smirk, "You're acting as if a Blast-Ended-Skrewt is trying to communicate with you. What's with the look?"

Her brows furrowed with a mixture of confusion and suspicion, "What on earth happened to you?"

He leaned back on the books he piled to face her fully, this conversation is not as bad as he expected it to be. He opened his mouth to respond but then, the books he's leaning on started to collapse, making him topple back to the floor.

She gasped loudly, her eyes widening in shock.

His shoulder shook as he let out a full belly laugh, "Fuck! That - that was embarrassing!" he said between chuckles.

She looked at him like it's the first time she's seeing him. She had known Draco Malfoy for 6 longs years and yet, this is the first time she's seen him so - human. "There's no trace of malice or sarcasm in his tone and he's laughing at his own expense, are Pygmy puffs flying now?" she thought, a small smile involuntarily curling on her lips.

"Is that a smile?"

She arranged her features and sniffed, "Of course not."

He threw her an amused look as he sat up. He moved his hand to his lower back, cringing when his fingers dug a tender spot.

As much as she wants to ignore his reaction, her good side won. "Are you hurt?"

"Is that concern I hear there, Granger?" he asked, his eyes studying her closely.

"I'm just-" she paused, her nose wrinkling. "Forget I asked."

"Oh no, I won't" he replied somewhat gingerly. He scooted towards the sturdy bookshelves and stretched his legs out, "Tell me something Granger, why do we always fight?"

She threw him an incredulous look, "Are you really asking me that question?!" she asked, her voice turning pitchy. She crossed her arms on top of her chest, "You've always been a prat to me and my friends, not to mention our whole house! And now you're asking me why we always fight?! I think you hit your head hard when you toppled over!"

"No, my head is fine" he replied. He then pursed his lips, "You do have a point there, I've been nothing but a prat-" he paused to let out a sigh. "It's tiresome you know? Being a prat, I mean."

"Pygmy puffs are indeed flying!" she thought. "Then why do you do it?" she asked, her tone betraying her stiff posture.

He rested his head back and closed his eyes, "Would you believe me if I tell you that it's all a ruse? That I'm only acting the way I am because that's what people expect of me for being a Malfoy?"

Her brows furrowed deeper, making her forehead crease further in confusion. "Are you telling me that you're purposely acting like a tosser because that's what people want to see from you?" she asked with an even tone. Trying hard to keep the bite at a minimum, after all, this is the first time they've talked without insults flying. If she wants to get the answers to the questions that have been plaguing her since first year, she has to tread carefully.

Slowly, he opened his eyes, a wisp of blonde fringe falling to his forehead. "If I tell you yes, would you believe me?" he softly asked.

She felt the air get knocked out of her chest when she saw honesty in his eyes. She tightened her hold on herself as she tried her best to come up with an appropriate response. She's not used to him being so...open and it's tipping her off balance.

He cleared his throat and lowered his eyes to his lap, "I can't blame you if you don't believe me, you know," he paused to let out self depreciating chuckle. "I haven't done anything to convince you otherwise."

She swallowed the lump inside her throat, "Why are you being so...upfront about these things all of sudden? Why are you explaining your actions to me?"

He sighed, "I can't answer that because I also don't know the answer," he replied with a hint of frustration. He then rested his head back on the shelves, "It's just...I'm tired Granger, I'm tired of being someone I'm really not."

She licked her lips, her eyes never leaving his slumped posture. "Who's the real Draco Malfoy then?"

He shrugged, "I wouldn't know, haven't seen him in a while," he replied. He then turned his face to side and patted the space beside him, "Why don't sit with me, it's kinda hard talking to you while I'm sitting down here - makes my neck cramp" he said casually.

She raised her brow, "Is Draco Malfoy asking me to sit down and chat with him?"

"Why do you always say my full name?" he asked, his eyes twinkling with amusement.

"I-I-"

He smiled, "I'm just kidding Hermione, no need to be flustered."

She felt the familiar tingling down her spine when he said her name, "You...you called me Hermione..." she said with awe.

He rolled his eyes good-naturedly, "That's your name, right? You haven't changed it or something?"

"No - it's just weird hearing it from you," she admitted.

He nodded in understanding, "I get you," he replied. He then tapped the space beside him again, silently asking her to sit down.

She stared at the spot with uncertainty; is this his way of offering an olive branch or is he playing her?

"If it makes you feel any better, I promise not to bite."

Before her mind can come up with an excuse, she found herself walking towards him.

He waited for her to be comfortable beside him, before he started speaking again. "I'm sorry...for every single thing I've done to hurt your feelings" he said.

Her head snapped to the side, her eyes wide with shock.

He turned to meet her gaze, his eyes full of remorse and sadness. "I won't justify my atrocious behavior with excuses. What I did to you is totally uncalled for; you didn't deserve any of it."

She felt her eyes sting with tears, "Damn right, I didn't."

His eyes clouded with shame, so he averted them. He pulled his knees to his chest and folded his arms on top, "It's just that - I've been thinking lately and everything I've done for the past 6 years came back and hit me straight in the face-" he paused to throw her a sad look. "For whatever it's worth Granger, I'm really sorry...really very sorry..."

She studied him for a moment, "You really don't think I'm less of a witch because of my blood?"

He shook his head, not breaking eye contact. "Not one bit, I've realized that too" he replied without missing a beat. He then moved his hand towards his head and raked his fingers through his hair, "Hell Granger, how can I believe you're inferior when you've managed to best every single Pureblood in this school, including me? I was a right fool for saying those stupid things, it's completely unwarranted and not to mention baseless!"

She bit her bottom lip to keep the smile that's making its way to her lips, "Are you admitting that I'm better than you Malfoy?"

"Is it too late to admit that?" he asked hesitantly.

"Better late than nothing, I reckon," she replied.

His whole face seems to relax with her words, "Yeah, that's about right."

"Do you really mean it? You're really sorry for everything?" she asked, her eyes boring into his silver-grey depths.

He didn't blink, letting her see the truth in his eyes, "I swear to everything I hold dear in my life, I really mean it" he said with conviction.

A large chunk of ice inside her chest seems to melt with the waves of sincerity that came through his words. She has to give it to him; he was smart enough not to insult her intelligence by throwing pathetic excuses to help absolve his horrendous trespasses against her. That alone, earned him an "O" in her book. With that in mind, she let out a small reconciliatory smile, "Okay, I believe you" she said.

His whole face lit up with relief, "Thank you Granger, you don't know how much hearing that means to me..."

"You're still not off the hook yet, don't be too happy" she warned.

His smiled didn't waver, "I know that, and I'm very much willing to do everything to make up for my mistakes."

"That's good to hear."

He stretched his legs back to the floor, his torso angling towards her. He then propped his hand out, his eyes twinkling mischievously. "Hi, I'm Draco Malfoy. I'm on my 6th year here in Hogwarts, Slytherin House."

Laughter bubbled up her chest, making her giggle.

He wiggled his hand, his smile deepening every passing second.

She composed herself and sat straighter. She schooled her features as she slipped her hand in his, "Nice to meet you, I'm Hermione Granger. I'm on my 6th year as well, Gryffindor House," she said, following his lead.

He wrapped his hand around hers before shaking it, "The pleasure is all mine, Ms. Granger" he said politely.

"Likewise, Mr. Malfoy" she replied evenly.

They stared at each other for a few seconds, before bursting into laughter.

He gave her hand a friendly squeeze, before carefully retracting his. "I can't believe we're only doing this now," he said humorously.

She let her hand drop to her lap, ignoring the tingling sensation that his hand left. "On the floor, behind tall bookshelves lined with tomes older than us," she added.

He nodded in agreement, "Can you imagine the outrage if someone sees us here?" he asked. He then lifted both hands to draw an imaginary banner, "We'll be the talk of the town; arch nemesis from opposing houses, caught laughing and talking with each other - without wands drawn!" he said with flourish.

She cracked up and started giggling, "Oh my Merlin!" she gasped. "I bet we'll make it front page - that is, if anyone dares to believe it."

"I concur," he said with a grin.

oOo

She ended up staying longer than he expected, much to Draco's delight. He knew they had a lot in common, but never did it cross his mind that they also share the wave length. It was refreshing, talking with someone who can understand his point without having to explain further. To let out a joke and have the other person laugh instead of staring at him blankly. For the first time in years, he felt alive, and daresay happy.

"Oh my gosh!" Hermione gasped as she stared at her watch in shock.

He pulled the sand keeper inside his pocket, "Where did the time go? I thought it was still early."

"Time flies when you're having fun, I guess."

He grinned, "Is that you're way of saying that you had fun spending time with me, Granger?"

She guffawed as she started zipping her bag, "Don't pretend like you didn't enjoy yourself too, Malfoy."

"I didn't say I didn't."

"Then it's settled, we both enjoyed" she concluded with a smile. "We have to go, if Filch catches us, we'll both be in trouble, now that, is not fun."

He cringed as he hauled himself up, "You're right, I don't fancy spending time with that old coot" he replied. He held his hand out to her for the second time, "Come on up, I'll walk you back to your dorm" he said.

She accepted the help and hefted herself up, "Do you know where our dorm is?" she asked with a raised brow.

He threw her a sheepish look, "Err - not exactly, but I'm sure I can find it without being caught."

She smiled at him, "It's okay, I can manage. Thank you for the gallant offer though, I appreciate it," she said sincerely.

He eyed her, "You sure? I mean, I really don't mind-"

She waved her hand dismissively, "100 percent," she said, cutting him off. She adjusted the bag on her hip, "I better go, I bid you goodnight here Malfoy" she said sweetly before turning on her heels, clearly not expecting a response from him.

"It's Draco, you can call me Draco," he blurted out, his cheeks suddenly feeling hot.

She paused and turned her face towards his, "Only if you call me Hermione," she said.

He slipped his hands inside his pockets, "I already called you Hermione, you already forgot?"

"You did, but then again, I didn't ask you to. Now I am, makes our friendship more official, don't you think?"

His heart started fluttering inside his chest, "We're friends then?" he asked, hating how his voice turned shaky.

She rolled her eyes, "I've sat with you for hours Draco, if that's not a sign of a burgeoning friendship, I don't know what is."

He smiled widely, not caring how stupid he must look like. "I like the sound of that, friends."

"I like the sound of it too,"

"I bid you goodnight too, Hermione - make sure to stay away from Mrs. Norris on your way back."

She mock saluted, "Stay away from cats, got it. You too, goodnight again Draco" she said before making a dash towards the door.

He waited for a few beats before following her. He quietly opened the door and slipped into the dark hallway, "She's fast," he mumbled when he saw no sign of his new friend. He shook his head in amusement as he traced the familiar steps back to the dungeons. He was almost near the entrance when he spotted Mrs. Norris sitting in the middle of the pathway, staring at him with narrowed eyes.

"Did you catch them, my love? Did you see those pesky kids?" Filch's voice boomed.

He threw Mrs. Norris a scowl, "Stupid cat!" he spat when the cat tried clawing his right leg. He hastily walked deeper into the dungeons, stopping right in front of the familiar wall. He tapped his wand twice and muttered the password, letting out a sigh of relief as he stepped into their Common Room. "I hope you made it back without being caught Hermione" he thought, a smile unconsciously curling on his lips.

"You're out late,"

His head snapped to the side and saw Blaise sitting on a wingback chair near the fire, "I was with Snape" he replied, the lie easily slipping from his lips.

"You're smiling, didn't know spending time with Snape can make you that happy," Blaise teased, his brows wiggling suggestively.

He rolled his eyes, "Think whatever you want, I'm going to bed" he said as he made his way towards the corridor.

"Don't dream of Snape!"

"Fuck you, Zabini."

Loud booming laughter echoed along the corridor, turning his smile into a full grin.

oOo

Hermione slipped under the comforter, the smile on her lips never fading. Tonight indeed, was the weirdest night of her entire life. She turned her face to the side and buried her face into her pillow, muffling the giggles that she can't seem to stifle. "Pygmy puffs are indeed flying, Draco Malfoy is her friend!" she thought.

-End of flashback-

Chapter 4: Must say goodbye
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Chapter Four:

"Release me, I know the only way to reach me that is the way that it should be. So free me from all your memories, I know we must say goodbye, we must say goodbye..," Must say goodbye by Ryu

Hermione arrived in her flat with a loud thud. She almost didn't make it to the couch before she felt her legs give in. She rested her head back, her swollen eyes fixed firmly on the ceiling. It has been two years since she last laid her eyes on him, and in those years, she thought she already managed to purge him out of her heart. What a lie that was. She pinched the bridge of her nose as a loud sigh escaped her lips, "Reality sucks-" she paused to turn her head towards the breakfast counter, spotting the Vodka that was given to her last month. "Better drown it with alcohol," she mumbled as she forced herself to stand up, sluggishly making her way towards the kitchen.

oOo

Of all the days to visit Hogwarts, why did she have to do it tonight? Why does it have to be in the same place she decided to break his heart? And why the hell is he thinking about bloody what ifs and if only's? Fate must really hate his guts, Draco concluded bitterly. He slipped his hands under his head and used it as a makeshift pillow. His eyes are still throbbing from being overused but he still kept it fixed on the starless sky, his mind involuntarily drifting back to where and how it all started.

-Flashback-

It was one cold afternoon when he decided to make the biggest change in his life. It was raining cats and dogs outside; yet, he really can't hear it due to the loud ringing in his ears. He clutched his robe tighter as he stopped right in front of the double doors that leads to the library. He took a deep breath, "It's now or never Draco, don't fuck it up," he said to himself, trying his hardest to calm his frayed nerves.

He pushed the doors open and briskly made his way towards the bookshelves he knows she'll be perusing tonight. He lowered himself on the floor and started pulling out random books from the lower shelf, stacking them on top of each other, making his ruse more believable. He then pulled his Ancient Runes textbook from his satchel, making sure to check his sand keeper before slipping his finger between the bookmarked pages, his eyes scanning over the passages he'd read a thousand times. Getting lost in the subject he deemed, his favorite.

He was turning over to the next page when he felt her presence. He knew it was her, so he didn't even lift his eyes from what he's reading. He waited for any form of acknowledgement, but it looked like the shock of seeing him there, made her mum. He flicked to the next page, feigning nonchalance, pretending that his heart is not about to jump out of his chest. He swallowed back his nervousness and braced himself for what he's about to do, "You've been standing there for quite some time Granger," he said, silently thanking Merlin for not letting his voice crack.

-End of Flashback

He was jarred back to the present when he heard a loud snapping sound. He hastily sat up, his hand automatically reaching for his wand. He scanned his surroundings, looking for a possible source of the noise. When he didn't see anyone or anything lurking around the Pitch, he hastily stood up from his perch. He dusted off his pants, his senses still high on alert. He started making his way back to the gates, his steps pounding loudly as his heart. He was almost halfway towards the large metal frame when something caught his gaze. He thought about ignoring it, but for some unfathomable reason, he felt compelled to check it out. He sat on his haunches and muttered Lumos, pointing the tip of his wand closer to the ground to see the object clearly. "She must've dropped this," he said as he plucked the familiar pendant from the grass. He closed his hand tightly around the charm as he shakily stood up, "Why? Why do you still have this?" he asked, his voice hoarse with pain. He shoved his hand inside his pocket and took deep calming breaths. When he's sure that his knees won't buckle, he resumed his trek towards the gate, disapparating with a loud crack.

The next day:

Hermione let out a pitiful groan as she turned to her side. Her mouth tastes foul and her head is throbbing like a bunch of hippogriffs are stampeding inside her skull. She stayed in the same prostate position for a couple of minutes before she decided to move again. Slowly, she opened her eyes and started scooting towards the edge of the bed. She pushed herself up and planted her feet to the floor. She checked the time on her alarm clock and mentally cursed when she saw how late it was. She started rubbing her temples as she groggily dragged herself towards the door, "Stupid vodka," she muttered as she stepped out into the hallway.

oOo

"Closure, this just for closure," Draco said to himself as he slipped the parchment inside the envelope. "She already said what she has to say; now it's your turn. Time to finally say goodbye," he added. Face full of determination and heart filled with resolve, he pressed his family seal on top of the hot wax. He waited for the seal to harden, before grabbing the envelope from the table. He stood up from his chair and made his way towards eagle-owl perched on his window sill. "Take this to Hermione, Morpheus, make sure she gets it," he said as tied the letter to its leg.

oOo

A cup of coffee, dried toasts and a bottle of Hangover Potion - that's what Hermione had to ingest to be able to feel a bit human again. She doesn't normally drink herself to stupor, in fact, she seldom drinks. Truth be told, she only gives in to that compulsion when her mind drifts towards her painful past, towards him specifically. Last night has been a prime example of that, her headache from hell too. She shook her head to clear her thoughts, "It's not like you will see him again, he's probably purging you out of his system after your botched apology," she rationalized.

She closed her eyes and tilted her face up, filling her lungs with as much as fresh air as she can. After a few seconds, she opened her eyes again and made her way towards the new recliner she bought form IKEA last week. Gingerly, she sat down and lifted her legs; resting her aching back on the comfortable cushions she got as a freebie. She folded her arms on top of her stomach, preparing herself for a catnap. She was about to close her eyes, but was forced to stop when she noticed a large owl flying towards her. She narrowed her eyes to get a better look at the bird and felt her heart drop to her stomach as soon as she recognizes it. "M-morpheus..." she gasped.

The majestic owl hooted loudly in greeting before gracefully perching itself on top the balcony railing. It bobbed his head towards her, sticking its scrawny leg that's holding a letter - his letter.

It took a couple of calming breaths before she was able to move. She planted her feet on the floor and willed her legs to take her towards the railing. She lifted her hand and gently petted its bulbous head, "It's been a long time, Morpheus" she said.

Morpheus leaned his head to her palm, cooing softly in response.

She smiled, "I've missed you too,"

Morpheus hooted again, sticking his leg that bears the package he's tasked to deliver.

"Still impatient as your owner, huh?" she joked as she shakily untied the strings. "There, got it."

Morpheus leaned forward and nipped her finger affectionately. He then spread his beautiful wings before taking off into the clear blue sky.

She watched him disappear from her line of sight before moving her eyes to the letter in her hand. She stared at the envelope with apprehension, torn between burning it without reading or reading it before burning. "You're a Gryffindor for Merlin's sake, open it!" her mind screamed at her. She squared her shoulders and slipped her finger under the flap, breaking the seal. She pinched the parchment inside, pulling it out without further preamble.

"Meet me at the Black Lake before dusk - I have what you're looking for..."

"Huh?" her brows furrowed in confusion. She flipped the parchment around, checking if he wrote something on the back. "What are you-"she paused, her blood turning cold. Her other hand automatically snapped towards her neck, searching for the familiar chain that never left her neck for years. She dropped his letter as she ran towards door, hastily making her way towards her room. She grabbed her wand from the side table, frantically swishing it, "Accio necklace!" she screamed, her voice cracking with tears. The dresser near her bed snapped open, as two necklaces she didn't know she still have, zoomed towards her. "N-n-no!" she whimpered as she fell on the floor. "Not again!"

Chapter 5: Next to you
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Chapter Five:

"Maybe we're friends, maybe we're more, maybe it's just my imagination. But I see you stare just a little too long and it makes me start to wonder, so baby call me crazy but I think you feel it too, maybe I, maybe I just gotta get next to you..." Next to you by Jordin Sparks

Draco yawned loudly as he walked towards the spot where they're supposed to meet. He slipped his hand inside his pocket and fingered the pendant that kept him awake for most of the night. A tired sigh escaped his lips just as the Black Lake came into his view, "And now, I wait" he mumbled.

-Flashback-

Subtle looks, secret smiles, that's what Draco and Hermione's friendship turned into. After that fateful night in the Library, they both decided that it would for their best interest if they kept their friendship under the wraps. It's not that they are ashamed of what they have; it's just that they both knew the risk if the wrong sort of people found out. Their fear at being caught didn't deter them from spending time together though. Thrice a week, they make it to a point to sneak away from prying eyes and hide at their favorite rendezvous. His boulder by the Black Lake has been a good refuge. Hermione placed a few of her self-made wards which Draco fortified with his modified version of a "Notice-me-not" charm. The combination of the spells they casted adhered to each other perfectly, which made them both relax.

Often times, they would find themselves just sitting next to each other without even speaking. She would take out one of her well worn book and start reading while he just stared at the still waters, deep in thought. The companionable silence they shared only proved how far their friendship has gone. They don't need petty conversations to be able to spend time together, which is a rare feat considering how much they love verbal sparring.

"Who are you taking to the Yule Ball?" Blaise asked.

He stopped mid-drink, his face full of confusion. "Huh? Is there another Tri-Wizard Tournament that I'm not aware of?"

Blaise chuckled, "I knew you weren't listening."

He placed his goblet back on the table, "Listening to what?"

"The old coot just announced it a few minutes ago, we'll have another Yule Ball, sans the tournament."

"Oh."

Blaise grabbed his spoon and started eating his pudding, "So, back to my question, who are you taking to the Ball?"

An image of a brown haired bookworm crossed his mind's eye. "I don't know, you just told me about it," he lied.

Blaise let his spoon hover on top of his plate, "Well, you better get started before all the good ones are taken" he said thoughtfully.

He placed his napkin on top of his plate before pushing away from the table, "Yeah, I'll get right to it" he said.

"Do that."

He snatched his satchel from the bench before turning on his heels, "See you later," he said absentmindedly before heading towards his next class.

oOo

"That's it Draco Xavier Malfoy" he talked to his reflection. "You have to bloody ask her. You're already friends with her, how hard can it be?" he mumbled.

"Why are you talking to yourself?" Gregory Goyle asked.

"I'm not talking to myself, I'm memorizing some potions ingredients" he lied smoothly.

"For what?" Vincent Crabbe asked.

"None of your business" he snapped.

Vincent opened his mouth to respond but Gregory slapped his meaty palm on top of his friend's mouth, muffling his words.

He threw Gregory a thankful look before moving his eyes back to the mirror. He tousled his hair and checked his appearance one more time before slipping his wand inside his robes. "I'm going for a walk, I'll see you later" he said curtly as he made his way towards the door.

"Yeah, okay" Gregory replied.

He plucked the sand keeper from his pocket as he briskly climbed up the stairs "She should be there by this time" he thought. He turned left from the Great Hall and hastily made his way towards the Library; he tucked his sand keeper back in his pocket before pushing the heavy double doors open. He slipped into the large room and started scanning the tables. When he didn't see any trace of her, he started checking her favorite haunts. He stopped at the last aisle and braced his hands on his hips, "Where in Merlin's name is she?" he asked himself. He paced along the bookshelves and tried to remember the places she often visits during her free time. After a moment, he slapped his palm on his forehead, "Of course!" he exclaimed. He then turned on his heels and made a dash towards the door. He pushed it unceremoniously, not even paying attention to the huffs and puffs of the girls he ran into. He made his way back to the Great Hall and took a quick turn towards the Grand Entrance. He grinned widely as he stepped into the grounds, "How can I forget?" he mumbled. He slipped his hands in his pockets, feeling more confident now that he knows where to find her. He whistled cheerfully as he walked along the damp grass, not even daunted that she hasn't bothered activating their charm. He stopped just a few feet from her, observing her quietly as she turned to the next page.

"Do I have something on my face Draco?" Hermione asked.

"How did you know it was me?" he asked.

She lifted her gaze from the book and cocked her head to the side, "Who else would know where to find me?"

"Pothead and Weaselby?"

She rolled her eyes as she snapped her book shut, "When will you stop calling them names?"

He smirked, "It depends."

"Depends on what?" she asked with a quirked brow.

"If you'll stop calling Crabbe and Goyle ogres"

She blinked a few times before bursting into fits of giggles.

He pulled his hand off his pockets as he moved closer, "What are you doing here anyway? I've been looking all over for you" he said.

She stopped giggling, but a trace of mirth is still evident on her features, "Just trying to have some peace" she replied.

He lifted his foot and rested it on top of the stone next to his boulder, "Let me guess, they're still talking about their latest win against Ravenclaw?" he said wryly.

"Yes," she replied.

"Thought so,"

She gathered her hands on top of her book, "So, why are you looking for me?"

He suddenly felt less cocky. He shifted on his perch nervously; his heart started beating like a herd of Hippogriffs is about to maul him.

"Draco?"

"Just go for it!" his mind screamed at him. He swallowed back the quaffle sized lump in his throat before speaking, "The Christmas Ball is...uhmm...next week, do you already have a date?"

Her eyes widen, clearly not expecting his question.

"I'm not prying or anything" he paused and scratched the back of his neck. "I was just hoping that you-"

"NO!" she squeaked, cutting him off midsentence.

His gut twisted painfully with her answer, "Oh."

Her cheeks burned bright with embarrassment for her abrupt answer. She averted her gaze and started fidgeting with her fingers. "No, you're not prying and no I don't have a date yet" she clarified.

He felt the tension inside his stomach loosen with her clarification. "This is your chance, ask her now!" he thought. He licked his lips and cleared his throat loudly, "Hermione would you-"

"HERMIONE!"

Her head snapped to the side and spotted two figures walking towards them, "Shit! I forgot to set the wards!"

"What are you doing with this prick? Is he bothering you?" Ron demanded, his eyes blazing with anger.

"Perfect timing Weasel" he hissed and glared at him murderously. "You always know when to butt in!" he added.

Ron pulled his wand from is robes and pointed it towards Draco, "Say another word and I'll hex your ferrety arse!"

Harry grabbed the fuming red head's shoulder, "Ron" he said, his voice full of warning. He then turned his gaze towards the blonde man glowering at them, "Watch your mouth Malfoy and stay away from her!"

His lips curled into a sneer, "Walk the talk Potter. I'm not the one drawing wands here, am I?" he said sarcastically.

"Will you cut it off?" Hermione said, looking pointedly at her best friends. "I appreciate your chivalry but it is not needed. He's not harassing me or disrespecting me in any sort of way. We were just talking and no, he did not hex me or charm me."

Ron looked affronted, "But-"

"No buts!" she snapped.

Ron opened his mouth to speak again but Harry tugged him back, "Shut it" he whispered.

She hopped off the boulder and shoved her book inside her bag. She slipped the strap on her shoulder before turning her eyes to him, "I'm sorry about this, I'll talk to you some other time" she said, her eyes pleading for understanding.

He nodded curtly, his insides still bubbling with anger for being interrupted.

She walked towards her friends, her face full of annoyance. "Let's go back to the Common Room - now!" she snapped as she stormed towards the castle.

Harry threw him a death glare before dragging Ron along with him, "Hermione, wait!" he called out.

He waited for the trio to make it to the pathway before he let a small smirk, "Good to know she has their balls in a platter" he said with amusement.

oOo

Draco let out an annoyed grunt as he entered their dormitory. It has been a week since he last talked to Hermione and up to this point, he still haven't gotten the chance to ask her again. The Ball will be held tomorrow and he's still dateless, time was really not on his side. It's not due to lack of trying though, it's just that Pothead and Weaselby stuck to her like glue, much to his utter annoyance. He trudged towards the couch and plopped down angrily, "Bloody Ball" he mumbled.

"Hey..."

He turned his face to the side and saw Pansy Parkinson sitting beside him, "What do you want?" he asked callously.

She shifted closer, "Drakeypoo...the Yule Ball is coming, aren't you asking me yet?" she asked while batting her eye lashes.

He scrunched his face with distaste, "Who says I'm asking you?"

She shot up from her perch, hurt and contempt etched through her features. She took a tiny box from her robe pocket and aimed it directly at his chest, throwing it with all the force she can muster.

"Ouch! What in the bloody hell are you doing?" he yelped.

"You don't deserve that you daft prick! But because I already paid for it and I don't have any use for it, you can bloody keep it!" she seethed before storming towards the stairs.

He rubbed his chest as he pluck the tiny wrapped box on his lap. He lifted it to his eye level, an idea forming in his mind.

oOo

On the other side of the castle; Hermione sat on her bed and started talking to no one in particular. "He was going to ask me, I know it! But we we're interrupted, I might've said yes that instant!" she groaned with frustration. A voice at the back of her head asked; "Why do you want to go with him anyway? He's Malfoy!" She pursed her lips and thought about that question, "Don't you like Ron?" it probed again. Hermione shook her head; trying hard to clear her mind to somehow find an answer to that question. "I still like Ron. I'll forever like him. It's just that somewhere along the way, my feelings changed," she rationalized. "Are you trying to say that you like Malfoy now?" the voice in her head asked again. She felt her jaw drop - for the first time in 4 years, Hermione Granger didn't have any answer to a simple question. Not so long ago, she used to despise him with every fibre of her being. And if by chance he popped that question to her before, she would have laughed her heart out and tell him a flat out no. She let that thought sink in, her mind whirring with how things have changed in such a short period. She fell back on her bed, "When did this happen?" she asked loudly.

"Hermione, are you alright?" Lavender Brown asked as she approached her.

She cleared her thoughts before turning her face to the side, "Y-yes, of course" she answered.

Lavender moved towards the foot of the bed and sat down, "Do you already have a date for tomorrow?" she asked.

She fought the urge to wince, "No, how about you?" she asked as she sat up.

A large grin curled on Lavender's lips, "I have, actually. You won't believe who asked me..."

She smiled because she already knew that Ron was planning to ask the blonde beauty to the Ball. "Who?" she played along.

"Ron - Ronald Weasley!" Lavender squaled, her brown eyes twinkling with excitement.

She leaned forward and patted her friend's hand, "I'm happy for you Lav, I know you'll enjoy the night" she sincerely said.

"Thank you Mione!"

"You're welcome."

oOo

Yule Ball:

Hermione sat between Harry and Ron, feeling miserable and defeated. The Ball will be held tonight and yet she's still dateless. Nobody seems to want to take her and the only boy who came close to asking her didn't even bother approaching her again. She bowed her head and threw an inconspicuous glance towards the Slytherin table, quietly watching Draco interact with his friends. "At least someone feeling peachy this morning," she thought bitterly as she saw him laugh with Blaise Zabini. She was about to tear her eyes away from the happy picture when something caught her eye. The sophomore boy she just deducted 10 points from for bullying a freshman earlier approached the laughing Slytherins. He took out a rolled parchment and a small box from his satchel and handed it to Draco. The blonde boy's face lit up as he accepted the package before turning to his side. He pushed the small box towards Pansy and cheerfully kissed her cheek, mumbling something in her ear. The pug-nosed girl's face turned scarlet as she playfully swatted Draco's arm, making him laugh again. She swallowed the lump inside her throat as she lowered her eyes to her lap, "Explains why he didn't bother trying again" she thought sadly.

"Mione? Are you okay?" Harry asked.

She lifted her eyes, meeting his concerned gaze; "I'm fine Harry," she lied.

Harry stared at her intently, "You look paler than the usual, are you feeling sick?"

She shook her head, "No, just a little headache" she lied.

"Okay, if you say so" Harry replied. "Oh, I forgot to tell you. I already asked Ginny to the Ball and she said yes," he added as an afterthought, his excitement radiating off of his body.

"Glad you finally found your balls, mate" Ron interjected with a teasing grin.

Harry adjusted his glasses, "It was not missing, I just took my time - I wanted it to be special."

"Right on!" Ron lifted his hand for a high five that Harry eagerly slapped. "Touch her anywhere inappropriate and you'll lose a finger, got me?" he said as he squeezed his best friend's hand.

"Crystal," Harry replied evenly.

"Good" Ron said as he released the other wizard's hand.

She can't help but smile at the display. Ron has always been protective towards her and Ginny and for her, that' has always been his redeeming quality. She was about to open her mouth to speak but a loud giggle from the other table stopped her from doing so.

"Oh Drakeypoo! You shouldn't have!" Pansy squealed with delight.

She froze, her gut twisting painfully with Pansy's words.

"Argh! She's so annoying!" Ron huffed.

Harry followed Ron's gaze and wrinkled his nose with distaste, "Yeah, got that right" he grumbled.

"That's it!" she said to herself, ending her internal battle. She pushed away from the table and shot up from her seat, knocking her pumpkin juice all over, attracting curious glances. "I'm sorry" she mumbled as she grabbed her bag.

"Where are you going?" Harry and Ron asked, their eyes wide in surprise.

"I'm going to the infirmary, I may have contacted something after all" she replied before storming towards door. "You're pathetic Hermione, really pathetic" she thought as she pushed the heavy oak open. She slipped the strap of her bag on her shoulder as she took a sharp turn to her left, she made a bee line towards the first pillar she saw and hid behind it. She curled her hands into tight fists, fighting back the tears that seem to appear out of nowhere. "Damn it! What the hell is happening to me?"

"Oh Drakey! You really shouldn't have!" Pansy shrieked as she hugged Draco's arm.

Draco winced as he removed his arm from other eager witch's grasp; "Err - you're welcome."

"Looks like someone is upset"

Draco followed his friend's gaze, "Whose upset? Who are you talking about?"

Blaise nodded towards the Gryffindor table, "Trouble in paradise, Granger just stormed out of their table."

He narrowed his eyes at Pothead and Weaselby, "What did they do?"

Blaise shrugged, "How should I know" he replied. He then swivelled on his seat to face his friend, "Why do you care?" he asked with a quirked brow.

"I don't" he lied as he grabbed his goblet.

Blaise studied his face for a moment before turning his attention back to his breakfast.

"What the hell happened?" he thought, his mind racing with different scenarios.

oOo

Gryffindor Tower:

It was almost noon when Ginny decided to check on Hermione. She knew that the older witch was more upset than ill earlier, so she gave her wide berth before asking her what's wrong. She slowly pushed the door ajar, knocking three times to announce her presence. "Mi?"

"Yes?" Hermione replied as she sat up from the bed.

"Are you still feeling sick?" Ginny asked as she approached the bed.

She gathered her hands on her lap, "No, I'm feeling much better" she replied with a small smile.

Ginny sat down at the foot of the bed, "It's almost time for the Ball, want to share the loo? I can help fix your hair and you can do my make-up."

"I don't feel like going Gin, I think I'm going to stay in tonight" she replied timidly, her eyes straying towards her hands.

Ginny shifted closer and nudged the brunette's leg to get her attention, "I saw you, you know."

"Saw what?"

"I saw you crying behind the pillar."

Her cheeks started flushing beet red, "I - I was not crying - my eyes were just itchy" she stuttered.

Ginny fought the urge to roll her eyes, "You're really not a good liar" she mused.

"I'm not lying!"

"That's what I'm talking about. Your voice turns shrilly and you have this guilty look on your face every time you lie," Ginny pointed out.

She crossed her arms on top of her chest, "Whatever Gin, I'm still not going."

Ginny recognized the petulant look on Hermione's face so she decided to try a different tactic. She's not even sure if there's really "something" going on, but she's willing to risk it. "This might be your last chance, are you sure that you want to pass on it?"

Her head snapped to the side, her brows furrowing with confusion. "What do you mean?"

"Aha! Looks like I'm on the right track after all" Ginny thought gleefully. She lay on her side, propping her head with her hand, "Really now, you're going to make me say it?" she challenged with an arched brow.

Her eyes widen in shock, "She knows" the voice in her head said loudly. Her heart starting picking up its pace, making her speechless.

Ginny noticed the shift on her friend's demeanor, making her feel guilty. She moved her other hand on the comforter, drawing patterns with her pointer finger. "I'm not blind or dense like Harry or my brother Hermione. I maybe younger than you but I'm still a girl, I notice these things."

She swallowed back the lump in her throat, "W - what do you know?" she asked shakily.

Ginny took a deep breath before she plunged on, "I saw you talking with him in the Library."

"You what?!"

"Oh hush! I didn't hear a single thing. I just saw you, period" Ginny clarified. She then shifted her hand on her stomach, her eyes meeting Hermione's intently, "I know something is going on between you and Malfoy, you've become friends. And before you panic, no I'm not telling Harry or Ron and I also won't judge you. I know for a fact that you have a good head on your shoulders, so if you deem he's an alright kind of bloke then I will support you."

She licked her lips, "Really?'

Ginny nodded, "Really, it's not my secret to tell anyway" she said.

"Oh."

Ginny sat up and frowned, "And I also know what happened last week, is that the reason why you've decided to forgo the Ball?"

"It might have something to do with that" she admitted. She let her arms fall to her side as she leaned back on her pillows, "He was going to ask me, I know it. He just didn't have the chance because Harry and Ron appeared out of nowhere" she pouted. "Your brother and his foolish wand waving threats" she added.

Ginny frowned, "That's not what I've heard."

"I'm not surprised" she replied dryly. She then let out a dejected sigh, "But that doesn't matter, he didn't ask me again. It was just wishful thinking I guess, maybe he really doesn't want to go with me and he's just being polite because he knows that no one asked me yet" she said, her voice filled with hurt and a tinged of bitterness.

"Are you sure about that?"

She nodded, "Positive" she replied, her mind going back to the scene she witnessed earlier.

Ginny cocked her to the side, "I really don't think that's the case Mi. I see the way he looks at you when he think nobody is looking. There's something more than friendship there, I should know, that's the exact way I look at Harry" she said, the apple of her cheeks heating up with her admission.

She shook her head, "I don't think so Gin, I think he's with Parkinson - I saw him this morning, he kissed her cheek and he look so happy" she said sadly.

"Harry kisses your cheek. My brother does that too. Does that mean that you guys are together?" Ginny asked cheekily.

She sat up straight, "Of course not! They're like my brothers!"

"Point made then."

She started fidgeting with her hands, mulling over Ginny's words.

"It's not too late Mi, you - me, we still have time" Ginny said. "The Ball doesn't start until 8 and its just 3, I'm sure that's enough time to get ready."

She bit her bottom lip, "Will you help me?" she asked shyly.

A large grin curled up Ginny's lips, "I thought you'd never ask, bloody Gryffindor pride" she teased as she hopped off the bed. "Mission accomplished" she thought happily.

She sat on her haunches and flung her arms around the younger witch, "I don't know what I'd do without you Gin, thank you!"

oOo

Slytherin Dormitories:

The common room was almost empty when Draco arrived; he just got done with Quidditch practice and now it's time to get ready. He made his way towards his room and started gathering his toiletries. He went straight to his ensuite bathroom and took his time with the shower. After almost 30 minutes of scrubbing and preening, he slipped into his best dress robe and made his way back to the room. He walked towards the full length mirror and stared at his reflection, he straightened his bow tie before running his fingers through his hair. He was fixing his cravat when he spied the small velvet box perched on top of his bed, he stared at it for a moment before moving his eyes back to his clothes.

oOo

Great Hall: 8 P.M

The bell chimed loudly, signalling the start of the Yule Ball. Students started arriving in pairs and large groups; whispers and surprised gasps filled the room as the Great Hall unfolded itself magically. The once large rectangular tables that used to occupy most of the space in the room were transfigured into small rounded tables. It was lined with elf weaved gossamer fabric and topped with intricate crystal vases, bearing a variety of floras. It was scattered strategically around the room, giving enough space for the students to glide through them with ease. Iced kissed Fir trees decorated by colorful baubles and lit by candles were erected on each side of the Teachers table. Garlands and pine cones dipped in silver-white paint were wrapped around the tall columns. Strings of fairy lights were hung between the pillars, emitting a faint light that gives the room a more enchanted look.

Draco walked in, his eyes taking in his surreal surrounding. He slipped his hand inside his pocket to make sure he didn't forget the small velvet box before he made his way towards Blaise, "Hey" he greeted.

Blaise turned around, "Hey, you arrived on time" he said with a smile.

"Just finished practice" he replied, his eyes searching for the bookworm he failed to ask.

"Where's your date?"

He shrugged, "I don't have one" he replied. He pulled his hand from his pocket and turned to meet his friend's gaze, "How about you? Where's your date?" he asked.

Blaise grinned, "I'm going stag. I wouldn't want these ladies to feel lonely, you know" he said while wiggling his brows.

He can't help but grin back, "You're one of a kind Zabini - one of a kind."

oOo

Gryffindor Common Room:

Hermione worried her bottom lip as she stared at her reflection.

"You look wonderful dear, now go on, you don't want to be late" The enchanted mirror encouraged with a smile.

"Okay, I can do this" she said to herself. She slipped her wand inside the hidden pocket before stepping out of her room; she walked towards the stairs and carefully made her way down.

Harry and Ron seem to hear her footsteps because they both stood up from their perch, their eyes wide like saucers when they spotted her.

"How do I look? Do I look hideous?" Hermione asked nervously.

Harry cleared his throat first, "You look gorgeous Mione" he said with an approving smile.

She can't help but smile back, "Thank you, this is all Ginny's work" she replied bashfully.

"Blimey Hermione! You sure clean up well" Ron blurted out.

Harry dug his elbow on his friend's rib, "Forgive Ron, you know he's really not good with words."

She rolled her eyes, "Don't worry about it Harry, I know him well enough to not be offended with his callous words."

Ron's cheeks turned bright, "I'm sorry Mione, I didn't mean it to sound like that" he apologized.

"Don't mind my brother Mi, he normally puts his foot in his mouth" Ginny said as she fell into step with Harry.

Harry turned to face his date, his emerald eyes sparkling with admiration, "You look stunning Gin, really beautiful."

Ginny blushed, clearly not used Harry complimenting her, "You don't look bad yourself" she mumbled.

She felt a tiny bit of jealousy watching the couple, "I wish I had someone too" she sighed wistfully.

"Come on, Lav is already waiting for me" Ron said as he trudged towards the door.

"RONALD WEASLEY! I'm appalled at your horrible manners! You're supposed to escort her to the Great Hall and not meet her there!" Ginny harped, her voice closely resembling their Mother's.

Ron looked confused, "Really?"

She shook her head as she pushed Ron forward, "Some things will never change" she mumbled.

oOo

When the quartet arrived, all eyes were on them. Hermione shifted on her feet, clearly uncomfortable with the attention they're getting.

"Loosen up Mione, you look like you're ready to faint" Ron whispered with a smirk.

She pinched his arm, "I can't help it! I'm not used to this" she whispered back.

Ron tugged her hand and gave it a comforting squeeze, "Don't mind them, save me a dance later?" he asked.

"Do you promise not to abuse my toes?" she teased.

"Ha, ha, ha, you're bloody funny.'

She can't help but smile at his snarky response, "Fine, I'll just cast a numbing spell on my feet then."

Ron smiled at her, "Do that. I have to go and find Lavender, she's my date after all."

"Go on" she replied. She waited for Ron's back to disappear in the crowd before she turned towards Ginny, "I'll just go get something to drink" she said.

"Do you want me to go with you?" Ginny asked.

"No, I'm good, I'll see you in a bit?"

Ginny stared at her for a second, "You sure?"

She nodded, "Yes."

"Okay then, we'll just find you later."

She squeezed the other girl's arm before walking towards the refreshment's table. She was half way through when she suddenly felt a familiar tingling on her spine. She halted her steps and took a deep breath, she knew it was him - he's the only one who can elicit this type of reaction from her after all. Slowly, she turned around and found herself looking straight into his silver grey eyes.

oOo

Draco felt restless. It's already quarter past 8 and he still hasn't seen her. He placed his empty goblet on top the table, "I'm going to get some fresh air, I'm feeling a little light headed - too much perfume here" he said.

Blaise tipped his goblet towards his friend, "Sure mate, I'll just be right here" he replied.

He nodded towards the Italian before standing up from his seat; he shoved his hands inside his pockets and lazily worked his way through the raucous crowd. He was about to head to the double door when a distinct figure walking towards the refreshment's table caught his eye. His heart started picking up its pace, "Hermione" he breathed out once their gazes met for the first time.

An angel, that's the first thought that crossed his mind when he got a clear view of her. She was wearing a white silk empire cut dress capped with short sleeves, revealing a decent portion of her rosy white skin. Her once riotous curls was tamed into soft locks that's embellished with tiny diamond like studs, making her hair glimmer under the dimly lit room. He shifted on his feet, his eyes moving back to her face. "God's she's so beautiful" he thought.

oOo

Hermione felt her cheeks flush with the way Draco is looking at her. She folded her arms under her chest as she let out a small smile. She felt a thrill of surprise crawled up her spine when he started to move towards her, "Merlin's beard is he really-"

"Good evening Ms. Granger, you look breathtaking tonight" he said with a small smile.

Her heart skipped a beat upon hearing his compliment, "Thanks, you don't look bad yourself."

Slowly, he held his hand out, "May I have this dance?" he asked.

Before her mind can come up with a thousand reasons why she should say no, her hand slid into his.

He bowed like the true gentleman and placed a chaste kiss on her knuckles. He laced their fingers together before steering her towards the dance floor.

"Are you sure about this?" she asked.

He shifted her hands on his shoulders, his arms going around her waist, "Never had been this sure in my entire life," he replied.

She smiled shyly, "If you're really sure..."

He pulled her closer as they swayed with the music, not even a bit daunted about the attention they're receiving from the other students.

She felt herself relax in his arms, her feet following his steps fluidly.

oOo

Ginny witnessed the whole scene and she can't help but feel happy for her best friend, "Finally! They really look good together" she thought.

Harry noticed the mischievous smile on his date's lips, "What are you looking at?" he asked as he skilfully reversed their position. He scanned the direction that she's looking at and spotted them almost instantly, "Why is the ferret dancing with Hermione?"

She tightened her hold around his neck, "It's the Ball Harry, let them be" she replied.

"I knew it! She really has gone barmy! And why the bloody hell is Malfoy suddenly interested in her? Is he planning something?" he asked, his voice dripping with suspicion.

She rolled her eyes, "Stop being a git and let them be. They're just dancing for Merlin's sake! It's not as if they're snogging" she said with exasperation.

His gaze snapped back to Ginny, his eyes wide in surprise.

"After this ball we don't know what will happen. The Dark Lord is getting stronger and we...we don't know if all of us will live to see another day..."

"I'll do everything I can to protect all of you, you know that, right?"

"I know that, but doesn't mean I'm less scared" she admitted. She shifted closer and rested her cheek on his chest, "Just give this night to her, please?"

"What do you mean by that?" he asked, his voice less stiff than before.

"Time to take off the blinders" she thought. "Sometimes, it makes me wonder if Hermione is really right."

He chuckled, "She's always right."

She pulled her face away and arched a brow, "So you agree that boys have an emotional range of a teaspoon?"

"Not all of us" he grumbled, his cheeks turning pink with embarrassment.

She placed her hand on his cheek, her eyes twinkling with mirth. "Are you an exception to that connotation then?"

"What do you think?" he challenged.

"Well, you did take notice of my feelings" she mused.

He pinched her waist playfully, "That I did" he grinned. "Now, about what you said..."

Her face turned serious, "It's really not my story to tell but let me give you an idea. Look at Hermione right now, does she look happy?"

He shifted his eyes back to his best friend and saw her laughing, "She does look happy-" he paused and wrinkled his nose with distaste. "-even if she's dancing with the ferret,"

She pinched his chin and turned his face to meet hers again, "She's happy Harry, and for some bizarre reason it has something to do with that ferret. There's got to be something there,"

"But-"

"I know, I don't trust him too" she interjected. She then clasped her hands around his neck, "But we trust Hermione, right?"

"Of course, she's our best friend" he admitted grudgingly.

"Then it's settled. Give them tonight then we'll go from there, deal?"

"Deal" he replied. He then moved his eyes back to the unlikely couple, "You really think there's something more between them?" he asked, studying his enemy's face.

"You see the way he looks at her?"

"Yes,"

"That's the same way I used to look at you - still look at you" she replied.

He turned is face back to gaze into her eyes. He knew exactly what she meant, so he decided to let it be, for now. He leaned forward and pressed his lips to her forehead, "Okay"

She relaxed into his arms, her eyes closing with pleasure, "Do you even have an idea how much I love you?"

He rested his cheek on her temples, "I know and I love you too" he replied. "And if you want to know how much, let's just say that this lifetime won't be enough to measure the depths of my feelings for you."

She choked back her tears as she hugged him tightly, "You really know how to make a girl swoon,"

"I'm good at that too" he replied cheekily.

oOo

"Looks like Harry and Ginny are having a good time," Ron mused as he watched his sister and best friend dance.

Lavender smiled, "Happy and smitten, that's what they are" she said. She then pointed towards the other couple she spotted earlier, "Even Draco and Hermione are dancing - Yule is really a season for miracles."

He followed her gaze with utter disbelief, his face turning bright red.

Lavender didn't seem to notice the abrupt change in his mood so she kept on babbling, "Who would've thought that they'll look good together, huh?" she paused to look at her date. "Don't you think?"

"Has she gone mental?! What the hell is she doing fraternizing with the enemy?" he blurted out, his hands flexing on his side.

Lavender threw him a disapproving look, "It's the Ball and we're supposed to dance with whomever we want, give it a rest."

He looked horrified, "How can you expect me to give it a rest? He's a stupid prick and sodding git, he doesn't deserve to dance with her! Did he curse her or something? Just wait till I get my hands on him, I'll wring his bloody neck!" he seethed as he made his move.

Lavender grabbed his arm, "RONALD WEASLEY! Are you leaving me here for Mafloy?" she asked with feigned shock.

His face burn even brighter, "I'm not leaving you for him, I'm going to strangle him!"

"She's no longer a kid Ron, she's old enough to know what she's doing" Lavender said. "If she deems him well enough to want to dance with him, then you should respect that" she added with a voice that left no argument.

He pursed his lips, still not convinced with her rationalization.

Lavender shifted closer, "And besides, we both know that Hermione can handle herself. She's quick with a wand, one wrong move from him and he'll end up on his arse."

He felt his muscles relax with her words, she's right - Hermione can definitely take care of herself.

Lavender squeezed his arm again to get the red head's attention, "Dance with me?"

He threw his other best friend a look, and when he realized that he didn't mind. He pulled Lavender's hand from his arm and kissed her knuckles, "Let's go then," he relented.

Lavender smiled as she let him lead her towards the dance floor, "Crisis averted," she mumbled with a relieved sigh.

oOo

Draco was having a jolly good time, all because of the girl in his arms. He took a step back before spinning her into an elaborate twirl, making her giggle. He then tugged her back, swaying them from side to side. "Having fun?" he asked with a grin.

Hermione squeezed his hand, "More than I thought I would," she replied honestly. "You really are a good dancer."

"I'll make sure to pass the compliments to Madame Leroux" he replied.

"You should, you did her proud to today" she replied.

"You're good at dancing too, is there anyone you wish to pass the compliment too?"

Her cheeks flushed with embarrassment, "Err - my Mum insisted that I take a couple of dance lessons when I was young, guess it paid off too."

"It sure did, you're a very good dance partner" he complimented as he twirled her into another spin.

oOo

Hermione was having fun. When Ginny convinced her to go to the Ball, she didn't expect that she'll end up having Draco as her first dance. Yes, she hoped that they'll get the chance to speak, but never as far as dancing. The way he looked at her right before he held out his hand for all to see still makes her heart pitter-patter, "Viktor Krum, who?" she mused.

"Hermione?"

She snapped back to reality, "Yes?"

He furrowed his brows in concern, "Are you getting tired? Do you want to sit down?"

"I'm fine, but is it okay if we sit down for a while?" she found herself asking.

He stopped swaying them and smile, "Of course, want me to get us some punch?"

She can't help but smile at his thoughtfulness, "That would be great, thank you Draco."

"You're welcome" he replied as he led her towards the vacant seats. He helped her sit down before kissing her knuckles, "I'll be back in few" he said before turning on his heels.

She sighed dreamily as she watched him weave through the crowd. She waited for his back to disappear from line of vision before she stared fixing her hair.

"So many times, I thought I held it in my hands but just like grains of sand love slips through my fingers. So many nights, I asked the Lord above please make me lucky in love, to find a love that lingers. Something keeps telling me that you could be my answered prayer, you must be heaven sent I swear..."

She froze; her mouth turned agape, "NSYNC? Really?" she thought with incredulity. She let her hands fall to her lap, her eyes moving towards the Music Booth, "Well that explains it," she concluded once she saw who sat behind it - Justin Finch-Fletchley. She leaned back on her chair, her mind unconsciously drifting back to what Ginny told her a few hours ago. Is there really something special between them? Does he see her more than a friend? She worried her bottom lip as she started to dissect their every encounter. "He does seem to stare at me more than the usual" she surmised. Her eyes then began searching for his familiar blonde head, only to find him talking animatedly with Pansy. She felt her heart drop to her stomach as her earlier musing crumbled to dust. She shot up from her seat just as Pansy placed her hand on his arm, "You're bloody mad for thinking it's more than what it really is" she said as she tore her eyes away from the scene. She wrapped her arms around herself as she weaved through the throng of students.

"Mione! Where are you going?"

She halted her steps and turned her face to the side, "The loo, I'm just going to freshen up," the lie easily escaping her lips.

Harry furrowed his brows, "Are you alright? You look pale?"

She let out a forced smile, "I'm alright Harry, don't worry about me. Where's Gin?"

Harry pointed towards the dance floor, "She's dancing with Neville, want me to get her for you?"

"No, I'm good. Be back in a few" she said.

"Okay, we'll wait for you here" Harry replied with a small smile.

She nodded before walking towards the door. Once she's outside the festivities, she let her shoulders drop. She took her wand out of her pocket and casted a warming bubble on her whole body. She waited for the charm to seep through her skin before she made her way out of the castle. She hugged herself around her waist as she trekked the icy path towards the Black Lake. She almost slipped twice, but she was able to catch her bearing before her arse hit the snowy ground. She sighed in relief when she caught sight of "their" boulder; she took her wand from her pocket and whispered Tergio. She carefully hauled herself up; making sure that the hem of her dress is neatly tucked under her. She then folded her elbows on top of her knees, her eyes straying towards the frozen waters. "They're probably dancing their hearts out and he won't even notice me missing..." she mumbled sadly. Tears blurred her vision as she replayed the scene in her head all over again. "Silly girl! Why are you hurting yourself? You have no right to feel that way, he's just being nice to you and that's it! He didn't even ask you to go with him tonight remember? So why assume and expect more?" she scolded herself. She buried her face in her palms as she surrendered to coldness that's seeping through her skin, hoping against all hope that the chill can somehow numb her aching heart.

oOo

"Okay, have fun" Draco said as he pulled away from Pansy.

"Where are you going?" Pansy asked with a pout.

He wracked his brain for an excuse but he can't seem to come up with one.

"May I have this dance?"

Pansy turned around and saw Theo standing behind her. She let out a giggle as she slipped her hand in his, "Always the gentleman Theo," she purred.

Theo winked at a dumbfounded Draco before steering Pansy towards the dance floor.

He nodded his head in thanks before turning on his heels. He walked towards the place he left her but he she's not there. He placed the goblet on the table and began searching for her. He caught sight of her friends but she's also not with them. He braced his hands on his waist, his brows furrowing with annoyance. "Where is he?" he grumbled. He then started circling the crowd, checking if she's with the other Gryffindorks but also came up with naught, "How can she leave without even saying goodbye?" he seethed. He shoved his hands inside his pockets as she trudged out of the Great Hall, "That's really rude of her" he puffed out. He walked towards the large oak doors that lead towards grounds. He leaned heavily on the frame, his eyes straying towards the Black Lake. He was about to shift his eyes towards the starless sky when a movement caught his gaze, he squinted and tried his best to get a better look. "Hermione..." he breathed out for the second time, his hand automatically reaching for his wand. "Accio winter coat!"

-End of Flashback-

Draco snapped back to the present when he heard something crack. He hastily turned around, expecting Hermione to be there, but he saw no one. His eyes moved towards the flock of birds flying away from the Whomping Willow and realized that the crack came from the old tree. He took a deep breath and started walking towards his boulder, "You're acting like a nervous teenage boy, loosen up" he said to himself as he hefted himself up. He pulled the necklace from his pocket and lifted it to his eye level, his mind drifting back to his earlier musing.

Chapter 6: Falling
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Chapter Six:

"I can't pretend that I'm just a friend 'cause I'm thinking maybe we were meant to be. I think I'm falling, falling in love with you..." Falling by Janno Gibbs

-Flashback-

He ran as fast as his feet could take him and managed to reach the Lake in less than five minutes. He stopped a few feet away from her to catch his breath. He knitted his brows when he noticed her tiny shoulders shaking, "Is she crying?" he thought. He felt a pang of discomfort crawled through his skin, a clear indication that he's really not used to dealing with crying girls. He took a deep breath before announcing his presence, "Don't you think it's dangerous to wander alone at this hour?" he asked softly, trying his best not to startle her.

Hermione's body turned rigid upon hearing his voice, but she didn't respond.

He walked towards her, his concern going up to knots with her silence, "Hermione? Are you alright? What happened?"

She acknowledged his presence by wiping her cheeks, but still, she kept silent.

He flinched when he got a good look at her. Her whole face was red and splotchy, a sure sign that she's been crying for awhile. His felt his hackles rise into full gear, his mind coming up with different scenarios that might have caused her distress. He opened his mouth to speak but she beat him to it.

"I'm fine, just a little bit stressed out that's all."

He pulled his wand out of his pocket and pointed towards the snowy ground, "Tergio" he whispered. He then kneeled before her, his hands reaching for hers. "I'll ignore your answer and ask you again, what's going on? Is it Weaselby? Did he upset you?" he asked.

She didn't pull her hands away but she averted her gaze.

"Or is Pothead? Did he say something to you?"

She still didn't answer him.

His frustration seems to hit the roof with her indifference. "Why in Merlin's beard is she acting this way? Did he do something to upset her? He can't remember doing anything, he was a complete gentleman all night!" he thought.

"It's just too much to handle..." she mumbled, her voice raspy from crying.

Throwing all caution to the wind, he yanked her into his arms and hugged her tightly.

Her shoulders shook as gut retching sobs escaped her lips.

"Hush love - don't cry, I'm here" he whispered as he ran his hand soothingly along her back.

She snuggled closer, burying her face into his chest, clasping her robes with her fists.

He felt his gut twist with every sob that escaped her lips, "Tell me what's wrong...we'll fix it - I promise" he said though gritted his teeth. "What can possibly happen in a span of 10 minutes? We were having a good time for Merlin's sake!" he thought.

She cried some more but after a few minutes, she started to hush. She slowly pulled her face away from his chest and saw his tearstained robes, "I - I soaked your shirt, I'm sorry" she said between sniffles.

He brushed aside the stray curls covering her blotchy face, "You silly girl, we have wands, don't worry about it."

Her cheeks flushed even brighter, "Yeah, you're right. I - err - I think you should go back, Pansy might be looking for you" she pulled away to put some distance between them. "I'm sorry you had to witness that, I didn't mean for anyone to see that."

He let his arms drop to his side, "What do you mean by that? Why would Pansy look for me?"

She averted her gaze as she clumsily wiped her cheeks, "Because she's your girlfriend and your date, why else?" she replied as she swallowed the bitter taste in her mouth.

He looked flabbergasted as he sat on his haunches, "Hold on one bloody minute - Did you just say that Pansy, as in Pansy Parkinson is my girlfriend?"

"Don't deny her Draco, that's not very nice"

He blinked a few times before bursting into fits of laughter.

She shifted her gaze back to him, her eyes narrowed into slits. She then folded her arms on top of her chest, her annoyance mounting at his absurd reaction, "Stop laughing at me, it's not funny. Just go back to the dance and leave me alone."

He wiped at his eyes, his shoulders still shaking with remnants of his laughter. "I'm not laughing at you; I'm laughing at the ludicrous thing you just said. I'm sorry to disappoint you Princess, but Pansy is not my girlfriend, she's not even my date. That ship has long sailed and I have no plans of going back - ever," he emphasized the last word. He then folded his arms on top of his chest, his mind replaying the look on Pansy's face when Theo asked her to dance, "And besides, she has her eyes set on someone else, just like I."

oOo

Hermione felt her body go rigid for the second time, "He sure knows how to piss on someone's parade" she thought bitterly. She lowered her feet on the ground and hastily made her way towards the edge of the frozen waters. She almost felt elated when he corrected her about Pansy, but then he had to open his mouth again and admitted to her that he's practically in love with some other witch, a really insensitive bugger - that's what he is. She rubbed her arms, "Good for you, at least one of us is happy" she said after a few minutes of silence.

He stood up from his perch and made his way towards her, "But I don't think she'll ever see me the same way..."

"And now he can't stop talking," she thought. She kept her eyes forward, trying her best to ignore how close he seems to be, "Well, you can't say that for sure unless she told you."

He didn't respond, he just placed his hands on her shoulders and gently turned her around.

She felt her heart jerk against her ribcage, "What are you doing?"

He moved his hands towards her neck, tilting her face up to his, "You think I should ask her?"

She averted her gaze, "Y - you should" she forced herself to say.

He shifted closer, his body almost touching hers. "Hermione, look at me."

Her mind is screaming at her to push him away, but her body ignored her brain's order, making her meet his eyes reluctantly. "What?" she found herself asking.

He stared into her eyes for a second before wordlessly lowering his face to hers, tasting her lips for the first time.

oOo

Draco's eyes closed on its own accord upon contact, "Merlin, her lips are so soft!" he thought. He pulled her face closer and started moving his own, silently asking her to return his kisses.

She unfolded her arms and rested her open palms on his chest, a soft moan of delight rumbling at back of her throat.

Jubilation surged into his system when he felt her lips move, "Finally!" he thought. He tore his hands away from her face and boldly wrapped it around her waist, making her gasp in surprise. He took advantage of her shock and skilfully slipped his tongue into her mouth, turning their kiss deeper and more passionate.

Her hands slipped around his neck, standing on the tips of her toes to get a better angle.

He let out an approving groan with her actions. He turned his face to the other direction, catching her tongue between his lips, latching on it, like his life depended on it.

oOo

"Oh my god, Draco Malfoy is sucking my tongue!" Hermione thought. She tightened her hold around his neck, pulling their chest flush against each other. Her mind seemed to short circuit with the proximity, making all her unsavory thoughts burst into dust.

After what seemed like eternity, he broke their kiss to let them catch their breaths. He didn't pull away though; he just rested his forehead on hers.

Slowly, her eyes opened and found him staring at her. She pulled her face a fraction and licked her lips nervously, "Err -"

He un-wrapped his arms around her waist and moved it back to her face, cupping her flushed cheeks."Did I go too far?"

She licked her lips again, "N - no" she replied.

He cracked a smile before pulling her into his chest, hugging her tightly. He buried his face into the crook of her neck, "Merlin, I've wanted to do that for quite some time now" he admitted.

She rested her cheek on his chest as she bit her bottom lip hard to keep herself from grinning. She snaked her arms around his waist, "Me too," she said shyly.

oOo

"Thank Merlin!" Draco said. He then moved his hand to her neck and gently titled her face to his, "The girl I'm talking about, the one that caught my attention - do you want to know who she is?"

She stiffened in his arms, her eyes narrowing into tiny slits.

He wanted to laugh at her reaction but he decided to stuff it down. He tightened his hold on her waist, "Do you want to know who she is?" he repeated, his eyes never leaving hers.

"What are you playing at?" she asked as she tore her face away from his hand, anger and hurt swirling in her eyes.

"Circe! I can't believe she still doesn't know whom I'm talking about!" he thought.

"Let me go!" she hissed she pulled her arms away from his waist.

"No" he replied. He then pushed his face closer, making sure that their eye to eye before he spoke again. "Hermione, you are that girl. You are the one who caught my attention and -" he paused to lick his lips. "And I think - I think I'm falling in love with you."

Chapter 7: Signal Fire
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Chapter Seven:


"There you are standing right in front of me, all this fear falls away to leave me naked. Hold me close, cause I need you to guide me to safety, no, I won't wait forever..." Signal Fire by Snow Patrol

Hermione stiffened; she untangled herself from him, her eyes wide like saucers. She took a step back and covered her mouth with her shaking hands. Her heart was pounding fiercely in her chest that she can barely breathe; "W – what?" she stuttered.

Draco started to pace like a caged animal, his breaths coming into heavy pants. He kept fidgeting with his hands, his lips moving with inaudible words. After a few seconds, he stopped and turned to face her, "There's really no easy way to tell you this, so I'll just say it upfront" he said. He calmed himself as he took a step closer, he gathered her hands in his, his eyes locked firmly on hers. "I think I'm falling in love with you Hermione - truly in love. I know this came out of nowhere and I'm not expecting you to say the same thing. I'm not even asking anything in return, I just want you to know what I feel" he paused and shifted one of her hands on top of his chest. "Just let me love you, that's all I ask..."

She swallowed hard, her eyes heating up with tears, "Why me?" she asked, her voice cracking up with the overwhelming emotions that's surging like a storm.

"I don't know exactly when I started seeing you differently but I did. It started off as annoying feeling that keeps on poking at me every time you're near. I tried to deny it at first because I haven't felt anything like this in my entire life and it scared me," he paused to take another deep breath. "I've been fighting this constant battle with myself for weeks and now I'm ready to surrender. I'm tired of denying and hiding what I really feel for you Hermione. I'm tired of watching you from a distance when all I want to do is walk by your side and take your hand. I know this is not logical given our situation, but please...give me a chance - give this a chance" he pleaded.

Hordes of butterflies are storming inside her tummy and her heart is doing jumping jacks inside her chest. She opened her mouth to speak but for some reason, she can't seem to formulate a coherent response to his confession.

oOo

"Why are you crying? Is it that horrible?" Draco asked gloomily. Slowly, he let her hands go and turned his back on her. He faced the castle and hung his head in defeat, "You know this wouldn't turn out the way you want it to, so why the hell are you hurting? You know better Draco, you just have to live with it. At least you got to tell her and that's all that matters it the end...right?" he comforted himself with these thoughts.

"Of course not," Hermione whispered. She took a step forward and gently touched his hand, slipping her fingers between his, "You're an idiot, if you think that way" she added.

He turned his face to the side, "What do you mean?" he asked.

Cheeks flushed, she stared into his eyes directly. "Aren't Malfoy's supposed to be smart? Do I have to spell it out for you?"

The knots in his stomach tightened, "Are you saying what I think you're - Do you - are you -?" he rambled.

She just quirked a brow as a response, her eyes twinkling with mirth.

"S - since when?" he choked out, trying his hardest not to grin at her subtle admission.

She quickly averted her gaze, "I - err - I used to watch you every day..."

He swallowed hard, his eyes never leaving her face, "Go on," he encouraged.

"It's here, in this exact place," she paused her cheeks turning even brighter."I used to follow you here, just before dusk. I - eer - I hid behind those bushes and big rocks so you couldn't see me," she admitted. She tucked a stray curl behind her ear, "I watch you conjure those beautiful lights, like fireflies."

"Why were you following me?" he asked with a quirked brow.

She winced, "You wouldn't like my answer so I think its best we don't talk about that."

He pursed his lips, "Yeah, I don't think I'd like to talk about that."

She took a step forward, stretching their intertwined hands, "I tried pushing away my feeling just like what you did, but it won't seem to go away" she said. She turned her gaze towards the frozen water and kept her eyes there, "I thought it was just a silly crush, but when I saw you and Parkinson this morning - that's when I realized it's something deeper than that..."

"Is that the reason why you left the dance? You thought that Pansy and I are together?" he asked softly.

She just nodded in response.

"You silly little witch..." he mumbled. He then tugged on her hand and pulled her for a hug.

She buried her face to his chest and stayed in his arms.

"Merlin's beard, she likes me - really likes me!" he thought. He wrapped his arms around her and rested his chin on top of her head, "Pansy and I are just friends, whatever you think you saw this morning was nothing" he said. Gently, he pushed her body away from his to slip his hand inside his robes.

"What are you doing?" she asked with a curious look.

He wrapped his fingers around the tiny velvet box and pulled it out of his pocket, "I have something for you," he said with a smile.

Awestruck, she stared at him with big-puppy eyes. "Draco, what's this?" she asked.

Without saying a word he flipped the top open, revealing the necklace he got for her. He carefully plucked the silver chain from the cushion and lifted it to her eye level, "Happy Christmas Hermione" he said.

oOo

Slack-jawed, Hermione just stared at his unexpected gift.

"You can touch it," he said, his voice full of amusement.

She lifted her hand and held her palm up, her eyes never leaving the beautiful piece of jewellery.

He obliged, he carefully laid the pendant on top before letting his hand drop.

The 13 inches silver chain dangled from her hand as she shifted the necklace closer to her face. They key pendant was obviously hand crafted due to the intricacy of the pattern. The gems embedded on the crevices sparkled under the moonlight, which means they are real. She took a closer look, "Emeralds and rubies - Slytherin and Gryffindor" she thought. After a moment, she lifted her gaze and met his eyes, "This is beautiful Draco, but I don't think I can accept it - it's very expensive..."

He shook his head, "It's yours, I had it made just for you" he replied with earnest. He then took his wand from pocket and gently tapped the pendant, "Touch it," he instructed.

With bated breath, she touched the key. The exquisite piece of jewellery emitted an eerie glow just as wisps of mist slithered through her fingers, forming and outlining words that say, "You'll always have me, D."

"Enthralling isn't it? That's what I thought when I first saw it..." he said in a-matter-of-factly-tone.

"It's - it's really beautiful, I don't know what to say..."

"Just tell me you love it and you'll always wear it."

"But it's too expensive!"

He took the necklace from her palm and unlatched the lock, "Come here, Mi."

"Mi?" she asked with confusion.

"Err - that's what I call you in private, I hope you don't mind?" he asked nervously.

She threw him an amused look, "You have a pet name for me?" she teased.

His cheeks turned pink, "I thinks that's what it is,"

She smiled at him, "I like it" she admitted.

"Great! Now can you please come closer so I can put this on you?" he asked.

She fidgeted with her hands as she stared at the necklace dangling right in front of her, "Are you really sure? I mean...it's really expensive..."

"I want to give this to you, please let me? I spent days searching for the perfect spell to make those words appear, are you throwing my efforts away by refusing?"

She worried her bottom lip while considering his words.

He moved his other hand towards her face, freeing her lower lip from her teeth. "For me?" he asked.

She puffed out air, "Okay," she acquiesced. She shifted closer and held her hair to the side, "Go on," she said.

He gingerly slipped the chain around her neck and fastened it securely, "There," he said with a pleased smile.

She stared at the pendant resting on top of chest for a second before she leaned forward and gave his lips a soft peck, "Thank you" she whispered shyly.

He let his arms drop to his side, "Err - you're welcome" he replied, his cheeks stained red.

She can't help but chuckle at his reaction, "You're really cute when you blush," she teased.

He threw her a scandalized look, "Malfoy's don't blush!"

She just rolled her eyes at his statement and decided to change the subject. She braced her hands on her hips and lifted her chin haughtily, "Malfoy, the night is almost over - aren't you supposed to ask me to dance?"

Instead of responding, he plucked his wand from his pocket and pointed it directly on top of the lake. Majestic silver and blue balls of light erupted from its tips and lazily positioned itself around the surrounding frozen surface. He smirked at her as he stowed his wand away, "May I have this dance?" he asked as held his hand out.

"Show off," she mumbled. She fished her wand out of her hidden pocket and flicked her wrist twice, murmuring a spell she read from one of her books. She slipped it back inside her pocket before placing her hand on his, "Now we can dance" she said smugly.

"You're in my arms, and all the world is calm, the music playing on for only two. So close together and when I'm with you, so close to feeling alive..."

He looked awed, "Wicked," he said as he wrapped his arms around her tiny waist. "Where did you learn that?"

She snaked her arms around his neck and rested her cheek on top of his chest, "Basic Charms and Hexes 101" she replied.

"It's a Muggle song, isn't it?" he asked. "I like it, by the way."

"Yes, I like it too. It's very apropos to our situation, I think"

He pulled her closer and rested his chin on top of her head, "Really? Let me see..."

"A life goes by romantic dreams must die, so I bid mine goodbye and never knew. So close was waiting, waiting here with you. And now forever I know, all that I want is to hold you so close..."

He swayed them side by side as he started to hum in tune with the song.

Hermione tilted her face, "I didn't know you can carry a tune..."

"Really? I didn't notice. I don't usually hum around, you know..." he replied nonchalantly. He then paused and smiled at her, "But I guess having you close to me, makes me do things that I didn't think I was capable off, like feeling this way - falling in love" he added thoughtfully.

A smiled tugged on her lips, "You really have a way with words."

"That, I do" he replied.

"Draco?"

"Hmmmnnn?"

"I love you."

oOo

Draco was shocked with her words but he didn't let it show. He moved his hand to her cheek and pulled her face closer. Without breaking eye contact, he started planting butterfly kisses on her nose, eyes and forehead, intentionally avoiding her lips. "Do you even have the slightest idea how you make me feel?" he asked. He placed another kiss on her fluttering eyelids before he continued, "You woke my heart from its disturbed slumber and gave my everyday life a new meaning. You gave me hope and made me realize that it's not too late to change everything I believed in. You've accepted me and my apology without hesitation and prejudice. You saw through me Hermione, you saw the man I'm striving to be and not the boy who I used to be" he paused to control the tremble in his voice. He rested his forehead on hers, "You gave me your heart tonight and I promise you that I'll try my best not to break it. I love you too, Granger - so much" he said with all the honesty he can muster.

She smiled at him tearfully, "That was beautiful..."

He grabbed her other hand and placed it directly on top of his heart, "Hermione, we've only started and we still have a long way to go. The road will not be easy because some people would say things that will hurt," he squeezed her hand. "But this thing between us - this is real. My feelings for you are genuine and my heart is yours alone." He shifted closer and rested his cheek on her temples, "I'm not sure what would happen to us when the -" he paused to clear the lump in his throat. "The final battle comes. I know I won't be able to stand beside you given who my parents are, but know this Hermione - I'll do my best to protect you as much as I can. And after all of this is over, I'll come find you - even if I die trying."

A sob escaped her lips as she buried her face into his shoulder.

He wrapped his arms around her, "Promise me, promise me that you'll wait for me and you'll never lose faith in me..." he pleaded desperately.

"I promise..." she whispered tearfully.

He lowered his face and captured her lips, sealing the promise with a kiss.

She kissed him back, but after a moment she pulled away, "I love you Dray - my ferret boy" she said with a small smile.

He cracked a smile and kissed her nose, "Now, now - just because I love you doesn't mean you can call me names."

She giggled as she rested her cheek on his chest, "Fine. Now, can you shut up and just dance with me?"

"Bossy bookworm"

"Twitchy ferret"

"So close to reaching that famous happy ending, almost believing this one's not pretend. And now you're beside me and look how far we've come, we are so close..."

They danced and stayed that way for hours. They only decided to leave when the bell chimed, signalling the end of the ball. He placed his jacket on her shoulders before he extinguished the lights. He gathered her tiny form to his side and started leading them back to the pathway.

"Don't ever leave me Draco, keep your promise" she whispered.

He turned his face to the side and nuzzled his nose to hers, "I won't, I'll find my way back to you - always," he replied.

*End of flashback

He was jarred back to reality when he caught sight of a figure walking towards the large boulder near the shore, "It's her," he murmured. He fisted the necklace tightly before he made his way towards her. He was almost halfway when he noticed the sudden stiffening on her posture, a tell tale sign that she knew it was him. He stopped right behind her and slipped his hands inside his pockets, "Don't turn around Hermione," he said.

"Draco," she greeted stiffly, her body taut with tension. "Okay,"

He shifted his eyes to the Lake, "Everything is still the same here, don't you think?" he asked nonchalantly.

"Dra - Malfoy, what do you-"

"So it's back to Malfoy again, eh? What happened to Draco?" he asked, cutting her off in midsentence. He waited for her to say something in response, but after a few seconds of dead silence, he decided to continue with his rehearsed speech. "The only reason I asked you to come here is because I have what you're looking for and I want to know something."

"W - what do you want to know?"

"Why do you still have the necklace?"

Her shoulders slumped as if in defeat, "I - I don't know...what do you want to hear from me?"

He felt anger surged through his system with her blatant lie. He balled his fists inside his pockets as he glared at her back, "Something you don't know, that's a first" he said sarcastically. He expected a sharp response from her but she just kept silent, which irked him more. "This was not a good idea, just give her the damn necklace and leave" his mind screamed at him. He closed his eyes and took a deep calming breath, "It's been years Hermione and yet you still can't be honest with me," he said with a hint of disappointment. He felt his heart writhe inside his chest but he braved on, "If you can't answer a simple question then I guess I'll just have to live with that," he paused to clear the lump in his throat. He pulled the necklace out of his pocket and stared at the pendant sadly, "This has gone for too long and I refuse to be trapped in guilt and painful memories any longer. We both have a life to live and it would be unfair for the both of us if keep on dwelling in our unresolved issues and past hurts. I came here today, not to put blame or point fingers. I am here because I want to return something that belongs to you..."

Muffled sobs permeated the air as her shoulders shook violently.

He brought the pendant to his face and pressed his lips on the cold metal. The corner of his eyes started heating up with tears but he knew he won't let them fall. He then took another step and haphazardly dropped the pendant, making the necklace dangle next to her face. "You dropped this last night and I couldn't leave it, so I picked it up."

"Why are you giving it back to me? I don't deserve that..."

"I gave it to you, so it's yours. If you no longer want to keep it then it's at your disposal, throw it away - it's really up to you" he replied.

She seemed to mull over his words before she lifted her shaking hands.

He carefully lowered the pendant on her palm, "I'm letting you go Hermione, I'm letting go of all the things that hurt so you and I can finally have closure - this is goodbye," he choked out before dropping the chain. He didn't expect any response so he hastily spun on his heels, his felt his heart break with every step he took but he kept moving. He shoved his hands back to his pocket just as he tried to pushing back the emotion that's starting to suffocate him. He can't let her see him like this - not anymore.

oOo

Pain and panic rushed inside Hermione's chest upon hearing his words but her body remained frozen. She wanted to shout and tell him how desperately in love she still was, but like what he said - words tends to evade her in inopportune times. She willed her legs to move and she managed to plant her feet firmly on the ground, she shot up from her perch but it was too late - he was already gone. Tears blurred her vision as gut wrenching sobs escaped her lips. She felt her knees give in, making her sprawl on the ground. She clutched the necklace to her chest, "Y - you promised...come back Draco...come back," she whimpered repeatedly.

Chapter 8: Broken Strings
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Chapter Eight:

"But we're running through the fire when there's nothing left to save. It's like chasing the very last train when we both know it's too late..." Broken Strings by James Morisson and Nelly Furtado

Hermione's Flat:

When Hermione reached her flat; she carelessly discarded her cloak. She padded towards her bedroom and sat on her bed forlornly. She took a deep breath as she slipped her hand inside her pocket; she grabbed the necklace and fastened it around her neck. She conjured a hand mirror and stared at her reflection; eyeing the pendant that rested on her chest. Fresh set of tears glide down her cheeks as she bit her upper lip roughly to stifle her cries; she set down the mirror down and snatched her wand. "Accio glass, Accio Fire whiskey" she said as she flicked her wrist. Within seconds an empty glass flew together with Ogden's finest whiskey. She poured a generous amount of the golden liquid into her glass and emptied it one go. The liquor passed through her throat fluidly, making her wince with the bitter taste it left inside her mouth. She refilled her glass again and set it on top of her side table; she crouched down to open her side drawer and took out a huge black chest. She carefully placed it on her lap and held her wand; she tapped the lid once and muttered an un-locking charm. With shaking hands she managed to open the lid; she knew it would only break her heart further, but she can't make herself stop. She lifted the thin cloth cover and stared at the contents; there it lay inside the chest was pieces of their memories together. A faint smile graced her tear-stricken face when she saw an old parchment that's neatly folded into the side; carefully she opened it.

Mi,

I've missed you! McGonagall made me do some lines today and it's bloody boring! Who wants to be locked up in a class room with an old hag that keeps on nagging? It's mental, I tell you. Okay...okay, I know it was my fault, I shouldn't have transfigured Weasley's quill into a spider, but it was so hilarious! Common don't deny it I saw you laugh. It was bloody fantastic and it made you smile, I love seeing you smile; makes me want to snog the daylights out of you...Well I have to run, still have Quidditch practice in a few. I'll see you later love, I can't wait to kiss you - I love you.

DM

Tears started pooling in her amber eyes as she folded the parchment and placed it back inside the chest. She snatched her glass and took a mouthful before she continued rummaging through her box. She shifted a few more parchments and paused when something caught her eyes.

-Flashback-

Hermione was sitting inside the library finishing some essays on Charms when she remembered that she needs a book for Arithmancy. She hastily stood up from her perch and strode towards the bookshelves; when she came back, she noticed that the book she was reading was closed. Slowly, she walked towards the table and sat back down; she curiously flipped the book open and felt her eyes widen in surprise. There it lay between the old pages was a long-stemmed bleeding heart rose. She looked at the flower intently, her cheeks flushing deep red. She checked her surroundings before she gently plucked it from her book. She shifted it closer to her face and took a good whiff. She was about to slip the rose into her bag when she felt a presence behind her. Goosebumps prickled her skin as wisps of breaths fluttered along the column of her neck.

"An everlasting rose for my forever girl. I hope you like it" Draco whispered before kissing her neck boldly. "I love you beautiful, I'll see you in a few" he said before walking away.

*End of flashback

She wiped her cheeks before she carefully placed the charmed rose back to the box. She scooted towards the headboard before taking another sip from her glass. The alcohol is starting to work its way into her blood stream, turning the twisting pain she's feeling into a dull ache. She peered inside the chest again and saw an old wizarding photograph that Ginny took for them. She plucked the film and brought it to close to her face. It was the last picture they had together and they looked really happy; it was taken the morning before she decided to break his heart - oh, the irony. Hysterical laughter bubbled from her lips as tears continued leaking from eyes. She kissed the picture one last time before slipping it back inside the chest. She closed the lid and tapped her wand, sealing it magically for the second time. She set the coffer aside before she reached for the whiskey bottle on her side, she poured the remaining liquid in her glass and drained it to the last drop. She leaned back on her pillows as her mind started replaying their last encounter in an endless loop. She dug the heel of her hands on her eyes, "No more" she pleaded with a sob. "This has to end tonight - I can't do it anymore, I can't - I can't stop hurting. You should've done this a long time ago Hermione, he's already gone and he's not coming back. You've got nothing to lose now so just end it - just make the pain stop" she thought in her drunken stupor. She made a grab for her wand but it escaped her grasp and fell down on the floor. She tried reaching for it but it rolled under her bed, "Fuck!" she cursed. She fell back on her pillows, her whole body shaking with grief and desperation. She turned her face to the side and caught sight of the bottle on top of her dresser. Without thinking about what she's about to do, she snatched it clumsily and smacked it hard against the corner, shattering it into sharp pieces. She grabbed the largest shard she saw and swiftly slit her wrist open without any hesitation. She lifted her hand to eye level and watched blood drip to her chest, "I love you so much and I'm sorry" she whispered brokenly. She then moved her bloodied hand to her chest and wrapped her fingers around the pendant, her eyes closing in surrender.

oOo

Draco's Flat:

It was almost midnight when Draco reached his place; he walked towards his kitchen and braced his hands on the sink. He opened the faucet and hastily splashed his face with cold tap water to. He summoned a clean fluffy towel and patted his face dry. He sombrely walked towards the counter and fetched himself a bottle of Fire whiskey. He padded towards the sitting room and was about to go out the den when he caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror. He walked in front of it and stared at his reflection, "It was for the best. You both needed the closure and now you have it, so suck it up," he said to himself. He continued his trek towards his destination and pushed the double doors open with a loud bang; he made his way to the recliner and hastily plopped down. He popped the cap open and drank straight from the bottle, not a bit deterred with the bitter taste. After a few seconds, he tore his lips away and hung his head, his shoulders shaking from the intensity of his sobs.

Chapter 9: It must have been love
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Chapter Nine:

"It must have been love, but it's over now. It must have been good, but I lost it somehow..." It must have been love by Roxette

Hermione woke up with a splitting headache; she slowly opened her eyes and saw everything was white, "Is this heaven?" she asked herself. Her eyes wandered around the room and frowned; "If this is heaven, then why the hell do I have a bloody headache? Where am I?" she thought. She pushed the blanket down and sat up; she heard footsteps coming her way so she turned her face towards the door, "Harry?" she asked when she saw a familiar figure entering the room.

Harry's eyes widen in shock upon seeing his best friend sitting from the bed. He ran towards her bedside and pulled her into a tight hug, "You bloody witch! A very mean bloody witch! You scared the hell out of me! I thought I was going to lose you..." he said, his voice cracking with emotion. Gently, he planted a chaste kiss on her forehead and clutched her hand tightly, "Don't you ever do that to me again, that was horrible Hermione" he said as he stared into her eyes.

Her eyes widened as memories of yester-night came to the forefront of her mind. Tears started pooling in her eyes as waves of shame and anguish hit her in folds, "Oh god," she croaked as she buried her face into her palms.

He sat down and pulled her frail form into his arms, "Ssssshhhh...It's okay - I've got you," he cooed. Minutes have passed and her sobs started to die down, he pulled a fraction but still kept running his hands on her back, "You saw him?" he asked softly.

She hung her head to avoid his gaze, "Y - yeah," she choked out.

He shifted his hands to her lap and wrapped her hands in his, "What can I do?"

She squeezed his hands as she slowly met his gaze, "Don't leave me?" she pleaded.

He let out a small smile, "I won't, you ought to know that by now - you're stuck with me forever," he joked.

She sniffed and wiped her blotchy cheeks, "T - thank you," she mumbled. She then scooted down and reclined back on her pillows, "I - I don't feel well..." she admitted.

He kept her hand in his, "You should sleep, I'll be here when you wake up - you'll be alright," he said.

She nodded and closed her eyes.

oOo

Harry waited till her breathing turned heavy before he shifted closer. He was about to cover her body with the blanket when he saw tears escaping her closed lids, "Merlin...even when she sleeps..." he grunted as if in actual pain. He wiped it with the pad of his thumb before standing up; he made his way towards the nearest couch and plopped down.

"Did she wake up?" Ginny asked as she closed the door behind her quietly.

He leaned his head back, "Yeah, she literally cried herself to sleep" he sighed.

She threw him a sad look before walking towards Hermione's bed; she leaned forward and brushed the stray curl that's covering her face. "I've already spoken to her Healer and she strongly suggests that we should keep her here for a few days," she said. She then sat down and gathered her hands to her lap, "She also told me that we should keep an eye on her because she's not emotionally stable." She turned to face him, "She could've died Harry. If Tonks hadn't been there on time, she would have bled to death. What on Merlin's name pushed her to take her own life?" she asked tearfully.

He stood up from his perch and made her way towards her; he placed his hand on her shoulder and gave it a soft squeeze. "She saw Malfoy, that's what she told me."

She tilted her face to meet his eyes, "Did she tell you what happened between them?"

"No,"

Her shoulders sagged as she turned to look at her slumbering friend, "I know where he lives, maybe I should pay him a visit and ask him what happened. What do you think?" she asked.

He sat beside her, "At this point, I really don't know what to do" he admitted.

She grabbed his hand and laced their fingers, "I'll see what I can do," she mumbled.

oOo

It was quarter past 10 when Ginny was able to wrap up all of her appointments so that she can leave the hospital. She went home first to take a quick shower and change into more comfortable clothing. She then apparated into Draco's property and instantly noticed that his wards are down, "That's weird," she said as she made her way towards the front door. She knocked a couple of times, tapping her foot impatiently as she waited for the blonde man to appear. Minutes have passed and yet no one came, "This is really odd" she said, trepidation bubbling inside her stomach. She drew her wand out of her pocket as she rounded the cottage. She walked straight to the den and climbed the steps. She was about to head to the door when she noticed a figure slumped on the floor beside the recliner. "Oh my Circe!" she gasped as she made a bee line towards her fallen friend. She hastily crouched down and slipped her hand to his neck, trying to get a pulse. She let out an audible sigh of relief when she felt the strong thump of life on her fingers, "Thank Merlin!" she exclaimed. She sat on her haunches and she surveyed her surroundings, she frowned when her eyes caught sight of the empty bottles lying haphazardly on the floor beside the recliner. "One, two, three, four -" she paused and shifted her eyes back to him. "Four bloody bottles of fire whiskey? Have you gone mental?" she said, aghast. She stood up from her perch and shook her head, "You're in no better shape than her," she said to herself. She vanished the evidence of his late night binge before she walked towards his kitchen; she rummaged through his cupboards and was able to make a decent breakfast. She flicked her wand again to conjure a vial of hangover potion and mixed it with the steaming hot coffee she made. She placed everything on a tray and levitated it behind her as she walked back to the den. With a smile playing on her lips she poked the tip of her wand on Draco's left cheek. When he didn't steer with her prodding, she poked him again until he regained his consciousness. She waited till he's about to open his eyes before zapping him with a swift Scourgify.

"Fuck!" he hissed as he hastily sat up.

She folded her arms on top of her chest, "Good morning to you too," she said gingerly.

He turned his eyes to the figure looming over him and his jaw instantly turned agape with shock.

She smiled sweetly, "Do you plan on sitting on the floor all day or will you give me hug?"

Her statement seem to spur him on so he clumsily stood up, "It's been a long time Gin, I've missed you!" he said as he pulled her into a bear hug.

"I've missed you too Dray," she replied between chuckles.

He threw her a sheepish look as he took a step back, "Err - sorry about the mess - wait," he turned to look at his surroundings.

"I took care of everything Mr. Malfoy, looks like you had a party last night" she sat down and crossed her legs, "Four bloody bottles? Are you trying to kill your liver or something?" she asked with a disapproving look.

He grinned, "Thank you for cleaning up the place and me, you just saved the Malfoy pride - have to keep up appearances, you know" he joked.

She leaned back on her seat and just stared at him, looking for a crack in his casual facade.

He shifted on his feet, clearly uncomfortable with her scrutiny, "How did you find me?"

"You've done a good job in making yourself scarce, but I have my connections" she replied.

"The Ministry, you mean" he rolled his eyes.

"Whatever" she said petulantly.

He snickered, "I see, nothing has changed - you're still my favorite Weasley" he said fondly.

"I'm the only Weasley you talk to, that's already given."

"Not my fault that your brother is a prat," he shrugged.

"And you're any better?" she challenged.

"I'm a Malfoy, I'm always better" he said smugly.

She lifted her hand and studied her nails, "You're right, nothing has changed. You're still you're old conceited self."

"Hey!"

She chuckled, "You started it," she replied. She then let her hand drop to her lap, "I've really missed you though - you've been gone for quite some time."

The smile on his face vanished, "I know. Life hasn't exactly been easy for me - I'm sorry if I was not able to say goodbye last time."

"Water under the bridge," she waved her hand dismissively.

"Thanks. So...how are you and Potty?"

She turned her hand towards him and wiggled her fingers, "We got married" she replied with a huge grin.

His eyes widen comically, "Congratulations! I'm so happy for you, I always knew you two would end up together" he said sincerely.

"I've sent you a couple of invitations to the wedding, but Hedwig can't find you."

He averted his gaze, "You know I want to be there, I just can't..." he softly said.

She let out a sigh, "I know and I do understand,"

"Thank you," he replied with a small smile. He then walked towards the adjacent recliner and sat down, "My offer still stands, if Potty hurts you, come to me and I'll rip his balls off."

She threw her head back and laughed.

"What? It's true. I don't care if he managed to slay the darkest wizard of our time, you're my best friend, I'd do anything for you."

She can't help but smile at his statement, "Thank you" she said. "But I don't think that's needed, I'm quite handy with my wand. I can send his sorry arse up to oblivion and he wouldn't be the known as the boy-who-lived anymore" she wiggled her brows.

"Good riddance, I say" he joked.

"Hey! That's my husband!" she said. She then pointed towards the tray on top of the table, "By the way, I made you breakfast - you should eat it while it's still hot. The coffee might taste a bit off, I laced it with some hangover potion, your head must be pounding with the amount of whiskey you imbibed last night."

"You're a life saver, thanks" he said as he reached for the steaming cup. He took a large gulp as he relaxed back on his seat, "Doesn't taste bad at all," he said.

"I have 6 brothers, need I say more?"

"Valid point," he replied.

"Yeah," she said as her eyes strayed towards the lake.

oOo

Draco stared at Ginny's face for a moment before letting out a defeated sigh, he knew that she didn't came here for a casual visit and for some reason, it's making him nervous. He adjusted the cup in his hands as he took a deep calming breath, "It's not that I don't appreciate you dropping by, but I do know there's more to this visit - so please, just say it."

She didn't meet his eyes as she stood up from her perch. She walked towards the railing before she looked at him straight in the eye, "Hermione tried to end her life last night" she said bluntly.

He felt all the blood drain from his face as dread held his heart in a vice grip, "W - what are you saying? What do you mean?"

Her knuckles turned white from gripping the railings tightly, "She slit her wrist open - she tried to commit suicide, Dray."

The cup in his hand slipped but he didn't even feel the burn of the hot liquid drenching his trousers, "I - is she..."

She shook her head, "Tonks found her before it was too late. She's in St. Mungos right now."

He braced his elbows on top of his knees and buried his face into his palms, "Fuck"

She made her way back and kneeled right in front of him, "She's okay - she's alive."

He shifted his hands to his hair and started pulling it in anguish, "This is my fault. I should've -"

"No, it's not" she said firmly. She wrapped her hands around his wrists and started tugging it, "It's nobody's fault. She was emotionally unstable and drunk as fuck when she did it. It was a lapse of judgement on her part so don't you dare blame yourself."

He let his hands fall limply between his legs, "How is she?" he choked out.

"She lost a lot of blood but she's fine. She's sleeping a lot but that's already expected - you should visit her."

He shook his head vehemently, "I - I can't do that."

She let out a defeated sigh as she stood up, "You can, you just won't - that's two different things" she said. She plucked her wand from her pocket, "I have to go. I still need to go back to the hospital to relieve Harry. It was nice seeing you again Dray, I guess I'll just see you around then," she spun on her heels and started making her way towards the stairs. "Room 204, second floor - if you ever change your mind" she added before disappearing from his view.

He waited a few beats before burying his face into his palms again, "What have you done?" he croaked.

Chapter 10: The hardest day of my life
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Chapter Ten:

"Loving you is my finest hour, leaving you, the hardest day of my life..." The hardest day of my life by The Corrs

Hermione stirred after long hours of continued sleep; she opened her puffy eyes and groggily searched the room. She licked her parched lips and turned her face to the side, she noticed a familiar red head woman sleeping uncomfortably on the small couch near her bed. She sighed, she remembers everything now; her foolishness, her desperation and selfishness. She lifted her hand and looked at the wound that almost ended her life, "You've completely lost your plot," she mumbled. She moved her other hand to her neck and wrapped her fingers around the pendant, clutching it like it was her life line.

"You're awake."

She moved her gaze to Ginny and saw her glaring at her, "H - hey" she croaked, shame and guilt gnawing painfully at her gut.

Ginny stood up and made her way towards her; she sat on her bedside and pulled her into a tight hug. "I'm glad you're okay but I'm bloody mad - really mad."

"I'm sorry Ginny...I really am..." she whispered as tears started welling in her eyes.

Ginny pulled back, "I know everything, Harry told me" she said. She gently gathered Hermione's hand to her lap, "I know it was hard seeing him sweetheart, but this?" she sighed. "Tell me, what happened?"

She hung her head as her shoulders shook, "We - we're over" she sobbed.

"You broke up years ago...I don't understand" Ginny furrowed her brows in confusion. "Why did you break up in the first place, you really haven't been clear about that."

She wiped the tears that managed to escape her eyes, "I was the one who broke up with him, it was my fault" she sniffed. "I - I left him Gin, I broke us because I was not brave enough to fight for what we have. He kept on telling me that he'll never leave me, but then I never knew where his loyalty really lies. I got scared. The war is looming over our heads and his parents - you know how much he loves them."

"You didn't ask him?"

She shook her head, "I wouldn't make him choose between me and them."

"So you just ended it," Ginny sighed.

"Yes," she replied.

Ginny squeezed her hand, her eyes full of understanding. "What happened to Hogwarts, Hermione?"

She looked away and cleared her throat, "I - I saw him at Hogwarts, I never thought I'd see him there. He was standing in the exact same spot where I broke us" she croaked. "He - he approached me and acted really cordial, it as if we're long time friends who never lost contact, he was so friendly and it made me feel so guilty." She leaned back on her pillow and wiped her cheeks for what feels like the hundredth time, "I couldn't do it, I can't act like there's nothing wrong when we both knew that it was all a lie. I apologized and ran away like the coward I am and then I realized that I dropped my necklace."

Ginny pointed towards her neck, "That necklace?"

"Yeah,"

"That's the one he gave you for Christmas, right?"

She nodded tearfully, "It's the last thing I have of him and I can't lose, I just can't" she admitted.

"Go on, what happened next?" Ginny encouraged.

She turned to her side and curled herself like a fetus, "I received a letter the next day, it was unsigned but I knew it was him because of the owl. I went back to meet him, but he didn't even want to face me. He made me sit facing the Lake while he stood behind me," she paused as he voice broke. She cleared her throat and ignored the tears that kept on leaking from her eyes, "He - he asked me why I still kept the necklace after all these years, but I couldn't answer. Gods Gin, I wanted to tell him how much I'm still desperately in love with him, but I can't hurt him anymore - I refuse to. He looked like he already moved on and he just needed closure, so I kept my mouth shut..."

"Did he tell you that?"

"He didn't need to, I saw it in his face the last time I saw him," she sniffed. "He didn't need me to mess things up for him any longer, so he said."

Ginny threw her a look, "How?"

She felt lower lip wobble, "He - he told me goodbye" she sobbed.

Ginny gasped, "Oh sweetheart!" she cried. She then leaned forward and wrapped her arms around her trembling body, "I'm so sorry..." she whispered.

oOo

Outside the room, Ron and Harry stood side by side; their eyes locked on the two hunched figures slumped on the bed. "I can't stand seeing her like that - she's so wrecked" the latter said dejectedly.

Ron sighed, "She'll be fine mate, she's Hermione - she's strong," he said. He then turned towards his friend, "I still don't get it Harry, why the hell did she do that?" he asked, completely baffled with the situation. "I mean, I knew she and the ferret had something way back then, but they broke things up years ago. Why now? What pushed her to do such thing?"

Harry took off his glasses, "I don't know, maybe she still loves him. We weren't there, Merlin we don't even know why they broke up the first place."

Ron winced, "We haven't been really good friends to her when we found out about - err - their relationship," he walked towards the bench and sat down. "We should've been there Harry, if we did, they maybe we could've helped her move on and this wouldn't have happened."

Harry looked guilty, "I know..." he sighed.

"Who found her?"

"Tonks"

"I'm thrilled that Tonks found her, but what exactly is she doing there?" Ron asked.

"Andromeda wanted to ask Hermione for tea the next day but she's not answering her floo. Tonks volunteered to drop by because she also needed some help in deciphering some Runes for the case she's working on."

"Thank Merlin"

"Yeah,"

oOo

Draco sat in front of his telly but his mind is wondering elsewhere. It has been a few hours since Ginny's unexpected visit and up to this point, he still hasn't decided. He flipped through different channels, but nothing seemed to win his attention. He breathed out loudly and turned the telly off; he stood up and walked towards the loo. He took a quick shower and dressed hastily; he went back into his sitting room and sat down. "I need to see her..." he said to himself. He buried his face in his palms and groaned irritably; "Okay...I would visit her but I wouldn't let her know...it's a good plan." He stood up and summoned himself a jacket; he flicked his wand and apparated himself directly at St. Mungos. He walked past the corridor and proceeded straight to the second floor; "Room 204" he reminded himself. He quietly walked along the halls and began checking each room number. He stopped in his tracks when caught sight of a familiar red-haired woman stepping out into the hall, he took a deep breath before he approached her. "Ginny," he said.

Ginny turned around and saw him standing behind her, "Oh, you came."

He slipped his hands inside his pockets, "You knew I would come," he replied.

"Took you long enough," she rolled her eyes. She shifted closer to the door and pushed it open, "Go in, she's sleeping" she said with an encouraging smile.

"Thanks," he replied. He took another deep breath before stepping inside the room; he fisted his hands inside his pockets, his eyes automatically zeroing on the woman curled on the bed. His heart took a nose dive upon seeing her frail form and his feet seemed to be stuck on the floor.

She placed her hand on his shoulder and gave it a soft squeeze, "She's just asleep, the potions she took knocked her out, but she's alright."

He swallowed thickly to clear the quaffle size lump in his throat, "C - can you give me a minute?" he asked.

She let her hand fall to her side, "Actually, you're just in time. I'm about to head to the Cafeteria to get something to eat - stay as long as you want."

"Thank you," he replied. He pulled his hands out of his pocket and slowly made his way towards her bedside, he didn't dare move a muscle until he heard Ginny leave. After a few minutes of just staring, he sat down on the empty spot beside her sleeping form. He studied her face first before he moved his eyes towards her bandaged wrist, "Why did you do this Mi?" he asked, his eyes heating up with tears. Gently, he placed his hand on top of hers, slipping his fingers between the gaps. "Why did you hurt yourself?" he asked again, knowing full well that she wouldn't be able to answer. "You should move on with your life and be happy, that's the reason why I decided to say goodbye - to give us closure," he wiped the tear that escaped his eye. "We've hurt each other countless times and it's time to stop the pain. You've always deserve better, someone better than me." He took his hand off and placed it on his lap, his whole body was shaking with the intensity of his emotions, but he trudged on. "You have to live your life again and be the Hermione I once knew. I want you to live a long life and fall in love again. I want to see you grow old with the lucky man who will capture your heart and have many kids with him-" he paused when he noticed tears gliding down her cheeks. He gritted his teeth as he wiped her cheeks dry, "I love you so much but I know I have to let you go," his voice broke. He leaned forward and he rested his forehead on hers, "Let go, MI - it's time to let go," he whispered before he placed a chaste kiss on her trembling lips. A stray tear fell from his eye and landed on her cheek, "Be happy love," he whispered. He stood up from his perch and hastily spun on his heels, he gritted his teeth as he pulled the door open. He stormed into the hallway with his head hung low to avoid looking at anyone, "You did the right thing, you just have to live with it," he said to himself.

oOo

Hermione buried her face into her pillow as she let out a gut wrenching sob. She wanted to open her eyes and ask him to stay, but she held her tongue and pretended to be asleep. Deep down she knew that he was right, that they need to let go of all the hurt and move on, but that doesn't mean it hurts less. Hearing his words felt like her heart was being splayed open and being left to bleed, "I - I'm sorry Dray...I'm really sorry" she whimpered.

oOo

"He still loves her" Harry said.

Ginny leaned her head on his shoulder, "He does."

"Then why did he walk away?"

"Because he convinced himself that he's doing the right thing for them - for her."

He rested his head on the wall, "I have to admit, I admire his courage. Not everyone can walk away from the one they love just because they want to do them right," he said.

"That's the reason why I became friends with him in the first place. He maybe a git through and through but when it comes to Hermione, he'd do everything for her - even if it kills him. I'm not going to pretend that I understand his logic, but I do know that this has have been the hardest thing he ever did in his entire life. He loves her so much Harry, I just - I just wish things would have been different for them" she said sadly.

"They have too much history, so I guess it's not that simple" Harry replied. He took off his glass and let out sigh, "Maybe they needed the time apart to find themselves first before they can be happy. Who knows, maybe in the future, they'll find their way back to each other again."

She tilted her face towards him, "Wait, are you telling me that you will be okay with them being together?"

"I may not like the bloody ferret that much but I can see how much he's changed. He's nice to you and Hermione - bloody hell, he's even civil to Ron and I -" he paused and furrowed his brows. "Her love for him changed him for the better and based from what we've witnessed, I doubt that will change any time soon."

She lifted her head and stared into her husband's eyes, "Harry James Potter, you never fail to surprise me" she said with awe.

He cracked a smile and pinched her nose playfully; "I did some growing up too, don't sound too surprised."

She turned her face to side and landed a kiss on his hand, "I love you."

"I love you too."

Chapter 11: 6, 8, 12
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Chapter Eleven:

"It's been six months, eight days, twelve hours since you went away. I miss you so much and I don't know what to say. I should be over you, I should know better but it's just not the case..." 6, 8, 12 by Brian Mcknight

After four years...

"Hermione aren't you done yet?" Ron asked irritably.

"I'll be out in a sec Ron. I'm just looking for - ah, got it!" Hermione said triumphantly.

"We'll you better hurry or we'll both be late and you know Ginny!" he replied. "Women! Always takes them a bloody long time to get dressed - Merlin! It's just a kid's party!" he mumbled to himself.

"Hush now Ronald! I'm done" she said as she stepped out of her room.

He turned around and studied her from head to toe.

"Am I up to your par?" she asked with a quirked brow.

He cracked a smile, "You're absolutely stunning, love!" he said approvingly.

"I don't think Lavender would appreciate you saying that, but thank you,"

He huffed playfully: "It's you, I'm sure she wouldn't mind, but If you're one of my groupies - I'm sure she'll hex your pretty face off..."

She smiled at him fondly, "I can't blame her, your groupies are acting off the charts lately. I swear they all lost their plots when they started stalking you - you of all people!" she teased.

"Ha, ha, you're still buckets of laugh Mione" he said sarcastically.

She wrapped her arm around his, "And you love me because of that," she chimed cheekily.

He kissed her temple, "That I do, now let's go" he said as he took his wand out of his back pocket. "Hold on tight, love" he said before disapparating them with a loud pop. They re-appeared in the middle of a large sitting room, "You okay?" he asked.

She untangled her arm from his, "Yeah, I really hate side long app-"

"Uncle Ron!" a little voice shrieked loudly.

He swiftly turned around and grinned at the raven-haired boy standing next to the door. "Hey chap!"

The boy sprinted towards his uncle and hugged his legs tightly, "I missed you!"

He nuzzled his hair affectionately; "I've missed you too, look who's here for your birthday" he said gesturing towards his left.

"Aunt Mione!" James exclaimed.

She sat on her haunches and opened her arms, "Come here and give your favorite Auntie a hug" she said.

James eyes lit up as he flung his little arms around her.

She wrapped the boy into a tight hug, "I've missed you so much sweetheart, happy birthday!" she said as she planted butterfly kisses on his face.

He giggled loudly, "That tickles - stop!" he shrieked.

She grinned, "I'm sorry baby, I can't help it - you're too cute for your own good!" she said while pinching his nose.

"I'm not a baby anymore, I'm turning six today!" James said proudly.

"A handsome young man, yes, you're no longer a baby" she agreed with feigned solemnity.

James beamed, "Yes, I'm a young man!"

"He's just like Harry" she said while looking at Ron.

He grinned, "Mini-me sans glasses," he agreed.

She chuckled as she stood up, "Well young man, tomorrow we'll be going to Diagon Alley to pick your gift, how does that sound?" she asked.

James eyes widened comically, "Really? I love you, Auntie Mione! I really do!" he hooted cheerfully.

"I love you too sweetheart," she replied.

"Well, well, well, what do we have here? Ron, aren't you even going to introduce me to that sexy lady standing beside you?"

They turned towards the voice and saw Harry leaning on the door frame, a large smile pasted on his face.

She grinned, "How are you doing golden boy?" she asked playfully.

Harry laughed as he made his way towards her, "I'm doing quite well, how's your books - still wearing them out?" he teased.

She punched his arm before hugging him tightly, "And Ron thinks I'm the funny one, ha!" she said. "I've missed you!" she added.

"I missed too" he replied. He pulled away but kept her in arms length, "How have you been gorgeous? You're great at hiding by the way," he said.

"I was not hiding, just busy with work."

"Busy my arse! You've been spotted. You were on a date with Zabini," he said with a smirk.

Ron raised his brow, "You're dating Zabini?"

She threw Harry a murderous look, her whole face burning bright with embarrassment, "You -"

"Hermione! You're here!"

She took a peek over Harry's shoulder and saw Ginny walking towards her, "Gin!"

Ginny threw her arms around her, "It's been a long time! Where have you been hiding?"

"I was not hiding, I was busy with -"

"Zabini," Ron and Harry chorused jovially.

Ginny pulled away, "You're dating Blaise?" she asked, her face full of curiosity.

"I'm going to murder you both!" she hissed at her boys. She then turned her attention back to Ginny, "We just grabbed a bite once, that's it - once," she said, emphasizing the last word.

Ginny grinned, "Once is a good thing, it means that he's interested in you."

Ron slapped his hands on his ears, "I don't want to hear this," he groaned.

Harry wrinkled his nose, "I'm with Ron, I don't think I want to hear about Hermione's burgeoning love life, it's Zabini for Merlin's sake!"

Ginny waved her hand dismissively, "Then leave the room, it's as simple as that" she chided. "So, any plans on -"

"Muuuummmmmm" James whined. "Aren't we going to start my party yet?"

"Oh I'm sorry darling, yes we will start, "Ginny said with an apologetic smile.

She let out a relieved sigh as she started walking towards the garden, "Thank Merlin," she mumbled.

oOo

The party was a success and James was beyond euphoric. After opening all his presents, he quickly dozed off on the floor and Ginny had to carry him upstairs for a kip. While waiting for her friend, Hermione hopped up the counter and watched as Harry and Ron fumbled with the tables and chairs.

"He's fast asleep now, what a day" Ginny said with a tired sigh.

She smiled, "He's growing up so fast and he's getting handsome day by day. I bet he'll give Harry a run for his money."

"It does run in the family" Ginny wiggled her brows.

"Glad to know you're still humble as ever," she snorted. "Oh, I almost forgot - can I take James to Diagon Alley tomorrow? I promised to buy him a birthday gift."

"Of course you can take him, you're his Godmother" Ginny replied. "Don't go overboard though, we don't want him to be spoiled like..." she let her sentence hang as she threw her a knowing look.

She knew what Ginny was up to, but she pretended that she didn't, "I won't, I promise to make our purchase within a reasonable amount, nothing extravagant."

Ginny walked towards the sink and started putting away the dishes, "Are we really going to ignore the pink elephant in the room?"

She averted her gaze, "I don't know what you mean," she lied.

Ginny braced her hands on the sink and turned her face towards her, "Are you still looking for him?" she asked bluntly.

She felt her heart drop to her stomach as her hands started to feel clammy, "L - looking for who?"

"Draco."

She gripped the cold marble counter top until her knuckles turned white, "I -" she clamped her lips shut when she couldn't come up with another lie. It's true, she has been looking for him for years, but she didn't know she was that obvious. She hung her head and let out a defeated sigh, she only wanted to see him because she wanted to make sure that his life turned out okay, if he's okay, well - that's what she kept telling herself anyway.

"I need a drink," Ginny announced as she made her way towards the fridge. "Grab some glasses, white wine okay?"

She hopped off the counter and grabbed two glasses from the shelf above her, "Yeah,"

Ginny popped the cork off and stared filling the glasses to the brim.

She plucked her drink and took a large gulp.

"And here I thought I was the one who needed a drink," Ginny eyed her with amusement. She took her own glass and started sipping the cold beverage, "Go on, I'm listening" she encouraged.

She emptied her glass before placing it back on top of the counter, "You're right. I tried looking for him for the past four years, but I already decided to stop. Why? Because you can't find someone who doesn't want to be found," she said as she poured herself another round.

"Do you still feel the same for him? Do you still love him?"

She averted her gaze, "I wouldn't have wasted four years looking for him if I didn't" she admitted. She then turned towards the large bay windows and fixed her eyes on the setting sun, "But like what I said, I've decided to stop. I can't keep my life on pause and continue pinning for someone who obviously moved on."

"Oh,"

She turned her face to the side, "Want to help me forget?"

"What?" Ginny asked before emptying her glass.

She offered a small smile, albeit sadly. "Want to obliviate me? You're pretty handy with a wand, I'm quite sure you won't botch it. Or better yet, do you know someone who makes potions that can erase specific memories? I'd really want to try that, you know, so I can finally move on with my life..."

Ginny snorted as she poured herself another hefty round, "Oh please, we both know you wouldn't push through with that,"

She threw her friend an incredulous look, "Why in the world would you think I wouldn't go through with it? I just told you that-"

"Because you wouldn't want to forget him, no matter how much your past hurts," Ginny interjected. "And besides, even if you go through with it, your heart would still recognize what your mind has forgotten. Do not underestimate the power of inside memory love, it's much strong than we realize."

She huffed; sometimes she can't help but hate Ginny's logic. The woman clearly knows what she's talking about which in turn, makes her see sense too.

"He's in France."

Her head snapped to the side, "I - I'm sorry, what did you just say?" she asked.

Ginny took another mouthful of wine before she turned to meet her bewildered gaze, "He left London the same day you were released from St. Mungos. The Ministry offered him a position and he accepted it."

Her heart started beating wildly inside her chest, "H—how do you know all of this?"

Ginny looked guilty, "Because he owls me every once in a while."

She felt waves of betrayal and irrational anger surge into her system, "Why didn't you tell me? You knew I was looking for him and you - how could you?" she yelled as her eyes started stinging with tears.

"Because you never asked me! I've been trying to tell you for the longest time, Harry and I -"

She slapped her palm on the counter, "You should've-"

"No!" Ginny cut her off with a stern voice. "We tried telling you on several occasions but you're always busy! I tried Hermione - we tried, but you're just too stubborn for your own good!"

She braced her hands on the counter and tried to calm herself down. Ginny was right, they did try several times but she kept shooting them down. She knew she was being irrational, but God, she can't help but feel betrayed.

Ginny placed her hand on top of hers, "We didn't keep it from you to intentionally hurt you Hermione, you have to believe that. Merlin knows how much Harry and I wanted to tell you, but you keep on shutting us out" she softly explained. She squeezed her hand, silently asking her to look up, "If we could only take half of the pain you're feeling, we would've done that in a heartbeat, you know that."

The anger she felt towards the red head vanished like a puff of smoke upon hearing Ginny's words. She was not an innocent victim here; she had a hand in this too. If only she spared them a minute and listened to what they've got to say, then maybe she's not in this position now. Merlin, four years - she wasted for years looking for him when all she had to do was ask help from her friends. "I - I'm sorry Gin..."

Ginny flung her arms around her and gave her a hug, "No need for apologies love, I'm sorry too."

She leaned her head on hers, "H - how is he?"

"He's fine. Last thing I've heard, he quit working for the Ministry and started his own Potions Apothecary. He's making a name for himself and he seems to be succeeding, his shop is quite popular."

She can't help but smile, "He's always been good with Potions,"

Ginny pulled away, "Aren't you going to ask me the most important question?" she asked.

She quickly looked away when she felt her cheeks burn, "Err -"

"He's not yet married and he has not dated a single girl since he left London," Ginny offered.

She hung her head to hide her face, she needed a minute to digest everything she just learned about him. After a moment, she turned her face to the side, "Thank you, I needed to know that. Now I can start living my life knowing that he's okay" she said with all the honesty she can muster.

"You're welcome," Ginny replied. "You are my sister and I'll do anything for you - all you need to do is ask."

She hastily wiped the tear that escaped her eye, "I know that now," she said with a small smile.

"Whoa! What's with the tears?" Ron asked as he entered the kitchen.

Harry fell into step with Ron, "Everything okay here?" he asked as he stared at his wife and best friend with concern.

She opened her mouth to respond, but Ginny beat her to it. "We're just reminiscing about our good old days, nothing to worry about," the red head said.

"You sure?" Harry asked.

"Yes, we're sure" she interjected.

Tap - tap - tap

They all looked to their left and saw a big barn owl perched on the sill. "I'll get it," Harry said as he walked towards the window. He leaned forward and gently unlatched the scroll tied on the fowl's scrawny leg, "Thank you" he said, making the owl hoot before it flew.

"What is it?" Ron asked curiously.

Harry unrolled the parchment and started reading, "It's from Dumbledore, it's an invitation for a Homecoming?" he wrinkled his nose. "And it's a masquerade Ball, I didn't know we have those in Hogwarts."

Ginny walked towards Harry and pried the letter off his hand, "Oh, your names are here too - Hermione and Ron."

She scrunched her face in distaste, "A masquerade ball?"

"Let me see," Ron said.

Ginny handed the paper to her brother, her face full of delight. "I guess we have another party to attend this Yule, what a lovely idea!" she clapped her hands in excitement.

"Bloody hell" Harry groaned.

She mirrored Harry's reaction, "Bloody hell indeed."

Chapter 12: I haven't stopped loving you
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Chapter Twelve:

"I'm happy for you, it seems you're doing well, you're seeing someone new. Me, you know me, fooling around with every pretty girl I see. But what am I saying, who am I fooling? So before I let you go, I just think that you should know that I haven't stopped loving you..." I haven't stopped loving you by Janno Gibbs

Hermione slept over at Harry and Ginny's house while Ron went home to Lavender's with the promise that he'll be joining them tomorrow to get James his birthday gift. The sun was just starting to show over the horizon when she felt small arms wound around her waist, she shifted to lie on her back and opened her sleep laden eyes.

James small cheery face filled with excitement popped to her vision, "Auntie Mione, you're up!" he cheered before planting a wet kiss on her cheek.

"Good morning sweetheart," she yawned. She rubbed the remnants of sleep from her eyes as peeked at the clock, "It's just half past 7, you're up early" she mumbled.

"I slept early last night" he shrugged his shoulders.

She can't help but giggle at the boy's response, there's really no denying that he is his Mum's son - Ginny used to talk exactly like that when they were still little.

"Mum told me to get you, breakfast is ready"

"Thank you, sweetheart. Go on down and have breakfast, we'll be going to Diagon Alley in a few," she winked.

He threw his arms around her again and hugged her tightly, "Yey!" he squealed.

She slipped her hands to his waist and started tickling him, making the boy hoot in laughter.

"S - stop, Auntiieeeeee!" he giggled as he tried pushing her hands away.

"Someone's having fun."

She turned her face to the side and saw her best friend standing by the door. She grabbed a pillow and chucked it towards his direction, a playful smile pasted on her lips.

"Ha! Is that the best you've got?" Harry taunted as he waved the pillow triumphantly.

"Damned Seekers reflex," she mumbled. She lazily pushed the duvet off her body and sat up, "Guess you still have the moves, Mr. Seeker."

"Runs in the family," he replied smugly.

"You sounded exactly like Ginny, you two are so alike it scares me sometimes," she said.

He smiled cheekily, "It scares me too, don't worry."

She rolled her eyes as she planted her feet on the floor, "I better fix myself, I don't want to keep break - no, Gin waiting" she said. She plucked her bag and made her way towards the bathroom, "Oh, I'm dropping by Fred and George's store later, I haven't seen those two in ages" she paused and furrowed her brows in confusion. "Wait, aren't you too overdressed for breakfast?" she asked as she gave him a quick once over.

"Finally caught on, have you" he said. He folded his arms on top of his chest and leaned sideways on the door, "I have to attend an early meeting with Kingsley today and Ginny have to run some errands in Hogsmeade" he explained. "Err - since you would be taking James today; would it possible to keep him with you for a few of more hours? Molly and Arthur left for Romania last night and -"

She lifted her hand to cut his rant off, "Of course, it's alright. I wanted to spend more quality time with my favorite guy and you just gave me that opening" she replied. She then turned her gaze towards the grinning boy sitting on top of the covers, "We're going to have so much fun, sweetheart" she grinned.

James nodded frantically as he hopped off the bed, "I'm going to get breakfast and get ready - yey Diagon Alley!" he hollered as he ran towards his Father.

"You're still a life saver, thank you!" he said. He then pulled away from his perch and hefted his son to his hips "Now go get showered and come eat breakfast with us."

"Be there in a few" she chimed as she entered the loo to take a bath.

oOo

After being away for so long, Draco Malfoy has finally decided to come home. It has been a while since he last set foot on his Mother land and he daresay missed it. He was in the midst of unpacking his things when an idea popped into his head. He instantly stopped what he's doing and decided to take a leisure walk along Diagon Alley. His first choice was Hogsmeade, but then, he remembered that Hogwarts was still in session, which meant students would be haunting every nook and cranny and he's really not a fan of crowded streets. He walked towards the vacant wrought iron bench near Florean Fortescue's and sat down; he crossed his legs as he perused the familiar stores that lined the street. True, the magical side of Champs-Elyses was one of the most grandest he ever laid his eyes on, but it still can't compete with the inherent beauty of the place he grew up in. He loved Paris; it was just not home for him.

He leaned forward and rested his elbows on his knees as his mind drifted off to the not so distant past. Leaving London was one of the hardest things he ever did in his entire life. It took every ounce of his courage to walk away from one thing that truly mattered to him, Hermione. He didn't want to leave, but the series of events that took place after their last meeting tipped him over the edge. When he first arrived in Paris, he was a total wreck. He drunk himself to stupor and avoided contact with anyone that reminded him of what he lost. He buried his grief with alcohol and wallowed in pain for as long as his body would allow.

It was exactly a year after he left that he decided to pull himself together. He quit his job at the Ministry and accepted an apprenticeship at Simpering Cauldrons LTD. He dedicated all his time to work and travelled across Europe to further his studies. He did a stint in the Muggle world for a couple of months to acquire some of the rarest potions ingredients. He enjoyed his stay and learned to love the culture of the people he was taught was inferior.

He was jarred out of his musing when he caught flashes of lights from his peripherals. He turned his head to the side and noticed two suspicious looking men watching him with hawk-eyes, "So much for being inconspicuous" he mumbled irritably. He shot up from his seat and started walking towards the other direction. He took a sharp turn into first alley he saw, pulled his wand out of his pocket and disapparated on the spot. He reappeared a few blocks away from Florean Fortescue's and resumed his trek. He walked past Gringgots and ran into someone, "I'm sorry" he said apologetically.

The buxom blonde woman gave him a once over, "I don't mind," she replied with a flirty smile.

He can't help but feel a little smug, "You still have it," he thought. He bowed his head politely and offered a small smile, "Have a good day," he said before he continued with his stroll. When he decided to wear his Muggle clothes this morning, he never thought he'd attract any attention. He just slipped into one of his black Armani button shirts and grabbed the first pair of jeans he saw. He knew he didn't dress to impress so he relished the way the woman eyed her with appreciation, "Muggle clothing for the win," he said with a smirk. He lowered his Ray Bans to cover his eyes and continued wandering along the busy streets.

oOo

Hermione cocked her head to the side and studied the ensemble that Ginny set out for her to wear; a beige, knee length spaghetti strapped baby doll dress. It was beautiful, it was just not something she would choose to wear on a stroll in Diagon Alley with a 6 year old kid attached to her hip. She sighed loudly as she took the dress off the hanger and carefully slipped it on. She then stepped into her ballerina flats and grabbed her purse from the dresser. She took a quick peek at her reflection before she hastily trotted towards the stairs.

"- I know, it's ridiculous."

She entered the kitchen and saw her friend's chatting around the breakfast bar; "Good morning" she greeted them cheerfully.

Ron turned on his seat and smiled at her, "Sleeping beauty is finally up, huh?"

She blew him a raspberry as she made her way towards the vacant spot beside Ginny. She hopped on the chair and braced her elbows on top of the granite counter. "That's new, you're not late."

Ron rolled his eyes, "I haven't been late in years, Mione,"

"Remind me to thank Lavender for that," she said cheekily.

Ginny chuckled as she slid a plate full of food right in front of her, "Eat up, you'll need energy if you're dealing with James - thanks for taking him by the way,"

"Thanks" she replied. She grabbed her fork and knife and started slicing her waffles into bite size pieces, "You know I'd take him in a heartbeat, no need to thank me," she added.

"See? I told you she doesn't mind" Harry said.

Ginny threw her husband an annoyed look, "I really hate your job," she said.

Harry planted a chaste kiss on Ginny's nose, "I love you."

Ginny smiled, "I love you too."

"I'm trying to eat here, knock it off" Ron grumbled before he shovelled another forkful of waffles in his mouth.

She ignored the couple's blatant display of affection and turned her gaze towards Ron, "Hey, are you sure it's okay with Lav? I mean, I can go to Diagon Alley alone-"

"It's alright," Ron cut her off. He grabbed his glass and took a large gulp of orange juice, "And besides, I'll be seeing her there, we're off to meet with the florist or whatever" he said.

She smiled, "I still can't believe you convinced her to marry you" she teased.

Ron sat straighter and gestured towards his toned body, "Who could resist this?"

Ginny scrunched her face, "I think I just lost my appetite,"

She threw her head back and let out a full belly laugh.

oOo

Hermione kept James safely tucked to her side as Ron led them through the bustling crowd. They've been through two different stores already, but the birthday boy can't seem to decide what he wants.

Ron halted his steps and turned towards them; he crouched down to his nephew's level and stared at him. "How about we go check Honeydukes? We could get you one of those goodie bags that you like" he suggested.

James seemed to mull over his Uncle's suggestion before nodding, "We could try," he replied.

He pulled James into his arms and carried him, "Let's go then," he said.

She threw Ron a thankful look as she tugged on the lilac cashmere wrap that Ginny insisted for her to wear.

He placed a hand on her lower back as he steered them towards the crowded store. He pushed the door open and gently lowered James back on the floor, "Go on, go crazy" he said with an indulgent smile.

James stared at them with pure delight before he took off.

He turned his face to the side, "You've been smiling at me like a loon for a couple of minutes now, it's starting to creep me out," he whispered.

"If looks could kill, I'm pretty sure I would have keeled over by now" she mused.

"Huh?"

She chuckled, "Even after all these years, you're still oblivious," she said.

He furrowed his brows in confusion, "What do you mean?"

She gestured for him to come closer, "Your groupies has been following us for over an hour now, I won't be surprised if knickers started flying towards us."

His eyes widen comically, "Really?"

She nodded, "Really" she replied. She then spun on her heels and started making her way into the shop.

He yanked her arm and pulled her into his chest with a cheeky grin.

"What are you doing?" she asked with a quirked brow.

"Want to help me get rid of them...MUFFIN?" he asked, saying the last word loudly.

She threw him a murderous look when people started staring at them, "I'm going to murder you in your sleep...HONEYBEAR."

They heard collective gasps from their back, making Ron grin wider. He leaned forward and planted a chaste kiss on her forehead, "It's working" he whispered.

"I thought he was with Lavender Brown?" someone asked with a mortified voice.

She bit her bottom lip to keep herself from bursting into giggles, "Lavender is going to kill us" she replied.

He wrapped his arm around her shoulder, "She'd thank you" he winked.

oOo

"Love, I hate to leave you guys alone, but I have to go. Lavender is already waiting for me and you know how she is," Ron said apologetically.

"It's okay, we'll be alright. We'll just drop by the joke shop and wait for Harry and Ginny there" she replied.

"Are you sure? I can drop you off before I leave. I still have, 10 minutes," he offered.

She shook her head, "No, it's okay, you shouldn't keep a woman waiting - especially if the woman is Lavender," she joked.

He chuckled, "Okay, stay safe and I'll see you later" he said before kissing her goodbye.

"Say Hi for me!" she said. She waited until Ron's back disappeared from the crowd before she turned towards her charge, "So it's just you and me, are ready to get your gift now?" she asked.

James eyes almost bulged out of its socket, "But you already bought me a gift" he gestured towards the small bag he's carrying.

She fought the urge to smile, "You think that's all Auntie MIone is getting you for your sixth birthday?"

James threw her arms around her waist and hugged her tightly, "You're the best, Auntie Mione!"

She placed her hand on his head and ruffled his already messy hair, "Come on, we better going before your parents finds out," she said.

James slipped his tiny hand on hers and started tugging, "Let's go!" he said, his voice full of excitement.

She laughed as she steered him toward the street, she rounded the corner and almost instantly collided with someone, "Ooomph!"

"I'm sorry I - Hermione?"

Her head snapped up and saw a familiar face looming over her.

"Uncle Blaise!" James shrieked.

Blaise smiled at her before he moved his eyes towards James, "How are you doing, champ?" he asked as he lifted his hand for a high five.

James slapped his hand onto his, "You didn't come yesterday, I was waiting for you" he pouted.

"I'm sorry, I was away for business. Did you have a good day?"

James grinned and lifted the bag he's holding, "I did, Auntie Mione bought me tons,"

"I bet she did," he said. He then turned his attention to the woman standing beside the tot, "Fancy meeting you here, it's been a while."

She felt her cheeks flush, "Yeah, it's been a long time - err - how have you been?"

"Been good, been here and there" he replied. He then opened his arms, "Don't I get a hug? Friends do that, right?" he smirked.

She stepped into his arms and gave him an awkward hug, "Good to see you," she replied as she patted his back.

"I've missed you," he whispered. He then released her and smiled, "Where are you two up to?"

"Aunt Mione is taking me to buy another present."

"Is that so...hmmmnnnn...can I join you then? I mean, I haven't given you a present yet and since I missed your party, I think it's only fair that I buy you something right?"

James beamed, "Alright! More presents!"

He threw her a look, "Is it okay if I tag along?"

She chuckled, "You sure you're not busy?"

"No worries princess, I'm a free agent today, I'm all yours" he winked flirtatiously.

She ignored his statement and turned towards James, "Let's go love," she said.

He took the paper bag from James and replaced it with his hand, "Where are we exactly going?" he asked.

"Somewhere I'm sure this little boy would really love," she replied mischievously. She then surveyed the street for the specific shop she's looking for when something caught her eyes, "Not again," she mumbled.

"Is something the matter?" he asked.

She subtly pointed towards the group of witches swooning near the lamp post, "The price I pay for hanging out with famous men" she said with feigned woe.

He let out a full belly laugh, "And you're any better? I'm the one who should be watching my back here; you're one of the most eligible witches mentioned in the Daily Prophet."

She wrinkled her nose in distaste, "Don't even remind me that. I'm quite sure Rita Skeeter had a field day writing about my current loveless state,"

"We can always remedy that, you know" he wiggled his brows suggestively.

She snorted, "Nice try" she said. She checked the name of the stores and stopped right in front the one she's looking for, "We're here" she said.

James lifted his gaze to check where they're at, "Quidditch!" he gasped when he saw the large display window.

She sat on her haunches and faced her Godson, "I don't like the sport, but I know you love it, so, happy birthday sweetheart" she smiled.

"Thank you! Best gift ever!" James said as he flung his tiny arms around her neck.

She laughed as she returned the hug, "You're welcome," she replied. She then pulled away and stood up, "Now come on, no time to lose" she said.

Blaise hurriedly walked towards the door and pushed it open, "After you" he said politely.

She threw him a thankful look as she ushered James inside.

"Wow" James said with awe. He pulled his hands away from the adults and made a bee line towards the Quaffle display case.

Blaise shifted closer, "I'll follow the little guy, I know you don't like Quidditch much so run along and find him the best gift ever" he said.

"Thanks Blaise" she replied with a shy smile. She idly walked along the display cases and began her hunt for the perfect gift. She rounded the next aisle and found herself standing in front of a large shelf that was lined with different types of training brooms, "Perfect," she said.

"Aunt Mione!"

She turned her face to the side and saw James staring at her with animated eyes, "Come here sweetheart," she beckoned.

James ran towards her with a loud whoop.

She crouched down to his level and gestured towards the shelf, "If I get you one of those brooms, can you promise me that you won't take it out on your own and ask the grown-up's for help?" she asked.

James nodded fervently, "Cross my heart, I won't take it out, I promise!"

She grinned, "Okay then," she ruffled his hair as she stood up. "Pick your broom then," she said.

James didn't need to be told twice, he moved towards the shelf and started grabbing random brooms.

"Can I help you?"

She turned to her side and saw one of the store clerks standing next to her, "Can you help him pick the safest training broom? The cost is not an issue, I just want him to have something that he can enjoy and be safe at the same time."

"Absolutely Ma'am" the clerk replied.

"Oh one more thing, please take it out of my Gringgots account, Hermione Granger"

"Of course."

"Thanks!" she chirped happily.

"You got him a broom," Blaise said.

"Yep,"

"Think Potter would murder us if I complete his first Quidditch set?"

She smiled, "Have at it, I don't think he would mind" she replied.

Blaise smiled back, "Okay,"

She tugged her wrap tighter, "Blaise?"

"Yes?"

"Is it okay if I step out for a bit? All this leather is making me feel light headed, I need some fresh air."

Blaise threw her a concerned look, "You sure you'll be alright?"

She nodded, "Yes, I'll just be outside - take your time" she replied. She then turned on her heels and made her way towards the door; she pushed it open and stepped out into the crowded street. She tilted her face and inhaled deeply. After a moment, she folded her arms on top of her chest and walked towards the lanky tree. She stood under it and fixed her eyes on the gloomy gray sky; she moved her hand towards her chest and wrapped her fingers around the cold key pendant. "It's our favorite season, do you remember?" she thought sadly.

oOo

Draco was about to go back to the Manor when he remembered something. He quickly retraced his steps and turned towards the other direction. He briskly jogged along the cobbled streets and headed towards the old Quidditch shop. He promised to buy his nephew new Quidditch supplies and he needed to get it now before his days started to get busy. He was about to cross the street to get to the store, but stopped when something caught his eyes, or someone rather. He braced his hand on the lamp post and squinted to get a better look. He felt his knees buckle when recognition washed over him, "H - Hermione" he gasped in shock. When he decided to come home, he knew that there was a large probability that they would cross paths again; he just didn't expect that it would happen this soon. He willed his feet to move, to turn around and walk away, but he just couldn't. His eyes seemed to be glued to her, busy taking in as much detail as their distance would permit him.

He was jerked out of his staring spree when he noticed a smiling raven boy headed her way. He watched as she crouched down to his level and started talking to him animatedly. The boy looked eerily familiar; he just couldn't point out why. He turned his attention back to Hermione and saw her staring at the man walking towards them. He felt his heart drop to his stomach when he recognized who it was, "Blaise" he said in disbelief. He felt himself stagger back as waves of irrational anger, betrayal and hurt surfaced inside his chest. "What the bloody fuck" he said as he balled his fists. He knew he was about to lose it completely, so he forced himself to turn around. He searched for the nearest abandoned alley and disapparated with a loud crack.

oOo

Hermione turned her head to the side and started scanning the other street. She knew someone was watching her just a few minutes ago and for some unfathomable reason, it felt really familiar, if not scary.

"Hermione?"

"Yes?" she asked as she continued searching the crowd.

"Are you okay? You look really pale" Blaise said with furrowed brows.

She folded her arms on top of her chest as she turned towards him, "Really? I'm okay, just a little tired" she replied.

James slipped his hand in hers, "Let's go to Uncle Fred and George, you can rest there" he said.

She can't help but smile at the little tot, "That's a brilliant idea love, thank you."

Blaise adjusted the parcel in his arms, "Let's go then," he said.

She threw the other street another look, "Yes, let's go" she said.

Chapter 13: Breakeven
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Chapter Thirteen:

"They say bad things happen for a reason, but no wise words going to stop the bleeding. 'Cause she's moved on, while I'm still grieving. And when a heart breaks no it don't break even..." Breakeven by The Script

Draco popped back to the Manor and quickly padded to his room. He carefully placed all his purchases into his walk in closet and closed the door with a loud bang. He walked towards his bed and sat down; he braced his hands on his knees and buried his face into his palms. He couldn't believe what he just saw; Blaise, Hermione and a little boy - a perfect picture of a happy family. "Fuck this!" he said gruffly. He knew that this would happen. He knew that there is a huge chance that she might be married. What he didn't expect is for her to end up with one of his closest friends. He angrily yanked his hands off his face and let it hang limply between his legs, "You're okay and it's just shock taking over. You're happy for her, she finally has a family - she's happy," he said to himself. He shook his head to clear his murderous thoughts, "Blaise is a good man, you did the right thing - they're happy, so you will back off" he said loudly, trying his best to convince himself that his eyes is not heating up with incoming tears. He collapsed back on his bed and pressed the heel of his hands to his eyes, "You will be okay," he whispered.

Knock...knock...knock

"Come in," he called out.

"Trinky is sorry to disturb master, but master is having a letter and Trinky is having your letter sir..." the tiny elf squeaked nervously.

"It's alright," he sighed.

Trinky walked towards him and handed him a letter with a bow.

He retrieved the letter from the elf's shaking hands, "Thank you Trinky," he said with a small smile.

Trinky's eyes widened in shock, "It's my most pleasure to serve you. Is Master Draco wanting anything sir?" she asked.

He shook his head, "No Trinky that's all, you can go now."

Trinky bowed lowly before she vanished with a loud crack, leaving him alone again. He turned his attention to the letter in his hand and noticed a familiar seal. He tore the envelop open and started scanning the parchment. His brows furrowed at every word he read, "Masquerade Ball, December 25th - are you kidding me?" he huffed. He threw the letter on the bed and stood up from his perch; he walked towards the window and slipped his hands inside his pockets.

oOo

"Uncle George - Uncle Fred!" James yelled loudly.

George's head instantly poked out from one of the shelves; "Jamie baby! You're here!" he grinned.

James ran towards his red-haired uncle and flung his tiny arms around him excitedly.

George scooped him off the floor, "How's my favorite nephew?"

"I'm you're only nephew!" James giggled.

"You're too smart for your own good," George said as he flicked his nose.

"Of course he'd be Mr. Smarty Pants, looks like he's been hanging out with the biggest smarty pants of it all," Fred said as he gestured towards the door with a wide grin.

"Ha, ha, very funny" Hermione said.

Fred made his way towards her and pulled her into a bear hug, "Long time no see Ms. Know-it-all" he said as lifted her feet off the ground. "What have you been eating? You're quite heavy" he joked.

She laughed as she swatted the back of his head, "Are you calling me fat?"

"Hush Freddy, you shouldn't call Hermione fat in front of Charming" George said while pointing towards Blaise.

Blaise cleared his throat, "Err - hello" he said.

"Put me down you big oaf!" she chided.

Fred gently placed her back on the floor, "No need to call names, you hurt my feelings."

"And here I thought you've missed me, I should've known better" she said with a pout.

George padded towards her and gave her a side hug, "We did miss you sweets, you just make too easy for us to tease you" he wiggled his brows.

"Speaking of miss" Fred said as he folded his arms on top of his chest. "Is Mr. Charming the reason why you haven't visited us in a while Mimi?"

Blaise scratched the back of his head, clearly not used to being talked about while he's in the same room.

She threw Blaise an apologetic look, "I've been busy with work - and don't call me Mimi, we're all grown up for Circe's sake!" she huffed.

"Ooohhhh...she doesn't want to be called Mimi, I wonder why" Fred teased while making kissy faces.

"You're impossible!" she shrieked.

George laughed, "Okay now, we should stop before we both find our a-r-s-e- hexed" he said. He then turned towards the boy in his arms, "So, what have you been up to kid?"

"Auntie Mimi and Uncle Blaise bought me Quidditch!" James chirped.

The twin shared a look before looking at Blaise, "A couple gift, how lovely" they said in unison.

Blaise looked uncomfortable as he shifted on his feet, "N - not really. Hermione bought him a broom and I just bought him some - err - balls" he rambled.

She hung her head to hide her flushed face, "Oh good lord" she mumbled.

Fred threw his head back and laughed.

George quirked a brow, "That's interesting - the balls, that is" he said.

"I'll be a famous Quidditch player someday - Uncle George, you'll teach me right? Aunt Mione said that I can't ride the broom without help, you'll help right?" James asked with puppy dog eyes.

"Of course, I will" George replied. "After all, I'm the best Quidditch player -"

Fred cleared his throat loudly, cutting his brother off. "I'm the greatest, not to mention the best looking player" he said with a grin.

She caught Blaise's eyes, "Loony" she mouthed.

Blaise bit his bottom lip to keep himself from laughing.

"No you're not, because I'm standing right here."

They all turned towards the door and spotted a pompous looking Harry Potter.

"Mum! Dad!" James yelled as he struggled to get down from George's grasp.

"Show-off" George said as he deposited the squirming boy on the floor.

Fred snorted.

Harry scooped his son and planted a loud kiss on his cheek, "Hey kid," he said. He then turned his attention back to the group, his eyes straying towards the man standing closely beside his best friend. "Blaise, long time no see, how have you been mate?" he asked.

Blaise smiled; "I'm good, just got back from a trip."

Ginny peered through her husband's shoulder, "I thought you were with Ron," she asked.

She folded her arms on top of her chest, "He had to leave, he's meeting with Lav, remember?"

"Oh, yes, I forgot" Ginny replied.

Harry cleared his throat, "Well, since all of you are here, why don't we go to the Leakey and grab something to eat, I'm starving" he said.

oOo

It was late afternoon when the Potter's and the Weasley's decided to part ways. The twins had to go back to their joke shop while Harry and Ginny carted a sleepy James home, leaving her with Blaise. She took a sip of butter beer and leaned back on her seat, her eyes studying the man sitting right in front of her.

Blaise smiled nervously, "So, it's just you and me."

She nodded, "Looks like it," she replied.

He cleared his throat and straightened his back, "Do you fancy another bottle?"

"Are you trying to ply me with alcohol Mr. Zabini?" she teased.

"No, of course not" he replied. "I just feel like it's too early to go home, you know."

"Another bottle won't hurt. Besides, it's not as if I have someone waiting for me at home" she thought bitterly. She emptied her bottle and tipped it towards him, "Why not, it's the weekend."

He seemed to relax with her words. He stood up from his seat and gestured towards the bar, "Be back in a few," he said with a large smile.

She nodded, "Thanks" she replied. She waited for his back to disappear from her view before she let out a sigh, "He's doing it again. He's making an effort - maybe, I really should give him a chance. He seems to be okay..." she thought.

"Here you go,"

She lifted her eyes and saw him looking at her, "That was fast," she observed.

"Perks of working in the Ministry," he said as he sat down.

She rolled her eyes, "I should've known."

He chuckled, "So...what's new with you? It's been ages since we last saw each other" he asked before taking a sip from his tumbler.

"Ages?" she snorted. "I just saw you last week, have you already forgotten? That's not a good sign - your memory is getting rusty, old man."

His eyes twinkled, "Or maybe I just missed you, have you thought about that?" he asked.

"He's flirting, let's see" she thought. She leaned forward and folded her arms on top of the table, "Really? What did you miss about me?" she asked.

He cocked his head to the side, "Let's see..." he trailed off as he lowered his eyes to her body. "There's quite a few, but I don't think you'd appreciate me saying it...so I guess I'll just stick with your smile" he wiggled his brows playfully.

She stared at him for a second before she burst into fits of giggles, "You're a prat!"

He shrugged, "You asked," he said before taking another sip of his drink.

She shook her head, "You're really a piece of work Zabini."

"A dashing and handsome piece of work,"

"Whatever you say,"

"I knew you would agree."

oOo

They talked and laughed for hours; both not noticing the time. It was already quarter past ten, when they decided to call it a night. Hermione insisted on apparating home, but Blaise was adamant that they should use the floo since they both had too much to drink.

"I won't splinch myself, I don't like dealing with soot" she whined.

Blaise laughed, "You're tipsy love, you should really take the floo."

She rolled her eyes as she trudged towards the fire place, "Fine," she mumbled. She scooped a heaping amount of powder from the jar and stepped into the hearth, "I'm going now" she announced.

His hand snapped forward to grab her wrist, stopping her.

She threw him a confused look, "What?"

He stared at her intently, "Did you receive an invitation from Dumbledore?"

"The Masquerade Ball on the 25th? Yes, I did, why?"

He licked his lips nervously, "I - uhm..."

"Are you about to ask me to the Ball, Mr. Zabini?" she asked with amusement.

"Will you go with me?" he asked, his voice full of hope.

She shifted on her feet, "Can I think about it?"

He smiled, "Of course, you can. Thank you for considering; I'll just wait for your owl then."

She nodded and smiled, "Goodnight Blaise."

He let his hand drop, "Goodnight Hermione, sweet dreams."

She threw the floo powder on the grate and let the green flames engulf her. After a few seconds, she reappeared into her own fireplace and stepped out into the living room. She walked towards the couch and plopped down unceremoniously; she plucked her wand from her purse and flicked it towards her Muggle radio.

"Woke up today thinking of you, another night and I made my way through. So many dreams still left in my mind, but it can never come true. I press rewind and remember when, I close my eyes and I'm with you again. But in the end, I can still feel the pain every time I hear your name..."

"How fitting," she mumbled sarcastically as she let her head drop to the backrest. It's been years and maybe it's about time to start living her life again, Draco seemed to have moved on based from what Ginny have said.

"Walk through the park in the evening air, I heard a voice and I thought you were there. I ran away, but I just can't escape, memories of you everywhere. They say that time will dry the tears, but true love burns for a thousand years. Give my tomorrows for one yesterday, just to know that I could have you here..."

She shot up from her seat and started making her way towards her room. She walked past her bed and padded towards her bathroom. She peeled her clothes off and she switched the shower on; she stood under the warm cascading water and braced her hands on the wall. She closed her eyes as tilted her face, "He's moved on and you're still on the same spot" she thought.

"When will this river of tears stop falling, when can it run so I won't feel alone. I can't walk away when the pain keeps calling, just gonna take it from here on my own - but it's so hard to let go..."

She hung her head just as tears started gliding down her cheeks. After what happened to her and Draco she just can't bring herself to love again. A lot of people tried to tear down the walls she created, but no one even came close to touching it. She slid down to the floor and pulled her knees to her chest. Hearing Ginny confirm about what she already knew broke her heart, but that's exactly what she have wanted for him, right? To be happy, even without her - without them. She rested her chin on her arm as a sad sigh escaped her lips, "You have to let go Hermione Granger" she said to herself.

oOo

"Where have you been all day?"

Draco tore his eyes away the burning embers, "Diagon Alley" he replied.

Narcissa Malfoy walked towards her son and sat down beside him, "You look sullen, did something happen?" she asked, her eyes straying towards the tumbler in his hand.

"I'm fine, Mum. Don't worry about it," he replied before he emptied his drink.

She gathered her hands to her lap, "You're drinking again, do you thinks that's...wise?" she asked nervously.

He leaned forward and placed the empty tumbler on the table, "It's just one drink" he shrugged.

"If you say so..."

He turned to face his Mother, "Mum, relax. It's just one drink, I don't have any plans of alcohol binging any time soon" he said with a small smile.

"Promise?"

He fought the urge to roll his eyes, "Promise."

She relaxed upon hearing his words. She threw him a smile before she stood up, "I'm going to retire for the night love, call me if you need anything, okay?" she said.

He smiled back, "Goodnight Mum,"

"Goodnight sweetheart" she said before walking away.

He moved his gaze back to the fireplace, "I'm not sad, I just need time - yes, time to digest things" he sighed.

oOo

Hermione stood right in front of the full length mirror and studied her reflection. She wrapped her shaking hand around the pendant and whispered an incantation. Wisps of smoke slithered between her fingers and started forming his last words of love for her. She stared at it, etching each word to her heart; "Dray, it's been too long and I think it's time to let our memories go..." she sniffed. Slowly, she let the pendant drop and moved her hands to the back of her neck, her eyes never leaving the mirror. She unclasped the lock and gently pulled the necklace off, "I need to live my life too...so I can be happy like you...this our end game Dray, time to let us go."

Chapter 14: Heart of the matter
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Chapter Fourteen:

"I've been trying to live without you now but I miss you baby. The more I know the less I understand all the things I thought I figured out, I have to learn again..." Heart of the matter by Indie Arie

Things changed drastically after Hermione's sudden realization. One night of crying was all it took to free her from the prison she created over the years. The weight she carried on her shoulders seemed to vanish like a puff of smoke, making her more bright-eyed than her usual morose self. Weeks passed by and she knew that she's slowly getting there. She caught up with her friends and made more effort into getting to know Blaise. Being with the man who pursued her relentlessly helped boost her self-confidence and whether she admits it or not she started to fancy the bloke a little bit. It's not the same feeling she used to have for Draco, but there's something there - she's just not sure if it's enough to reciprocate Blaise's.

Ring...ring...ring...

Hermione dashed out her room and ran towards the telephone, "Hello?"

"Good morning Beautiful," a sexy voice drawled.

"Good morning Blaise," she snorted.

Blaise chuckled, "What time should I pick you up?" he asked.

She rolled her eyes, "You don't have to pick me up, I have feet. Merlin, you guys are driving me bonkers! I'll just meet you there at 3 o'clock," she said with finality.

He laughed, "Okay, you're still bloody stubborn. I'm just trying to be a gentleman here, well, I guess I'll just see you later then, be safe."

"Be safe too, I'll see you in a few hours, bye!" she chirped. She then carefully placed the phone back to the receiver and grabbed her purse. "It's going to be a long day, but it might be worth it" she assured herself as she made her way to the hearth.

oOo

It's been a month since Draco came back and he still hasn't seen any of his childhood friends. It's not that he's avoiding them; it's simply because he doesn't have the time. Ever since he came back, he's been busy planning and working on the shop that his Mother convinced him to set up. Yes, Narcissa Malfoy was able to convince her son to branch out his Specialized Potions Shop in London. She even had the audacity to scout for potential locations in both in Diagon Alley and Knockturn Alley. She was adamant that he settle for the grandest out of the spots they visited, but he politely declined. He knew the odds. If he chose Diagon Alley, the tendency of running into Hermione and Blaise was really big and he couldn't afford that yet. Yes, he already accepted the truth and finally let it penetrate through his thick skull that they were never getting back together, that she's happy with his friend. Yes, he's still not thrilled about it and it still hurts him like hell, but what choice does he really have? He might as well make do with keeping his distance and watch her from afar.

Setting up his business took most of his time; work always had a way of making him forget. Days started bleeding together and before he knew it, it's already time to open his doors to London's Wizarding World. In a few hours, he'd be the talk of the town again and as much as he despise being under the lime light, he just have to suck it up and paste a smile on his face. He slipped the parchment into the letter holster on Eros leg, "Take this to Ginny Potter," he said.

Eros hooted loudly before gracefully flying into the frigid morning light.

Draco braced his hands on the window, "A couple of hours left," he mumbled.

oOo

Ginny was making breakfast when she heard loud tapping sounds coming from the window. She immediately recognized the bird and quickly retrieved the letter. She patted the fowls head and fetched him a piece of bacon; the owl nipped her hand affectionately before it flew away. She hurriedly opened the parchment and read through its contents; "He's finally home!" she shrieked with excitement.

"Morning love," Harry muttered before planting a sleepy kiss on her lips.

She smiled brightly, "Morning," she replied happily. She then flicked her wrist and food laden plates started flying towards the table, "Go take your seat," she told him.

"Who sent you the owl?" he asked as he made his way towards a chair.

"It's from Draco - he's home," she replied.

His eyes widen in shock as he watched his wife, "Malfoy, the bouncing ferret is home?"

"Now now Mr. Potter, play nice," she chuckled.

He grabbed a toast, "Is he staying for good?"

She braced her hands on her hips, making her look like Molly Weasley. "I'd like to think so. He's opening a potion store in Knockturn Alley. I think it's an extension of his store in Paris," she replied absentmindedly. "I wonder why he chose that place instead of Diagon Alley."

"I don't know, but if you're looking for a man's perspective, I think he went with it because Mione doesn't normally go there."

"You think so?"

"Come on love, we all know that she hates that place. The ferret knows that too," he paused and threw his wife an amused look. "You know sometimes Malfoy still surprises me, who would've thought that he had the brain to fill that thick skull of his?"

"You surprise me too, love," she teased. She then pulled away from her perch and started tinkering with the kettle, "Males, you all think alike, should've known you'd always take the easier route," she mumbled.

"Hey!"

She rolled her eyes, "Should we drop by?"

He snorted, "I don't think he'd appreciate me being there, but I can drop you off."

"That's probably a good idea,"

oOo

Hermione was walking towards the Three Broomsticks to meet Blaise when she accidentally heard two witches talking excitedly. She was about to walk ahead of them, but suddenly changed her mind when she heard what they're gossiping about.

"Have you heard about the newest potion shop that would open today?" the blonde witch asked.

"New potion shop? Where? I didn't know any shop opening today..." Hermione thought.

"Yes I did! I saw the advertisement on the Daily Prophet yesterday. Did you know that it's a branch of a famous specialty shop from France?"

Hermione bit her bottom lip, "Hmmmnnn - Specialty Potion Shop from France? Why does that sound familiar? Maybe I should check it out, but where to-"

"We should go there Sandy! Maybe we can find a good love potion there, wait, is it here in Diagon Alley?"

"Nope, it's in Knockturn Alley, but we can go there now if you like."

Hermione grimaced as she watched the two witches disappear around the corner. "Knockturn Alley? Now that changes things. I wonder who owns that shop?" she asked herself. She was in deep thought when she reached her destination. She took off her coat and began looking for Blaise. She spotted him right away, only that he wasn't alone. He was talking with a tall blonde witch, curious - she doesn't feel even a tad jealous. "Sorry I was late," she announced with a small smile.

Blaise turned around, "Hey Mione, it's okay I just got here," he replied.

Hermione sat down, "Aren't you going to introduce us?" she asked with a friendly smile.

Blaise smiled back, "Hermione, this is Elizabeth, one of my best friends. Lizzy, meet Hermione Granger."

Hermione offered her hand, "Hi Elizabeth, I'm Hermione, it's nice meeting you."

Elizabeth shook her hand gingerly, "It's nice meeting you, Hermione, please do call me Lizzy. Blaise had told me so much about you."

"Oh," Hermione said, her eyes straying towards Blaise.

Lizzy grabbed her bag and stood up from her seat, "Well I won't keep you two from talking, I should go."

"Why don't you join us for a late lunch Lizzy?" Hermione asked.

Lizzy glanced at Blaise and chuckled, "As much as I want to stay Hermione, I can't. Blaise is glaring at me, it seems like he can't wait to get rid of me," she joked.

"Lizzy!"

Lizzy lifted her hand in mock surrender, "Just kidding, anyway, I really can't. I have a meeting to go to, it's a pleasure meeting you though," she said with a kind smile.

Hermione nodded, "It's nice meeting you too."

Blaise stood up from his eat and pulled Lizzy into a quick hug, "I'll see you soon, take care," he said.

Lizzy patted his back, "I will, enjoy your date," she whispered back.

Blaise pulled away, "I will too, bye Liz."

Lizzy waved at Hermione before walking away.

"Where have you been hiding her? I never knew you had a girl best friend," Hermione mused.

"I wasn't hiding her, she's always been around. Liz has been my best friend for as long as I could remember," Blaise replied as he took his seat again.

Hermione smirked, "She's pretty and nice, you know," she said suggestively.

Blaise rolled his eyes, "I know what you're thinking, she's just my best friend."

Hermione leaned back on her seat, her eyes twinkling with amusement. "Why don't you take her to the Ball? You'd make a beautiful pair."

"Is that your way of backing out?" Blaise asked.

"What if I decided not to go?"

"Oh, you would," Blaise said smugly.

Hermione quirked a brow, "You sound so sure, why do you think that way?"

"Simple, you're HeadGirl and you wouldn't want to disappoint Dumbledore."

Hermione wrinkled her nose, "You got me there," she admitted.

"I wonder if Draco would also go, last time I've checked, the prick is still in Paris..." Blaise mused.

Hermione felt her whole body stiffen, but she still managed to keep her face impassive. "Oh, really?" she said nonchalantly.

Blaise grabbed the menu on the table and started perusing it, "Yep, but you don't have to worry about him, I'm quite sure he did a lot of growing up - he'll be civil," he replied.

"Y – yes, I'm sure he will," she replied. Hermione then gathered her hands on her lap and swallowed the lump in her throat; "I've heard that he's doing well in France..." she trailed off.

Blaise lifted his gaze from the menu and met her gaze, "Yes and he deserve every bit of it," he replied. He then leaned back on his seat and shook his head ruefully, "Contrary to popular belief, Draco didn't have the easiest childhood. A lot of people judged his actions for the choice he made during the war, but come on, the bloke didn't really have a choice."

Hermione averted her gaze, "I know that," she softly said.

Blaise leaned forward and gently placed his hand on top of hers, "I'm not saying you're one of those people Mione," he said.

Hermione nodded absentmindedly, "Yeah, I know that."

"I know you two had something going during the final year, it's some kind of a truce. Draco didn't really tell me anything, but he made it clear that you're no longer at odds," Blaise confessed.

"Really?"

"Yep," Blaise gave Hermione's hand a comforting squeeze before pulling away. He wiggled the menu with his other hand, "Ready to order?" he asked with a smile.

"Sure, let's."

oOo

The opening of Draco's shop was a huge success, thanks to his Mother's infinite connections. Family and friends showed up on intervals and so as the press, much to his chagrin. He was talking to one of the reporters from the Quibbler when he saw a familiar face. He politely excused himself and hurriedly made his way towards the tall blonde woman standing by the shelves, "Pansy," he said.

Pansy's eyes widen in shock, "It's really you - oh my," she cut herself off and stalked towards him. She flung her arms around him and buried her face into his chest, "Y - you're really back! I can't believe this!" she mumbled.

Draco wrapped his arms around her tiny waist, "Yes, it's me and I'm back," he replied with a chuckle. "How have you been Pans? I've missed you."

She pushed him away and landed a hard slap on his chest, "How dare you! How dare you leave without saying goodbye? Who do you think you are to do that?" she hissed, her eyes wet with unshed tears.

He can't help but smile at her reaction, "Let's talk somewhere else, we have an audience. I hate these bloody nitwits!" he whispered. He then pulled Pansy towards his office and placed a quick silencing charm on the room, "Have a seat," he said.

She stomped towards the large leather couch and sat down, her temper flaring. "Four years, Draco? No owls, no floos, no nothing? I was so scared, I thought you died you bloody wanker!" she shrieked.

He crouched down right in front of her and made a move to wipe her tears, but Pansy swatted his hand away. "I'm so sorry Pans, I didn't mean to make you worry. Everything just happened so fast so I didn't have the chance to say goodbye. But don't worry, I won't do it anymore."

Pansy sniffed, "Make do with your promise Malfoy or I'll castrate you, do you hear me?" she threatened.

"Loud and clear," he replied.

Her hand snapped forward and pinched his cheek hard, "I've missed your pointy face too Draco, so I forgive you," she said with a smirk.

"Ouch!" he yelped. He shot up from his perch and plopped down beside her, "You didn't have to pinch my cheek to prove a point, bloody hell," he mumbled as he nursed his cheek.

She rolled her eyes, "Stop being a cry baby, I didn't even put much effort into it."

"Whatever!" he replied. He shifted towards the armrest and angled himself to face her fully, "What's new with you?" he asked.

Pansy copied his pose and crossed her legs, "Life is good, I'm now a proud owner of a shop in Diagon Alley - it's actually an extension of what Mum has in Paris, but this one is mine."

Draco grinned, "Really? I'm really proud of you, finally!"

"And oh, I'm already married and have two adorable girls."

Draco's eyes almost bulged out of its sockets, "You are? Wow Pans - congratulations!"

Pansy smiled, "Thank you."

"So - who's the lucky bloke? Do I know him?"

She suddenly looked unsure, "Err – yes, you do."

"Who is it?"

"Seamus - Seamus Finnegan," she blurted out.

He furrowed his brows, "Wait, I think I misheard you. Can you repeat that for me, just one more time," he asked.

"You heard me correctly, it's Seamus Finnegan," she said with a nervous chuckle.

He opened his mouth to speak, but words seemed to evade him.

"I know it sounds weird, but things have changed," she paused and reached for Draco's hand. "He saved me during the Final battle Dray, without him there; I would've been killed by Rosier. Right there and then, I've realized that blood doesn't dictate who we are, it's the choices we make. When he decided to fight for me, he didn't just save me from imminent death - he also saved me from myself. After the war, we randomly ran into each other and before I knew it, we started dating and then got married and had these two wonderful kids."

He lifted Pansy's hand and kissed it, "I'm really happy for you, it's good to hear that you lived a beautiful life," he said sincerely.

She let out a relieved sigh, "That meant a lot to me Draco, hearing you say that," she admitted.

He gently let her hand go and moved his eyes towards the window, "Those things that they taught us, it's all dragon dung. We've been manipulated and constantly fed with lies about Muggles," he paused and shook his head ruefully. "We've wasted half our lives being bigots, only to find out in the end that we bleed the same color. We were robbed of a happy childhood - if only we knew better. If only we used our own mind to think, rather than blindly believe what were told, we could've been happier."

She threw him an emphatic look, "I know," she replied.

He then sighed, "No sense dwelling in past though."

"I have a question..."

"What?"

She cleared her throat, "Are you still together?"

He moved his eyes back to his friend, "With who?" he asked, confusion evident on his face.

"You and Granger, are you still together?"

He felt his whole bloody stiffen, "What on Merlin's name - she bloody knew?" he thought. "What are talking about?" he lied.

She rolled her eyes, "Contrary to what you believe, you're never a good liar, well - not to me, at least. I've known you since we're in nappies, so don't insult my intelligence with lies."

"Shit! There's no sense lying, she's caught on," he thought. He averted his gaze and swallowed thickly, "I - it didn't work out," he replied curtly.

"Why?"

"Why do you want to know? And how come you know? I never told anyone, even Blaise!"

"It's not my fault that Blaise doesn't know; he can be daft when he wants to. To answer your other question, I've known for a long time. You're not as sly as you think you were," Pansy huffed. She then leaned back on a pillow and folded her arms on top of her chest, "You couldn't take your eyes off of her; in class, the Great Hall - hell, even in the library! And don't get me started with the Lake and the Green House! I saw you two snogging there multiple times, your wards aren't that impervious, sweetie," she said smugly.

Draco's face turned into an alarming shade of red, his jaw almost hitting the floor with shock. "Why didn't you say something?"

"Because you were happy and that's all the matters to me," she replied with a shrug.

"But you hated her," he said.

She cringed, "Hate is such a strong word, let's just settle for strong dislike, okay?"

He nodded, "Okay, go on."

"I immensely disliked her, but that doesn't mean I'd sell you out. Hurting her would mean hurting you, I couldn't do that to my best friend," Pansy explained. She then moved her eyes back to him to meet his gaze, "We were so wrong about him Dray, so wrong. Hermione - she has a beautiful heart. When Seamus and I started to go public, she was the first who stood for us and told people to mind their own business. After all the wrong I did to her, she still had the heart to defend me, us. She never once treated me like an enemy, but instead welcomed me into their fold like a long lost friend. She's - she's simply awesome."

Draco's lips curled into a large smile, "Yes, that's her," he said with a hint of pride..

Pansy returned his smile, albeit sadly. "I know you two broke up four years ago, because Seamus asked Harry why she stopped hanging out with us," she stood up from her perch and padded towards the window. "I still run into her every now and then, but I've noticed something."

"What?"

She turned her face towards him, "She's different, its as if she's just a shadow of her old self. Yes, she still smiles a lot, but her eyes, they look so empty. Sometimes, I can't help but think that seeing me makes her sad, because I remind her of you."

He braced his elbows on top of his knees and hung his head, "Why are you telling me this?" he half whispered.

"Because you need to hear it. Because I know you still love her and it may not be too late."

"It is, she's already with Blaise," he buried his face into his palms. "And I'm not a home wrecker."

She frowned, "Look at me, what do you mean home wrecker? And what about Blaise?"

Draco tore his face away from his hands and glared at Pansy, "They have a kid for Merlin's sake! They're obviously married! And yes, it's Blaise fucking Zabini, my best mate married the only woman I loved!"

She placed her hands on her hips, "Who told you that?" she asked calmly.

He shot up from his seat and started pacing, "Come on Pans, don't play dumb with me. You know what I'm talking about, so stop asking me these stupid things!" he hissed.

"Are you done?"

Draco's head snapped towards her direction, his eyes narrowing into tiny slits.

"When you say kid, are you referring to a raven haired boy, around ages 5 or 6?"

He nodded stiffly, but kept his mouth shut.

"Oh my gosh, you should have your eyes checked Dray!" she said through fits of giggles.

"Be clear with me, Pansy. I may have changed, but I still don't appreciate people mocking my emotions," Draco said sharply.

Pansy's hand flexed and hit him squarely at back of his head, "Don't speak to me like that, I'm a lady and I demand respect," she said sternly. She then moved her hand back to her waist and stared into his eyes, "I'm not mocking your emotions, I just laughed because you're bloody stupid. The boy you saw is Ginny and Harry's child, James. I can't believe you didn't recognize him, he's Potter's mini-me for Merlin's sake!"

"Oh," he said. "That's why he looked familiar, you bloody wanker! How can you be so stupid? Wait, does that mean that Hermione is..." he cut his thought off, his heart beating fiercely inside his chest.

"You know what they say about assuming, right? It makes an ass of u and me," she said dryly.

He took a step back and collapsed back on the couch, his mind whirring with different possibilities. "S - she's not married to Blaise? They really don't have a kid?"

She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. After a few seconds, she turned her eyes to meet his, "I'm going to let your stupid question pass because I know you're overwhelmed with so much joy that your brain decided to take 5 minute break. So yes, they're not married and they definitely don't have a kid together," she replied.

He blinked a few times, his shoulders sagging with relief.

"BUT, Blaise have been pursuing her for years," she added. "So, if you still feel the same way for her, then I suggest you start moving your slow poke arse and get to work."

"He is?"

She threw him an incredulous look, "I just told you that-"

"I get it, no need to lay it on me," he interjected her incoming rant. He shot up from his seat for the second time and started pacing again, "Fuck! I don't even know where to start!" he said as he raked his hands along his blonde tresses.

"Men!" Pansy rolled her eyes for the nth time. "Did you receive an invitation from the old bat?"

Draco turned his face towards hers, "Yes, why?"

A shrewd smile curled on Pansy's lips, "You're HeadBoy and she's HeadGirl, do I have to spell it out for you?"

He shook his head, "I don't think that's a good idea, I don't even know if I'm-"

"Nonsense!" she said, cutting him off midsentence. "You are going, end off."

He folded his arms on top of his chest, "What makes you think I will?"

Pansy spun on her heels and started walking towards the door, "Because I'll make sure of it, even if it means drugging and dragging you by the ear," she pushed the door open and turned her face to him. "You're my best friend and I love you. I'll do anything to make you happy, even I have to result to my old Slytherin ways," she winked before stepping out of the room.

Chapter 15: If I were you
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Chapter Fifteen:

"Days go by and I feel that you can make me happy. Times goes on and I feel that love is at my door. And though I tell myself that you're the one who said those words before. Though it hurts too much, I can't trust in love again..." If I were you by Tamia

The whole afternoon went by smoothly for Hermione. After dropping by the twin's joke shop, Blaise took her for a quiet dinner in Muggle London, much to her surprise.

"How do you like the food?" Blaise asked while sipping his wine.

"I love it, I never knew this place exists," she smiled.

He chuckled, "Well now you know, it's a good thing that you love Italian food," he replied.

"You never fail to amaze me, Blaise. I mean, how do you even know this stuff? I never even told you that I love Italian food!" she replied while twirling her pasta.

He braced his elbows on the table and stared at her intently, "Well, let's just say that if I'm really interested in a woman, I make it to a point to know everything about her. I pay attention, even with the tiniest details," he replied flirtatiously.

She rolled her eyes as she nibbled on her garlic stick, "Stalking is a serious crime Blaise, make sure you don't get caught."

He threw his head back and laughed, "Love, I don't stalk. I just have a way with my words. And besides, I won't ever do that to you - you wound me woman," he said feigning hurt.

"Good to know, because if I ever caught you, I'll hex your arse to oblivion," she winked.

He leaned back on his chair and shook his head, "Totally barbaric," he joked.

She laughed; "It's nice to know that you finally got my drift, lover boy."

"Lover boy? I like the sound of that, it sounds sexy."

"Men, you're all the same."

He threw her a playful smile, "Of course not, we come in different shape and sizes," he wiggled his brows.

She giggled, "You're a pig!"

"A pig? Pray tell, what did you thought I meant, princess?" he challenged.

Her cheeks turned pink with embarrassment, "I'm not doing this with you, you're bloody bonkers!"

"So cute, you're blushing! I never thought I'd actually make Hermione Granger blush like a teenager," he teased.

"Oh, shut it!"

He lifted his hands in mock surrender, "Okay, I'm sorry. Let's just quit the topic while we're ahead. And besides, I don't want Potter to think that I'm corrupting your virtue in anyway."

"Good," she replied as she took a large sip of her wine.

"Mione?"

"Hmmmmmnn?"

"Have you already decided about my - err - offer? About the ball?"

She placed the glass back and clasped her hands together on top of the table, "To be honest, I haven't really decided yet. I miss Hogwarts and you're right, I really don't want to disappoint Dumbledore," she paused and lowered her eyes to her lap. "But I'm not sure if I'm ready to go back there just yet," she admitted.

He furrowed his brows, "Just yet? Why? Did something happen there?" he asked.

"No," she lied. She lifted her gaze and stared into his eyes, "I really don't know yet, Blaise. I'm sorry," she said.

He studied her face, "It's okay, you don't have to tell me," he replied.

She felt her whole body relax with his words, "Thank you."

Blaise knew better than to press the issue further, so he changed the topic. He reached for her hand and rested his palms on top of it, "I'm not forcing you to decide tonight, love, I just wanted to remind you. But if you feel that you're not yet ready to go back there, then I'll respect your decision - no pressure," he said with a small smile.

"Okay, I promise to let you know."

"Thank you."

Her eyes then strayed towards their hands, "Uhm, Blaise?"

"Yes?"

"Can I have my hand back now?"

"Why? Do I make you nervous?" he teased.

She wrinkled her nose, "Have you been hanging out with Ron, lately?"

He gave her hands a soft squeeze before pulling away, "Why ask?"

"Because you sounded like him a couple of seconds ago," she laughed.

He scrunched his face with distaste, "You did not just compare me with Weasley."

"And pray tell, what's wrong with Ron?" she asked with a quirked brow.

He shifted on his seat, "Err - nothing," he replied. "Ron is a stand up guy, I don't have anything against him and he's one of your best friend, so no - nothing is wrong with him," he babbled nervously.

She made him squirm a few more times before laughing, "You should've seen your face, it's hilarious!"

Realization dawned on him, "You're awful! You played with me back there, I can't believe this!" he said, clearly aghast.

She grabbed her fork again, "A game well played," she replied as she speared a piece of mushroom.

"I'll get you back for that," he said with a smirk.

"Bring it on,"

"Oh, it is on."

oOo

"Where have you been? I've been looking for you," Narcissa said as she stood up from her seat.

Draco smiled at his mother, "I just took an afternoon stroll and didn't notice the time. Did you need anything?" he asked before planting a chaste kiss on his Mother's cheek.

She patted his cheek softly, "No sweetheart, I just missed you," she replied with a smile.

He chuckled and led her mother back to the couch, "I've missed you too," he replied cheerfully. He sat down and pointed his wand towards the hearth to light the fire.

Narcissa sat beside him, "Sweetie?"

"Hmmmnnn?"

"Did something happen? Why do you look so...happy?"

He turned his face to the side to meet his Mother's gaze, "Do I? I didn't notice," he lied.

"Yes, you do. So tell me, what happened?"

"I can't tell you yet, but I promise if it works out, you'll be the first to know," he replied mischievously.

She stared at him for a few more seconds, "Draco, are you talking about a woman?" she asked.

Draco just smirked and stood up. He leaned forward and kissed her forehead, "Don't stay up too late, Mum. Goodnight," he said before padding towards the staircase.

Her eyes widen in incredulity, "Come back here, we're still talking! Did you meet a woman? Who?"

"Love you too, Mum!"

"Come back!"

"Goodnight!"

She shook her head and leaned back on her seat, "Some things will never change," she mumbled.

oOo

"You don't have to walk me home Blaise, I can manage," Hermione said as she stood up from her seat and clutched her purse.

"I know you can manage, but I want to walk you home," Blaise insisted.

"Are you sure? Don't you have work tomorrow?" she asked while looking at him with uncertainty.

He threw her a lopsided grin, "Yes, I do, but I can manage too," he joked.

"If you insist," she replied.

He gestured towards the door, "Shall we?"

She nodded, "Yes, let's go."

They walked along the streets, keeping a respectable distance between them. He kept the conversation flowing, asking her questions about her hobbies down to her job. She enjoyed conversing with him; he was not as shallow as she originally thought he was.

"So, are you're telling me that you didn't find me attractive before?"

"Do you want an honest answer?"

He glared at her playfully, "Why do I feel like I wouldn't like the answer you're referring to?"

She feigned innocence, "What? I'm just asking if you want an honest answer," she replied as she poked his arm.

"You wound me again, woman. You already did that twice today, you're lucky I like you," he replied as he yanked her hand into his. "Merlin! Your hands are freezing!"

"Err - yeah, it's a little chilly."

He immediately dropped her hand and started unfastening his jacket.

She stopped and stared at him, "What do you think you're doing?"

He took off his jacket and covered her with it, "There, now you won't be cold anymore," he said with flourish.

She tried shrugging it off, "No, Blaise - you need this too, I'm okay," she argued.

"Don't be so hard headed, I'm not even cold, I insist."

"Are you sure?"

He fell into step with her and gently grabbed her hand, lacing their fingers together. "I'm sure."

She moved her eyes to their joined hands, but didn't pull away. "His hand his warm, but it doesn't fit mine" she thought with a hint of sadness.

He squeezed her hand, "This alright?" he asked.

She lifted her eyes to meet his gaze, "Yes," she replied.

He grinned at her and started to resume their pace, "Almost there," he said gingerly.

"Uhuh," she replied, not missing the double meaning behind his words.

oOo

Draco plopped down on his bed and folded his arms behind his head. He stared at the ceiling, his lips curling into a large grin. "They're not yet married, I still have a chance with her," he said. He then turned to his side and pulled the drawer open; he reached for a picture frame and held it close to his face. He moved his other hand towards the glass and ran his finger along the old photograph that Ginny took for them, "I've missed you so much, Mi. I'm sorry if it took me so long to come back..." he said. He then let his hand drop and rested the frame on his chest, "This time would be different for us because now, I will do everything I can to fight for our love, to fight for you. I love you so much."

oOo

"We're here," Hermione said.

Blaise looked at her apartment building, "That was fast."

She squeezed his hand, "I should go in, we both have work tomorrow," she said.

"Yes, you should."

"Okay,"

"Okay."

"Err - Blaise?"

"Yes, Hermione?"

"Can you let go now? Because I can't leave if you're still holding my hand."

His cheeks turned pink with embarrassment as he let her hand go, "Sorry about that," he replied awkwardly.

She threw him an appeasing smile, "That's okay, I had fun today, thank you for spending time with me," she said.

"Me too, let's do this again?" he asked, his tone borderline hopeful.

Before her brain can catch up with his question, her mouth already gave out an answer. "Yes, I think we should."

His face lit up like a Christmas tree, "I'll hold on to your word, Ms. Granger," he said excitedly.

She can't help but smile at his enthusiasm, "He can be cute sometimes," she thought. "You should, now I bid you goodnight," she said.

"Mione?"

"Yes, Blaise?"

"Can I kiss you goodnight?"

She felt her breath hitch in her throat, clearly shocked with his question. She looked into his eyes and to her surprise, all she saw was complete sincerity. "It's just a kiss, it doesn't have to mean anything, right?" she thought. She swallowed thickly and slowly nodded her agreement, "Yes," she breathed out.

He shifted closer and gently cupped her face with his warm hand. He stared into her eyes for a couple beats before leaning forward, pressing their lips together.

She closed her eyes and tried searching for the spark she once felt, but came up with nothing. "Damn it!" she mentally cursed.

He nipped her lower lip once before pulling away, "Goodnight Hermione," he whispered.

She forced out a smile, "Goodnight," she replied. She then turned on her heels and started climbing the stairs.

"I'll keep waiting for your owl, don't make me wait too long, love!" he said cheerfully.

She unlocked the door and pushed it open, "I will let you know, bye," she said with a wave. She then stepped into the threshold and closed the door with a soft snap. She braced her back on the cold wood and let out an audible sigh, "Why can't you feel anything?" she asked herself.

Chapter 16: Gravity
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Chapter Sixteen:

"Something always brings me back to you it never takes too long. No matter what I said or do, I still feel you here till the moment I'm gone..." Gravity by Sarah Bareilles

Ring... Ring... Ring

Hermione's eyes fluttered open as a loud groaned escaped her lips. She grabbed one of her pillows and covered her head, trying to stifle the annoying sound.

Ring... Ring... Ring

She swore inaudibly and flung her blanket off her body. She got out of bed and sluggishly made her way towards the sitting room.

Ring... Ring...Ring

"Bloody hell, I'm coming!" she shrieked at the offending device. She irritably snatch the phone from its cradle and spoke, "Hello?" she said hoarsely.

"Morning sweetheart, are you already up? Happy Christmas!" A cheery voice asked.

She plopped down on the couch and started massaging her temples, "Morning, Golden Boy - Happy Christmas too," she replied. She then turned her face to the side to check the time, "Why in Merlin's name are you calling me this early?"

"Sorry Hun, I know you're still thrashed from last night," Harry said with a chuckle.

"Ha, ha - funny, really. For your information, I was not trashed last night, just got a little tipsy," she said sarcastically.

"If you say so, I won't argue with you at all."

"Out with it Potter, what's the real reason why you called?" she asked.

He sighed, "Fine, Ginny asked me - no badgered me to call you. She wants me to remind you that the Ball is tonight," he replied.

Hermione frowned, "What do you mean tonight?" she asked confusedly.

"It's tonight, Hermione, it's the 25th - you forgot didn't you?"

She closed her eyes tightly and mentally cursed, "I did," she admitted. She leaned back on her seat and let out an audible sigh, "Look, can you just tell Ginny that-"

"Na-ah, you're going. Your Headgirl so you're obliged to go. I'll drag you if I have to and you know I'm not kidding," Harry interjected.

"Don't get your knickers in a twist, I was not backing out," she huffed.

"Good."

Her eyes snapped open when she realized something, "Oh crap!"

"What?"

She shot up from her seat and started pacing, "I totally forgot to buy a dress!" she said, panic evident in her voice.

"Don't worry your pretty head about it, love, Ginny has you covered. My wife knew you didn't shop for a gown, so she took the liberty to buy you one," he chuckled. "As a matter of fact, it's being delivered as we speak - hold on," he paused. "Ginny! I'm talking to Mione, do you want to talk to her?"

"Yes, hold on," Ginny's voice echoed from the background.

"I'll let you talk to her, here she comes," Harry said.

"Happy Christmas, Mione!" Ginny chirped.

She moved back to the couch and sat down, "Happy Christmas Gin," she replied.

"What time are you coming? I already took care of your dress and it's truly Magnifique!"

She can't help but giggle at Ginny's attempt to sound like her sister in law, "You're spending too much time with Fleur, love - you're beginning to sound like her," she teased.

"I do, right? I really love her accent, I think it's very posh," Ginny replied cheerily.

"Yes, it's indeed posh and you do sound good."

Ginny chuckled, "I'm glad to hear that, Ron said I sounded like I have clogged sinuses."

"You know, Ron" she said. She then moved her hand to her lips to muffle a yawn, "Is it okay if I drop by after lunch?"

"Yes, that's fine. And oh, tell Blaise to go here directly."

"Blaise? Why?"

"Isn't he your escort tonight?"

She cringed, "Err - yes, okay. I'll just owl him then, thank you for reminding me."

"You totally forgot that he's your date, didn't you?" Ginny asked in an amused tone.

She grabbed a throw pillow and hugged it to her chest, "I'll see you later, Gin."

"Alright, I won't badger you with questions anymore. See you in few!"

"Thanks, love you."

"Love you too, Mimi - bye!"

She put the phone back on the cradle and let out an exasperated sigh, "Looks like I'll be going to the Ball whether I like it or not," she grumbled. She leaned back and rested her head on the back of the couch, her eyes fixed on the ceiling. The day she's been dreading has finally arrived and she can't even convince herself that she's ready to go back. After four long years, tonight would be the night that she would set foot again at Hogwarts - the place she avoided like plague. She let out another sigh and sat up. She grabbed her notebook and pen from the coffee table and started scribbling a short note to Blaise. Telling him that she would be attending the festivities later and to meet her at Harry's instead of her flat. "This would be a long day," she said as she stood up.

oOo

Hermione went through her Christmas morning routine as planned. She distributed all her gifts and made a short trip to her parent's house to have their yearly brunch. It was almost quarter past one when she found herself strolling along Diagon Alley, "Oomph," she gasped when she bumped into someone.

"I'm sorry - Hermione?"

She lifted her gaze and saw a familiar figure standing right in front of her, "Pansy?"

"It's been awhile since I last saw you, Happy Christmas," Pansy replied with a large smile.

She smiled back, "Yes, it's been awhile. Happy Christmas to you too," she replied. Her eyes then strayed towards the paper bags dangling on the blonde witch's arm, "Are you here alone?" she asked.

Pansy shook her head, "I'm with Seamus, but we decided to run our errands separately so we could get things done faster. How about you?"

"I'm here alone, but I'm just passing by - I'm off to Harry and Ginny's," she explained.

"Oh, I won't keep you then."

"It's nice seeing you again, Pansy. Send my love to the girls and Seamus."

"I will."

"I'll go then, have a good day," she said with wave before turning on her heels.

"Hermione!"

She halted her steps and turned her head back towards the other witch, "Yes?"

"I'm expecting you to the Ball later. I'm sure someone would love to see you there, so make sure to come," Pansy said mischievously.

"Who?" she asked with a quirked brow.

Pansy didn't give her an audible answer, but she threw her an exaggerated wink before walking away.

She stared at Pansy's back for a few beats before shaking her head, "Slytherin's," she mumbled.

oOo

Potter Mansion: 5 P.M.

"Oh Gin, this is absolutely stunning!" Hermione exclaimed with awe. She carefully ran her fingers along the gown's bodice, her eyes taking in every detail.

Ginny beamed, "It is, isn't it? When I first saw it, I instantly knew it was made for you - even the color is perfect!" she gushed excitedly.

She let her hand drop and worried her bottom lip, "But isn't it too revealing?" she asked.

Ginny waved her hand dismissively, "Pish-posh! You're off age now; it's about bloody time you show off some of your best assets."

She moved her eyes back to the gown, indecision gnawing at the pit of her stomach.

"It's a Masquerade Ball, they'll think it's just your costume," Ginny said with reassurance. "Oh! Did you see the mask?"

She leaned forward and started rummaging through the box on top of the bed. She plucked an intricately decorated mask and lifted it to eye level, "Wow, this is something," she said.

"It's charmed; you don't have to worry about it falling off your face once you put it on. And by the way, so as the gown," Ginny explained.

She moved her eyes to Ginny, "What does the gown do?"

Ginny grinned, "Let's just say that you don't have to worry about putting on your own make-up," she said proudly.

"You really prepared for this, huh?"

"Am I too obvious? Did I go overboard again?"

She reached for her best friend's hand and gave it a soft squeeze, "You didn't and I appreciate all of this, thank you," she said earnestly.

Ginny let out a relieved sigh, "I'm glad you don't think it's too much," she said. "And I also want to see men drool over you - literally if that's possible," she added with a wink.

"You're bonkers!" she chuckled.

"I know, that's why you love me," Ginny said smugly.

oOo

Potter Mansion: 7 P.M.

After hours of playing with James, Ginny urged her to hop in the shower to get ready. She took her time scrubbing all the grim from her earlier activity and emerged from the bathroom feeling squeaky clean. She walked towards the bed and studied her dress thoughtfully, "Ginny really has an exquisite taste in clothing. The only problem is, if I can pull it off," she mumbled. She then padded towards the dresser and sat down' she grabbed a brush and started untangling her riotous curls. Once she's satisfied, she put the brush down and squared her shoulders, "You can bloody do this, it's just a place - you can definitely go there," she said with resolve. With that mantra in mind, she shot up from her seat and marched back to bed. She gently lifted the dress and started slipping it over her head. She adjusted the strap on her shoulder as she padded towards the full length mirror to her left. She stood right in front of it like Ginny instructed and watched the enchantments work on her. She waited until the last rhinestone had been tucked in her curls before she moved closer to the mirror, "Wow," she gasped in shock. She lifted her hand and carefully ran it along the bodice of her gown, her eyes glued to her reflection.

Buzz...Buzz...Buzz

She was jerked out of her trance when she noticed her wand hovering on top of the bed, her alarm reminding her that it's time to go. She turned on her heels and hastily walked towards the bed, she grabbed her wand as she plopped down on top of the comforter. She summoned her jewelled stilettos and quickly slipped it on her feet. She stood up from her perch and slipped her wand inside her clutch. She threw herself a last once over before she padded towards the door.

"Aunt Herrrrmmmmmmyyyyyyyy! Are you ready yet?" James' called out just as tiny thuds of footsteps resounded along the hallway.

"Yes, I'm done," she replied as she closed the door behind her.

James seemed to appear out of nowhere, "WOW!" he exclaimed, his eyes wide like saucers.

She braced her hands on her hips, "How do I look, sweet pea? Do I look okay?"

James bobbed his head fervently, "YES! You're soooo pretty!"

She laughed heartily, "Thank you, love," she said as she ruffled his unruly hair. She then offered the same hand to the boy, "Would you like to escort me downstairs?" she asked.

"YES!" James said excitedly.

She let the little boy lead her, "Are your parents ready?" she asked.

"Uhuh, Mommy is pretty like you!"

"I bet she is," she replied with a smile.

James ushered them towards the living room like a true gentleman, "We're here!" he announced loudly.

All the room occupants turned towards them, their eyes wide in shock. Ginny was the first to react, "Oh my gosh! You're gorgeous! I knew it - that dress is really made for you, Mimi!" she gushed excitedly. She then made a bee line towards her and gestured for her to turn, "Absolutely gorgeous!" she gasped.

Harry narrowed his eyes at Blaise, "Zabini you better behave yourself tonight. If I ever caught you laying an indecent finger on my best friend I'll cut your balls off," he whispered gravely. He then walked towards her and smiled, "You look beautiful, Mione," he said.

She felt her whole face turned red with embarrassment, "Cut out the compliments, you two are making me blush!" she mumbled.

Harry wrapped his arm around his wife's shoulder, "You two are going to make me work hard tonight," he grumbled.

"Don't you dare, Harry James Potter!" Ginny spat half-heartedly, her eyes twinkling with excitement.

She rolled her eyes at Harry and moved her gaze to her stoic looking date, waiting for him to react.

Harry cleared his throat loudly, "Zabini, did you by chance swallowed your tongue? Aren't you even going to say anything to your beautiful date?" he asked.

That seemed to jar Blaise out of his stupor, "Hermione, you're - wow," he breathed out, clearly out of words.

She threw him a thankful smile, "Thank you, you look good too," she replied shyly.

"Told you there would be drooling," Ginny whispered with an amused giggle.

"Yeah, but I'm not afraid to use my wand to snap it close," Harry replied as threw Blaise a warning look.

Ginny snorted, "Good luck to you," she replied.

oOo

Malfoy Manor: 7 P.M.

Draco studied himself in front of the mirror for the nth time, smoothing his tuxedo and straightening his tie repeatedly. "You don't look bad, time has been good to you," he said to himself.

"Draco, aren't you done yet? You've been there for a bloody hour!" a high-pitched voice said.

Draco fought the urge to scowl as he spun to face his date, "I'm done, I was just making sure that I look perfect tonight," he explained.

The beautiful blonde woman entered his room and walked towards his bed, "More like psyching yourself," she said as she gracefully sat down.

"I was not!" he huffed. He then walked towards his bureau and snatched his favorite cologne, his mind drifting back to the night he convinced his cousin to pose as his date.

*Flashback*

Draco paced back in forth, "Common Luci, this would be the last favor I'll ask from you. Please don't make me attend that Ball alone," he pleaded.

Luci rolled her eyes, "Would you stop pacing? You're making me dizzy!" she snapped. She then leaned back on her seat and folded her arms on top of her chest, "Don't you have someone else to go with? Why on earth are you asking your cousin to accompany you to a Ball?"

He stopped pacing, "I don't want to go with anyone else - it's complicated," he said.

"Un-complicate it for me then," Luci said.

He walked towards the couch and plopped down unceremoniously; he rested his arms on top of his knees and hung his head. "The woman I'm in love with will be there and I don't want her to think that I'm seeing someone else."

Luci stared at him for a moment before letting out a defeated sigh, "Fine, I'll go with you."

He felt his body sag with relief as he turned his face to side, "Thank you," he said with all the sincerity he can muster.

"You must really love this woman, this is the first time I saw you beg," Luci mused.

"I really do," he said without hesitation.

*End of Flashback*

"DRACO!"

He shook his head to clear his thoughts, "Yes?"

"You're really psyched out about seeing her, aren't you?" Luci asked with a chuckle.

He turned towards her and blatantly ignored her statement, "Thank you for doing this Luc, I really owe you a big one," he sincerely said.

Luci stood up, "Just make sure that you get your woman at the end and I'll consider us even," she said.

"I'll try my best."

"Don't try, do your best."

"I will," he replied. He then walked towards her and offered his arm, "Time for our grand entrance, are you ready?"

Luci looped her arm around his, "As ready as I'll ever be," she replied.

He squared his shoulder, "Let's go then."

oOo

Hogwarts:

The couples arrived at Hogwarts together, but before they entered the Great Hall to join the festivities, Ginny pulled Hermione to the side. "I know this is a huge step for you and if any given time you feel uncomfortable, tell me and we'll leave - no questions asked, okay?"

Hermione can't help but smile at her best friend's thoughtfulness, "Stop worrying about me Gin, I'm fine."

"You promise?"

"I promise."

"Are you ready to go in?" Harry asked as he slipped his arm around his wife's waist.

"Yes, we are," she replied.

Blaise shifted closer and offered his hand towards her, "Shall we?" he asked with a small smile.

She smiled back, "Yes," she replied as she gave her hand to him.

Harry pushed the door double doors open and was immediately assaulted by Seamus, "Finally! I've been looking all over for you, mate!"

Harry cracked a large grin, "We've just arrived," he replied.

"I figured that," Seamus replied with a chuckle. He then moved his eyes towards Ginny and Hermione, "Good evening ladies, aren't you both a sight for sore eyes," he said.

"Evening, Seamus," she said with a wave.

Ginny leaned towards Harry, "Good evening to you too, where's Pansy?"

Seamus grinned, "She around here somewhere, last time I checked she was talking with Daphne," he replied.

"Harry!"

They all turned around and saw Lee Jordan waving at them almost frantically.

"That's the reason why I've looking for you," Seamus said.

"You should go there, Harry," she said.

"You sure?" Ginny asked.

She nodded, "I'm sure, go on and have fun - Blaise and I will find you two later," she paused to look at the man standing beside her, "Right?"

Blaise nodded, "Of course, you go on ahead."

Harry studied Blaise's face, "Remember what I told you a while ago, mate," he said.

Ginny grabbed Harry's arm, "Don't mind him, you two enjoy the evening," she said. She then started dragging her husband towards the opposite direction, "Seriously, Harry?" she snapped.

She turned towards her date with an apologetic look, "I'm sorry about that, he's just being protective - he doesn't mean anything by that," she explained.

Blaise smiled, "You don't have to apologize, love, I'm used to it by now."

She felt her cheeks flush with his unexpected admission, "Oh my - this is not the first time he warned you?" she asked, aghast.

"You're blushing. Well what do you know, I've already made you blush twice, this is really looking good," Blaise teased.

Hermione swatted him playfully, "This is not funny so stop changing the topic!" she said. She then let her hand drop, "I'm really sorry, you didn't have to hear those things from him."

Blaise stared at her for a moment, "If you really want to make it up to me for Harry's disembodiment threats, I'll take one dance from you and we can call it quits," he said.

She shifted on her feet, her eyes scanning their surroundings. Only then she realized that a few couples are already dancing and they're standing close to the dance floor, "Okay, but do we have to dance now?" she asked nervously.

Blaise offered his hand to her, "Every moment is perfect when it's you I'm dancing with," he replied with a wink.

"If I can just find a way to get inside your heart, I would be the luckiest guy. if I can just be the one who'd be by your side just a chance to feel what it's like and I'd do anything to be in his shoes 'cause I know I could give even more..."

She hesitantly placed her hand on top of his, "You're laying it thick tonight, aren't you?" she joked to diffuse the tension between them.

Blaise pulled her closer and gently guided her hands around his neck, "I'm not, I just know what I want," he said meaningfully.

She didn't know how to respond so she just offered him a weak smile.

"I'm really glad you decided to go," Blaise said as he started swaying them with the music.

"I'm glad I came to," she replied.

"Mione?"

"Hmmmmnnn?"

Blaise swallowed thickly, "You know I like you, right?"

She felt her gut twist painfully, "Y - yes," she replied.

"Standing outside your world wishing you'd let me in and I'd show you what my love can bring. Helplessly hoping to give me half a chance because I know I'm just one step away..."

"Are you ready to take this friendship further?"

She knew what she meant, but she found herself playing dumb. "Further?"

Blaise shifted even closer, pulling her flush to his chest. "Yes, the relationship kind of further."

"I -"

"Welcome home my dear former students, welcome!"

They both stopped dancing and turned towards the familiar cheerful voice.

Albus Dumbledore appeared in the middle of the dance floor, his face full of merriment. "It is to my inmost joy to have you all back, even for just one night. I'm very much pleased to see familiar faces grace this hall once again," he said looking at his former students with a large grin. "Tonight, we are all gathered here to celebrate not only the season, but your homecoming as well. It has already been six years since you all graduated and I can't be any prouder for what you've all become."

"Let's continue this later," Blaise whispered before ushering Hermione to the side.

She fought the urge to let out an audible sigh of relief, "Thank Merlin," she thought.

"Tonight will be all about food, music and good friends. I beseech you all to forget your troubles and enjoy the festivities."

The crowd let out catcalls and loud cheers.

Albus waited for the whole place to calm down before continuing, "I know you are all excited to catch up, but before we officially start the feast, I would just like to acknowledge the presence of the two people whom I'm quite sure you all very know well."

Her heart started pounding inside her chest, "Shit!" she thought. She took a step back to hide behind Blaise, "I hate this!" she mumbled.

Blaise turned his face towards her, "I'm sorry - what are you doing back there?" he asked in confusion.

"Without further ado, I would like to welcome our former Headgirl, Ms. Hermione Granger!"

"Shit!" she grumbled just as a bright ray of light shone directly at her. She forced out a smile and lifted her hand to wave at the Head Master.

Applause and wolf whistling filled the room.

Albus nodded at her, his blue eyes twinkling mischievously, "And of course, there's no Headgirl without a Headboy," he paused dramatically and turned his gaze towards the other side of the room. "Mr. Draco Malfoy, welcome home!"

She followed Dumbledore's gaze, her eyes frantically searching the crowd. "He's - he's here," she thought with panic. Her heart was beating frantically inside her chest, making her a little light headed with the lack of oxygen. She fisted her hands to her side, trying her hardest to fight off the mixture of anticipation and longing building inside her chest. "You have to stop, it's over," she thought over and over.

Chapter 17: Here we are
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Chapter Seventeen:

"Here we are once again, but this time we're only friends. Funny world sometimes lies become the game, when love's the prize..." Here we are by Gloria Estefan

The crowd instantly fell silent as heads turned towards the direction that their Head Master pointed at. After a couple of seconds, applause commenced as the crowd started to part like the red sea, giving Hermione a first glimpse of Draco Malfoy for the first time in four years.

Draco smiled at Albus graciously, raising his champagne flute as a sign of acknowledgement and respect.

"Now that everyone has been reacquainted, I urge you all to don your mask so we can commence with tonight's festivities. I bid you all a Happy Christmas and may you all have fun." Albus said before disapparating on the spot with flourish.

The crowd started clapping again, but Hermione didn't seem to hear a thing. She stood rooted on the ground, staring unseeingly at the throng of people walking around the hall.

Blaise just charmed his mask on when he noticed his date zoning out, "Are you okay?" he asked.

She swallowed thickly, "Y - yes," she paused to look at him. "Why are you wearing your mask?"

"Dumbledore just asked us to start wearing it," Blaise replied. He then pulled a small button from his pocket and transfigured it back to a mask, "Here you go," he said.

"Okay," she replied. She accepted the mask from him and gently pressed it to her face, activating the sticking charm with skin contact.

"Still lovely as ever," Blaise said.

"Err - thanks, you too," she replied absentmindedly. Her eyes then made an involuntary quick sweep through the crowd, looking for Draco's familiar face.

Blaise seemed oblivious with her internal struggle, "Dumbledore went all out for this, I don't know how he managed to convince Draco to come," he said. When he didn't receive an immediate response, he turned his face towards her, his brows furrowed. "Hermione, are you really feeling well?"

Her head snapped back to face him, "Y - yes, I'm okay," she stuttered.

He lifted his hand to cup her face, "Are you sure? You look a little pale," he said with concern.

She placed her hand on top of his, "I'm good, just a little bit overwhelmed with the crowd, I guess," she lied. She squeezed his hand and gently pulled it off her face, "You're right, Dumbledore went all out - everything looks stunning."

Blaise smiled as he laced their fingers together, "I'm really glad you're here."

She felt a familiar tingling on her spine, compelling her to turn around. Before her brain can catch up with her body, she found herself looking at the eyes she dreamed of seeing for years.

oOo

Draco's heart is hammering inside his chest, making beads of sweat pool on top his upper lips. When he first caught sight of her, he had to do a double take to make sure it was really her - she looked really different tonight. The old Hermione wouldn't have dared to wear such revealing gown, but based on how she carried herself, he could safely say that a lot have changed. He swallowed thickly as he continued to study her appearance; the emerald silk gown she wore clung to her curves like second skin, emphasizing her best features. Yes, there is a lot of skin exposed from the low cowl neckline and the thin criss-crossed strap at the back that held the dress, but she still managed to make it look classy rather than indecent. Even the high slit on her thigh that showcased her alabaster leg didn't even make her look slutty, "Merlin, those legs - they look like they'd go on forever!" he thought.

"You might want to close your mouth; you're about ready to drool on your tuxedo."

He closed his mouth with a loud click, making him wince. He took a moment to gather his bearings before he turned towards Luci, "I don't know what you're talking about," he said coolly.

Luci lifted her hand and poked his flushed cheek, "Are you saying that this is a result of an allergic reaction?" she mused.

"I'm not blushing!" he hissed lowly.

Luci let her hand drop as giggles escaped her lips, "Well, I can't really blame you - she is a sight for sore eyes," she said.

He smiled smugly, "I have impeccable taste, you should've expected that already."

Luci subtly gestured towards Blaise, "Who is he?"

"Blaise Zabini," he said through gritted teeth.

"They seem a little bit close, don't you think?" Luci goaded.

He felt a wave of anger and betrayal surge into his gut, "He's courting her," he replied curtly.

"And what do you think about that? Are you just going to let him steal the woman you're in love with, dear cousin?" Luci whispered.

"Over my dead body," he replied. He then turned his gaze back to the couple, his eyes instantly locking with the familiar amber eyes he missed.

oOo

"Breathe," Hermione mentally reminded herself. She didn't take her eyes of him as she forced her lungs to function again.

"A blonde bombshell that screams French - looks like he still goes for the same type."

"Huh?"

"His date," Blaise clarified.

She felt like she's been doused with cold water, making her more aware of the woman standing closely to Draco. Irrational anger burst through the pit of her stomach, "So that's the reason why he's smiling like a loon, the bloody arse is showing off his French delight!" she thought. Her whole stiffened with the realization, "Yes, must be his new Pureblooded girlfriend. She's pretty - good for him," she said curtly. She then grabbed Blaise hand and hastily turned her back to the view, "Let's go."

"You're not pulling me into a cupboard to snog me for old time sake, are you?" Blaise joked while wiggling his brows suggestively.

She let out a chuckle, but it she knew it sounded fake, "Have you already forgotten Harry's threats?" she joked back.

"I'll take rain check on the snog, let's just get something to drink," Blaise said with a wince.

"Thought so," she said. She then squared her shoulders and lifted her chin, "You won't ruin your night over this. If he's having fun, so should you," she thought.

oOo

The night passed by smoothly and Hermione could say that she started enjoying the festivities once she pushed Draco's presence at the back of her mind. Almost all of her old housemates made it and she was given the chance to catch up with the latest gossips. Like, Luna was now married to Neville and they're expecting their first born son. Padma got engaged with Dean last month while Parvati remained single and continued to devote all of her time to her newest business venture - Gladrags.

"Ahem,"

She lifted her gaze and saw her date standing right in front of her, "Yes?" she asked.

"May I have this dance, bella?" he crooned with a small smile.

Cat calls and wolf whistles instantly floated around the table, telling her that most of her friends heard Blaise's words. Her face felt hot with embarrassment, but she brushed it off with a smile.

"Go on, don't make the poor man wait," Ginny encouraged.

He held his hand out and bowed like a true gentleman, making her friends cheer louder.

"Hush, all of you!" she good-naturedly chided. She placed her hand on his and let him pull her up, "You're really good at this," she said.

"Like what I've said, I know what I want," he replied as he led her towards the dance floor.

An uncomfortable feeling sunk at her gut, making her feel a little queasy, "Oh, okay," she replied.

He wrapped his arms around her for the second time, "Are you enjoying yourself?" he asked.

"Yes, I've missed them all."

He nodded approvingly as he swayed them side by side, "You've always been beautiful, but tonight, you're exceptional - I hope you know that," he said off-handedly.

She noticed the shift in his eyes as he continued to stare at her, "Are you hitting on me?" she joked.

He cracked a grin, "If it's working, then yes, I'm definitely hitting on you," he winked.

She couldn't help it; she bowed her head and started to giggle.

He wrapped his arms tighter and pulled her closer, "But kidding aside, Mione. You're really stunning, love," he whispered huskily.

She lifted her face and met his gaze, "Thank you," she replied shyly.

He just smiled at her and continued navigating the floor with grace and ease.

After a few minutes of mindless dancing, she squeezed his shoulder to get his attention. "Blaise?"

"Hmmmnnn?"

"Why me?" she asked the question she's been wanting to ask for months.

He didn't seem surprised by it, "Because you're beauty is not only superficial, but also skin deep. Your compassion for other people and the lengths you would go for those you love - you have a big heart, Hermione, and that draws me to you," he replied.

She felt the sincerity in his voice, making her heart flutter with delight inside her chest. She moved her face closer and rested her cheek on his shoulder, "Thank you for saying that," she mumbled.

He pressed his cheek to her head, "You're welcome."

oOo

From another side of the room, stormy grey eyes burning with anger and envy watched the couple's every move. Draco held his goblet in a vice grip, his jaw clenched tightly that he's sure his molars are about to crack at any moment.

Luci let out an annoyed sigh and unceremoniously snatched the goblet off his hand, "If you came here to drink and sulk then you shouldn't have brought me here," she whispered.

He threw her an irate look, "I'm not sulking and give that back!"

She placed the goblet of his reach as she narrowed her eyes into slits, "Drinking would not make that Italian stallion disappear so lay off of it."

"Italian stallion?" he huffed with disgust. He then sat straighter and folded his arms on top of his chest, "Do you like him too?" he asked petulantly.

She threw him an annoyed look as she gracefully stood up, "Get your arse up or I'll hex your bollocks off!" she threatened. "Why do I always have to be the one that thinks? Merde, that's what brains are for!" she exclaimed dramatically.

"I don't want to, I'm staying right here."

She snapped her eyes close and took a deep calming breath. After a few seconds, she stood right in front of him and leaned forward. "You brought me here to help you so that's what I'm doing. Now, before I completely lose it - I suggest you get your sulking arse off of that chair and follow everything I say, understand?"

"Help me? In what-"

She didn't let him finish, she subtly grabbed his arm and sank her nails on his tender flesh.

"Ouch!" he yelped as he shot out of his seat. "What the hell do you think you're doing?" he whispered angrily.

She ignored his question and began dragging him towards the dance floor, "Trust me on this, I know what I'm doing," she whispered.

He eyed her skeptically, but he let her lead him.

She stopped a couple of feet away from the couple before wrapping her arms around his neck, "Put your arms around me and look happy," she ordered.

He wiped the scowl out of his face and forced his body to relax, "Okay," he replied.

"We step in and the crowd suddenly decided to sit down - perfect."

He did a quick sweep of the floor, "Looks like it," he said with a little amusement.

"I'm about to do something I loathe doing so you'll owe me big for this," she said cryptically.

"What?"

She pulled her other hand from his neck and flicked her fingers three times. The music stopped for second and was instantly replaced by a familiar piece that she knew they both know very well.

His eyes widened in surprise, "Is that - what on earth are you doing?" he asked.

"We're dancing," she said as she gracefully took the traditional waltzing pose.

He heard the crowd go silent, "You sure about this?" he asked as he took his dancing pose.

"I hate seeing you like that so I'm doing this for you," she replied softly. She then tilted her chin like she was taught and started to move gracefully with the music.

"Like old times, huh?" he asked with a large grin.

Luci smiled at him brightly, "Like old times, let's show them what we've got," she winked.

oOo

Hermione stopped dancing when she noticed that the music changed. She moved her eyes towards the only couple sharing the floor with them and she felt her eyes almost bulge out of its sockets.

"Show off," Blaise said as he eyed the pair.

She swallowed the lump that began to form inside her throat, "I - I think we should sit down," she stuttered, trying to keep her feelings out of her voice.

He shook his head, "No, we're not going anywhere, we'll show them who's the better dancer," he said, his eyes brighter than the usual.

"But I'm not versed with the waltz; I'm going to make you look bad!"

He tightened his hold on her and gently put her into the right position, "Don't worry, love, I've got this - I've got you."

She threw him a worried look, "Are you sure? I mean, I'm quite sure those two have danced this million of times. I don't want to make you look bad."

"You'll never make me look bad," he said seriously. He then smiled at her reassuringly, "I'm as good as Draco so you don't have to worry about anything."

"Okay," she replied.

He lifted their clasped hands and started leading her into intricate steps.

After a few spins and twirls, she managed to catch up. Her body started to relax with the rhythm, making her more at ease with every glide. "The ferret's girlfriend can really dance, huh? Must be her pureblood upbringing," she said as she saw the couple do a complicated move.

He nodded, "They do look good together, I'm happy for them."

Her foot got caught with his, making her stumble. "Sorry!" she yelped.

"I've got you," he replied as he pulled her to his chest, completely oblivious to her dampening mood.

She forced herself to tear her eyes off the happy couple, "Yeah, thanks," she replied somberly.

Draco pulled Luci to his chest just as the music stopped. His lips curled into a large grin when he heard the entire hall boom with claps and hollers.

"Aunt Cissy would be so proud of us," Luci said with a chuckle.

He lifted her hand to his lips and planted a kiss on top it, "Thank you, I needed that," he said.

She squeezed his hand as she stared at her cousin's lady love, "We're not done yet," she said.

His heart fluttered when the familiar tune started playing. He shifted his eyes towards Hermione's direction and saw her took a step back from Blaise. His heart started to pick its pace when she turned her head towards him and caught his gaze.

Luci grabbed his hand and started tugging him towards the same direction, "Come on, time to raise the stakes," she said.

Hermione wanted to look away, but for some unfathomable reason, her body won't listen to her brain. There's something in the look he's giving her that says that he still wants her, but if he does, then why is he with this beautiful French woman?

"Looks like they're heading this way," Blaise said.

She moved her eyes towards the blonde woman and saw her pulling Draco towards them, "What is she doing?" she thought. She felt all her walls go up as she unconsciously took a step closer to Blaise, "Why?" she asked.

Blaise lifted his arm and wrapped it around her shoulders, "We're about to find out," he replied.

Luci stopped right in front of them, a bright smile illuminating her whole face. "I've noticed you two dancing along with us and it's really Magnifique!" she exclaimed.

Blaise perked up with the compliment, "Thank you, you two. I'm Blaise, by the way and you are?"

"I'm Luci Laurenti," Luci said with dainty wave.

Blaise smiled charmingly, "It's a pleasure to meet you Mademoiselle Luci," he said. "And let me introduce you to my lovely date, Hermione Granger," he paused to look at Draco. "I'm quite sure Draco knows her, it's nice to see you again mate," he said.

Draco's face remained impassive, "Yes, I do know her," he replied as he moved his eyes to her. "Hermione, it's been a while," he said, his features softening.

She felt her heart flutter inside her chest, "Err - yes, it is," she sputtered nervously.

Luci turned towards her, "It's a pleasure to meet you, Hermione. I love your gown, you're really gorgeous," she said kindly.

"This woman is so infuriatingly beautiful and she's even nice - argh!" she thought. She let out a small smile, "It's nice to meet you too, Luci - you're really beautiful."

Luci beamed, "Thank you!" she replied. She then turned her face towards Draco, her eyes silently urging him to make a move.

Draco took the cue and stepped forward. He slowly lifted his hand and offered it to Hermione, "May I have this dance, Granger?" he asked politely.

She stood frozen, her eyes wide with shock.

Luci lifted his hand to Blaise, "Why don't you dance with me, Monsieur? I'm quite sure you're also versed with Ballad, yes?"

Blaise turned towards his date, "One dance?" he asked.

Her head snapped towards Blaise, "A - are you sure?" she asked.

Blaise nodded, "Yes," he replied.

She moved her eyes back to Draco's propped hand, her stomach clenching with a mixture of nerves and giddiness.

"Granger?"

She lifted her gaze and saw him looking at her with trademark smirk, "Sure," she said as she placed her hand on his.

Blaise also took a step forward and offered his hand to Luci, "May I have this dance?" he asked.

Luci threw Draco a knowing look before giving her hand, "Oui," she replied.

Draco felt his heart jolt inside his chest when Hermione placed her hand on his. He forced himself not to follow his basic instincts and just kiss her senseless. He clenched his jaw as he led her towards the dance floor. Once they're on the perfect spot, he slipped his arms around her waist and gently pulled her closer. "This okay?" he asked.

Hermione's cheek's turned pink, but she nodded shyly.

"How have you been?" he asked.

She hesitantly placed her hands on his shoulders, "I've been well, how about you?"

"As better as I could be, I just got back from Paris."

She nodded, "I heard, how long has it been? Four years?" she asked.

"Four long years," he said. He then lifted his face to meet her eyes, "But it felt like forever," he said.

She flinched, but she didn't look away.

He studied her face for moment, "Mi?" he said, his voice cracking with emotion.

"D - dray?"

"I've missed you, really missed you."

Her eyes watered as her chest started to heave. She shifted her hands and circled it around his neck, pulling him closer. "I've missed you too."

He tightened his hold on her, revelling in the fact that this is the first time he held her in years. "It's been so long and I'm not going to lie and tell you that it hasn't been hell for me," he paused to let out a ragged breath. "Not seeing you - being without you, felt like I've been chained in Azkaban."

She bit her bottom lip hard just as her tears gave in.

He felt the knot inside his stomach loosen, but he hate the fact that his honesty made her cry. He lifted his hand and subtly dried her cheeks, "Please don't cry, love," he whispered.

She let the breath she seemed to be holding with an audible whoosh, "Sorry, I can't help it - I just can't believe you're really here," she admitted.

He smiled at her as he squeezed her hip playfully, "Does that prove I'm really here?" he teased.

She giggled, "Yeah, I think so," she replied.

They swayed with the music for a couple of minutes, just basking in the presence of one another. After a few minutes of comfortable silence, he decided to speak again. "Mi, I -"

"May I cut back in?"

His whole stiffened, "Perfect timing as ever, Blaise," he muttered through gritted teeth.

She threw him a rueful look as she slowly pulled her arms away, "Blaise," she said.

Noticing the tension radiating from her cousin's body, Luci decided to intervene. She wrapped her hand around Draco's arm and pulled him closer, "It was nice dancing with you, Monsieur Zabini," she said.

Blaise bowed his head politely, "The pleasure is all mine," he replied. He then turned his gaze to Hermione, "Do you want to sit down? I'll get us something to drink," he offered.

She threw him one last look before nodding at Blaise, "Sure, let's go," she replied.

He watched the couple the walk away, his fury rising at a dangerous level. He flexed his hand a few times, willing himself to calm down before he does something he knew would embarrass Hermione.

Luci squeezed his arm, "Were you able to talk to her?" she whispered.

"No, but I won't let this night end without talking to her," he said with unadulterated conviction.

"Good, that's exactly what I want to hear."

"That went well," Ginny said.

Harry threw his wife an incredulous look, "What do you meant that went well? For a moment there, I thought we'd cart Zabini's unconscious body to St. Mungos! Have you seen the look on the ferret's face? I thought he'd pop a vessel from so much repressed anger!"

She seemed to mull over his words before nodding in agreement, "You're right, I've never seen Draco that furious and Blaise - I don't know if he's just dense or he's really can't feel the tension between those two. I mean, I'm standing here and I can definitely feel it!"

He shook his head, "I don't know, maybe he just chose to ignore it," he said. He then slipped his arms around her waist, "I don't think that's over though, Malfoy looks like he's on a mission," he said.

She leaned into him, "We'll just have to wait and watch then, I love drama!" she said giddily.

"And this night just keeps on getting better and better."

Chapter 18: If ever you're in my arms again
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Chapter Eighteen:

"There's something between us that won't ever leave us, there's no letting go..." If ever you're in my arms again by Peabo Bryson

Draco helped Luci back to her seat before taking his own. He tapped his goblet with his finger and waited for it to be refilled magically.

Luci did the same thing with her glass, "So, explain to me one thing. Blaise told me you two were best mates, but how come he doesn't know about you and Hermione?"

"Nobody in my House knew," he replied before taking a large swig from his drink.

"I see," she said. She leaned back on her seat and crossed her legs, "I was able to ask him some questions and based from what I gathered, he's really serious with her," she said.

He braced his elbows on his knees, his goblet dangling precariously in his hand. "I know that, I can see it in the way he looked at her," he sighed.

"This is a bloody circus," she breathed out. She then plucked her glass from the table and took a sip, "And your woman is the ring leader and she doesn't even know it, it's preposterous!"

He chanced a glance at Hermione and watched her laugh with her friends, "She's worth it, Luci and a whole lot more," he said.

"I know that, but what are you planning to do?"

He let out another sigh, "Honestly? I really don't know."

She shifted closer and nudged his shoulder, "Don't look so down, I'm sure it'll come to you. You just have to find another opening, you're a Malfoy - you've got this."

He can't help but smile at her statement, "Thank you for doing this, I wouldn't have thought of asking to dance if you didn't force my arse to the dance floor."

She lifted her chin and gave him fake haughty look, "Yes, you owe big time. Forget about what I said about us being even if you get her back, I changed my mind."

He threw his head back and let out a full belly laugh.

She smiled as she took another sip from her glass, "Did you at least get to talk to her?" she asked.

"I did, I told her I missed her."

"What did she say?"

He cracked a smile, "She told me that she missed me too and had to double check if I was really standing right in front of her," he replied.

She nodded approvingly, "That's a good sign. What else did she say?"

He emptied his goblet before placing it back on the table, "We weren't able to cover much. I was about to broach the topic, but wasn't able to continue because Blaise interrupted us."

"I'm sorry about that, I should've asked him for another dance," she said with a wince.

"It's okay," he said. He then leaned back on his seat and stretched his legs, "I'll try to talk to her again, I'll look for another opening."

She turned her face to him, "You still love her that much, huh?"

"Yes."

"After all these years," she said with a sigh. "You really surprise me, cousin dear."

"I surprise myself too," he replied. He then moved his gaze back to Hermione, "I didn't think I was capable of love, but look where I'm at right now? Still pinning for a woman who may or may not have forgotten about me," he paused and moved his eyes back to his cousin. "She may have admitted that she missed me, but missing is different from loving. You can miss someone without still loving them, right?"

She shifted on her seat, "I really can't answer that question because I'm not her. I don't know how her mind works, sorry," she replied with a sympathetic look.

"You don't have to spare my feelings, go on," he coaxed.

She averted her gaze, "Yes, it's a possibility."

He felt his heart drop to his stomach, "What do you think I should do? Should I just walk away like I did before? She seems happy with him," he admitted grudgingly.

She wrinkled her nose at him, "Don't you dare. Just because she seemed happy standing beside Blaise doesn't mean he's the best choice for her. Assuming only makes an arse out of you, just talk to her and go from there," she said.

He hung his head, "But I'm scared to know the answer," he mumbled.

She placed her glass back to the table before reaching for his hand, "Look at me," she demanded.

He lifted his face and met her gaze, "What?"

"You've loved her for years and that has to count for something. Now, this is what you'll have to do, you'll go find her later and tell her how you feel. If she still feels the same way for you then fight for her. If she doesn't then that's the time you walk away and move on with your life, do I make myself clear?"

He seemed to mull over her before nodding, "Okay, I can do that."

"Good," she said as she pulled her hand away.

"I really don't know what I'll do without you, Luci."

She shrugged, "You'll never be without me, I consider you as a brother and as siblings, I have an obligation to kick your arse to put some sense back into your blonde head," she replied nonchalantly.

"You're my sister too," he said. He then nudged her shoulder, "Kicking is an understatement, I remember you blasting my door open," he snorted.

She rolled her eyes, "You locked yourself inside your room for 3 straight days without eating, what did you expect me to do? Watch you die?"

"You're exaggerating, Mum is just rubbing her worry worth attitude on you," he teased.

"I'll tell Aunt Cissy you said that," she chimed.

"Don't you dare!"

"We'll see."

oOo

After an hour:

"Blaise?" Hermione whispered.

Blaise peered down at her, "Yes?"

"Can we go back? I'm not feeling well," she lied.

He furrowed his brows and stopped swaying with the music, "You do look rather pale, are you dizzy?" he asked.

She nodded; "Can we go back to the table please?"

"Of course, let's go," he replied and ushered her out of the dance floor.

Upon reaching the table, she instantly tapped Ginny's back, "Gin, can you come with me for a sec?" she asked.

"Of course, is everything alright?" Ginny asked as she stood up.

"Just the powder room," she replied.

"Aren't you going to sit first, Mione? You really look faint," Blaise while eyeing her with concern.

"What do you mean she's feeling faint?" Ginny asked.

"She told me while we're dancing."

"Don't worry about me, I will be okay in a few minutes. I just really need to go to the powder room," she interjected even before Ginny can start asking questions again.

Ginny hooked her arm around hers, "I'll take care of her," she said.

"Okay," Blaise replied.

"Come here, Zabini and sit with us," Harry said.

"I'll be back before you know it," she said with a small smile.

Blaise nodded at her before sitting on the chair that Ginny vacated.

Ginny tugged on her hand, "Let's go," she said.

She nodded, "Yeah," she replied.

Ginny steered them along the crowd, "So, now that we're alone, tell me what's really wrong?" she asked lowly.

"Whatever gave you an idea that there's something wrong?"

Ginny pushed the double doors open, "You were dying to get rid of your date," she rolled her eyes.

She cringed, "That obvious?"

Ginny chuckled, "Don't worry about it, Blaise can be thick if he wants to."

She stopped walking and turned to face Ginny, "Draco, he's here," she blurted out.

Ginny pulled her hand away and folded her arms on top of her chest, "I'm aware. I saw you dancing together."

She checked where they are and when she realized that they're near the Rose Garden, she quickly steered Ginny towards that direction.

"Where on earth are you taking me?"

"Walls have ears," she replied.

"Fine."

She led Ginny towards the stone bench and made a quick scan of the area. Once she's sure that they're the only ones there, she let her facade down and started pacing. "He told me he missed me and it had been hell being without me."

Ginny moved towards the bench and sat down, "And?" she asked, her voice tinged with curiosity.

She threw her hands up in frustration, "We weren't able to finish our conversation because Blaise popped out of nowhere!"

Ginny snatched her arm and gestured for her to sit down, "What did you tell him after he told you he missed you?" she asked.

She placed her hands on her lap and hung her head to hide the tears that's welling in her eyes, "I told him the truth..." she mumbled.

"And what truth are we talking about?"

"That I missed him too and then I started crying like a loon," she sniffed.

"Oh sweetheart," Ginny said as she wrapped her arm around her shoulders.

She turned her face to the side and buried her face into Ginny's neck, "I'm not supposed to feel this way anymore," she lamented.

Ginny leaned her head on top of hers, "It's a normal reaction, love. It's the first time you've seen him after four years, of course you'll feel that way," she cooed.

She shook her head, "No, it's not. Why does he have to be here? Why does he have say those things to me when he's the one who left?" she cried.

Ginny stopped rubbing her arm, "What is this really about?"

She sniffed as she started to pull away, "What do you mean?" she asked tearfully.

Ginny wiped her cheeks and tucked some loose curls behind her ear, "Why are you so upset? I thought you wanted to see him? You've searched for him for years, did you not?"

Fresh batch of tears welled in her eyes, "I-" she clamped her lips shut when words evaded her.

"Do you still love him?"

She averted her gaze, "I can't hurt Blaise," she whispered.

Ginny shook her head, "I'm not talking about him, I'm asking about Draco - do you still love him?"

"Does it still matter?"

"Stop avoiding the question and just answer me," Ginny said sternly.

Her chest tightened with the intensity of the feelings she still has for him. She felt her lower lip wobble as the truth escaped her mouth. "I do, so much that I can't breathe."

"Then tell him that."

She shook her head vehemently, "I already told you, I can't hurt Blaise. He just told me that he has feelings for me, I just can't throw that away because Draco told me he missed me - that's not how it works."

"I completely get your point, but don't you think it would hurt more if he finds out that you only chose him by default and not because you feel the same way about him?"

"Draco is not even asking me back, Gin," she reminded her friend. She then lowered her eyes on the ground, "And besides, why would he want me back - he has Luci," she replied while fumbling with her fingers.

"About that, who is she?"

"I don't know, I didn't ask him."

Ginny let out a puff of air as she stood up from the bench, "Why don't we let this sit for awhile and talk about this after a couple of days. You're still in shock right now and there are a lot of unanswered questions that needs to be answered first before you decide."

She nodded, "I think you're right," she agreed. She then lifted her hands and began drying her face, "Do you think they're looking for us?"

"Blaise might, you saw how worried he looked when we left."

She can't help but chuckle, "He's not that bad."

"I didn't say he was, he's just a little bit clingy for my taste," Ginny said with a small smile.

"I've noticed that too," she replied. She then stood up from her perch, "Sorry for breaking down like that and thank you for always being there to listen," she said sincerely.

Ginny pinched her cheek playfully, "Stop apologizing and stopped thanking me, that's what sister's are for."

"I know, but still - thank you."

Ginny let her hand drop, "Whatever," she mumbled. "Let's?" she asked while gesturing towards the empty hall.

She straightened her dress, "About that, can I stay here for a bit? I still need a little time to pull myself together, I don't want to worry anyone with my puffy eyes," she said sheepishly.

"Are you sure you'll be alright?" Ginny asked.

"Yes, I'll be okay. And if you see Blaise, please tell him that I'll be back in a couple of minutes."

"Okay, but don't stay out too long, it's too cold to be out here."

"Promise, I'll be back before you know it."

"I'll see you in a few, love," Ginny said before walking away.

She waited until Ginny was out of sight before she waved her hand around her body, casting a wandless warming charm. She then pointed towards her feet and casted a snow repelling spell on her stilettos, "Off we go then," she said before walking towards the other direction.

oOo

Blaise stood frozen in the corner, still not believing what he just witnessed and heard. Hermione and Draco had a past and apparently she still feels the same way for his friend. He took a deep breath and closed his eyes to calm himself, "This is not happening, it was a mistake," he whispered hoarsely. He opened his eyes and tried walking, but his body refused to cooperate with him. He shifted closer to the wall and slowly lowered himself on the floor, not caring about ruining his trousers. He pulled his knees to his chest and buried his face into his palms, "Why didn't you see it? You're so stupid - you should've seen the signs, argh!" he groaned in frustration.

oOo

"Hey love, where's Hermione?" Harry asked as soon as he saw his wife.

Ginny stopped right in front of him, "She took a walk, where's Blaise?"

He furrowed his brows with confusion, "Didn't you see him? He followed you 5 minutes after you left," he replied.

Her eyes grew big like saucers, "What do you mean he followed us? We didn't see him anywhere!"

"Just what I said, why? What did you talk about?"

"We talked about - oh my Merlin!" she gasped in horror. She grabbed his arm and squeezed it tightly, "Do you think he - Harry!"

Realization dawned on him, "You were talking about Malfoy, aren't you?"

She nodded her head, "We were."

He let out a sigh as he pulled her to his chest, "Let's just hope he didn't hear your conversation, he cares for her, you know."

She buried her face into the crook of his neck, "We should've mentioned something to him, he has the right to know about these things."

He planted a kiss on her head, "It was not our secret to tell, love."

"They're all caught in a tangled web, I hope nobody ends up being hurt - they all deserve to be happy."

"They'll figure it out."

"I hope so."

oOo

"Luci, is it okay if I go out for a short walk?" Draco asked.

Luci turned to face him and smiled, "It's okay, you go on ahead, I have Daphne here."

He moved his eyes towards his former Housemate, "Thanks for keeping her company Daph, .I'll be quick," he said with a smile.

Daphne waved her hand dismissively, "It's okay, Draco, take your time," she replied.

Draco nodded, "I'll be back," he said before turning around and walking towards the double doors. As soon as his foot touched the corridor, he let out the breath he seemed to be holding. He summoned his winter cloak and casted a snow repelling charm on his shoes without thinking and began making his way towards the main entrance. He walked along the snowy pavement with no destination in mind. He was almost halfway towards the Black Lake when he saw a familiar figure standing on the same spot - their spot to be exact. "Hermione," he breathed out.

"Argh!" Hermione groaned loudly before burying her face into her palms.

He picked up his pace and quickly made his way towards her, "Hermione? Is everything okay?" he asked just as he reached her.

She turned and her eyes widen with surprise when she realized it was him. "D - draco? What are you doing here?" she asked.

He looked at her for a minute before he began unfastening his cloak, "You should wear this, it's freezing out here," he said.

"No, I'm okay - I have a warming spell on me," she replied. She then folded her arms on top of her chest, "You didn't answer my question, why are you here?"

He let his arms drop to his side as he shifted closer, "I was getting some air and then I saw you standing here alone," he explained. "How about you? What are you doing here all alone?"

She smiled at him weakly, "The same thing, I guess."

"No time to waste, here we go," he thought. He squared his shoulders and cleared his throat, "We need to talk," he said.

"Talk? About what?"

"Talk about us."

"There's no us," she softly said. She then turned her back on him and fixed her eyes on the frozen waters, "Things had been over between us years ago, I don't understand why you want to talk about it," she added, bitterness seeping from her voice.

He forced back the retort that's at the tip of his tongue, knowing full well that playing the blame game won't help win her back. He gritted his teeth and took a deep calming breath before speaking again. "We'll never be over and you know it, not as long as we're both breathing."

Her whole body stiffened at his words, "Why are you saying that and why after four long years?"

"I'm not doing this with you unless you turn around."

"What difference would it make? Last time I checked, you didn't want me to face you while you say things to me," she said defiantly.

"Why are you acting like that? We were okay a few minutes ago."

She abruptly faced him, her eyes burning with something akin to anger. She stalked towards him and stood right at his face, "Why. Did. You. Come. Back?" she asked, emphasizing each word with a jab of a finger.

Before he can control himself, he felt the thick rubber of his patience snap. "Do you want an honest answer or will you be too scared to hear it?" he said acerbically. Hurt and remorse flashed through her ambers eyes, making him regret his words instantly. They've always been like this; letting their temper get ahead of them, always aiming for where they both know would hurt best. He balled his fists together, "Calm down, you promised yourself that you won't let history repeat itself - don't let the past fuck the present," he said to himself.

She wrapped herself around her body, as if bracing herself for another blow. "I - I just want the truth."

"You, I came back because of you."

oOo

Hermione felt her heart flutter wildly inside her chest, but she didn't let it show. She studied his face for a few seconds before letting out loud snort, "Do you expect me to believe that? Come on, Dray - you bloody left me and told me clearly that you're giving up, have you already forgotten that?"

His body turned rigid, his whole face turning into an alarming shade of red. "I didn't forget, not for one second. Yes, I left you, but that doesn't mean I was less broken that you were. I didn't want to bring this up, but you're forcing my hand to do so. You left me too, remember? You were the one who gave up on us first, so don't pretend that everything that happened in the past is all on me."

She felt like she's just been slapped with the reality of his words. Her vision started to blur with incoming tears so she took another step back. The urge to flee was strong, but before she could follow her instinct, she felt a hard yank and soft lips pressing on her own. She planted her hands on his chest to push him away, but he was too strong. She tried biting his lip, but he wasn't deterred and just kept kissing her senseless. After a few seconds of futile struggle, she felt her body give and let her heart take over.

oOo

Bliss, it's the only word that can describe the emotion that Draco is feeling. When Hermione started egging him further by bringing up their unsavory past, he saw red. He knew he shouldn't have said those things to her, but he couldn't hold off any longer. It was obvious that she was not sparing his feelings, so why should he? It was childish and utterly wrong at so many levels, but he couldn't hold in it any longer. He was torn between strangling or kissing her, she was so fired up and beautiful - hence, the second option. He lifted his hands and cupped her tiny face, keeping her in place. Once he's sure that she won't leave, he playfully nipped her tongue before pulling a fraction. "I love you, I always have and always will. Please, Mi, let's stop hurting each other," he pleaded, his voice hoarse with emotion.

Hesitantly, she lifted her hands and wrapped it around his wrist, "Leaving you was the biggest mistake of my life, I'm sorry...so sorry," she admitted tearfully.

He wrapped his arms around her and rested his forehead on top of hers, "It was mine too, I shouldn't have let you, I'm sorry too," he replied just as a lone tear trailed down his cheek.

Her shoulders shook with the barrage of sobs that started wracking her chest, "All those years we've wasted, I'm just - I'm really sorry," she choked out.

He pulled his face a fraction, his eyes never hers, "Tell me you still love me, tell me that I'm not too late and there's still a chance for us," he said, his voice tinged with desperation.

Fresh batch of tears clouded her eyes, "I love you, I never stopped - not even for one second."

A wave of pure joy and relief wash over him, "Thank Merlin!" he thought happily. He hugged her tighter and buried his face into her familiar curls, "I'm not letting you go, Mi - not this time and not ever," he vowed solemnly.


Chapter 19: Dancing on my own
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Chapter Nineteen:

"I'm in the corner, watching you kiss her. And I'm right over here, why can't you see me. And I'm giving it my all, but I'm not the guy you're taking home..." Dancing on my own by Calum Scott

"Tergio," Blaise said as he waved his wand on his trousers. He straightened his robes and started making his way back to the Great Hall. He pushed the double doors open and immediately spotted Harry and Ginny talking near the refreshments table. He made sure that his face was blank before he joined them, "Hey," he said.

"Blaise, where have you been?" Ginny asked.

He pasted a smile on his face, "I was supposed to follow you and Hermione, but I got sidetracked by Terry Boot," he lied.

"Oh, okay," Ginny said. She then threw him an apologetic smile, "Hermione will be back in a few, she just took a quick stroll along the grounds," she explained.

"Okay," he replied.

"Hey guys!" Ron hollered as he walked towards them.

"This Ball is really rocking, Dumbledore sure knows how to throw a party," Lavender chirped happily.

Ron patted his back, "Blaise my man, why the long face? Aren't you enjoying the party?" he asked.

He fought the urge to grimace, "Of course, I am - just a little bit tired from all the dancing," he lied again.

"Speaking of that, where's Hermione?' Lavender asked.

"She took a quick stroll along the grounds, she'll be back in few," Ginny piped in.

"At this hour?" Ron asked, his brows furrowed with concern.

"Yes, I think she just want to reminisce, you know how she is," Ginny replied.

Harry cleared his throat loudly, "So, tell us Ron, why were you two late?" he asked.

Ron perked up, "Romania."

"What are you doing in Romania?" Ginny asked with a perplexed look.

Lavender wrapped her arm around her fiancé's waist, "We hand delivered Charlie's invitation and had dinner, we got caught up with catching up that we forgot the time," she said with a sheepish smile.

"I see, how's Charlie?"

He moved towards the table and grabbed himself a drink. He took a huge gulp from his goblet and began zoning out on the conversation around him, his mind drifting back to what he just found out.

oOo

After the verbal sparring and emotionally tiring confrontation, Draco transfigured a tree branch into a bench. They both knew they still have a lot of things to talk about, but no one wants to disrupt the comfortable silence between them. Hermione shifted on her seat and cleared her throat loudly, "Is it wrong to feel that this is right?" she asked.

He turned his gaze to her, "What do you mean?"

"This," she gestured between the two of them. "I feel right with you."

He grabbed her hand and locked their fingers together, "We've always been right together, so I don't really understand what you're saying."

She turned to face him, "How can it be right when we both know that we'll end up hurting someone?"

"Blaise?"

"Yes," she replied. An image of a beautiful blonde woman flashed through her mind, "And your French bonbon," she added, her voice tinged with jealousy.

"French bonbon?" he asked with an amused look.

She yanked her hand away, her eyes narrowed into slits. "Are you mocking me?"

Slowly, the corner of his lips started arching up, "Are you jealous?"

"You're bloody annoying, do you know that?" she huffed as she scooted away from him, creating a huge gap between them.

"And you're oblivious," he playfully quipped. He crossed the distance she created in one swoop, pressing his body to her side. "I just told you that I've always been in love with you, there hasn't been anyone for me in years, Mi - only you," he said earnestly. He lifted his hand and pinched her chin, turning her face towards him. "Though I am thrilled that you're actually jealous, I won't have you second guessing me. Luci is my cousin, I just begged her to come with me tonight because I knew you'd be here with Blaise and I needed the support."

She felt her face burn with embarrassment, "I - I didn't mean to call her that, I - "

He leaned forward and planted a chaste kiss on her lips, "You don't have to say anything, I promise not to tell my cousin that you called her that," he winked.

"Thanks," she replied demurely.

He let out a contented sigh as he laced their fingers back together.

"Dray?"

"Hmmmmnnn?"

"Why didn't you write to me?"

"If I wrote you a letter, would you have read it?"

She mulled over his words for a minute, "Probably not," she admitted.

"I thought so," he replied.

Hesitantly, she shifted closer and leaned her head on his shoulder, "I saw you, you know..."

He wrapped his arms around her, "When?" he asked.

"That day at the hospital, I was awake," she said and almost instantly she felt him stiffen. She lifted her head and turned her face toward him, "You were there, right?" she asked.

He looked straight into her eyes, "Yes, I was there, I didn't know you were awake."

"I heard every word you said, why didn't you wake me up to say goodbye?"

"I did, you heard me, right?" he asked, his face full of something akin to pain.

She swallowed thickly, "You didn't, what you said was you're letting me go. You didn't tell me you'll be leaving London," she pointed out.

He didn't speak for a few minutes, but when he did, his voice was hoarse. "I left because I thought it was for the best. I didn't want to cause you anymore pain; I've done enough of that already."

She felt her heart break with his admission. She knew they were both to blame, bloody hell, it wouldn't have ended the way it did if she was brave enough to stay and fight for him in the first place. She lifted her hand turned his face towards hers, her eyes firmly locked into his. "We did things we regret and no matter how much blame we put into ourselves, it wouldn't change our past. We screwed up, Dray, but we'll just have to try our best to learn from them so we won't repeat the same mistakes."

He stared at her so more, but after a few seconds his lips started to arch up. "So we're really doing this? You're really giving us a chance?" he asked hopefully.

"Yes, but there's still an issue with Blaise," she said. She then let her hand drop, her stomach suddenly heavy with guilt and anxiety.

"I think honesty is the best route, do you want me to talk to him?"

"No, this is my problem, I'll take care of it," she replied. She then squared her shoulders and took a deep breath, "I just hope he doesn't hate me for this," she mumbled.

He nudged her shoulder, "Blaise is a good man, he might be upset at first but he'll eventually understand it," he said.

She snuggled closer, "I hope so..."

He rested his chin on top of her head, "I know so," he replied with resolve.

oOo

Blaise made a quick scan of the Hall and still found no sign of his date. He let out an exasperated sigh and emptied his goblet in one go. He then stood up from his seat and began straightening his clothes.

"Going somewhere?" Harry asked.

He pasted a smile on his face, "I just remembered that my Mum would be arriving before midnight and I promised that I would be there," he lied. He then shoved his hands inside his pockets, "I've been trying to wait for Hermione to tell her that I wouldn't be able to take her home but I haven't seen her in the past hour, can you give her my apologies and tell her that I would talk to her soon?" he asked.

"Are you sure you can't wait for her? I'm quite sure she's on her way back," Harry said, his face full of uncertainty.

He shook his head, "I don't think I can wait any longer, it's quarter past 11 and I forgot to tell the elves to prepare her room."

Harry seemed to study his face for a moment before nodding reluctantly, "Okay, I'll tell her."

"Thanks," he replied. "I'll see you at work then," he added before turning on his heels.

"I think we should go back, they might be looking for us."

Draco quickly checked his watch, "You're right, Luci might be worried - she doesn't know anyone here," he sighed.

Hermione pulled away from him and stood up, "I'll head back first, just follow me after a few minutes?"

"Okay," he nodded. He watched her turn to leave, but even before she took a step away from him, he grabbed her arm and yanked her back to his chest. He cupped her face and pressed his lips to hers, kissing her passionately.

Her hands snapped towards his arms, keeping her from stumbling back.

He tugged her upper lip and sucked into his mouth. After a couple of seconds of numb numbing bliss, he pulled away and let his hands drop to his side.

She pulled away with a dazed look, her cheeks beautifully flushed. "What was that for?" she breathed out.

"Just because I love you and I'm so happy that we're finally here - over the moon happy," he said unabashedly.

A large smile curled up her lips, "I love you too, ferret," she said cheekily before turning on her heels and walking away.

He watched her leave like a love sick fool, his heart thundering loudly in his chest that he can almost hear it.

oOo

Hermione entered the Hall and made her way back to their table, feeling lighter than she ever felt in years. She stopped right in front of her friends, her eyes zeroing on the tall red head sitting next to Ginny. "Ron! You're here!"

Ron stood up from his perch and opened his arms wide, "Come here and give me hug," he said jovially.

She walked into his open arms, "I thought you'd never make it, Happy Christmas," she said.

"I would never miss this, Happy Christmas too!" he said before planting a chaste kiss on top of her head. He then pulled away and stood right in front of her, his eyes full of concern. "Harry told me, are you okay?"

She squeezed his arm, "I'm fine, really," she replied with a small smile. She then turned towards the table, looking for her date, "Where's Blaise?" she asked.

Ginny threw her a meaningful look, "He left," she replied.

Harry cleared his throat to get her attention, "He had to leave, his Mum is arriving tonight and he promised her that he would be there. He wanted me to tell you sorry that he couldn't wait for you and he'll be in contact soon," he explained.

Her stomach tightened with guilt, "Oh."

Ginny seemed to noticed her reaction so she stood up from her seat, "Let's go get something to drink," she said.

"Okay," she replied.

Ginny walked towards her and looped her arms with hers, "I doubt that's the reason why he left," she whispered once they were out of hearing range.

"What do you mean?" she whispered back.

Ginny led her towards one of the alcoves, "I think he heard us talking at the Rose Garden. Harry told me that he followed us 5 minutes after we left and only resurfaced shortly after I arrived back at the Hall."

"Shit!" she hissed. She then folded her arms on top of her chest and began pacing, "Do you really think he heard us? Did he act strange when he came back? Merlin! He shouldn't have found out about Draco that way - I was about to tell him myself!" she said with panic.

Ginny grabbed her arm to stop her from moving, "Stop that, you're making me dizzy!" she snapped. "He didn't act strange, but something changed with his demeanor - like he's disoriented or something. Wait, where the bloody hell have you been? It's been an hour, where did you go?"

"I was with Draco, we've talked things over."

Ginny's eyes widen comically as her mouth turned agape.

She couldn't help it; she burst into fits of giggles.

That seemed to jar Ginny out of her stupor, "You were with Dray? What happened? What did you guys talk about?"

"One question at a time, Gin," she replied. She shifted towards the huge pillar and leaned sideways, "Yes, I was with him. We argued on the first part of our conversation, but managed to talk like mature individuals," she said with a large smile.

"Are you guys okay then?"

"Yes, we're okay," she paused to clear her throat. "And we'll be trying again, he still loves me and I told him I feel the same way, so I guess we're back together."

Ginny stared at her for few beats before letting out a loud shriek. She threw her arms around her and started jumping, "Thank Merlin!" she kept on chanting repeatedly.

A laugh bubbled from her lips, "I'm so happy, Gin - I never thought I'd ever be this happy again," she admitted.

Ginny pulled away but kept her at arm's length, "You deserve to be happy, love. I'm really happy for you, Merlin - I'm so chuffed I don't know what else to say!"

She tackled Ginny and buried her face into her neck, "Thank you, Gin."

"You're welcome, always welcome."

oOo

Blaise apparated directly into his flat and went directly into his room. He stalked towards his walk in closet and pulled out a large duffel bag from the drawer. He swished his wand to magically start packing. He then stalked toward his room and stopped right in front of his personal fire place. He grabbed a heaping amount of floo before kneeling, throwing the powder into the hearth. He spoke to his boss in quick succession before ending the call as soon as it began. He then padded back to his closet and grabbed his suitcase, "You need time to think, but you're not giving up easily. You won't go down without a fight," he said to himself. He then closed his eyes and disapparated with a loud crack.

Chapter 20: Starting over again
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Chapter Twenty:

"And now we're starting over again, it's not easiest thing to do. I'm feeling inside again, everytime I look at you..." Starting over again by Natalie Cole

"Where have you been? I thought you'll just be gone for a few minutes, it's been a bloody hour!"

Draco plopped down beside his fuming cousin, "I did what I came here to do," he replied smugly.

Luci's eyes widened in surprise, "You did? How did it go?"

"I saw her while I was taking my walk. I went to her and pretty much forced her to talk."

She blinked a few times and seemed to be digesting what he just said. After a few beats, a beautiful smile curled on her lips. "You did not!" she said, her voice full of glee.

"I just did," he confirmed.

"Let's toast to that," she said as she lifted her glass towards him.

He leaned forward and grabbed his goblet from the table, "To second chances," he announced.

She carefully tipped her glass towards him, "To love," she added.

He moved his goblet to his lips, his eyes straying towards Hermione. "To love," he repeated lowly.

"I think I should go home," Hermione whispered towards Ginny.

"It's still early," Ginny pouted.

She shifted on her seat, "I just - I can't stop thinking about Blaise. I feel so guilty; I'm no longer enjoying this party."

Ginny turned towards her, "Don't feel guilty about following your heart. You've waited for this for Merlin knows how long, you have every right to be happy," she chided. She then emptied her drink and placed it on top of the table, "I'll tell Harry that were leaving, give me 5 minutes," she said as she stood up.

She grabbed Ginny's arm, "There's no need for that; you two can stay. I'll just use the floo so I don't have to walk to the gates."

"Are you sure? I really don't mind, I'm sure Harry feels the same way too."

She stood up from her seat and threw the red head an assuring smile, "I'm 100% sure. You stay here, I'll go find Harry and Ron and tell them myself."

Ginny pulled her into a tight hug and kissed her cheek. "Goodnight, we'll talk tomorrow. Don't worry your pretty head about it too much; things would work themselves out - eventually."

"I'll try my best, goodnight," she said as she pulled away. She then spun on her heels and made her way towards her other best friends. She stopped at Harry's back and tapped him on the shoulder, "Harry," she called out.

Harry turned around, "Hey gorgeous," he said with a huge grin.

"I have to go, I'm calling it early. I already told Gin."

The grin on Harry's face vanished and was instantly replaced with concern, "Are you feeling alright? Did something happen?"

"No, everything is fine. I'm just tired," she replied. She then gestured towards the double doors, "I'm going to floo home, I'll talk to you soon," she added.

"I really can't convince you to stay?"

She took a step back and shook her head, "Nope," she replied.

"Hey, what are you two talking about?"

She turned her face to the side and saw Ron looking at her with furrowed brows, "I'm going home," she replied.

"This early? But we just got here," Lavender said just as she appeared at Ron's side.

She threw the other witch an apologetic smile, "I know and I'm sorry about that, I'm just really tired and want nothing more than to crawl under my comforter and sleep."

Harry wrapped his arm around her shoulders, "Signs of aging," he deadpanned.

Ron nodded solemnly, "You're right, she older than us, after all."

She slapped Harry's chest with the back of her hand, "Stuff it, wonder boy," she paused and turned her narrowed eyes at her other best friend. "You too, not a word," she added.

Ron copied Harry's stance and tucked Lavender to his side, "Fine," he replied.

"I better go," she said as she pulled away from Harry. "I'll see you guys soon," she said with a wave. She then turned on her heels and started padding towards the door, "Bye!"

Draco watched Hermione's back disappear from the door, "I guess she's going home," he said.

"Thank Merlin!" Luci exclaimed with an exaggerated sigh of relief. She gathered her dress with her hand and gracefully stood up, "We should head out too, these heels are killing me."

He tapped his hands on his thighs before jumping out of his seat, "Let's call it a night then."

Hermione's Flat:

The next morning, Hermione woke up with a loud tapping sound on her window. She turned to her side and buried her face into her pillow, trying muffle the annoying sound. When the noise didn't stop, she threw the covers off her body and stomped towards the window. She yanked it open and scowled at the owl, "Hold your tail feathers, I'm here," she grumbled. She untied the parchment off its scrawny leg and shoved some owl treats on the ledge. "There you go, thank you," she said moodily before turning on her heels. She stared at her rumpled bed longingly, "No sense going back now that I'm up," she sighed. She then took a detour to her left and walked out of her room. She threw the rolled parchment on top of the breakfast bar and grabbed her kettle. She filled it with water while trying to rub the sleep out of her eyes. She shifted towards the stove and placed the kettle top of it. She was reaching for her tea tin when her phone started ringing from living room, "What the hell is wrong with this morning? Why do people keep on bothering me?" she lamented. She let her arm drop and traced her step back to the living room. She slumped on the couch and grabbed the offending device, "Hullo?"

"Good morning!"

She winced and pulled the phone a fraction, "You really don't have to shout, Gin. I can hear you perfectly fine," she replied.

"Oh, I'm sorry, love. I'm still getting a hang of this fellytone. It's just so bloody weird hearing your voice without seeing you."

"It's telephone, not fellytone," she corrected with a chuckle. She then relaxed back on her perch and adjusted the phone closer, "So, why are you calling me this early?

"What do you mean? You told me last night that we'll talk today!"

She rolled her eyes, "Yes, I did, but I didn't expect to hear from you this early."

"Oh okay, did I wake you up?"

"The ruddy owl did, so you're good."

"An owl? From whom?" Ginny asked, excitement evident in her tone.

"I really haven't gotten the chance to check it yet."

"Open it - oooohhh, maybe it's from Draco!"

Her head snapped towards the breakfast, her heart pounding a little bit faster.

"Hermione? Are you still there - Hullo?"

"I - I haven't thought about that," she admitted.

"Well, what are you waiting for then? Check it!"

She lifted her hand and summoned the parchment with a flick of her wrist. She watched the letter zoom towards her with anticipation, her blood humming with excitement. She grabbed it mid air and started untying the string, "Wait, I'm opening it," she said.

"Hurry!"

She paused when she noticed the deep purple wax seal emblazoned with a "Z". She tucked the phone between her ear and shoulder and slowly unrolled it, "It's from Blaise, not Draco," she said as read the note.

"What did he say?" Ginny asked, her voice more subdued and borderline disappointed.

"He wants to talk to me," she replied. She folded the parchment and gripped it with her hand, "He's in Italy right now, but he'll be back by the end of next week - this is not good," she sighed.

"What's not good? Did he say something there?"

"Not directly, but he only goes to Italy when he's upset."

"Oh."

She let her head drop at the back of the couch and closed her eyes, "I think he heard us, I just know it."

"He'll find out about you and Dray, that's something you cannot shelter him from. Besides, he's a big bloke, I'm sure he can handle it."

"I know, it's just - he shouldn't have found out about it that way."

"It was his fault, he was eavesdropping. That conversation was clearly not for his ears, but he still listened," Ginny harrumphed.

"I know, but that doesn't make me feel less guilty," she replied sulkily.

"Well, there's really no sense dwelling on things we cannot change. Next week, you will go talk to him and lay it all out in the open. Blaise is a levelled headed man, I'm sure he won't judge you. He might be put off and a little bit hurt, but it was your business, not his. If you decided not to tell him about your past, then he cannot fault you for that. And to be fair, you didn't ask him about his past too, so I say breakeven."

She mulled over Ginny's words and found truth in them. They might be closer now, but that doesn't mean he has to be privy to her past relationships. And besides, he didn't ask, why would he expect her to tell him? She opened her eyes and sat up, "You're right, I'll just talk to him and explain what he heard," she replied with more conviction.

"Great, now, why don't we talk about something pleasant, are you and Dray back together?"

The corner of her lips automatically arched up, just as the butterflies inside her tummy made its presence known. "Not exactly," she admitted.

"What do you mean by that?"

"Exactly what I just said, we're not exactly together but we'll be trying again."

"Hmmmnnnnn..."

"What?"

"I'm just curious."

"About?"

"You love him and he just told you last night that he loves you too. You two waited for years, why on earth are you still torturing yourself by prolonging something that you both know is inevitable?"

She adjusted the phone as a sigh escaped her lips, "I honestly don't know, Gin. I want to, but for some reason, I can't help but feel that something is holding me back."

A few seconds passed with silence, "You're scared," Ginny said.

"I think I am," she blurted out. She then pulled her legs up and hugged it to her chest, "I gave my whole heart to him and he made me so happy, Gin. But when things fell apart, not only did he shatter me - he also took those broken pieces with him and left me nothing. I was beyond repair and I almost took my own life, that's how that love reduced me to. And as much as I am over the moon that he's back in my life, I can't just dive back into it because I can't survive another heartache like that again."

"Oh, sweetheart."

She placed her arm on top of her knees and rested her forehead on top of it, "I'm still a mess, I know it."

"You're not and nobody can blame you for being extra cautious."

She nodded, even though she knew Ginny can't see her.

"How about Blaise? Do you feel anything for him?"

She knocked her head to her arm, her eyes closed shut. "That's another thing; I think that's one of the main reasons why I'm trying to keep Dray at arm's length."

"Oh my Merlin," Ginny gasped.

"Before Draco came back, I know I'm feeling a tiny bit attracted to him. Blaise is a good man, Gin, and I know you know that too," she said defensively.

"I know, argh! This is all Draco's fault - that prat! If he didn't stay out too long and just found the balls to fix things with you, then you wouldn't be in this preposterous predicament," Ginny gripped, her famous Weasley temper resurfacing.

She let out a humourless chuckle, "It's my fault too. If I hadn't been a bloody coward and broke things off, then we would have been together for years."

"Yeah, but Draco should've tried his hardest and convinced you to stay, I bet you would've caved in."

"I highly doubt that, you know how I was then," she said dryly. "We're both stupid, I guess," she added.

"Understatement of the century," Ginny said with a laugh. "But don't worry; I'm quite sure that things would work out for you three soon."

"I'll keep that in mind, let's just hope that I don't lose my sanity in the process," she joked.

"Sane? Whoever said you were?" Ginny teased.

"Ha, ha, ha - funny, really," she said with thick sarcasm.

"Hermione Jane Granger and Draco Malfoy, the star crossed lover's saga - now playing," Ginny taunted.

She burst into fits of giggles, "You're crazy but I still love you."

"I love you too, now I have to go before my husband burns this place down with his cooking prowess."

"I won't keep you then, we both know how that would turn out," she replied with a giggle. "Thank you for brightening my day, you're the best."

"I know, what would you do without me?" Ginny quipped. "I really have to go, bye!"

"Bye!" she replied. She placed the phone back on the cradle and stood up. She was almost half way back to the kitchen when it rang again. She rolled her eyes and quickly walked back, snatching the phone from the receiver. "I thought you were preventing Golden Boy from killing you all, what now?"

"Well, I'd love to do that, but then again I don't live with him," a distinct male voice said.

Her heart started to cartwheel inside her chest, knocking the air out of her lungs. "I - I'm sorry, but who's this?" she asked, even though she already knew the answer.

"Forget about me already?"

"D - draco?"

"You're one and only," Draco replied. "Why do you sound so surprise?"

She sat down on the armrest of the couch, "How did you get my number? And most importantly, how on Merlin's beard did you know how to use the telephone?" she asked with a mixture of incredulity and delight.

"I have my ways."

"You mean, you have connections," she quipped. She wrapped her fingers around the cord to distract herself from letting her nerves take over, "So, err - what did you want?"

"Did I catch you at a bad time?" he paused and cleared his throat. "Are you not happy to hear from me?" he asked, his voice tinged with a bit of hurt.

"No and I am happy to hear from you, I'm just curious," she replied with a placating tone.

"Oh okay," he replied, his voice more relaxed. "I called because I want to ask you out on a date."

Her eyes strayed towards the window, "You want to have a date on broad daylight?"

"Yes, let's have BRUNCH."

"Really?"

"Really. Are you free today?"

A small smile curled on her lips, "What if I say I'm not?" she challenged.

"Is that true or you're just being difficult?"

"Are you pouting?" she asked with a chuckle.

"I'm not pouting and Malfoy's don't pout," he huffed.

"Whatever," she said between giggles.

"But we do know how to whine, having said that, Hermiooooneeeee, come on - let's have BRUNCH."

"That's an understatement, I could remember you saying," she pause to clear her throat. "My Father would hear about-"

"Hush! I don't want to be reminded of that," he interjected. "And just because of that, I won't take no for an answer. I'll be picking you up in an hour."

"Pick me up? You don't even know where I live."

"Like what you said, connections, love. I still have them," he chuckled.

"You really have to curve your stalker tendencies, it's really weird," she chided. She then stood up from her perch and turned her eyes to the cuckoo clock on the wall, "It's just quarter past 9, isn't that too early for BRUNCH?"

"We don't have to eat right away. We could just use the extra time to catch up; don't you want to spend time with me?"

She gnawed at her bottom lip and considered his words, "Fine," she blurted out after a few seconds. "Pick me up at quarter past 10."

"Yes, Ma'am. I'll see you in a few then?"

"Yes, now I have to go so I can prepare."

"Alright, I love you."

She cracked a large grin, "I know."

"What? No I love you too?" he whined.

"Geeze! You're so childish! I love you too, happy now?"

"I know you do, but I just want to hear it. I'm going to go now, bye!"

She waited for the line to drop before placing the phone back to the cradle. She plopped down on the couch, her head still reeling with what just happened. "I have a date with Draco," she mumbled before she grabbed one of the throw pillows to muffle her girly squeals.

Malfoy Manor:

"Why is my son so happy today?" Narcissa asked as she took her seat at the head of the table.

"Good morning, Mum. How's your night?" Draco asked, deflecting her question.

"It was wonderful, but enough about me, I'm asking about you. What got you smiling so beautifully this morning?"

Draco tried to tamp down his glee, but he's failing miserably. He grabbed his tea and took a generous sip, "Nothing, I just love mornings."

Narcissa raised a brow as she draped a napkin on her lap, "You're not a morning person, love, so just tell me and I'll stop badgering you."

He opened his mouth to refute her claims but he knew he was busted. He just moved the cup back to his lips and took another sip.

Narcissa chuckled at his display, "When do I meet her?"

He felt the tea go down the wrong pipe, making him cough and sputter.

Narcissa didn't seem daunted; she pushed a napkin his way before picking up her cutlery.

"You knew?" he asked, his eyes round with disbelief.

"Of course, I've always known that you were in love with Ms. Granger - for a long time, I might add."

"You knew it was her all along and you're not-"

"I don't care about her birthright. As long as she makes you happy, then that's more than enough for me," Narcissa said, cutting his questions off.

He stared at her mother for a while, "I can't believe this, how long?" he asked.

"Since your 7th year," she replied as she began adding honey to her tea.

"That long? How come you didn't say anything?"

Narcissa carefully placed the teaspoon on the saucer before reaching for his hand, "I didn't want your Father to know, so I didn't say anything - I was trying to protect you."

He squeezed her hand, "I'm just - wow."

Narcissa squeezed her hand back before pulling away, "I want to meet the woman who makes my son happy, so I expect an introduction sooner rather than later," she said with an air of command.

He threw her Mum a please look, "You'll meet her soon, Mum, I promise. Just give us a little time to be re-acquainted."

"Would you be mad if I start planning your wedding?"

"Mum!"

"Just checking, I'm not getting any younger, though, I would very much like to see my grandchildren."

"We just found each other for Merlin's sake! We're just dating!"

"Dating? You two would be walking down the aisle if I had my way," Narcissa huffed.

Flashes of Hermione wearing white flashed through his mind and if he's being honest with himself, he really liked it. He always knew that they'd end up together; he just didn't want her and end up scaring her away with a proposal. "Soon, but not now," he replied.

Narcissa smiled, "I hope so, perhaps I should invite Ms. Granger for tea sometimes," she said thoughtfully.

"I'll ask her, I promise," he replied. He then stood up from his seat, "We'll I should get ready, I'll be picking her up soon."

"You shouldn't let a lady wait, go on."

He walked towards her and planted a chaste kiss on her head, "Thanks, Mum. I'll go on ahead."

''Enjoy your date."

"I'm sure I will."

Hermione's Flat:

Knock . . . Knock . . . Knock

"I'm coming, hold on!" Hermione yelled. She hastily grabbed her bag from her dresser and dashed towards the sitting room. She smoothed the invisible wrinkles on her dress as she stalked towards the door, her heels clicking loudly on the hardwood floors. She took a deep calming breath and slowly pulled it open.

Draco stared at her for a minute, his eyes raking her from her head to toe. "Hi."

She smiled at him nervously, "Hi," she replied.

He cleared his throat, "You're beautiful," he breathed out. He then pulled the bouquet of roses he's hiding behind his back, "These are for you."

She looked at the blooms wistfully, "Bleeding heart roses, you still remember!"

His body seemed to relax with her words, "Of course, I remember. Do you like it?"

"I love it, thank you," she replied as she accepted the pretty arrangement. She then took a step back and gestured for him to enter, "Come in, I'll just put this in a vase and we can go."

He strolled into her flat with ease, "You have a beautiful home," he said as he padded towards the couch.

"Thanks, it's not much but I like it here - it feels like home," she replied as she filled the vase with water. "Would you like something to drink?"

"No, I'm okay."

"These are really lovely; it's been so long since I last saw one," she said as she slipped the last bloom inside the vase.

He hopped off his seat when he saw her heading his way, "I'm glad you liked them, are you ready?" he asked.

"Yeah, we could go," she replied as she tucked her wand inside her purse. "Where are we going?"

He threw her lopsided grin, "It's a surprise."

"I like that," she admitted with a small smile.

He offered his hand, "Shall we?"

"Let's go."

He pulled her flush to his chest and wrapped his arms around her waist, "Now we can," he winked before apparating away.


Chapter 21: Hanging by a moment
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Chapter Twenty One:

"I'm falling even more in love with you. Letting go of all I've held onto. I'm standing here until you make me move. I'm hanging by a moment here with you..." Hanging by a moment by Lifehouse

Zabini Manor - Italy:

"Blaise, you daft prick get the bloody hell up!"

"Go away!" Blaise grumbled as he burrowed deeper under the comforter.

Theo stomped towards the bed and unceremoniously yanked the comforter off his sulking friend, "Get up or I swear to Merlin, I will hex your bollocks off!"

He turned to his side and covered his face with his arm, "What the bloody hell do you want?"

Theo folded his arms on top of his chest, "Your Mum called me and told me you've been drowning yourself in fire whiskey, what happened?" he demanded.

"She's exaggerating, I only had a few bottles - I'm okay, now go away and let me sleep."

"There are 5 empty bottles on the floor, that's a lot," Theo said.

"Stop asking me, I'm not going to answer your questions," he said petulantly before covering his head with a pillow.

Theo sat at the foot of the bed and crossed his legs, "Draco is back, did you know? The prat finally showed his arse after 4 sodding years and didn't have the decency to tell us," he huffed.

'Wish he didn't come back at all," he grumbled.

"What did you say?"

He tore the pillow off his face and sat up, "Nothing."

Theo turned towards him, "We have to see the prat," he said.

"I already saw him last night, why don't you go see him yourself."

Theo cocked his head to the side, confusion evident on his face, "What? Where? And why do you sound pissed?"

He rolled out of the bed, "The reunion, the one you ditched," he replied curtly. He then hefted himself up and started making his way towards the loo, his whole body humming with a combination of anger and annoyance.

"I didn't know he's going to be there. Did you take Granger with you?"

"Yeah," he replied before he disappeared from view.

"What the hell is wrong with you, mate? You're acting kind of weird," Theo called out.

"Nothing is wrong, Theo, so just drop it."

"Okay I'll drop it, for now. Go take a shower and meet me downstairs, your house elves prepared breakfast."

He stood under the warm cascading waters and braced his hands on the wall, "Fine, be there in a few," he called out.

"Great."

He closed his eyes and titled his face towards the shower, "Fuck."

oOo

"We're here."

Hermione opened her eyes and slowly took in her surroundings, "How did you -"

"Ginny - do you like it?" he asked.

"I love it!" she exclaimed. She then turned around to face him, "Thank you for this, Dray. This means so much to me," she said earnestly.

"You're welcome. I know how you always miss them and how much you love this place, I'm glad you like it."

She stood on her tiptoes and pressed her lips to his cheek, "Thank you again," she repeated. She then threw him a megawatt smile, "Are you ready to meet my parents?"

He was tethering over the edge with how nervous he was feeling, but he didn't let it show on his face. He eased into his cool mask of nonchalance and made sure to smile extra big. He caught her hand with his and laced their fingers together, and just like magic, he felt himself relax. "I already met them," he said.

Her brows furrowed with confusion, "What do you mean?"

He threw her a smile as he steered her towards the driveway, "We're not playing 20 questions, Granger."

"Draco, come on, what do you mean?"

He ignored her question and pushed the door bell once, "Don't fret, you'll find out in a few minutes," he replied with a wink.

The door was flung open, revealing a very happy looking Anne Granger. "Baby! You made it!" she exclaimed and opened her arms wide for a hug.

She automatically pulled her hand away and walked into Anne's arms," Mum, I've missed you," she replied with an ear-splitting grin.

Anne hugged her tightly, "I've missed you too," she replied with the same enthusiasm as her daughters.

Hermione planted a kiss on her Mum's cheek, "Where's Dad?"

"Out to buy whipped cream, but he'll be back in a few," Anne replied. Her eyes then strayed towards him, "Draco, I'm so happy to see you again, darling. Thank you for making do with your promise," she said with a pleased smile.

He returned the smile, "Of course, you're very much welcome," he replied politely.

"Hush, come on here and give me a big hug," Anne demanded before opening her arms like what she did for Hermione.

Hermione's eyes shone with happiness as moved to the side to give him space.

He walked into her arms and gave Anne a brief hug.

"I'm sure she'll enjoy your surprise for later, so loosen up, you look stiff, love," Anne whispered before pulling away.

"What are you two whispering about?" Hermione asked with a curious look.

Anne placed her arm around Hermione's shoulders, "Come on in, it's too nippy to stay outside," she said, deflecting her question.

He jammed his hands inside his pockets, "Yes, it's a little bit cold."

Hermione opened her mouth to ask more questions, but was easily distracted when she was thrusted into the warm confines of her childhood home.

He threw Anne a grateful smile as he closed the door behind him.

"Why don't you two settle down and I'll get you something to drink," Anne said. She then turned her gaze towards him, "I have tea, Pepsi and juice, what do you prefer, Draco?"

"Pepsi would be fine," he replied.

"Pepsi?" Hermione asked with a quizzical look.

"Yes, why?"

"Nothing, just curious," Hermione replied. "I'll get one for you, Mum?"

Anne seemed to take the cue and pointed towards the kitchen, "I'll join you, would you be okay here?"

He sat down on the couch and nodded, "I'll be fine, take your time," he replied as he relaxed back on the soft cushion.

oOo

Hermione stalked towards the fridge, "What are you making?" she asked.

"Your favorite, Strawberry short cake," Anne replied.

She grabbed two cans of Pepsi before moving towards the breakfast bar to peek from her Mum's shoulder, "I haven't had that for so long, I've missed your cooking."

"I know, sweetheart. Something's will never change."

She shifted to her Mum's side and propped herself with her elbows, her eyes fixed on cake. "I can't wait for dessert."

Anne pushed the cake tin towards her, "There, have a taste and tell me what you think."

She grinned widely as she scraped the left over cake from the side, "Let's see," she replied before popping a finger into her mouth.

"I like him."

"Hhhhmmnnnn?"

Anne pulled the bowl of fresh strawberries towards her and started slicing it, "Draco, you two look good together."

She tore a paper towel from the roll and wiped her finger, "O - okay."

Her Mum turned her face towards her, a knowing and pleased look plastered on her face. "I know you're wondering how I know him."

"I was about to ask you that, I was side-tracked," she replied while pointing towards the tin.

Anne lined the sliced strawberries on top of the cooled cake, "He showed up at our doorstep yesterday and introduced himself. And yes, shock was an understatement," she explained with a chuckle.

She felt her eyes widen with surprise, "He did? What did Dad say?"

"Your Dad likes him too; he was impressed that he came here to introduce himself without you."

She buried her face in her palms, her cheeks burning like hot plates. "I'm so embarrassed, I have no idea he would do that, I'm sorry-"

"Don't be. Your Dad and I were happy that he did," Anne interjected, cutting her rant off.

"Still..."

"Hush!" Anne chided. She then paused and moved her eyes towards the living room, "I think your Dad is home, I heard the door close."

She let her hands drop and followed her Mum's gaze, "I should check on them," she said.

"Lunch would be served as soon as I'm done with the frosting."

"Okay, I'll tell them," she said. She then grabbed their drinks and made her way back to the living room. She was almost halfway when she heard her Dad's booming voice, making her pause.

"Draco, my boy! I'm glad you made it back!"

"I'm glad to be back too, Mr. Granger."

"Nonsense, call me Richard."

"That will take a lot of getting used to, but I promise to try - Richard."

A warm tingling feeling settled into the pit of her stomach, making her feel all gooey and fuzzy on the inside. She knew her Dad had a hard time adjusting to the fact that she was a full grown woman and ready to have relationships with the opposite sex. In his eyes, she was still the little girl who played piggy back ride and hopscotch with him. So hearing him interact with Draco with ease really surprised her. It was unexpected but truly pleasant. She made sure to carve down the ear splitting grin on her face before she resumed her trek. She stepped into the living room and announced her presence, "Daddy!" she squealed in her little girl's voice.

Richard Granger's head snapped towards her, his face full of delight. "Mimi, you're home!" He spread his arms open as he walked towards her, "I've missed you, my little bumpkin!" he said he wrapped her with a warm hug.

"You just saw me a few days ago," she giggled.

"I know, but I miss you ever single day," Richard replied.

She planted a loud kiss on her Dad's cheek before pulling away, "I know, you've told me that dozens of times. And I do miss you too, every day that is," she winked.

Draco walked towards them and gently pried the cans from her hand, "Let me get that," he said.

Her Dad tucked her to his side, his cheek resting comfortably on her temple. "Thank you for keeping your promise, Draco," he said jovially.

She circled her arm around Richard's waist, "Yes, thank you for doing this," she said earnestly.

"You're welcome," Draco replied with a small smile.

"Where's your Mum?" Richard asked.

"She's in the kitchen, finishing dessert. She told me that lunch would be served in the few minutes," she replied.

"I have to take the whipping cream to her then," Richard said with a squeeze. He then let his arm drop and nudged her towards the couch, "Why don't you two sit down for a while and I'll help your Mum finish up. We'll call you once we're done, eh?"

"Do you need help with anything?" Draco piped in.

"No, we're good, I'll be back in few," Richard replied before walking towards the kitchen.

She sat beside Draco and stared at him, "You really surprised me, Dray - I don't know what to say..."

He reached for her hand and laced their fingers together, "Are you happy?"

"I am."

"Good. And just to set your expectations, this is only the first part of our date - there's still more to come."

She felt heart do a cartwheel inside her chest, "T - there's more?"

He lifted her hand and planted a chaste kiss on top of it, "Yes, but please try not think about it."

She can't help but smile at his statement, "I won't."

oOo

The lunch passed by quickly and the two of them shared their first ever meal with Hermione's parents. It was half past noon when they both decided to leave, with the promise coming from Hermione that they'll visit again soon. He led her towards the secluded alley near their house and made sure that they are out of sight before he turned to face her. "Are you ready for the second part of my surprise?"

Hermione looked nervous, "I guess so," she replied.

He circled his arms around her waist and pulled her flush to his chest, "Don't look like that, I'm sure you'll enjoy this," he chided with his trademark smirk.

She took a deep calming breath, "Okay, I'm ready," she replied before burying her face into the crook of his neck.

He closed his eyes and rested his chin on top of her head, "Hold on," he said before he felt the familiar tug on his bellybutton.

oOo

Zabini Manor - Italy:

"Are we really spending this beautiful day here? Don't get me wrong, I love this place, but watching you nurse your drink all day is really not my idea of fun - you're driving me bonkers with the sulky look."

"I'm not forcing you to stay, Theo. You can leave and have fun somewhere else," Blaise replied, his eyes glued to the book he's pretending to read.

Theo leaned forward and snatched the book from his hands, "We're going out," he said as chucked the book on the table.

He narrowed his eyes in irritation, "I'm not in the mood to leave. If you don't like my company then go, I don't see anyone stopping you," he said through gritted teeth.

"I don't want to leave because I know something is bothering you and I'm worried," Theo bit back with a glare.

He felt his annoyance fizzle with Theo's statement. He knew he was just being a friend and doesn't deserve the atrocious attitude he's throwing at him in full force. He leaned back on his seat and took a deep breath, "I appreciate your concern, mate, but there's really nothing wrong with me."

Theo looked at him like he didn't believe a word he said. He crossed his arms on top of his chest and kept glaring at him. "We've known each other all our lives, Blaise. Don't insult my intelligence by lying," he spat.

He felt his cold mask of indifference crack, "You're not going to let this go, are you?"

"Hell no, so spit it out before I resort to veritaserum."

"Fine, sit down, this would be long."

oOo

Hermione opened her eyes and found herself standing in the middle of another alley, "Where are we?" she asked as she tried to pin the place.

Draco slipped his arms down but captured one of her hand with his, "You'll see," he replied.

She followed his lead, her eyes taking in her new yet familiar surroundings.

He stopped in the middle of the street, "What do you think?"

She felt her eyes widen in shock when she caught sight of the sign posted near the street lamp, "We're in - oh my gosh!"

"Muggle London," Draco finished for her.

She turned towards him, "I - I'm speechless!"

"I know that you haven't visited this place for quite a bit," he paused with a sheepish smile. "Ginny, just in case you're wondering. I know it's not much, but I hope this is okay?"

"This is more than okay, Dray. I love it - thank you."

His shoulders seemed to sag with relief. He then tugged her closer and enveloped her in a tight hug.

"We're in the middle of the street, people are looking," she warned, her mouth muffled by the thick scarf around his neck.

"I don't care, they can stare all they want," he replied.

"Wow, he did change. He used to hate PDA's," she thought.

He kissed her forehead twice before tucking her to his side, "We better get a move on, we still have a long way to go," he said. He then started guiding her through the throngs of people, "So, do you have any place you want to visit? What's the most romantic place here?"

"The London bridge?" she suggested.

"And you're supposed to be a Muggleborn? You're as bad as me," he teased.

She pinched his waist playfully, "It's been a while since I've been here, play nice."

"Fine," he chuckled. He turned his head to the side, "Are you still afraid of heights?" he asked.

She mulled over his question for a few seconds, "It depends, I hate brooms and since we're in Muggle London, I think that's out of the table. What did you plan for us?"

A large cocky grin curled on his lips, "Something I'm 100 percent sure that you haven't tried yet."

"Let me guess, my parents?"

"Yup," he replied. He directed them towards the corner and gestured towards the large ferris wheel that came into view, "Fancy a ride with me?"

"The London Eye?" she asked.

"Yes, you won't be dangling on a stick and your feet would be firmly fixed on something solid."

She licked her lips as she eyed the large imposing structure with hesitation, "I know that - it's just," she paused and bit her lower lip.

"Come on, Granger, live a little. I heard that the view at the top is so spectacular that you would forget about the height. And I've got you, remember? I won't let anything happen to the both of us, please?"

"I - "

He stepped into her view, "Do you trust me?"

She puffed her cheeks and narrowed her eyes at him, "That's not fair."

He reached for her other hand and placed it on his chest, "Do you trust me?" he repeated, blatantly ignoring what she just said.

"Of course, I do, but I can't help but hate you right now," she pouted.

He leaned forward and planted another chaste kiss on her forehead, "You won't regret it," he promised.

She took a deep breath to calm her fried nerves, "Please do know that I won't hesitate to turn your arse into a ferret if you do something that will scare me," she said wryly.

He mock saluted, "Duly noted and consider me warned," he replied. He then tugged their joined hands and started ushering them towards the entrance.

"Aren't we supposed to buy tickets first?" she asked.

He slipped his hand inside his pocket and pulled out two tickets, "I came prepared," he said smugly.

"You really thought about this, huh?"

"Right down to a tee, now, stop stalling," he said as he handed the tickets to the woman smiling at them.

"Merlin, help me," she mumbled.

He threw his head back and laughed.

oOo

Zabini Manor - Italy:

"You have got to be kidding me!" Theo exclaimed with disbelief.

Blaise shook his head, "I wish I was, from her lips to my ear," he sighed.

"Did you confront her about this?"

He moved towards the large French door and stepped out into the veranda, "No," he replied.

"You should."

He ran his finger through his hair, "I would, I just don't know how to broach the topic. I eaves dropped on their conversation, Theo, that's something frowned upon, especially by women."

"True," Theo agreed. He then shook his head, "I still can't wrap my mind around it and he kept this from us, we're his best mates for Circe sake!"

Blaise nodded, "Yeah, I thought it was joke at first, but when I saw Hermione burst into tears, I knew it happened."

Theo heaved out a sigh, "Great, now I have to whoop Drake's arse for keeping this from us! I mean, it's been what - more than 6 years and we haven't been clued in? What are we, Crabbe and Goyle?"

He folded his arms on top of his chest and fixed his eyes on the setting sun, his mouth clamped into a tight line.

"Bloody buggering hell!"

He chanced a glance at Theo and saw an outraged look on his face, "What?"

Theo shot up from his perch and started pacing, "Maybe Granger has something to do with Drake's sudden departure. She's the bloody reason why the prat secluded himself like a hermit for four sodding years!"

He cracked a sardonic smile, "There's no maybe, she pretty much admitted it."

"This is so complicated!"

"Don't I know it?"

Theo stopped pacing and locked gaze with him, "Do you like Granger that much?"

He felt his whole body go rigid, "Yes."

"Fuck!" Theo breathed out. He moved back to the couch and sat down with a loud plop, "Have you talked with Draco yet?"

"No, I don't think I can face him yet."

"What are your plans? Are you still set on pursuing her?"

A dead weight settled in his gut, "I haven't felt anything like this before, Theo. And I'm not about to go down without a fight, she's worth it."

"That's what I'm afraid of," Theo said dejectedly.

He moved his gaze back to the horizon, "I am too," he mumbled to himself.

oOo

"Open your eyes, Mi," Draco whispered.

Hermione shook her head and buried her face into his chest.

"So much for not being scared of heights," Draco thought with amusement. He wrapped her arms around her waist, "Hermione," he coaxed.

She tilted her face and opened her eyes, albeit grudgingly.

"I won't let anything happen to you, we're perfectly safe," he said. He then offered her an encouraging smile and gestured towards the large glass panel, "Have a look, its breath taking."

Slowly, she turned her face to the side and followed his gaze. Her grip began to loosen as she took in the view. She shifted her hand down and grabbed his before walking towards the railing.

"What do you think?"

"It's beautiful," she gasped, her eyes firmly fixed on the setting sun

He pressed his front to her back, caging her in. "Told you it was worth it."

She relaxed into his arms, "It is, this is the first time I saw London from this angle - it's magnificent."

"I take it that you like all my surprises?"

"Very much."

"Brilliant," he replied. He pulled her closer and brought their joined hands to her front, "Because I plan to take you to different places, we'll explore them together."

"I'd like that, but we'd have to wait for a while. I still have to tie some loose ends, remember?"

He knew that she was talking about Blaise, "I remember," he sighed.

She unclasped their hands and turned around to face him, "Don't be like that."

He stared at her and saw the same emotions he's feeling reflected in her amber eyes, "I'm sorry," he said. He lifted his hand and cupped her cheek, "I told you I'll wait for you, so I will," he said with a conciliatory smile.

She tugged his hand away and kissed it, "Thank you for being understanding and for this date," she said.

"You're welcome, but we still have one last stop."

"This is not over yet?"

"Far from it," he replied. He took a glance at her shoulder and noticed that they're almost back to the ground, "And you're about to find out where we're heading."

She turned her face to the side, "That was fast," she mumbled.

"I'm good with distraction," he replied with a wink. He pulled her towards the door and tucked her to his side, "Are you ready for your last surprise?" he asked.

She rested her head on his, "Give me your best shot, lover boy," she teased.

He steered her towards the exit, their hands swaying back and forth. "Oh, I will," he replied. He searched the street and saw the alley he was looking for, "Let's go there so we could apparate."

"Okay."

He made a quick scan of the area and when he's sure that they were alone, he slipped his hand inside his pocket to pull out a kerchief.

She threw him a baffled look, "What's that for?"

"I need to blindfold you, are you ready?"

She reached for the kerchief, "Green silk, how Slytherin of you," she mused.

He chuckled, "Are you done stalling? Can I put this on you?"

She rolled her eyes at him before turning around, "I'm not stalling."

He shifted closer and carefully covered her eyes with the silk cloth. He tied a secured knot at the back, but made sure that it was not too tight to make her uncomfortable. He walked right in front of her and circled her waist with his arms, pulling her closer. "Wrap your arms around my neck," he instructed.

She snaked her arms around his neck and rested her cheek on his chest.

"Are you ready?"

"Hold on tight."

Chapter 22: Perfect Moment
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Chapter Twenty Two:

"I wish I could freeze this space in time, the way that I feel for you inside. This is my moment, this is my perfect moment with you..." Perfect Moment by Martine McCutcheon

Zabini Manor - Italy:

"It's been a long day, and as much as I love to stay, I have a dinner meeting to attend to," Theo said tiredly.

"Okay," Blaise replied.

Theo grabbed his jacket and stood up, "Stop drinking like there's no tomorrow, I'll be back as soon as I can."

He can't help but smirk at his friend's tendency to hover like a mother hen, "I'll try to remain sober, but I'm not promising anything."

"I better find you sober or there would be hell to pay," Theo called out as he walked towards the stairs.

"Fine, Mum."

"Ha ha, funny."

"I know," he replied as he watched Theo's back disappear from his view. After a few beats, he stood up and made his way back to the French doors. He leaned sideways and fixed his eyes on the dark sky, "I'll do anything to make you mine, Hermione - anything," he solemnly vowed.

"I'll remove your blindfold, but you have to promise me that you won't open them until I say so," Draco said.

"Okay," Hermione replied.

A small smile curled on his lips as he moved towards her back. He made a quick work on the knot and tugged the silk sheet off her eyes. He slipped it back into his pocket before he captured her shaking hand with his, "Follow my lead," he said.

She gnawed on her bottom lip as bobbed her head in silent agreement.

He expertly navigated them along the familiar grassy paths, his eyes flicking back to Hermione, making sure that her eyes are still closed. As if sensing his gaze, she squeezed his hand. "We're almost there," he assured her. When they reached their destination, he guided her into position and stood at her side.

"Can I open my eyes now?" she asked.

He squared his shoulders and released a nervous breath, "On count of three, you ready?" he asked.

She stood straighter, "Yes."

"One..."

She shifted on her feet and squeezed his hand.

"Two..."

She licked her lips, "This is killing me," she mumbled.

"Three, open your eyes, love," he whispered.

Her eyes fluttered open, "I don't see anything," she blurted out, her face full of confusion.

He turned his face towards her and snapped his fingers, "Try again," he said with a large grin.

oOo

Potter Mansion:

"Ginny?"

"I'm in here," Ginny replied.

Harry stared at the empty living room, "Where?"

"Kitchen."

He followed her voice and saw her hunched towards their Muggle oven, "Are you baking?"

She placed what seemed to be cupcake tins on top of a wire rack, "Something sweet for the world's sweetest husband," she replied with grin. She took off her oven mitts and rounded the counter, "I've missed you," she said as she flung her arms around him.

A chuckle bubbled from his lips and lifted her into his arms, "You just saw me this morning," he replied. He then placed her back on the floor and planted a chaste kiss on her lips, "Did something good happen while I'm gone?"

Her eyes crinkled with glee, "As a matter of fact, yes," she replied. She then spun her heels and made a bee line towards the fridge, "Draco and Hermione is on a date that I helped him plan," she replied.

Harry moved towards the breakfast bar and hopped on one of the stools, "A date?"

"Yes. Do you want something to drink?"

"Soda is fine," he replied. He folded his arms on top of the cold granite counter and stared at his wife's back, "You still had the time to help him? When was this? I didn't notice you leaving the house," he asked.

She placed the ice cold drink right in front of him and mirrored his pose, "I love those two to bits, of course I'll find time."

He popped the can open and took a small sip, "You're an awesome friend, love," he complemented.

"Are you okay with that?"

"Okay with what?"

"Them dating..." she trailed off, her voice tinged with uncertainty and nervousness.

He paused for a moment and thought about her question. True, he was not Malfoy's fan, but then, it was clear as a day that Hermione was still in deep with the prat. He let out a defeated sigh, "Yes, I'm fine with it."

She threw him a doubtful look, "This is Draco we're talking about, are you sure?"

He rolled his eyes, "I still don't like him but he makes Mione happy, so I really don't have a choice but to be okay with it."

An ear-splitting grin appeared on his wife's face. She thumped her hands on the counter before she bounded towards him. She turned his seat towards her and wrapped her arms around his neck, "That's what I thought, thus, you're the world's sweetest husband," she said, sealing her statement with a kiss.

His hands found her hips, "Is that the reason why you're baking cupcakes? To butter me up?"

She moved her hand towards his cheek and gently trailed a pointer finger along the curve, "Thinking dirty thoughts?" she said seductively.

He cracked a grin and pulled her between his legs, "I'm not, but now I am," he wiggled his brows.

She threw her head back and laughed.

oOo

Malfoy Manor:

Green flames fizzled from the hearth as Theo stepped out of the grate. He dusted the soot off his coat and stared at the creature bowed right in front of him, "Is your Master Draco, home?" he asked.

The elf's ears twitched, "Goods evening, Master Nott. Young Master is not here, he is gone somewhere and Elvie doesn't know where."

Theo's shoulder sagged, "Oh."

"Theodore?"

He turned towards the voice and saw his best mate's Mum hovering near the door, "Aunt Cissy," he greeted politely.

Narcissa walked towards him and engulfed him into a warm motherly hug, "It's been awhile, how have you been?" she asked after she pulled away.

"I've been doing well, work is keeping me busy," he paused and smiled sheepishly. "I haven't visited in a while, I apologize for that," he added.

"I heard," she replied. She then gestured towards the large French doors, "Spare an old woman a little time, have tea with me?"

"You'll never be old to me; you're still as beautiful as I remembered."

"Always the charmer, my son should learn a few tricks from you," she replied. She then moved her eyes back to the elf, "Elvie, we'll take our tea at the Rose Garden. And do bring some of those shortcakes that Cheffy baked this morning, thank you."

Theo offered his arm like a gentleman, "Shortcakes sounds wonderful."

"They taste wonderful too," she said proudly. She placed her arm around his and let him lead her towards the double doors, "I'm assuming that you are looking for Draco?"

"I am, but it looks like I've missed him. Do you know where he might be?"

"I do, and I'll tell you about it over tea."

oOo

Hermione sucked in a few breaths as she took in her surroundings. The place that was pitch black a few seconds ago was now into full view and saying that she was out of words was an understatement. They were standing in the middle of what looked like an open faced gazebo that was lined with long strings of fairy lights. Large purple cabbage roses, lisanthiums and white carnations were scattered on the floor, creating a makeshift pathway that will lead them towards the formal dinner setting that was perched in the middle.

"Do you like it?"

She turned to face him, "How?" she managed to choke out.

"I had help," he replied with a sheepish smile.

A warm feeling settled inside her stomach, "I - I don't know what to say, this is beyond beautiful, Dray - I love it," she admitted.

"I knew you would," he replied. He then pointed towards a large rose bush on their left, "You asked me where I got those bleeding heart roses, I picked it from there - I planted it myself," he explained with a hint of pride.

Her eyes widened in surprise, "You did?"

"Yes."

"Wow."

"I know."

She tugged their joined hands, "Thank you for bringing me here and for everything that you've done for me today. You didn't have to go all out on me, but you did. You have exceeded my expectations and made me truly happy. I just want you to know that I appreciate this, I appreciate you," she said with all the sincerity she could muster.

His eyes bored into hers, "I'll do anything for you, Hermione, you should know that by now."

She felt her heart melt with his words, "Thank you."

He brought their joined hands to his lips and kissed it, "You're welcome. Now, stop thanking me so we could have dinner, I'm starving."

"What are we waiting for then?" she asked as she eyed the table with curiosity.

He guided her towards the table and helped her to her seat. He then walked towards his chair and sat down, "Let's see what we have here..."

oOo

Malfoy Manor:

"Are you telling me that you haven't seen my son ever since he came back?"

Theo leaned back on his seat, "Yes, I wasn't even aware that he already came back to England."

"That's unexpected," Narcissa said with a baffled look. She placed her saucer back on the table and threw him a small smile, "But don't worry, I'm sure you will see him soon."

"I hope so. Speaking of which, do you know where he's at?"

"I'm not exactly sure where, but I do know he's with someone."

"Great, he's with Granger," he thought. He shifted on his perch and decided to play dumb, "Does it have something to do with his shop? Is he out meeting suppliers?"

"The whole day? I highly doubt that, dear," she replied with dainty chuckle. She rested her elbows on the table and tented her fingers under her chin, "It's something personal, I think he's trying to fix things with someone."

His mind veered towards his other best mate, "Fuck!" he thought. "Oh, he's on a date then?"

Her face brightened with happiness, "He is and I'm so happy for him," she beamed. "I haven't seen my son like this in a long time, it's refreshing."

He swallowed thickly and tried his best to keep his face impassive, "Is she someone we know? Do you approve of them being together, Aunt Cissy?"

"I haven't met her personally, but I do know of her. And yes, I do approve of them being together."

"Do you think it's serious?"

"It looked that way," she replied. She lowered her hand and threw him a knowing look, "It seemed to me that he's on his way to concocting a proposal," she paused to clear her throat, "But don't tell him I told you that," she added.

"I won't, I promise," he replied. He then picked his glass up and emptied his water, "I'm happy for him too, I'm glad he finally has someone."

Narcissa nodded, "True. More cake?"

He cracked a smile, "Only because you insisted."

oOo

"I'm so full, I don't think I can walk," Hermione groaned.

Draco took a sip of his wine, "You should eat more, you're a lot thinner that I remember."

Hermione's eyes widened with disbelief, "You should get your eyes checked, I'm way bigger than I was before."

He gave her an appraising look, "Probably, you have way more curves than you used to," he said with a smirk.

Two prominent patches of red bloomed on the apples of her cheeks, "Get your mind out of the gutter!"

He felt his whole body vibrate with laughter, "You started it. You brought your curves to my attention, can't blame a bloke for appreciating."

She snatched the wine glass from the table and took a large sip. After a few seconds, she placed it back and cleared her throat, "Dinner was great, any other tricks up your sleeve?"

He tampered down his laughter at her attempt to change the topic. He knew when not to push her and clearly, this is one of those moments. He emptied his drink and placed it back on the table, "How did you know?"

She leaned towards him, "There's more?"

He responded with a smile and snapped his fingers together. As if on cue, the fairy lights dimmed down and soft melodious music began playing. He flicked his wrist and tiny specks of lights zoomed towards the middle of the garden, mimicking the fireflies he used to conjure at Hogwarts. He stood up from his chair and walked towards her. He bowed his head and held his hand out, "May I have this dance?"

She tore her eyes away from the spectacle he created and slipped her hand in his, "Fire flies, just like the old times," she whispered, her voice drenched with emotions.

He helped her up and ushered them towards the middle of the garden. He guided her arms around his neck and circled her waist with his hands. He pulled her closer and started swaying them in time with music, "This okay?"

She rested her cheek on his chest, "Yes, this okay."

He propped his chin on top of her head and began humming in tune with the music.

"Are you singing?"

"Yep."

"But you told me you don't sing?"

*Flashback

"Come on, Dray, just one line," Hermione begged.

Draco kept his eyes on the book he's reading, "I don't sing," he replied.

She scooted closer; "Please? I can't lose the bet to Ginny and go to Hogsmeade, I have to study for my N.E.W.T.S!"

He ignored her rants and flipped to the next page.

She pulled away and jumped out of the couch. She braced her hands on her hips and stomped her foot, "Stop ignoring me and listen! I don't want to go!"

"I'm not singing for the nth time, so tell Gin to change the bloody bet," he said with feigned annoyance. He leaned back on his perch and crossed his legs, "And I don't see anything wrong with the idea. N.E.W.T.S is still months away, you still have time to study," he added with a sniff.

Her lower lip trembled and tears started pooling in her eyes, "Why can't you just sing? It's not like I'm asking you to belt out a whole song, one line would be enough to get her off my back."

He snapped the book shut and stared into her pitiful eyes, "I'm not saying no because I don't want you to win. I'm refusing your request because I want you to have time to relax. You're always holding a book, Mi, it's not healthy anymore," he explained.

She glared at him for a few seconds before she spun on her heels. She marched towards the portrait door and slammed it behind her.

*End of flashback

He chuckled, "I told I won't, I didn't say I couldn't."

She titled her face towards him, her brows furrowed. "You're thinking about the same thing, huh?"

"How you could I not? You didn't talk to me for a week after Ginny dragged you to Hogsmeade."

"And it's your entire fault," she replied and flicked his ear playfully. "I still can't believe you remember that."

He looked into her eyes, "Every memory we made is still vivid in my head, Mi, that's how much you mean to me."

"So do I, Dray, every one of them," she replied.

"Good to hear," he replied.

oOo

They danced a few more songs before Hermione pulled away, "Do you know what time it is?" she asked.

Draco lifted his hand and took a peek at his watch, "12 midnight."

"Oh my gosh!" Hermione squeaked. She hastily took a step back, "I have to go, I have an early meeting tomorrow, I can't believe I forgot!"

He placed his hands on her shoulders, "Calm down, I'll take you home," he said. He snapped his fingers and all the lights came back to life, "Let's get your purse and we'll apparate straight to your building."

"Okay," she replied. She made a bee line towards the gazebo and swiped her purse from the table, "I'm sorry to cut this short, but for what it's worth, I really don't want to leave."

"There's nothing be sorry about, don't worry your pretty head about it."

"But I—"

He fell into step with her and tucked her to his side, "Spending the whole day you with is not enough, but it would do. We had fun, that's all that matters," he said firmly. He lead her towards what seemed to be a large glass panelled door, "Let's get you tucked in bed so you won't miss your meeting."

She turned her face to the side and kissed his cheek, "Thank you for understanding."

"Of course, but you owe me another date," he winked.

She returned the wink, "As long as you pay for them, I'm fine with it."

"Deal," he said. He turned her towards him and pulled her flush to his chest, "Ready?"

She buried her face into the crook of his neck, "Yep," she replied. She closed her eyes just as she felt the familiar tug of apparition in her belly. After a few seconds, her feet touched solid ground, a sure sign that they already made it back to her street. "That was fast," she mumbled.

"Faster than I preferred, I enjoy having you in my arms," he grumbled. He then caught her hand and began ushering her towards the door, "Here we are."

She threw him a rueful smile, "I'm sorry if I can't invite you up for tea, I really need to sleep."

He tugged one of her lose curls, "It's alright, we can do that next time."

"Yes, next time," she replied. She shifted on her feet, at lost about what she should do next. Before she could open her mouth to babble again, she felt a welcome pressure of his lips pressing into hers, "Well that answers my quandary," she thought. Her hands grabbed fistfuls of his shirt, bringing him closer. She returned the kiss with the same vigor, making her eyes flutter.

He nipped at her lower lip before pulling away, "You should go up, love," he whispered hoarsely.

She licked her lips, "That's probably a good idea," she replied. She turned towards the door and fumbled with the locks. She pushed it open before turning towards him again, "Good night," she said shyly.

"Good night, dream of me, Granger."

"I'll try," she replied. She entered the threshold and gave him a little wave, "Thank you for the wonderful date, dream of me too," she said before closing the door behind her.

"Always," he breathed out. He turned towards the street and checked the vicinity for onlookers, when he didn't see anyone; he pulled his wand from his back pocket and disapparated on the spot.

oOo

A hooded figure slinked back into the shadows, "My my, who would have thought that his tastes have changed, cavorting with the Mudbloods now, eh?" The figure paced back and forth, anger and disgust palpable in the air, "Lucius must be rolling in his grave, such a disgrace!" The figure halted its steps and glared at the building where the Mudblood disappeared, "You'll both pay for this betrayal," it said before disapparating with a loud crack.

Chapter 23: Man on the wire
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Chapter Twenty-three:

"Who would've thought about the cause and effect? Yesterday's lovers, now tomorrows regret. Now I know, I'm just a man on the wire…" Man on the wire by The Script

oOo

"I need to go, Aunt Cissy, I still have an early meeting tomorrow," Theo said.

Narcissa stood up from her perch, "Visit by anytime you like, Theodore, you're always welcome here."

Theo leaned forward and kissed her cheek, "I will and I promise to come back soon," he replied. He then shrugged on his coat and gestured towards door, "I'll floo myself out, thank you again."

"I'll hold on to that, I'll tell Draco you dropped by, have a good night."

"I bid you goodnight too, see you soon," he said before retracing his steps back to the floo room. He tugged on the sleeve to free his hand, "Bloody prick, didn't even have the decency to show up," he huffed with annoyance. He made a quick turn to his right and was met with his best mate's smug looking face. He stopped in his tracks and folded his arms on top of his chest, "Well, well, well, if isn't the elusive, Draco Malfoy, glad to see you're still alive," he said with all the sarcasm he could muster.

Draco's head snapped towards him, "Nott?" he asked, his face full of surprise.

"The one and only, long time no see," he said dryly.

Draco grinned as he stalked towards him. He pulled him into brotherly hug and tapped his back, "I've missed you, man, and yes, it's been a long time."

He thumped his friend's back, "You hid well, arsehole, I've missed you too," he quipped.

Draco threw his head back and let out a fully belly laugh, "Glad to know you're still your old self," he said. He then pointed towards the couches, "Why don't we sit down for a bit, you didn't tell me you're coming."

He threw him an incredulous look, "Are you kidding me? You've been home for months and you didn't even have the decency to let me know, and now you're asking why I dropped by without telling you?"

Draco cringed, "About that, I'm sorry, mate," he said as he padded towards the couch.

He followed his friend and took the adjacent seat, "So, care to tell me where you've been all day?"

The corners of Draco's lips quirked up and the dreamy look he's sporting a couple of seconds ago are back, "Somewhere," he replied.

"Somewhere? Aunt Cissy told me that you went out on a date."

"What the hell?"

"Why are you yelling?" Narcissa asked as she peeked from the French doors.

Draco turned his gaze towards his Mother, his eyes full of disapproval, "Why are you discussing my private life with Theo?"

Narcissa's eyes moved towards him, "I thought you're going home, Theodore?"

"I was, but then, I saw your son standing in the middle of your living room, grinning like a fool," he said, his voice dripping with amusement.

"I'm not grinning like a fool!"

Narcissa clapped her hands in delight, "Oh my! Did your date turn out wonderful like expected? Did she like the garden?"

Draco buried his face into his palms with an exasperated groan.

Narcissa didn't seem to be deterred with her son's reaction, "Did you get lucky? Tell me you kissed her!"

"Yeah, mate, tell us. Did you get to kiss your date goodnight?" Theo jeered.

Draco glowered, "That's none of your business, both of you," he snapped.

"Someone's pussy whipped," he drawled.

"Theodore!"

"Shut up!"

He threw Narcissa an apologetic look, "Sorry about that."

Narcissa folded her arms on top of her chest and cleared her throat, "Did you at least enjoy your day?"

"Yes, thank you for letting me use it," Draco replied.

"You're welcome."

"Good for you," he found himself saying. He tapped his thighs before standing up, "Well, as much as I want to stay and tease you, I have to go. I have an early meeting tomorrow."

"Can't you cancel?" Draco asked.

He shook his head, "I can't, it's an important one. We can play catch up another time, just owl me," he said.

"Okay."

He straightened his robes, "Have a good night, you two," he chimed before he made his way towards the floo room.

"Night!"

"Good night, Theodore."




oOo



The next day:




"Bloody hell!" Hermione yelped when she saw the time on her alarm clock. She threw the comforter off her body and hastily scrambled out of bed. She ran towards her bathroom and took a shower in records time. She threw on her work clothes and made a wild dash towards her bed to snatch the wand she tucked under her pillow. "I can't believe I slept through the alarm, should've used my wand instead," she grumbled as she dragged herself out of her room. She managed to grab herself an English muffin as she frantically searched for her shoes. Once she spotted it, she slipped it on in a rush and scooped a handful of floo powder. She stepped into the hearth just as she swallowed the last bite of her breakfast; "Ministry of Magic!" she announced clearly before tucking her arms to her side.

She stumbled out of the fireplace inside her office and magically cleaned the soot that clung to her robes. She threw her bag on top of her chair before padding towards her door. She cracked it open and saw her secretary scribbling away on her hot pink notebook, "Morning Kate," she greeted.

The tall blond woman snapped her head towards her direction and stared at her with wide eyes; "Hermione! Where have you been? You have an appointment in 10 minutes!" Kate said.

She threw Kate a sheepish yet apologetic look, "I overslept, but don't worry, I got everything ready. Did the client say which room we're supposed to meet?"

Kate let out a relieved sigh before moving her eyes back to her notebook, "Conference room-Uhm, wait, I think we have a problem-" she turned to the next page, her brows furrowed with confusion. She re-read the notes a couple of times before moving her eyes back to her, "-it says here that the client called in yesterday when you were off and requested that you meet them outside the Ministry."

"Where did they want to meet?"

Kate thumbed the pages back and forth, "The meeting is scheduled at the newly opened restaurant in Diagon Alley, Vanilla Twilight," she replied.

She slipped back into her office to grab her bag, "The one near the Emporium?" she called out.

"Yes and if you don't want to be late, you should heading out now."

"I'm on it, I'll be back as soon as I'm done - hold the fort for me, will you?"

"Good luck!"

She stepped back into her fireplace, "Leakey Cauldron!" she called out.




oOo



The Manor:



"Rise and shine, it's a beautiful day!" Narcissa announced loudly.

Draco turned to his side and buried his face into his pillow, "Go away," he grunted.

Narcissa ignored his protest and yanked the covers off his body, "No can do, love," she chimed.

"What the bloody hell are you doing?" he yelled as he tugged the comforter back. "What if I'm naked? Are you crazy?" he added as he rubbed the sleep off his eyes.

Narcissa made a show of rolling her eyes, "I'm your Mother, of course I've seen you naked, no need to be bashful, love."

He let his hand fall to his lap, his eyes narrowed in annoyance, "I'm a grown man, that's different," he huffed. He turned his head to the side and caught a glimpse of the time, "Why did you wake me up at this ungodly hour?" he asked through a yawn.

"You have a visitor."

"Visitor?"

Narcissa smiled at him brightly, "Your cousin just arrived a few minutes ago."

"Cousin?"

"Luci is here, she's downstairs, waiting for us."

"I'll be down In a few, just need to freshen up," he said as he scurried towards the edge of his bed.

"We'll wait for you downstairs then, do hurry up, love," Narcissa said as she walked towards the door.

"Okay," he replied as he made his way towards his bathroom.




oOo



"Did you get him to wake up, Aunt Cissy?" Luci asked when she spotted her Aunt walking towards her.

"I did, he's just freshening up," Narcissa replied as she took her seat.

"That's new; he's always up at the crack of dawn, late night?"

Narcissa threw her niece a coy smile, "I'm not at liberty to discuss anything, sweetheart, we don't want him throwing temper tantrums this early," she winked before taking a dainty sip of her morning tea.

"That didn't stop you before," Luci chuckled. She plucked her coffee and took a generous sip, "I wonder if it has something to do with a certain brunette," she mused.

"I'm still not going to answer that, you know how Draco gets when he doesn't get his way…"

"He screams like a little girl?" Luci offered with a giggle.

"I do not scream like a little girl!"

Luci turned around and saw her scowl-sporting cousin walking towards the table, "You just proved my point, you just yelled," she said with a large grin.

Draco rolled his eyes as he made his way towards her. He leaned forward and planted a chaste kiss on her hair before sitting down, "As much as I loathe what you just said, I still missed you, brat."

"Wow, you're creative - brat? Really?"

Draco seemed to ignore her statement and started piling his plate with food, "It's not that I'm not thrilled to see you, but what brings you here this early?"

"Why? Don't you want me here?" Luci asked with a pout.

"That's ridiculous, of course I want you here," Draco replied after swallowing a mouthful of scones. He then wiped his lips with a napkin, "I'm just surprised that you didn't owl me beforehand, you always owl me when you're up for a visit."

A large excited smile curled on Luci's lips, "That's because I'm not here for a visit."

"Huh?"

Luci shared a look with her Aunt before moving her eyes back to her cousin, "I'm here to stay indefinitely, surprise!"

Draco's eyes widen comically, "You're what?" he choked out.

"I'm staying a few weeks or months - it depends on Aunt Cissy, really."

"I need some help in decorating some rooms so I asked Luci for help," Narcissa explained.

Draco volleyed his eyes between the two of them, "I - okay, that's a surprise."

Luci turned towards Draco, "Don't worry, Dray, I promise to be at my best behavior," she winked.

Draco stared at Luci's face for a few seconds, his eyes narrowing with suspicion, "For some reason, that statement worries me more."

Luci gave him a sweet smile, "So, having said that, care to tell me why you woke up late? Late night with a certain brunette, I presume?'

A loud groan rumbled from Draco's throat, sending Luci burst into fits of giggles.




oOo



Hermione apparated directly to the alley next to Vanilla Twilight and checked the time. She began walking towards the meeting place as she took several shaky breaths, "Here goes nothing," she mumbled to herself. She stepped into the fancy restaurant and was immediately approached by a stern-looking maitre d.

"Good Morning, Mademoiselle, welcome to Vanilla Twilight."

Hermione let out an awkward smile, "Good Morning, I'm actually here for a reservation under the Ministry - Hermione Granger."

"Ms. Granger, your party has not yet arrived, but your table is ready," The Maitre D responded before he politely gestured towards the empty corner table.

"Thank you," she replied as she followed him. She fought the urge to let out a gasp of surprise when the man pulled a chair for her, "Thanks," she said as she took her seat.

"Can I get you anything while you wait, Ms. Granger?"

She accepted the menu that was propped towards her and gave it a quick scan, "I'll have Iced Chai latte, thank you."

The Maitre D gave her a quick nod before leaving.

She pulled the documents she prepared from her bag and started reviewing it. She was on the third page when she heard a dainty throat clearing. She lifted her gaze and saw a beautiful blonde woman smiling down at her, she knew they went to Hogwarts together, but for the life her; she can't seem to remember her name.

"Long time no see, Ms. Granger."

Something clicked inside her head upon hearing her chime like voice, "Daphne Greengrass?"

"In the flesh, for a moment there, I thought you wouldn't remember me," Daphne teased. She then gestured towards the vacant seat, "May I?"

The Maitre D appeared out of nowhere and carefully served her tea. He then produced another set of menu and stared at them in question, "Would you like to place an order now, Mademoiselles?"

Daphne caught her gaze and offered her a kind smile, "I'm the one you're meeting with, Ms. Granger, in case you are wondering why I'm here."

She returned the smile, "Great," she replied. She then gestured towards the menu, "Go on please."

Daphne accepted the menu and started perusing it. After a few minutes of silent deliberation, she snapped it close. "I'll have chocolate chip bagel with cream cheese and Rose tea, milk on the side, thank you."

The server nodded and turned his gaze towards her.

"I'll have the chocolate chip banana muffin, thanks," she replied.

The waiter gathered the menu, gave them a curt nod before turning on his heels.

Daphne unfolded the napkin and draped it on her lap. She then leaned back on her seat and stared at her, "I didn't know you work for the Ministry - Hermione."

She felt herself relax when she dropped the formality between them, "I've been with them ever since graduation," she replied.

"And you're the head of this project, I assume?"




oOo



Draco entered his room with Luci in tow. He made a bee line towards his bed and sat down with a loud plop, "Stop following me, for Circe's sake!"

Luci walked towards the adjacent loveseat and sat down, "Come on, Dray, just tell me."

Draco rolled his eyes, "I already told you, nothing happened last night. I just went out to see Mum's garden, end off."

"I don't believe that for second," Luci held out her fingers. "One, you hate flowers and two, I know when you're lying through your teeth, so spill because I'm not going to stop bugging you."

He glared at his cousin as he crossed his arms on top of his chest, "I don't hate flowers and I'm not lying!" he said defiantly.

"Nice try, now spill it."

"You're so frustrating!" he huffed. He then fell back on his back and fixed his eyes on the ceiling, "Did Mum put you to this? Did she tell you anything?"

"You don't' really want to know."

He grabbed a pillow to smother his curses.

Luci rolled her eyes, "Don't be so dramatic, it's not as if I don't know what you were up to. In case you have forgotten, I helped you get her back, you owe me."

Draco peeked through his pillow and stared at Luci, "Really? You're using that as a bargain chip to get me to talk?" he asked with heavy sarcasm.

Luci bit her lower lip to hide her smile, "I promise not to pry that much, just answer the basics and I'll shut up."

Draco let out a tired sigh, "Yes I was with Hermione last night and I took her to one Mum's garden for our first date."

"See, it's not that hard, right?" Luci teased.

He moved his arms and folded his hands behind his head, "I refuse to talk about it not because I'm being a prick, I just don't want jinx it. I've waited years to get this chance with her again and I'll do everything I can to not mess things up, you know my rotten luck."

"It's going to work; you love each other too much."

"I hope so, Luc, I really hope so."

"I know so, now, why don't you stop being superstitious and tell me more," Luci said excitedly.

"But you said that you just want that basics."

"You know me too well to believe that, please continue."

"Arrrrggggghhhhh!"




oOo



"You're back, how did it go," Kate asked when she saw her boss strolled towards office.

Hermione stopped by her assistant's desk and sat down, "We got the deal," she said with a beaming smile.

Kate returned the smile, "That's great! I knew you would get it."

"We, it's a group effort, Kate," Hermione reminded her.

"Always the humble one," Kate teased.

Hermione shook her head and began pulling parchments from her bag. She gave the documents a quick run through before pushing it towards Kate, "Would you be a dear and send this to the Minister?" she asked politely.

"Sure thing, will you be heading out?"

"Not really, I still have a lot of things to work through, you go on ahead and take your lunch," Hermione said as she stood up.

"Did you need me to get anything for you?" Kate asked.

"No, I'm all set, thank you," Hermione called over her shoulder before disappearing into her office.




oOo



Blaise dusted off the soot from his cloak as he stepped out of his private fireplace. He dropped his bag haphazardly on the floor and began peeling off his jacket. "Trudy!" he called.

A little elf popped right in front of him and bowed lowly, "Welcome back Master!" it squeaked happily.

He smiled, "Did I get any mail?"

"Trudy is keeping your mail safe master; do you want Trudy to fetch it for you?"

He chucked his jacket on top of his bed, "Did I receive any howler from Mum?"

Trudy fidgeted with her scrawny fingers as she bobbed her head timidly, "Yes, Master."

"It's alright Trudy; kindly bring it inside my room. I need to change my clothes anyway," he said with a long-drawn sigh.

Trudy's ears began to perk up, "Does Master want Trudy to draw his bath?"

He considered the suggestion for a minute before nodding, "That sounds great, I'll have it in 15 minutes."

"I'll get it ready Master," the elf bowed before vanishing with a loud crack.

He walked towards his bed and sat down with a loud plop. He braced his elbows on his knees and buried his face into his palms. "Get yourself together," he chided himself.




oOo



"I hate to disturb you but I've got news."

"This better be good or I'll have your arse on a platter," The cloaked figured hissed.

"He's back, the person you asked me to follow."

The cloaked figure stood abruptly and cackled like a maniac, "Really? When?"

"Just a couple of minutes ago, I was alerted by the charm I placed around the place."

"Good job! Now we need to start our plan."

"When?"

The cloaked figure walked towards the loveseat and sat down, "As soon as possible of course, but before that, we need to celebrate our success!"

"I like that!"

"Doc!" The cloaked figured summoned.

A little elf appeared with a loud crack, "Master summoned, Doc. What can Doc do for Master?"

"Bring us a bottle of Firewhisky, we are celebrating!"

The elf snapped its nimble fingers and instantly Firewhisky appeared on top of the table, together with a bucket of ice. "Would Master want Doc to serve the whiskey?"

"Of course," The cloaked figure replied.

The elf carefully handed each glass and bowed, "Is there anything else, Master?"

The cloaked figure tipped its glass in salute, "To the Mudbloods Downfall!"

Glasses clinked together, "Cheers".

Chapter 24: Didn't have the heart
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Chapter Twenty-four:

"And though you're holding your breath to be given a sign, your heart cannot be broken in pieces like mine. I just want you to know, the reason behind the rhyme..." Didn't have the heart by Debbie Gibson

"It would have been polite to inform me that you'll be coming home today," Theo said as he strolled towards his best friend.

Blaise threw Theo a sheepish look, "Sorry mate, I didn't know you'd come looking for me again."

Theo sat down, "Good thing your elf was informative enough," he huffed.

Blaise chuckled, "So what brings you here?".

"Nothing really, just checking in to see if you're still alive."

He gestured towards himself, "Still alive as you can see," he replied. He leaned back on his seat to stretch his legs, "Enough about me, how have you been?"

Theo shifted on his perch, "Same, been busy with work," he replied. An uncomfortable look crossed Theo's features, "And I went to Malfoy Manor last night to check if Draco's really back."

He kept his face impassive, "Did you see him?"

Theo shook his head, "Yeah, he's there, but then we really didn't have the chance to talk because I had an early meeting this morning so I left."

"I see. Do you have plans on going back any time soon?"

Theo checked his watch; "Today, in a couple of hours, actually."

He took a deep breath, "Want some company?"

"You want to go?" Theo asked with a shocked look.

"I thought about it for awhile and I've realized that I really do need to see that prick, so yes, I would like to go."

Theo studied him for a few seconds before nodding, "I need to run some errands, do you want to meet me somewhere so we could floo together or can I just meet you there?"

"I'll meet you there."

"I'll be on my way then," Theo said as he stood up from his perch. "See you in an hour."

He found himself nodding, "Yeah."

The slipped his hands inside his pockets and turned on his heels to leave.

"Theo?"

"Yeah?"

He cleared his throat, "Do you think Draco would like to see me?"

Theo halted his steps and turned his face towards him, "Why wouldn't he?"

He folded his arms on top of his chest, "You know our situation."

Theo sighed, "Look mate, Draco has been our friend ever since we were in nappies. I don't think he would hate playing catch up with you after four long years of being AWOL."

"If you say so."

"I'm not going to lie, it's going to be awkward, but then you have a lot of good history behind the two of you, it will work out."

"We're still talking about Draco, right? He's one spoiled little bugger," he huffed.

Theo laughed, "Well if he's that way, channel your spoiled brat self too."

He subtly flicked his wrist and sent Theo a stinging hex.

"Hey!"

He chuckled, "That's what you get for calling me spoiled! Get out of here Knott and do your errands! I'll see you in an hour."

Theo rolled his eyes and began walking towards the fireplace.

"Don't be late!"

"Knott estate!"

He watched as green flames engulf his friend before disappearing with a loud pop. He then moved his eyes towards the balcony and slipped his hands inside his pockets.

oOo

"You're still here?"

Hermione lifted her gaze from the book she's reading, "Hey, yeah."

Kate leaned on the door frame and made a show of checking her watch, "It's quarter past 6 and I'm about to head out."

Hermione's eyes widened in shock, "Oh my! I over-read again - Ginny will kill me!" She snapped the book shut and started stuffing her things inside her bag,

"Better hurry, Mrs. Potter can be really scary if she wants to."

"I'm done, "I can't believe I didn't notice the time!" she said as she slipped her shoes back on. She grabbed her bag and hurriedly made her way towards the fireplace, "I'll see you tomorrow!"

"See you tomorrow, boss!"

Hermione grabbed a fistful of floo powder, "Stop calling me boss!" she chided playfully.

"I'll try to remember, night!"

"Night!" She stepped into the hearth and threw the powder at her feet, "Potter Mansion!"

oOo

"You're late!" Ginny stated as soon as she saw her best friend step out of the grate.

Hermione straightened her dress and smiled sheepishly, "I'm sorry, I over-read and forgot the time."

Ginny rolled her eyes, "That's nothing new. We should get going, I'm quite excited to check this new club I saw in Witch Weekly!" she gushed with excitement.

Hermione's brows furrowed in confusion, "Club? I thought were going somewhere quiet?"

"We're grabbing a bite, but we're partying after—"

"Ginny!" Hermione cut her off. "Did you tell Harry that we will be clubbing after?"

Ginny beamed, "Of course I did! And surprisingly he told me to go!"

"Really?"

"Oh for the love Merlin," Ginny grumbled. She grabbed her bag from the loveseat and shrugged her jacket on, "Let's go to your favorite hole in the wall haunt then we'll check the club next, deal?"

"Deal."

oOo

Luci was arranging her fourth vase for the day when she heard the floo go off. She turned her gaze towards the fireplace and saw a handsome looking man stepping out of the grate. She paused what she was doing and watched as one of the elves greeted their guest.

"Good to see you too, is your Master Draco here?"

"Master is here, Misty will get Master for you, Master Knott."

"Thank you, Misty."

The elf bowed and disapparated with a loud crack.

She waited for a few beats before making her presence known, "You're one of Draco's friend's?"

"Forgive me for my rudeness, but I did not realize you were there. And to answer your question, yes I am one of his friends."

"It's okay and you are?" she asked with a smile.

A small smile curled on the man's lips as he made his way towards her, "Theodore Knott, but you can call me Theo," he said. He then propped his hand towards her, "You are?"

She placed her hand on his, "Luci, I'm Draco's cousin."

Theo lifted her hand and planted a kiss on her knuckles, "Enchanted to meet you, I didn't know Draco has a cousin."

She felt her cheeks burn, "A lot of people don't know about us, I've always lived in Paris, so I guess that explains it," she replied with a nervous chuckle.

Theo gently lowered their hands, but didn't let go. He was about to open his mouth to say something but was cut off with a loud crack.

"Master Draco says that he'll be down in a few minutes and told Misty to tell Master Knott to wait for him in the Sun Room."

She pulled her hand away and cleared her throat, "Why don't you go and make yourself comfortable," she said. She then turned her attention to Misty, "Prepare some tea and cakes for them, Misty, thank you."

The elf curtseyed before disappearing again.

She folded her hands behind her back and threw Theo a small smile, "I trust you know where the Sun Room is?"

"Yes," Theo replied.

"Great, I'll take my leave then, it was nice meeting you, Mr. Knott," she said before turning on her heels.

"Call me Theo and its pleasure to meet you too!"

She bit her bottom lip to keep herself from smiling like a giddy teenager.

oOo

Draco was rounding the corner when he saw his cousin walking towards him. He slowed his pace and quirked an inquiring brow when he noticed the large smile on her lips.

"Just the person I wanted to see!" Luci exclaimed.

"And how may I be of service to you?"

Luci stopped right in front of him, "Someone's looking for you downstairs and he's quite a looker."

"Did you just say that Knott is handsome?"

"Well, he is."

He felt his face crumple with disbelief, "Are you crushing on my best mate?"

Two bright spots appeared on the apples of Luci's cheeks, "I - I'm not crushing on anyone! I just gave him a complement!"

"Your whole face disagrees," he said with a chuckle.

"It does not, you've gone bonkers!"

He shook his head as he slipped in hands inside his pockets, "Is he in the Sun Room?"

"I think so," she replied. She then lifted her hand and slapped his arm, "You're a brat."

"What the bloody is that for?"

"Your friend's doesn't know you have a cousin, are you ashamed of me?"

"Of course not!" he said indignantly. He rubbed the sore spot and fixed Luci with a glare, "And to answer your question, they don't know about you because you haven't stayed in London for more than 2 days and the topic didn't come up."

She seemed to mull over his answer before nodding, "Okay."

"Can I go now?"

She stepped out of his way, "You may pass."

He rolled his eyes, "And here I thought I was the childish one," he grunted as he skirted around her.

"What did you say?"

"I said you're lovely as ever!" he called out as he increased his pace. "I'll see you later!'

oOo

"I don't think my stomach can stand the wait anymore, I'm so hungry," Ginny whined as she eyed the full bistro.

"We could try another place if you would like," Hermione suggested.

Ginny scanned their surroundings and saw a quaint looking cafe across the street, "Have you ever eaten there?"

She followed Ginny's gaze, "Vanilla Twilight, I've been there this morning for a client meeting and they serve excellent muffins there. Want to try it?"

Ginny looped their arms together and started dragging her towards the cafe, "Great, let's go."

"Good Evening! Welcome to Vanilla Twilight" The same maitre d greeted them with a polite smile.

Ginny smiled, "Good evening to you too, table for two please."

"Right this way."

"I can't wait to try their full meal courses here!" Ginny whispered enthusiastically.

She let out a soft chuckle, "I'm sure you can't, you can bring Harry here for a date night."

Ginny studied the quiet room and nodded, "No bloody reporters, I like it."

The maitre d gestured towards the vacant booth tucked in a corner, "Here we are Mademoiselle's, I'll summon a waiter to get your orders. Please do enjoy your stay."

"Thank you," They responded in unison.

Ginny slid into the comfortable seat, "So, how are you and Dray?"

"Took you long enough, you're improving," she snorted.

Ginny's cheeks colored, "Don't be like that, you know that question is coming!"

"I didn't say it wasn't, just surprised that you've managed to hold off as long as you did," she mused. She leaned back on her seat and made herself comfortable before spilling out the beans.

oOo

Draco leaned on the door frame as he watched his best mate sipped his tea. He waited for the other man to acknowledge his presence, but he seemed to be deep in thought. "Theo."

Tea dribbled down Theo's chin as he coughed and sputtered.

He let out a bark of laugh as he pulled away from his perch, "Enjoying the tea, mate?"

"You're such an arse!" Theo hissed as he hastily wiped his mouth.

He plopped down on the opposite couch, "Where were you? You seemed to be in a trance."

"I was just thinking about something," Theo replied.

"Is this about the meeting you've mentioned last night?"

"Y - yeah, I suppose."

He watched a funny expression washed over Theo's face, "Still managing the family business?" he asked.

"I still am and it's bloody boring."

"Look at the brighter side; at least you didn't have to start from scratch."

"I would have preferred if I made my own name, but no luck in that," Theo responded glumly. He then sat straight and shook his head, "Enough about me, I heard you opened up a Potions Store?"

He wanted to ask what Theo meant, but based from his mate's quick deflection, he let it slip. He folded his arms behind his head, "Yes, I did. It's in Knockturn Alley though, you should visit sometime."

Theo smirked, "Been brewing a lot of Amortentia?"

"And a lot of Polyjuice Potion."

Theo threw his head back and let out full belly laugh.

He just smiled in response.

"I never thought you'd follow Snape's footstep, but then, you were his favorite."

"I am his Godson, he didn't have a choice," he replied wryly. He let his arms drop as he leaned towards the coffee table, "What took you so long to visit me?" he asked as he served himself tea.

"I would have, if you told me you were back," Theo bit back with sarcasm. "If I hadn't run into Pansy last week, I wouldn't have found out."

He threw Theo a sheepish look, "I got too obsessed with the shop and neglected to let you know, I apologize."

"You're staying for good then?"

Visions of curly hair and coffee brown eyes flashed through his mind, "Yeah, I believe so," he said with a smile.

"Good, I've missed your scrawny arse," Theo huffed.

His grin grew wider, "Awwww, I didn't know you've missed me this much Knott."

"I didn't - Blaise!"

His head snapped to the side and saw a familiar figure standing by the door. Something akin to bitterness and anger swelled inside his stomach, but he managed to kept his face impassive.

Blaise cleared his throat and began walking towards them, "It's been a long time, Draco."

He swallowed the bitter taste in his mouth and stood up, "Blaise."

Blaise stopped right in front of him and just stared. After a few seconds of palpable tension, he bridge the gap between them and pulled him into a brotherly hug, "It's nice to see your arse back."

He felt the ball of tension melt, "Nice to see you too," he replied gruffly.

Blaise stiff posture relaxed as he pulled away. He walked towards Theo and sat down, "You're early."

"Finished my errands earlier than expected," Theo replied with a shrug. He then volleyed his eyes between them, "By the way, that hug was beyond awkward."

"Theo!" Blaise hissed.

He sat back down and leaned back on his seat, "Shut it," he warned.

Theo emptied his cup and stood from his seat, "I think a talk between the two of you is way overdue, I'll leave you two to it," he said before walking towards the French doors that lead to the garden.

A heavy silence settled into the room when Theo left, making his jaw clench. He emptied his own cup and managed to place it back on the table without cracking it. "How have you been?"

"I've been well, I've been working for the Ministry ever since I got out of Hogwarts," Blaise replied. He then cleared his throat and met his gaze straight on, "I heard you opened a Potions shop in Knockturn Alley?"

"I did, you should come visit."

A friendly smile curled on the Italian's lips, "Been hanging around the old bat in the dungeon?"

He couldn't help it, he let out a chuckle. "I don't think the old bat would appreciate hearing that, Zabini."

"He wouldn't," Blaise said with a false grim nod.

Another wave of awkward silence descended upon them and he hated every minute of it. Deep in his heart, he knew that being angry with Blaise was irrational because he didn't know that he was stepping at his proverbial toes. They kept their relationship a secret and this is just one of its unsavory side effects. He leaned forward and braced his elbows on his thighs, "Theo is right, we need to talk," he sighed.

Blaise took a deep breath, "Yeah, we should."

"I saw you leaving the Rose Garden last week so I know you heard what Hermione and Ginny was talking about."

A short intake of breath escaped Blaise's lips, his eyes wide in shock.

He clasped his hands and let it dangle between his legs, "Look mate, I'm sorry you had to find out that way," he said sincerely.

Blaise seemed to regain his bearing, "If it's anybody's fault, it was mine, I shouldn't have eavesdropped."

"Ask me."

"Ask you what?"

"Ask me why I didn't tell you."

"Why didn't you tell me or Theo?"

He levelled his gaze with him, "Because I was a coward. I was dealing with a lot of pressure from both sides and I was so close to my breaking point. I couldn't come clean to you about my feelings towards Hermione because I didn't know how you would react," he blurted out. He then took a shaky breath and continued, "I - I know that omission is still a lie and I regret not telling you."

Blaise stared at him for a minute, the corner of his lips curling up with an amused grin, "Bloody sodding hell, when did you become so sentimental?"

He grabbed the nearest throw pillow and chucked it towards Blaise, "I haven't gone sentimental!"

Blaise easily caught the pillow and threw it back at him, "Bipolar then."

"Prick."

Blaise threw him a look as he stood up from his seat. He made his way towards the open French doors and slipped his hands inside his pockets, "To set the records straight, I don't blame you for keeping your relationship a secret."

"Okay."

Blaise averted his gaze and stared into the vast garden, "Are you back together then?"

"We're not officially back together, but we're spending time to get to know each other again," he replied. He leaned back on his seat as he watched Blaise's reaction, "Have you spoken to her?"

Blaise shook his head, "No, after the Ball, I left for Italy."

He can't help but feel like crap. He knew that Blaise only goes to his childhood Villa if he's depressed or angry, "You should talk to her."

"Why?"

"You already know why."

Blaise leaned on the doorframe and folded his arms on top of his chest, "I'll talk to her some time, I'm not yet ready."

He found himself nodding, "I understand," he said. He swallowed the bitter taste in his mouth and locked eyes with his friend, "As much as it pains me to admit this, I know she cares for you."

Blaise's eyes widened in surprise, "Did she tell you that?"

"She didn't need to tell me, I know her," he replied. He grabbed the throw pillow to his left and rested his arms on top of it, "And she wanted to take things slow, don't you think that's a glaring sign that she's second guessing her feelings with you in the picture?" he said with pursed lips.

"Are you threatened?" Blaise asked with a smirk.

His jaw clenched with annoyance so he chose to break eye contact, "You wish," he huffed.

"You are! I can't believe this!"

He snatched the pillow off his lap and tossed it towards Blaise, "Shut it!"

Blaise caught the pillow and let it dangle with his fingers. "Wow, I never thought this day would come."

"I said shut it!"

"Fine," Blaise acquiesced. "And I'll go talk to Hermione sometime this week."

He perked up, "Brilliant."

"So, we're okay?"

He mulled over Blaise's question and to his surprise, he was. "Yeah, we're good."

oOo

"Great meal," Ginny said, her face full of contentment.

Hermione smiled thoughtfully, "It was, I think I'll bring my parents, Mum would love it."

Ginny nodded in approval; "She will and I'll bring Harry as well."

"Little Jamey would love the chocolate cake."

Ginny chuckled, "He likes anything with sugar, love."

"You're right."

Ginny tapped her wand on the table and their server appeared, "Check, please."

The server pulled a leather notebook out of thin air and handed it over to Ginny.

She grabbed her bag, "How much do I owe?"

Ginny slipped her new Gringott's card inside and handed it back, "Thanks."

"But-"

Ginny shushed her, "Not buts. I asked you out so I'll be paying; your money is not good here so keep it."

"But Gin—"

"Drop it, you won't convince me."

She stared at the red head's face and she saw no room for arguments. She slipped her wallet back inside her bag, "Fine, but drinks are on me."

Ginny rolled her eyes," Stupid Gryffindor pride."

"What did you say?"

"Nothing, let's just go."

oOo

Theo stood up and stretched his arms up, "I'm tired," he yawned.

"You're getting old, Knott, it's too early to be sleepy," Draco jeered.

"He is old," Blaise piped in

Theo let his arms drop and glared at them, "I had an early meeting at 7, it has nothing to do with age."

He lifted his hand and started checking his nails, "He sounds like a ninny too, what are the odds."

Blaise threw his head back and laughed.

"Whatever," Theo huffed.

"Awwww, don't be upset with me, sweetheart," he teased.

Theo flipped him the bird and moved his attention to Blaise, "Will you be hanging around the ferret or are you heading home?"

Blaise checked his watch, "Actually, I also have to go, I need to be at work tomorrow by 8," he said as he rose from his seat.

"You two are no fun," he grumbled. He stood up from the couch and folded his arms on top of his chest, "Well, it was nice seeing you both. Next time let's drink something stronger and manlier than tea, huh?"

"Tell that to your elf," Theo bit back. He then grabbed his jacket and draped it on his arm, "We'll be heading out now, tell Aunt Cissy that we'll visit soon."

He nodded, "I'll tell her."

Blaise trailed behind Theo, "See you around, ferret, and may the best man win!" he called out before vanishing from his sight.

"Argh, don't remind me!" he called back. He plopped back on his seat and rested his head on the headrest, "Merlin, why did I have to say that," he chided himself.

oOo

Hermione made her way through the crowd while carrying two Cosmopolitan's. She carefully placed their drinks at the table and saw Ginny talking with a familiar looking blonde.

Ginny seemed to sense her presence so she turned her head towards her, "Mimi, you're back!" she exclaimed.

"Yeah, I am," she replied, still eyeing the bloke and trying to place him.

"I don't think she remembers me, Gin," The familiar bloke said with a small smile.

She took a sip from her cocktail, "Should I?"

"He's Dennis, Collin's brother, he's two years younger than us, remember?"

She felt her eyes widen in recognition, "That's the reason why you looked so familiar and you're blonde!"

Dennis laughed, "The hair color often throws people off, it's quite new."

"And it suites you, you look good," she complimented.

"Thank you! It makes me feel more confident now," Dennis joked.

Ginny laughed, "Why don't you join us for a drink?"

"Yeah, join us," she piped in.

Dennis winced, "As much as I want to I can't, I have an early day tomorrow, my boss just came back," he explained.

"He works at the Ministry, Blaise is his boss," Ginny said while giving her meaningful look.

She felt a tiny tinge inside her stomach, "Oh, he's back."

"Just this afternoon, to be exact," Dennis added.

"I see."

"Well, I better be going ladies, are you sure you'll be alright?"

She found herself nodding before taking another sip of her drink.

"We'll grab a drink another time, yeah? Good night," Dennis said before leaving with a wave.

"You didn't expect he'd be back this soon?"

"I don't know what to tell him, Gin, it's just - I don't know," she sighed.

Ginny reached for her hand and squeezed it, "Just be honest with him. Blaise is a decent bloke, I'm sure he'll hear you out."

"I hope so."

oOo

The next day:

The next morning Hermione woke up with a throbbing head; she turned to her side and groaned. She took a deep breath and hugged her pillow close to her chest. "This is the day," she thought. She yawned and began stretching her arms. She lazily sat up from her bed and stared at the clock, "7: 45, I still have 45 minutes before work," she murmured to herself. She scrambled out of the covers and made her way towards the kitchen to set up her morning tea. She was pouring out her favorite cereal when she noticed a large barn owl perched on the windowsill. She placed the box back on the counter before she approached the majestic creature. She carefully took the rolled parchment frown its scrawny leg and offered it a handful of owl treats. She watched the owl devour it before she padded back to the counter. She studied the familiar purple wax seal with trepidation for a moment, "It's now or never," she mumbled as she tore the seal and unrolled the letter.

Hermione,

I apologize for not writing to you as soon as I got back, I had a lot of things on my mind and I needed ample time to sort them out. Now that I'm ready, I would like to invite you to lunch today, if you are free. I haven't seen you in a while and I dare admit that I've missed your company dearly. Please send me an owl if you are able, I'll be on the lookout. I hope to see you soon.

Yours, Blaise

She re-read the letter a couple of more times before letting it drop to the counter. She mulled over her options and came to a realization that she can no longer postpone the inevitable confrontation. With her decision made, she summoned a piece of paper and jot down her reply.

Blaise,

Its nice hearing from you again, Of course I'll join you for lunch. Owl me the time and place and I'll be there.

Hermione

Feeling satisfied with what she wrote, Hermione summoned her own owl and slipped the letter into the holster. "Bring this to Blaise Zabini," she whispered.

oOo

"Ogden's Finest, 1 finger, add it to my tab, please," Blaise said as he slipped into a bar stool.

Tom, the bartender, let out a toothy grin and carefully handed Blaise his drink; "There you go."

Blaise grabbed the glass and emptied it in one go. His eyes automatically shut close as the warm liquid smoothly glide down his throat, settling his queasy stomach. He opened his eyes and placed the empty glass back on the counter, "Thanks," he called out. Just as he swivelled into his chair, he caught sight of her. He felt the familiar pang inside his chest, making his breath hitch. He swallowed the lump inside his throat and pasted a friendly smile on his face, "Hermione, I'm here," he called out.

Hermione turned her head towards him and offered him a small smile. She tugged her bag closer to her side as he made her way through the crowd, "Hey," she said.

He hopped off his stool, "Hi," he replied. He slipped his hands inside his pockets, "I'm craving for something Muggle for a change, what do you think?"

She threw him a surprised look, "Something Muggle?"

"Yeah, something like McDonalds."

"Oh."

He gestured towards the door, "Shall we? I'm quite famished."

She nodded, "Lead the way."

oOo

The tension between them was so thick that Hermione would give her wand arm to make it stop. They walked towards McDonalds with mindless chitchats and managed to secure seats. She offered to get the food for them, but Blaise was adamant that she wait for him instead. Now, she found herself watching him as he took a big bite of his BigMac with gusto. She pulled her Strawberry Yogurt Shake and took a small sip, her appetite waning with nervousness. "It's been so long since I've been here, thank you for taking me."

Blaise wiped his mouth with a napkin before picking up a piece of fries, "It's my pleasure, I've always enjoyed eating greasy food once in a while," he joked.

"Greasy food indeed," she said as she stared at the oil-soaked burger wrapper.

"How have you been?"

She moved her eyes back to him, "I've been well, how about you? I haven't heard from you since the reunion," she threaded lightly.

"I went to Italy; I needed to take some time off for myself."

"I know you heard me and Gin talking," she blurted out.

His face turned solemn as he shifted on his seat, "I did."

She felt her eyes well with tears, "I didn't mean to hurt you, I - I didn't mean to hide it, it's just nobody knew we were together," she explained. When she didn't get a response, she swallowed thickly and continued, "Draco and I, we were together way before the war. I broke up with him because I didn't want him to get into more trouble than he already is. I love him too much to make him choose between me and his parents so I made the choice for him," she paused to swipe the errant tear the escaped her eye. "Truth is, I was a coward, I didn't fight as much as he fought for us and that was the biggest mistake of my life."

"Is that the reason why he left London without saying goodbye?"

She nodded, "He left because he doesn't want to make things harder for me and doesn't want me to hurt anymore-" she took another pause to swallow back a sob. "He - he left because I almost took my life."

A loud hiss escaped Blaise mouth, his eyes wide in shock.

She placed her hands on top of the table and locked her fingers together, "Not my finest moments. I never thought he'd ever come back and I never expected that he'd want anything to do with me. But he's here and he wants to start over - I, I don't want to hurt you, Blaise, that's the last thing I want to do."

Blaise stared at her with sadness, "Are - are you back together then?"

She shook her head, "No."

"Why not?"

She licked her lips and locked eyes with him, "You know the answer to that question," she admitted.

"Is it because of me? Do you feel something for me?"

She threw him a wry smile, "I care for your feelings, Blaise, I care for you too."

"Does Draco know about this?"

"Yes"

"What did he say?"

"He understands."

Blaise leaned on his chair, "I don't understand."

"What don't you understand?"

"Do you love him?"

"I do."

"Then why aren't you back with him?"

"Do you have feelings for me, Blaise?"

Blaise kept silent as he looked away. After a moment, he met her eyes again, "You know what I feel."

"Do you love me?" she asked bluntly.

"Why does it matter?"

"Your feelings matter."

Blaise winced as he mull over her words, "I have strong feelings for you, I want to fight for you, but I also know that it's too early to tell if I'm in love with you."

Relief surged inside her chest, making her smile, "I'm flattered, really flattered, Blaise, but are you sure you still want to fight for me even if I told you that I'm still in love with him?"

Blaise quirked a brow, "Are you already ditching me?"

She impulsively reached for his hand and gave it a soft squeeze, "I just want us to be completely honest with each other. You are my friend and I don't want to lose you because of this."

Blaise squeezed her hand in return, "You will never lose me," he promised. "You are my friend before my feelings started morphing into something deeper, so no matter what happens friendship will still be there," he added.

Fresh batch of tears swelled inside her eyes, distorting her vision.

"Awwww, don't cry, you're making me look bad here," Blaise said, his voice full of humor.

"I'm sorry, it's just hard for me to tell you these things because I know I'll somehow hurt you," she sniffed and hastily wiped her eyes. "Merlin knows that's the last thing you deserve. You are a kind man and I don't deserve you."

Sadness seeped through Blaise features for the second time, "I'm not going to lie and tell you that I'm not hurt, because in some ways, I am. But I'm also not going to stand in your way because I know what you and Draco have gone through to find each other again. You're one of my closest friends and he's my best mate, you've pinned for each other for Merlin knows how long - a love like that doesn't go away, Hermione, what you two have shared is something really special."

Tears rolled down her cheeks, "I'm sorry I've hurt you, I really am," she whimpered.

Blaise lifted his other hand and gently wiped her tears away, "There's nothing to forgive and thank you for being honest with me," he said sincerely. He then let his hand drop, "Having said that, I just want you to know that I'm bowing out, you and Draco have my blessing."

"Oh, Blaise."

Blaise offered a smile, but it didn't erase the sadness in his eyes. "Don't worry about me, Hermione; I'm going to be okay."

She folded her arms on top of the table and rested her chin on top of it, "I really feel bad, I don't like that I've hurt you."

"Want to make me feel better?"

"Anything."

Blaise smile turned mischievous, "Don't tell Draco yet."

"Why?"

Blaise leaned back and folded his hands behind his head, "Let's just say that I want payback. That wanker hid these things from me, his best friend! Don't you think he deserve a little grief for it?"

She couldn't help it, she chuckled.

"He got the girl I like, I think it's only fair to let him sweat."

"Fine, my lips are sealed," she easily acquiesced.

oOo

Blaise apparated inside his room and collapsed in the nearest loveseat; he braced his elbows on his knees and buried his face into his palms.

"You okay?"

Blaise let his hands drop and wasn't a bit surprised when he saw Theo leaning on the doorframe, "Are you my Mum now?"

"Don't be an arse," Theo bit back as he pulled away from his perch.

"Okay, my babysitter then," he deadpanned.

Theo ignored him and took a seat next to him.

He clasped his hands together and let it dangle between his legs, "I went out to see Hermione today," he said.

Theo studied his face, "She dumped you."

He scowled at his best mate, "I did not get dumped, I bowed out you arse!"

Theo waved his hand dismissively, "Semantics."

"Whatever and stop looking at me like that!" he snapped.

Theo's features suddenly become solemn, "I thought you love her?"

He averted his gaze, "I do," he sighed.

"Did you tell her?"

He shot out of his seat and walked towards the window, "She's in love with Draco and he's in love with her too. They've waited years to be together again, I won't get in the way."

"Did I ever tell you how much I look up to you?"

He turned his face towards Theo, "You do?"

Theo nodded, "I do, because I know that behind that tough exterior you really are a good man."

"I'm not that good."

Theo studied his face, "What do you mean?"

He cracked a smile, "I told Hermione to hold off on Draco, to not tell him that I bowed out."

Theo blinked a few times before bursting into fits of laughter.

He turned his attention back to the window, "That little bugger deserves a little payback for keeping his love life a secret, don't you think?"

"Slytherin through and through, I like it," Theo said proudly. "Tinky!"

A loud pop resounded inside the room, "Master called Tinky?"

"Bring us a bottle of Ogden's, your Master and I will celebrate," Theo said.

The elf flicked her fingers and a bottle whiskey and glasses appeared on the coffee table, "Does Master want Tinky to serve?"

Theo shook his head as he leaned towards the table, "You are dismissed Tinky, thank you," he said. He popped the bottle open and poured a hefty amount on each glass, "Come on over here, mate."

He retraced his steps back and accepted the glass, "What are we toasting for?"

Theo smirked, "To freshly broken hearts!"

He scowled, "Very funny, Theo," he said as he clinked their glasses together.

"Okay, I have another one." Theo tipped his glass towards him and grinned widely, "To getting dumped!" he cheered.

"I ALREADY TOLD YOU, I DID NOT GET DUMPED!"

"Whatever you say, mate!"

He flicked his wrist and sent a stinging hex on Theo's leg.

Theo yelped and accidentally emptied his glass on his trousers; "Damn you, Zabini!" he screamed.

"I love you too."

oOo

"How dare that Mudblood Slut!" The hooded figure screamed. "After whoring herself to Malfoy, now she's cuddly with Zabini? Who does she think she is!"

"Calm down, Master..."

"I cannot let this go on! Too much pure blood has been tainted it's time to eradicate that scum!"

"I'm at your command."

Chapter 25: For everything a reason
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Chapter Twenty-five:

"And those who loved before will be brought back together. And so they say baby for everything a reason. And so they say baby you will be brought back to me..." For everything a reason by Carina Round

oOo

Draco scurried out of his bed and rubbed the sleep off his eyes. He yawned as he walked straight to his private loo. He took a quick shower and brushed his teeth; he exited his room and padded straight towards the Grand staircase. He was about to descend when he noticed his cousin passing by. "Good Morning."

Luci threw him a dirty look and ignored him fully.

He was confused by her uncanny reaction so he trailed behind her, "Someone's not friendly this morning," he teased.

"Hmp," Luci huffed and continued her pace.

"What's gotten into you?"

Luci ignored him and kept walking.

He grabbed her arm to stop her, "Are you mad at me?"

Luci rounded on him, her face pretty face contorted with annoyance, "I definitely am!"

He let his hand drop, "What did I do this time? I don't remember doing anything that might upset you."

"You're really thick, no?"

He only quirked an inquiring brow as a response.

Luci stomped her feet like a petulant child, "You promised me that you'll introduce me to Theo last night, but you didn't!"

Their earlier conversation before dinner crossed his mind, "Oh."

Luci's eyes narrowed into slits as she spun on her heel, "You're such an arse!" she harrumphed.

"I'm sorry! Please don't be mad at me, sweetheart - I promise I'll make it up to you."

"How?"

He hurried his steps and pulled a chair for her, "He'll be visiting again soon, I'll make sure that I'll leave you two alone so you can get to know each other, I promise."

Luci sat down, "You promise?"

He took the seat next to her and offered a reconciliatory smile, "You like him that much?"

"What gave you that idea?" Luci lifted her chin snottily and started stirring milk into her coffee.

He grabbed a scone and began spreading marmalade on top of it, "You seldom get mad at me."

Luci wrapped her dainty hands around her cup, "Am I that obvious?"

He chuckled again, "No, I just know you too well."

Luci nodded and threw him a coy smile, "Any plans for today?" she asked, changing the topic.

He wiped the crumbs off his lips and leaned back on his chair, "None in particular, but I'm thinking of asking Hermione out, I'm just not sure if she's free today."

Luci beamed, "I want to meet her!"

"But you already know her, you met her last week, remember?"

"I want to meet her as your cousin and not as your pretend girlfriend."

He thought for awhile and nodded, "Okay, as long as you keep your head in check, I won't mind setting it up."

"I always have my head in check!"

"I was just joking! I'll check with her later and ask her if she's amenable to meet."

Luci reached forward and patted his shoulder, "Do that, I'm tired of pretending to be your pseudo-girlfriend. Plus I want to meet her; I want to be able to shake the hands of the woman who made you grovel."

"Ha! Malfoy's don't grovel."

Luci made a show of rolling her eyes, "And I'm not half-French," she said with heavy sarcasm.

oOo

"Hermione?"

Hermione was jerked out of her daydream when the fireplace burst into life, "Ginny?"

"Who else are you expecting? Merlin?" Ginny joked as she stepped out of grate.

"Ha ha, very funny," she grumbled.

Ginny shrugged off the remnants of soot from her clothes, her nose wrinkled in disgust. "I should've apparated, I really loathe flooing!" she whined.

She snapped her book shut and stood up; "Want something to drink to take off the edge before we start our mini interrogation?" she called out as she padded towards her kitchen.

Ginny trailed behind her and perched herself on one of the high chairs near the breakfast bar, "You're still buckets of laugh, I'm crying out of laughter here."

She stopped right in front of her fridge and opened it, "I have pumpkin juice, tea-"

"Do you have one of those brown fizzy Muggle drinks?" Ginny interjected.

She leaned forward and grabbed two cans of soda, "Yep," she replied.

"Perfect!"

She closed the fridge and walked towards the counter. She placed the can right in front Ginny before popping hers open, "Drink up."

Ginny opened the can and took a sip, "Taste better than pumpkin juice, why don't we have this here?"

"Because of bigotry, what else?" she replied wryly.

Ginny burst into fits of giggles, "Bigotry, I haven't heard that word in a while," she mused. She then folded her arms on top of the counter and stared at her, "So…."

She feigned ignorance, "So what?"

"Out with it, what happened?" Ginny huffed impatiently.

She shook her head, "Nothing much happened, we just went to McDonalds."

Ginny's eyes widened with interest; "Isn't that a Muggle fast food chain near Leakey?"

"One and only," she replied. She took another sip of soda before pulling one of the chairs, she sat down and copied Ginny's pose. "I was shocked when he told me he wanted to go there, he was Pureblood after all."

"Not all Pureblood is as bigot as Dray," Ginny teased while wiggling her brows.

"Hey!"

Ginny grinned, "Wow, a couple dates and you're starting to defend him, he must be doing things right."

She felt her cheeks burn, "Oh lay off of it!"

"Okay, fine," Ginny conceded. "Since you don't want to talk about your beau, let's get back on topic, did you sort things out with Blaise?"

She took another sip of her drink, "Yes, and surprisingly, I did not need to say much. He pretty much knows everything."

Ginny furrowed her brows, "What do you mean?"

"He already knows that I already made up mind."

Ginny smiled, albeit sadly, "Blaise is catch, if the circumstances had been different, he would've made you happy."

She folded her arms on top of the counter and rested her chin on top of it, "I know, he is a good man and I'm having a hard time forgiving myself for hurting him the way I did," she said sullenly.

"Hey, I was just saying - I didn't mean to make you feel bad, I'm sorry."

She shook her head, "Yeah."

"Mimi…"

"I love him, but not the way he wanted me to. He is my friend and I just," she cut herself off and let out sigh.

Ginny reached for her arm and gave it a soft squeeze, "We can't force our heart to love someone, just like we can't our breath."

She shifted and buried her face between her arms, "Argh!"

"Don't blame yourself too much; I'm sure Blaise knows that you didn't mean to hurt him."

She turned her face to the side, "Do you think so?"

Ginny squeezed her arm again, "I know so."

"He also asked me a favor."

"Favor? What sort?"

She rolled her eyes, "It's a very childish favor, he asked me not to tell Dray yet."

"Why?"

"He wants payback, he was not impressed that Dray kept them in the dark about our relationship - they're best friends."

Ginny burst into fits of giggles, "Slytherin to the core."

"I know."

oOo

"When will we start our plan, Master?"

The hooded figure stood in front of the window and smiled, "Today."

oOo

"Draco?"

"I'm in here, Mum," Draco called out, his eyes still fixed on the documents he's reading.

Narcissa entered his office, "Aren't you suppose to be in your shop?"

He signed his name on the dotted line before lifting his gaze, "Are you getting tired of me already?" he teased.

"Of course not, I'm just confused as to why you're not tending to your shop," Narcissa replied as she took her seat on the chair right in front his desk.

"I don't feel like going in today," he said with shrug. He stacked the folders together before leaning back on his seat, "I hired competent people to run the shop, I'm confident they'll be able to handle it for a day."

Narcissa smiled, "When will you let me meet her?"

"Meet who?"

"Don't play dumb with me; you know I'm talking about Ms. Granger."

He threw his hands up in the air and huffed, "I don't have privacy in this house, I really should move out."

"Invite her over, if not, I'll do the inviting myself," Narcissa said. She stood up from her perch and started making her way back to the door, "I'll leave you to your work."

Emotions flooded his chest at his Mum's easy acceptance of the woman he was in love with. "Mum?"

Narcissa paused to look at him, "Yes?"

"You haven't forgotten that Hermione is Muggleborn, right?"

"I haven't and I also know that she's Harry Potter's best friend."

He swallowed thickly, "And you're okay with that?"

"As long as she makes you happy, I'm good with that," Narcissa replied. "And besides, blood purity is just hodge-podge, I regret that we have to learn that in the hard way," she added with a sad smile.

Before he could think, he's already on his feet and walking towards his Mum. He wrapped his arms around her dainty figure and hugged her tightly, "Thank you," he whispered.

Narcissa hugged him back, "You are always welcome, my little dragon, always."

oOo

. . . . . . . . . . . .

Hermione plucked the phone from the receiver, "Hello?"

"Hermione, its Draco, are you free today?"

The corner of her lips arched up, "Good morning to you too."

"It is, now that I've heard your voice."

"Laying it thick, no?" she chuckled. She shifted on her seat and made herself comfortable, "About your question, yes, I'm free, why?"

"I want to take you out for lunch."

"Really? Where?"

"How about I meet you at Hogsmeade?"

"You're not picking me up?"

"You know I want to, but I don't think I can. I'm on my way to work."

"Oh okay."

"So, what time should we meet?"

She checked her watch, "Is 1 o'clock alright? I still need to finish some chores."

"That will be perfect; I'll meet you there then?"

"Yep."

"Don't be late, I've got a big surprise for you that I'm sure you'll love."

Her interest was piqued, "Surprise? What kind?"

"You'll just have to wait and see."

"Fine."

"Okay then, I'll see you later."

"Bye."

"Bye."

oOo

"Everything is ready, Master."

The hooded figure let out a maniacal cackle, "Brilliant, now it's my turn."

oOo

Draco was stuffing the documents inside his leather bag when the floo burst into flames. He turned his head towards the fireplace and was surprised to see Hermione stepping out of the hearth, "Well, look what the kneazle dragged in," he said playfully.

Hermione threw him a seductive smile, "Hi handsome, miss me?"

Her smile and words threw him off guard, but he paid it no mind. He rounded the table and made his way towards her, "You know I've missed you, beautiful," he replied as he pulled her into a quick hug. He planted a kiss on her curly head before pulling a fraction, "It's not that I'm not happy with your surprise visit, but what are you doing here? No work?"

Hermione placed her hand on his chest before moving it towards his neck, "I have work, but I wanted to drop by before my day gets busy, I hope you don't mind," she purred.

He felt his brows rose with her bold move, "I - err - of course not," he stuttered. He cleared his throat and took a step back, "Uhm, did something happen, Mi? You don't seem to be you're normal self…"

Hermione let out a chuckle, "I'm peachy, nothing's wrong," she replied. She then slowly trailed her hand down, her pointer finger tracing his chest, "I'm thinking, I want alone time with you."

He caught her wondering hand with his and laced their fingers together, "Alone time?"

She pressed herself to his front and stood on her tiptoes to reach his ear, "Yes, just you and me, Drake, don't you think it's about time?" she whispered.

Alarm bells rang inside his ear upon hearing the familiar nickname, but again, he ignored it. He swallowed the lump inside his throat and let out a shaky breath, "N - now?"

"Later, at Hogsmeade," Hermione replied as she righted her stance.

"What time?"

"How about quarter past 6? I still have tons of books to read."

He furrowed his brows, "Don't you think that's late?"

Hermione boldly dropped her gaze to his belt, "Let's just say that I fancy a little tryst in the dark."

He felt his eyes widen in shock, "I - err…" he snapped his mouth close when he can't think of an intelligible response.

She stood on her tiptoes again to kiss his lips, "I'll see you at 6, lover boy, don't be late," she winked before strolling towards the fireplace.

He felt his jaw drop as he watched her disappear from the green flames, "What the bloody hell was that?"

oOo

Hermione was fixing her cloak when the clock chimed 1; she hastily grabbed her purse and dissapparated with loud crack. She appeared in Hogsmeade within seconds and righted her clothes; she pasted a big smile on her face and began walking aimlessly towards the snowy streets. "Damn! I forgot to ask Dray where to meet him," she mumbled.

"HERMIONE!"

She turned around and saw a familiar figure walking towards her, "Hey, what are you doing here?"

"Just popping by for a quick shopping, how about you?"

She adjusted the strap of her bag on her shoulder, "I'm here to meet someone for a late lunch."

"Oh I see, where are you supposed to meet?"

"Actually, I'm not quite sure," she paused and checked the streets for Draco. "I forgot to ask where," she added with a chuckle.

"That's a bummer."

"I know, right?"

"Since you're not yet sure where to meet, why don't we go to Florence and sit for awhile? We'll able to see the streets there and you'll be easily spotted."

She thought about the suggestion and nodded, "That's a good idea, hold on, let's see if I could reach him," she replied as she pulled her mobile phone from her pocket.

"I didn't know those things work here."

"It does, just not in close proximity of magic," she replied as she thumbed through her phone book for Draco's new mobile number.

"I see."

She pressed the phone to her ear and waited for the line to connect. When she didn't get any answer, she opted to leave a voicemail. "Dray, it's me. I forgot to ask you where we're supposed to meet. I'll be at Florence with a friend; I'll wait for you there. See you in a few, bye."

"He's not answering?"

She pulled her phone away and slipped it back into her pocket, "Nope, but I left him a message, he'll be there."

"Great, shall we?"

"Lets," she replied. She was confused with the direction they were taking, but she didn't stop. When her friend walked right into an abandoned alley, she stopped and braced her hands on her waist, "Where are we going? I thought we're heading to Florence?"

E

She furrowed her brows and took a step closer. She placed her arm on her friend's shoulder, "Hey, didn't you hear me?"

Her friend turned her face towards her, her features contorted with a sinister smile. "Portus."

Before she could react, she felt the familiar tug on her navel and heard a familiar crack.

oOo

"Knock, knock."

"Well this is a pleasant surprise," Draco drawled.

Blaise entered his office and stood right in front of his desk, "What are you up to today?"

"Just pushing papers, why?"

"Have you seen Theo?" Blaise asked as he plopped down on one of the chairs.

He cocked his head to the side, "Knott? No, why?"

"We're supposed to go out flying, but the wanker stood me up."

"Flying?"

"Uhuh."

He leaned forward and braced her elbows on his desk, "I'm free, I could go with you," he offered.

Blaise seemed to perk up with his unexpected olive branch, "Yeah?"

"Yeah, where do you usually fly?"

"It's my turn today; we're supposed to fly by the woods behind the Manor."

He nodded, "We can go."

Blaise stood up from his seat and grinned, "Great, we can go now."

He also stood up from his seat and flicked his wrist to summon his gears, "Lead the way."

oOo

Hermione felt herself being dragged inside a large room and being thrown to the floor. She landed with a loud thud that made her arm throb with pain. She quickly scrambled to her feet and backed herself towards the nearest wall. "Who are you? What do you want?"

"Still feisty after all these years, aren't you, Mudblood!?"

She balled her hands into fists, ignoring the fear that's churning inside her stomach. "W - who are you? What do you want from me?"

"The person who will make you pay, Crucio."

Her training during the war kicked in, making her leap to her left, landing on her knees. She felt pain shoot up her hip, but she scrawled towards the nearest loveseat to use as a shield.

Loud maniacal laughter erupted from her captor's mouth, "Do you think you can hide behind that stupid furniture? Incendio!"

Large flames burst, almost scalding her back. She scampered away from the burning couch and tried to stand up, but she staggered on her feet when pain shot through her knees. She managed to gather her bearings and began backing away, "Why are you doing this?" she said through gritted teeth.

The perpetrator took a step forward, "Do you have an idea how long I've waited for this, Mudblood? How much hardship I endured seeing you polluting the place where you do not belong?"

Tears roll down her cheeks, but she held her ground; "I belong to this world whether you like it or not! I maybe born of Muggle heritage, but the magic that runs through my vein is real! You don't have the right to spout such stupidity when you can't even show your face!" she spat.

"You insolent—"

"It's the truth! You judge me because of my blood, but you hide behind that stupid cloak! You're a bloody coward!"

"Crucio!"

Her whole body turned taut as the familiar sensation of being stabbed with hundreds needles assaulted her. She felt her breath leave her chest as she dropped down to her knees, "S - stop it, please," she cried.

"Keep your mouth shut! I don't want to hear anything that comes from your filthy mouth! You will die tonight and your blood traitor lover will be next!"

oOo

"Bugger!" Draco hissed when he caught sight of the time.

Blaise raised his brow, "What?"

He snatched his wand from his back pocket and started accio-ing his gear, "I'm late!"

"Late for what?"

"I'm supposed to meet Hermione at the Hogsmeade!"

"What time?"

"I should be there by 6; we haven't even talked about where to meet!"

Blaise took a sip from his glass, "Relax, it's just quarter past 5, you'll make it."

"I hope so," he replied. He then brisk walked towards the fireplace and grabbed a handful of floo, "Bye, Blaise, thanks for the game," he called out.

"No problem, have fun!"

He stepped into the grate and threw the powder at his feet, "Malfoy Manor!"

oOo

"Is it dead?"

"Not yet, but she will be."

"The blood traitor is already on his way, I should go."

"Go on, it's time for phase two."

Hermione remained prostate on the floor, "Oh Merlin, please - not Draco…" she prayed.

oOo

Draco appeared in the alley beside Honeydukes and straightened his cloak. He stepped out in the street and began searching for Hermione's familiar face among the throngs of people. When he didn't see her, he decided to go to her familiar haunt, the newly opened bookstore near Florence.

"Mr. Malfoy?"

He stopped and turned his face towards the voice, "Yes?"

The blonde woman smiled at him, "My name is Katie and I'm Ms. Granger's secretary."

"Oh, I remember, Hermione mentioned you before," he replied with a smile. "What can I help you with?"

Kate pulled her bag to her front, "She actually sent me here to meet you; she wants me to give you something."

His brows furrowed in confusion, "Really? We're supposed to meet here at 6; do you know where she is?"

"She got called for an emergency meeting in the Ministry, so she sent me to inform you that she will be late and to give you something," Katie explained.

He let out relieved sigh, "Okay, that's good to know; I thought I was running late."

Katie pulled out a folded piece of parchment from her bag, "Here it is," she said. She propped the paper towards him, "I don't mean to be rude, but I really can't stay long, I'm needed somewhere, here take it."

He accepted the parchment and thumbed the seal open, "It's okay, thanks for giving this to me, have a good night," he said with a smile. He was about to turn around when he felt a hand on his arm, "Did you forget-"

"Portus."

The recognizable sensation of being sucked into a tube pulled at his navel, "What the bloody hell?"

oOo

Draco landed on his feet and hastily drew his wand.

"Expelliarmus!"

He felt the wand slipped through his fingers, "Fuck!" he thought. He kept his face impassive and took a step back, "Who are you and where is Hermione?"

Katie stuffed his wand inside her pocket, "I already told you who I am, so would you do me a favor and just shut up?" she spat.

"I'm not asking you again, where did you take her?"

"You're Mudblood-"

"Don't you dare call her that! She's more than what you'll ever be!" he sneered.

Katie threw her head back and laughed, "That is, if she's alive," she taunted.

He felt his heart drop to his stomach, tiny shards of ice prickling his veins. "You're lying," he snarled. He balled his hands into tight fists and made an imposing step forward, "You're lying!" he shouted.

Katie held him at wand point, "T - take another step and I won't hesitate blasting your head off."

He noticed the tell-tale shake in her voice so he knew he she was all talk. He took another step, his vision clouded with a red haze of rage.

Katie took a step back, "Incarcerous!" she yelped.

Ropes appeared out of thin air and started coiling around his body, "Where did you take her? What do you want from us?" he demanded.

"I don't answer to you, but since you look pathetic, I'll humor you," Katie said as she lowered her wand to her side.

He subtly flicked his wrist and almost instantly he felt the rope loosen, "Why are you doing this?"

"Someone wants to settle a score with your Mudblood girlfriend, you just happen to be a bonus," Katie replied dryly. "And for the record, I have nothing against you or Hermione; I just needed the money that comes with this job."

"But you already have a bloody job; you work for the Ministry for Merlin's sake!"

"The measly pay? Oh please!" Katie scoffed. She folded her arms on top of her chest and narrowed her eyes into slits, "And for your information, I only took the job at the stupid Ministry to get close to her, I have no use for the meager pay."

He tugged the rope close this hand, "It doesn't make sense - you're not making any sense," he spat.

Katie shrugged, "It's doesn't have to make sense," she said. She then spun on her heels and began making her way towards the door, "I'll be off my way then, bye."

He pushed through the ropes and felt the bond break. He charged towards Katie, not caring if she's a woman.

"Get off me!" Katie yelled in panic.

He wrapped his arms around her and tackled her to the ground, "Wrong move," he sneered. He pried the wand out of her hand and leapt back to his feet. He pointed it towards her prostate form, "Expelliarmus!" he shouted. His wand zoomed towards him and caught it with his other hand. He pocketed the other and pointed his towards Katie, "Incarcerous!"

"How? When?" Katie rasped out, her eyes wide with fear.

"You underestimate me, Katie. I did not survive the war and served the Dark Lord for nothing," he sneered.

Katie struggled with the restraints, "How did you escape? You were bounded!" she cried.

He threw her a disgusted look, "I don't have time for this, where is Hermione?"

"I don't know where she is," Katie gulped.

"I don't think I heard you correctly, but did you just say that you don't know where she is?" he asked while twirling his wand.

"I swear to Merlin, I don't know where she took her!"

He moved closer and dug his wand to her neck, "Her? Who are you working for?"

Katie shook her head, tears spilling down her cheeks, "I can't - she'll kill me!" she cried.

"And you think I won't?" he bellowed.

"You won't kill me, you love her too much to taint your hands with my blood," Katie sputtered. "And she won't forgive you!"

He dug his wand deeper, "Who says she'll have to know?" he asked with an intimidating smirk. He shot up from his perch and started tapping his wand on his arm, "Don't test me, Katie, because you don't know me. You don't know what a Malfoy is capable of," he sneered.

Katie tried her best to sit up, but without her hands, it's futile. "I'm not going to tell you, because I don't bloody know where she took your Mudblood!"

He felt his blood boil upon hearing the loathsome slang. He pointed the wand towards her frail form, his whole body taut with the hostility he's trying to rein. "I'm not going to repeat myself about that word. It's either you tell me where she is or I'll find ways to extract it from you, what's it going to be?"

Katie clamped her mouth shut and threw him a defiant look.

He shrugged his shoulders, "Torture then," he said with nonchalance. He gripped his wand tighter and shifted on his feet, "Don't forget I gave you an option, Merlin, I hate using unforgivables - Cru-"

"Stop! I'll - I'll tell you where she is, please, stop!" Katie cried.

He kept his wand leveled at her face, "So soon? I haven't started yet."

Katie curled on her side and shook her head, "Please - don't use that on me, I'll tell you –- I'll tell you everything I know!" she sobbed.

"Tell me something first, is she still safe as we speak?"

Katie sniffed, "Yes - she hasn't contacted me yet. We have a plan - Hermione is still alive."

He felt the knot in his chest loosen. He sent a silent prayer and lowered his wand, "Good. Now start from the beginning and make it quick - I need to find her."

oOo

Harry felt a sinking feeling inside his stomach, but he can't understand why. He folded his arms on top of his chest and began pacing like a caged animal.

"Harry?"

He heard his wife calling, but he blatantly ignored her.

"Potter!" Ginny shrieked. "I swear to Merlin, if you don't stop that, I will hex your arse to next Sunday!"

His head snapped to his left and saw Ginny glaring at him, "Huh - what?" he asked distractedly.

She rounded the couch and sat down, "Come here, you're making me dizzy." She patted the space beside her, "Did something happen?"

He walked towards her and sat down, "No, but I don't feel right," he admitted. He took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes, "I can feel it in my gut, Gin, something is wrong, but I don't know what it is."

She placed her hand on his back, "Have you tried checking in with Ron?"

"I did, everything is fine," he sighed.

"Then it's nothing."

He willed his body to relax, "You're right, it's probably my over-reactive brain," he conceded. He then turned his head to the side to look at Ginny's face, his brows crinkling with confusion. "Aren't supposed to meet, Mi, today?"

Ginny rolled her eyes, "I was, but then Dray called this morning and begged her to have lunch with him. I'm quite sure those two are still together, making up for lost time and all."

"We're still talking about the same bouncing ferret, right? A begging Malfoy doesn't sound right."

"Nothing is impossible with true love," she sighed dreamily.

"I can't argue with that," he smiled. He leaned back on his seat and tugged her to his chest, "Care to show me how this true love works? I feel left out," he asked while wiggling his brows suggestively.

Ginny's smile turned sultry. She toed off her shoes and climbed on his lap, straddling him. She braced her hands on his shoulders, "Does this work for you, Mr. Potter? Do you still feel left out?"

He slipped his hand to her front and cupped her neck to pull her face closer, "Not even close," he whispered before claiming her lips.

She pressed her body closer and started responding to the kiss.

He nipped her bottom lip before scattering kisses along her cheek down to the column of her neck. He was about to unbutton her top when he caught glimpse of the green flames erupting from the fireplace, "W - hat the?"

Ginny let out squeak as she scurried off his lap. She turned towards the direction he's looking, "Dray?"

Draco bolted out of the fireplace, his face contorted with pain, "She's got Hermione - Potter, you need to help me find her!" he screamed frantically.

He shot out of the couch, "Who's got Hermione? What are you talking about?"

"She will kill her - we've got to find her!"

Ginny jumped of her seat and padded towards Draco. She grabbed his arm and forced him to look at her, "Draco calm down, who's got Hermione?"

Draco's knees buckled and he fell on his knees. He buried his face into his palms and let out a anguished scream.

Ginny dropped down beside him, "Draco, you have to pull it together, who has her?"

"G - greengrass," Draco managed to choke out.

"Daphne? Daphne Greengrass?" he asked.

"No - Astoria."

He started pacing, "I haven't heard about her in years - where the bloody hell did she come from?"

Draco seemed to pull himself together, "I don't know, I -"

He was about to open his mouth to fire more questions, but then he noticed the confused look on his wife's face. "Gin?"

She met his gaze, "We have to find her soon - Hermione is in danger."

"What are you talking about?" he asked.

Ginny stood up, "Astoria - she's insane."

"She is! She kidnapped the woman I love!"

Ginny wrapped her arms around her midsection, dread evident on her face. "Astoria Greengrass was one of our patients in the Spell Damage Ward-" she paused to clear her throat. "She was unstable and very violent-"

Draco shot up to his feet, "They why the fuck did St. Mungos discharge her?" he thundered.

Ginny leveled her stare on Draco, "They didn't, she escaped and was never found," she replied gravely.

"Why didn't the Auror Department heard about this?" he found himself asking.

"The other Healers tried to report it because she's dangerous, but the management won't relent," she said, her voice drenched with disgust. "They red-taped everything because they were more concerned about the hospital's image - that's the reason why I resigned."

His Auror's instinct kicked in, "We don't have time to waste, we need to find Hermione," he said. He grabbed his cloak from the couch, "Malfoy you're with me, we'll head to the Ministry first."

"I want to go to," Ginny said.

His head snapped towards his wife, "You are not going with us and that's final. Go to the Burrow and stay with Molly, we'll be back as soon as we have Hermione."

"But-"

"Potter is right, you should stay at the Burrow," Draco said as he scurried towards him.

"Fine."

He scooped a heaping amount floo and turned his head towards Draco, "We'll find her, even if end up flipping Britain, we'll get her back, do you hear me?"

Myriads of emotions played on his once archrival's face, "Thank you, Potter," he breathed out.

He stepped into the grate, "Ministry of Magic!" he bellowed.

oOo

Hermione hugged her shaky knees to her chest and kept checking the room for a possible escape routes. After the Cruciatus, she was carted into a different room and has been locked in for what felt like hours. Her tears kept falling in a steady rhythm, her hope waning at every hour that passes without any sign of help. She rested her chin on top of her arm, "Draco…please be safe…." she prayed.

The knob rattled before the door slammed open, letting a sliver of line shine through the dark room.

She scrambled out of the floor and took a step back, "W - what do you want?"

"Bloody hell," The newcomer swore.

She knew in an instant that the person who's standing by the door was not her captor, but she still pressed herself to the wall in caution.

"Don't be scared, I won't hurt you."

"I won't trust you unless you show me your face."

The stranger stepped into the light, revealing her face.

She felt her eyes widen in shock, "D - Daphne?" she gasped. "What are you doing here?"

Daphne Greengrass lifted her hand to show her that she doesn't have a wand, "I was about to ask you the same thing, Hermione," she said. She flicked the light switch on the wall to illuminate the whole room, "Imagine my surprise when my elf told me that there's an unidentified woman in our attic."

"I'm in your attic?"

"Long story," Daphne said. She plucked her wand from her pocket and met her gaze, "I don't have time to explain everything, we have to get you out."

She licked her cracked lips, "Do you know who kidnapped me?"

"I have an idea, but I'll explain later. I have to get you out of here before—"

"What the bloody hell do you think you are doing?"

Daphne turned around to face her captor, "Don't take that tone with me Astoria; I'm still your older sister."

She felt her jaw drop in shock, "The cloaked figure was Astoria Greengrass all along?" she thought with disbelief. Never in a million years did it cross her mind that Astoria was capable of doing such, last thing she heard she was confined at the Spell Damaged Ward in St. Mungos.

"I don't care; get out of the way so I can kill that vermin!"

Daphne blocked her deranged sister, "Enough, Torry - let her go."

Astoria shook her head frantically, "NO - she deserves to die! She killed Mum and Dad and destroyed our family! She stole the only man I love - she deserves to rot in hell!"

"Listen to me, Torry - let Hermione go. She didn't kill Mum and Dad; it was the war that ended their life," Daphne said in a placating manner.

Astoria pulled her wand and leveled it at Daphne's face, "Don't make me use my wand, Daphne - I swear to Merlin I will!" she shrieked.

"Will you kill me?" Daphne subtly moved her right hand to her back, her wand sticking out towards her. "Your own flesh and blood?"

She understood the gesture so she peeled herself from the wall, her eyes trained on Astoria. She edged closer without being noticed, "Make this work, please," she thought repeatedly.

Astoria threw her a dirty look before moving her gaze back to her sister, "I will if you get in my way," she sneered.

"Torry, love, please don't do this - give me your wand," she cajoled with a soothing voice.

"NO!"

She found her opening; she managed to pluck the wand from Daphne's hand just before she lunged towards her sister, trapping her into a tight hug. "Run!" she shouted.

Pure adrenaline rushed through her veins, giving her legs strength to sprint towards the open door.

Astoria let out an angry high-pitched scream, "How could you - she is mine!" she cried as she struggled through her sister's grasp.

"Leave!" Daphne hissed.

She tightened her hold on the wand and pointed it towards Astoria, "I can't leave you, she'll kill you."

"That's the best decision you ever made, scum!" Astoria cackled.

Daphne tried tackling Astoria to the ground, "Leave, I can handle this!" she shouted.

"I won't let you get hurt, I can't do that!" she hissed back.

Astoria's wand hand slipped through Daphne's grasp, "Sectumsempra!"

She screamed.

oOo

"We have to go in, Potter! We don't have enough time!" Draco spat.

Harry threw him a dirty look, "This Manor has hundreds of the ancient wards, if you didn't notice, Malfoy," he growled. He moved his eyes back to the tall metal gates, his hand swishing and flicking with an invisible pattern, "If I could just blast through this, I swear to Merlin, we would be in there by now."

He pulled his wand from his pocket, "Let me try, maybe they have the same wards as the Manor."

"Why didn't you just say so?"

He ignored Harry and pointed his wand towards it. He felt dark magic lick his skin, but he pushed through with it. After a few minutes of chanting every spell he could think off, he felt the wards give in and the metal gates swung open.

Harry's head snapped towards him, his eyes wide in surprise.

He lowered his wand, "Let's go."

"Ever think of switching careers?"

"Not now, Potter."

"Just saying."

Daphne's body turned limp, blood seeping to her dress.

Astoria's hand dropped the floor, her eyes wide in shock.

"Expelliarmus!" Hermione shouted.

The wand flew away from Astoria's hand, but she didn't seem to notice. She wrapped her arms around her sister, "D-daphne?" When she didn't get a response, her hate filled eyes snapped to her, "This is your fault, Mudblood - your fault!" she screamed. She struggled out of Daphne's body, "I will kill you!"

She shook her head, "It's over, Astoria."

Astoria looked more frantic; she scrambled to her feet and pulled a dagger out of nowhere. "I will kill you!"

"Lockhart!" Draco yelled while running towards the ground staircase.

"Professor?" Harry asked as he matched his pace.

"What the bloody hell are you talking about?"

"Lockhart - DADA, remember?"

Before he could respond, an elf appeared right in front of them. "Master Malfoy is calling Lockhart, how can help Lockhart help?" he asked with a bow.

Harry wrinkled his nose, "Who the bloody hell names their elf over that stupid-"

"Where's your Mistress?" he asked, cutting Harry off.

"Mistress Daphne is in the attic, Master. She is helping the Mudblood escape!"

Harry pointed his wand towards the elf, but he beat him to it; "Don't call her that or I will see to it that you're given a wardrobe full of clothes!" he barked.

The elf's eyes almost bulged out of its sockets, "Lockhart is bad, Lockhart won't do it again, I'm sorry Master!"

"We're wasting time, we have to find Hermione."

He pushed the elf out of the way and ran towards the stairs. He was almost at the landing when he heard a spell that made his knees weak, making him stumble back.

"What the hell Malfoy!"

He caught his bearings and bolted without a response. He yanked the door open and pointed his wand towards Astoria's back, "Petrificus Totalus!"

Astoria's body froze mid lunge before she stiffly fell back on the floor.

Hermione let her wand drop, her eyes rimmed with tears, "D - draco?"

He ran towards her and pulled her into a tight hug. He buried his face on her neck, "Thank Merlin! I thought I'd lose you again - thank Merlin you're safe, I've got you," he murmured.

Heart wrenching sobs escaped her lips as she clung to him tightly.

Harry walked towards Daphne's prostate form and started checking her. He let out long strings expletives when he recognized the spell that hit her. He pressed his finger to her neck and felt relief wash through him when he felt a faint thump, "Malfoy," he called out.

Hermione let her arms drop and pushed him, "Y - you have to help Daphne, she's - Astoria," she rambled almost incoherently.

"She's alive, but barely holding on," Harry said. He locked eyes with him, "It's Sectumsempra, I don't know the counter spell."

He felt guilt and shame eat at his gut with the irony of the situation but he pushed it aside. He kneeled beside Daphne's blood soaked body and began waving his wand in an intricate pattern, his Godfather's words circling inside his head. After a couple of seconds, the blood flow stopped, "We have to take her to St. Mungos, she lost a lot of blood," he said shakily.

Harry stood up, "I'll have to call for back up, but we don't have much time, can you-"

"We'll take her," Hermione interjected. She kneeled beside him and placed her hand on top of Daphne's, "You take care of Astoria," she said.

He copied Hermione's stance, "I'll see you at the Ministry," he paused to clear his throat. "And thank you, Potter."

Harry nodded, "You're welcome, now go."

He didn't need to be told twice; he wrapped his free arm around Hermione's waist and nodded.

Hermione swished and flicked her wand, dissapparating them with a loud crack.

Chapter 26: Hold on we're going home
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Chapter Twenty Six:

"I got my eyes on you, you're everything that I see I want your hot love and emotion endlessly. I can't get over you, you left your mark on me..." Hold on we're going home by Christina Grimmie

"HELP, we need help, please!" Hermione shouted as soon as her feet touched the familiar floor of St. Mungos.

The Healer standing by the nurses' station hurried towards them, "What happened?" he asked as he plucked his wand from his coat.

"She was hit by a curse, we managed to stop the bleeding, but she lost a lot of blood," Hermione replied.

The Healer summoned a stretcher and helped Draco move Daphne. He ran his wand along the blonde woman's unconscious body, his brows furrowed with concentration.

"She's still alive, right?" Draco asked.

"She is and you're right, she lost a lot of blood," The Healer responded. He turned his face to the side and beckoned a nurse over, "Summon Healer Talbott, STAT and order a blood replenishing potion."

The nurse gave a curt nod before pushing the stretcher towards the lift.

"Do you know what spell was used to cause the bleeding?"

Hermione turned her gaze towards Draco and saw him nod, "It's a slashing curse called Sectumsepra," she replied.

The Healer threw them a skeptical look, "I haven't heard about that spell."

"Not many people do," Draco said. "And just to make things clear, we weren't the one who casted it, she was assaulted by her own sister."

"Oh."

Hermione shifted closer and wrapped her arm around Draco's, "Astoria Greengrass is the perpetuator and she's in Auror custody as we speak," she added for good measure.

"I see." The Healer gave Hermione a once over, "It looks like you also took a beating, why don't we get you checked as well."

"I don't think-"

"That would be great, thank you," Draco interjected.

"But I'm okay, Dray."

Draco wrapped his arm around Hermione's shoulders and pulled her closer, "I just want to be sure, love, humor me?"

Hermione looked into his eyes and saw how serious Draco was, "Fine," she acquiesced albeit reluctantly.

"Perfect, let's get started then."

oOo

"Let me out of here! Blood traitor! Mudbloods - you're all the same!" Astoria shrieked.

Harry pinched the bridge of his nose, his face scrunched up with irritation.

"Shut it or I'll personally see to it that you get the Dementor's kiss without even the benefit of a trial!" Ron bellowed.

Astoria's eyes widen with fear and immediately clamped her mouth shut.

Ron pulled a chair right in front of Harry's desk and plopped down, "I still can't believe you went ahead with Malfoy and didn't tell me."

Harry took his glasses off, "I know and I'm sorry. We were running out of time and Malfoy is about to blow his top, I couldn't just let him leave and ended up murdering someone - Mione would hex my arse."

"Speaking of Mione, is she alright? She didn't get hurt or anything, right?"

"I really haven't gotten the chance to speak with her, everything happened so fast, but then, she looked alright to me."

Ron thumped his hand on the table, "Then we should get this nutter taken care of so we could check on her."

Harry put his glasses back and pushed away from his desk, "Let's do that."

oOo

"Ginny - really, I'm alright."

Ginny pulled her into a tight hug, "I was so scared, thank Merlin you're okay."

She ran her hand along Ginny's back, "I know, love, but I'm here now."

Ginny squeezed her before she pulled away, "Good thing Dray and Harry was able to find you on time," she sniffed.

"That they did," she replied.

The door to the exam room opened, admitting Draco in. He cast one look at them and the stoic look on his face softened, "We're good to go, Healer Thompson cleared you and I already took care of the discharge papers."

"Thank Merlin," she muttered. She then hopped off of the exam table, "I just need to take a long bath and go to sleep."

Draco made his way towards her and pulled her into a hug, "Let's go home then."

Ginny popped her hands inside her pockets, "I'll check on Daphne and tell Harry you guys went home."

"You sure?" she asked.

Ginny nodded, "You go and take some rest, today has been rough for the both of you."

"Thanks, Gin," Draco said.

She wrapped her arm around Draco's waist and nuzzled her face to his chest, "Take me home, please?" she whispered.

Draco plucked his wand from his back pocket and tightened his hold on her, "Your wish is my command."

oOo

As soon as they landed inside Hermione's flat, her knees gave in. Draco hauled her to his chest to keep her from falling, "Whoa, are you okay?"

She tightened her hold on him, "Just got a little light headed for a second there," she murmured.

He leaned forward and wordlessly scooped her off the floor.

"Dray, put me down!"

"Stop fidgeting," he chided. "Where's your room?"

"I'm not kidding; I'm too heavy for this."

"You're light as a feather, love, don't worry about it. Now, why don't you be a good girl and point me to your room."

She gestured towards the dimly lit hallway, "Last door," she said with defeated sigh.

He coddled her closer and carried her towards the room. He nudged the door open with his foot and gently lowered her on the bed, "I'll draw the bath for you, just sit here and try to relax," he placed a chaste kiss on her forehead.

"Okay."

He smiled at her before walking towards the en-suite bathroom.

She collapsed back on the bed and closed her eyes. Calling it a tough day was an understatement. She was abducted, tortured and saw her life flash right in front of her eyes. If Draco and Harry hadn't made it time, there was no doubt that she wouldn't have made it out alive. She turned on her side and curled like fetus, the corner of her eyes heating up with tears. She moved her hand to her mouth to stifle the sobs that was about to escape her lips. Her whole body shook as she let out the pent up emotion she repressed for hours, burying her face into the comforter to hide what she perceived as weakness.

"Oh, love."

She felt the bed dip as a familiar arm slipped around her stomach, "I - I didn't mean to - to cry," she sobbed.

"You're safe now, Mi - I'm here," he cooed and spooned her.

"I - I was so scared, Dray - so scared. I was so sure that I wasn't going to make it. Astoria - I saw the look in her eyes, it was pure madness."

He tugged her closer, "I was scared too," he whispered. He then lifted his head so that his lips were levelled with her ear, "When I realized that you were taken against your will, I was beyond myself. I was terrified - I - I had to find you and I swear to Merlin, I wouldn't have stopped until I get to you, I can't lose you again, Mi, not when I just found you," he admitted.

"Oh, Dray!" she gasped. She wiggled in his arms and turned to face him. She cupped his face and stared straight into his stormy grey eyes, "I wasn't going down without fight, I would've have fought my way back to you too, I love you."

"I love you so much more, Mi - more than my life," he said before bridging the gap between them, claiming her lips with a passionate kiss.

oOo

Daphne stirred from her deep sleep, awareness slowly creeping into her system.

"You're awake."

She turned her head to the side and noticed a familiar red-head sitting on the chair, "I - yes," she croaked.

Ginny threw her an awkward smile before standing up. She made her way towards the bed, "How are you feeling?"

She cleared her throat and swallowed thickly, "Like I've been flayed open," she paused to check her surroundings. "Where am I?"

"You're in St. Mungos, Hermione and Draco brought you here," Ginny explained.

"They're both okay?"

"Yes, they are - thanks to you." Ginny shifted towards the foot of the bed and sat down, "Your sister - Astoria is already in Auror's custody."

She averted her gaze, her shoulders slumped in defeat. "I deduced that," she sighed.

"I'm sorry about that."

"I know."

The door opened a fraction, revealing Harry's face, "Is she awake?" he half whispered.

"She is."

Harry entered the room and closed the door behind him, "I assume that Malfoy already took Hermione home?"

"Yeah, Mione was a little sore so they left. But don't worry, Healer Thompson gave her a full check up and she's okay, just shaken."

"I see," Harry said. He then turned his attention towards her, "Ms. Greengrass, I'm glad to see that you're awake, how are you feeling?"

She fought the urge to roll her eyes, "Like what I've told the Missus - like I've been flayed."

Harry cringed, his cheeks turning tad pinker.

She clasped her hands on top of her tummy, "I was told that Torry is in custody, how is she?"

"She's still in the Ministry; we haven't moved her to Azkaban."

She found herself nodding, "I see," she said. She then let out another sigh, "Will she be granted a trial?"

Harry shifted on his feet, clearly uncomfortable with her question. "Yes."

"She's mentally unstable, Harry," Ginny said while throwing her an apologetic look. "Doesn't that automatically exempt her from all that and just have heard confined in a mental institution?"

"Usually, that's how it goes." Harry moved his gaze to her, "Are you willing to have her evaluated and moved into a Ministry approved asylum if the test confirms her condition?"

"Can you guarantee that she won't be harmed?" she asked.

Harry nodded, "I give you my word."

"Will I be granted visits?"

"Yes."

"Okay, I give you permission to have her tested and committed then."

"Thank you, Ms. Greengrass."

She offered a small smile, "Don't you think we're way past the formalities? You saw me bleeding after all," she joked.

Harry accepted the olive branch, "If you insist, Daphne."

oOo

Draco fluffed the pillows as he waited for Hermione to finish her bath. After the mini-breakdown, he insisted that she follow through with the bath and promised her that he will stick around. Not that he ever thought about leaving, after what happened, he wouldn't let her out of his sight - not even for a minute. When he heard the water stop, he stood up from his perch and made his way towards the door, "Mi?"

"Yeah?"

"I'm just going to the living room while you get dressed; want me to fix you something to drink?"

"Tea would be great; I'll be there in a minute!"

"Okay," he replied. He stepped out into the hallway and retraced the steps back to the living room. He made a bee line towards the pantry and wandlessly summoned a kettle. He rummaged through the cupboards and found her favorite loose tea leaves. He flicked his wrist and the water started to bubble almost instantly. He measured the right amount of leaves and left it to steep. He walked towards the fridge and took out a jug of milk. He placed it on top of the counter and waited for the tea to finish steeping.

Everything that has happened today shook him to the core. He knew that he loved Hermione with all his heart and he would follow her through the ends of the earth, but today, he realized that it was an understatement. Seeing her standing at wand point without any means to protect herself nearly drove him back to a dark place. He knew right there at the moment that he would do everything to protect her - to kill for her, to die for her.

Hermione Jean Granger is his end and beginning and without her, he would cease to exist - life would not be worth living. He felt the wind get knocked out of his chest as a new realization dawned on him; "Life really becomes clearer when you're in the precipice of death" he thought. A shaky breath escaped his lips as the gears in his mind latched on an idea and it won't stop churning.

"Dray?"

His head snapped towards the voice and saw the love of his life staring at him with concern. He hastily wiped the deer-caught-in-headlights-look and offered her a smile, "Hey, that was fast -" he paused and gave a hear once over, the corner of his lips tugging up when he recognized the over-sized shirt the hung on her petite frame. "I was wondering where that shirt went."

She blushed, her cheeks turned into a beautiful shade of red, "I - err - yeah," she rambled.

He moved towards the kettle and checked it, "Tea is ready," he announced. He then grabbed two cups and started pouring, "A spot of milk and 1 cube of sugar, right?"

"Yes and thank you."

"You're welcome."

She rounded the counter and made her way towards the cupboard, "I fancy some nibbles with my tea, I have cookies."

He threw her side glance, "You baked?"

She chuckled. "Not if my life depended on it, Ginny made it." She took the tin out and grabbed a plate. She popped the lid off and began pulling out several large pieces of cookies.

"Where should we take this?"

"The couch is fine," she replied.

He flicked his wand and watched as the tea cups floated towards the living room. He peered behind her shoulder, "What cookies are we having? I don't see any chocolate chips."

She screwed the lid back on, "It's Snickerdoodles, I think."

He scrunched his face, "Snickerwhat?"

She shrugged her shoulders, "It's basically cookie dough rolled in cinnamon sugar," she fished a cookie from the plate, "here, try one, it's good."

He plucked the sweet confection from her hand and took a large bite.

She grabbed the plate and made her way towards the couch. She sat down with a plop and tucked her feet under her, "Come sit with me," she called out.

He followed her and sat down, "These aren't bad, didn't know Gin could bake."

"She's Molly's daughter, that's given," she replied between nibbles. She then leaned forward and moved the plate to the table and plucked her tea. She took a small sip, "This tastes wonderful - just right, thanks."

"You really should stop thanking me, Mi," he said. He copied her and sipped his, "This is the only thing I can do that tastes good, believe me."

"But you're good with potions, which mean you're good in following recipes."

"Good with dead toad's eye and lacewings - give me chicken and I'll burn it," he snorted. He placed the cup back on the table and swivelled to his left to face her. He slipped his hand under her legs and rested it on his lap, his fingers kneading her taut calves, "Did the bath help? You're feeling better now?"

"Much better because you're here," she replied with a small smile. She stared at him for a moment before shifting on her seat. She placed the cup back on the table before crawling on his lap, straddling him.

His hands snapped towards her waist, holding her against him, "Whoa, what brought this on?"

She slipped her arms around his neck and hugged him tightly, her face buried in the crook of his neck. "I just - I'm just so glad that you're here - we're here."

He felt emotions he locked inside his chest burst. He wrapped his arms around her and hugged her tightly, "I love you, Hermione and I'm glad we're here too."

Chapter 27: Marry your daughter
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Chapter Twenty Seven:

"Can marry your daughter and make her my wife? I want her to be the only girl that I'll love for the rest of my life." Marry your daughter by Train

oOo

One month later:

"Just a minute!" Anne Granger yelled as she walked towards the door. She straightened her dress before opening it, "Draco?"

Draco cleared his throat and smiled nervously, "Mrs. Granger, I hope I didn't come at an inconvenient time?"

Anne smiled and gestured for the young man to come in, "Not at all, come on in. Richard and I just came back from the office, so you're right on time," she replied as she closed the door behind them. "And you should really start calling me, Anne. Mrs. Granger sounds so formal and kind of reminds me of my in-law," she added the last bit with a shudder.

He chuckled as he took his seat on the couch, "If you insist, thank you."

"Honey, Draco is here! Come on down," Anne hollered. She then turned to look at their guest; her eyes narrowing a bit, "You look a lot paler, dear, do you want something to drink?"

"Err - water would be nice, thank you," he replied politely.

"I'll get us some drinks then," Anne said with a small smile. "Richard would be down in a minute and I'll be back in jiffy, make yourself comfortable."

He waited until Anne was out of sight before he let out the breath that he seemed to be holding, "Luci, I hope you're right with this," he thought.

"Draco?"

He immediately shot up from his seat and turned towards the voice, "Good afternoon, Sir."

Richard chuckled and motioned for him to take a seat; "This is a pleasant surprise, is Hermione with you?"

He sat back down and folded his sweaty hands on top of his lap, "Actually, Sir, Hermione is not with me," he replied. He then levelled his gaze with the older man, "I came here alone today to talk to you and Mrs. Granger."

Richard quirked an inquisitive brow, "I think I already have an idea what this is about, but let's wait for the Missus, she loves these sort of things," he said with smirk.

He felt some tension leave his body, making him relax a little bit.

Anne appeared as if on cue and placed the tray filled with refreshments on the table. She took her place next her husband, "So, Draco, are you finally asking for our daughter's hand?"

oOo

"I don't know where that prick went," Hermione huffed. "I already tried calling his phone multiple times but he's not picking up."

"Didn't he tell you that he had to meet some suppliers today?" Ginny said calmly.

"He did, but it's already noon."

Ginny shook her head and continued frosting her carrot cupcakes; "Did you try the Manor?"

She slumped back on her chair, "No."

"Why didn't you?"

"That's what mobile phones are for," she replied petulantly, "And I just don't want to."

"Then stop whining like a brat," The red head chastised. "I'm sure he's just working."

She huffed for what felt like the nth time and snatched one of the newly frosted cake, "I'll try," she said before taking a huge bite.

Ginny watched her best friend with fascination as she managed to stuff half of the cake inside her mouth, "Good?" she chuckled.

"Best cook ever!"

"I know!" Ginny quipped.

She playfully rolled her eyes at Ginny and made a grab for her tea, "Where is Harry by the way?"

"At work."

"Isn't it Saturday?"

Ginny rolled her eyes, "You know how the Ministry works, slave drivers I say."

"Let's agree to disagree on that, shall we?" She replied with a cringe.

Ginny laughed.

oOo

"Are you sure about this? I mean, don't get me wrong, dear, I have nothing against it – in fact, I'm actually thrilled about it," Anne said. "But marriage is a lifetime commitment and you have just gotten back together, are you sure you're not rushing things?"

Draco thought about the same question a couple of times, but as each day passes, he knew that he was in it for the right reasons. He cleared his throat and looked at his future mother-in-law straight in the eyes, "I haven't been this sure of anything in my entire life, Anne, ever. I love your daughter more than my life and have been loving her almost half of it. I know that it may look like I'm rushing things, but I'm really not," he paused to clear the lump in his throat. "I knew the moment that she let me back in her life that I wouldn't leave her side ever again." He turned his eyes to Richard, "Hermione is my everything and I promise you now that I would spend all of my days making her happy."

Anne cleared her throat, her eyes a tad bit misty, "Richard?"

"I'm only going to ask you this one last time, young man, before I give you our answer."

He nodded.

Richard looked at him squarely in the eyes, "Marriage doesn't always mean happy times; you would fight and have tough times but your vows still hold its weight. You can't walk away even if it's the easiest thing to do. So, having said that, are you 100% sure that you are ready for that kind of commitment?"

He didn't miss a beat, "I am, Sir, I'm ready for it."

Richard studied his face for a full minute before turning his gaze towards his wife.

A large smile blossomed on Anne's lips, her head bobbing in approval.

"Welcome to the family, son," Richard said with a soft smile.

Relief flooded his chest, "You don't know how much this means to me, thank you," he said with all the sincerity he could muster.

"Don't hurt my daughter and make her happy."

"I'll do my utter best, she's my life."

"I'm so happy for you both!" Anne exclaimed with a sniff. She stood up from her perch and opened her arms, "Come here and give me a hug."

He obliged. He stood up and scooped the petite woman in a bear hug, "Thank you, Anne. I love Hermione so much and I promise to take good care of her," he whispered.

Anne patted his back, "I know and I can't be happier."

Richard cleared his throat loudly, "Enough with this emotional stuff, let's celebrate!"

Anne disentangled herself from Draco and wiped her eyes, "We should," she concurred.

"One down, three to go," he thought.

oOo

"How did it go?"

"It went perfectly, thank you, Luc!" Draco said with a large smile.

Luci squealed in delight, "Where are you off to now?"

Draco checked his watch, "The Burrow."

"Good luck! Call me again as soon as you're done!"

"Will do, talk to you later."

oOo

"Malfoy? What are you doing here?" Ron asked in surprise.

Draco let out a sheepish smile, "Can I come in?"

Ron opened the door and pointed towards the couch, "Mione, is not here though."

"I know," he replied.

"Err – then why are you here?"

"I'm actually here to talk to you, Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, err – are they here?"

Ron's brow furrowed, "Did something happen? Is Hermione okay?"

He shifted in his seat, his nerves getting the best of him. "I – err – I need to ask you guys something - and Hermione is perfectly fine, she's with your sister, I think."

"Oh okay," Ron replied. "Let me just get Mum and Dad."

"Thank you."

"Draco Malfoy is sitting in the lounge room without Hermione, are my eyes deceiving me?" Lavender said, her eyes pinned on Draco's direction.

"You're not seeing things, it's the ferret," Ron replied.

Lavender turned towards her husband, "Why?"

"No idea, love," Ron shrugged. "He said he wants to talk to Mum and Dad and me, I'm not sure what that means."

"Get Mum and Dad, I'll make some tea," Lavender said.

"Okay."

"So, how can we be of help?" Arthur Weasley asked.

Draco studied the four people looking at him closely and gulped, "I came here - I came here to make amends, Sir."

Ron choked on his tea.

Lavender almost spilled hers on her lap.

Arthur threw the blonde man a curious look, "For what exactly?" he tested.

He levelled his gaze with Arthur, "For everything," he paused to swallow the snitch-sized lump in his throat. "I cannot change the past nor will I justify my actions," he moved his eyes towards Ron, "I've wronged you on so many occasions; threw words that I cannot take back, but only regret." He then turned his gaze to Molly, "I'm hoping that it's not too late to try and make everything right. I'm sorry, I truly am," he said with full sincerity.

"Why the sudden change of heart, Mr. Malfoy?" Molly asked.

"Because I've realized the wrongness in my ways and I want to become a better person for the woman I love," he replied truthfully. "I'm hoping this could be the start."

Ron cleared his throat, "That was a lot to take in," he said. He then leaned forward and braced his elbows on his knees, "But for Mione's sake, yeah, this can be a start."

"But that's not the only reason why you came here, Mr. Malfoy, am I right?" Arthur asked.

"Draco – please, call me, Draco," he insisted politely. "You are right, that's not the only reason," he admitted.

Molly smiled, "I think I have an idea."

"Oh Merlin!" Lavender squealed.

"What's happening?" Ron asked his wife.

He took that as an opening and stated his intentions, "I also came here today to ask for your blessing, I would like to formally ask for Hermione's hand in marriage."

"You are aware that you should be asking her parents, right?" Ron asked.

"I already did, but I also know you all mean the world to her, so…"

"Did you ask Mione?" Lavender asked.

"Err – not yet, but I'll ask her soon," he replied.

"Do you promise to take care of her and never leave her?" Arthur asked.

"Yes, Sir," he answered.

Molly seem to study him for a second before turning towards her husband, "Well, I guess there's nothing left to do but to give you our blessing, Draco."

The heavy feeling that he carried in his chest for years lessened upon hearing the Weasley's approval, "Thank you so much, I can't – just thank you," he muttered.

"Hermione is like a sister to me, Malfoy, I love her like I love Ginny. If I ever find that you hurt her in any way, you will answer to me, do you understand?" Ron said.

"You have my word, I will never hurt her."

Ron nodded as he extended his hand, "Welcome to the family then."

"Thank you," he replied as he shook the red head's hand.

Lavender clapped her hand in excitement, "You and Hermione will make cute babies, I can already see them!"

Ron hastily pulled his hand away, "Argh, don't give me the visuals!"

He laughed – HARD.

oOo

"Ginny, are you expecting a visitor?" Harry asked.

"No, why?" Ginny replied as she dried her hands.

Harry stood from the couch and walked towards the door, "Because someone is knocking."

Ginny rolled her eyes, "Open the door to see who it is then."

Harry waved his wand and pulled the door open, "Malfoy?"

"Evening, Potter, can I come in?" Draco asked awkwardly.

"Ginny! Malfoy is here," Harry called out. He pointed towards the living room, "Have a seat."

"Be there in a bit!"

"Do you want something to drink?"

He sat down, "No, I'm good – thank you."

"Did you already call Mimi? She's been looking for you all day," Ginny said as she rounded the coffee table.

"Not yet, but I will after," he replied.

"Err – well, I'll take my leave now," Harry said.

"Actually, I came here to talk to you two," he said.

Harry's eyes widened in surprise.

Ginny threw him an inquisitive look before pulling her husband to sit beside her.

Harry studied him for a minute before speaking, "I'm listening."

"What is this about, Dray?" Ginny added.

"Damn! I never thought talking to Potter is much harder than talking to Weasley," He thought. "I – err –I…"

"Spit it out, Malfoy."

Ginny nudged her husband's arm, "Be nice!" she scolded. She then turned towards Draco and smiled encouragingly, "Go on," she coaxed.

He swallowed his nerves and decided to go for it, "I came here because I'm going to ask Hermione to marry me and I wanted to ask for your blessing."

Ginny squealed in delight, "Finally!"

"That's it?" Harry asked.

"Yes – err, yeah."

Harry leaned back on the couch, his eyes never leaving the blonde man sitting right in front of him. "Did you ask Mione's parents? You should ask them first, you know."

"I already did, they're the first one I've asked," he replied.

"First one?" Ginny asked.

He nodded, "I went to them first and then went to the Burrow after."

"You went to the Burrow?" Harry asked incredulously.

"I did, I made amends and asked them for her hand and they gave their blessing," he explained. "Even Ron, after he's done with the threats."

Ginny's eyes began to tear up as she stared at her best friend. She jumped up from her seat and made a bee line towards Draco, "I'm so happy for you and Mimi!" she exclaimed before engulfing him into a tight hug.

"I'm happy for us too, Gin, so happy," he replied.

"We're family now! I can't believe it!" Ginny gushed as she made her way back to her husband.

His eyes zeroed on to his once arch-nemesis, "Like what I've told Ron, I cannot change past nor take back the words I've already said – I can only regret them. I truly am sorry for the things I've done, Potter, I hope you can forgive me."

"You hurt a single hair on my sister's head and you die, am I clear?"

"I'll Avada myself," he replied.

"Then there's no need to bring up the past anymore, clean slate," Harry said. He then stretched his arms up and let out a loud yawn, "My role here is done, I'll go up," he said as he stood up.

"Thank you, Po – Harry."

Harry cringed, "Still not used to that," he admitted.

Ginny burst out laughing.

oOo

"Darling, you've been standing there for quite some time now, is there something you need?" Narcissa asked as she close the book she's reading.

Draco smiled sheepishly as he entered the lounge room, "Good evening, Mum," he said.

Narcissa tapped the empty space on her left, "Sit," she ordered. She put the book on the side table and focused on her attention on her son, "What is it, love?"

"There's something I want to tell you."

"I've already deduced that," Narcissa replied with a chuckle. "Go on, now,"

"Imgoingtoaskhermionetomarryme."

Narcissa's brows furrowed in confusion, "That sounded a bit Mermish, can you repeat that?"

He took a deep calming breath and sat straighter, "I'm going to ask Hermione to marry me," he repeated.

"Getting married."

A tug of apprehension pulled on his guts, making him shift nervously on his seat. He reached for his Mother's hand and squeezed it, "Mum?"

"Getting married," Narcissa repeated, as if tasting the words in her mouth. After a few seconds, the corners of her mouth started twitching, "Oh my Merlin! My son is getting married!" she breathed out.

He felt the earlier tension leave his body, "Yes, Mum, I'm getting married," he confirmed.

Narcissa threw her arms around him, "I'm so happy, love! Congratulations!"

"I'm happy too, Mum, really happy," he replied. He then pulled away but kept hold of his Mum's hand, "So, do you accept my choice? I'm marrying a Muggleborn witch?" he asked.

"Does she make you happy?"

"Yes."

"Do you love her?"

"With all of my heart."

Narcissa leaned forward and planted a soft kiss on his forehead, "Then that's all that matters to me," she said.

He smiled, "Thank you, Mum, you have no idea how much this means to me."

"So, do I have to wait till your wedding day to meet my future daughter-in-law or do you have any plans of bringing her here?"

"You'll meet her soon, Mum, really soon."

Chapter 28: Perfect
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Chapter Twenty-eight:

"'Cause we were just kids when we fell in love, not knowing what it was. I will not give you up this time. But darling, just kiss me slow, your heart is all I own and in your eyes you're holding mine."

oOo

Draco walked towards Hermione, making sure not to make a sound. He carefully leaned forward, "Hey, beautiful, miss me?" he whispered.

Hermione jerked hard, accidentally hitting him on the nose, "Gaaaahh!"

"Ouch! Buggering hell!"

Hermione instantly turned around upon recognizing his voice, "Oh my gosh, Dray!" she shrieked when she saw him clutching his face. She tugged his hand off and began checking his nose, "Are you okay? Does it hurt?"

He grimaced when she poked a tender spot, "I should be happy that your reflex is improving, Mi, but you almost took my nose off!" he sputtered.

"You shouldn't have scared me like that, you're a prat!" she huffed. She pulled her hand away and folded her arms across her chest, "I'm fairly convinced you earned that now."

He chuckled. He took a step closer and wrapped his arms around her petite form, "I've missed you, though."

Hermione glared at him for few seconds before giving in. She snaked her arms around his waist and tilted her face to his, "Where have you been yesterday?" she asked with a pout.

"Meeting with some important people."

"All day?"

"Yep, I had to finalize some stuff."

Hermione didn't look convinced but didn't pry further. She leaned her cheek on his chest and let out a contented sigh, "I've missed you too."

He tightened his arms around her, "This feels good, eh?"

"Better than dear old Crook, I'd say."

He laughed. "I love you and your silly mouth."

She pulled a fraction and braced her chin on his chest, "I won't get tired of hearing that, I love you too, Draco."

"Ditto," he replied before planting a chaste kiss on her nose.

"Ack! Get a bloody room, will you?"

"In case you haven't noticed, we're in a room, Blaise," he groaned as he gently pulled away. "What are you doing here anyway?"

"I feel so welcome, really," Blaise huffed.

Hermione chuckled, "Why don't you sit down and tell us what made you grumpy this morning."

Blaise unceremoniously plopped down the couch and pointed towards Draco, "I was about to ask you if you have seen that love sick puppy, but seeing him here already answered my question."

He sat down next to Hermione and made a show of rolling his eyes, "The love sick puppy is here, what can he help you with?"

All the faux annoyance faded on Blaise's face, "Have you seen Theo?"

"No, why?"

"I've been trying to reach that wanker since Friday, but I can't seem to find him."

"Did you try his house?" Hermione piped in.

"That's the first place I checked, but even his elves can't get a hold of him," Blaise replied.

"I think I have an idea where he is."

Blaise leaned forward, "Err – where?"

He met the other man's gaze, "With my cousin, I think he's with my cousin."

oOo

Hermione and Draco both appeared in her living room; their face red with laugher. She staggered towards the loveseat and collapsed on some pillows, her whole body still shaking with mirth.

"You should've seen Theo's face! He was so red!" Draco sputtered as he fell beside her.

"Oh Merlin!" she said between giggles. "That was the most awkward first meeting I've ever had in my entire life!"

"They should've heeded Blaise's advice and hid in a room or a broom closet or something - not our fault."

"Blaise is another thing, that hypocrite!" she huffed. "For all we know, Daphne and him are going at it!"

Draco let out a full belly laugh, making the whole room vibrate with his laughter.

She leaned back on the couch, "It's been a long day."

Draco scooted closer and gathered her into his arms, "It was, you ready for bed then?"

"Think so," she replied between yawns, leaning her head on his broad shoulder.

He kissed her forehead, "Are you free tomorrow?"

Too tired to give out an audible answer, she just replied with a nod.

"Want to go out on a date with me?"

"Where to?"

"Mum wants to meet you," he replied nonchalantly. "I think it's about time too, don't you think?"

The word "mum" seemed to suck out all of her sleepiness, making her more awake. She pulled away from his chest to get a better look at his face, "Your Mum?" she checked.

He cocked his head to side as if studying her reaction, "Yes, don't you want to meet her?"

"Does – does she know that we're – you know?"

"That we're what?"

She tucked a stray curl behind her ear, "That we're together."

He stared at her for a few beats, the corners of his lips twitching upwards. "You look cute when you're nervous."

"I'm not kidding, Dray," she warned.

He chuckled, "I'm sorry, I just can't help it." He then grabbed her hand and laced their fingers together, "But to appease you, yes, she knows for a while now."

"What does she know?"

"That I've been in love with you for the longest time and you're in love with me too."

She nodded, squeezing his hand somewhat subconsciously, "Does she accept? I'm a mudb-"

"Don't even finish that sentence, Granger," he cut her off. He turned towards her and made sure that their eyes were levelled with each other. "Mum knows and she's happy for us. There is nothing to accept, so don't ever think that there is, do you understand me?"

She stared into his eyes and saw how serious he was. "I'm just-" she paused and chuckled nervously, "I don't know what to tell her, it's not like I meet parents as a hobby, you know?" she joked.

"Thank Merlin for that," he jested back. He then pulled her close again, resting his chin on top of her head. "Just be your normal self, Mum already likes you. Don't worry your pretty head about it, everything will be fine."

She felt herself relax with his soothing words, "I'm just a little bit scared, I guess," she admitted.

"Don't be, I'll be there with you," he assured her. "I'll pick you up tomorrow then?"

"Will 10 be alright?"

"10 is perfect."

oOo

"So, you're finally asking her huh?" Theo asked.

Draco smirked, "Yes, I will. This has long been overdue, I should've asked her ages ago."

Theo nodded before turning his eyes to his other mate, "You're good, right?"

"Of course I am," Blaise replied with an eye roll. "Just ease up with the snogging, it's sickening to see, to be honest."

Draco chucked a pillow at Blaise, "Not my fault you don't have the balls to snog Daphne in public," he retorted.

Blaise face turned a tad bit red, "Stay out of my snogging business!"

"So, there is really a snogging business after all," Theo mused.

"Yes!"

"No!"

Theo laughed.

"You two are so nosy!" Blaise huffed.

"And you're too obvious," he quipped back with a chuckle.

Theo leaned forward and grabbed his whiskey filled tumbler, "Congratulations are in place then," he said as he lifted his glass in salute.

"To the most annoying wanker in the world," Blaise grabbed his tumbler and lifted it up. "I wish you nothing but happiness," he added the last part with nothing but sincerity.

He clinked their glasses together, "Thank you!" he replied before taking a swig. He then leaned back on his seat, the empty glass still dangling from his hand. "I haven't asked her though."

"As if she would say no, Merlin, that girl loves you more than herself!"

Theo snickered.

"And what are you snickering about, Nott?" Blaise said. "Don't think we already forgot the scene we've witnessed with a certain blonde bombshell."

Theo's face turned bright red, not expecting Blaise's words. "Shut up, Zabini!"

He decided to join in the fun, "We all thought you turned cannibal," he paused, a familiar smirk curling on his lips. "I was scared for Luci's life for a second there, mate, I thought I might have to use a quick Stupefy on you."

"You too, Malfoy, shut up!"

Blaise stood up and hid behind the wingback chair he was sitting on. He pursed his lips and started making kissy sounds, "Oh, Luci, love!"

He hung his head low to cover his face, his shoulders shaking with the intensity of his laughter.

Theo snatched his wand from his pocket and sent Blaise a stinging hex, hitting him on the arm.

"Buggering hell!" Blaise cursed.

"That's what you get from being a nasty prick!"

Blaise turned towards the laughing blonde, "Help me here, Malfoy! Stop laughing!" he said between sniggers.

He placed the empty glass on the table and stood up, "Your own your own, man, I have a proposal to plan," he chimed as he made this way towards the door.

"Traitor!" Blaise yelped as another stinging hex made his way.

"Ha! You're mine, Zabini!" Theo said as he jumped out of his seat, his wand ready.

"Don't mess up the furniture too much, Mum will be pissed," he said before closing the door behind him.

"Malfooooyyy!"

He left Hermione's flat right after she fell asleep and was surprised to see that his two mates were waiting for him for a night cap. He checked his watch and saw how late it was, "Time for bed," he mumbled to himself.

"Is that Blaise screaming, love?"

He turned around and saw his Mother looking at the door behind him. He flicked his fingers and casted a silencing charm on it, "Theo and him are just fooling around, Mum, they'll leave soon," he replied.

Narcissa shook her head, "When will they grow up?"

"Boys will be boys, I guess," he replied. "I thought you already retired to bed, why are you still up and about?"

"I'm about to, but walk with me first?" Narcissa said, lifting her hand towards him.

He made his way towards his Mother and placed her arm around his like a gentleman, "Where to, Madame?" he teased.

"Just my around the corner, love," she replied. "So, I heard you've been terrorizing your cousin."

"Did Luci tattle on me?"

Narcissa threw him a curious look, "She might've mentioned it over tea, so, what did you do?"

"We caught her and Theo snogging in his office."

"Oh, dear!"

"Our thoughts, exactly," he laughed. "Luc was so mortified, she disapparated on the spot."

"Did you introduce them to each other?" Narcissa asked with an amused smile.

"We haven't and that's what made it more interesting."

Narcissa halted their steps right in front of the grand staircase, "I might've introduced them at some point, I just can't remember when."

He studied his Mother's face and saw the familiar twinkle her eyes; the one that meant that she was meddling. "I should've known."

Narcissa smiled wider, "They look good together, I reckon."

He shook his head, "You and your match making hobbies," he said. He then perked up when he remembered his plans for tomorrow, "Oh, I've already talked to Hermione, you'll be meeting her tomorrow."

Narcissa gasped. "Draco! Why didn't you tell me earlier? I haven't even asked the elves to clean! This place is a mess!" she exclaimed.

He checked his surrounding and saw that everything looked pristine, "What mess?"

Narcissa pulled her arm away and started clapping her hands simultaneously, "Blinky! Slinky! Minsky!" she summoned.

As if on cue, three loud pops resounded inside the hall, "You called, Mistress?" the elf with the pink dress said.

"Would you three be a dear and make sure that the whole Manor is sparkly clean tomorrow? We have a very important guest coming over and I want this place spotless!"

The three house elves look giddy with excitement, "Right away, Mistress!" they answered in chorus.

"We need to change the drapes, it looks so dreary," she paused, her eyes widening in horror. "The peacocks! When was the last time they've been groomed?"

"Minsky just groomed the peacocks, Mistress," one of the elf said proudly.

"Oh, perfect!"

"Mum?"

"Not now, son," Narcissa said as she waved her hand dismissively. "Go now, I'm busy!"

"But Hermione won't mind, Mum, really," he said. "And this place is already spotless for Merlin's sake!"

Narcissa pointed at something he couldn't even see, "This is not spotless, do you see that? Cobwebs! It's not spotless!"

"Cobwebs? What are you talking-"

"Hush!" Narcissa chided. She then pointed towards the opposite direction, "Run along now, I have tons to do," she added with finality before turning her back on him, the three house elves hot on her heels.

oOo

Next Day: Hermione's Flat

"Mum, it's still early," Hermione mumbled as she burrowed herself under her comforter.

Ginny chuckled and continued poking the sleepy brunette's arm, "Wake up, love."

"Go away!" she said, her voice muffled by her pillow.

"You better get up, Mi, it's quarter past 8," Ginny replied as she began tugging the comforter down. "You asked me to help you pick a dress and we wouldn't have much time if you keep sleeping!"

Her eyes automatically snapped open, "Oh my gosh! I almost forgot!"

Ginny sat at the foot of the bed, eyeing her best friend with amusement. She pulled her wand from her pocket and began tapping it on her arm. "So, what do you want to do first?"

She sat up and hugged her pillow, "I'm actually not sure."

"I know where to start," Ginny said. She swished her wand and said a silent spell. After a few seconds, a large steaming mug of coffee floated towards Hermione, "Coffee, to wake you up."

She gingerly plucked the mug and threw the red head a grateful smile, "What will I do without you, huh?"

"You will never know," Ginny replied. She jumped out of her perch, taking the comforter with her. She then proceeded to walk towards the walk-in closet, "Let me check what you have here, I'm sure we'll be able to come up with something," she chimed.

"I'm keeping my fingers crossed," she mumbled before taking her first sip.

oOo

Malfoy Manor:

Draco was close to dozing off at the breakfast table when he heard a loud screeching sound. "What the bloody hell?"

"Draco! Where are you?"

He hung his head low, "It's too early for screaming, Luc, Merlin!" he groaned.

Luci appeared from the door, her face bright as always. She rounded the table and sat down, "Good morning to you too," she giggled.

He ignored her and just closed his eyes, hoping for another 5 five minutes of uninterrupted table nap.

"Soooooo," Luci began. "Aunt Cissy told me that Hermione will be here today."

"She is."

"Finally!"

He cringed with the intensity of her voice, "No need to shout, I'm just here," he grumbled. He opened his eyes and sat straighter, "I assume you're staying?" he asked as he made a grab for his coffee.

Luci nodded as she took a sip of her drink.

He started at his cousin, an idea popping into his head. He placed the cup back on the table and made a show of putting jam on his scone. "Not seeing Theo again today?"

Luci's coughed and sputtered.

He couldn't help it, he fell back on his seat and laughed.

"You're an arse!" Luci spat before chucking her napkin at him.

"It's a perfect day today!" Narcissa said as she somewhat glided into the dining room. She took her usual seat at the head of the table and smiled widely. "Good morning, sweethearts!

"Morning, Mum," he said before he started digging in on his breakfast.

"Morning," Luci mumbled, her face still a tad red.

Narcissa noticed, "Oh dear, are you feeling alright, Luci? You look rather red. Is something the matter?"

He was about to say something, but was forced to hold back his tongue when he saw how much his cousin was glaring at him.

"I'm fine, Aunt Cissy, just had a nice run this morning."

"Oh, I see," Narcissa replied, not paying much attention to her niece's response. "Did you know that Hermione is coming here today?"

A mischievous look crossed Luci's face, "That's splendid, Aunt Cissy!" she gushed. She then turned her face towards her cousin, "Do you happen to still have Dray's baby pictures? I'm sure Hermione would love that!"

His eyes widened in horror, "No one will be showing baby-"

"That's a brilliant idea!" Narcissa exclaimed ecstatically. "I'll have Slinky arrange them for us!"

"There's no-"

"I'll do it myself, Aunt Cissy," Luci volunteered, cutting his protest effectively. "I do love a good baby picture, the candid ones are my favourite!"

"I should've known she wouldn't go down without a fight," he thought ruefully.

oOo

Hermione's Flat:

"You're so gorgeous!"

Hermione checked her reflection on the mirror, "Isn't this too much?" she asked nervously.

Ginny shook her head, "Of course not, it's just about right."

She turned towards the red head, "Thank you so much for this, Gin, this means a lot to me," she said with all the sincerity she could muster.

"Oh hush," Ginny chided. She then walked towards the brunette and swatted her hands, "Stop fidgeting with the dress, you're wrinkling it."

KNOCK - KNOCK - KNOCK

She felt her heart skip a beat, "He's here," she breathed out.

Ginny flicked her wand, summoning all her things. "I'll leave now, owl me as soon as you get back, okay?"

"You're not staying to say Hi?"

Ginny planted a soft kiss on her cheek and chuckled. "Of course not! Talk to you later love," she said before disapparating on the spot.

KNOCK - KNOCK - KNOCK

"That was fast," she said with a nervous chuckle. She then walked towards the front door and took a calming breath. She straightened the imaginary lint on her dress before pulling the door open. Her mouth almost hung open when she was greeted by a large bouquet of roses instead of her beau.

Draco peered behind the flowers, "Morning, beautiful," he greeted with a large smile.

The butterflies in her stomach seemed to double, "Morning to you too," she replied with shy smile.

He extended his hand and offered her the flowers, "Pretty flowers for a beautiful lady."

"Laying it thick, huh?" she teased after finding her bearings. She accepted it and gestured for him to enter, "Thank you, these are beautiful."

He stepped inside her flat, his eyes fixed on her. "Are you ready to go?"

"Yeah, let me just put this in a vase and get my purse," she said. She pointed towards the couch, "Why don't you take a seat first and I'll be back in a minute."

"Take your time, love, no rush."

She threw him a grateful smile before walking towards her kitchen. She grabbed one of her Mum's vase and hastily arranged the flowers into it, making sure to cast a stasis charm on them. She then walked past the blonde lounging in her living room and made her way to her room, "One more minute," she chimed.

"No problem," he called out.

She plucked her wand from her bed and summoned her purse. She then grabbed the white cardigan that Ginny left out for her and checked her reflection on the full-length mirror one more time. She stepped out of her room and closed the door behind her, "Do you we need to bring anything?"

"No, everything is taken care of," he replied. He made his way towards her and wrapped his arms around her hips, pulling her flush against his chest.

As if on cue, she felt her arms find its way around his waist. "I'm ready to go."

"I don't think I am," he shifted closer, their faces only inches apart. "Not until a proper good morning," he said before lowering his lips to hers.

The butterflies she felt earlier came back ten-fold, making her gasp for breath.

He took that as a sign to pull her closer, wrapping his arms around her. After a few heartbeats, he pulled his lips away; their foreheads touching. "I'm ready to go now."

"Yeah, me too, I guess," she said with a shaky breath.

oOo

Malfoy Manor:

"Aunt Cissy! I think they're here!" Luci said excitedly.

Narcissa stood from her seat, "I know they are," she replied as she made her way towards the foyer.

"Err – where are you going?" Luci asked, her face filled with confusion.

"To welcome them, of course!" Narcissa simply stated.

"But-"

"Hermione doesn't like elves serving and I want to make a good impression."

"Oh!"

Narcissa smiled at her niece as she proceeded to walk towards the door. She fixed her cerulean robes before opening the huge door with a flick of her wand.

"Mum?" Draco said, his face filled with confusion.

Narcissa ignored him and stared at the petite woman standing beside her son. "Welcome to Malfoy Manor, Ms. Granger," she said pleasantly.

Hermione cleared her throat and smiled timidly, "Good Morning, Mrs. Malfoy. Thank you for having me here today,"

Narcissa surprised them both when she leaned forward and pulled Hermione into a motherly embrace. "I've been dying to meet you, love!"

Hermione was taken aback by the gesture, her eyes wide in shock. "It's – err - nice to meet you too, Ma'am,"

Narcissa pulled away and unceremoniously looped her arm with Hermione's, "Please do call me Cissy or Narcissa or even Mum if you'd like, no formalities, please."

"I vote for Mum!" Luci said with a giggle.

Draco cleared his throat, "Why don't we go sit down," he suggested.

Narcissa nodded, "Let's go to the lounge room, I already have tea brewing – oh, I forgot to ask, how rude of me!" She turned her face towards Hermione, "I prepared Earl Grey, dear, would you like something else?"

Hermione smiled, "Early Grey is lovely, thank you."

Narcissa beamed and led them towards the lounge room. She sat on the couch and gestured for the lovers to sit in front of her.

Draco immediately fell into step with Hermione and sat beside her. He plucked his wand from his pocket and pointed it towards the parcel that Hermione handed him. "We brought you something," he said as he placed the enlarged parcel on the coffee table.

Narcissa leaned forward and began pulling it towards her. A large smile curled on her lips when she saw what it was.

Draco interlaced his fingers with Hermione, "Hermione wanted to bring something today, so we got that."

"I hope you like it, Mrs. Malfoy," Hermione said shyly.

"You shouldn't have!" Narcissa beamed. "Chocolate Truffle Cake, this is simply delectable, I love it!"

"Hence, our reason for bringing it," Draco said.

"It's been a while since I last indulged!" Narcissa somewhat lamented. "We'll have this for dessert, if you don't mind? It's simply too early to eat this!"

"I concur," Luci piped in.

"Dessert then," Draco stated. He then flicked his wand, summoning one of their house elves to the lounge room.

A small elf popped out of thin air, "Master Draco is calling Minsky? How can Minsky help?"

Hermione smiled when she recognized the tiny elf, "Hello, Minsky."

Minsky's eyes widened, "Miss Hermione! How is you? Minsky is happy to see Miss!" she exclaimed, her ears perking up excitement.

"I'm happy to see you too," Hermione said fondly.

Minsky smiled toothily before turning her attention back to her Master, "How can Minsky help?"

Draco pointed towards the cake on the table, "We'll have that for dessert later, Minsky, can you please put that away until lunch time?"

Narcissa caught Hermione giving her son an approving look, confirming her earlier assumptions about elves. She turned towards Luci and winked, making the other blonde smile.

"Minsky will do that, Master."

"Thank you, Minsky."

Minsky curtseyed before disappearing with a pop.

Narcissa cleared her throat, "So, Hermione, I believe you already met my niece."

"She sure did," Draco said with snigger.

Luci scowled at her cousin before turning her gaze towards Hermione, "Hello again, Hermione," she said with a smile.

"Hello again, Luci," Hermione responded, her eyes filled with mirth.

Draco laughed.

After a couple of hours:

Hermione was mindlessly gazing at the fairy lights lining the gazebo when she felt Draco inch closer to her. She turned her face to the side, their faces almost touching. "Hey."

"Hey," he replied with a gentle smile. "That wasn't too bad, right?"

She smiled back, "Today was perfect. I'm fond of your Mother and Luci is a riot, I like them," she said honestly.

He kissed her nose chastely, "That's good to know," he said after. He then pulled away to grab their drinks, "Told you there's nothing to be worried about," he added as he handed her a glass.

"Thank you," she replied. "I wasn't that worried."

"If you say so," he teased.

She ignored his statement and started looking around, "Where did your Mum and cousin go?"

He quickly emptied his glass and placed it back on the table, blatantly not answering her question.

"Dray?"

"They're – err – just around here."

"Something's not right with him," she thought as she stared at the blonde man sitting beside her. She took a sip of her drink, her brow quirking upwards. "Are you drunk? You look weird."

"Of course not," he replied with a nervous laugh.

"Something is definitely wrong," she thought. She emptied her glass and placed it on the table, "You're freaking me out, what's wrong?"

He slipped his hand inside his pockets, his eyes never leaving hers. "Nothing is wrong, you're the one acting weird."

"You're the one who keeps fidgeting!"

"I'm not fidgeting!"

She leaned forward and began tugging his hand out of his pocket, "You keep slipping your hand inside your pocket the whole evening, is something wrong with your hands?"

"I'm not!" he refuted as he started scooting away.

She pulled back and folded her arms on top of her chest. "What are you hiding?" she demanded.

He jumped out of his seat, "Nothing!"

Her gaze zeroed on to his hand again, her eyes narrowing with annoyance. She stood up and grabbed his arm again, "Did you burn your hand or something? Let me see," she said she pulled hard.

"Stop it, Mione, you're acting crazy."

"You're the one acting loopy!" she grunted before pinching his hand – hard.

"Ouch!" he yelped as he pulled his hand out.

Her eyes widened when she saw something sparkly tumble on the table down to the floor.

"Merlin's bollocks!" he swore as he dropped down to his knees.

She took a step back, her mouth wide agape.

He crawled under the table and swiped the thing on the floor. He then sat on his haunches, his grey eyes boring into hers. "This is not how I planned it, but you're being your impossible self."

Her heart started pounding heavily inside her chest, "W – what are you saying?"

He scooted closer to her, still on his knees. He took a deep breath before reaching for her dangling hand.

"Why – why do you have that?"

He lifted the ring, "This?"

"Is – is that a ring?"

He smirked, "Well spotted."

She opened and closed her mouth several times before she was able to form a coherent thought. "Why – why do you have a ring in your pocket?"

He shrugged nonchalantly. "Because I can."

"Draco Malfoy!"

He chuckled at her exasperation. He then moved her hand towards his lips, planting a soft kiss on her ring finger. "You know I love you, right?"

Wave of emotions surged inside her chest, making her eyes water. She nodded feebly, her other hand flying to her lips to stifle the sounds that's coming from the back of her throat.

He squeezed her hand once, "You know what I'm going to ask right?"

A single tear fell from her eye as she nodded again.

He levelled his gaze with hers, his eyes filled with nothing but love. "Do you think you can stand waking up every morning beside me, Mi?"

"Y-yes," she half sobbed, her whole body shaking with too much emotion.

"Even though I'm not perfect?"

Another tear fell from her eyes as she nodded again.

He tugged her hand closer, his eyes never leaving hers. "Do you want to spend forever me then? Marry me?"

Before she could think, she threw herself onto him.

He caught her just in time and cradled her onto his lap. "Is that a yes or you're crying because my proposal suck too much?"

She pulled a fraction to stare into his eyes, "That was perfect, you're perfect," she said tearfully. "And to answer your question, yes, I will marry you even though you can be a prat sometimes."

"Good to know you accept me fully," he joked as he slipped the ring on her finger. He then angled his face to hers and began peppering it with kisses. "Marry this prat kiss Be my wife kiss Spend forever with me kiss Make me the happiest man on earth kiss Let me take care of you for the rest of our lives kiss Say yes, I need to hear it again kiss"

"Yes," she breathed out before pressing her lips to his, effectively silencing him.

Behind the Rose Bushes:

Luci clapped her hands. "Finally!"

Narcissa sniffed and wiped her cheeks with a handkerchief. "My son is finally getting married, I'm so happy!" she whimpered.

Luci wrapped her arm around the old witch, "The both deserve to be happy."

"More than anyone in this world."

Chapter 29: At last
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Chapter Twenty-Nine:

"You smiled and then the spell was cast and here we are in heaven, for you are mine at last."

oOo

Wedding Day:

"Wake up, sleepy head, you need to get up," Anne Granger cooed towards her sleeping daughter.

Hermione burrowed further under the covers, blatantly ignoring her Mum.

"You have to wake up, today is your big day, remember?"

"What time is it?" Hermione grumbled.

"It's almost ten in the morning."

"Merlin!" she gasped as she sat up.

"No need to panic, dear, we still have plenty of time."

She stopped wrestling with the comforter, her sleepy eyes getting bigger at each passing second. "I'm really getting married today," she paused to look at her Mum. "Me, Hermione, I'm getting married today!"

"Err, yes, you are."

She scampered out of the covers and flung her arms around her mother, "I can't believe it! I'm really, really, getting married!"

Anne wrapped her arms around her, "You're really, really getting married," she said through chuckles. "And I couldn't be happier."

"I am too!"

"Ehem, am I disturbing anything?"

She pulled away from her Mum's arms, "I'm getting married today, Daddy," she said with a large grin.

"You are, Pumpkin," Richard replied with a smile. He then turned his eyes to his wife, "How many times did she said that already?"

"Four and still counting."

Richard leaned on the doorframe and folded his arms on top of his chest, "Do you think today can beat the "I'm going to Hogwarts" record?"

"I have no doubt about it."

"I'm getting married today!" Hermione exclaimed.

"Five, we're going to set a new record," Richard said with a laugh.

"Get up! Today is your big day!"

Draco grabbed a pillow to cover his face, "What time is it?" he grumbled.

"It's already eleven o'clock," Luci answered. She stopped at the foot of the bed and began tugging the covers, "Aunt Cissy is about to have a conniption, she's been looking for you since eight. Get your arse moving!"

He threw the pillow and sluggishly sat up, "Is she on a roll?" he asked while rubbing the sleep from his eyes.

"She can rival old Voldy," Luci joked. She sat down and placed her hands on her lap, "There's already reporters outside and it's driving her bonkers."

"Why are there reporters?"

"Are you really asking me that question?"

"Fuck," he mumbled. He threw the comforters off his body and planted his feet on the floor, "I better go check the wards."

"You should," Luci agreed. "Dray?"

"Yep?"

"I'm really am happy for you."

He turned towards his cousin and saw the look on her face, "Oh no, don't go crying at this early. You haven't even seen me at the altar, reserve the water works for that," he joked to lighten the mood.

"I will not cry!" Luci huffed. She stood up from her seat and began making her way towards the door, "I don't cry at weddings, that's just plain crazy."

He took a couple of giant steps and pluck the petite blonde woman off the floor; engulfing her into a bear hug.

"What are you doing?! Put me down!"

"Thank you for everything, Luc," he whispered.

She stopped wiggling, "You're welcome," she replied. "Now, put me down and go have Brunch, it's almost lunch anyway."

He gently put her back on her feet, "I'll be there in ten minutes."

"Don't take long, we still have to marry you off before Aunt Cissy turns into a mass murder!" she called out before slipping out of his room.

He braced his hands on his waist, his lips twitching upwards. "I'm getting married today."

oOo

4:30 P.M: 30 minutes before the wedding

"You're a sight for sore eyes, love!" Anne said with awe.

"You think so?" Hermione asked as she checked her reflection on the full-length mirror.

"Absolutely stunning," Ginny replied.

Anne reached for her hand and gave it a soft squeeze, "How do you feel?"

"Like I'm about to puke my guts off," she replied with a nervous chuckle.

Ginny laughed.

"I'm sure you are, weddings are supposed to make you feel that way," Anne said with a smile.

- - K

"Come in!" Ginny called out.

The door opened, "Are you all ready?" Richard asked.

"We're ready, is everything set?" Anne said.

"It's perfect," Richard replied He then turned his gaze towards his daughter, "You look breath taking, Pumpkin."

She felt her smile widen, "Do you really think so?"

"You look so stunning that I just want to lock you up in a tower and throw away the keys."

The three women laughed.

He pulled away from the doorframe and made his way towards her. He wrapped his arms around her and hugged her tight, "Are you happy?"

"More than I can ever imagine," she replied.

He pulled away and planted a soft kiss on her forehead, "Let's get you to your ever after then."

Tears stung her eyes but she managed to keep it at bay, "Thank you, Daddy."

Anne cleared her throat, her eyes misty just like her daughter's. "We better get going."

Ginny stood up, "We should." She reached for her best friend's bouquet, "See you in a bit, Mi!" she said before leaving the room.

She swallowed the lump in her throat, "Ready to walk me down the aisle?"

oOo

"There, that looks better."

"Thank you, Mum," Draco replied with a smile.

Narcissa gently cupped his face, just like the way she used when he was just a boy. "I'm so proud of you, son, truly."

"You are?"

She nodded, "I've always been," she confirmed. "Are you happy?"

"Very much," he answered.

"Good, that's all I ever wanted."

He tugged her hand away and pulled her into a hug, ignoring her protest about his robes getting wrinkled. "Thank you for everything you've done for me. I know I haven't said it much but I truly love you."

She pinched his side, "I love you too, my handsome boy," she replied. She then pulled away and hastily wiped the stray tear that escaped her eye. "Make sure you two visit me often, okay?"

"Of course we will."

"And don't make me wait too long, I want grandkids," she paused, her face brightening with every passing second. "I want a whole lot of them!"

"I'll make sure to tell the wife," he said with a chuckle.

"You do that."

- - K

"Come in," Narcissa chimed.

The door burst open, admitting Theo and Blaise in.

"I'll leave you three to it," Narcissa said before walking towards the open door. "No horse-playing! Don't mess up your suits!"

"We won't, Aunt Cissy!" 'Theo called out.

"We'll be nice!" Blaise added.

"Ten minutes!" Narcissa called out before closing the door behind her.

Theo slipped his hands inside his pockets, "You ready to tie the-"

"Ugh! Don't you ever get tired of your Knott jokes?" Blaise groaned.

Theo grinned, "Never."

Draco shook his head with amusement. He turned towards the mirror again, checking his reflection for what felt like the nth time. "Did you happen to pass by the garden?"

"Is that your way of asking if this place is about to combust with red heads?" Theo joked.

"Don't let Hermione hear you say that," Blaise sniggered.

"She'll have your head in a platter," he added. He then turned towards his two best mates, "I can't wait for this day to be over. I just want to grab her and disapparate from all these craziness."

Blaise gasped dramatically. "And here I am, thinking that you Malfoy's enjoyed the spot light."

"Shut it!" he quipped.

"I don't even want to know what Aunt Cissy would do if you ever go through that," Theo said with a shudder.

He winced. "That's why I'm here, I don't want to know too."

"Sissies," Blaise said. He wrapped his arm around Theo's shoulder, "We should get going, we don't want you keep your bride waiting."

"We should."

oOo

"You look absolutely stunning, Mi," Harry said with a smile.

Ron nodded in agreement, "Way better than your normal look," he said with teasing smile.

"You two don't look bad yourself," Hermione paused and smiled sweetly at Ron. "Thank Merlin you didn't wear Aunt Tessie's robe."

Harry laughed.

"You're hanging around with Malfoy too much, I don't think I like it," Ron said with a faux pout. He then walked towards her and pulled her into a hug, "I'm really happy for you, love," he whispered.

She wrapped her arms around his large frame, "Thank you, Ronniekins," she whispered back.

"Very funny, ha ha ha," Ron said as he pulled away. "I better go check on Lav. See you out there, beautiful," he added before walking away with a wink.

"No second thoughts or anything? I can always bail you out of here, you know."

"Nope, I'm good," she replied. She walked towards her other best friend and threw her arms around him, "Thank you for always being there for me. You and Ginny. I wouldn't know what I'd do without you guys – just thank you."

Harry hugged her back. "If that ferret ever hurts you in any type of way don't hesitate to tell me. I don't care what time or day it is, let me know and I'll be there, do you hear me?"

"I will," she replied before she pulled away.

Harry reached for her face and wipe the stray tear that escaped her eye, "Ginny would murder me if your make-up was ruined."

She snorted. "She would murder me too, I reckon."

"It's almost time, Pumpkin, are you ready?" Richard said as he peaked his head inside the tent.

"I am."

"That's my signal," Harry said. "See you out there, Mi."

"Later."

oOo

Perfectly manicured bleeding heart rose bushes in full bloom surrounded the whole place, separating the garden from the vast Malfoy landscape. Iridescent string lights peeked through the translucent gossamer draping that lined the aisle. Rustic metal garden benches decorated with the same fabric and blooms were placed adjacently on each side; mimicking chapel pews. Mason-jars filled with candles were placed on the grass, serving as the makeshift aisle. A large arch decorated with real fairy lights, twigs and the couple's favorite blooms was erected at the front; making faux altar.

"This place looks exactly like you described, Narcissa, it's absolutely beautiful!" Anne Granger gushed as she stared at their surrounding with awe.

Narcissa's cheeks turned pink with her soon to be in law's praise. "Oh no, I didn't do this by myself, Anne, I had help."

"Oh hush, this is all your doing," Anne said with a smile. "You should consider a career in events, you have an exquisite taste and talent, if I may say."

She followed Anne's gaze and felt a tad proud of her handiwork. "You're too kind, but thank you."

"I think we're ready," Anne said upon spotting her husband.

"Perfect, we're just in time," Narcissa replied. She flicked her fingers and a soft melody began to play, "We should take our place."

"We should," Anne responded.

oOo

Hermione felt her heart skip a beat when she heard the orchestra play. She tightened her hold on her Father's arm, a nervous gesture she carried through her adulthood.

"Are you starting to feel nervous now, Pumpkin?" Richard asked.

She swallowed the snitch-sized lump in throat, "Yeah," she admitted.

He squeezed her arm comfortingly, "Just give it a few minutes. I'm sure that will fade once you see your beloved waiting for you at the altar."

"I can't wait for this bloody wedding to be over so we all can get back to our lives," she said with a nervous chuckle.

"You've never been a real fan of large gatherings," he paused and smirked, "Unless it was quiz bee or something."

She threw her head back and laughed.

A familiar patronus floated inside the tenth, "It's time," the horse said in Ginny's voice.

"I still can't wrap my head around those things," Richard said.

"Oh Daddy," she giggled.

"Let's get you married now, shall we?"

"I'm ready."

oOo

Wilshire, England: 5:30 P.M

Draco subconsciously kept fidgeting with his tux as he watches their guests take their seats. This is the day that he's been waiting for almost half of his life; the day he can officially call Hermione his wife - a full circle of their love story, so to speak. He shifted from foot to the other; trying to somehow alleviate the tension that's bubbling inside his stomach.

"Stop fidgeting, you're wrinkling your tux! Merlin knows what Aunt Cissy will do if she sees you less than perfect," Theo scolded.

"Listen to Luci, your cousin is always right after all," Blaise piped in.

"Sorry, Luc," he said with a smirk.

Theo rolled his eyes, "Ha ha, very funny."

He was about to open his mouth to tease Theo more but wasn't able to do so when the lights dimmed.

"This is it, buckle up, Malfoy," Blaise whispered with a small smile.

"Stand straight," Theo added.

He took a deep calming breath before facing the aisle.

Kingsley Shacklebolt appeared first. He walked along the aisle, smiling at the familiar faces that he passed by. He stopped right in front of him and offered a hand to him, "You're a lucky bloke, make sure you take care of her," he said.

He shook the other man's hand firmly, "I will, thank you," he affirmed.

Kingsley squeezed his hand back, "I'll hold on to that promise," he responded before taking his position.

He turned towards the aisle again.

Ginny appeared next. She made her way towards him, her face radiant with happiness. "She's stunning," she mouthed with a wink before taking her position.

The music stopped and the makeshift aisle started to glow brighter. He cleared his throat and stood straighter, his eyes never leaving the spot that he knew his bride would appear.

"Don't pass out now, breathe," Blaise whispered.

He blew out the air that he seemed to be holding just as a familiar tune started playing.

oOo

The canopy opened, giving Hermione her a first peek at whole place. "Merlin," she gasped.

"I know," Richard said. "Your mother-in-law sure knows how to make things happen." He squeezed her hand and began guiding her towards the aisle.

"A few more steps and we're done," Richard whispered.

"Y-yeah," she whispered back.

"Ready?"

She took a deep calming breath, "I am," she said more confidently. She lifted her gaze and it was instantly caught by her once clandestine wish; her greatest love and soon to be husband, Draco Malfoy.

Draco felt his heart stop for a second when his eyes connected with Hermione's for the first time. A huge lump formed inside his throat just as his vision started to be blurry. He knew from the very start that the love he felt for her runs deep, and watching her walk towards him now made all those feelings resurface; engulfing his heart with nothing but love and adoration.

oOo

Richard halted their steps and turned to face his daughter, "It's time to let you go, Pumpkin," he whispered, his voice filled emotions.

"I'll always be your Pumpkin, Daddy, no letting go," Hermione whispered back, her voice cracking.

Richard lifted her veil and planted a soft kiss on her forehead; the way he always used to before putting her to bed. "I love you, be happy," he said before pulling the veil back down.

"I love you too."

Kingsley cleared his throat loudly, "Who gives this woman to this man?"

"My wife and I," Richard answered. He then took a step forward and held his hand towards Draco, "Take care of my little girl, I'm leaving her to your care. Don't make her cry and just love her, do you understand?"

Draco shook the other man's hand, "I will treat her like a Queen and love her with my every breath. Thank you for accepting me into your family, Sir."

"Dad, you can call me Dad," Richard said before pulling him into a quick hug.

"Thank you, Dad," Draco said with a sincere smile.

Richard reached for his daughter's hand and gently placed in on Draco's. He smiled at the couple one more time before retreating next to his wife.

"Hi," she said shyly.

"Hello," he replied. He squeezed her hand fell into step with her; their backs facing the audience.

"We are all gathered here today to celebrate the binding of these two souls in matrimony. To stand as living testaments of how their love endured, changed and persisted through the test of time. The couple before me will be reciting their own promises of love to each other, but before they do so, I'm obliged to ask this question." He turned his gaze towards the crowd, "If anyone here present is not in favour of this matrimony, please speak now or forever hold your piece."

Complete silence…

Kingsley smiled, "Draco and Hermione, you may now face and each other and say your vows."

Draco cleared his throat as he turned to face her. He stared into her eyes and recited the words that came from his heart and not from his mind. "No words can express how much love I feel for you. I came here today prepared with the lines I practiced a week before, but standing here now; looking at you, made me realize that those words aren't enough to justify what I really feel." He reached for her hands, his eyes never leaving hers. "I love you. I am so much in love with you to the point that if don't say it first, I might implode," he paused to clear the lump in his throat. "We've been through so much, Mi, more than most people do. It wasn't easy and we've lost each other along the way once, but I guess when two people are meant to be together; their love will endure and fate will find a way to bring them back together – hence, we're standing here," he ended with a smile. He shifted closer and placed one of her palms to his chest, on top of his heart. "We would not always agree, I have no doubt about that, but do know that no matter how stubborn we both become, I will never ever let go of your hand. You were the light in my darkest times; the promised silver lining after every horrible storm. You are the only one this heart beats for and the only name it will carry until my last breath. Today, as I take your hand in marriage, I make this everlasting vow; I vow to always take care of you, spoil you and love you the best way I know how. I vow to protect you with my life and dedicate my years to you and to our love. You will not only have my name, Mi, you have all of me and I pray that it will be enough. From this moment onwards, you're the only woman who will wear my ring, hold my hand and have my love. I love you."

Kingsley cleared his throat and turned to Hermione; "Hermione, please recite your vows"

"Merlin," Hermione sniffed. "I don't know how to top that."

The crowd laughed, easing the thickness in the air a wee bit.

"I'm sure you can top that, Granger, you always beat me in everything," Draco replied.

"She sure as hell do," Ron piped in, making the crowd laugh again.

"Thank you for pointing that out, Ron," Draco quipped with a smirk.

"Welcome, Draco," Ron replied.

Hermione rolled her eyes playfully at the red head before turning her attention back to the man standing before her. "I love you too, Dray, let's get the out of the way first because I'm sure that I'll be babbling a lot."

"Thank you for the heads-up, love," Draco said with a chuckle.

She winked. "My pleasure." She then took a deep breath and cleared her throat, "Opposite to what you are thinking, I have not prepared nor practiced anything that I will be saying here today, because I would like my heart to do the speaking. She pulled her hand down from his chest and reached for his hands instead, "You have always been a dream, did you know that? When I was young, I often prayed that someday I would find my prince charming and he would sweep me off my feet. That did come true, you do look the part and Merlin, swept away, I was."

"I always knew you found me handsome, but Prince Charming level, I'm utterly shocked!" Draco teased.

The crowd laughed.

"Oh hush, let me finish," she chided playfully.

He made a show of snapping his mouth shut and nodding.

She squeezed his hand and continued. "But I lost that dream the day I lost you. I never thought I'd get the chance at an ever-after, Dray, but just like a true Prince Charming you came back and proved to me that fairy tales do come true and now we're here. Thank you for coming back to my life; for being the man I prayed for," she ended with a sniff. She cleared the lump in her throat and smiled widely, "Dray, today, I give my heart and hand to you. I vow that from this day on, you will always have me by your side. In times of darkness, I will guide you. In times of sadness, I promise to make you laugh. In times of defeat, I will hold you in my arms and love you the best way I know how. From this day on, I will take your name, proudly wear your ring and let the whole world know that I am yours as you are mine; my greatest love and husband."

Draco lifted her hand and pressed his shaky lips on it.

Kingsley smiled at the couple. "We would start the binding ceremony," he announced. "Draco, please put the ring on Hermione's left ring finger."

Draco plucked the diamond encrusted ring from Kingsley hand and gently slid in on her finger.

"Do you take Hermione as your loving wife; for better or worse, through sickness and in health and till death do you part?"

"I do."

"Hermione, please put the ring on Draco's left ring finger."

She took the platinum band from Kingsley's hand and slipped it into his finger.

"Do you take Draco as your loving husband; for better or worse, through sickness and in health and till death do you part?"

"I do."

"Hold your hands up, aligning your wedding rings together," Kingsley ordered.

Draco grasped her hand and lifted it, making sure to touch their wedding bands to each other.

Kingsley lifted his wand and began waving it in intricate patterns. A thin sliver light erupted from its tip, wounding it's way around the couple's hand before seeping through their skin. "The binding has been sealed; your souls are now intertwined. Love each other like you're both destined to; from now till the end of time."

The crowd all stood up and began clapping.

Draco raised a brow as Hermione fidgeted with her hand; both throwing Kingsley a look.

Kingsley chuckled. "It is my honour to present to you, Mr. and Mrs Draco Malfoy. Draco, you may kiss your beautiful bride, congratulations!"

He slipped his arm around her waist and pulled her flush to his chest. He lifted her veil with his free hand and got an unobstructed look on her face for the first time. He smirked. "I love you, Mrs. Malfoy."

She giggled. "I like the sound of that." She snaked her arms around his neck, "And I love you too, Mr. Granger."

He bridged the gap between their lips and kissed her senseless.

Chapter 30: At the beginning
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Epilogue:


"In the end, I wanna be standing, at the beginning with you." At the beginning by Richard Marx and Donna Lewis

oOo

Wiltshire, England: Five years later…

"What are you doing there?"

Hermione turned her face towards the voice and saw her husband looking at her, "Nothing, I just want to breathe fresh air," she replied with a smile.

He made his way towards her and wrapped his arms around her, "Can't sleep again?" he asked as he placed his hands on top of her protruding stomach.

She leaned back on him and let out a contented sigh. "The baby has been moving around like crazy again, so I decided to get fresh air; it always does the trick."

"This little one is full of energy, just like her Mummy," he said with a chuckle.

"Her?"

He leaned forward and planted a kiss on her bare shoulder, "Just a wild guess."

"I thought you wanted another boy?"

"I'll love whatever we're having."

She felt her eyes water with the intensity of the emotions that hit her upon hearing his words, "Oh, Merlin," she sobbed.

He gently turned her around, his eyes searching her face. "What's the matter, love? Are you in pain? Why are you crying?" he asked, his voice tinged with a hint of panic.

She hastily wiped her blotchy cheek and sniffed, "You just say the most beautiful things and my hormones are off the roof and I cry at everything!"

He smiled at her once before planting a chaste kiss on her lips, "I love you, Mi, so much."

"Even if I look like a whale?"

He kissed her again. "You don't look like a whale and even if so, I'll love you none the less, if not more."

"Even if I weigh like a hippogriff?"

"You weigh like a feather, love," he said before kissing her again.

"I love you too, Dray," she whispered.

He braced his forehead to hers, "Are you ready to go back to bed?"

She nodded.

"Good," he responded with a smile. He moved to her side and gently scooped her up into his arms, making sure to secure her tightly.

"I'm so heavy, put me down!" she shrieked.

"Again, light as a feather," he responded as he made his way back to their room. He gently lowered her to bed and placed her huge maternity pillow to her side, "Comfortable?"

She shifted to her usual position and let out a sigh of relief, "Very," she mumbled. She was about to close her eyes but then remembered something. She pushed herself up and started tugging on the pillow.

"What are you doing?" he asked with a quirked brow.

"I need to check on Xavier, I forgot to turn on the baby monitor, I just now remembered."

"I already checked on him before I checked on you, baby monitors on," he replied. He shifted closer and started arranging the pillow again, securing her on place. "Now, be a good Mummy and sleep, Healer's order, remember?"

"You're the world's best husband and Daddy."

He crawled to the other side and slipped under the covers, "I have the world's best wife, I say it's just fair."

She wiggled towards him; taking her usual spot. "Quid pro quo."

"I love it when you speak Latin in the middle of the night, it just turns me on."

"Hence, our current predicament."

He laughed.

"I love you, Dray."

"As I do, Mi, always."

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