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.

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