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.
"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.
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 jewelry.
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 his pocket and gently tapped the pendant, "Touch it," he instructed.
With bated breath, she touched the key. The exquisite piece of jewelry 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 think 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.
"I love you."
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?"
"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, signaling 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.
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.