The day felt perfect with the warmth of the sun beating against his pale complexion and the cool breeze kissing the hairs on his skin. The rustle of the leaves and the trickling of the nearby stream of water sounded from the distance.
Not to mention, Hermione Granger on his arm chatting incessantly about who knows what about because he was too enthralled with the music of her voice to pay attention to the topic at hand.
"Draco, are you even listening to me?" She stopped in her tracks, her plump lips curling into an unfortunate frown.
"Absolutely." He lied.
"So what do you think then?"
He blinked. "I think it's amazing. Brilliant, if you ask me. In fact, I believe it's worthy of a trophy for coming up with such a fantastic thought. The Minister would be proud of such a grand idea."
Hermione let loose a brief laugh, slapping Draco's upper arm. "Be serious!"
"I am!" He defended as he rubbed his arm.
"Draco, I know you loath being around nature. You're the type of bloke who prefers the pristineness of galas and other fancy things of the sort."
He glanced at her warily, "What are you up to?"
They walked down the familiar path behind the Manor. Despite loathing nature, as Hermione has claimed of him, he rather preferred to be around the Malfoy Gardens which was an enclosed, secure area where he knows nothing of the unexpected might occur. Nature is very unexpecting and dirty, and Draco Malfoy didn't prefer that at all. Not to mention all the bugs crawling around....
"See!" Hermione called him out, "You weren't listening after all!"
Draco sighed in resignation, glaring at her jubilant figure, "Okay, fine. So what if I wasn't?"
"I was talking about having a picnic here. By that tree," Hermione pointed at his oldest willow tree situated on a hill, perfectly overlooking the wide stream hidden in the depths of the colorful gardens.
"A picnic? Now?" Draco eyed the path ahead of him warily as if inspecting for bugs and slimy critters that would hop on him. Hermione forced down a laugh at the image of him flaring around to rid himself of a tiny bug off his long arms.
"Of course," she said to him as if he was the stupid one, "We should get food from the kitchen first and then the items to set it up. Let's go!"
Hermione grasped his hand in excitement, dragging him towards the Manor before Draco could let out another question or complaint. "Wait— Granger— I haven't accepted this!"
"Malfoy, when will you understand," she grinned slyly, "Sometimes things won't go your way when dating me."
"If only I had known that before," he sulked, surrendering himself to his misfortune as she pulled him into the kitchens where the house elves were sweeping the floor merrily.
"Young Master, Young Mistress," an elf acknowledged with a twinkling smile, "How shall Pinky help?"
Hermione shook her head, "It's not necessary, Pinky. You and the rest can take a break for the rest of the afternoon. Draco and I will make snacks for a picnic we planned today ourselves."
"You planned." Draco snarked under his breath, fiddling with her slender, soft fingers that still gripped his.
"As Young Mistress wishes. Pinky will still help if called for."
"I'll keep that in mind, Pinky. Thank you."
Pinky and the remaining house elves left the vicinity with a snap of their wrinkly fingers, leaving Draco and Hermione alone in the kitchens to scour for food and perhaps leftovers as well.
"Tell me why we're doing this again?" Draco asked as he reluctantly released her fingers to mimic Hermione's movements of looking through his cupboards and his magical, luxurious-looking food storages for something to bring with them.
"Because you weren't listening to me."
"You talk to much, Granger," Draco drawled, "Of course I'll end up zoning out from time to time."
"And also because you're being an unnecessary prat to me," Hermione added with a hum, stuffing sandwiches into a brown basket she found laying idle atop a counter.
"Oh sure, let Draco Malfoy sit on dirt because Hermione Granger talked too much," he quipped, curling a lip when examining her reaction from the cupboard.
"Exactly," Hermione paused her search in order to skip around the counters and make her way towards him. She patted the side of his cheek and he unconsciously leaned towards her lingering warmth. "You get me."
"Didn't you say that I'll never understand you awhile ago?" He huffed.
"That was before you made that statement."
"Have I ever told you that you're such a strange person?" He asked, dropping in a wine glass and a bottle of Firewhiskey into the basket.
"And I tell you you're incorrigible," Hermione hummed, closing the basket once adding the last of the utensils and snacks. "Okay, we're ready. Let's go back."
Draco let loose a groan of despair as he trudged begrudgingly behind his little, excited witch who was currently skipping to their destination a few steps ahead of him. "Granger, I'm not wearing the right clothing for this." He gestured to his black office slacks and white buttoned-down shirt tucked underneath the waistline when she turned around to face him.
Hermione halted her skipping in front of him, causing Draco to halt in his tracks a few milliseconds before he collided against her. With only a foot of space between them, Hermione scrutinized his choice of clothing. She made her own personal adjustments, freeing a part of his shirt from the waistline so it was only half tucked-in. She unbuttoned the top two buttons, fixing the collar of his shirt, and folding his sleeves above his elbows to fit the image of a casually disheveled Draco (her favorite kind of Draco) in her head.
She grinned proudly at herself, looking up to meet the smug smirk of her boyfriend a few inches above her. "Did the swotty, Brightest Witch Of Her Age with no taste in clothing just attempted to 'fix me'?"
"Excuse me!" She gasped offendedly, "I have taste! I just fixed this travesty of a situation you were complaining about. If it wasn't for me, you wouldn't be looking quite fitting as of now."
"'Fitting'?" Draco raised a brow, leaning to look down at himself and causing their foreheads to brush against each other in a feather-light touch. "I look like I just got freshly shagged."
She bit her lip to subdue a laugh, and instead, reached a hand out to ruffle the blond locks of hair that he usually spends hours to perfect. "Now you do."
Distraught, his jaw fell slack and his eyes narrowed down at her, "Hey, never touch a man's hair, Granger. Do you know how long it takes to stylize this? An hour in the least. The work that has been applied into my hair takes much longer than the time it brushes your mangly one."
Hermione scoffed, wrinkling her nose as she turned back around, "I'd like to bet on that."
"Do you now?" His tone was light and teasing, "Tomorrow morning. Let's have ourselves a friendly competition to see who finishes our typical hair routine first."
Hermione grinned, taking his hand into hers as they entered the Malfoy Gardens, "Deal. What are the stakes?"
"A kiss?" He smirked.
"Great idea," Hermione smiled, "No kisses and no touching each other for the rest of the day if you've lost."
Draco halted, practically yanking Hermione to press against his side as he did so, "What? That's not what I meant at all!"
"How is having a kiss a loss? At least make it harsher on yourself," she rolled her eyes, attempting to pull Draco forward but he pulled her against his side again, glaring at her bushy head.
"Granger, this is unfair."
"You scared, Ferret?" She squirmed in his arms as he poked her side at her snide remark. She squealed as she attempted to escape the incoming onslaught of his jabbing fingers, "You don't sound so confident in yourself!"
"I'm very confident," he claimed, trapping her tightly in his embrace and letting his front press against hers. "But you forget, this punishment affects you too."
She shrugged, leaning away from him slightly, "If it means I proved you wrong, it is definitely worth it."
Narrowing his grey eyes, Draco fought against the stubbornness of her gaze. He sneered habitually, his jaw ticking when he begrudgingly decided to relent to her demands. Leaning down to place a chaste kiss against her soft lips, Draco stole the basket from her hands. His lips quirked lopsidedly at her questioning expression, striding past her with the basket in his grasp.
"Well? Are we doing this stupid picnic of yours, Know-It-All?"
She huffed, "Why of course, my pratty, little ferret."
Draco watched as Hermione walked past him, her chocolate curls swishing rhythmically against her back to her excited steps. Every so often she would stop and smell the floral surrounding them. Every single shade of the rainbow and beyond continued to fill their vision the closer they walked towards the lone hill with the eldest tree in their garden. Amused, Draco watched as Hermione took in the pure white peacocks displaying in the distance by a colorful patch of dandelions, her eyes widening as if to swallow the beauty of the scene before her.
"Close your mouth, Granger. The bees will fly in," he snickered.
"Draco! How often do you come out here? It's so pretty," she marveled ardently.
"Not that much," he admitted nonchalantly, following slowly to match her pace.
"We'll fix that. Let's come here every week on Fridays and have a picnic," she promised.
"And if I refuse? You know I'm not some nature freak like Longbottom."
Hermione whipped around to glare at him, "Better get used to it then. Let's go and set up the picnic."
Marching up the hill with Draco slowly following suit (he often checked the dirt to see if there were bugs that could likely crawl and jump onto him), Hermione settled once she reached the top. Looking around, she gasped in amazement. She was able to see the entirety of the garden with the peacocks displaying on one side, the variety of flowers and colors, to the stream that flowed into a forest that she doubt was Malfoy territory beyond that point, and the willow tree that had it's tear-like leaves flowing and ebbing gently along the soft breeze right above them.
Draco settled in beside her where she sat on top of the checkered picnic blanket, gazing wondrously at the view. Unlike her, he was unaffected by the scenery considering he had been here every now and then. Though, the view still never ceases to amaze him.... just like Hermione.
He leaned against the trunk of the tree, although not before inspecting it carefully thrice to check for critters and ants crawling by it's soggy roots. He unintendedly let loose an antsy shriek and jumped away when he spotted a disgusting-looking, black caterpillar slowly inching its way up the trunk. Hermione couldn't contain her mirth, throwing her head back in laughter, before she cupped the caterpillar into her hands to carry it to the other side of the tree trunk. With a repulsed frown and his nose crinkled in disgust, Draco eyed her giggling form as if she would suddenly turn around and toss the caterpillar in his face.
"Can't you just kill it?" His voice was a pitch higher.
"Of course not," his girlfriend merely glared, setting down the gross thing gently.
He heaved an exhaustive sigh, hesitating a bit before relaxing against the root of the trunk while watching his bookworm sit on her knees like a meerkat on the picnic blanket.
"So what now?" He asked, allowing the noise of the rustling leaves to relax him even further, although his shoulders still tense at the idle thought that the caterpillar will seek revenge on him and call out for it's other ghastly-looking friends for threatening to kill it.
"Now, we eat." Hermione took out her sandwiches, offering him one as well. Without leaving the comforts of the tree trunk, he reached out and took a bite of the morsel. "Do you like it?"
Absentmindedly, he nodded. "Could've used less salt."
"I didn't put salt," she said flatly.
"Could've put more salt," he corrected cheekily, acting a bit smug.
Hermione rolled her eyes at his unnecessary acts, walking on her knees to reach Draco. Situating herself by his side, she rested comfortably against him, using his chest as a pillow to lay her head against while eating her sandwich. She felt his arm tighten and his sharp chin rest over her head, and so she attempted to practically merge her body into his, tucking her head closer to him in response.
"Don't drop your crumbs on me," his lips curled disgustingly at the thought, "I'm not your plate."
Though, his lips curled more into an amused smirk at her response containing a double-entendre, "I think you'd enjoy it very much if you were my plate."
It was so unexpected that he couldn't help but let loose a reverberating laugh.
He found himself closing his eyes droopily as he focused on the feeling of Hermione in his arms. With the warmth of her against his side. With the tree leaves rustling and brushing against each other. And the owls hooting in the far distance above them. Her soft breaths as she inhaled her sandwich. The trickling and splashing of the stream's water and the fish it inhabits.
He took in everything he felt and everything he heard, because at this very moment, everything just felt right.
He felt present. He felt secure.
He felt at peace.
It was in this moment, he knew he was at home.
She was his home.
He found his eyes suddenly fluttering open, taking in the overwhelming brightness of the sun that was hanging above him and shining through a window.
Draco groaned aloud, twisting from where he was laying to splay an arm out in search for his wonderful witch. He blindly searched for the warmth he felt earlier, but his hands felt nothing but cold, empty sheets.
Rubbing the bleariness from his silver eyes, he sat up in utmost confusion. In place of the greenery and the picnic blanket he swore he was laying on a few moments before, his eyes took in the green bed sheets, the beige-colored walls, and the Gryffindor curtains that were pushed wide open, allowing the sun to beam down on him angrily as if berating him for something he had forgotten. He looked around the room, recognizing further that he had just woken up from a splendid dream.
Like always, he immediately wanted to tell Hermione about it.
Shite, she's waiting for me. It's Friday!
Sliding off of his bed, he hurriedly changed his clothes with that thought pressuring him to rush and meet her at their favorite spot. Smirking to himself, he changed into the same black slacks and white buttoned-down shirt that she loved so much in his dream.
He walked out of their Manor after taking the prepared picnic basket that was left in one of his magical food storages, walking past the same flower path, past the white peacocks, and towards the hill where he and his girlfriend had snuggled in each other's arms underneath the willow tree in his dream. The peacocks cooed as he walked by, and Draco imagined his witch grinning at them, throwing crackers to win their trust in her desire to pet them.
Draco shook his head at his imagination, a small smile gracing his features before he trudged forward up the willow hill. Up he went, he was fixated on the memory of his dream as well as the surrounding noise of nature.
Once upon a time, he really hated nature. That was a certainty.
Now, he made sure to be in it every week.
His lips tilted upwards when he spotted Hermione resting peacefully by the pre-spread checkered blanket. He set the picnic basket beside him as he sat down, leaning against the same spot on the trunk he did in his dream.
"Miss me Granger?"
She refused to respond.
"Okay, I know you're angry at me. I know I'm very late. I did just wake up after all."
More cold silence. The leaves rustled.
"I had the best dream, you know? You were in it."
He thought he heard a scoff under the warm breeze.
"You're always in my dreams, Granger. I'm starting to believe you're wanting to spend more time with me even in my dreams. I would understand, I'm Draco Malfoy after all."
He felt a twig being thrown against his cheek.
"Ow!" He glared at her. "I'll tell you my dream. Actually, it's not really a dream. It's more of a memory. Do you remember the first day we had a picnic here? In this very spot? And our competition the day after? Which I won, by the way, if my memory serves correct."
Another small twig slapped against his cheek.
"Okay, okay! You won. Happy?" He sulked at the memory of him practically forcing himself to keep off of her that day. Her dressing in his favorite outfits on her didn't help at all. Especially when she walked with a subtle sway of her hips across their hallway with his shirt on and lacking trousers thinking he wasn't looking....
He pulled the grass from beside him with his pale fingers to distract him from his naughty thoughts. "We were in this spot, and you were squishing me down with your large head and mane. I didn't think I'd ever get up because of how heavy your head was. But before that, we were arguing about our bet and also my clothes. It was funny, really. I enjoyed it. The dream was really... it was really nice."
He turned to face her, his fingers reaching out to graze against the edges of the clean stone.
"I miss you..."
An owl above him hooted in response.
"I'm wearing the clothes I wore that day. You said I looked hot like this," he chuckled lowly, "You wouldn't stop snuggling against me that day because of it. Said I smelled refreshingly like clean laundry and expensive pine trees."
His skin prickled under a warm breeze, and for a second, it felt like he was being held within her embracing warmth once again. Just like in his dream. The type of warmth that felt like home. He closed his eyes and reveled in it.
"Did you send me that dream?" He asked below a whisper, hoping she could still hear him. "It is Friday after all. Was it to torture me with the memories we had? To make sure I won't ever get over you?" His throat felt constricted, and he saw a beautiful red butterfly fluttering past him to land on the stone by his fingers. He smiled sadly at it, allowing the butterfly to hop onto his long finger. It's wings fluttered at his touch.
"It's been a year, Granger."
The trickling of water from the stream downhill seemed to make him tear up just a bit.
"You have nothing to worry about."
The butterfly turned to look at him, it's wings spread out beautifully.
"I'll always love you."
He looked up at her with glassy eyes, reading the response permanently carved on her grave:
It will be alright.
I love you.