Playing with Fire

Chapter 32: Garden of Weeds

Song: The Less I Know The Better - Tame Impala

As Draco made his way through the party, Pansy on his arm, he felt himself zoning out. More than once, Pansy had to shake him slightly or pinch his arm to bring his attention to someone awaiting his response. It was exhausting.

“How are you coping after those attacks on the Ministry?“, one elderly couple asked him.

“My faith is unwavering in the Dark Lord. As long as he is in power, I will face the Incendiaries and any other opposing forces with full confidence”, he responded robotically.

Draco had already given this response many times throughout the night, and this wouldn’t be the last time he did. Every single person that he repeated it to seemed thoroughly pleased by his scripted answer.

Finally, the Dark Lord called everyone’s attention, silencing the room with a wave of his hand.

“Good evening, I’m thrilled you all could be here tonight to celebrate the society that we will continue to build and expand. I know many of you have showed concern for the wellbeing of our people, community, and the Dark Territories, but I offer this - have I failed you thus far?“, his tone was positive, intended to secure confidence, but felt much more like a threat. More of a - how dare you question my power and influence.

Everyone shook their heads in response, many even muttering words of reassurance, “we would never question the Dark Lord”, “the Dark Lord is unfailing”, and “no one would dare doubt one as all-powerful as the Dark Lord”. He silenced the room once again.

“Not to worry, you are all simply human. And when our values and state of being are threatened, we worry and we fear. I am here tonight to tell you this, the Dark Territories and the Death Eaters are as strong as ever.”

The speech was being cast to Romania, Poland, Germany, France, and the Netherlands. It was possible all of England was here tonight in person.

The room erupted in applause from the Dark Lord’s speech. Draco clenched his fists in anger. Actually, we are weaker than ever. Our forces are down by almost 100. You are weaker than ever. He smiled widely at everyone around the room.

The Dark Lord nodded to Draco and he raised his glass, cueing him. “To the Dark Lord!“, Draco called out, “To the Dark Lord!“, everyone responded and followed suit. They all drank. The party resumed.

By the time the evening had run its course and all the guests had departed - the Dark Lord leaving hours before anyone else did - he was mentally depleted. He wasn’t necessarily one for social affairs, just for appearances. Draco and the Dark Lord had this in common.

Pansy hung around to avoid raising any suspicion, not leaving until the very last person was out the door. She pulled Draco into a hug. He returned it willingly. Without a word, they nodded at each other and she took the floo to Daphne’s. It didn’t always take words for understanding to pass between the two of them.

He shrugged his jacket off and heavily forced his feet up the stairs and down the hall to his room. He automatically paused in front of Granger’s door instead of his. Draco raised his hand to knock when he froze it midair - Landslide was still playing.

He slowly opened the door to find Granger asleep, the record player still running. It was enchanted to restart itself when the song finished. It had been hours since he first heard it streaming through the door.

She looked so peaceful, a small smile on her face. She was captivating this way.

Her brown curls were strewn about her head like a halo, a few small flames in the room flickering light across the strands, making them look like spun gold. They flickered back and forth - brown, gold, brown, gold.

Her cheeks were slightly flushed, her face halfway in the pillow. Her legs were pulled up to her chest, as if she were trying to hug herself. The thought saddened Draco for some reason.

He gently reached for the covers and pulled them up over her. The light pink, satin pajamas she wore were complementary to her skin. It was normally olive and tanned, but had paled from the lack of time out in the sun.

Her skin was covered in small bumps, and he knew she must be freezing. He tucked her in slightly and she stirred before breathing deeply, returning to whatever dreams she must be having.

He stood there taking in her appearance. Soft. Delicate, like a flower. She was this way on the outside, but could have such a rough and defensive demeanor. It puzzled him.

He bit his lip as he looked at hers. Like soft petals, he wanted to meet them with his own. Put pressure on them, then pull back. Part them. Explore them. Claim them.

He shook away the thoughts when he realized he had gotten carried away. He was even leaning towards her. Draco felt such a strong pull to her, physically, mentally, emotionally...no. I’m exhausted. I need to go to bed.

He wanted to crawl in next to her, wrapping his body around hers like the dragon did on her arm. Protecting what was his. Not mine. Just under my control. In my home.

He thought better of it, and with more self control than he would expect it to take, he extinguished the small flames around the room, and left her to sleep peacefully.

~~~

The next morning, Draco showered, dressed, and made his way to the room across the hall. He knocked lightly, hand hesitating on the knob until he heard confirmation that he could enter.

Granger stared at him in silence, seated at the table with her breakfast in front of her untouched. She didn’t look as peaceful as she had the night before, but had clearly had a good night’s rest for the first time in a while. So much so that her cheeks were slightly puffy and tinged pink, her eyes squinting from the daylight streaming in. She was still in the silk pink pajamas. A delicate flower.

“Morning”, he greeted her, “I see no need for you to return to the dungeons, you have permission to stay here from now on...if you’d like.” He stared deeply into her eyes, trying to read the emotion behind the amber orbs.

She took a deep breath, staring back into his eyes before saying “I would”, simply.

He stared at her for a moment longer than was truly necessary, nodded, then turned to leave. He froze when she asked, “How was the party?”

He chuckled quietly, a smile growing on his lips, “tolerable”, he responded before closing the door softly behind him.

Only because you had Landslide on repeat. Only because it ended with me tucking you in. Only because the sight of you fills me with something more than I can understand, and that horrifies me.

She was a rose in a garden of weeds, one that withstood the coldest of winters and the strongest of storms.

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