Playing with Fire

Chapter 54: It Is

Song: Dancing With Your Ghost - Sasha Sloan

Only a few moments had passed when Draco shot up and raced after her. He slung his bedroom door open right as Hermione reached for the door handle of her room. “Hermione, stop!“, he said, reaching out towards her.

She froze on the spot, turning slowly to glance at him over her shoulder. “Pansy is in there”, he elaborated. He had completely forgotten that Pansy stayed the night. It would have looked questionable to the public - and the Dark Lord - otherwise.

Hermione slowly turned her entire body towards him, removing her hand from the doorknob. “Why is Pansy in there?“, she asked with a confused and cold expression, her eyes still on the floor.

“It’s her room...when she stays here”, he told her hesitantly.

“Oh right. Your fiance.“, she huffed, her frustration visibly growing.

Draco clenched his jaw, gritting his teeth together. “Please, come back to my room and let me explain”, he begged her as he took a bold step forward. She took one step back nervously. “Hermione please, I won’t make you. I promise”, he whispered desperately.

She had nowhere else to go. She knew that. Her mind said it was a bad idea, but her feet moved anyway, barely shuffling across the floor. All I want is answers...

She finally met his eyes, feeling that familiar string at her navel, tugging her towards him. Her chest warmed and she nodded. Their shoulders brushed against each other as she passed him in the doorway, electricity shooting through both of them as usual. Draco softly closed the door behind him.

Hermione stood there with her arms crossed, still unsure and hesitant. “Please sit”, Draco said, gesturing towards the chairs in front of his fireplace. It wasn’t lost on Hermione that he took special care not to command her to do this. She didn’t feel he deserved any appreciation, but she had it for him nonetheless.

She walked across the room, taking one of the seats in front of the fireplace and deliberately facing away from him. She wrapped her arms around herself, her right hand landing on the dragon instinctively.

Hermione tried her best not to scowl at Draco when he dragged his chair over next to her. He wasn’t too close, but still faced her, giving her his full attention.

Draco sighed deeply before beginning, unsure really where to start. “The mark on your arm - the dragon - it was required by the Dark Lord. Created by Yaxley. From what I’ve been told, mudbl- I mean...muggle-born servants are required to receive the mark if they serve a Death Eater household. It prevents you from things like leaving the property without permission, requires you to obey commands from the person who gave you the mark...” He paused, watching her expression, but her face betrayed nothing.

“I...I never deliberately commanded you to do something like that until last night, not on purpose at least. And I only did if your own safety”, she scoffed at his words and he winced. “If I didn’t, the Dark Lord would have become suspicious of our...situation”, he finished.

“Our situation...“, Hermione echoed him, breaking her silence for the first time since she entered the room. “Did you ever...I guess what I’m...“, Hermione struggled to find the words. “Were any of our...interactions ever forced?“, she slowly turned to meet his eyes now.

Draco was hurt by her implication. Does she really think I would do that? “Never”, he responded without a second thought, and he meant it.

She nodded slowly, looking to the ground as she deliberated. Draco ran his hands through his hair stressfully before adding on to his statement, “I never expected to I do”, he said, purposely forgoing any detail or attachments to his statement.

“ do you feel?“, she asked, looking into his eyes once more as if she could search for the truth in them.

Draco bit his lip and wrung his hands together. He had never felt so vulnerable. But everything inside of him screamed - I feel everything for you. You set my insides on fire and I’ve never felt more alive. I love you. I’d kill for you. I’d die for you. I don’t even know who I am without you anymore, and it fucking horrifies me.

Draco leaned over in the chair, elbows on his thighs and his head in his hands. Tears started to form in his eyes - he felt humiliated. He didn’t want her to see.

Hermione could feel the hurt in him, could sense it, and reached out, placing a hand on his. “Draco”, her voice wavered with emotion, “please”, she begged.

Draco looked up to find a glossy-eyed Hermione as well. He wrapped both hands around hers, feeling braver now.

“Hermione I...“, Draco bit his cheek hard. “Pansy is with Daphne. They’re together. I was helping her cover it up from the Dark Lord, and it backfired. She’s my best friend, and I was just trying to keep her from getting killed or put in an arranged marriage. I need you to know that before I say what I’m about to say. Understand?“, the words flooded from his mouth in a rush.

Hermione’s eyes widened in surprise - his revelation was a lot to take in. She nodded hesitantly, concerned with what he was going to tell her next. She couldn’t help the relief she felt that he wasn’t truly with Pansy, but she still felt bad for her. Afraid for her even. Why am I so relieved? I know why...but that can’t be’s not real, it’s the spell - the mark...

“I swear to Salazar if you laugh at me - because I’m about to sound absolutely nutters...“, Draco started.

“I won’t. I promise”, Hermione reassured, her heart racing in anticipation now.

“ days mean nothing anymore unless you’re in my study reading your bloody books and walking around barefoot the way you always do. It’s absolutely fucked, and I know that, but I love that mark on your arm simply because it marks you as mine. You are mine. Not in some psychotic prisoner way. In a way that I would never let anyone fucking hurt you again. Not like last night. I don’t deserve you - especially after last night, and I never could. Not in this life or another, but you’re mine nonetheless. Maybe it’s the fucking the spell, maybe it’s not, but I don’t care. You’re mine. Even if you left this place and I never saw you again, you’d be the only one for me in this world. I’d reign Hell on anyone that ever threatened you. I’d overthrow the devil himself and take over the position myself if that’s what it took. I won’t even bother asking for your forgiveness because I know you won’t give it, and that’s why I love you. Because you’re the brightest witch not just of our age - of all time. You’re untouchable. You’re Heaven and I’m Hell, and no matter how much I try to reach up for you, I know I never will, and that’s just how it is. I’m just droning on now because I don’t even know what the fuck I’m trying to say. I promised you an explanation and I’m being right git instead”, Hermione grabbed his arms, pulling him from the focus of his rant.

Draco stared at her in confusion, noticing the tears in her eyes but a slight smile on her lips. “What?”

“Draco, say that again”, she requested with a slight smile.

His face contorted, “are you kidding? You really expect me to repeat that enti-“, she interrupted him with a kiss. Tender but powerful and full of heat. After a moment, Hermione pulled back softly, “you said you love me”, she whispered to him, her eyes searching his.

Realization spread across Draco’s face and his cheeks began to turn red. “Don’t”, Hermione insisted. “I...I think I do too - love you, I mean”, she said shyly, her smile fading as doubt replaced it. “ can I know if...if it’s real?”

Draco stroked her cheek with a thumb comfortingly. He nodded to her for permission, knowing exactly how they could find out. He was horrified and afraid that it wasn’t real, but he had to know. He locked eyes with her, “Tell me if what you feel is real”, he commanded her.

Hermione was shocked, but positive her next words were true, “It is”.

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