Playing with Fire

Chapter 60: Bewitching

Song: Savior Complex - Phoebe Bridgers

Hermione awoke to a cold bed that she didn’t remember falling asleep in. The research, Merlin there’s so much left. This thought was exhausting but exhilarating for her. How nice it was to have something to learn about. How horrifying it was not knowing a thing…

She rolled over slightly, disappointed to see she was alone there. Without Draco.

It was still dark outside and she rubbed her eyes for focus. Moonlight streamed in through the open balcony doors, the wind blowing its curtains eerily.

Hermione rolled out of the bed, her feet gently meeting the wooden floor, and wrapped the sheet around herself to fight the chilling air. She slowly paced towards the door, finding Draco there. Thank Merlin. She hadn’t thought the worst per se, but she definitely hadn’t assumed the best either when he wasn’t there next to her in his own bed.

He was looking out over the front of the property - the opposite of the view Hermione’s room held - and he appeared deep in thought. Wearing a pair of sweatpants and a charcoal colored jumper, Draco leaned against the railing, crossing one foot in front of the other, a glass full of pale umber liquid in his hand.

She took a slow, hesitant step towards him, breaking the silence, “Draco?”

Without turning his head, Draco reached back to her with the hand not holding alcohol, and pulled her to his chest, engulfing her in his warmth against the frigid November air.

She buried her head in his chest, taking in his scent. Subtle, but ever present. It warmed her even further. The scent of coffee beans was stronger on his sweater, but the teakwood lingered. They stared at the stars together, as if they were the only two left on earth. It certainly felt that way.

Hermione smiled softly, feeling safe in his arms. Something she never thought Draco Malfoy would or could make her feel.

Meanwhile, Draco bit his cheek harshly until it bled, staring dazedly down at her without realizing it. His thoughts were in the worst places. Hermione hurt. Hermione crying. Hermione dead. No Hermione at all. All because of me. His body tensed at the thoughts he couldn’t seem to push away.

Could you lose something that was never really yours? Was she his? Would she ever truly be? What if she didn’t actually want to be? He felt as possessed by her as he felt possession over her. Not in that ‘lock you in a cage forever and never let you out’ way - although she was in that situation regardless. He didn’t want that.

He wanted to whisk her away to somewhere else. Anywhere else. Where she could be free. Where she could be without him if that’s what she wanted. He could stare at her forever, feeling her warm breath against his neck, burning to death under the suffocating feelings he had developed. They set him on fire. She set him on fire.

What they had was such a sharp contrast to everything around them. To the cold, desolate world that was coming to fruition due to Voldemort’s reign, and begrudgingly, because of Draco’s assistance as well.

He hated this vulnerability. He had never known it. Never felt it. But now, it was all he felt. His thoughts revolved around her non-stop, like a fly buzzing in your ear, causing a chill to run down your neck and spreading to your shoulders.

But most of all, he hated that he couldn’t make her happy. Couldn’t free her. Could he? For the first time in his life, he cared more about Hermione Granger’s life than his own. He didn’t care if he died tomorrow, so long as she made it through.

She admired the stars, but he admired her. Hermione was the star that brightened his night sky. The stars really. The sun that blistered his skin with passion which wouldn’t rest until his skin peeled and ached. She was, well, everything.

Hermione Granger was...one of a kind? Unique? Special? Different? There wasn’t even a word for it. She was...bewitching. And he was helpless under her spell. Oh the irony of it all. He squeezed her tighter, holding his breath at the thought of not having his. Of not having her. Now that he did, he could never let her go.

She met his gaze, amber and orange flames meeting grey, frozen stones. He was like death, and she breathed life into him. Engulfed him with it. Changed him. He wished he was strong enough to change himself.

Draco noticed her shivering in the cold, but he was numb. He led her back into his room, closing the balcony door and curtains to darken the room. He laid next to her, stroking her curls and placing gentle kisses against her forehead.

She looked so peaceful. He tried to memorize it. The soft curve of her pale, rosy lips. The freckles that ran haphazardly across her nose. The way she always pulled her knees to her chest when she needed comfort. Even now, she was curled up in a ball under his covers.

After her breathing evened out, Draco slipped out of bed and put on a pair of running shoes. He slipped on a hoodie in place of his jumper and set out for the yard. He ran laps until his fingers were blue, the tip of his nose stinging from the cold.

After he lost track of time and the sun began to peek over the horizon, he slammed himself harshly into the wrought iron french on the far side of the yard. He punched it as hard as possible, his knuckles instantly splitting open and bleeding bright red. “FUCK!”, he yelled, punching the iron again with his other hand. “Fuck”, he breathed, more defeated this time.

He slowly sunk to the ground, leaning his back against the fence, blood flowing freely from his knuckles now and bruises forming eagerly. He flexed and unflexed his hands before bringing them to his face shakily. Tears stung the corners of his eyes. He brushed them away in anger, his fingers still numb from the chill. “Fuck, what am I going to do?”, he muttered to no one but himself.

~~~

Song: Break My Heart Again - FINNEAS

Once again, Hermione was alone in his bed, and painfully aware of it before she even opened her eyes. She assumed he would be working in his study, occupied. Or hopefully, doing research in the library. She got dressed for the day and made her way to the library.

He wasn’t there. He has jobs. Jobs that could get him killed if he doesn’t do them. He doesn’t have time to do this all day every day like I do.

She defended him passionately in her own mind, but the doubts pursued due to his strange behavior in the night. His strange absence.

Hermione proceeded to work her way down the list of texts, feeling progressively disappointed and lost. So far - nothing. She kept coming back to Yaxley’s notebook. Something wasn’t adding up and she could sense it. Feel it in her blood and bones. Every fiber of her being shouted that they were missing something.

After hours spent there with no progress, she resigned for the day and went to her room to shower and prepare for dinner. When she left the bathroom, a lovely topaz gown was waiting for her. It flowed like water down her body, the silk shimmering under the lights.

Excited to finally see Draco and proud of herself for not crowding him all day, she swiped on mascara and nude lipstick left by Pansy before making her way downstairs.

She couldn’t hold back her disappointment when she entered the room only to find Lucius. “Good evening Miss Granger”, the eldest Malfoy greeted her.

“Good evening Lucius”, she responded, “will Draco be joining us tonight?” She tried her hardest to conceal the hope behind her question.

“Unfortunately, Draco is occupied by work - he’s away. Is my company not enough?”, Lucius asked.

Hermione’s stomach plummeted, fearing that he was somewhere executing innocents with an eerie smile on his face. The photos from the Daily Prophet of blood splattered across his face and clothes haunted her vision.

“N-no that...that isn’t what I meant”, Hermione blushed, thanking Merlin he couldn’t see the color filling her cheeks. “I just...you’ll be going back to work in a few days...and…”

“And you don’t want to be alone”, Lucius finished for her.

“Nothing gets by you does it”, she forced a laugh.

“Not a thing. Tell me Miss Granger, you had a pet at Hogwarts, yes?, he asked out of nowhere. Hermione twisted her face in confusion before responding.

“Oh yes, Crookshanks. My cat. He, um, well…”, she responded. Hermione had no clue where Crookshanks was now, and her heart sank. She missed him terribly. She fought the tears that threatened to form. He’s probably dead. Alone at best.

Lucius didn’t say another word in regards to Hermione’s cat, barely filling the gaps of dinner with small talk here and there. When it was over, Hermione made her way upstairs, hesitating in the hall between her and Draco’s rooms.

She ultimately chose her own. It didn’t feel right to sleep in Draco’s room without him. It was too cold that way.

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