"A flower blossoms for its own joy." -Oscar Wilde
Massive, high hedges curved around the perimeter of the estate; expansive gardens made up the majority of the once dark view that was Malfoy Manor, and the gardens were so extensive that few had ever traversed it in its entirety. It had a dark past, but recently, the main gardens had undergone an explosion of light and colour; deep within its bowels, where this colour had yet to reach, a light source similar to theLumos spell bobbed to and fro, its owner barely containing his anticipation as he waited for his guest of honour.
In pure-blood society, a trail of flowers was called a Lover's Road; a path from the edge of the courtyard to the dead centre of the gardens was lit with the light and magic of force grown flora. There was just something so intoxicating about it, primal and endearing, erotic and romantic, and reeking of expectations. For centuries wizards had been using this ritual to declare their romantic and matrimonial intentions for their witch. It was incredibly powerful, the results as irrevocable as any magical, binding ceremony, and just as highly regarded, in its day.
All pure-blood families knew of it, though it was considered outdated now – the Sacred Twenty-Eight stopped practising it decades before the book that gave them that name had ever been published. The more traditional families turned their noses up at it because of the implication that love was required to make it work. What was love next to the political-like arrangements to keep their bloodlines pure? What was lovecompared to the lavish lifestyles their ancestors had created for them to languish in? Scheming and backstabbing had gotten them further than love ever could.
Even the Weasley clan – arguably the worst purveyors of the old ways there was – didn't practise this anymore. Because what was the point, right? Romance didn't need a magical boost. But Draco Malfoy was a romantic at heart, no matter what his other flaws were. He just needed a boost.
It was the language of flowers that drove this magic; every flower had significance, every arrangement had meaning, and every piece of magic infused with the flora was tailored to the purpose of the trail.
He waved his wand, casting a non-verbal Orchideous (to summon flowers) before spelling his own magic into them. Of course, he had to conjure the right flowers; Daffodil to symbolise new beginnings, Anemone for expectation, and Red Tulip as his declaration of love. It was all quite proper.
When a pure-blood courted a half-blood, the rules went out the window, but there was no longstanding courtship ritual involving Muggle-borns.
He would just have to revive an old ritual for this purpose, then.
Draco eyed the fruits of his labour, thinking about the woman who would be walking this path in less than half an hour.
She was so much more than the pure-blood society women he'd been taught would be falling at his feet to marry him when he came of age; in other families, the wizard courted the witch, but a Malfoy never lowered himself to that. Draco was supposed to sit back and wait for them to come to him – as it had been for generations.
But society didn't want him anymore. They wanted spotless heroes and unblemished poor wizards who still looked good on the cover of Witch Weekly – he had the "look good" part down pat, at least. And he had to fight them every step of the way in his bid to revive the Malfoy name. Like a marble statue posing and preening, he stood tall before them, unable to lower himself to their level, playing and scheming to get back into their good graces. This was his playing field – it was the only level he knew to conduct his business on. And so the power of the Malfoy name lived on. But it wasn't enough for him – what was power without love? He needed someone, not for the storybook cliché life or because society dictated that he should want it, but because of that desperate, empty part of him that always yearned for more than what he had.
But they weren't exactly lining up like he'd hoped. And the answer to his pain was her.
He'd chosen a Mudblood to bring the Malfoy name back to life, and there was something so desperately bewitching about Hermione Granger that made him gravitate toward her.
So he manoeuvred his way into her life and won her trust. It wasn't easy, but he didn't regret a moment of it – months spent putting up with her Muggle parents' distrust, the worried antics of her two hapless best friends, and that rambunctious family of weasels, not to mention the army of men who wanted her almost as bad as he did.
And almost as badly as she'd grown to want him.
Draco closed his eyes, smiling slightly. The first moment he'd realised his desires for her were reciprocated had almost been his undoing. She was beautiful, wild, and staring at him intently; there was a mischievous glint in her eye when she'd dropped her silk robe to reveal her naked form. Who knew the Gryffindor Princess could be such a minx?
His eyes feasted on her greedily and she clearly enjoyed that feeling of control over him.
"Bloody hell, Granger!" fell from his lips before he could stop them, and like his life depended on it, Draco stalked toward her. He didn't want to make her come to him. There was no point. He finally saw a part of her he'd been dying to get a peek at and he let go of his inhibitions.
Hermione welcomed him so unexpectedly, and so completely that he'd had no choice but to fall in love with her.
Lightning struck and suddenly everything was illuminated in bright white, searing streak of clarity. His silent warding spell alerted him to it. She was finally here.
'Breathe. Just remember to breathe.'
Familiar brown curls bounced into view as Hermione Granger stormed into the courtyard of the main wing of Malfoy Manor – he could see her from his hiding spot, striding obliviously toward the start of theLover's Road. She was angry; beautiful in her furious splendour. Earlier that day he'd convinced his mother to talk to her again, hoping the two women could find some common ground, since their meeting place had been a philanthropic function in Northern Ireland – both of them had been helping orphans and families since the end of the war. Their restoration efforts had never intersected until now.
Obviously things hadn't gone according to plan.
But at least she was wearing the dress he'd picked out for her; it was their anniversary, and she was "far too busy to be shopping for new dresses", after all.
Hermione Granger froze suddenly, the furious expression on her face fading slightly as she noticed the peculiar lights illuminating the courtyard; her eyes drifted over the new additions to the garden, obviously realising everything looked different from the last time she'd seen it. Draco watched as her eyes lit up, her anger seemingly forgotten, and she recognised the set up. One of the many things he'd used to wear her down in his pursuit of this stubborn witch was her love of books. Draco had made sure to "accidentally" leave a number of Malfoy tomes where she could find them after introducing her to his family's vast library. She had to do this knowingly, after all.
A smile spread across her face and she chuckled lightly, shaking her head almost imperceptibly. Her voice carried over to his hiding place and Draco had to force himself not to step out and ravish her right now.
Hermione passed under the arch he'd created, and the instant her foot hit the path, her magic came alive and seemed to burst forth from the soles of her feet upon contact. It was a mesmerising sight. He could almost hear her thoughts from here, her awe.
She was cocooned in a veil of magic; a thin string of red connected them and she had never felt more protected in her whole life. There was a colour for every intent in magic, just as there was a sound for every string on a guitar, and flowers were the ultimate interpreter in the language of betrothal magic.
He watched her weaving in and around the many species of magical flora he'd woven into the spell; one-part potion and two parts incantation, it was a combination he felt best represented her.
So what if she was Muggle-born? So what if up until two years ago she'd been completely naïve to this kind of thing? She knew enough now to follow the path without suspicion. With every step she took new flowers bloomed and brightened. Their magic was entwining now.
Draco closed his eyes and imagined he could hear her heart racing and feel her magic accepting his.
She felt it first at her roots; the soles of her feet igniting with fire magic, a spark of something more electric surging through her body. It was meant to bring her to life, she understood, as though she had not fully matured until this moment. Like a flower blooming in slow motion, she felt the parts of her body that were meant for creating life come to life; flickers of colour tugged at her perception, lingering on the fringes of her mind. This was it.
It was almost done.
Draco could feel her acceptance the more she allowed the magic to guide her feet. She was coming to him, but not because of some ancient spell and potion concoction; Hermione Granger knew and understood the meaning of the impulsion flowing through her right now. She wanted him as much as he wanted her. Desperately, by the feel of this connection.
She was closer now, finally unable to hide the expectant smile on her face; Draco had told her he had a surprise for her. There was little doubt in his mind that she hadn't expected this.
The anger from the latest argument with his mother had left Hermione's face the moment she set foot into this sacred space. She knew only one person who wanted to do this with her.
The bowels of the vast garden lit up as she trailed through them, and Draco felt one final tug from her mind before she finally spotted him.
String by string the cocoon began to unravel. Layer by layer, her fears fell, pooling to her feet. There was solace and comfort here, and all her worries were gone; the dark orbs that haunted her sleep were finally faded. All the colours and flowers remained, and realisation dawned on her – she was bound again.
This time, by him.
Her voice was laced with her need and he shivered involuntarily. Good gods he was going to thoroughly enjoy this.
For a moment, they were both silent. She didn't know what else to say. Until he smiled, and held out his hand to her. Hermione eagerly took it; he didn't need to ask her if she understood what was about to happen.
"Are you okay?"
She nodded. "I'm fine. Better than fine."
Draco pulled her gaze to him, cupping her face. "Hermione?"
It was so anticlimactic, really. "Will you marry me?"
In her dazed mind, she barely registered her "yes" and the feeling of cold metal slipping over her ring finger as she embraced him, kissing him greedily. This had to be the magical equivalent of a drug induced high. She couldn't bring herself to care. They stood there like that, for Merlin knew how long, before Hermione's logical side kicked in and she remembered something.
"The next part is consummation, right?"
Draco chuckled. "Yeah, we have to shag now."
Her cheeky smile brought a mischievous grin to his face. Draco waved his wand and vanished his now fiancé's clothes; she laughed softly at his eagerness. Her dress was gone, but not her wand. Magic could not vanish magic. She'd learnt this a long time ago.
While her mind was still whirring, Draco had already vanished his own clothes and tossed aside both of their wands. She let him pull her to the centre of the… Hermione looked around in a daze. The Lover's Road had led here? This was the same small clearing they'd kissed in for the first time; they hadn't been dating yet and she would often visit him with one excuse or another. The truth was thinly veiled – she'd just wanted to see him. And the bastard had made her walk all the way out here to say hello instead of meeting her back at the manor like he normally would.
It was the first time she'd kissed someone in the middle of an argument, and this place had become significant to her – to them both, by the looks of things. She squeezed his hand; affection rushed through her for this man. He'd been nothing if not attentive to her.
Draco was caressing her now, kissing her, and inhaling her; she closed her eyes in anticipation. Hermione often took the secondary role when they had sex, and it was the only part of her life where she didn't mind handing the reins over to someone else.
It was what he did with the reins that made it worth giving in.
He ran his hands over her hips, kissing every inch of skin as he knelt in front of her, savouring her and worshipping her; he drowned her in white hot flashes of euphoria. Draco took his time but it wasn't long before he'd left her a quivering mess in his arms, her body flushed and open to him, like the blooming flowers that she saw on her path to him.
It was time.
And so they consumed, consummated, devoured, and delighted in each other. The magic in the air increased not only their desire for each other, but their stamina; drawn out, slow love-making. They made love, shagged each other haggard, and then let the magic rejuvenate them before beginning again.
Hours later, the sun finally rose, the warmth of its orange gleam startling Hermione awake. She didn't even remember falling asleep. She glanced at the man whose arms were wrapped around her tightly – he had been possessive from the get go of their relationship, but she didn't mind anymore. The man was more deceitful than he let on, even to her; it wasn't like she hadn't realised what he was doing, leaving those tomes out for her to read, but it still surprised her that he'd do this. Far removed from the hard, cold exterior he showed the rest of the wizarding world, he really was just a hapless romantic.
Hermione snuggled into Draco, unwilling to move, and the soft, deep rumbling of his breathing lulled her back to sleep.