Chapter 1 : Paradiso Nascosto
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Draco Malfoy stood in the very place where he was to be wed soon.
It was a family tradition that spanned several generations of Blacks… getting married in the grand magical gardens of the Black family estate known as Paradiso Nascosto, which meant Hidden Paradise in Italian.
It was not a requirement that he marry there, but when his mother suggested it to his fiancé, she fell in love with the idea and Draco held no protest.
The gardens were once well known in the magical community for not only the variety and beauty of its floral displays, but also for its unique magical elements. The color-changing waters of the aristocratic fountains, the reflecting pools that made one appear years younger than they actually were, and the white pebble paths that would move and change according to the position of the moon so that one’s walk always seemed to be different.
It was a place of quiet beauty. There were iron gates, stone bridges, elaborate fountains, and waterfalls mixed with perfectly manicured lawns and hedges. The hardscape was as beautiful as the landscape.
Draco loved the place as a child when visiting his mother’s ancestral home.
It had fallen into disrepair during the war and was currently undergoing an extensive restoration for his wedding that was to occur in the coming weeks.
Once married, his mother Narcissa would leave Malfoy Manor, leaving it to him and his bride, Astoria Greengrass, while she moved back to this beautiful place where she was raised.
And now as Draco stood under the expanse of a beautiful wrought iron dome being held up by six ornately carved Roman columns where his ancestors had exchanged their wedding vows, he was thinking of a time long, long ago when he used to run about the place as a youngster enjoying the magical garden elements that the public didn’t know about.
He saw the seven huge maple trees that surrounded it and recalled how they shed a million helicopter seeds that would come spinning and cascading their way down to him, showering him with wonder and a bit of fun as he caught them in mid-air.
He would spin around until he was dizzy, causing the magic of the place to make mini tornadoes of the seeds that lifted and twirled playfully around him, defying gravity again and again.
When the leaves would fall in autumn, he would run through the space under the trees and the magical garden would conjure a puppy made from fallen leaves that would chase him about and play with him.
It was as if the garden knew that a child needed a playmate and so it would create one for him.
He recalled his favorite tree… a Whomping Willow that stood proudly near the center of the garden. It was a fairly young tree, so it hadn’t grown to a bitter age yet. Instead of trying to hurt him for being there, it would snake its branches around him and hold him carefully while swinging him around and up and down and back and forth every which way in the safest manner possible. It was careful with the young Malfoy as the child laughed and giggled with delight at being gently tossed about. He only needed to tap on the branches when he wanted down and it would unwind him slowly and not let go until he had safely found his feet.
In the summer, the slightest breeze through the place would lift the scent of ten thousand flowers into the air. The experience of it had him thinking that it must be what Heaven smelled like.
Draco would hide from Lucius in the tall evergreen labyrinth, knowing his father’s hatred of it for fear of getting lost in the maze of hedges. It was not his favorite place either, but it proved to be a safe haven when he needed it.
There were many places to hide, but by far his favorite was the space behind the waterfall. He knew how to get behind the ever-flowing curtain of water where he would keep galleon coins and colored rocks that he would pretend was a pirate’s treasure of gold and precious gems. There was only one thing there of actual value, an amethyst ring that was his mother's. It was the pirate's most prized possession.
Along with the magical elements of the place, he liked the non-magical as well. The garden was alive with an array of different species of butterflies, praying mantises, and soft fuzzy caterpillars, along with Draco’s favorite… a harmless mini garden snake that would make an appearance on occasion.
He would crouch down along the shaded pebble paths that framed the flower beds and play with it a bit, watching it coil around his wrist.
“Draco, stop playing with that snake and come here.” He had heard his Aunt Bellatrix say long ago.
With sorrowful hesitation, he placed the snake gently on the ground and watched it slither silently away.
“What is it Auntie?” The little white-blond haired boy whined a reply.
“Look at this. Do you know what this is?” She quizzed holding a delicate white trumpeted flower to his face.
It had been a game amongst a trio of sisters when they were young… naming the flowers and their meanings.
“Moonflower. Dreaming of Love.” Draco replied.
“And this?” She asked holding up a spray of tiny white flowers on fragile branches.
“Baby’s Breath. Innocence, pure of heart.” He recalled easily. “Auntie, must we speak of Floriography again? I don’t see the point of it. I’m not going to be a florist, you know.”
“You’ll impress the ladies with your knowledge one day. Now, what about this one?”
“White Lilac. First emotion of love.” He recited.
“Wrong. First emotion of love is the Purple Lilac. White Lilac stands for youthful innocence or memories.”
“Who cares?” He said turning to go, upset at being wrong.
“Ah, ah, ah… one more. This one is very special.” She said, playing on the child’s curiosity.
He stopped and turned back to see that she was holding one of the most beautiful flowers he’d ever seen.
Draco hadn’t seen it in the garden before. It must be a new one, he thought.
“This one is sort of rare.” She said holding it close to his nose, making Draco’s boyish gray eyes go cross-eyed. “It’s obviously a rose… but it’s the color that’s rare.” She said in a mysterious voice.
“The Violet Rose?” He said with intrigue, fully taking in its beautiful aroma. “Wherever did you find it in this garden?”
“It popped up and opened just today by the statue of the Angel, Gabriel. It is said that none will bloom until the eve of a blue moon.”
Draco plucked it from her grasp. “It stands for love at first sight, right?” He said studying it.
“Correct.” She said standing to her full height. “I thought you might like its rare color.”
“What does that mean exactly? Love at first sight? Loving the flower at first sight?”
“No, silly boy. It means falling in love with a girl the first time you see her. You would give the girl a Violet Rose to tell her that you fell in love with her at first sight. And with your looks, there’ll be a stampede of girls falling in love at the first sight of you.”
He did not like her saying things like that so he made sure to give her his best mean look.
“I can take care of that for you, you know.” She said strangely. “Come here.” She said, taking out her wand. “Let me make you ugly. Then the girls will stay away.”
Draco’s eyes grew wide with fear as he turned and ran as fast as his little boy legs could go to his mother, hearing his aunt’s evil laugh behind him.
Narcissa was sitting at the grand patio donning a white wide-brimmed hat, sipping a glass of lemonade, and watching hummingbirds feed on the nectar of purple Morning Glories hanging happily on a vine when Draco came running.
“Mother, Mother… Auntie Bellatrix just said she was going to turn me ugly!”
“She will do no such thing.” His mother attempted to assure him.
“Oh yes she would! She looked at me all evil-eyed and… and well… I do not like her.”
Narcissa smiled at her adorable son. “You have nothing to worry about from my sister. She was only teasing you, I’m sure. Here, have some lemonade to cool you down.” She said as she poured him a tall glass of his favorite summer drink.
Draco climbed onto the seat closest to his mother and laid the flower on the table.
“What a gorgeous flower, Draco. The Violet Rose.”
She contemplated the meaning and let out a long sigh. “Love at first sight sounds wonderful, but it does have its drawbacks.”
“Why would it?” Little Draco thought logically. “It seems that if you fall in love with someone quickly, then you wouldn’t have to waste your time trying to figure it all out.” He said in the sweetest little boy voice as he gulped down his sour lemonade.
Narcissa marveled at her young son’s logic. He was so young to be saying such things.
“If you fall in love too fast, there’s a danger that you will close your mind to every other girl and become the biggest heartbreaker to ever attend Hogwarts.” She smiled. “But the biggest problem in falling in love with a girl at first sight is coming to the realization that she might not love you back. Such a one-sided sentiment could very well break a heart in a split second.”
Thinking of such a situation, whether it be love at first sight or not, she added. “Love is a very complicated emotion, Draco. And something tells me that you will have your struggles with it.”
His mother couldn’t have been more correct.
As Draco stood in the most beautiful of gardens surround by a hundred memories, he thought about the meaning of that flower and the person who it was meant for. It most certainly was not his fiancé.
Earlier that day, his mother and his bride to be, Astoria had been sitting at a round outdoor patio table with a florist and what seemed to be an endless amount of sample flowers and bouquets.
They were supposed to be picking out their flowers for the wedding, something of which Draco had absolutely no interest in whatsoever. He didn’t want to have anything to do with planning the wedding. He only wanted to show up. And in his current state, he wasn’t sure if he even wanted to do that.
He sat separate from them… sipping lemonade spiked with vodka, thinking of someone from his past, but was close enough to be within earshot.
He sat there bored out of his mind and completely uninterested in what they were doing. That is… until he heard Astoria make her announcement.
“Draco, I found the perfect flower for our wedding.” She said happily. “The Violet Rose. Look.” She held it up to him. “It’s gorgeous!”
She knew nothing of its meaning. She only knew that it was beautiful and was the color she desired.
Draco took a sudden interest as he stood abruptly in protest and pointed his drink at her. “Not the Violet Rose.” He said adamantly. “Pick any rose by any other color. Or any flower with that color. Just not that one."
Astoria was not stupid and immediately grew irritated. “This is about a woman, is it not? Like Violet Roses did she?”
Draco said nothing further as he gave her a look that told her she needn’t bother him with more questions.
“If a flower reminds you of someone else, then you only need to say so. I don’t want a flower shouting someone else’s name at you at our wedding. Are there any other forbidden flowers I should know about?” She said with a hint of sarcasm.
“You know what? Never mind. Pick any flower you want. Truly, I don’t care.” He downed the rest of his drink and set the glass on a side table with a little too much force. “I’m going for a walk.”
Narcissa watched her son walk away while Astoria tossed the flower harshly to the ground.
“Well, you heard him. No Violet Roses.” She said to the florist.
It took all of an hour for Astoria to finally choose the flowers that she wanted. When she was finished, she and the florist made their exit from the estate.
As soon as they were gone, Narcissa Malfoy picked up the delicate and beautiful Violet Rose from the ground and went to find her son in the garden.
It didn’t take her long. She knew of his favorite spots.
She paused when she saw him. He appeared to be deep in thought, sitting on a wrought iron park bench beside the Whomping Willow that he had loved as a child.
When she got close enough to him, she finally spoke.
“It’s not the flower you care about. It’s the meaning behind it.” She said knowingly with eyebrow raised.
He only answered her with a question. “So, what did she finally pick out?”
“Purple and white Hydrangeas.” She said with a sly smile.
“Heartlessness?” Draco gave a chuckle. “She would pick those wouldn’t she?”
“Oh, forgive her. She knows nothing of the language of flowers.” Narcissa said with a laugh. “Walk with me, son.”
She always did love a stroll through the place. It had been her childhood home and the garden had always been a welcome breath of fresh air.
As they began walking, she took a gentle hold of his arm.
“Who is she?” She asked kindly.
Draco was fully aware that denying what his mother already knew was futile. “Someone you and father would never approve of.”
“You might be surprised at who I would approve of, son. And your father is no longer alive to approve or disapprove… or force you into marrying someone you do not love.”
He let out a long sigh. “Is it that obvious?”
“To me it is.” She said as her free hand brushed the soft tips of ornamental grass as they walked. “We are getting off subject. Who is this lady that had you loving her at first sight? She must have been someone very special to have that effect on you.”
“Her name is insignificant when she is someone else’s fiancé as we speak.”
“Ah. And so… let me guess. When you heard of the engagement, you decided it was too late for you and so you smartly asked Astoria Greengrass?”
The one thing Draco loved and hated about his mother was her ability to read him. It was a good and a bad thing.
He gave her another deep sigh in response, which revealed enough truth for her to know that she had guessed correctly.
Looking up at her grown son, she couldn’t help but think of Lucius.
She remembered a time when her husband would look at her with love and desire that would melt her heart. But she never saw that expression on her son with Astoria. It was as if he truly didn’t care if she was there or not.
Whatever his reasoning behind the engagement, it wasn’t because of love. Narcissa could sense it and became concerned.
“Draco, if this girl is not married yet, then it isn’t too late.”
He stopped then and looked at his mother face to face.
“Mother, you don’t understand. I’ve never had a relationship with her. We do not have a good past in the slightest… except for when we first met, which she doesn’t seem to recall… quite possibly because she was Obliviated.”
She listened intently as he continued and felt the tension build in his voice.
“Any possible chance for a relationship with her is a dream and a fantasy that will never happen. I was nothing but mean and nasty to her at Hogwarts. Am I upset that she is now engaged to someone else? Yes. Because it is entirely my fault for not doing something about it years ago. Another one of my failures that I must live with. There is no chance, so I must do what is right… Leave her alone and move on with life.”
Narcissa’s eyes widened at his words. “Listen to you, full of passion just speaking about her. You must see her before she weds.”
Draco was about to protest again, but his mother began saying things that changed his mind and had him rethinking.
“A loveless marriage with Astoria is no marriage at all. You will become bored with her. And as you get older, you will look for happiness elsewhere and probably not find it. And she will look for love elsewhere. Either way, your ‘smart’ marriage will eventually end in a messy divorce.”
She looked at her son with a quiet seriousness.
“I want you to go to this girl one last time, before it really is too late. You never know what she may be feeling about you. So many people have been forced to look at things differently in the aftermath of the war. So much has changed. You’ve changed. I know it might not seem logical, but it is worth the risk of knowing for sure.”
Knowing her son wasn’t yet fully convinced, she remembered what he said about their first meeting.
“Draco, you said something about her not remembering the first time you met.”
“What if she remembered?”
"I tried once. She doesn’t remember and she won’t.”
“Give her the Violet Rose, Draco. If she knows the meaning of it, maybe it will cause her to solely concentrate on her past. If she does this, she may be able to recall the memory that you fear is lost… and it could change everything.”
She picked up his hand then and carefully placed into his palm the beautiful Violet Rose that Astoria had so rudely tossed to the ground.
And while looking dead into her son’s eyes, a loving mother said, “I want you to be happy for once in your life, Draco. You’ve earned it. Who you marry is your choice. But do take a chance at love, son. What do you really have to lose?”
Narcissa turned and gracefully walked away from him then… leaving him to ponder the one that he’d fallen in love with so many years ago.
Standing in the midst of Paradiso Nascosto, he held the bulb of the flower in the palm of his hand as one would hold a goblet of fine wine... wishing he were marrying someone else.
When I saw Pyromania's 'Language of Flowers' Challenge, I just could not resist. I got so very lucky to be assigned a gorgeous flower with a beautiful meaning.
I hope you liked it so far. Please review. I'd love to hear from you...
P.S. This chapter was originally posted with their 1st chance meeting included, making it way too long. In moving it to the second chapter, I think it is a much better story. My apologies to anyone who read it before the edit.
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