(WL01) Part the First

You and I walk a fragile line, I have known it all this time.

“Haunted,” Taylor Swift

Draco ran down the corridor and into the drawing room where the ladies of the house were passing the hours.   Aunt Narcissa was reading in Latin to little Io and Lacerta was at her needlepoint.  Imbolc was at a writing desk, presumably at her correspondence with her friends from Beauxbatons.

“Immy,” he said.  “I need to borrow you.”  He looked at her pointedly.  “If that’s all right with you, Lady Mother.”  Although he was only poking his head through the door, he still managed to bow to Narcissa.

She smiled at him.  “Imbolc, you may go with your cousin,” she said.  “Just remember to come back and collect your correspondence.”

“Of course,” she said, dropping a kiss on the top of her aunt’s hair.  It was in a net, which was rather casual, but the purple rather flattered her blue robes.  Imbolc’s hair was once again in her elaborate twists that folded down to her shoulders.

Draco reached out his hand and grabbed Imbolc’s, pulling her through the door and toward the stairs.

“What’s this about?”

“Trust me,” he said as they hurried along.  “I saw a guest come in and I know you’ll want to see him.”

“Why doesn’t Uncle just bring him into the drawing room?”  Her pale green and prink robes were rather long and she was holding them up with her free hand. 

“They hate each other,” Draco said, not turning around.  They were now rushing up a back stairwell.  “I mean hate each other.  This is the only way.  We’re going to have to break every pureblood rule.  Are you okay with that?”

“Who is it?” she demanded, nearly tripping.  They were now turning into another hallway toward Uncle Lucius’s office.

Trust me,” Draco begged.  “We don’t have much time.”

They hurried down another corridor and then down another until they came to Uncle Lucius’s study.  Without even knocking, Draco opened the door, pulling Imbolc with him.

She was momentarily confused.  She took in the familiar study with its mahogany panels and her Uncle Lucius’s personal sketches of the family.  Then she saw the man sitting in a chair opposite the desk.  He had her cheekbones, her nose, the same forehead, and, yes, the same full lips.  His black hair fell to his shoulders and curled and his eyes were as gray as a Black’s.

Imbolc looked at Draco who was nodding to her.  She then glanced at Uncle Lucius who seemed rather upset.  Turning to the man again, she asked, “Father?”

“Draco,” Lucius said.  “Take your cousin back to wherever you found her.  There are matters we gentlemen must discuss.”

“No,” Imbolc said, stepping forward, reaching out to touch the man.  “You are Sirius, Lord Black, are you not?  Aren’t you?”  Her eyes flicked between Uncle Lucius and her father.

Sighing, Lucius offered her the other chair on the opposite side of his desk and poured her a glass of elven wine.  She accepted it and took a sip.

Turning her attention back to her father, she asked, “Why didn’t you come last year or the year before that?  You’ve been free since the summer before third year.  You even came to Hogwarts, but you went searching for your godson in Gryffindor Tower.  I always wondered—why didn’t you come looking for me?”

The warm presence of Draco was suddenly behind her, and she smiled softly when his hand landed on her shoulder.

Her father cleared his throat and took a sip of his firewhiskey.  “I was set up, Imbolc.  The man who did it was an animagus and he was in Gryffindor Tower.  I managed to capture him at the end of your third year, but he escaped before I was able to prove my innocence.  I was wandering all of last year, living off of whatever I could find, but now I’ve moved back into Grimmauld Place—“

“Where Grandfather Orion lived?” she asked happily.

He looked at her strangely but then nodded.  “I’m still a wanted man, but I have a home under the Fidelius.”

Uncle Lucius finally spoke.  “You can’t have her.  The Wizengamot awarded her to my custody when Lux died and you’re a convict.  What kind of guardian would I be if released her to you?”

“You know I’m innocent,” her father stated emphatically.

“Be that as it may, the Ministry is still out for your blood.  Imbolc is a young lady. We’re hoping to hear any day now that she’s made prefect, along with Draco, of course.”

For the first time, it seemed that her father noticed Draco standing behind her.  “Your eldest?” he asked.

“Yes,” Lucius agreed.  “You were at his baptism with Lux.”

“I remember she was upset she couldn’t stand godmother because they were cousins,” her father murmured.  He looked pensive.  “Are they courting?”  His voice was rough and his eyes darted between Imbolc and Draco.

“No,” Draco answered.  “I think we’re a little young, Cousin Sirius.”

“Perhaps,” he agreed before he turned to Uncle Lucius.  “Visitation rights, then.  Once a week for an afternoon.  Perhaps she’d enjoy redecorating Grimmauld Place.  It needs a woman’s touch.”

“Only if one of her cousins accompanies her,” Uncle Lucius bargained.  “I don’t care if your house is under the Fidelius.  I would prefer it if Draco goes with her and, if not him, then Lacerta.”

“How old is Lacerta?”

“Thirteen,” Uncle Lucius informed him.  “She’s a bit young, which is why I would prefer Draco.  The two were raised as twins, anyway.  I also want her to have access to the Black vaults.  I do not mind providing for her, far from it, but it’s time she had access to the family jewelry since she is the Black heiress.”

Before her father could respond, Imbolc spoke.  “I want something out of all of this.  Draco and I found Mother’s grave.  It’s in a Muggle cemetery and says Lux Kingsley.  I want her to have a proper Black or Malfoy burial.”

“Have you been Apparating again?” Uncle Lucius asked in defeat.  “Where did you find her?”

“Haye-on-Wye,” Draco supplied.  “We’re almost positive it’s her.  It’s where Imbolc lived until she was five and came here.”

Uncle Lucius hummed.  He looked at Imbolc’s father.  “What are the Black arrangements?  We have a private cemetery on the grounds.”

“We have a vault,” he admitted.  “I can show it to Imbolc and Draco when they come over.”

“Very well.  It’s Wednesday.  You may come for them at one on Saturday, that way it won’t disrupt their lessons.  They must be back for dinner at six.”

Her father nodded and shook on it.  Imbolc took another sip of her wine and looked up at Draco who squeezed her shoulder in response.  Turning to her, Sirius Black looked at her in the eye.  “You look so much like your mother,” he told her.  “The same eyes, the same hair.  I know this means nothing coming from a stranger, but you’re beautiful and I couldn’t be prouder to call you my daughter.”  He reached out his hand and stroked her cheek.  She leaned into the touch.  “It was only the thought of you and your mother that kept me sane in Azkaban.  I love you, my darling Candlemas.”

She startled at the nickname, but offered him a small smile.  “Welcome home, Father.”

He kissed her forehead.  “I’ll see you Saturday.”  With another nod to Uncle Lucius, he left. 

Imbolc sat in her chair and felt so alone.

“Drink up,” Draco suggested as he took the vacated chair.  “It will probably help.”

Uncle Lucius looked between the two of them.  “I don’t mean to pry, but are you courting?”

She blushed.

“She’s deciding,” Draco answered for her.  “I’m hoping that if we do, that we’ll have your blessing.”

Sitting back, Uncle Lucius looked between the two of them.  “First cousins once removed is a little close,” he admitted, “but with a heart as black as Imbolc’s, I wouldn’t dare stand in the way.”  He smirked at them.

“Your grandfather lived here?” Draco demanded as they walked through the front door.  “It’s a bit drab.”

“It does need work,” Imbolc admitted as Sirius closed the door behind them.  “I don’t remember it being so dark, but then again, Grandfather died when I was four.”

“We have some guests,” Sirius admitted.  “You might know them from Hogwarts.”

Imbolc looked horrified.  Draco looked at her sympathetically.  “You do realize we’re Malfoys.”

“My daughter is a Black.”

“Her mother was a Malfoy,” Draco argued, “and Immy was raised as one.”

“You’re in Slytherin, aren’t you?” Sirius suddenly asked in horror.

Imbolc could only sigh.  “No.  However, Draco only meant that we’re blood purists.  I know from what Uncle Lucius has said that you’re not, even though Mother was—“

Her father nodded.  “Well, I’m afraid there are blood traitors and Muggleborns here.”

Draco and Imbolc shared a look.  “Ever the gracious lady,” she said.

“Yet another lesson in fortitude,” Draco complained.  “At least at Hogwarts we can offend anyone we want.”

“You’re in Slytherin,” Imbolc corrected.  “You can offend anyone you like.  I’m in Ravenclaw like Mother.  We have Muggleborns.”

“Right,” her father said, clapping his hands.  “If you just go up the stairs.”

They were met with a crew of ginger-tops and a girl with bushy brown hair.  “Hermione Granger,” she introduced, taking Imbolc’s hand and shaking it.  “I’m so excited.  I had no idea Sirius had a daughter.”

Her smile tightened and she turned to her father.  “You allow people to refer to you by your given name and not by ‘Lord Black’?”

“I’ve never been one for titles,” he admitted.

She looked at him strangely.

“What are you doing with Malfoy?” one of the ginger-tops, a girl, asked.

“We’re cousins, Weaslette,” he said snidely, “through the Blacks and through the Malfoys.”

“Sorry for living,” she responded, before coming up and introducing herself.  She was Ginny Weasley and a year below them at Hogwarts.  “Harry should be coming soon, hopefully,” she admitted.  “Do you fancy him?”

Draco snorted.

Imbolc was rather caught off guard.  “I’m afraid I’ve never met him.  I’m in Ravenclaw and we only have a few classes together.  We do both take Divination, come to think of it.”

“Woolly subject,” Hermione put in.

“Lady Imbolc,” Draco said quite sharply, “is rather gifted with Tarot Cards.  She was able to predict where her mother’s grave was when we were searching for it.”

Hermione snorted.

“Hermione,” Sirius Black warned, “the Kingsleys, her mother’s paternal family, have often been gifted in this field.  It would be better not to insult it.”  He looked at her pointedly.

They ended up in the sitting room, with some of the Weasleys playing exploding snap and the Weaslette, Hermione, Draco, and Imbolc playing piquet.  “I wonder when we get our Hogwarts letters,” Imbolc said, opening the conversation.  “Are you expecting a prefect’s badge, Hermione?”

“Yes,” she said, flipping back her hair.  “You?”

“I’m top of my class,” she answered, “with Draco, of course.”

“We’re hoping to make Head Boy and Head Girl,” Draco said proudly.  “We started campaigning last year.”

Hermione looked up.  “What are you talking about?”

“Nothing,” Imbolc said quickly.  “Just a pureblood turn of phrase.”  She stared down Draco.  “Now, tell me, Hermione, do Muggleborns court?  I’ve never been quite certain on the subject.”

The Weaslette started coughing.

There were rather badly kept gardens in the back of the house, but Imbolc’s father took her back there just past four and Draco insisted on not being left with the “rabble.”

“How do you like the Malfoys?” Father asked.

“I love them,” she admitted.  “They’re my family.  I remember Mother taking me to visit Uncle Lucius, Aunt Narcissa, and Draco when I was small.  After I was put in an orphanage when Mother died, it was Uncle Lucius who came and found me.”

“No one told me how Lux died,” Sirius said cautiously.

Imbolc stopped and glanced back at Draco who was inspecting a bush.  “I—it was my fault,” she admitted.  “Accidental magic.  I breathed on a bird and its wing healed and it flew away.  A muggle saw and he dragged me through the streets by my hair.  Mother found him and put him under an unforgivable, I think.  Some muggle saw and got scared and shot her through the head.  It’s the worst memory of my life.”

“Oh, darling,” her father said, taking her face in his hands, “that was not your fault.  You were just being a witch.”

“But she’s dead.”  Imbolc didn’t even realize she was crying until her father wiped her tears away with his thumbs.

“That’s the muggle’s fault,” he stated emphatically.  “No wonder you’re a blood purist.”

She laughed.  “I hate muggles,” she admitted, “and muggleborns, and some half-bloods.  I just hate anything touched by muggles.  I can still hear that gun.”  She closed her eyes in pain.  “I thank the old gods Uncle Lucius found me and brought me back to Malfoy Manor.”

“Yes, although she was his niece, Lucius was only five years older than Lux,” Sirius told her.  “She was like his little sister.  He had more of a connection to her than he did to his older sister Madaleine, who was Lux’s mother.”

“She was a spy for the Dark Lord, did you know?  She’s in Azkaban now.”

“Wouldn’t surprise me,” her father said darkly.  “Although I loved your mother with my entire being, I’ve never trusted the Kingsleys or the Malfoys, for that matter.”

“You must not trust the Blacks either, then.”

“No, I don’t,” he agreed.  “I was the white sheep of the family.”

Imbolc couldn’t help but giggle.

They lay in the grass on the front lawns of the manor.  Quite unintentionally, both Draco and Imbolc had come downstairs wearing the pureblood fashion of black.  Draco had now stripped off his jacket so he was only wearing a sleeveless turtleneck and Imbolc and taken off her outerdress so she would be more comfortable in the slight heat.

There was the rustle of wings and two owls settled near them.  Another one headed straight for the manor.  Immediately Draco and Imbolc had sat up and found their respective owl.  As soon as their letters were untied, the owls had taken off into the blue sky.

The cousins stared at each other.

“I’m afraid,” Imbolc admitted.

“You got it, Immy.  Although the Mudblood Granger will never admit it, you have the top marks in the entire year, except perhaps in Herbology.”  She swatted at him and he laughed.

“And you?  Isn’t Theodore Nott supposed to be clever?”

“True,” Draco agreed.  “But he’s nothing remarkable.  Ladies first.”

She bit her lip and looked down at the pouch.  Carefully, she opened it and tipped it so that the badge would fall into her hand, if it was indeed in there.  She closed her eyes tightly and then she felt the smooth metal.  Opening her eyes, she screamed in delight and flung herself at Draco.

“This is just the first step,” she said excitedly.  “We will be Head Boy and Girl,” she promised.  “Now you, Draco.”

He smirked at her, and with much less fanfare retrieved his prefect’s badge.  She threw herself into his arms yet again and gently kissed him, her hand running up through his blond hair.  Their eyes locked and then she quickly drew away, looking down at her skirt.  “I’m sorry,” she murmured.  “That was unfair.”

He traced the cusp of her ear.  “No, thank you.  It was a gift.”

Imbolc glanced back at him and they smiled at each other.  “However will you manage with Quidditch?”

“I’ll manage,” he promised, “as long as you and Lacy are cheering for me.”

“As if there were any doubt,” she stated happily.

He lay back down in the grass and, after thinking about it for a moment, she lay down beside him, her head against his chest.  His arm came up around her and she sighed in contentment.

“I could stay like this forever,” he admitted after ten minutes.

“Try having my hair,” she teased.  “We pureblood ladies are thankful when we can take down our hair at the end of each day.  There’s a reason why we take naps before balls and functions.  It’s so we can take our hair down and give it a reprieve before forcing it back onto our heads.”

“Surely your creations are more comfortable than the usual styles?” he questioned.

“Yes,” she agreed.  “I found them in a medieval book.  Silly, perhaps, but it’s still following pureblood customs.”

“It makes you distinctive,” he said, his hand tracing her upper arm.  “I find myself quite enchanted.”

“Not by Miss Weasley’s long strawberry blonde hair?” she asked, a little insecure.

“That blood traitor,” he sneered.  “Only her family and her husband should see her hair.”

“But the color, Draco, the color.”

He lifted himself a little off of the ground and looked at her.  Imbolc’s face was tucked in away from him, so he couldn’t see her emotions, but he sighed anyway.  “It’s like dull fire,” he admitted.  “Nothing like molten gold, which I’m quite partial to.  Your hair is truly wondrous.  I’ll deny this if you ever quote me, but your hair is more beautiful than Mother’s.”

“You flatter me.”

“I can compare your hair to any witch’s at Hogwarts and they’ll all be found wanting,” he told her truthfully.  “I wonder where the color came from.  Your grandfather perhaps?”

She shrugged.  “Your guess is as good as mine.  I know Mother had my hair, but Grandmother Madeleine had white blonde hair like you and Uncle Lucius.”

“A mystery,” he murmured.  His hands were now tracing her entwined strands.

“A mystery,” she agreed before falling to slumber.

It was Aunt Narcissa’s voice that brought her back to herself.  “Draco, dinner was served fifteen minutes ago.  This is also quite compromising since you aren’t courting.”

“We’ll be right in,” Draco promised, his hand still tracing her hair.

“You won’t even apologize?”

“I will never apologize for loving Imbolc,” he stated firmly.

She stirred and the conversation stopped.

“Immy,” Draco said.  “It’s time for dinner.”

A chill had entered the air and she shivered.  A hand shook her.  “Imbolc, darling,” Aunt Narcissa said.  “It’s time to wake up now.  You need to share the news that you made prefect.”

Rousing herself, Imbolc gently pushed herself off of Draco.  They smiled at each other.

“Let me get your overdress,” he said as he put on his robes.  He offered his hand and she stood up, a little shakily at first, and then she was being dressed.  Her envelope was pushed into her hands and she nodded in thanks.

“Not a word to your father about your—indiscretion,” Aunt Narcissa warned.  “Just admit to Imbolc falling asleep and the fact that you didn’t want to leave her.”

“Yes, Mother,” Draco said dutifully.  He looked over at Imbolc and smirked.

“You’ve found the tapestry then,” Imbolc said as she came into the room.  A boy, who had clearly grown several inches over the summer, was looking at it with interest.  He had a mop of black hair and broad shoulders.  She was in no doubt that if he turned around, she would see green eyes, horn-rimmed glasses, and a lightning bolt scar on his forehead.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” he said quickly, not quite turning around.

“Here,” she said kindly.  “Let me show you where I am and my missing cousin.”

She set her finger on Phineas Nigellus, then traced it down through Sirius II, then Arcturus, her Grandfather Orion, then her father Sirius III, then down to her.

“You’re Sirius’s daughter?”  Green eyes met hers and she smiled at the sheer astonishment in them.

“Yes,” she answered simply.  “My uncle has custody of me, but he allows visitation since Father has his own establishment which cannot be breached by the Ministry.  I come here once a week with my cousin.”  Imbolc smiled at him.  “Now, here’s my missing cousin.”  She pointed to Sirius again then up to Grandfather Orion, down to his second son Regulus and his daughter, who was listed only as “Lady of the House of Black.”

Harry had been staring at the tapestry quite closely but he then stood back.  “Is that normal?”

“No,” she agreed.  “We do know that Uncle Regulus married a French witch in secret before he died.  Father doesn’t know who it is, nor does Aunt Narcissa.  The tapestry won’t say, so we can’t know.  There’s no other ‘Black’ at Hogwarts, so she’s not there.  We assume she’s in France.”

“Aunt Narcissa?”

“Cousin Narcissa, technically,” she explained, “but she’s also married to my Uncle Lucius.  They have custody of me.”  She went back to Phineas Nigellus, down to Cygnus, then Pollux, then Cygnus II, before finally reaching Narcissa.

“Draco Malfoy?” Harry said in shock.  “He’s your cousin?”

She nodded.  “He’s about somewhere.  Uncle Lucius only let’s me come if he accompanies me.  He’s probably telling someone how worthless they are, knowing him.”

“But this is the Order of the Phoenix!”

“Doesn’t family just get confusing sometimes?” she laughed.  “I believe my cousin Nymphadora Tonks is a member.  We don’t speak to her, of course.  Her mother, Andromeda, married a Muggleborn.”  She pointed to the scorch mark on the tapestry.

“My mother’s a Muggleborn.”  She’d clearly insulted him.

“You’re a Potter.  You’re not a Black.  Well, your cousin Charlus married a Black, but that’s a very distant connection.”  She smiled at him.

His mouth flapped a bit, like he wanted to say something, but couldn’t quite figure out what it was.

“Did your friend Hermione Granger make prefect?”  Imbolc knew she probably had, but it was polite to ask, and it seemed like Harry really needed help.

“Er—yes.  So did I.”

“Really?” she asked politely.  “I’ll have to judge when the right moment is to tell Draco.  I don’t think you’re his favorite person.  Oh, I’m Lady Imbolc Black.”  She looked at him expectantly.

“Harry Potter,” he finally answered.

“Is ‘Harry’ a nickname or your actual name?  I’ve always been curious.  It’s the Ravenclaw in me.”

“I don’t use my legal name,” he admitted.

“All right,” she answered.  “I—“

The door opened and Draco popped in.  “Immy,” he said.  “You’ll never guess who’s here.”

“The Minister of Magic.”

He smiled and shook his head.  He caught sight of Potter and frowned.  “No, Professor Snape.  You know you’re his favorite Potions student.”

She blushed.  “All right, I’m coming.  Farewell!” she called to Harry before exiting the room.

Professor Snape was indeed there.  He was talking to some wizard Imbolc only knew by sight, but when his eyes lit on her, they instantly brightened.

“Ah, my star pupil,” he said, motioning Imbolc closer.  Hermione Granger was nearby and was clearly affronted.  “Auror Shacklebolt, may I introduce the brightest in her year?  Lady Imbolc Black.”

“Sirius’s daughter,” the man said happily.  “Who was your mother?  I never knew he was married until recently.”

“Lady Lux Kingsley,” she answered.  At his blank look, she added, “She was the niece of the current Lord Malfoy.” 

His eyes brightened.  “You come from two great houses, then.”

A witch with bubblegum hair came forward.  “Careful,” Professor Snape whispered in her ear, and she nodded to show that she heard. 

“Wotcher,” the witch said.  “I’m Auror Tonks.”

Draco blinked.  “Nymphadora Tonks?” he qualified.  “Andromeda’s daughter?”

“Yes.  You are?”

He looked affronted.  Professor Snape fortunately stepped in.  “This is Heir Draco Malfoy.”

It was Sirius, however, who saved the day.  “Tonks, what did you think—?” he asked, as he led her away. 

Imbolc let out a breath and looked over at Draco.  He held out his hand to her, and she accepted it.  He led her out of the room, and Imbolc noticed that several eyes followed them out.  They ended up in the drawing room where Harry Potter was still lingering.

“That was close,” Draco admitted.  “I never thought the blood traitor’s daughter would end up an Auror.”

“Did you see her hair?  Forget the color, but what lady of good society would have it so short?”

Draco reached out and smoothed a twist that came near her ear.  “How long is yours?” he whispered huskily.

She grinned.  “You’ll never know unless you’re my husband,” she teased.

“Darling, what you do to me.”

She startled.  “That’s the first time you’ve called me that.”

He caressed her cheek.  “But not the last.”

Neither noticed the longing look in Harry Potter’s eyes.

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