“I’ve been spending the last eight months, Thinking all love ever seems does is break and burn and end, But on a Wednesday in a café, I watched it begin again.““Begin Again,” Taylor Swift
Imbolc was in the library with Lacerta. She was a third year and had decided to take Creatures and Ancient Runes just as her brother had. Lacerta didn’t favor Care of Magical Creatures with Hagrid, of course, which is why they were searching for information on hippogriffs. Normally, Draco would help, but he had such a hatred for the creatures, that Imbolc had volunteered her time.
Hermione walked over, brushing her hair over her shoulders and sat across from them.
“Granger,” she greeted. “Is this about prefect duties because I’m afraid I’m helping my cousin at the moment and we can address it at our weekly meeting tomorrow.”
“It’s Harry,” she said simply, and Imbolc looked up.
“Lacy,” she said quietly. “I need to talk to Granger privately. Could you perhaps take your book and sit with your other friends in Slytherin?”
Looking up at her with ice blue eyes, she nodded. “Promise to tell Draco?” she asked innocently.
“You know we tell each other everything. We have since we were small children,” she assured. Running a hand through Lacerta’s hair, she smiled at her. “Now, off you go, little magician, before the fairies come and get you!”
They shared a secret smile before Lacerta picked up her books and joined a table of Slytherin girls. Imbolc turned to Hermione.
“I’d rather you not tell Malfoy,” she began.
“I’m afraid I can’t promise that. Draco, long before we began courting, was my dearest childhood friend. We have very few secrets from each other. The most important I can think of is what I’m planning to get him for Yule.” She smirked. “You can see how it’s hopeless.”
Hermione pursed her lips. “Harry’s rather upset.”
“I would imagine so,” Imbolc reasoned. “I was perfectly clear in my last owl to him.”
“Did you have to tear all the pages out of that diary and then black out the faces of his parents in the photographs? It seems a bit extreme.” That had been rather inventive. Imbolc and Draco had sat on his bed and defaced the pictures together before calling for his owl, Proserpine, and sending them off to Gryffindor Tower.
“No more extreme than sending me photographs that suggest that my mother is not worth being a part of them. Is he saying she’s not good enough? That she’s a seductress who lured Father into an incestuous relationship? Honestly, I couldn’t quite determine the message, but I wanted to assure him that I thought as little of his parents as he thought of my mother.”
Hermione reared back, shocked. “Is that what this is about, your mother?”
Imbolc inclined his head. “That and he insulted my person yet again. Really, as soon as Professor Snape can get detention with him, he will have to sit through a long lecture as to how sacred courtships are.”
“I don’t understand them, to be honest,” Hermione admitted, sitting back. “May I see your ring again?”
Holding out her hand, Imbolc displayed the ring. She was only permitted to wear it at Hogwarts because she was in a courtship, otherwise jewelry was strictly prohibited.
“Why silver and not gold like your hair?” Hermione asked, not taking her eyes off the ring.
“The Blacks favor silver,” Imbolc told her. “Draco’s recognizing my heritage outside of the Malfoy family. It’s quite romantic—if Potter hadn’t ruined it by punching Draco in the face. That Weasley girl fancies him, doesn’t she?”
The two prefects looked at each other, knowledge passing between them before Hermione nodded.
“I thought so. It was rather obvious. If he prefers purebloods from ancient families, I’m afraid she doesn’t have as much chance as a mermaid out of water.” She lapsed into silence. “Surely there must be someone else we can remind him of.”
“You really don’t want him, do you?”
“Why would I want a half-blood?” she asked honestly. “No. The idea is ludicrous.”
Hermione looked hurt. Still, she soldiered on. “He’s trying the best he can with a situation he doesn’t understand. Sirius tried to help, but he just confused Harry more. Half the time he was congratulating him on his Marauding instincts.”
Imbolc nearly rolled her eyes but her breeding stopped her. “I hate the Marauders,” she confessed. “From what I hear, the Potters didn’t even invite Mother to their wedding or Potter’s baptism. It’s deplorable. If that’s what friendship brings you, then I wouldn’t want it. And Lupin—all he cared about was Potter because my mother was a ‘dark witch.’ It’s all disgusting. I really should have been sorted into Slytherin. I would have been much more at home there.”
“I don’t think you would have,” Hermione said perceptively. “I know I’m not top of my class. I know I battle for second place with Malfoy, but you take first in every subject. I think you’re exactly where you belong.”
There was a long pause in the conversation.
“Well, Harry did research,” she said. “If you don’t want them, give them to your friends in Ravenclaw. He just asks that you don’t throw them away.” She went into her bag and produced a small box.
Hesitantly, Imbolc picked it up. A little note fluttered to the side but she didn’t pick it up at first. The box held four chocolates and when she breathed in she smelled, “Rose water.”
“He tried to find Jasmine, once I told him that’s what you wore, but that didn’t quite work out. So he settled on rose water.” Hermione smiled at her.
Imbolc set the box down on the table. “I can’t accept these.”
“Of course you can,” Hermione reasoned. “They’re from your father’s godson. It’s only natural that you be friends. Isn’t that right, Malfoy?”
Turning, Imbolc saw Draco who was looking stonily at the chocolates. After a moment, he picked up the note and quickly read it. “No,” he stated. “This insult will not stand.”
The note was simple as always. If it had come from anyone else it would have been romantic. “Because your lips are as sweet as roses.—HP.”
They stood in front of Professor Snape’s desk, the chocolates and the note on it. Severus looked between them and sighed. “And then there was the journal, whose pages you tore out, and the photographs you defaced.”
“Yes,” Imbolc answered.
“He’s kissed her twice,” Draco informed, “punched me for giving her a courtship ring. Lord Black is encouraging the behavior. What are we supposed to do if her father, who’s his godfather, won’t help?”
“And Lord Malfoy unfortunately has no influence,” Severus decided. “I’ll see if I can get Dumbledore or McGonagall on our side. Keep the chocolates so you can give them back publicly.”
The next morning at breakfast, Imbolc stood from the Ravenclaw table and found Draco’s gaze. He nodded to her and she walked over to the Gryffindor table. Potter was clearly more than a bit sleepy because he didn’t notice her at first although she was standing directly in front of him.
Hermione, though, saw her and shoved his shoulder. He looked up and a smile crossed his face.
“Mr. Potter,” she said formally, reaching out and placing the chocolates on the table. “I’m afraid it is not your place to send me such gifts.”
“You don’t like them?” he asked, but she had already walked away. Chatter started as she continued her journey and she sat next to her friend Apricot.
“Most girls would die to receive chocolates from Harry Bloody Potter,” she whispered.
“Do I look like most girls?” she answered, pouring some pumpkin juice. “Potions first. Favorite subject.” She smiled at her friend.
“Sometimes I think I’ll never understand you,” Apricot stated, and Imbolc just smiled at her.
Of course, it wasn’t the end of it.
Hermione and Imbolc were on rounds the night before the Hogsmeade weekend. “Come,” Hermione begged. “It’s a few of us who are interested in Defense.”
“I never have been” Imbolc admitted. “I love dueling. Draco and I have great fun with it over the summer with our lessons, but what’s the point of defending against the Dark Arts when you can use more potent magic?”
Hermione looked at her in shock. “Imbolc!” she cried.
“You forget, my grandmother is in Azkaban for being a spy for the Dark Lord and my mother was accused of being one, only by the Potters, but she was still accused.” She shrugged. “I’m sure you’re also aware of the rumors concerning my uncle.”
“For your sake, I treat them as just rumors.”
Imbolc turned to her. “Then you are either very naïve or very loyal. I would grow up quickly if the first and I would remind you I am a blood purist if the second.”
Her cheeks burned but she pushed her hair behind her shoulders, which seemed to be a habit of hers. “Come. We could use dueling expertise. I know you don’t like Umbridge.”
Stopping again, Imbolc looked up at the ceiling. “Potter will be there, won’t he, and this is his idea.”
Of course, Hermione didn’t deny it.
“I will seek counsel. When is this meeting?”
“This has to be a secret,” Hermione implored. “You can’t tell anyone.”
“I don’t believe you fully understand wizarding culture, Granger,” Imbolc informed her. “We’re taught to defer to our elders in everything. While we are brought up to be strong individuals, we nonetheless show respect for the generation above us.”
She did not, however, tell Uncle Lucius. Managing to find Draco, she pulled him behind a tapestry. “I’ve either been invited to a trap or an opportunity,” she told him in a hushed whisper as he put up a silencing charm.
Draco took her hand and entwined their fingers before kissing the back of hers. “Darling, I haven’t seen you all day.”
Leaning forward so their foreheads were touching, she breathed in the scent of him. Now he smelled of old books and trickling water. “Please listen to me. I don’t have time to get an owl to Uncle Lucius and back. We have to decide and we have to decide now.”
“Then tell me, Immy.”
“It seems Potter and Granger are starting their own private defense group. I’ve been invited to their preliminary meeting tomorrow.”
He cursed under his breath. “He’s still trying to sink his teeth into you any way he can.”
“Think, though,” she whispered, moving closer until they were sharing the same breath. “I could be a spy within the organization. We can always tell Umbridge it’s for her, but it could really be for Uncle Lucius and his associates.”
“You’re already his Clairvoyant,” he murmured, pulling her closer so she rested up against him. “We both know how pleased he is with you. Do you really want to attract more attention?”
She breathed out and just basked in the feel of Draco. “I know I shouldn’t, but I looked into my crystal ball. Yes, I know my visions are so unwielding but I wanted to see the end to this conflict. I’m not certain exactly what’s going to happen, but the Dark Lord is going to use the Killing Curse on Harry Potter again. I think he might win. Would it not be better for the Malfoy household to be as favorably placed as possible? Uncle could be named Minister for Magic.”
Draco pulled her away and they looked into each other’s eyes. “What of your own father?”
Imbolc sighed sadly. “I don’t know,” she admitted. “I just don’t know. Perhaps I can secure him a pardon when it’s all over. I can’t find his future.”
“His mother-in-law was a spy and his wife was a very dark witch,” Draco agreed. “He can always claim to have committed the crime of which he’s accused. It may gain him points.” He ran his knuckles down her cheek. “I don’t like the thought of Potter being near you.”
“No one does,” she agreed. “He’s a half-blood with ideas of grandeur. He will never be a Black and he will never be a Malfoy. We are above him in every way possible.”
He laughed quietly. “Too true, Immy.”
“It’s decided then? I’ll go to the preliminary meeting and then we’ll see what happens. Nothing need be set in goblin mithril.”
“Very well,” he murmured, and she leaned up on the toes of her horrible school shoes and kissed him softly. “Do my lips taste like roses?” she teased.
“Hardly,” he disagreed, pulling her closer so they were chest to chest. Her head was pulled back, her long twists falling past her shoulders as she looked up at him. “You taste like winter’s light.”
Everyone had left apart from Harry and Hermione. Imbolc had been sitting in the back and she slowly came forward. She had a rendez-vous with Draco later at Madam Puddifoot’s and was dressed in crimson robes that were edged with gold.
“I can’t sign that,” she stated.
Hermione looked up, shocked. “Why not?”
“It’s a magical contract, isn’t it? The words are in a spell that’s in the parchment itself and, therefore, cannot be read, but it’s a contract nonetheless, and if there’s one thing I’ve been taught, it’s only to sign my name to anything I know for certain isn’t a contract.”
Harry looked at her and smiled slightly. “You came. I didn’t think you would.”
She tilted her head. “I found myself intrigued. I asked Professor Snape for your Defense records and realized you were nearly on par to my performance. It seems you’re not just wasting everyone’s time.—I’m still not signing.”
“You must,” Hermione insisted.
“No, she doesn’t,” Harry suddenly said. “If she’s as good as she says she is, then we could use another instructor. Duel later tonight?” His eyes looked hopeful.
“You won’t win kisses,” she warned him. “Far from it, in fact. You realize I have been coached in the art of dueling since I was eight years old?”
“I’m surprised,” Hermione admitted. “I would think a pureblood lady wouldn’t be taught such masculine subjects.”
Imbolc laughed. “We’re all taught the more questionable arts and music and art equally in the Malfoy household. Oh, and let’s not forget how we all know two languages apart from English and Latin. It was ever so useful when the foreign delegations came last year.”
She walked out of the dingy pub and toward her meeting with Draco.
The Dark Lord was so pleased that Severus called her back from class and gave her a piece of parchment. “Read it here and then throw it in the fire,” he instructed before sitting down at his desk.
She opened the parchment and read the words. He was granting her a boon for her ingenuity.
Throwing the parchment into the fire, she went to go find Draco.
“What do I ask for? Do you think he’ll have Father cleared?” She chewed her lip. They were sitting at the very end of the Slytherin table, the rest of the house leaving them alone given that they were a courting couple.
“You’d have to have the Dark Lord add a caveat—that he not petition for custody of you,” Draco reasoned. “You know if he does, your lessons will stop, you may not be permitted to see us, and our courtship will be cancelled. You may even be given to Potter.”
Imbolc bit her lip again and he reached out to the abused flesh.
“You have to think of the consequences.”
“What else do I ask for? I have everything I want in life.”
“A promise of immunity,” Draco reasoned. “You state that you don’t want your name in any special documents, you don’t want to be discussed among the Death Eaters except as ‘the spy.’ If we win the war, you receive a place of honor, if we lose, you are free from suspicion.”
“Do you think I can ask that for the two of us? Or is that too much?”
“Too much,” Draco concluded. “No, ask for it for yourself. The rest of us will take care of ourselves. Father did after the war. There are ways around Azkaban.”
“All right,” she agreed. “I’ll give it to Severus just after our next potions lesson. If the letter was safe coming through him, then it will be safe going the other way. That reminds me, we have our marching orders on how and when to meet. I must admit, Potter is being rather clever.”
“And you make me curious,” Draco complained before smirking at her. “I know you can’t tell me anything else. It’s too soon in the game.”
She took a drink of pumpkin juice. “I was talking to Potter,” she admitted quietly. “He’s going to try and teach them the Patronus Charm if we get far enough. We both know I’m dreadful at light magic. We have to start practicing so my cover isn’t blown.”
Draco smirked at her. “I’ll give you a good memory,” he promised. “Meet me at midnight by the great doors—in your nightgown.”
“Draco!” she admonished.
He only took her hand and kissed it. “Good memory,” he promised. “I will make it worthy of a Patronus.”
“But we’ll be shirking all of pureblood tradition and protocol. It was bad enough when I slept in your arms last summer.” Her violet eyes looked at him imploringly.
“Hush,” he murmured. “Do you trust me?”
She melted. “You’re my Draco,” she said, as if that said everything, and it did. She took in his pointed features, the nose that Harry Potter had broken but Aunt Narcissa had put back to rights, his eyes that were as gray as a Black’s, the platinum blond hair of a Malfoy. Despite their close relationship to each other, they looked nothing like one another. “I can’t bear to be without you,” she whispered. “I don’t think I’ve been able to bear it since we were children of ten.”
He nodded in agreement. “I think that’s called love,” he told her.
“But what kind of love?” she asked sadly. “Is it the sort of love that a whole marriage can be built off of?”
“We’ll find out together,” he promised, leaning forward on his elbows. She smiled. She couldn’t help it. She leaned forward to kiss him.
Imbolc looked in the mirror. She was wearing a white shift and she had braided her long golden hair so that it was nearly all the way down her back. She nodded. Taking her thick shawl of dark blue and brown-gold, she put on her slippers and carefully opened the door to her dormitory and slipped out.
It was a long trek from the tower down to the entrance hall. When she reached it, Draco was waiting for her. He was in the same pajamas and dressing gown, and was carrying a warm blanket and two bottles of elven wine.
“What are we doing here?” she asked, pulling her shawl closer.
“Just follow me,” he told her and he opened the door. They stepped out into the courtyard and soon they were running onto the grounds. It was dark out so they had to look at their feet but then they came to an oak tree. “Here we are,” Draco declared. He put down the bottles of wine and then lay out the blanket. “My lady,” he said as he helped her down.
Arranging her legs under her, she accepted the bottle of elven wine that was handed to her.
“It’s open. Ladies first.”
She giggled and popped the cork and took a swig of it. “How undignified, Draco. I can hardly imagine this of you.”
“Can’t you?” he asked. She could only see his outline, but she leaned forward and cupped his cheek. He moved his head and kissed her palm.
“Aren’t you worried we’ll get caught?” Imbolc couldn’t help but worry.
“Severus is on patrol. He’ll just call Father, who will be irate, but we won’t get into any serious trouble. Well, not at school.” He took the bottle and took a drink. “Now. I want you to do what you want to do. Forget propriety.”
“We’re in our sleep clothes, Draco,” she reminded him. “I’m only wearing a shawl.”
“And you look enchanting,” he promised her, Leaning forward until their foreheads touched. “Just—“ He took her hand and first placed it over his heart and then slipped it under his pajamas.
She gasped in shock at the feel of his smooth chest. Still, she let him keep it there.
“I need more wine,” she declared, and he passed her the bottle. Imbolc tossed it back. She breathed heavily out of her mouth and wiped her lips with the back of her hand.
“Just look at me,” Draco murmured and her eyes locked on him. “I’m here,” he promised. “There’s no one but us.”
“Us,” she repeated skeptically.
“We’re under the moon, drinking wine. There is no Dark Lord. There is no Harry Potter. There is no courtship. There is only Draco and Imbolc, two friends who grew up together.”
“I—I can’t,” she said suddenly, removing her hand. She sat back against the tree and continued to drink the wine. Slowly, Draco sat back up and knocked shoulders with her. She passed over the bottle.
“Oh, Hades,” she murmured, and she grabbed his face and kissed him. He was so startled he remained stationary for a moment, before his arms came around her. Crawling into his lap, she ran her fingers up through his hair and she gasped when he nibbled her bottom lip. “Promise me you didn’t test that on Parkinson.”
“I never kissed her,” he swore, and then he was pulling her closer and his lips descended on hers.
The wine bottle was discarded and Draco lowered her onto the blanket, and she pushed her hands up his pajama top, only to feel heated skin. “By the old gods,” she murmured as he kissed a path down her neck. “Did I ever tell you just how fanciable you are?”
“Glad to hear it,” he murmured as he came to the hollow of her neck.
She pulled him up by his hair and kissed him again. Imbolc might just have a memory for a patronus after all.
“Let me get this straight,” Lucius said, his voice full of resignation. They were in Snape’s apartments and Imbolc felt underdressed in her shift and shawl. Her hair was also rather bold for a pureblood witch. “Potter told you he was going to teach his band of misfits the Patronus Charm and since you cannot cast one, both you and Draco decided to make a memory happy enough to produce such magic.”
“It was my idea,” Draco confessed. “I coerced Imbolc.”
“No one coerces Imbolc,” Lucius countered. “She agreed.”
Imbolc bowed her head.
“Draco,” Lucius was now saying. “I thought I discussed with you that if you had to lie with someone, you were to choose a Muggleborn because they had no honor to lose. I did not mean your cousin and courted!”
“We didn’t!” Imbolc insisted. She turned to Draco, “And you’re not allowed to lie with anyone. Muggleborns are tainted and I will not have such taint near my person.”
“You didn’t,” Lucius repeated.
“No,” Draco drawled. “Do you think I have no honor in me that I would despoil the woman I plan on marrying?”
“Then what were you doing dressed for bed?” Lucius looked between them.
“It created intimacy,” Draco argued. “She’s seen me attired for bed before.—and this made it real to us. We were two people who chose to share wine under the stars together with all pretentions gone. We’ve grown up as brother and sister and yet not. Surely you can see the tension it’s created.—And now we’re courting. We’re not like most couples who are going to walk by the lake and treat each other almost like strangers. We crave intimacy, more intimacy, and now we have the chance to grab it.”
She looked at Lucius. “I know I resisted the courtship,” she began, “but I never resisted Draco. He’s been mine since we were ten.—He’s my Draco. We were discreet. We chose tonight because we knew Severus was on duty and that it wouldn’t go into our official records or become gossip for the faculty.” She paused and held up her hand. “One moment.”
She slowly stood and released Draco’s hand, which she had been holding. Pausing, she stood still for several moments before she lunged to her left and pulled off an invisibility cloak to reveal a very stunned looking Harry Potter.
Lucius immediately pulled out his wand as did Severus, while Draco pulled her backward and pushed her behind him. “You’re not dressed,” he murmured. She still brandished her wand.
“A well placed Obliviate I think,” Lucius suggested.
“I’ll do the honors,” Imbolc decided. “He’s my unwanted suitor after all.”