Midnight, You come and pick me up, no headlights, Long drive, Could end up in burning flames or paradise, Fade into view, oh, it’s been awhile since I’ve heard from you.“Style,” Taylor Swift
Imbolc was very unhappy with the arrangement. When she was finished with her prefect duties, she changed into evergreen robes and sighed. There was nothing for it.
“To think,” Draco said. “Io joins us our next train ride.”
“I still don’t think she’s going to be in Slytherin,” Imbolc argued. “She doesn’t have a devious bone in her body.”
“No,” Draco agreed. “She doesn’t.—I wish you didn’t have to go.”
“Dumbledore threatened to sue,” she replied sadly. “Hence my holiday at Chez Black.” She breathed out. “At least I can ensure we have a Yule Log.”
“I’m coming over and claiming a dance New Year’s Eve. I’ll have Minxie send over a case of the best elven wine so you can properly celebrate.”
She clung to Io on the platform, trying not to cry, before throwing herself into Draco’s arms. “Write to me,” she whispered, and he nodded into her shoulder.
Harry watched her and she eventually disengaged herself and made her way with Valentinus and her trunk. She recognized the Order members who were to escort them.
Of course, Harry ran into Grimmauld Place and threw himself in Sirius’s arms. The two hugged like father and son and it disturbed Imbolc.
“You have a daughter,” she reminded Sirius as it was her turn to come forward, “and your heiress.”
“I’m sorry, Lux,” he said truthfully, which hurt Imbolc a little. “You are my darling little girl.”
“I’m Imbolc, Father.”
“Of course you are. What did I say?” He looked at her and she just shook her head.
“It’s nothing. Now, tell me why I can’t go dancing with Draco on New Year’s? He means to come, you know, and give me that dance.”
“That whelp isn’t coming anywhere near you.”
“That whelp is my future husband.”
Father and daughter stared at one another.
“You’ve decided then.”
Sirius looked up at Harry. “Well, you might change your mind.—And I really don’t like this Malfoy. He’s dark, he’s your cousin, he’s a Malfoy, he’s in Slytherin.”
Imbolc took a deep, calming breath. “Mother was dark. I am dark. You married your godsibling which is a closer connection than being first cousins once removed. You married the daughter of a Malfoy, and your entire family was in Slytherin!” She rushed up the stairs, past Harry, and then she realized she didn’t know which room to use. “Kreacher!”
The house elf appeared and she looked at it. “Mistress in heir room,” it told her and she was shown into a room of dark rose and gold. It seemed like Sirius had redecorated for her. Her trunk was at the end of the bed and Kreacher was beginning to unpack it.
“Thank you,” she murmured, before picking up her latest novel and starting to read. Now all she had to do was convince Sirius to let her go to Diagon Alley so she could buy the Malfoys their Yule presents.
“Darling,” Draco murmured and Imbolc turned to the side. “The Mudblood and Potty are here.”
This created a little more of a disturbance from her, but she only curled in on herself when he shook her.
“Imbolc,” Hermione said. “Are you awake?”
At the new voice, she immediately sat up and looked around. She was in one of the window seats in the library, her head in Draco’s lap. Lacerta was in a nearby chair, chaperoning supposedly, reading a book on Charms.
Then she remembered. She had rounds last night and then finished a particularly in depth Transfiguration essay that took four hours to perfect.
Hermione was looking at her and Imbolc nodded. She turned to Draco and ran a hand down his face. “I’ll find you.”
He took her hand and kissed it. “Promises, promises.” He smirked at her.
She got up, her hand trailing behind her as they still held on to one another, and she came up to Harry and Hermione.
“You sleep on Malfoy’s lap?” Hermione asked her in confusion.
“I feel safest with him than I do anyone,” she responded. “Why wouldn’t I have him watch over me in slumber?”
Harry looked mutinous. Imbolc decided to ignore him.
“Do you have a boyfriend, Granger?”
“I,” she brushed her hair behind her shoulder, “no.”
She nodded. “You have someone in mind, though. I shan’t press.” Imbolc looked over to Harry. “You wanted to speak to me?”
“It’s the Patronus,” Harry said, sticking his hands in his jeans. He was wearing Muggle clothing again as it was the weekend. How quaint and horrible. If Imbolc really cared, she would insist that Sirius buy him a wardrobe. Now, she just remembered how unrepentant he was when he saw her in her nightgown and had followed her into a private family meeting.
“Yes,” she agreed. “I can cast it, if that’s what you’re wondering.”
“You can?” Hermione said in shock. “It’s just, you grew up with the Malfoys.”
“Are you suggesting that they cannot give me a happy enough memory to create a corporeal patronus?” Of course, Severus had to tutor her for two months after the incident with Harry Potter and his invisibility cloak, but she got it in the end.
That night she watched as everyone learned. She held back until Harry pushed her forward. “Show them what you’ve got,” he whispered, kissing her ear. She looked at him and stared angrily. Steadying herself, she thought of elven wine and pajamas and the feel of skin and kisses tasting like moonlight. A dragon erupted from her wand.
She turned back to Harry. He looked absolutely gutted.
Per usual, she walked down to the Potions room where Severus was waiting. She was supplied with parchment and she carefully dated and numbered each page. Then, in coded runes, she described the patronus of each member along with Harry’s particular wand movement. She sealed it with wax, without a seal, and handed it over to Severus.
Of course, Umbridge was aware of her involvement. “When are they?” she demanded.
“I couldn’t say without being cursed,” she lied. “However, I would remind you that there are at least three prefects involved. One would only have to look at the schedules.”
“You. Potter.” She seemed lost.
Imbolc wasn’t going to give her the answer since she had already given her enough information on a silver platter.
This was ridiculous, Imbolc thought as she rushed up the steps to the atrium of the Ministry of Magic. She had just managed to save her own father from her cousin, Bellatrix Lestrange, and now she was following the dunderhead Potter on his latest extravaganza. The Octavian boy had the prophecy but then he seemed to have disappeared, possibly with Uncle Lucius.
What she saw sickened her. There was the Dark Lord battling with Professor Dumbledore. She’d seen this, she knew she had.
Taking her wand and pointing it to her throat, and after quickly muttering sonorous!, she shouted, “Time!”
The Dark Lord looked over at her and then nodded. Within a minute he had disappeared in the floo and only Harry Potter and Dumbledore were left. Harry looked at her. “Time?” he asked.
“I was trying to distract him. Everyone looks at their watch when you ask the time,” she answered simply.
Harry openly laughed.
Of course, Imbolc had to wait to go home to Malfoy Manor. When she did arrive in the sitting room it was to the sound of applause. She blushed and looked around her adoptive family and to the Dark Lord.
He picked up her hand and brought it to just beneath his lips. “Well played, m’lady. You truly are a treasure.”
“I’m glad my gamble worked then,” she said. “I honestly wasn’t sure it would.”
The Dark Lord held onto her hand. “A boon, my dear. You may have time to consider.”
“No,” she said quickly, looking into his brown-red eyes. “I know what I want.”
Uncle Lucius looked at her in confusion.
“Do you know how my mother died, my lord?” she asked. At a movement of his hand to continue, she took a deep breath. “I performed accidental magic and a Muggle saw me. He dragged me through the village by my hair. Mother found him and cast the Cruciatus Curse, I believe, on him. She was shot through the head by another Muggle.” She closed her eyes in pain. “I’ve considered Draco as mine long before my courtship. This Muggle who dragged me through the streets, he had a tattoo on his arm. It was large and of a skull and a rose. I ask that, if Draco becomes a Death Eater, that you not mark him in any way. I couldn’t bear that reminder of my mother’s death every time I saw my husband intimately.”
The Dark Lord looked at her in calculation. “You name a high price.”
“You know I wrote of the charm Potter used to summon his ‘followers’ to those horrible meetings I had to attend. Can you make one exception and have Draco wear such a charm around his neck? I won’t force your hand. It is merely what I ask.”
He bowed his head slightly. “Are you quite rested so you may listen to the prophecy or would you prefer to lie down and wait until the morrow?”
“I will listen,” she declared. Any little bit of devotion she showed could only help her in the eyes of the Dark Lord.
“I will claim your arm, although I’m sure you’d like to walk on young Malfoy’s,” the Dark Lord teased. Imbolc wasn’t sure she’d thought of him as ever teasing. Lucius led them forward toward the smoking room, the Dark Lord and Imbolc processing behind them, with Draco taking up the rear.
“It’s beautiful,” Imbolc whispered as she hurried over to the orb. “I didn’t really get to see in the gloom, and then with all the running, you must understand, my lord…”
“Of course,” he responded. “If you touch it, you will go mad.”
“Then how am I—?” she began to ask, turning toward the three men in the room.
Draco came up behind her and kissed the crown of her head. “It’s strange that the prophecy is forever in flux.”
“No, that makes sense,” Imbolc countered. “A prophecy is a foretelling of the future. The future is never completely set. While a deck of cards or a crystal ball or tea leaves may remain stagnant, they only see the most likely possibility.”
The Dark Lord came up and waved his hand over the prophecy orb and a figure emerged.
“That was Professor Trelawney,” Imbolc said in shock. “I never knew she had it in her. Again,” she instructed.
It was played four times while she took notes on it. “It was mislabeled,” she finally declared, throwing down her quill. “It’s not about Harry Potter at all.”
“How could he pick it up?” Lucius asked.
“I’m not certain. It may be the nature of labeling, but it’s not about Harry Potter. When Potter wouldn’t tell me his actual name, I went searching among Father’s things. Well, I had Kreacher do it for me. House elves are always overlooked, especially by Father.” She smirked at Uncle Lucius. “One item Kreacher found was Potter’s birth certificate. He wasn’t legally born on 31 July. His birth certificate records it as 12:30 AM on the first of August. Such discrepencies weren’t uncommon especially with births so close to midnight half a century ago, though I cannot explain this one. Also, his name is Henry. Why anyone would keep that a secret is beyond me.”
“His name is Henry,” Draco repeated.
“Yes. Henry James. Isn’t that the name of a Muggle author? I swear one of the girls in Ravenclaw was reading one of his novels.”
“It is,” the Dark Lord confirmed. “I would never wish to denigrate my other spy’s efforts, but you, my dear, have done more to advance the cause in the past week, than a single Death Eater has in a year.”
“Don’t get your expectations too high,” she warned. “I found myself in a few happy circumstances. I almost didn’t end up at the Ministry of Magic tonight. I’m afraid I was supposed to be meeting Draco and had to go off with Potter without leaving a message.”
“I wonder why his birthday would be considered in July,” Lucius murmured, stepping closer and offering the Dark Lord a firewhiskey.
Imbolc shrugged and then had a thought. “Pour me a glass of wine and give me a moment. I’ve had a thought.” She grabbed Draco’s hand and ran with him through the halls to her room. “Stay, silly,” she commanded, gently kissing him. She found her cards, which had already been unpacked, and they ran back.
She brandished them. “If Potter’s birthday has been altered then it’s not so much of a leap that someone else’s has, as well.” She shuffled her cards. “Potter may be just a decoy.”
Flipping a card, she looked at it and frowned. She dragged it to the side. By the third card she was smiling. “Does a nymph mean anything to anyone?”
Everyone looked at each other until Draco snapped his fingers. “Daphne Greengrass. She was born the second of August or something. Her family is dirt poor although being purebloods. Her father drinks away all their money. I think she has three sisters.”
“Isn’t she in Slytherin?”
“Her other sister in Hogwarts is a Ravenclaw,” Draco supplied.
“Not a supporter then,” Imbolc mused. “I wonder if the hat was tampered with to hide her in Slytherin.” She looked up at the Dark Lord who was looking at her pointedly. “Stay away from Daphne Greengrass. You don’t want to ‘mark her as your equal’ whatever that may mean. Dumbledore and his friends must assume this ‘mark’ is Potter’s scar. Let them think that. Go after him even or not, whatever your preferences. Just know they’re hiding Daphne and don’t go looking. That prophecy means nothing until you mark her. If only we could marry her off to a Death Eater.”
“I thought you believed in marriage for the sake of love,” Lucius argued.
“When it concerns myself,” she agreed. “I’m a Black, after all, and with a heart as black as mine…”
Imbolc was at her vanity, doing her hair. It wasn’t quite time for breakfast when the owl arrived. At first she ignored it. The magic had to be precise for this knotted braid that once again fell to the shoulders.
When she was finished, she went to the window and took the message. The handwriting was of her father. She set it down and went to her closet to choose her robes for the day. No, not robes, she decided. She chose a pale lavender dress that came to just above her knees and a wizarding coat made of acramantula silk that belted around the middle until it fell in pale blue to the same place. Although a little impractical, she wore heels.
Picking up her letter, Imbolc hummed to herself and walked toward the breakfast nook. She broke the seal, which was blue and had a crow’s head, and then opened up the letter. She paused.
Imbolc wasn’t certain how she felt about this.
She wasn’t even aware that her legs had gone out from under her until Draco’s strong arms came up around her.
“I’ve got you,” he told her as he lowered her to the ground. “You’re fine.” There was a pop, which must have been a house elf, because a glass of orange juice was pressed in her hand. “Drink,” Draco instructed.
“I—yes,” she said, drinking. “Its just—Father—he—“
“Right,” Draco said, picking her up bridal style after handing her the letter.
“I can walk for myself!”
“You need some food,” he argued. “You’ve had a shock. Show Father the letter and hopefully he’ll figure a way around it. He’s in politics for a reason.”
She laughed. “That’s because he pretends to like Muggleborns!”
They entered the breakfast nook and Draco set her down in her chair, which was to the left of his father. He sat on the right.
“Imbolc, dear, what’s wrong?” Narcissa asked from her place.
“She’s had a shock. Something about a letter,” Draco responded, taking his seat.
Lucius came in reading a letter of his own. He looked up and saw Imbolc. “Little flame,” he asked, “have you heard from your father recently?”
“Today,” she answered, disheartened. “I nearly collapsed.”
“Yes,” he sighed, putting aside his own letter. “We’ll talk with your aunt after breakfast. Draco, too, I think.”
Lucius looked at her curiously. “If you’d rather not. I realize how delicate a topic it is,” he said comfortingly.
Narcissa read the letter Lucius received, her mouth a thin line. “We’ll go to court,” she said simply. “He may have just been acquitted, but Malfoy Manor is her home.”
“He speaks of his desire to form a courtship between me and Harry Potter,” Imbolc said in worry, offering her own letter. “I just—I can’t—I have pretended to be his friend for an entire year. I can’t do it my entire life.”
“Well, you’re not going over to Grimmauld Place until this is resolved,” Lucius said firmly. “I’m sorry, Imbolc, but we have to draw lines in the sand.”
“I want Mother,” she said a little desperately. “She could just end this entire situation. We could still live in Haye.”
“Among Muggles?” Lucius spat. “No. You would live here at the Manor. Lux was always more of a Malfoy than a Kingsley.” He set his hand on Imbolc’s shoulder. “Did he mention the bit where he’s adopting the Potter brat?”
“Yes,” she answered, upset. “I will not live in a house with him.”
“You’re sixteen,” Narcissa reasoned. “The court should take your beliefs into account.”
The trial came around. They barely had any time to prepare. It was a week into summer hols. The Malfoys, of course, all came. Draco and Imbolc had decided to dress a little controversially. They were wearing leather robes. Imbolc’s were a beaten brown, that tied up the front and formed a bustle in back that was accented by flaps in front. She wore leather leggings underneath with heels. Her hair was in its usual medieval twists.
Draco was wearing similar robes that were high-necked and sleeveless, that fell to his ankles. They looked like they were about to go Abraxan riding. In fact, that was exactly what they planned on doing after the trial.
Of course, her courtship came up, but that was to be expected.
What was a surprise was when Sirius declared that Lucius wasn’t a fit guardian given the fact that he was leading Imbolc astray given his connection to the Dark Lord.
“She yelled ‘Time!’ to You-Know-Who when he was battling Albus Dumbledore! Within moments, he had exited via the floo.”
Imbolc stood up and took the stand. “I would remind the court that while several Death Eaters were present, the Dark Lord’s presence has not yet been verified. If I did yell ‘Time’ it was to distract. I had no idea the party in question would leave so soon after my utterance.”
“Was he or was he not present, Lady Imbolc?” the judge asked.
“That’s irrelevant to the case,” she stated. “I can say I have not seen anyone I would call a Dark Lord in my uncle’s home.”
Sirius looked angry.
“I would also like to remind the court that my own father risked his life to protect his godson. He didn’t do it to protect me, his flesh and blood. He did it for someone else’s child. Moreover, he didn’t care that I had already lost one parent. I want to stay with the Malfoys, where I know I am treasured, and whom I know will not abandon me for the sake of someone not of the household.”
“What of this matter of courtships?” the judge asked. “Your father claims it’s incestuous.”
“It is allowed by wizarding law, no dispensation is required,” she stated. “This was not the case for my own parents.” She took a deep breath. “My father wishes for me to enter a courtship with Harry Potter. While Potter and I are friends, of a sort, at Hogwarts, I will not have him near my person. He is no respecter of my personal wishes. How can I be with someone like that? Also, while not popular, I would like to remind the court that the Black family motto is Toujours Pur. Always pure. Potter’s mother is a Muggleborn.”
That certainly created a stir.
“You are aware that Mr. Potter and Miss Black are already wards of Lord Black.”
“Miss Black?” she asked in confusion. Imbolc looked back at the Malfoys who all looked lost.
“Your cousin,” Sirius called out. “Regulus’s daughter. Her mother is unwell and she’s been sent to England.”
That certainly shocked her. She turned back to the judge. “I was unaware. However, these are individuals without homes. I have a loving home. I have cousins who are my siblings. An aunt who is my mother, an uncle who is my father. I am also seventeen in February. Even if you award Father custody of me, I will leave for the Malfoys next summer.”
In the end, the Malfoys won the case.
Sirius came up to them with Harry dithering behind him. “I’d like to invite Imbolc over for dinner tomorrow so she can meet her cousin Selenadora,” he said. “They deserve to know each other, Malfoy.”
Lucius looked at Imbolc and the Narcissa who nodded. “Only if Draco escorts her.”
Sirius sighed. “Six o’clock.”
They had meant to go to dinner together as a Malfoy clan, but the Dark Lord was waiting for them. He was sitting in royal purple robes and lounging elegantly in a chair. “Ah, I see the day is won. I would like to take Lady Imbolc to dinner,” he stated.
Imbolc’s first thought was his face, but she didn’t say anything.
Lucius bowed. “Please allow the lady to change.”
The Dark Lord nodded and Imbolc walked back to her room, utterly confused. She stared at her closet for a full two minutes before there was a knock on her door. “Who is it?” she called.
Her answer was the door opening and Narcissa behind it. “I thought this might be a problem,” she murmured. She walked into the closet and pulled out a set of black silk robes, trimmed in gold brocade. The underside of the dress was gold acramantula silk that showed through when she walked. “Fit for a princess,” Narcissa said, laying it on the bed. “You change, I promise not to look, and I’ll choose your beauty enhancers.”
With her aunt’s help, Imbolc was ready in ten minutes. Among the Black jewels were several ruby barrettes that Narcissa had placed strategically in her hair. She was wearing blood red earrings that were large studs, lined in gold.
When she entered the room again, it was to see the rest of the Malfoy clan mulling about and the Dark Lord holding court. She heard Draco’s indrawn breath, but she forced herself not to think about it. Instead, she curtseyed low, her eyes cast down, until the Dark Lord’s pianist fingers touched her shoulder.
She arose and looked up into his eyes and his inhuman face. “May I ask where we’re going?”
“Somewhere safe,” he answered. “I think you will not be disappointed, Lady Imbolc.”
He turned to Lucius. “I’ll have her back by midnight. I can’t promise how much elven wine she’ll drink, however.”
Imbolc couldn’t help but blush at that, but Lucius only bowed. She knew a hangover potion would be waiting for her in the morning. Draco stepped forward and they clasped hands. “You’re beautiful,” he murmured in her ear and she smiled at him.
She was dressed for a royal function or a ball, if she were honest, but dinner with the Dark Lord was something else all together.
Placing his hand on her back, the Dark Lord led her to the floo. “Hold on to me,” he murmured, and then they were flying through the fire.