Word Count: 5405
Summary: A snowstorm is magically transformative, shrouding the world in a silent, white cocoon. What might emerge in the aftermath?
A/N: Thanks to my lovely beta, mister_otter!
In a deep and dark December;
I am alone.
Gazing from my window to the streets below,
On a freshly fallen, silent shroud of snow.
I am a rock,
I am an island.
The sky had been a bright, clear blue as students departed for the winter holidays that Friday morning. Echoes of laughter and the sounds of trunks scraping and bumping down the ancient stone steps to the coaches waiting outside the castle entrance reverberated and then died away, leaving the school almost preternaturally quiet.
By afternoon, clouds had begun rolling in, the vast azure field enveloped by an ominous, oppressive blanket of iron-grey. Those few students who had stayed watched from behind mullioned panes and casement windows, now drawn shut against the encroaching cold.
Early evening saw the first snowflakes. Like hundreds of tiny, white fireflies swirling down in crazy-eight patterns, they fell, gradually becoming heavier and more dense, until all that could be discerned by candlelight or the glowing tip of a wand was a teeming, almost solid curtain of white against the blackness.
Only four students had elected to spend the break at school. Avoiding home and family—or certain members of one’s family, rather—wasn’t the reason that the other three were here now, Draco wagered. On the other hand, he wanted nothing more than to stay away from that draughty relic of a house he’d grown up in, and from the man whose disapprobation continued to make itself felt, despite—or perhaps because of—the fact that Draco had not been killed in the Battle of Hogwarts after all. His father’s relief had been momentary in the larger scheme of things, he reflected grimly—possibly even illusory. Better to stay put, where he would be left to himself. At least there would be no tedious conversations, no inquisition laced with thinly veiled disapproval of his decision to return for an eighth year to retake his NEWTS. No sharply pointed observation that he was using Hogwarts as an escape.
Which, of course, he was.
And then there was Hermione Granger. Despite himself, Draco was intrigued to find her here as well.
Naturally, she was in her usual corner in the library that Friday night, a pair of candles casting concentric circles of warm, yellow light on the pitted, old study table where a large book lay open in front of her. The only surprise, really, was that she hadn’t gone home with the others. Its sheer size made Hogwarts over the winter holidays a rather desolate place at times, despite the efforts of faculty and staff to liven it up with festive decorations and enticing meals. Draco wondered why she had chosen to stay.
It was merely idle curiosity, he told himself, that propelled him to approach her table, planting himself in front of her and resting his hand squarely on the portion of the page he knew she’d just been reading. Startled, she looked up and then glared at him.
“Don’t you ever give it a rest, Granger?”
“Is there something I can do for you, Malfoy?” she replied tartly. “Because if not, you’re wasting–”
Ignoring her, he leaned in, studying the contents of the page. “What’s this for, anyway? I don’t remember any research assignments for the hols.”
“That’s because there weren’t any.” Hermione put down her quill and sighed. It was apparent that she wasn’t going to get rid of Malfoy any time soon.
“ ‘History and Lore of the Ancient Druids And the Wheel of the Year,’ ” he read aloud, pulling a face. “I see. A bit of extra credit. Very nice. Whose arse are you kissing this time? That’ll take some doing, if it’s Binns.” He let out a snicker, entertained by his own cleverness.
“You’re disgusting, Malfoy, do you know that? Just go away!” Resolutely pushing his hand off the book, Hermione covered the sides of her face, her hands like blinders, reduced to making believe he was no longer there.
Lounging in the seat opposite her now, arms folded and grinning at her like a fool.
Wanker. She heaved another exasperated sigh.
“Look,” she began, laying down her quill once again. “Haven’t you something better to do? Someplace to be?”
Cheerfully, he tutted, wagging a finger at her. “Manners, Granger! You’ve wounded me. As it happens, no—I am completely at your disposal.”
Just what she wanted. Hermione rolled her eyes and leaned back in her chair. This was developing into their usual war of attrition. Right, then. Taking up her quill once again, she turned her attention back to the page in which she’d been happily immersed only moments before.
The sound of a throat being delicately cleared caused her to raise her eyes again.
“Interesting, is it? What you’re reading, I mean.” Draco’s expression was all angelic innocence.
“It was,” Hermione muttered. Abruptly, she pushed the book towards him. “Here, have it. I’m done!” Sweeping her parchment and quills into a lumpy but serviceable old satchel, she stood, turned, and marched out of the library.
He watched as she disappeared through the heavy oak doors, her robes flaring behind her. Right. Now he had the place to himself. Just what he’d wanted. Some real peace and quiet at last. It had been almost too easy. He found himself frowning slightly. No fun in that.
Just then, the candles guttered in a momentary draught of chill air, and Draco’s attention was drawn to the nearby window. Snow was falling heavily now, blowing sideways and plastering large flakes against the panes. They looked curiously like flowers blossoming on the wavy, old glass.
the fading forests grow;
The wind dies out along the height,
And denser still the snow,
A gathering weight on roof and tree,
Falls down scarce audibly.
“It’s all bollocks, isn’t it.”
Hermione looked up, startled, from her plate of kippers and eggs. Frowning slightly, she gave the speaker a quizzical glance.
From his seat across the table, Draco snorted. “The holidays.”
Hermione raised an eyebrow. He was talking to her again, of his own volition. True, they were the only two at the breakfast table at this early hour—or rather, she had been the only one and glad of the solitude, and then Malfoy had turned up, seating himself on the bench opposite and reaching for the platter of scrambled eggs and toast. They had spent several minutes quietly absorbed in their meal before his sudden, rather cryptic remark had broken the silence.
“What are you on about, Malfoy?”
“Presents and parties and people stuffing themselves sick.”
“You were reading my book, weren’t you. Last night.” Hermione propped her chin on the heel of her hand, gazing at Draco with a measure of genuine interest now.
“Yeah.” He nodded, cocking his head in the direction of a large jug on the table. She pushed it towards him, and he filled his mug with frothy hot chocolate. “I might’ve done.”
“It’s true,” Hermione mused. “Most people don’t have a clue what this holiday is really about. There are simply loads of ancient, magical traditions and rituals for this time of year, you know,” she went on, warming to her subject now. “We do get bits of it in History of Magic, but so much of the really old stuff has been forgotten or discarded. I’ve been reading up on it. There’s so much to learn!”
Her cheeks had grown slightly flushed with her enthusiasm, and she laughed a little, embarrassed. “Surely you must have grown up with all this. Didn’t your family observe any of the Old Ways?”
“Not really.” Draco speared a bit of sausage, chewing it thoughtfully, and then shrugged. “I mean, yeah, a bit. Didn’t pay much attention, though. Seemed like a load of boring, old rubbish.” He recalled the sound of his father’s voice droning on officiously, his own thoughts fixed instead on the presents he was hoping for and his stomach growling in anticipation of the feast that awaited.
“That’s too bad.” Hermione paused and then found herself at a loss for something to say. “It’s still snowing, did you know?” she murmured.
“Reckon we’re really in for it this time,” he drawled. “S’okay. I’m not fussed.”
“Me either. I… ” She began, and then seemed to think better of it, rising from her seat instead. “I’m off. See you.”
And just like that, she was gone. Once again, he found himself on his own. No complaints, he preferred it that way. It was a luxury, having this much quiet everywhere he went, no sycophants trailing after him and nattering on ad nauseam about absolutely fuck-all.
He stood up as well, heading irresolutely in the general direction of the doors and the Grand Staircase beyond. Contrary to his nonchalant declaration earlier, cabin fever was starting to set in. With no signs of the storm abating, he couldn’t even break up the tedium with a trip to Hogsmeade. At the rate things were going, Draco was fairly sure he’d be certifiable before much longer.
Apace, and all about
The fences dwindle, and the hills
Are blotted slowly out;
The naked trees loom spectrally
Into the dim white sky.
Sunday, late afternoon
The lashings of wind and wet snow against the windowpanes had become almost rhythmic. Outside, the snow fell in impenetrable sheets from a white sky, burying the earth and all its landmarks so completely that gazing outside produced an eerie sense of disequilibrium.
He’d finished his book, a thrillingly graphic account of the Vikings’ plunder of Britain. Smuggled into Slytherin House by a seventh-year and shared amongst its denizens, the Muggle novel had been left to Draco to linger over during the holidays. He’d thoroughly enjoyed it, but had decided, the third time round, that the bloom was finally off the rose.
He checked the time. Half past four. Two hours until supper. A solitary game of Exploding Snap proved amusing for a while, but eventually, frustrated, he threw down the cards that hadn’t yet blown up. He’d long since outgrown a game he’d thought hilarious at the age of eleven.
A snow-laden branch creaked, striking the windowpane with sudden force. Cautiously, he opened the casement a crack, peering out into the gathering darkness. The wind howled and a spray of cold snow blew in, frosting his nose and cheeks. Quickly, Draco shut the window.
Right. Enough mucking about on his own. Turning on his heel, he strode out the door. Anything would be better than this.
He combed the upper floors of the castle, moving ghost-like along the corridors as he peered into empty rooms and tried doors that remained defiantly locked. Eventually, he found himself standing in front of a portrait whose inhabitant was dozing, her rather sizeable girth straining against her corset and spilling out in folds of flesh from her generous bosom and the lace sleeves of her blue gown.
One eye opened and an eyebrow arched expectantly.
“Yes?” the Fat Lady asked, her tone petulant. “Draco Malfoy, isn’t it?”
“That’s right,” Draco replied, adding quickly, “You’re looking quite lovely today.”
“Codswallop!” the Fat Lady tutted, but her cheeks flushed a delicate pink. “What can I do for you, Mr. Malfoy?”
“I was wondering,” he went on, “if Hermione Granger is in her common room. Would you happen to know?”
“I would,” the Fat Lady answered tartly, and then she sighed. “In fact, she is. I suppose you are hoping to gain entrance? I really oughtn’t, you know.” She batted her eyes coyly and waited.
“Oh, come on,” he wheedled, flashing her his most winning smile. “It’s the holidays. You wouldn’t want me to be all on my own, would you? Besides,” he added, “I’m helping Granger… er, Hermione… with a research assignment. Need to talk to her. S’important.”
The Fat Lady’s smile turned smug, and she gave Draco a knowing wink. “Yes, yes, all right. Far be it from me to stand in the way of… research. In you get, then.”
And with that, the portrait swung open wide, revealing the Gryffindor common room beyond the entry hole. It was the first time Draco had seen it, and he found himself unexpectedly curious.
It certainly wasn’t like the Slytherin common room down in the dungeons. There was a warmth about it, a sense of casual, almost shabby, comfort that evoked years of students flopping down on sofas and in overstuffed armchairs by the fire that blazed cheerfully in the cavernous hearth. A set of wizard’s chess stood on a small table to one side, the chairs pulled back as if their occupants had only just got up a moment before. Books and parchments were piled on a larger study table in one corner, the owner’s quills and inkpot pushed over to one side.
She had dozed off, her head cradled in her arms. Draco could hear her soft, even exhalations of breath. He was momentarily unsure of what to do: wake her up? Steal quietly away?
In the end, the decision was made for him just as he turned to go. Hermione stirred, stretching her arms out luxuriantly, and brushed against Draco’s hand. Her eyes opened wide.
“Malfoy! What on earth are you doing here?” Her eyes narrowed slightly. “And how did you manage to get in, exactly?”
“Piece of cake, Granger,” he replied airily. “I’ve got your Fat Lady wrapped round my little finger.”
“I’ll bet,” Hermione muttered, but she couldn’t repress a tiny grin at the thought. “Well, what is it you wanted, anyway?”
“Nothing much. Just got a bit l–… bored on my own, yeah? Nobody else about. Thought I’d see what you were getting up to.” He sat himself down alongside her, pushing her arm off the book that lay open beneath it and pulling the volume over for closer inspection.
“Poetry?” He sat back with a smirk. “Hah, why am I not surprised?”
Hermione attempted to snatch the book back, but he held on tight.
“Let’s have a look, then,” he drawled. “Roses are red, violets are blue…” And then he peered more closely at the actual text before him.
“Whose woods these are I think I know…” he murmured, forgetting for the moment that Hermione was there. “His house is in the village though; he will not see me stopping here to watch his woods fill up with snow…” Looking up, he caught her studying him.
She joined him then, continuing to the final stanza. “The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep,” they read together.
“And miles to go before I sleep,” Hermione repeated softly. She rested her hand on the page and smiled to herself. “Beautiful, isn’t it? ‘Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.’ Robert Frost.”
She nodded. “Mmm. American, actually. My mum used to read to me every night before bed when I was little, all her own favourites. Poetry, fairy tales, all sorts of things. It’s her book, really. She gave it to me first year, so I wouldn’t forget where I’d come from.” As she spoke, a fleeting shadow seemed to cloud her eyes, and then it passed.
“Not half bad.” Draco sat back, folding his arms, but his eyes strayed to the book once again.
Hermione’s own gaze had followed his. “You can borrow it if you want,” she said quietly.
He gave a light shrug. “Yeah, okay. Maybe. Thanks.”
He wasn’t fooling anyone, he knew, least of all Granger. She regarded him now with an infuriatingly smug little smile.
Jumping up from his seat, he moved to the window and away from that smile, which had suddenly made him feel curiously exposed. “Bloody hell! Look at the snow, will you? It’s a fucking blizzard out there!”
“Making your way through all the vowels, Malfoy?”
“Bloody hell, Granger, is it an I or not?”
“Actually, yeah. You got lucky. There are three of them.”
“About bloody time, woman! Hah. And for your information, luck had nothing to do with it.”
“Right, well, you’ve still got seven letters to go. And so far, I’m winning, four to one.”
“That’s because you’ve had loads of practice playing this moronic game!”
“Which you are finding addicting, I can tell!”
They sat, heads together, before the fire in the Gryffindor common room, parchment and quill between them. On a dare, Hermione had goaded Draco into playing a game that had appeared ridiculously simple when she first explained it, but to his chagrin, was now proving otherwise.
Arse-brained game, really, Hangman. And yet, he supposed it was fun, in a juvenile sort of way. And it did pass the time, once they’d got past the wrangling over how many body parts should legally count (twenty-two with all ten fingers, thirty-two including toes, jointed arms and legs adding another four).
Not much to it, of course, which made the elusiveness of an easy victory all the more galling. No strategy, which was Draco’s strong suit. Just guessing and more guessing, and trying to stop your stick-figure man getting hanged. Four of his had already met a sad demise. He would take this round, he vowed, turning his attention to the parchment once again and studiously ignoring his partner’s smirk.
Lie still without a sound;
Like some soft minister of dreams
The snow-fall hoods me round;
In wood and water, earth and air,
A silence everywhere.
The leather-bound volume had been waiting for him at his usual place at the table when he’d arrived in the Great Hall for dinner Sunday evening. Sitting across from him, Hermione had eyed him with a tiny smile. She hadn’t said a word, but she’d looked terribly pleased with herself.
He hadn’t been entirely sure he liked the idea of being Granger’s latest pet project. Still… he was so bored, he’d have happily translated all the classified adverts in The Daily Prophet into Swahili, if he could, just to keep himself from going completely round the bend. And so, settling down in his own common room after dinner, a good fire blazing, he’d opened the volume and begun to examine its contents.
He’d returned to it the following morning after breakfast and again, after lunch. Outside, thick, white flakes flew past the ice-encrusted windows. A couple of hours passed quickly. Stretched out on the sofa before the fire once again, the open book straddling his chest, he was startled out of a light, comfortable doze by a persistent knocking on the wall camouflaging the entrance to the Slytherin common room.
Granger, no great surprise.
“Can I come in?” she asked, even as she stepped over the threshold. “Gosh, it’s a bit creepy down here, isn’t it!”
“Hello to you too, Granger,” he said drily, as she swept past him and sat down on the sofa. “You can have your book back. I’ve finished it.”
Her eyes widened. “You’ve read the whole thing? Already?”
Draco nodded, sitting down at the other end of the sofa and resting his arm casually along its back, the fingers of his other hand idly caressing the spine of the book where it lay between them. “Not–”
“Half bad. Right.” Hermione grinned, rolling her eyes. “Look…” She hesitated and then resolutely plunged ahead. “I was thinking of going down to the kitchens. I’m bored. And hungry. Want to come?”
The kitchens. Draco hadn’t been down there in ages, not since first year, when he, Crabbe and Goyle had sneaked through the heavy, old doors late one night, attempting to pinch some of the leftover cake from that night’s dinner. They’d been caught and severely reprimanded by a particularly intimidating old house-elf and sent scurrying back to the Slytherin common room, their tails between their legs.
He hadn’t anything better to do, that much was certain. Come to think of it, he was feeling rather peckish himself. A bit of that blancmange from lunch would do nicely.
“Yeah, all right, why not?” Scooping up the book, he trailed after her.
The coast was clear as the two of them came down the last of the winding stone steps and slipped through the doors that led to the vast kitchens. Pots bubbled on the hobs of gigantic cookers, large, wooden spoons jauntily stirring their contents from time to time and then resting against the sides of the black, cast-iron cauldrons and skillets. Steam seeped from beneath the partially open lids, filling the room with tantalising aromas.
“That’s dinner,” Hermione whispered. “Roast beef, I bet. And–”
“What is you students wanting here?”
The voice, high-pitched and squeaky, managed to remain stern. It came from behind them. Whirling around, they found themselves face to face with a disgruntled-looking, elderly house-elf.
“You isn’t bringing us any more hats, is you, Miss Hermione?” the house-elf asked, looking suddenly wary. When she shook her head, he folded his arms complacently. “Then Pinky must be asking you both to leave.”
“Sorry to intrude,” Hermione said with her most ingratiating smile, “it’s just… we got hungry, that’s all. And… well… it’s the holidays and hardly anybody’s here now. So we were hoping–”
Draco elbowed her in the arm, and she relented.
“That is to say, I was hoping that maybe we could pop down here for a little snack. We’ll just–”
The house-elf’s expression softened, and he held up a hand. “No, no, Miss Hermione and… “ He peered at Draco, his brows knitted together for a moment. “… Master Malfoy, isn’t it?… you may stay. Pinky will fetch you something nice.”
He returned a few minutes later with a veritable feast: steaming mugs of creamy tomato soup, toasted cheese sandwiches, and bowls of spicy apple crumble slathered with clotted cream.
For some time, conversation dwindled. Eventually, they both came up for air, happily full.
Hermione sighed with contentment, leaning back in the wooden chair and resting her hands on the worn surface of the long, wooden trestle table where they sat. “Tell me,” she said at last, “what did you like best? From the book.”
Draco thought for a moment. In fact, there had been one passage whose words had really resonated, he remembered. Opening the book, he flipped through the pages until he reached the one in question.
“This one, I think. What a piece of work is a man!” he read.
“Hamlet,” Hermione murmured, tucking her knees up and wrapping her arms around them. She gazed at him, her eyes alight.
“How noble in reason!” Draco continued. “How infinite in faculty, in form and moving how express and admirable! In action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god! The beauty of the world, the paragon of animals! And yet to me, what is this quintessence of dust? He had it right, didn’t he.” Shrugging, he regarded her with calm resignation. “Can’t trust anybody. Most people are full of shit.”
“Hamlet was depressed,” Hermione countered, frowning. “He was feeling alienated from everybody around him, totally isolated and disillusioned. Just because Shakespeare wrote the words doesn’t mean he took that view of humanity.”
“Well, if he didn’t, he was a complete tosser,” Draco muttered. “Because it’s true. People are not what they seem. They let you down, in the end. The ones you need most, especially. They’re the worst.” He gave Hermione a cynical half-smile. “Huh! Why d’you reckon I’m here now instead of at home, playing Happy Families?”
“I did wonder why you’re here, actually,” Hermione said quietly. Her gaze was steady, pensive.
“Here’s as good a place as any,” he answered flatly. “What about you, then? No warm and fuzzy festivities with Mummy and Daddy and a million Granger relations?”
Hermione squeezed her eyes shut briefly. Opening them, her smile seemed brittle. “I’m afraid not. My parents won’t be making very merry this year.” She paused. “Can’t.”
There was something about the way she’d said it, something guarded and yet, ominous as well.
“What do you mean, ‘can’t’?”
“Because,” she said, her voice a near-whisper now, “they don’t even know who they are anymore sometimes. And it’s all my fault.” Sudden tears clogged her throat and she drew quiet, swallowing hard.
Draco stared at her. It wasn’t the answer he’d expected. “What the hell are you on about?”
She sighed deeply, resting her chin on the tops of her bent knees, rocking slightly back and forth. “A year ago, I… I sent them to Australia. To protect them, see? I thought… I thought if I sent them far away, nothing could touch them. They’d be safe.”
“Well, that was stupid, wasn’t it!” Draco blurted out before he could stop himself. “How the fuck would that have protected them? Death Eaters could track anybody down, anywhere.”
“I know that!” Hermione sounded angry now. “I didn’t just send them away, Malfoy! I Obliviated them. Changed their identities completely. But…” Her laugh was tinged with bitterness. “But it seems I did too good a job. When the war ended, I brought them home, but somehow, I wasn’t able to reverse the spell completely. Even now, there are gaps. Big chunks of time still missing. Sometimes, they don’t remember me at all.”
“Where are they?” It was a question for which, suddenly, Draco wasn’t sure he wanted the answer.
A silence fell over the room, the only sounds the crackling and breaking of a log in the hearth as flames devoured it and the mournful whistling of the wind rattling the frozen window panes.
“Maybe you’re right,” Hermione said woodenly, her voice oddly tight. “After all, I let them down, didn’t I?”
“That’s crap and you know it!” Draco tossed the book down, scowling. “It’s not the same. Where the fuck do you come off, saying something like that? You were trying to help, for fuck’s sake! And at least you feel sorry. Something. My father…” He raked a hand through his hair distractedly and then threw both hands down in a gesture of disgust. “Ah, whatever. You know sod-all about it. And I can’t be arsed to explain.”
An uneasy moment passed, and then he glanced at her. She sat stiffly, her back ramrod straight and her cheeks flushed and splotchy with tears. Suddenly, he felt a rush of shame.
“Sorry,” he muttered gruffly. “That wasn’t fair. You feel like shit. I get that. Believe me.” He paused. “It’s just… Reckon I’d drop dead if my father ever… well, he wouldn’t, would he, so what’s the point? Just forget it, okay?”
Wiping her eyes roughly with the back of her hand, Hermione nodded. They finished the remainder of their food in silence.
Folds closer earth and sky;
The world seems shrouded far away;
Its noises sleep, and I,
As secret as yon buried stream,
Plod dumbly on, and dream.
Late Monday night
Draco was certain that records of previous snowfalls had to be tucked away somewhere in the vast annals of Hogwarts’ archives. The school certainly had histories of just about everything else imaginable, he reckoned, picturing the mammoth, old volumes stored carefully away and only available for perusal with special permission from Madam Pince.
It had been snowing hard for three days straight without a lull. The landscape outside the castle windows seemed to have flattened, the ability to distinguish between sky and ground gone, all landmarks obliterated, all sounds silenced, everything blotted out by the driving snow.
As the wan light of the shortest day gave over to the longest night of the year, snow continued to pelt down from the gathering blackness in thick, heavy whorls.
At dinner, the other two students who had remained for the holidays– siblings, a third- and a fifth-year– had finished early and left the Great Hall. Only Hermione and Draco had remained, apart from those staff members who lived at the school year-round with no family to visit during school breaks.
“It’s tonight, you know,” she’d remarked eventually, spooning up a bite of pudding.
Draco had been attempting to scrape the last licks of the delectable chocolate mousse from the sides of his dish. He had looked up, startled.
“The Solstice. It’s tonight. Well, early tomorrow morning, really. At 1:43.”
“To be precise.” Draco had laid down his spoon and nodded gravely, a corner of his mouth twitching. “And I should care because…?”
“Well, I mean… It’s what we’re meant to do, isn’t it, celebrate the Solstice. Alban Arthuan. The Old Ways. What wizards and witches have been doing for thousands of years!”
There had been something so captivatingly earnest in her expression, something so… pure. Draco had found himself staring even as she stood and turned to leave.
“Hang on, where are you going?” he’d asked, surprised.
“Things to do,” she’d tossed off over her shoulder. He’d stayed behind, watching her vanish between the massive doors.
Now, unable to sleep, he prowled the silent corridors in his pyjamas and dressing gown, eventually finding himself outside the Gryffindor common room once again. The Fat Lady snored in fits and starts, her head lolling heavily on her ample bosom.
Draco cleared his throat noisily and waited. The Fat Lady opened one eye and then the other, cocking an eyebrow at him expectantly.
“Project,” Draco began lamely, attempting to summon up all his charm. “Remember? Hermione and I. Work to do, yeah?”
The other eyebrow rose and the Fat Lady pursed her lips. “Now?”
Draco shrugged nonchalantly, preparing to toss off a blithe reply, when the portrait swung open from the inside and Hermione poked her head out.
“It’s all right,” she grinned. “I was expecting him.”
“Well!” the Fat Lady huffed, somewhat mollified, from the other side of the portrait hole. “Go on then, Mister Malfoy! But don’t let me catch you lurking about at such an ungodly hour again, and in a state of undress! ‘Tisn’t decent! Hmm!”
“Wizard’s honour,” Draco muttered, barely containing his laughter. A hand clapped over her mouth, Hermione beckoned to him, and together they went down the steps that led to the common room.
A huge log lay unkindled in the hearth, unlit candles on the stone floor before it. Swags of holly, ivy and evergreens adorned the mantel.
“Where’d you get all that lot?” Draco exclaimed. “We’ve been stuck inside for days!”
Hermione gave him a proud smile. “Conjured it. Couldn’t do the really important one, though.”
“Impressive,” he conceded. “Oh yeah, sorry to turn up like this. Your Fat Lady wasn’t best pleased, was she!”
“No!” she replied, laughing. “But it’s all right. Come on, let’s sit down. It’s almost time.”
“What’s the really important one?” he suddenly thought to ask, as they made themselves comfortable on cushions by the hearth. And then he remembered something else she’d said.
He’d been expected.
“Mistletoe,” Hermione replied lightly, her gaze fixed on the log before them. A faint blush coloured her cheeks. “It has special significance, so it’s got to be real. Only the mistletoe growing on a very old oak will do. It’s the berries, see…Their juice symbolises the seed of the god, the Oak King. Fertility. Renewal.” She checked the clock on the mantel. “Oh! It’s time. Happy Solstice, Malfoy!” Leaning forward with a murmured “Incendio,” she touched her wand to the Yule log, setting it aflame.
Candles were lit, and they toasted the return of the light and ever-longer days with spiced mead. Outside, the sky was an ink-black tapestry glittering with stars. The snow had finally stopped.
In the morning after breakfast, they ventured outside at last, the crisp air turning their breaths into vapourous, white plumes. The sky was a deep, cloudless blue, the world a gleaming fairyland.
When they happened upon the stalwart, old oak that stood not far from the castle, Draco laid a gloved hand on the bushy, green growth studded with clusters of pearl-like berries that hung from the tree’s branches.
“This it?” he asked softly.
She nodded, her dark eyes luminous, questioning.
Suddenly he recalled the opening to a poem from Granger’s book that he’d especially liked: Had we but world enough, and time… Bending his head to kiss her, it seemed to Draco that just maybe, now, they might.
A/N: The poem Draco is thinking of as they stand under the mistletoe is “To His Coy Mistress,” by 17th-century metaphysical poet Andrew Marvell. Full text here:
Song lyrics for “I Am A Rock” are by Paul Simon, of Simon and Garfunkel.
Poetic excerpts throughout the story are from “Snow,” by Archibald Lampman.
The full quote from “Hamlet,” Act 2, Scene 2:
“I have of late—but wherefore I know not— lost all my mirth, forgone all custom of exercises; and indeed, it goes so heavily with my disposition that this goodly frame, the earth, seems to me a sterile promontory; this most excellent canopy, the air, look you, this brave o'erhanging firmament, this majestical roof fretted with golden fire, why, it appears no other thing to me than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours. What a piece of work is a man! how noble in reason! how infinite in faculty! in form and moving how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! in
apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the world, the paragon of animals! And yet to me what is this quintessence of dust? Man delights not me—no, nor woman neither...”