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A Midwinter Marriage
It was a midwinter wedding.
The ceremony had taken place at the Burrow just that morning, thanks to the insistence of the bride’s family and friends, but after the reception, Draco swept his new bride off to spend their honeymoon on his family estate. Together they Apparated to the edge of a wide, deep chasm in the mountains. Cold, damp exhalations of air gusted up from the abyss and icy winds whistled about their ears and tugged insistently at their robes.
“Are you sure about this?” Ginny asked uncertainly, clutching her robes tight about her. “I mean, what if it doesn’t work?”
Draco laughed, grabbing her hand and pulling her close enough for a kiss. “Trust me,” he said, grinning crookedly. “The Veil won’t harm you. Malfoy magic looks out for its own.”
She eyed the long, dark fall. “And what about everyone else?”
“Everyone else can go to the Devil.” Releasing her, he stepped onto the edge and murmured something under his breath. All around them, the air began to shimmer and twist, as if an illusion was slowly dissolving into true reality –
Slowly, imperceptibly, the barrier that separated the Malfoy estate from the real world parted, and Ginny saw her husband’s home for the first time.
It was beautiful.
Outside the wind howled, cold, damp and terrifying, but inside the barrier, thick flakes of snow fell in the calm, clear air, and an exquisite, perfectly contained landscape lay dormant and sleeping.
“Welcome,” Draco murmured, “to the land beyond the Veil.”
They stepped onto a snow-covered hill, and watched as the Veil shimmered and solidified once more, isolating them in their new world. Ginny turned her face up to the sky, spinning round and round in circles, her arms flung open with joy. “It’s so beautiful,” she said, turning to Draco, her eyes filled with love and warmth. “It’s everything I’ve ever dreamed…”
He watched her with hungry silver eyes. “Yes,” he agreed. “It is.” Her eyes flew to his, and they stared at each other, silent, surrounded by the still, sleeping world and the endlessly falling snow.
Draco was the first to break the silence. “Come on,” he said, “there’s something I want to show you.” He put his arm around her, and she snuggled in close to his warmth. Together, they trudged down the hill towards the edge of the forest, where snow-covered trees formed a thick tangle of branches and limbs.
“Where are we going?” Ginny asked, her eyes wide as she followed him in, taking in every detail of the silent forest. She had heard of this land, protected from the real world by its Malfoy masters, but had never thought to see it herself.
“To the Grove,” he answered her, “so that the land may recognize you, and bring you into the circle of its protection.”
“Seriously? I thought they were just stories.”
He paused on the path and turned back to her, a pale figure so much a part of the winter landscape it twisted her heart. “Seriously, Ginny. The Grove is the heart of the estate, our sacred place – no true Malfoy marriage is complete unless it is brought before the Grove...”
“Hang on.” Suspicious now, she tugged at his sleeve, all the stories of the old, conservative pureblood families running through her head. “What do you mean, ‘brought before’?”
He smirked. “Once, long ago, it meant consummation –”
“What?!” she shrieked, her flesh shrinking from the cold. “You’re not –”
“But now it only means that the new Malfoy bride makes an offering on the altar.” He stepped back, holding his hands up in mock alarm as she glared and advanced threateningly. Laughing, he turned and fled deeper into the forest, slipping through tree shadows and the undergrowth with ease, drawing her further in towards the centre.
Eventually they came to a ring of immensely old oaks, their trunks grey and hoary with age, and their limbs thick and heavy and dripping with mistletoe. Inside the ring of oaks was a crude, unimaginably old altar, the grey stone blackened with ancient crimson stains. Despite the wintry conditions, the ground was covered in thick grass and flowers, as if it was perpetually spring.
“Is this it?” she whispered.
“Yes,” he answered, bowing his head as he stepped into the clearing at the centre of the ring of trees. “This is the Grove.” He took her hand and drew her in.
The air was warm and hushed, the silence heavy and reverential. Ginny could feel the energy pulsing beneath her feet, feel the pressing weight of countless centuries of Malfoy power –
“What do I have to do?” she asked, eyeing the bloodstained altar warily.
He shrugged. “Make an offering.”
Slowly, she stepped towards the altar, feeling the pressure increase as she drew closer and closer. And then she stood before it, so close that she reached out and touched it, laying a hand against the rough, pitted stone –
Something pricked her finger, and she drew back with a cry. A tiny bead of crimson blood welled up from a scratch, grew larger and larger until it overflowed and dropped, with almost audible force, onto the altar. The world held its breath. Deep down inside her, she felt something shift, felt a great warmth fill her until she was overflowing…
And then it was gone, and the world snapped back into focus.
Later, curled up with Draco before the warm, crackling fire in their new bedroom, she closed her eyes and listened, half-dreaming, to the calm, steady beat of her new husband’s heart.
“Have you ever made an offering?” she asked, her voice thick and drowsy.
“Once,” he answered. “Long ago. My father took me.” He fell silent for a moment, no doubt thinking of Lucius, two years dead. “I don’t remember much, but it was beautiful – the warmth amid the snow, and the ice…”
“Is that why you…?”
“I wanted to show it to you as I first saw it.” He sounded almost embarrassed to admit so much. “I wanted you to see…”
Secretly, she smiled. “It’s beautiful,” she said, and meant it. She put her hand against his heart, and felt his hand come up to cover hers.
Outside, the snow fell, and the moon shone down on a glorious winter landscape. But secure in the warmth and magic of the Manor, Draco and Ginny celebrated the first night of their marriage…
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