Hermione shivered as they passed between two of the stones that formed the circle. The tree branches arched overhead like a Gothic arch. It seemed appropriate to their surroundings. The magic of the space teased along her skin and raised goose flesh on her arms. A sentient presence seemed to be assessing them as they entered the circle.
"They use these stones frequently." Draco looked around them with wide eyes. "I didn't realize there were still families that did. My parents don't follow the old ways for all their posturing, and none of their friends do either."
"Why not?" Hermione glanced around them and squeezed his hand gently.
"They'd say it's too barbaric." Draco shrugged his shoulders and pulled her closer to him. "I can't see my mother slicing into her pristine flesh to renew the bonds."
"Look at this place." Hermione turned them around. "This is magic. This is deep and knowing. I can feel it all through me. I'm even more aware of you here."
"I think it's waiting to see what you'll do." Draco glanced down at the box in her other hand. "That athame, it's important. You know that, right?"
"I know ritual tools develop bonds over time. This one, being passed down a matrilineal line, confers the power of that line to its user." Hermione held the box tighter to her body.
"Once you cut your palm with it, you will be a Longbottom." Draco locked eyes with her. "Augusta will be your matriarch and Neville will be your brother. This is the oldest form of adoption, not just words scrawled across some scrap of parchment at the ministry. Your magic might change. Blood magics impact things differently."
"Won't this marriage affect both our magics then?" Hermione watched his eyes carefully. "It's a blood based ceremony."
"The bonds are different. A woman joins her husband's family. She brings her magic with her. Augusta wasn't a Longbottom to start, but she brought her magic and traditions to her new family." Draco's gaze never wavered. "You'll bring your magic and traditions to me."
"If my magic is about to change, what will I be adding into the cauldron?"
"I assume there are muggle traditions our children will practice. They might move comfortably in the muggle world. That may well be an asset. Magically, you will still be the know it all swot with the power to back it up." Draco smiled and chuckled. "Being a Longbottom won't drastically change your core, but you might find herbology comes more easily."
"Well, that wouldn't be a problem for me." Hermione chewed on her lower lip and examined the grass growing under them. "Does it bother you?"
"Not at all." Draco gently lifted her face up with his free hand. "My core is certain and settled. I'm not worried about your becoming a Longbottom. I'm relieved."
Hermione took a deep breath. She'd been friends with too many boys to ask questions in a situation like this. Given half a chance most of them would fill the silence with any stray thought that ran through their minds. If it worked on Harry, which it always did, it would probably work on Draco.
"There is a good chance my parents will attempt to make our lives less than comfortable. I don't think they'll disown me, but they might." Draco took a deep breath. "They might have tried to kill you, but as a Longbottom, even an adopted one, you are protected."
"How?" Hermione smiled to encourage his sharing.
"There is no link between our families. No Longbottom has ever married a Malfoy. There is nothing for them to hide behind. No previous bad deed for them to blame as an act of accepted retribution. An act against you would bring every family aligned with the Longbottom clan down on their heads. Not a pleasant prospect in these times." Draco smirked. "That old battle axe knows her stuff."
"Don't call her names." Hermione frowned at him. "She could probably take you in a formal duel. She made me study hexes with her for the last week. She's brilliant."
"I won't insult your clan matriarch, Granger." Draco nodded his head soberly, but she caught the amusement in his eyes.
"This is easier than I thought it would be." Hermione grinned up at Draco. His blond hair was threaded with silver in the moonlight. She wanted to trace the shining strands, but her hands were full. "You are fairly easy to talk with when we aren't at odds."
"And easy on the eyes when we are." Draco tossed his head back and grinned. "Are you sure about this, Granger? I'm fairly certain this will work."
"I'm trusting the magic." Hermione felt her cheeks flush and hoped the moonlight hid her embarrassment. "Are you having second thoughts?"
"I'm not." Draco tilted his head and examined her closely. "I expected to have second and third thoughts, but the more time I spend with you, the more perfect this seems. Are you worried that we will feel differently tomorrow?"
"No." Hermione shook her head slightly. "I was engaged to Ron for two years, and I never felt this confident. I'm only nervous about our vows."
"Why?" Draco stroked her shoulder with his fingers. "Our marriage will be ours alone. There are no preordained vows. Just promise me what you can, and I will do the same."
Hermione nodded and glanced at the box pressed against her chest. It was time. She slid her hand along the edge and felt the charmed latch release.
The mithril blade caught the moonlight and figures seemed to dance on the blade. Hermione blushed as she studied the figures and realized what they were actually doing. She lifted it by its simple wooden handle and showed it to Draco.
"I didn't know any of those still existed." Draco reached out to touch the blade and pulled his hand back before he made contact. "Morgana had five blades made by a goblin that owed her a life debt. She blessed certain women with the gift of them. They can not be sold. They can not be stolen. Their blessings fade if they are abused."
"That's why you didn't touch it?" Hermione smiled at his quick nod.
"It is your blade." Draco glanced at the amorous figures writhing on the blade again. "Only you can wield it."
Hermione took a deep breath and set the blade against the palm of her hand. A sense of anticipation flowed through her. The blade, the circle, and Draco were all waiting for her somehow.
She sliced deep into the palm of her hand and pulled the knife free from her flesh. Where the blade cast drops of her blood flowers bloomed. She felt a warmth flow up from the earth into her body.
"I offer my body, my heart, my mind, and my spirit in freedom and joy. I offer these things that two may be one, that our joys be doubled as our problems are halved." She lifted the blade and he held out his hand palm up. She made the cut quickly and clasped his wounded hand with hers.
"I vow to give you the first cut of my meat, the first sip of my wine, from this day it shall be only your name I cry out in the night and into your eyes that I smile each morning. I shall be a shield for you back as you are for mine."
The blood on the blade shone with light and a red cord formed and wrapped around their hands. Yellow and gold cords emerged from the flowers at their feet, a green cord trailed down from the trees, and a blue cord emerged from the largest stone in the circle. The cords danced around their wrists and slid into place binding them closer. Hermione could feel her heart beat and his in the palm of her hand. They had differed, but each beat brought them closer to each other. She took a step closer to him and leaned her forehead against his. The moonlight formed into a white cord that wrapped over all the others. The cords shifted against her skin and she felt their heart beats become one. The cords began to glow. His lips found hers, and she marveled at the gentleness of his kiss.
They pulled apart and stared at each other. The world had faded away. Hermione and Draco stood solemnly and accepted the bond that formed between them.
The words came to them easily, and they spoke as one.
"Above and beyond this, I will cherish and honor you through this life and into the next."