Part the Fourth
Halcyone and Voldemort, 15 August, 1996
It was named Riddle Manor and she had no idea why. After packing her trunk and saying goodbye to the Malfoys, she and her cat Faustus had flooed over to a sprawling manor that was on top of the hill with gardens all around it.
“That’s little Hangleton,” Cousin Marvolo explained as they stood in in the garden in twilight. “Muggles, obviously.”
The lights twinkled and she squinted to try to make out the size of the hamlet, but honestly couldn’t. “Can I go visit in my Muggle clothes?” she asked, taking a few steps forward to a stone where she sat down prettily, holding her licorne lemonade in her hand. “I mean, shouldn’t they know that another Gaunt has come to rule over the populace?”
“You’ll be ‘Miss Mabelle’,” he warned. “Everyone thinks I’m my own son, given that I haven’t aged since I was last here in the seventies.”
“Shall we be brother and sister?” she asked with a large smile on his face. “I mean, we look nothing alike, but half-siblings, perhaps?” She had a half-brother, Harry. Harry and Hallie. She supposed she could have another. Mabelle and Marvolo.
Alarm briefly crossed his face, but then he came forward and touched her hair, which was up in a severe twist. “Oh, no, darling. Cousins, certainly. You’ve been sent to live with me since your mother died.”
She bit her lip and looked back out at the hamlet, at all the lights. “How did Mother die?” she finally asked. “It’s just—no one’s said.”
His hand had been petting her hair, but then suddenly stilled. When she looked up at him, a solemn expression had come over his face, and he murmured, “Perhaps for another day, Halcyone. It’s just—there’s such a mystery around your parents, one I only partially comprehend, and I don’t want to get ahead of myself by telling you half understood truths that we both might misunderstand.” His thumb ran over the rim of her ear, making her shiver. “You’re too precious to not fully understand just how your parents loved you and why they acted as they did.”
“You think they loved me?” she whispered, looking down into her tall glass.
“I’m certain of it,” he agreed, kneeling down so that he could look up into her hazel eyes in the half-light. “I did not know your father, I admit, but I do not doubt his intentions toward you—despite the mystery of Harry Potter—if he is even a Potter. And I knew Maia. She craved a child. There is no doubt that she adored you. That she hid you from me meant only that she was attempting to keep you safe from the Takeover.”
Glancing into his eyes, Hallie supplied, “Because you’re important somehow.”
“Exactly,” he agreed, reaching up and pressing his forehead against hers. “I have a vital role to play and I am only sorry that I was unable to protect Maia as well as I should. But I shall do better, Halcyone, you have my word. You have no reason to hide anything or anyone from me. You are safe and separate from this conflict.”
“But I support you,” she told him hurriedly. “I long for a time when we’re completely separate from people like Aunt Petunia and Dudley. I never understood why Mrs. Snape couldn’t have felt compassion in her soul and given me to wizards, why Professor Snape didn’t just take me in—I know he thought about it. I overheard him tell Lord Malfoy when he came to get permission to take me to The World Cup.”
His eyebrows rising in surprise, Cousin Marvolo breathed in for a moment. “We shall make it a reality, dear girl. Mrs. Snape’s days are numbered, although she has some—nominal protection because of her relationship with your Head of House.” He smirked at her. “And I shall speak to your professor. He did do a great deal for you, although I know you are unaware, and shall be rewarded, and he will be made to see that there was more he could have done.”
Carefully, she stood and after a moment, he stood with her, towering above her. His hand had fallen from her hair, but he brushed aside a lock of hair that had fallen in front of her ear, and looked down at her.
“You are safe.”
She nodded and then took another sip of her lemonade. “Draco, Pansy and I are going for my vined ring tomorrow.”
“Pansy?” he inquired.
“Mademoiselle Pansy Parkinson,” she told him quickly. “Draco’s girlfriend.” At his impassive look, she continued: “There are four of us, really, in the group. Pansy’s father has interests in banking, but they’re too new so Lady Malfoy won’t let her socialize with Draco over the summers. Then there’s Signor Blaise Zabini—but he’s foreign.” Her eyes glittered. “In the end, Professor Snape had to vouch for my heritage despite all the nasty rumors, and I was allowed to become Draco’s companion as he so hates Monsieur Theodore Nott who is also in our year and is the only one considered ‘acceptable’ by Lady Malfoy.”
“And the four of you are the best of friends,” Cousin Marvolo checked.
“Decidedly,” she agreed. “Draco’s decided I’m the sister he never had, which makes Pansy jealous—” She bit her lip and laughed a little, “and Blaise likes to make bets with no one in particular as to how his stepfathers are going to die.”
Cousin Marvolo motioned for her to continue.
“His mother is the Black Widow.”
“Of course,” he agreed. “You shan’t be marrying him then. I want you nowhere near her.” He picked up her free hand and lifted it to just beneath his chin, letting it hover, and then releasing it. “You’re a little young for that, though, if I may be so bold.”
She tossed her head a little, her hazel eyes sparkling, and she asked, point blank, “And who do we Gaunts marry if we’re not supposed to marry Potters? I heard a rumor.”
“About my mother and father,” he suggested, stepping away from her carefully so she would perhaps not feel crowded. “Morfin and Merope Gaunt.—Morfin, coincidentally, was your great-grandfather.”
“So you are my uncle!” she declared.
He leaned toward her and whispered, “If you believe the rumors,” and then moved away again. “As far as I’m concerned, I am your cousin and your guide to pureblood wizerdom. I will use my influence to keep you safe and in the best possible style.”
At this she laughed. “You don’t even know me!”
“But I will,” he decided. “I know you dote over that cat but you don’t baby him as you might.”
“He needs to learn to walk on that paw,” she stated decidedly. “If he doesn’t, he’ll have even a worse limp, he won’t be able to jump, and he’ll need assistance. I want Faustus to be self-sufficient.”
He shook his head. Yes, she realized. She had given her cat a Muggle name, but is strangely worked. The cat was a Faustus. Hopefully, he wouldn’t sell its soul to the devil. That would be bad. Very bad.
“I will say one thing,” Cousin Marvolo murmured as he took her hand and led her further into the garden, “as far as I can tell you are not quite like your mother. She was secretly sweet on James Potter since she was about a third year and he was a prefect. She thought he looked dashing with his badge. At least you don’t have a penchant for Draco Malfoy.”
“No,” she answered, letting her fingers slip from his and then touching the pendant around her neck. “Brother and sister. We’re both blonde.”
“Malfoys have gotten stranger ideas,” he remarked.
“Pansy has gotten stranger notions,” she confessed, moving toward him and whispering as if there were others to hear. “You won’t tell anyone, but I don’t think he’ll marry her. She’s not blonde.” Then, to make a point, she rolled her eyes.
A small smile curled his lips when he changed the subject. “If you do go into the village, Muggle baiting is strictly prohibited. We have to live here, Halcyone.” His blue eyes looked at her. “I mean it.”
She rolled her eyes again, showing her youth. “I don’t Muggle bait, Cousin Marvolo.”
Taking a deep breath, he admitted, “The Riddle family lived here. The local squires. Morfin Gaunt may have baited Tom Riddle, Sr. on numerous occasions when he caught him sniffing around his sister Merope—and he eventually murdered them. The murder was never solved in the Muggle world.”
She took a deep breath. “You’re going to have to write out a family tree for me, Cousin Marvolo.”
“Merope was my mother,” Cousin Marvolo stated. “You have her hair. The color of it, anyway, even though she is only an aunt several times over. No, Tom was sweet on her. Everything was left to me as her child as it seemed he couldn’t quite bring himself to move on from the idea of her. Muggles are good for something with their sentimentality.” The last bit was sneered.
“But he had a son.” She wasn’t looking at him, instead gazing out into the darkening garden.
“Why did you say that?”
“Sr.,” she responded, turning to him now. “You said ‘Tom Riddle, Sr.’ That means there was a son somewhere.”
He paused and seemed to consider. “The manor is in the name of Tom Riddle, Jr. Muggles, as I said. Still, we’re the Gaunts—as we should be—in the village. And our name will be feared soon with the Takeover. I promised Maia that—and I make you the same promise.”
“I don’t want to be feared,” she admitted. “I would rather be loved.”
She moved away from him, down the hill, always looking out at the lights of Little Hangleton. What a strange name for a town, she thought to herself. Somewhere she found a stone bench and she sat on it, just looking out on this small kingdom that was now hers.
Hallie wasn’t even aware she had fallen asleep several days later while reading in the den until she woke up with her shoes off and in a large bedroom suite, the bedroom with flowers handpainted on the walls, dark, wild, something almost magical, she would say.
A letter at breakfast surprised her.
She was rather pleased to note that she took it with CousinMarvolo. He often had a great deal of correspondence and would read it, sorting it into piles, while she looked at her own small pile.
Halfway through August, she received a rather peculiar one. It was from Cedric Diggory and he wanted to meet up in Diagon Alley. She barely knew the Hogwarts Champion from the Triwizard Tournament. There was a bit of nonsense at the time with the final task when Viktor Krum had turned the Cruciatus Curse on him and then one of the outside regulators was discovered to have been cutting through hedges to help Fleur Delacour get to the Cup.
Her half-brother Harry had then managed to get to the cup first after running toward it with a broken leg and declared Lord Voldemort back. It had caused an absolute ruckus. She couldn’t believe it. The two had fought about it that summer and had nearly come to blows in Aunt Petunia’s living room until Professor Snape had separated them.
“May I go into Diagon Alley?” she asked. “I’ll be careful.” It had become rather bleak and she usually only went with friends and stayed at the pureblood hangouts.
Cousin Marvolo looked up briefly and then back at his letter. “Of course, darling. You’re meeting a pureblood, or are you fetching something?”
“An old schoolmate,” she promised. “Don’t know what he wants—and Diggory is a pureblood. There was a great deal of talk about it in Slytherin House when he was Champion.” Checking the letter again, she looked through it for any hint. “No idea what he wants. I don’t even think we’ve spoken to each other than as prefects.”
“Pity he didn’t win,” Cousin Marvolo commented. “I put money on him.”
At this she looked up. “You were in the country? I thought you’d been away.”
“I was,” he agreed, “but I took an interest, naturally. At least it wasn’t France. I can’t stand Creature blood.”
She hummed. Hallie was rather fond of Professor Flitwick although she would never admit it in Slytherin. It would be social suicide.
Hallie glanced down at her left hand, to the elaborate rose gold and diamond vined ring that climbed up her finger. It still felt strange when she tried to write and she was practicing for half an hour every morning, but she would be out that afternoon and would have to choose what to wear since he wanted to see her at Flourish and Blotts, for some unfathomable reason.
In the end she wore a turtleneck made out of silk with a tie, all in black, fitted with a pleated skirt and tights. The blacks were all subtly different to emphasize each separate piece in her ensemble and to show that she wasn’t an automaton. Her hair was put back with black barrettes so that it was all then folded under itself to give the illusion that her hair was cut closely to her head.
Cousin Marvolo looked over her once, presented her with black pearls for her ears, and then let her go. Strangely, in them was a short note that read, “To Lady Mabelle, your devoted servant, LV.” She didn’t ask her cousin about it, thinking that if he wanted her to know, he would have mentioned something.
At Florean Fortescue’s she saw her half-brother with Granger and the Weasel, but she ignored them. Unlike Draco, she never started arguments. Harry thought she was staying with Draco. Harry hated Draco. He’d probably confront her about it. If he found out the truth—well, who knew what would happen. Apart from him, she only spoke to Granger as they were both Prefects. Weasel was beneath her notice. She wondered what they were doing in Diagon Alley given the recent Death Eater activity.
“Potter,” Diggory greeted her as soon as she entered and she looked up to see him in, strangely, pureblood black. That pleased her a little.
She was startled at just how tall he was and remembered how all the girls giggled over how good-looking he was at the Yule Ball back during her fourth year. They certainly weren’t lying, with his chiseled features and gray eyes.
“Actually,” she greeted, offering her hand, which he shook. “My Cousin just got into the country, and I’m finally being recognized as a Gaunt, as my birth certificate proclaims.”
He looked surprised and indicated she should follow him in. “Gaunt? You’re Sacred Twenty-Eight?”
“I’m afraid I am,” she agreed, laughing at the absurdity of it all. “Not that you have to worry at all. You’re no longer at Hogwarts and there’s not even the possibility we’ll have rounds together.” Her hazel eyes looked up at him and she saw a pensive look on his face.
“I’m confused, I’ll admit.—” He turned and showed that he had saved the two seats in the history section for them and she sat down. “Now you’re going to tell me Snape is not your stepfather.”
She leaned forward and whispered, “Don’t tell anyone, but Snape was never my stepfather. I’m not related to Mrs. Snape in any way.”
At this, his eyebrows rose and he just looked at her for a moment. “You might not want to come then.”
“Come?” she asked him
“Bill Weasley got engaged to Fleur Delacour, and we Champions kept in touch.” (Frankly, she wasn’t surprised.) “And a few of us were throwing a party, and I was hoping you’d be my date.”
This certainly startled Hallie. First, she didn’t know Diggory that well so she didn’t know why he wanted her to come—and she didn’t know the Weasleys or Delacour. “What does this have to do with Mrs. Snape?”
“Er—it’s her social crowd.”
That frankly didn’t explain much.
“I thought, even though you were in Slytherin,” he pushed on quickly, “perhaps you wouldn’t mind being around the Snapes’ friends and, by extension, the other Houses. Your brother will be there—and don’t you get along with him? And I do want you to be my date. Potter—” (She leveled a look at him) “—Sorry, Gaunt.” He smiled at her charmingly, and she’d give him that: Diggory was charming. “As soon as you were made Prefect, I remember thinking I had wished you had been a year older for the Yule Ball.”
“Aren’t you still dating Chang?” she checked.
“No,” he answered simply, looking at her with those gray eyes.
To be honest, she didn’t think it would fly farther than a Comet 360. Cousin Marvolo didn’t seem as strict as Lord Malfoy with his “Death Eater” rule, but if Mrs. Snape was involved… “This is an engagement party,” she doublechecked. “Purebloods, half-bloods, Muggleborns… Anyone and everyone.” She closed her eyes and thought. “I’m Lady Mabelle Gaunt. Is that going to be a problem?—I still need to check with Cousin Marvolo, and I doubt he’ll say ‘yes’ unless I go on about international relations.”
“Lady Mabelle Gaunt,” Diggory practically stuttered.
“All Gaunts are given names beginning with an ‘M’,” she told him plainly. “I’m Mabelle Halcyone Gaunt. Halcyone to my friends—and I haven’t convinced my cousin you’re my friend yet.”
He carefully reached out and took her hand, his thumb running down her vined ring. A simple, unembellished one in bronze was on his own right hand. “Would you like me to talk to him?”
She bit her lip and thought. Cousin Marvolo never said she couldn’t bring her friends to the Manor. His only rule was no Muggle baiting in Little Hangleton. Her head whirring, she finally admitted, “I’m going stir crazy. Cousin Marvolo means well, but everyone’s scared to go out and I don’t know what he even does half the time. And my friends talk about the same things over and over again.” Pansy had just been going on about wedding dresses the day before last when she’d flooed over. Again. Hallie was becoming an expert. “I’ll sneak you in, stay where I leave you in case there are people about—” (like that strange man who looked like an executioner) “—and then I’ll come get you. Deal?”
A smile had been growing on his face. “I don’t think you even fancy me. Half of Hogwarts fancies me.”
“Well maybe you can work on that,” she decided after a moment when she realized she was looking into his eyes and wishing they were a more interesting color. She took his hand and pulled him up. “You don’t want anything today, do you?”
“I thought Florean Fortescue’s—” He suggested carefully.
She looked at him. Hard. “My half-brother’s there. With Granger and Weasley. I know we’re going to fight the next time we speak, and I’m putting it off.”
“They’ll be there—” he warned. “As I said, Potter was a Champion and won—”
“Yes, yes,” she agreed. “And he touched the cup and was whisked to a graveyard where the Dark Lord stole his blood and rose from his cauldron.”
Diggory paused and looked down at her. “There was evidence just last month—”
“That he’s back,” she agreed. “With the face of a snake. I doubt any pureblood worth his magic would follow someone who clearly had Creature Blood. So, he’s a pretender in the photograph and the Dark Lord is not back or the Dark Lord hired someone to take his place in the photograph.—I don’t much care, if I’m honest.” She took a deep breath. This is what everyone had really been talking about and she wanted a break. “Whether or not I believe my brother is irrelevant. I wasn’t there. Neither were you. Neither of us saw. Now, would you like to speak to Cousin Marvolo?”
His face softened as he looked at her, his features no less chiseled. “I’d like to speak to your cousin.”
They went out of the store and walked down the deserted summer street. “He’s ‘Lord Marvolo’, just so you know. Cousin Marvolo is very particular in the pureblood niceties. He’ll expect you to refer to me as ‘Lady Halcyone.’ He’ll refuse you just for form.” In fact, he’d probably find a glove and slap Diggory with it before dropping it at his feet to suggest that they duel. She could just see that.
When they passed Florean Fortescue’s, the Trio were still there, to her despair. At this point, Diggory had taken her arm and threaded it through his elbow.
There was a flurry of activity when they floo’ed into the Manor. She looked about and conjured up a blindfold and placed it over his eyes. His fingers came up to touch the fabric, but she placed her hands on his arm. “Trust me,” she begged as she grasped him to her and turned on her toe.
Only she and Cousin Marvolo could Apparate within the Manor, and she wasn’t supposed to know how—but she and Draco had taught themselves on the sly. Lord Roman might have given them their introductory lesson. At least he was good for something other than flirting.
When they appeared in her suite, she caught him but they fell in a heap on the carpet. Faustus was lounging on the bed. At first they were silent until he pushed the blind off of his eyes and looked into her hazel ones and smiled.
A laugh escaped her. Then he was laughing and they were lying on their backs, just giggling at the absurdity of the situation.
A few moments later, there was a shift in the magic outside of her door, and she sat up as Cousin Marvolo entered, clearly worried. “Halcyone—I thought you were going to be out!”
“I was out,” she told him carefully, glancing at Diggory. “Er—we wanted to ask you something, so we came back. You never told me you’d have a—” She swallowed, thinking of the few people she caught sight of “—political meeting. I knew you were political, I just didn’t know you’d be political here.”
Cousin Marvolo cast a stern eye on Diggory and then came in, shutting the door behind him. “There will be many ministers and politicians from not only Britain but Europe coming through here, Halcyone. I’m sorry. Your mother, Maia, grew up with it. I sometimes forget you don’t know what she did. I only told you about the rule about the Muggle village because it was new since your mother died. She often enjoyed her pursuits there with her friends.”
Hallie swallowed. She had no idea her mother enjoyed Muggle baiting. Her mother tortured other humans, but then again she knew Draco and Blaise did. She wouldn’t be surprised if Pansy did, or at least didn’t mind. They were all blood purists.
“Of course,” she murmured. “I won’t bring anyone back again.” Sighing heavily, she turned to Diggory. “Monsieur Cedric, Lord Marvolo Gaunt,” she introduced. “May we ask you a question since you’re here and then I’ll take him back to—wherever he wants to go.”
Not looking at all pleased, he nonetheless indicated that Diggory should speak. “My friend,” Diggory began before he cleared his throat, “Mademoiselle Fleur Delacour, the Beauxbatons Champion, just got engaged to Monsieur William Weasley.”
“Weasley,” Cousin Marvolo checked before glancing between the two students.
“Yes,” Diggory put in quickly. “He’s a neighbor of mine, or rather his family is. The Weasleys are putting on a bash. Krum is coming in from Bulgaria. It’s on Saturday, after lunch. It will go through dinner and then us four champions—and our dates—thought we’d go to the local pub until closing. I’d get Lady Halcyone back here safely, Lord Marvolo,” he promised carefully.
Cousin Marvolo looked unhappy. “Your half-brother then.—The great murderer. Supposedly your father’s connection to him got him killed.”
Diggory clearly didn’t know what to say to this. He glanced at Hallie and asked, “I thought you said you were now a Gaunt?”
“James Potter was my father. Gaunt witches pass on their names to their children for the sake of the purity of the house,” she explained carefully. Grimacing at the thought, she looked down.
Nodding, Diggory then admitted: “Professor and Mrs. Snape have been invited, according to Fred Weasley.”
“This is an Order party then,” Cousin Marvolo suddenly stated.
Grey eyes blinked and looked directly at Cousin Marvolo. “No one outside of the Order is supposed to know the name.”
“Death Eaters know the name of the Order of the Phoenix,” Cousin Marvolo replied simply. He looked between the two of them. “Halcyone, your father was a member of the Order, which fought the Dark Lord, whom your mother avidly supported.—I did everything to oppose Maia’s attachment to James Potter, and in the end I made it stronger. So, I give my permission as I will not make the same mistake twice. I will speak with people I know in the Order to ensure your safety among those who are not friends of the House of Gaunt.”
“This is not Romeo and Juliet,” she argued, looking between them. “I’m so sick of Pansy and wedding dresses. I’d like to talk to Fleur Delacour about wedding dresses, instead. She’s bound to have something new and fresh to say on the subject.”
A smile quirked the side of Cousin Marvolo’s face. “Well, then. If it’s a case of wedding dresses, I certainly shan’t get in the way. You have my permission, ma belle. Don’t drink too much. I’m sure it’s more glamourous in stories than in reality.” He turned with a swirl of his black robes and left the room.
She and Diggory sat on the floor and he looked at her. “Did your Cousin just say he was a Death Eater?”
Thinking, she admitted: “I don’t think he’s a Death Eater. That would be too common.—Now, you wanted ice cream.” She put the blindfold on him to lead him out into the garden so she could bring him into Little Hangleton.