Part the Seventh
Halcyone and Voldemort, 31 August, 1996
The Dark Lord watched her from afar. Every time he woke from his deep sleeps, there would be notes on her in his book. He read about her friendship with Draco Malfoy in particular, of how she had not even contacted Cedric Diggory since the Dark Lord had returned her to the Riddle Estate.
Tomorrow she was set to go back to Hogwarts.
Sixth year. Slytherin. Prefect.
He remembered what it was like to want to strip off those horrible ugly socks from a witch’s calves, to suck a lovemark on her neck, to make her think that the both of you might conquer the future if she only pleased you enough.
Of course, there wasn’t really any question. Mabelle was everything he had ever desired and more. He just had to wait seventy years to find her… He remembered the first notation about her—Halcyone—a name unfitting for a Gaunt. Uncommonly beautiful, uncommonly clever, uncommonly graceful—His interest had been piqued but he doubted he would ever meet the girl unless she became one of his Death Eaters, and he knew Lord Marvolo would never allow that.
He always wanted to separate his life from the Dark Lord’s, not that the Dark Lord could blame him.
There was something different about Mabelle, however—
Slipping on his crimson robes over his white shirt sleeves, red and black waistcoat, starched cravat, and red trousers, the Dark Lord went in front of the mirror and watched as blue eyes shifted into slits, as the nose melted away, and the hair on his head fizzled out into nothing. Now he felt like himself.
Today Mabelle would be going out to visit Diggory just this once before she went back to Hogwarts. No reason was given, just the hurried notation.
Something would have to be done about this. Mabelle couldn’t possible be allowed to forget about the Dark Lord, the man she had allowed into her bed, with some simple minded child.
… … … … …
Hallie, if she admitted it to herself, was a little bit peeved. She was leaving for Hogwarts tomorrow and she was forced to see Diggory. Auror. Why did she ever agree to go to that Weasley-infested party with him? Stupid! Ignorant! Foolhardy!
She wanted to dress in one of her pretty new dresses, now that she had wizard clothes, and let Draco twirl her into The Wicked Stepmother. They could spend all afternoon laughing together, eating sweets that were charmed to have no fat and virtually no calories, and then whispering about the other witches and wizards at the other tables, what they were wearing, who they might be, guessing the most grandiose and ridiculous pureblood names they could think of.
“Euphemia,” Draco had once guessed and she had squeezed his hand painfully. When he looked at her in confusion, she asked, pointedly:
“Have you forgotten the name of my grandmother?”
However, there would be no games today.
Well, she thought to herself in an exaggerated manner, it would be one large game. She had almost told the Ministry worker exactly who had saved her, down to the slits of his eyes. Hallie was drawing a line in the sand and she intended to stand on her side of it. Hallie never said that she spoke to him, that he had spoken to her, that he had slept in her bed. She never declared that she supported the Takeover, only that someone had saved her—and she’d let them infer that it was a Death Eater or someone even more—powerful.
On second thoughts, Hallie was a little afraid of what Dumbledore would say or do with that information. She’d heard rumors… horrible rumors…
Then again, her half-brother was rather close to the old fool. Perhaps that would save her.
She appeared dressed in black jeans and a black corset, a black translucent blouse under it, to complete the look. The blouse had a hood, shimmery, which was pinned to the top of her head. Hallie decidedly did not look like a Muggle. She looked like a witch. However, she didn’t much care. She was drawing a line in the sand, after all.
Coming into the pub, she saw Diggory who was nursing a pint despite the earliness of the hour, and he immediately stood and came up to her. “I was so worried,” he confessed, reaching for her, but she side stepped him so that his fingers wouldn’t touch her.
“It’s been over a week,” she told him carefully. “How worried were you?”
“I wrote to your cousin—”
“Well,” she stated casually, crossing her arms. “I hope he wrote back and told you how well I was faring. You do realize I was kidnapped, though unharmed.”
Diggory suddenly looked worried and motioned that they should return to the booth, his pint waiting on the table. His gray eyes shone from his face, and he was as handsome as he ever was, but he frankly couldn’t compare to the Dark Lord’s sheer magnetism. He had never even compared to Lord Roman and all of his rakish ways.
When she slid into the seat, Diggory signaled the barmaid over and Hallie asked for a coke, as she couldn’t think of another Muggle drink she’d like at that moment.
“They are—rumors, Gaunt,” Diggory began carefully.
“Rumors?” she stated airily, looking at him with her large hazel eyes. “What sort of rumors?”
“You were seen—during the raid—with,” and now he leaned forward, “You-Know-Who.”
She took him in for all of three seconds before shrugging. “I’ve made no secret of it. He’s the one who took me to safety—kidnapped me in layman’s terms—and brought me back to within walking distance of Riddle House.” Her coke came, but she didn’t bother to look up. “He’s terribly gentlemanly in this strange—” (she searched for the words) “—well, I’m not exactly sure how. The Dark Lord is like no one I’ve ever met.”
Diggory, through this speech, just sat there, stunned. Then, as soon as Hallie broke off speaking and took a sip of her drink, he downed a large gulp of beer. “Gaunt,” he whispered desperately. “Do you know what you’re saying?”
“That the Dark Lord is a gentleman to pureblood ladies,” she responded calmly, “or Gaunts. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m Sacred Twenty-Eight.” Shrugging, she returned to her drink and watched him carefully.
Diggory was clearly flabbergasted, not that she cared. “I’m an Auror—” he stated firmly as if this should mean something.
She scoffed. “My father was an Auror. I don’t see what that has to do with anything.”
“We enforce the law,” he insisted, but she was frankly unimpressed.
Leaning forward, her arms pressed against the wood of the table and her hands resting on the opposite of each wrist, Hallie asked, “What exactly did I do wrong? A skirmish broke out, I got out of immediate danger, found myself in front of the most feared wizard on the island, and so I told him exactly who I was so he wouldn’t curse me—and it worked! Then I was kidnapped.” She left out the bit where she had slept beside the Dark Lord, his crimson cloak covering her in her dreams. “Does he always wear red? I noticed he did in that photograph of him at the Ministry a few months ago.”
Looking at her incredulously, Diggory admitted hotly, “How should I know?”
She shrugged and returned to her drink. “Just curious. I’m not planning to run into him again.”
“That’s a relief.” Diggory reached out to touch her arm, but she pulled them off of the table in a clear message and leaned back.
“Anything else?” Hallie asked. She heard, in the distance, the pub door opening and the color red caught her eye. In absolute confusion, she turned and saw a man with a mop of sandy hair, pale, but with freckles. He was dressed impeccably in royal blue robes, edged in silver, and was holding a large bouquet of blood red roses.
They were small blooms, tightly curled, clearly not from the hot house, but freshly grown.
From across from her, Diggory choked, probably on his beer. “What is the Minister’s son doing here?”
“Crouch?” she asked, turning back to Diggory. “That’s Bartemius Crouch’s son? Huh.”
Turning back to the wizard, she saw him look around and, on spotting the two of them, walked over to them with assured strides.
With a bow to Hallie, though careful not to disturb the flowers in his arms, Crouch’s son showed her obeisance. “Do I have the pleasure of addressing Lady Mabelle Gaunt?” His voice was smooth and she certainly appreciated the cut in his robes. He seemed familiar somehow…
“I’ve seen you at my cousin’s house,” she realized, “Lord Marvolo Gaunt.”
“Indeed, Madam,” he agreed with a wolfish grin. “I have not had the pleasure of introducing myself before now. I am Monsieur Bartemius Crouch, Jr. ‘Barty’ to my friends, and I hope I can count you among them.”
He reached out with his right hand, careful not to disturb the roses that were spread out in a large antiquated style of bouquet that she found absolutely enchanting. Placing her fingers in his, he lifted her hand to beneath his lips without kissing them.
“Excuse me,” Diggory stated, pushing his pint away, which was almost finished. “Do you mind not ogling my girlfriend?”
Hallie turned back to him in incredulity. “I’m not your girlfriend. I went to one party with you and you wait over a week after a Death Eater raid where I was ‘kidnapped’ to check on me.”
“I wrote your uncle—” he stated, “as honor demands.”
She took him in and decided that his good looks were common before turning back to Barty. “How may I help you today, Monsieur Barty?” Hallie smiled at him in friendliness, her eyes flicking hopefully to the flowers. She might have a whole garden at her disposal, which Hallie understood was her mother’s brainchild, but flowers for her bedside table, even if for one night—
Bowing to her again, he proffered the flowers and she sighed happily as she took them. She leaned in and breathed in the wonderful scent. “Thank you, Monsieur Barty. This is a truly wonderful gesture. I am only a little confused as to why you wish to give me flowers—”
“As much as I wish to take credit,” he told her charmingly, “they’re not from me. I am only the messenger.”
Hallie looked at him for a long moment and turned back to the flowers, wondering at the strange though wonderful gift. Then she noticed it: a blood red notecard, no larger than the palm of her hand, tucked within the blossoms unassumingly.
Smirking at Barty, she picked out the card and noticed that it was blood red parchment with white ink. With admiration and devotion, LV. Lifting her eyebrows, she turned back to the self-proclaimed messenger. “These initials—” she checked carefully. “I’ve seen them before. My mind goes certain places, but I would never presume—”
Taking the two in for a moment, Barty folded his hands and asked, “With your permission, Lady Halcyone.” She noticed a silver vined ring, terribly intricate, with nicks in the silver to create an even more interesting design, climbed up his finger.
She nodded to him carefully, and he leaned toward her and whispered in her ear, “The Dark Lord. That is his usual calling card.”
Her hazel eyes flashed up to Barty and a smile crept onto her face. Then she leaned in to the blooms, cradling them in the crook of her left arm, and took a deep breath.
“Hallie—” Diggory stated warily as he watched her.
Without even looking up, she told him, “Only professors who don’t know who I am call me that, and I rather resent it, Monsieur Cedric. Please refrain from such plebian diminutives of my name.” Her hazel eyes flashed at him. “I’ve said all I want to say. I find I need to speak to Monsieur Barty as no one has given me flowers before—”
Standing, the flats of his hands pounding on the table, Diggory stated fiercely, “You’ve changed.”
“No, I haven’t,” she responded, taking him in. “I’ve always been like this. You just never saw me. Who did you see, the lovechild of an Auror and a Mudblood? The Mudblood,” she sneered, “left me with magic hating Muggles who only wanted me because I helped create the picture of a perfect normal family. My father was a pureblood of refined character and my mother was a dark witch. I associate with dark wizards. What do you expect?”
“Mrs. Snape was right about you,” he stated as a parting shot.
“She should know. She hates me for the simple fact that I’m her never-quite-husband’s daughter.”
Diggory tossed his wavy hair, which she supposed was supposed to be dreamy but just seemed like a childish move, and then left.
Barty was waiting beside the table patiently and she turned to him.
“I apologize. I find that certain—individuals—with certain sympathies need everything spelled out for them. It’s quite vexing.”
He made a motion with his hand toward the vacated seat, and she nodded. “You have no need to apologize. Schoolboys are schoolboys. They’re all the same.”
She leaned forward, placing her roses on the table between them after he had grabbed her coke out of the way. “May I quiz you? I find, before Diggory asked me to that ill-fated party when the raid occurred, no one has so much as suggested that I’m even pretty.” Except for Lord Roman. There was always Lord Roman. Did he count?
“Well,” he stated in an exaggerated manner, which was rather endearing. “If I may humbly observe, you are quite pretty, Lady Halcyone. Beautiful even. I believe, given this gift of flowers, our mutual friend agrees.”
She bit her lip. “I can’t ask Cousin Marvolo—but do you know if I’ll ever see him again?” She tried to sound like a witch confident in herself, but she was afraid she fell rather short of the mark. “He sent me flowers and I never dreamed—”
Leaning forward, he murmured, “Dream, Lady Halcyone.—Flip over the card. You didn’t receive the full message.”
She laughed. “You’ve read it.”
He lifted his hands, admitting it. “I had to know the message so I understood the answer.”
She flipped over the card. Will you dare the Forbidden Forest to meet an admirer? Biting her lip, she glanced up at Barty.
“May the old gods help me,” she admitted, “the answer is a definitive ‘yes’.—But I don’t want my name spread about in our circles. I just,” she tried to explain, “it’s—well—I don’t know what sort of reputation I’d get and I’m still in school. I have to survive.”
“You are a Slytherin, are you not?” he asked her carefully.
“Yes,” she agreed carefully. “Not everyone is a supporter of the Takeover, however.”
He bent his head toward her. “I understand, Lady Halcyone. You need to focus on your studies, not on idle chatter.”
“Thank you, Monsieur Barty,” Hallie murmured, turning back to her flowers. “How did he know I would like them—these wonderful roses?”
Barty looked at her for a moment. “I do not probe into such matters. I was pleasantly surprised to get this assignment. To my knowledge, our mutual friend has never favored a lady before.”
“Never?” she questioned in shock. “Even with his rise during my mother’s lifetime?”
“Even then,” he admitted. “May I escort you back to Riddle House?” Barty stood with a fluid grace and offered her his hand, which she gratefully took, the flowers once again in the crook of her arm.
They walked out of the pub and looked up the hill toward Riddle House. The question was how she was ever going to tell Cousin Marvolo about these roses…
Unbeknownst to her, a red shadow was in an alleyway of Little Hangleton. Blue slitted eyes looked out toward the pair, at the roses in her arms, and a smile formed on his face.
… … … … …
“Tell me it’s not Diggory,” Draco stated as he lay back on her bed and she arranged the flowers. “I never thought that idiot would be so daft as to actually read Spungen’s.”
She ignored him for a moment as she arranged them prettily. “He didn’t.”
At this, Draco immediately sat up. “Who did then?”
Glancing over her shoulder, Hallie asked, “Why should I tell you?”
“It’s your first courting gift,” he explained, swinging his legs off the bed. “He got it right. Flowers then—I can’t recall as I’ve never actually wanted to court you.”
Her eyebrows rose in amusement, Hallie stated, “a necklace, then a bracelet, then a tome of great worth—” She grasped one of the posts to her bed, and swung around. “Really, Draco. How can I tell you if I haven’t even told Cousin Marvolo? I couldn’t find him when I returned. It’s most unlike him.”
Draco looked at her knowingly, but clearly chose not to illuminate her on her cousin’s absence. “I’m your dearest friend—” he tried.
When Hallie still ignored him, he got up and went over to her. “You’ve known me five years and you’ve only known your cousin for about a month.” Then he seemed to see it. Reaching around her, he plucked the red card from its place among the blossoms and crowed. “Sister dearest, you are playing a dangerous game.”
“I know,” she admitted solemnly. “If I end up captured by the other side, they could interrogate me and—I don’t know, do they torture?—until they get useful information out of me. However, no one is going to find out. This is between me, Barty Crouch, Jr.,” (Draco lifted his brows in interest) “you, Cousin Marvolo when he makes an appearance, and the Dark Lord.”
“And whomever the Dark Lord has told.”
“He told Barty Crouch, Jr. who came and delivered the flowers.—I hate to know whom else he told.” The thought sent a shiver down her spine. All of the witches and wizards seemed polite enough when they came to the Manor, but some had an aura of sheer desperation or ill will that Hallie found unsettling.
“He told your cousin,” Draco stated resolutely. “I doubt even the Dark Lord would dare cross Lord Marvolo Gaunt when it comes to the Gaunt females.”
Hallie flicked sparks of magic from her fingers at him. “You make us sound like a tribe or a harem.”
“You are a harem. Lord Marvolo’s harem. From what I understand, he barely let Maia Gaunt out of his sight. It’s a wonder your father ever managed to court her.” Draco placed his hands on her shoulders and looked at the flowers. “Still, red is his signature color.”
“Yes,” Hallie agreed. “I had thought of that. They’ll make me think of him when I look at them.”
“And do you want to think of him?” Draco asked perceptively. “I had thought all your grousing about Uncle Roman was just—that—not that it seems to matter anymore. The Dark Lord is rather frightening to behold.”
Hallie turned in his arms and looked up at her dearest friend. “He’s rather magnificent to behold,” she admitted, ignoring the bit about Lord Roman. “When I saw the photograph of him two months ago, I thought he had creature blood, but his magic is too pure when it swirls around him for that sort of nonsense.”
“Well,” Draco mentioned off-hand. “He is a Gaunt.”
At this, Hallie stilled and looked away. Her eyes honed in on Faustus who was playing with some rose petals he had managed to get free when she had lain the flowers on her bed before she’d put them in the vase where they were now on display. The knowledge that Gaunts had a tendency to intermarry rushed over her like hot lead, and she moaned as her face fell into her hands. “No. Please, no.”
“Halcyone,” Draco stated carefully, fully turning her around. “What did I say?”
“The Gaunts,” she admitted. “We almost always marry other Gaunts. This is the worst news I could have possibly have gotten! The Dark Lord isn’t enchanted by me—he doesn’t care about me—he cares about my name.”
“If he only cared about your name,” Draco reasoned carefully, “he would have married your mother.”
She lifted her face from her hands, her hazel eyes peaking out, and whispered, “You think?”
“I know,” he stated decidedly. “Ask your cousin. He’ll tell you. You also don’t see him rushing off to marry you, do you?” Draco nodded firmly. “Now, no more worrying.”
“How can I not worry? He’s a Gaunt—how closely related are we?”
“Er—” Draco stopped. “I’m not an expert on your convoluted family tree, Halcyone. You’re going to have to ask someone else.”
“Someone else!” she whispered desperately. “The only ‘someone else’ available is my cousin! And he’s my great-uncle or some such nonsense!”
He tapped her affectionately on the nose. “Well, you have your answer then. Or you could just ask the Dark Lord, let him reassure you.”
Hallie stared at him incredulously. “What if he lies? He’s a dark lord. They must be good at lying, surely?” The thought suddenly paralyzed her and she stood in her friend’s arms, looking at him beseechingly. “Oh my god. He is lying with the flowers. He doesn’t really want to see me. He wants to bed my name so we can have more Gaunt children to propagate the Gaunt line! I wish I had thrown these flowers in Monsieur Barty’s face.”
“You were so happy—” Draco murmured distractedly, running his fingers along her hair, although careful not to disrupt it. “Think of the jewels at his disposal, of the great honor he can give you by placing you by his side as his dark lady once the Takeover is complete.”
Clearly trying to calm herself, she asked, “Do you think I care about that? I care about the wizard who stole me from a firefight, who stayed and watched over me as I slept not a mile from here, who brought me pretty flowers.”
“He watched over you while you slept?” Draco asked, his voice high and unlike him. “I don’t think he cares about your name—or just your name—” he amended quickly.
“Draco Narcissus Malfoy,” she stated imperiously. “He’s a Gaunt. Of course he cares about my name.—Maybe there’s still time to reconsider. Maybe Monsieur Barty’s in the house.” Trying to move out of her friend’s arms, she was nonetheless caught.
“You are beautiful and accomplished,” Draco told her firmly. “You’re of old pureblood stock other than the Gaunts, which perhaps intrigues the Dark Lord. Don’t write him off.—So help Uncle Roman.”
“I will not have my heart broken for the sake of blood purity,” she whispered desperately, gazing into his gray eyes. “Before the world thought me a filthy half-blood, possibly illegitimate, and now that it’s found out that I’m not—”
Lifting her chin with his finger, Draco philosophized, “Wizards will always court you for your name. They will court you because you are Lord Marvolo’s cousin. They will court you because you have a connection to the Dark Lord. It is already clear that you are favored, and I doubt that will go away even if (at this early stage) you put him off. You are the Lady Mabelle Halcyone Gaunt. Nothing will ever change that. This is what you wanted. Use it to your advantage. If you think the Dark Lord is seeking you for your name and your name alone after you meet him a few more times, then make him fall in love with you if that’s what you really want. You’re a clever witch. You can pull it off.”
“Make the Dark Lord fall in love with me? I don’t know the first thing about love. I’ve never seen it. I’ve only read about it.” Hallie scoffed and pulled her face away from her friend.
“Use what you’ve read,” he suggested. “Look at all the lovesick fools at Hogwarts. They sneak in and out of closets, I know you’ve noticed as prefect, taken points. See what the girls do.—Just don’t be a flirt.”
She snorted elegantly. “As if. I’m not Mrs. Snape.”
No, no she wasn’t. Hardly that with her low cut blouses and skirts that were just a little too high to be decent, even on a Mudblood.
“Make him fall in love with you,” Draco reiterated, grasping each of her hands in his own. “The Dark Lord—whatever he might look like and despite being a war lord—is a man—and for whatever reason he has noticed you.”
Yes, that was true. Now Hallie just had to learn how to manipulate a man, the most fearsome in Europe. And it was a challenge—which was just the way she liked it.
Faustus meowed from his place on the floor. He’d torn a rose petal to shreds and seemed quite proud of himself.