Part the Fourth
Haesel’s teacup leaned precariously in her grasp, but didn’t spill yet. She paid the cup almost no attention and hadn’t taken a sip since someone—she wasn’t sure who—had handed it to her. The bottom of the porcelain cup was cradled against the flat of her palm, and her fingers were curled up around it like claws; it was how she held her teacups when in private, not public. She was in public, she knew that, but it couldn’t quite seem to register.
The last few hours were a mere blur in her mind. She remembered walking into the Gallery with Henry and Zach; she recalled the grins on Heir Draco and Rana’s faces when they had seen her. There had been painting, right? Or had they looked at paintings? She vaguely knew there had been a conversation about riding, or some such. There was a hazy memory about an invitation to late tea in the rose gardens, and then—burning sharp clarity.
The tea in her cup sloshed close to the rim, but didn’t spill over, as a tremble wracked her form.
That magic. Lady Morgana, that prissy, handsome, arrogant diplomat’s magic had begged for her attention. It was heady, immense, and teased along her own like a lover’s caress. It felt dangerous and utterly safe at the same time—a juxtaposition that was strangling her nerves.
How long had it been since she had felt magic like that? Magic so confident, resolute, dependable, and protective? Dumbledore’s obviously, and the French Minister for Magic’s didn’t fall embarrassingly short, one of the young male Ravenclaws showed great potential (but that was still locked away until his majority), and Heir Zabini’s cousin from somewhere in Africa—the leader of a magical tribe that practiced only the Olde Magicks. Dumbledore was too old, the Ravenclaw too young, the French Minister married, and Zabini’s cousin . . . well, there hadn’t been any type of physical attraction.
There had been two wizards from Durmstrang during the Triwizard Tournament, and one from Beauxbatons, too. It wasn’t necessarily the strength of the diplomat’s magic, but the qualities it displayed. Magic radiated emotions, and most of the people she met unwittingly broadcast their insecurities and weakness of character. Men who didn’t know who they were, who didn’t believe in themselves, rarely knew what they really wanted; she had no desire to be courted by a wishy-washy, indecisive child.
As someone who knew what and who she was, Haesel knew exactly what she wanted for herself: a loyal, loving, decisive, trustworthy wizard.
When she had left that antechamber, which she had only entered because of the gauzy curtains—she would not let anyone cast aspersions on her virtue—his magic had clung to her possessively. And, unable to help herself, she had let hers brush against his ever so slightly in return.
What was I thinking? What in Morgana’s name was I thinking? Haesel demanded of herself. She had blindly followed the scent of powerful magic alone. If it had been a trap, the men in her family would’ve been placed in danger, as they were forcibly Apparated to her side. There was a fine line between daring and foolishness, and she had just crossed it.
I should have let Henry accompany me. I shouldn’t have convinced him to let me go on my own. She squeezed her eyes shut, nails pressing so firmly against the teacup that she feared for a moment they would break.
Then, after she had thought she escaped the reach of his intoxicating magic, she had felt it beckon her. It took more effort than it should have to keep from staring back at him. She had given him her profile, and that was it. Obeying his unspoken desires halfway was still too much.
Regardless of the magic itself, the wizard was nothing to discount. He was tall, powerfully built, and fair of face. It felt like he could properly protect her, both physically and magically, and that was a dangerous conclusion to reach. Finding favor with a complete stranger who could have been spinning lies—though his magic hadn’t tasted of them—was the height of stupidity. Half-truths, after all, were honest enough to not taste of a lie.
Diplomat, huh? A liaison between departments in a Ministry of Magic could be called that, as could a liaison to a group of magical beings or creatures. She had five absolute truths about ‘Marvolo’—only five. He was a pureblood, or else he wouldn’t have been able to enter The Golden Fleece. He was wealthy, or else he wouldn’t have been able to afford that exquisite Acromantula silk jacket. He was magically powerful and decisive; there was no doubt in this matter. He was attractive. And he was hazardous to her state of mind.
That haunting pull began again, her magic declaring that an available wizard with the qualities she had long been searching for was nearby. He was still in the club somewhere, and his magic was reaching out to her. It sang like a Siren, luring sailors to their deaths. The mesmerizing quality scared her, because for the first time in her life, she wasn’t sure if what she wanted was healthy or not.
Finding exactly what you dreamed of could be as dangerous as never coming close to it.
Haesel kicked off her boots and curled her legs up on the sofa. She burrowed against her brother’s side, allowing his magic to encase her protectively and hide her from the searching tendrils that longed for her attention. A muscular arm encircled her shoulders, pressing her more firmly against her safe haven.
“What’s wrong, Haesel?”
Her head jerked upward, and her arm moved with her. Before the tea could spill and scald them, her brother removed the cup from her hand and set it on the table.
Henry grasped her chin and stared into her eyes. “What’s wrong?” His magic stretched out even more and sealed around her, erasing any proof that she was present in the club from everyone who couldn’t see her.
“Did something happen while you were powdering your nose?”
Haesel felt heat rushing to her cheeks as she realized exactly where she was—The Golden Fleece. She had known that, of course, but she had been so lost in what had happened in the brief encounter with Marvolo that the knowledge she wasn’t at home with her brother had been smothered. Here she was, in front of two Heirs and an Heiress, snuggled against her brother, almost spilling her tea, and with her feet on the furniture.
If she hadn’t been so unnerved by her reaction to Marvolo, she would’ve been horribly embarrassed.
“She was probably snorting the powder,” Zach said with a smirk.
Haesel cast grateful eyes to him for offering such a ludicrous comment and giving her an opening to hide her sudden vulnerability. “Ladies don’t snort,” she said, one eyebrow cocked mockingly.
“But you don’t deny doing drugs,” Zach teased.
A quick glance from the corner of her eyes showed that Rana and Heir Draco were now staring at Zach in disbelief for accusing her of drug-use. Her odd behavior was forgotten for the moment. Thank Morgana. She really loved her best friend.
Haesel shook her head. “Zach. Zach. Zach.” She smiled smugly, finally able to relax due to the silly banter and the protective feeling of her brother’s magic. “I’m not the one addicted to—”
“Now, now,” Henry interrupted, having caught the drift of the conversation: distraction. Her brother was brilliant like that. “Are you really going to deny the truth? The Perfect Pureblood Princess obviously wanted to snuggle with the Golden God. I can’t blame the girl. Have you seen me?” He waggled his eyebrows comically—reminiscent of their Uncle Sirius.
“Well,” said Rana, as she smoothed one hand over her ebony hair, “Master Henry certainly doesn’t have self-esteem problems.”
“Who would with Lady Haesel snuggled against them?” Draco muttered.
Haesel was sure he meant the comment to go unheard, but her hearing was very good. Her magic amplified all her senses, an increased self-defense system, as it were. Even dulled by her brother’s magic, they were still strong enough to hear him at a distance of five feet.
“You’re absolutely right,” she said as she gazed up at her brother, letting her gratitude shine from her eyes. “Being without you for five minutes was horrible. We’re so lovely together that I can’t bear to deprive the peerage of such an incomparably beatific sight.”
Rana tittered, Zach snickered, and Draco chuckled as he stared jealously at Henry. While they were all focused on her brother, she summoned her boots back onto her feet and returned them to the ground. None of them seemed to notice the change, much to her relief. Her unsteady hands, slight shivering, and stocking-clad feet were now forgotten.
If only Marvolo and his magic could be so easily erased from her mind. Her coming of age gala was only two weeks away, and temptation had just delivered itself unto her. Jerk.
“So,” said Rana as she turned obsidian eyes on Haesel, “do tell. Who, exactly, is being honored with your first waltz?”
An intense urge to hex Rana overcame her; luckily for her sometimes friend, Haesel had long since trained her magic not to lash out at others every time she was upset. Rana was more often than not great company, but when the gossipy, nit-picking part of her personality surfaced, Haesel could barely stomach her presence.
It didn’t help that Heir Draco had leaned forward in his seat and stilled utterly, as if someone had petrified him. The hope on his face was expected, but not particularly welcome. While he was by no means mediocre, he certainly didn’t tempt her. He was too bigoted for her tastes, and too insecure. She didn’t have the patience or desire to constantly puff up her husband’s pride. She didn’t want a little boy; she wanted a man.
“Not me,” Henry said with a pout. He was always coming to her rescue when he could, helping her avoid situations she found awkward or uncomfortable. However, the moue of disapproval on Rana’s face said she wouldn’t let Henry save Haesel this time.
“You’re fifteen. It can’t be you,” Rana said, not unkindly.
“Well, I don’t want it,” Zach said as he grabbed a biscuit off the silver tray on the table, before leaning back in the armchair. “I like being the positive center of attention. Whoever gets your first waltz is going to be hated by the majority of wizards alive. So don’t pick me, Haesel, because I’ll leave you standing alone on the dance floor in your revoltingly expensive dress robes.”
“Gee, Zach, thanks for that,” Haesel said dryly. There he went, treating her like a normal human being again. His friendship truly was priceless.
He nodded and bit into the biscuit. “You’re welcome.”
“You don’t want her first waltz?” Draco and Rana asked in unison, both staring at him with unhidden shock.
Zach didn’t even bother swallowing before saying, “Not in the least.”
Draco looked at Zach as if he thought Zach should be locked up in the Janus Thickey Ward at St. Mungo’s—a place reserved for long-lasting damage and incurable diseases.
It seemed, though, that Rana was determined to get an answer to her original question, despite the wonderful tangents her brother and best friend had offered. “So who is it? He’s surely been chosen by now. The gala is only two weeks away!”
“Well, they ruled out Flint, because he’s recently engaged,” Haesel said. Regardless that it was true, Rana would never believe that her partner hadn’t been decided upon yet. If Haesel said as much, it would be considered a blatant lie. How aggravating! Leaving the manor hadn’t saved her from the blasted topic, after all. She wanted to cry from frustration, but would never do so in public. Besides, tears wouldn’t help one bit.
“And I removed McLaggen from the running. He’ll never lay a hand on her,” Henry said. His magic continued to blanket her and was helping her control the urge to invent a hasty excuse and rudely leave the impromptu tea party.
“Heir Neville, then?” Draco blurted, as if he were physically unable to restrain from participating in the conversation.
“Hmm, that would make sense,” said Rana as she tapped a long, manicured nail against her lower lip. “He is her only godbrother that’s of age. Cousins Leo and Aries are both fourteen, though they will be fifteen before the new school year. And Cousins Antares, Orion, and Cepheus are much too young.”
A rumbling laugh echoed through the rose garden from behind her. Haesel twisted around quickly, annoyed that anyone would be able to sneak up on them. Her own magic couldn’t sense as well when it was being sheltered; it was a small price to pay for the overwhelming feeling of safety, though. Thankfully, it was only Uncle Regulus.
“Indeed, I daresay my nephews and sons will not be graced with Haesel’s first waltz,” Regulus said as he sauntered over. He leaned down and pressed a kiss to each of Haesel’s cheeks, gray eyes narrowing at how she was almost huddled against Henry’s side.
“Uncle Regulus,” Haesel said, unrepentantly not leaving her brother’s one-armed hug.
“It seems you’ve lost track of time. Because it’s after six o’clock, and this is most definitely not the Yggdrasil room. If I’d known I would need to hunt you down, I would’ve made our reservations for later,” Regulus chided them.
Haesel almost leapt to her feet with excitement at being able to escape the terribly awkward conversation of which she wanted no part. Henry rose just as quickly, his arm falling from her shoulders to extend beside her; she placed hers atop it and smiled at their companions. “You’ll have to excuse us. We have a prior engagement. Rana, until later. Heir Draco, we will happily take you up on the offer of riding your Abraxans sometime this week.”
“Any time that works for you, Lady Haesel. Just drop by,” Draco said with rushed dignity.
She nodded at him before turning toward her best friend. “Zach, I’ll have you know that the commissioned dress robes are only disgustingly expensive, not revoltingly so.” He snorted at her. “I’ll see you quite soon, I expect. If you have any issues, my offer is eternally open-ended,” she assured him, referring to her promise for asylum in the House of Potter.
Rana and Draco’s gazes sharpened at that, but neither would be crass enough to ask for clarification. Leaving them even more curious was just a subtle punishment for harassing her about the blasted gala that loomed over her head.
“Come along now. Being fashionably late and inappropriately late are unbearably close. Let it never been said that a Black or Potter were inappropriately late.” Regulus clapped his hands and turned, gesturing for them to follow as he stalked from the garden.
“What’s wrong?” Henry asked, as soon as they were out of sight and reasonably alone. She had known he would react like this once others weren’t around; he was always willing to cover for her, but he wanted to know why. It wasn’t often that she hid inside others’ magical signatures.
Haesel’s hand curled around his wrist and gripped it tightly. “His magic . . .”
Henry stopped abruptly and cupped her face between his hands. “Whose magic? What happened, Haesel?” There was a ferocious tone to his voice, as if he wanted to impale someone on the end of his favorite sword.
She snuck a single tendril of magic free from her brother’s encompassing cloud and then yanked it back when she felt the diplomat’s presence. He was still here. For that one moment, without protection, she had known exactly where he was—up in the chess room. She could easily picture him before the fireplace, shadows hiding his mocking eyes as he toyed with his opponent. It had been barely longer than an instant, but she had felt the pull; her feet had wanted to follow the shortest path that separated them and return to his side. She would not allow that. She wasn’t weak. Her body and magic didn’t rule her mind.
“Later. I swear I’ll tell you later.”
“All right,” he finally agreed, displeased with the delay. “Just tell me you’re okay.”
The intoxicating strength of his magic came to mind, along with the smell of hemlock and ocean mist. A little of the former was a common ingredient in many potions, but too much was toxic, poison, lethal.
Haesel glanced up at her brother through her eyelashes and confessed, with a quivering lower lip, “I’m not sure I am.”
Henry’s face hardened, his jaw had been chiseled out of diamond. She had seen her Grandfather Charlus’s face exactly like this once. Some brainless twit of a witch had whispered rather loudly at one of the Potter family Yule Balls that a real pureblood witch would have been able to give Lord Charlus Potter more than one child. Hadn’t it taken precious Dorea Black over a decade and a half to get pregnant?
What the bint hadn’t known, and no one outside the family did, was that an enemy of the family had poisoned Grandmother Dorea when she was carrying her first child. She had lost three children before successfully carrying James to term.
There was a reason, after all, why the House of Thorne had mysteriously been slaughtered, with no evidence left behind.
“We’re leaving,” Henry stated. It was a command, and she wasn’t going to argue with it. It was his right as her brother to guarantee her safety however he saw fit.
Henry wrapped a protective arm around her waist and propelled her forward, guiding her rapidly through the rooms and hallways that kept them from the exit. They sped past everyone, ignoring all greetings offered. The glare on Henry’s face had people leaping out of their way, allowing them passage. Tomorrow, there would likely be gossip in every drawing room about their speedy departure from The Golden Fleece. The speculation would likely revolve around someone attempting to harm or touch her, and Henry insisting she leave for her own safety.
Being at the center of such tales would normally irritate her but, right now, she didn’t care. She had to get out before she did something mental, like stalk Marvolo the Diplomat’s magical signature to try and uncover the personality traits he was broadcasting. Had she finally stumbled across a wizard worth her time?
Haesel was hustled into the Apparition Chamber, the yellow marble reminding her of the way the afternoon sunlight had made Marvolo’s jacket shine like gold, instead of luminescent silver. No, stop thinking of him!
The smile on Regulus’s face transformed into a worried frown. “What happened?” His wand slid into his hand and he stared over their shoulders, as if he expected someone to follow them threateningly.
“We’re leaving,” Henry snapped. “Now. Take us to the restaurant.”
His gray eyes homed in on Henry, and then he nodded acquiescently. “Let me give Haesel the coordinates, and then—”
“No,” said Henry. “Side-Along Apparate both of us. As soon as you can.”
Regulus’s gaze snapped to her questioningly, and then his eyes closed to slits. It seemed her uncle had finally realized that her brother’s magic blocked hers from being detected. She would have to use her magic to encase her brother’s to Side-Along Apparate them anywhere, and that was not going to happen. Even if she had made the offer, Henry would have forbidden it.
Regulus opened his mouth, but then closed it again without asking them the questions to which he definitely wanted answers. He knew, as well as they did, that as much as they loved him, he was a Black and they were Potters. Their tight-lipped silence was answer enough: this was a Potter family matter.
“Right. Let’s go then. The reservations won’t wait forever.” Even though no one would dare give away the table of Regulus Black, Henry Potter, and Haesel Potter to anyone else. He clapped a firm hand on each of their shoulders, wand still pointed unerringly at the entryway to the chamber. “You’ll love it. I’ve heard great reviews.”
“Oh?” Haesel asked, trepidation and relief settling in. She really needed to put her head in order, and that wasn’t going to happen as long as she was anywhere near Marvolo. “Where are we going?”
Smiling, Regulus focused his magic and said, “The Pied Piper.”
* * *
It had been like a beckoning whisper, the first time he had smelled jasmine. Marvolo had been laying on his back, not bothering with covers despite the cold humidity of the Lone Islands, a tall, exotic beauty sleeping beside him.
Marvolo never slept beside his lovers, but with one such as her, a high lady of the court, he would not dream of insulting her by telling her to go before the sun had fully risen.
She had not been his first lover on the Islands, but she had been his last. Marvolo had not known it at the time, but that dratted smell of jasmine—so humble, so pure, so human—drifted in on the ice-cold wind.
Time was difficult to read in the Islands. It was so very different. But looking back now, as he expertly moved his chess pieces across the board, he supposed it would have been nearly six years ago—when Lady Haesel had only been eleven.
And the hint of her magic had called to him, so far away, beyond civilization, beyond wizardom, beyond the boundaries of humanity itself.
As if saying, You are worthy. Why are you not waiting for me?
Without consciously realizing it, Marvolo had done just what her magic had begged. That following morning was the last time he had touched his lover, and then it was only a fond trace of fingers in a traditional symbol of everlasting farewell, which no living wizard save himself knew.
At the time he could not comprehend why he acted so. She had not displeased him. He was not bored. It was not time to move on, as their love affair was young and ripe and exciting to the both of them.
Still, Marvolo unknowingly obeyed the scent of jasmine. When it came again, an earth year later (ten years on the Lone Islands), he had basked in its presence. He sat on his balcony, wondering at the Siren who was searching for him, succumbing to the sentiment, as he now called it.
Knowledge came with the magic this time. A single, quiet name whispered in his ear: Lady Haesel Potter. Then there was an impression of blue eyes, dark hair, calves covered in Hogwarts socks, a gold and red tie about a delicate throat, and the twist of a child’s wrist.
He was intrigued. Lady Haesel was young, so young. Her magic was still being trained. It was powerful, intoxicating, had reached him perhaps the first time she picked up her wand and sparks had flown out of it. Now it was channeled, however unknowingly and inexpertly. Her magic was searching for a compatible partner in power and temperament. All magic did so in the years leading to adulthood. Searching, searching, searching.
Marvolo’s had never found a match.
When he was appointed Ambassador to the Lone Islands, he had hidden his magic deep within himself and never let it roam back to humanity. He had given up the search, content with his power, his influence, and the utter strangeness of these Islands, which were his first true home.
Haesel. The name of a tree, gnarled with age and filled with unerring beauty and majesty.
The name became a prayer in his solitude as he continued to not take lovers to his bed. The Islanders were loyal to their lovers, free with their bodies before their final mating, and unearthly. Still, he only appreciated the ladies of the court with a detached eye, so much so that Queen Lucy had approached him before the third call of Haesel’s magic came to him.
“Art thou fading?” she asked without preamble, stepping next to him onto a terrace that looked out on the waves that surrounded the island. “The humans fade when they have been here too long.”
“What makes my queen believe that I fade?” he asked with a hint of curiosity, pulling his eyes from the waves and wondering when the scent of jasmine would reach him next.
“Some ambassadors are like thee,” she whispered. “They take ladies of the court to their beds and do so until they fade. Others hold fast to their morals from beyond.” Her bright green eyes caught his gaze. “Thou hast not taken a lover to thy bed. Thou art young still, but perhaps thou art fading. Thou lookest out toward the Beyond with the quiet longing of those who wait for the journey to beyond this place, although for most of us it is our final rest.”
Marvolo hesitated. “I am not fading, my queen.”
“But thou art unwell?” Her eyes were large and pleading, her face that of a young girl of sixteen, as it had always been since he had arrived decades before. Sometimes Marvolo wondered just how long the kings and queens had lived, how long the Emperor himself had lived, or his son who was said to travel to the lands of men as a silent ambassador.
“I am well.” He could not lie to her majesty. Still, the truth was too perplexing and uncertain for the words to yet pass his lips.
The magic came again upon the tide, and Marvolo realized that he only ever felt it on the waves coming from afar. It was stronger, more seductive, more channeled. The face of a child was growing into the visage of a woman, but it was still indistinct. Where are you? she seemed to ask him, her question full of command, a promise of a future. Where can you possibly be?
He found King Edmund sitting on a throne made of vines, playing chess with a centaur-like Islander.
“Ah, Lord Ambassador,” he greeted heartily. “Thou hast been much in my thoughts this past tide.”
Marvolo bowed low and the centaur gave up his seat at a flick of the king’s wrist. “My wife believes thou dost fade, but thou art as young and handsome as ever. Tell us, Lord Ambassador, how hast thou achieved eternal youth here amongst us like an Islander, whilst none of thy predecessors have had the same fortune?”
“I do not fade, my king,” Marvolo assured his companion as he took the vacant seat.
“Nay, but thou hast forsaken love like a man who fades—or perchance a man in love?”
Marvolo’s lips twitched in annoyance.
“Ah, we see the truth of it in thy visage!” Edmund exclaimed happily, the spring sun glinting off of his silver crown. “Thou means to take a wife.”
“The thought had crossed my mind two tides ago.”
“When all this trouble began.” King Edmund looked down at the game and moved his bishop. It was odd how this one trivial thing—a game of strategy—existed both in the world of men and the world of the Islanders, when little else was the same. “We have been told that the Islanders are free with our love, but we must counsel thee, Lord Ambassador, although thou art held in very high esteem, very few Island lords would allow one from the Beyond to marry one of their daughters.”
King Edmund looked at him frankly, the darkness of his eyes glittering with justice, and Marvolo knew that he spoke the truth.
“But forgive me, my king, you and the High King and two queens were originally from our shores. I can see it in your eyes.”
The king appeared startled for a moment, his broad shoulders slumping against the back of his chair, before a small smile of remembrance crossed his features. “Aye, we remember what it was to see. There are only shadows now. However, despite our esteemed position, we have not married the Islanders, although we are their monarchs.”
True. It was undeniable.
“The lady in question is from beyond your shores,” he confessed after several moves were made in silence. “She calls to me.”
“And thou hast not gone to her side?”
“It will be a few more tides before it is time,” Marvolo whispered, his mind suddenly made up on the matter. He would search her out, as she sought him.
King Edmund was silent for a moment. “Shalt thou return?” he asked when he finally won the match.
“Certainly,” Marvolo assured, standing and leaving the king with a bow. Three tides, he guessed. He had three tides before he should sail and the third tide, he knew, would be strong enough for him to reach her side. A tide such as that would not come for another nine tides—and then it would be too late. Still, he could return on such a tide, leaving his heirs behind him to carry on the Slytherin name.
He did not, in that moment, think of Lady Haesel Potter. He did not consider the possibilities: that she might change his outlook, change him. Still, the mantra of just three tides continued in his mind, torturing him sweetly.
Baby’s breath came with the hint of jasmine on the next tide. Marvolo had been silent for days, walking down to the beach early every morning, hoping to catch a whiff of a scent he now associated with England—with his first home.
Perhaps the Islands could never be home, although his soul had been at peace here. He had climbed to the pinnacle of power in all of wizardom. Instead of growing restless, as he had supposed, he had found a quiet, inner strength he had not thought possible.
Lady Haesel’s magic was undoubtedly maturing. He saw flashes of a dragon as she leapt up from her feet in surprise, and then an argument with a blond-haired young wizard who pulled her from a lake. She was composed, lady-like, but would not allow her rescuer to touch her, which pleased Marvolo greatly.
Everyone was unworthy of such a prize, and it was well that she knew it.
It should have been you, the magic whispered to him. You are honorable. I do not feel safe when others look at me.
And so, for the first time, he sent a tendril of his magic back with the outgoing tide, a message of comfort and promise in it. He knew that she would be too young to understand it, but perhaps it might bring her comfort to know that someone was out there, someone honorable enough for her, a lord to protect her, to give her children, to make love to her in the cool nights of summer.
The Islanders began to talk of his upcoming voyage.
“No one has ever left before,” Queen Susan commented at a banquet just before the next tide. “They have all faded, and then we wait many tides before we receive another ambassador to our esteemed realm.”
“I shall return,” Marvolo assured her, bowing his head low, his hands outstretched, giving his word. “I go merely for a bride.”
“One goes not merely for a bride,” Queen Susan argued. “A bride is a man’s life.” Her eyes were an almost human blue, but by the way she was looking at him, Marvolo could tell that she had lost her sight to the Island ways many tides ago.
“Of course, your majesty,” Marvolo agreed, though somehow he doubted it. He could hardly imagine a bride that would become his entire life—not after having lived alone for such a lengthy time. Lady Haesel was undeniably intriguing, but England was different than the Lone Islands, and not as clear in his memory as it had once been.
A week before the next tide, Marvolo spoke to no one and refused to leave the North beach on the island where he resided. He did not eat, he did not rest, and he would only occasionally move from his chosen spot of reflection. He walked in the shallow waters, wondering at the strange memories that had accompanied the jasmine scent the last time.
Then the awareness came, and Marvolo could not help but smile. He saw Lady Haesel dressed in the robes of those on the cusp of womanhood. Everyone stared and whispered as she passed, wherever she went. They recognized her power and beauty and wanted it for their own. He saw her riding an Abraxan through the clouds, a rare smile of joy on her face, and then there was an image of her in Quidditch robes as she caught a Snitch on a broom, performing an impressive Wronski Feint.
Her opponent had hair as white as snow and, though his form belied his competitiveness, a sense of longing shone out of his grey eyes as they looked at her in congratulations. Marvolo could sense Lady Haesel’s politeness and discomfort, before the memory faded again.
I am waiting, her magic whispered to him. You have only two more years before you have lost me.
The challenge was that of a woman, a witch who knew her worth, and Marvolo smiled to himself. He had not doubted it since the second tide, but now he knew for certain that Lady Haesel was worthy of carrying the name of Lady Slytherin.
The words he sent back were his promise to her—I return before your seventeenth year, and will hold you in my arms for your maiden dance.
Marvolo knew she would not know him upon sight, but her magic should recognize him. It had been calling to him for years, after all.
His blind servants packed his trunk for him long before the sixth tide came, and Marvolo lived as a ghost in his chambers. There was nothing left but to wait for the next tide, and he took long walks alone many an evening, imprinting into his mind the landscape of the island that he knew he would return to one day.
“Thou dost not need to return,” Queen Susan greeted him as he came upon her and her husband in a meadow filled with flowers the color of Island tears. “A bride is to be loved. This is no place for anyone but the Ambassador, and we shall understand if a replacement is sent and it is not thee.”
The small speech startled Marvolo and he bowed his head in thanks, although he doubted that he would ever take the queen up on her offer. “I thank your majesty for her kind words of understanding.”
“May your bride give thee as much pleasure as Queen Susan has given us,” the High King offered in blessing from his position among the flowers. His crown of gold had been discarded somewhere, as well as his cloak, and it was the most informal Marvolo had ever seen him.
“My king,” was Marvolo’s only response.
He left the High King and his queen to their evening, wondering at the strange emotion the two shared, thinking it to be forever beyond his grasp. Marvolo was not like other men, other wizards. He had never loved (or been loved), never trusted. Still, he wanted the Lady Haesel, and soon—soon, he promised himself—he would have her.
Perhaps, if she was all she seemed to be in the visions, she would teach him to love—sentiment, again.
A smile came to him on the next tide, as well as a brief wave of terror involving the young blond from the lake, and other people he had occasionally glimpsed. But by then he was sitting in a small boat with his trunk beside him, and he knew it would take too long to send his magic again. He did not look back at the Lone Islands, although he knew the cliffs above him were filled with those who wished him well.
He would return, he knew.
And even now, nearly a year later, as he sat in The Golden Fleece, playing chess with some lord or other as he had once done with King Edmund, he thought it to be true. Although, after meeting Lady Haesel in person, his heart whispered to him that it might be otherwise.
2 thoughts on “Of Power & Prestige – Part the Fourth”