Of Power & Prestige – Part the Ninth

Part the Ninth

Closing her bedroom door behind her late the next morning, Haesel stalked the distance to her brother’s chambers and slipped inside without knocking. He was sitting before the unlit fireplace, hands clenching the tunic he wore. “What if Granddad doesn’t approve?”

Haesel snorted and walked over, setting her open palms on his shoulders. “He’ll approve.”

“But what if—?”

“How long do you plan to play this game, Henry?” asked Haesel as she skirted around him, her hands now on her hips. Henry rarely showed vulnerability like this, but she could understand why he was right now. He had liked Iolanthe since they had met when he was nine and she was just a little blonde fairy twirling in circles on the lawn by the pond. Even Haesel had been enchanted by the littlest Malfoy. Now that he thought he had her, losing her would destroy something in him.

“What if Granddad . . . ?”

Sighing, Haesel crouched down and knelt on the floor. Right now was for Henry; she’d deal with her own fears and worries later. She wrapped her arms around her brother and ruffled his hair. “Henry, what’s really the matter? You know Grandpapa would never refuse your suit, seeing as she’s given you her maiden’s kiss; it would be entirely dishonorable and reflect poorly on our family.”

“I—” His hands grabbed at her robes and pulled her closer. His voice was thick, as if tears were threatening to overcome him. She couldn’t remember the last time Henry had cried. “Iolanthe is twelve, Haesel. What if she comes to regret giving me her maiden’s kiss? She’s it for me; I know that well. But what if I’m only a passing fancy for her? What if she comes to regret pledging herself to me? I couldn’t bear that, Sis.”

“That’s what this is about?” Haesel shook her head and chuckled. If only her problem with Marvolo was that simple. “You don’t have to worry about that, Henry,” she replied, remembering Iolanthe’s admission of being a Matchmaker and the potential that existed between her and Henry.

He pulled away and stared up at her with pleading eyes. “How can you be sure?”

“I gave my word to keep her secret,” Haesel said. When Henry ducked his head, she hooked her hand under his chin and lifted it back up. “However, I can freely give you my word as a Potter that Iolanthe will never willingly change her mind or heart about you, Henry. The strength of your bond will be akin to Mum and Dad’s.” A soul-bond, went unspoken, but his dropped jaw informed her that he had caught the implication.

Hope dawned across his face. “So she won’t change her mind? I can keep her?”

Laughing, Haesel ruffled his hair and grinned at him. “Yes, Henry, you can keep her. Another future Potter Lord managed to capture the bride of his dreams.”

Henry smiled cockily, all traces of possible tears gone. “Of course I did. I think it’s part of the family magic. I’ve never heard of a Potter—male or female—not bonding for love.”

Standing, Haesel almost flinched as she offered her brother a hand and then pulled him to his feet. “Maybe one of our ancestors overdosed on Felix Felicis, bonded in the Ancient Ways under the Olde Magick, and created an heir at the same time; the luck could’ve been passed down in love.”

And maybe betrayal was passed down in the Riddle line, she thought viciously, before squeezing her eyes shut. She had to stop doing this to herself, to them. It wasn’t like Marvolo had lied about being bonded or something; he just hadn’t told her his titles.  And she had forgiven him, now that she was beginning to understand him better.  He was the most powerful wizard alive and yet he had been abandoned before he was born simply because of what he was, not who he was.

Henry snorted and gave her a one-armed hug, guiding her out of his room. “Yes, that does sound like something one of our ancestors would’ve done. After all, we’re reckless in the face of true love.”

“It does, doesn’t it?”

“Mmhmm.” Henry smirked wickedly. “Just be grateful your diplomat only danced you onto a ballroom floor instead of absconding with you somewhere to bond in the Ancient Ways.”

Haesel’s cheeks burned as she half-heartedly punched her brother, lacking the energy to entertain the thought or invent a suitable comeback. She had slept very poorly, her mind focusing on the man she loved and the hardships he had endured. “I would never allow that! Besides, Dad, Grandpapa, and you would have arrived and killed him before he could try anything.” But if he hadn’t danced her into the ballroom, she might still be living in blissful ignorance.

But she did not want ignorance.  She wanted Marvolo, and he had given her that precious gift during their row the evening before.

“We would have tried, but Marvolo has a fearsome amount of power, Sis,” he said solemnly, arm tightening around her. “I wouldn’t doubt our ability to save you from anyone else . . . but he worries me.”

“You’ll never have to worry about that,” she insisted, hating the thought of her family dueling with Marvolo; even with the lie of omission, she loved all of them, and just wanted everyone to get along. If she were ever forced to choose, though—“I would help you fight.” The words were almost inaudible and made Henry come to an abrupt stop.

“Are you serious?” His hazel eyes burned down at her in a manner she had seldom seen in her life, from either her brother or her father.

“I am Haesel Potter, Henry. I was born that way under Magic’s blessing. Regardless of any emotions I may feel for others, I will always be a Potter first and foremost. My title may change once I bond, but my magic and bloodlines and honor won’t. Above everything, my loyalty will always be to our family. If Marvolo ever sought to harm any of you”—she trembled at the mere thought of such a nightmare becoming reality—“I would fight on your side.”

Henry pressed their foreheads together. “Then I will ensure that you never have to fight against him on our account.”

A sob escaped her, unaccompanied by tears. “I would be most grateful for that,” she whispered. She didn’t even want to imagine a scenario in which she would have to stand beside her family and face off against Marvolo, wand brandished with the intent to protect her family and harm her love.

Henry enfolded her against his chest and set his chin on the top of her head. “Look at us, falling apart over love. You’d think we’d be happy about it, but we’re acting like fainting maidens.”

“Love is scary,” Haesel breathed as she clung to her brother. “The possibility of losing someone who completes you so utterly is terrifying. Sometimes I wonder if it’s worth the risk.” She stepped backward and then beamed at her brother. “But then I remember his sarcastic smirks and taunting barbs and I wonder how I ever survived without him.”

Chuckling, Henry started down the hall again. “I’m sure Zach helped out there.”

Haesel tossed her head back and laughed, recalling the countless times Zach had said something impolite, impolitic, or improper in her presence. He had helped ground her all these years, subtly reminding her that she was more than a title—she was a person with thoughts and emotions and dreams of her own. “He did. That he certainly did.”

They stopped before the double doors that marked the entrance to their grandfather’s study. It wasn’t a place she visited often, because legal matters rarely involved her; her father usually handled such things. The sound of Haesel’s fist meeting the wood echoed down the hall.


Haesel twisted the lion’s head doorknob and pushed open the right door. A quick glance showed that her grandfather, grandmother, father, and mother were all inside—most likely discussing her engagement ball and the eventual bonding between her and Lord Slytherin.

“Yes?” Charlus asked.

Haesel’s lips twitched as a naughty idea came to mind. How long had it been since she last played a prank on Henry? Much too long, surely. She put a hand on her brother’s back and shoved him into the study, snickering as he stumbled two steps forward with fiery cheeks. “Henry here has been kissing virgin maidens, and went and got himself engaged. Iolanthe’s hair was down”—her mother and grandmother gasped—“and he wouldn’t stop staring at it, even when she tried to hide behind my vanity. You’ve raised a total rake, Dad. I’m quite impressed.” Her father and grandfather were goggling at Henry as he spluttered incoherently. “You might want to go pacify Lord Malfoy before he challenges Henry to a duel to the death over his daughter’s honor. She is, after all, only twelve.”

Henry spun around and pointed at her, arm shaking. “That’s not how it happened at all!”

“So you don’t deny kissing Iolanthe Malfoy?” Isadore asked.

“W-well, no.”

“And her hair wasn’t down?” Dorea inquired, a grin on her face as she stared at him.

Henry blinked as an enormous grin spread his lips. “Oh, it most certainly was.”

“Brilliant! Another Potter wins the woman of his dreams,” James declared as he stood up and patted his son on the back. “I recognize that look. I wore it the first night I waltzed with your mother. I call it ‘Stupid in Love’.” He waved an arm grandly.

Charlus stared at Haesel, his chin propped on his hands and a knowing look on his face. “The truth, my dear?”

“Henry—” Haesel almost swallowed her tongue when she felt Neville’s magic appear in the manor. Merlin and Morgana, he must’ve been at the ball last night, and she hadn’t even noticed. Worse, she hadn’t told him she was being courted. Two weeks ago, Neville—her dear godbrother—had probably thought his suit for her hand would be almost uncontested. And then Marvolo had flaunted their relationship last night in front of the crème de la crème of pureblood society. Additionally, she knew her mother had already changed the invitations to state it would be an engagement ball, not a coming of age gala. “It was all very proper. I chaperoned. Henry didn’t touch her,” she rasped. “Excuse me, I have to go right now.”


“What’s wrong, honey?”

“Are you all right, darling?”

She hugged her waist and muttered. “Not now. Just—I have something I have to take care of.”

Haesel hurried from the study and toward the parlor that guests who were welcome in the manor could freely Apparate into. It took her less than a minute to reach it. Her chest heaved with ragged breathing as she leaned against the wall and stared at her godbrother. Neville was tall and fit. His blond hair wasn’t smoothly combed like normal, and his brown eyes shone with agony. He was pacing across the Persian rug, his boots clomping loudly with each step.

“Is it true, then?” He stopped, his back to her, hands balled. “You’re to marry Lord Slytherin?”

The godsibling bond between them writhed. “Yes,” she choked out. The pain of her confession ricocheted down the bond, slapping her across the face.

“Of your own free will?” he asked. She wondered if that was what an Inferius would sound like: dead.

For an irrational moment, Haesel considered lying to him. However, she wouldn’t dishonor Marvolo or the choice she had knowingly made, especially when it wouldn’t lessen Neville’s suffering. “I love him,” she whispered. And it was true, despite Marvolo’s earlier betrayal. She loved him and only him, the ambassador, the pureblood lord, and the half-blood orphan.

The bond between them stretched, as if it sought to snap itself and end the pain. “I love you, Haesel.” Neville turned toward her, tears streaming down his face, desperation pouring off him. “I’ve loved you for years. All I want is for you to be my wife. I’d never hurt you. I’d treat you well. You must know that.”

Tears dripped from her eyes, and she didn’t attempt to stem them. Neville deserved her tears, as few people did. “I k-know.”

Neville stepped closer and cupped her cheeks, before running his hands up into her hair. “I would’ve known if you gave him your maiden’s kiss, Haesel. You haven’t.”

Haesel almost flinched. She hadn’t realized her bond with Neville was so frail that he hadn’t felt her gift Marvolo with her maiden’s kiss the night before. Unless . . . maybe he had felt it, and was just in denial of what it meant.

He leaned down and rubbed his nose along hers. “Please, Haesel. Please. I know I have no right to ask, but . . . Merlin, I want it.”

Haesel started hiccupping through her sobs, arms wrapped protectively around herself. Neville was everything good and right in the world. He loved her so much that she could almost choke on it, and he would do his utmost to make her happy forever. He would never treat her ill, would respect her, and so much more. In his eyes, one kiss was all it would take to make his dreams come true. A maiden’s kiss would save him from her and the vicious pull her magic created between them.

But in doing so, she would lose Marvolo. Even if she still had yet to give her maiden’s kiss—which she didn’t—just this once, Haesel wanted to be selfish. Just this once, she needed to put her own happiness before a loved one’s.

The hope in his eyes when she leaned up felt like a Bludger to the stomach. He grinned at her, and then closed his eyes. Face wet with remorse, Haesel turned her head and kissed his cheek. “Morgana, Neville, I’m so sorry.” She choked on the words and ripped herself from his arms. As she spun on her heel and Disapparated, she couldn’t get the look of betrayal on his face, or the feel of betrayal in his magic, out of her mind.

She collapsed on the floor of a parlor in Black Manor, face buried in her hands as she sobbed hysterically. How could she have hurt him like that? How?

“Haesel! Haesel, what’s wrong?” Hands shook her shoulders, but she didn’t respond.

She had broken his heart, and she hadn’t even been able to do it privately first. She had bloody well waltzed with Marvolo, plastered against him, in front of hundreds of witnesses.

“Dad! Dad!”

And the hope that radiated from Neville when she had leaned up . . . as if she would grant his desperate request and offer him her maiden’s kiss—to make all of his dreams a reality. She was a cruel monster. How could she have done that to him? She had thought that a kiss would be better than none, but now—

Strong arms lifted her into the air, and then she was being settled in someone’s lap. Haesel pulled the familiar magic around herself and burrowed against his chest. He, of all people, would be able to understand her. He knew what it was like to shatter someone’s heart into pieces so minute that nothing would ever be able to reassemble them.


After all, he had called off his engagement to Lady Leanne McLaggen less than a month before the wedding, after postponing it for years, because he had fallen in love with Elara Selwyn. Elara had just turned sixteen, and Uncle Sirius was twenty-two at the time; he had been courting Lady Leanne for five years. It was the scandal of the decade.

“Tell me what happened, Haesel,” Sirius said, voice commanding and without reprieve.

Haesel’s hands scrabbled at his robes. “Siri! He—”

“He? Who is ‘he’, and what did he do?” There was an undercurrent to her godfather’s voice that bespoke endless suffering.

“Dad, I just Floo-called the manor, and Uncle James said they’re all safe. Haesel apparently fled the study saying she had to do something, and none of them have seen her since. But Uncle James said that was only about fifteen minutes ago,” Leo said hurriedly.

“You’re sure they’re all right?” Sirius demanded.

“Yes, Dad. Absolutely sure,” Leo replied.

Sirius breathed a sigh of relief against her hair, and then held her more tightly, his hands running up and down her back in comforting motions. “I’ll handle this. Go have lunch with your mother, brother, and sisters. Tell her I’ll miss it.”

“Right. Of course. Is she going to be okay?” asked Leo.

“I c-couldn’t—and he looked so—”

“Shh,” Sirius murmured against her hair. “Shh.” He must’ve glared at Leo or something, because she heard him leave without getting a response. Then again, she might not have heard it over the sound of her own weeping. “I’ve got you, Haesel. I’ve got you.”

“How did you do it, Siri? How? It h-hurts so much!” she wailed as she hid her head in her godfather’s neck.

“How did I do what?” he asked, voice calm. His muscles were tense, though, and she could guess that he was imagining the worst.

“You broke the engagement. We weren’t even courting, but Neville’s face . . . Merlin, Siri, his face! As if I’d run him through with a cutlass. Betrayed. Broken. Bitter.” Even here, beneath the immense wards of Black Manor, she could still feel it.

Sirius sucked in a sharp breath. “Ah, so that’s what this is about.” He hugged her closer and sighed tiredly. “It wasn’t a pleasant experience. I’ll never forget the look on Leanne’s face when I said I was in love with Elara and couldn’t bond with her.” He wove his fingers into her hair and tugged her head backward until their gazes met. “But I never regret my choice; I regret that Leanne was hurt, but never the decision I made. I love Elara with all my heart, Haesel. She was worth all the speculation, scandal, and sneers thrown my way.

“Getting to kiss her whenever I want, waking up to her smiles in the morning, knowing that she loves me just as wholly—nothing can compete with that, Haesel. I would’ve been content with Leanne, as you probably would have been with Neville, but content isn’t enough. Everyone deserves more than contentment in life.

“You defied everything you had been taught and let Lord Slytherin waltz with you, in public, when you were supposed to be at home. You took a risk, gambled on the love you feel for him. I did the same for Elara. She loved me just as well. There was no aim to hurt Leanne on either of our parts. Leanne and Neville were just casualties of love. It’s horrible to say it like that, but it’s true.”

He rubbed his thumbs across her cheekbones, smoothing away the tears that continued to fall heavily. “Wouldn’t it be more cruel to bond with Neville, and spend the rest of your life wishing Lord Slytherin were at your side, kissing your lips, brushing your hair, and giving you children?”

Haesel winced. “Y-yes.” Neville deserved better than that. And she couldn’t bear the thought of anyone but Marvolo fathering her children.

“Then trust me when I say you need to let it go, Haesel. It wasn’t your fault. If you bonded with Neville, you and Lord Slytherin would both suffer. If you bond with Lord Slytherin, only Neville suffers, but he’ll eventually get over it, like Leanne did. James told me your magic is already partially entwined with Lord Slytherin’s; I doubt either of you would fully recover from a forced separation of that magnitude. So let it go. You did the right thing, darling. It might not feel like it, but you did the right thing.” He kissed her forehead and then encircled her once more, letting her huddle against him for shelter from the world.

She felt a wave of Marvolo’s magic appear and drowned herself in his love. She couldn’t picture a future without Marvolo, couldn’t imagine willingly sharing a bed with any other man—not even Neville. Sirius was telling the truth; she had made the right choice. Exhaustion and relief washed through her system, and she collapsed like a broken doll against her godfather.

“I love Marvolo,” she confessed. “I don’t want anyone else.”

“I know, darling. I know.” Sirius held her and stroked her back.

Then, fraught with dying guilt, she cried herself to sleep.

* * *

“You what?”

Marvolo was beginning to wish he had not chosen to visit the Malfoys today and had waited until a little later when he could be certain his lady would be present.  He knew that Haesel was meant to fly with Lady Rana later in the afternoon, and did not want to be entirely conspicuous.  Although he was.  Waltzing with her had been—well—more than conspicuous.  He could pretend social niceties, however.  He had, after all, smashed Heir Malfoy’s dreams, not that Marvolo thought Heir Malfoy ever had any chance at winning his lady’s hand. 

His interest was hardly a secret.  The invitations had already been changed.  Marvolo only wondered when, exactly, his bonding would be. He wanted a specific date.

Marvolo had been sitting in the parlor, sharing tea with Lord and Lady Malfoy, when the youngest of the Malfoy children had walked in decidedly and, after staring for a moment too long at Marvolo with an ethereally knowing look, stated the following: “I have given my maiden’s kiss to Master Potter.”

Lucius was obviously in shock.

“Lucius, darling,” Narcissa instantly tried to soothe, looking at her younger daughter with hesitation and yet a mother’s love.  “Let us hear the story.  And you must admit, Master Potter is one of the finest catches in all of England, excluding our esteemed guest, although he is already taken.”  She nodded her head regally toward Marvolo and he nodded in return.

Lucius’s pale skin was tinged red.  “What possessed you to give him your maiden’s kiss?”

Lady Lacerta Malfoy, Marvolo noticed, was stone cold pale and had become rigid in her seat at her younger sister’s announcement. 

“I want no other but him, and with the betrothal contracts—”

Narcissa sighed and took a sip of her tea.  “Yes, darling, but it’s a radical step.  You’re just twelve.”

“I know my mind,” Iolanthe countered.

“And Master Potter’s mind?” Narcissa questioned, her voice cool.  She was a cobra ready to strike out at the Potters if necessary.

“Haesel said he was of a similar one.  She—I confided in her.” Iolanthe looked down at her hands, her golden curls placed in a child’s styled bun.

Her sister, whose hair was in the French twist of a young woman, looked away, anger in every tense muscle.  Her magic, a faint whiff of homemade butter, was writhing in jealousy.

Lucius’s head snapped toward his youngest daughter.  “She bid you call her by her given name?”  His tone was now calculating.

“Yes, Father,” Iolanthe answered, her blue eyes catching his.  “She said we are to be sisters so I should call her by her name.”

“Hmm,” he murmured.  “The Potters are unbearably honorable.”

“I highly doubt Master Potter would break the vow implicit in a maiden’s kiss,” Marvolo said, placing himself within the conversation for the first time.  “I gather you have the impression that he desires you to be his bride when you come of age?”  He already knew the answer, but still, appearances and all that.

Iolanthe looked at him, as if she could see his very soul.  “Yes.  When a Potter chooses—”

“A Potter chooses,” Lucius finished gleefully.  “Well, this is good news, although unconventional.”  As if suddenly aware of Marvolo’s presence, he got up and bowed deeply.  “Forgive me, Lord Slytherin, that you had to witness such a conversation.”

“Not at all,” he answered, sending Lady Malfoy a charming smile.  “Lord Potter and I were schoolmates.  I take an eager interest in the families of my old schoolfellows.”  The compliment was implicit and Lord Malfoy, as he sat, inclined his head in recognition.  “I imagine it is only a matter of time before Lord Potter or his son appears to hammer out a betrothal contract.  I remember that Old Charlus was quite head over heels in love with Lady Potter while we were at school.  Nothing could deter him from winning her hand, and it appears that his grandson is of the same mind.  I offer my best wishes, Lady Iolanthe.”

“And I offer you my congratulations,” she answered without missing a beat.

Marvolo nodded his head to her.  Lady Iolanthe was, after all, in his lady’s confidence and was to be his future sister-in-law.  Still, he had no idea his lady was quite that cunning. To engineer that a twelve-year-old girl give her maiden’s kiss away when she could not speak of her affections to Master Potter . . . it was a masterstroke.

“Thank you,” he offered after a moment.

Both Lord and Lady Malfoy were looking between them in confusion at their odd familiarity.  Luckily, breeding dictated that they not pry into his personal affairs.

The sound of weeping drew Marvolo from his thoughts.  There, in the window seat she had been occupying, Lady Lacerta was now openly crying.  Her eyes, ringed with red, focused on her younger sister with such hatred that Marvolo was momentarily stunned.  “H-how could you?  My own sister!  How could you steal him from me?”

Narcissa was instantly out of her seat, arms outstretched toward her eldest, who only batted them away.

“How could you, Io?”  Her voice was shrill and hardly ladylike. 

Marvolo chose this moment to pour a cup of tea and offer it to Lady Iolanthe, who had not moved a muscle from where she was standing.  “Lady Iolanthe?” he offered, holding out the cup.  He rarely poured tea and would not do it for just anyone, but the poor girl was beginning to shake and she was dear to his lady and her brother.  They would be family within a few years.  He could offer her this small courtesy and protect her from such an inferior witch as her older sister clearly was.

Iolanthe immediately looked at Marvolo, taking the cup and sitting on the edge of the couch where he was currently drinking his own tea.  “Thank you, Lord Slytherin.”

“Thank Lady Haesel,” he answered quietly, knowing that the sounds of Lady Malfoy trying to calm her other daughter would overpower anything he said.

“I have a lot to thank Haesel for,” Iolanthe answered just as quietly.

“Betrothal contracts can be unpleasant,” Marvolo agreed.  “Still.  Master Henry.  A more prestigious match does not come to mind, unless you were to marry into the oligarchy.”

“Unlikely,” she responded, her warm blue eyes, so different from his lady’s, catching his dark gaze.  “The only member with whom I’m acquainted is soon to be bonded.”

The wards shifted, and Marvolo could feel the familiar magic of Charlus and Henry Potter.  “Ah, Lord Malfoy,” he said, placing down his teacup, “I believe the expected guests have arrived.  I would suggest removing Lady Lacerta to somewhere she would be more comfortable.  Perhaps if Lady Rana is present—?”

Lucius was instantly standing, pulling a bell rope, and a house-elf appeared.  “Take Lacerta to her room, bring her hot chocolate, and send Rana to her,” he ordered. Within a matter of moments, the crying, angry girl had been swept away, her mother’s eyes trailing after her.  “Thank you for the timely suggestion, Lord Slytherin.”

“Not at all,” he responded, settling further into his seat. 

Narcissa, now that the crisis had been hidden from sight, smoothed down her pale lilac robes before coming forward and kissing the crown of Iolanthe’s head.  “Are you certain, darling?”

Iolanthe looked back steadily.  “Entirely.”

A small, sad smile graced her mother’s features.  “That’s all that matters,” she responded before resuming her seat.  Marvolo briefly wondered why a mother, who claimed to care so much about her child, would ever consider a betrothal contract, even if Lady Iolanthe was just a second daughter.  Still, her magic was unusually strong for a witch her age, stronger, in fact, than her older sister’s.  It would never be as glorious or as powerful as Haesel’s, but then no witch’s magic ever could be in his opinion.

A house-elf arrived and announced Lord Potter and Master Henry.

“Lord Malfoy, Lady Malfoy,” Charlus greeted, Master Henry silent beside him, although his eyes were trained on Lady Iolanthe.  “Lord Slytherin.”  The bow Charlus executed was flawless despite his age.

Henry did not hesitate as he echoed the gesture.  “Lord Marvolo,” he murmured after a moment.  “Lord Malfoy.”

“Lord Potter, Master Henry,” Lucius greeted as he stood stock still.  “Perhaps we should take this to my office.”

“You have been informed, then?” asked Charlus, shooting a glance at his unrepentant grandson.

“Just,” Lucius replied.  He glanced at his youngest daughter calculatingly.  “I take it that my daughter was not forced.”  His tone was icy as steel.

“Never!” Henry interjected, tearing his eyes away from Marvolo to look at his future father-in-law.  “My hands were behind my back!”

“Your hands were behind your back?” Lucius asked in obvious bewilderment.  He looked over his shoulder at his daughter before regarding his two guests again.  “Why—how?”

“Haesel told him to,” was Iolanthe’s answer, her voice quiet but powerful.  “It was my choice, Father.”

Lucius was momentarily flustered.  “Well.  Lord Potter, Master Henry,” he invited, holding his hand out toward the door.  His guests proceeded from whence they came, each bowing to Marvolo in turn.  Finally, only Lady Malfoy and her daughter remained in his presence.

Narcissa exhaled almost inaudibly.  “His hands were behind his back?”

“A maiden’s kiss must be freely given,” Iolanthe quoted, taking up her tea again.  “Please don’t be angry, Mama.”

Narcissa deflated a little, although her posture remained perfect.  “I’m not angry.  I simply wish you would have told me.”

Iolanthe paused.  “A solution hadn’t occurred to me—and you seemed to like the idea of a union with—” She paused, glancing at Marvolo, who looked steadily back at her.  “It no longer signifies.”

“No, I suppose it doesn’t.”

Silence descended over the three of them.

“My grandfather’s bonding, I believe, was arranged,” Marvolo offered, remembering the family history he had gleaned from his Uncle Morfin’s mind.  It was truly disgusting.  The man had married his own niece for the sake of blood purity.  “I doubt it was happy, though.”

“I don’t believe Aunt Bellatrix or Uncle Rodolphus are entirely happy,” Iolanthe whispered, looking into her tea.

“Iolanthe!  I taught you better than that!” her mother rebuked, although she did not correct the assumption.  “That, also, is a special case.”

“Of course,” Iolanthe remarked pensively.

There was another brief silence.  Sometimes Marvolo hated social calls, even though this one had proved rather unconventional.  “So, Lady Haesel approves the match?”

“Yes,” Iolanthe said, smiling.

“My future wife informed me of the engagement last night.  You certainly will make a fine pair,” Marvolo complimented.  “Regardless of your obvious magical and social compatibility, you will make a stunning couple.”

“Master Henry, according to my two eldest children, is often referred to as ‘the Golden God’, if I’m not much mistaken, Lord Slytherin.” Narcissa snapped her fingers and the teapot vanished.  A moment later another appeared, steaming pleasantly.

“I can see why,” Marvolo answered.  “He and Lady Haesel are like night and day in their appearances.”

“Indeed,” Narcissa responded.  “Lady Haesel has the Potter coloring, while Master Henry takes after his mother.”

“Yes,” Iolanthe agreed.  “He looks like a brother to his uncle, Master Valerius.  I was quite startled when I realized that was not the case.”

“Hmm.” Marvolo accepted another offering of tea.  “I wonder, Lady Malfoy, if I might perhaps ride one of your Abraxans later this afternoon?  I understand there’s an unofficial gathering that occasionally takes place.  I have no horseflesh of my own at present, given my decades spent in the Lone Islands.” Perhaps he should look into purchasing some Abraxans or Pegasi, so his lady wouldn’t need to visit Malfoy Manor for her favorite leisure activity.

Narcissa looked serene but sad, and then her eyes hooded with resignation.  She was an intelligent woman and could easily determine his reason for asking—and there was no way she could refuse.  The game was already lost and, well, it would behoove her to keep in his good graces, even if her youngest would soon be related to him by bonding.  “Of course, my lord.  I believe Lady Haesel is due to arrive at about half three, and my son just about now.”

“Excellent!” Marvolo responded.  “Do you ride, Lady Iolanthe?”

She shook her head.  “No, they’re so—large.”

“I possessed a similar sentiment when I was your age,” Marvolo admitted.  “I grew to appreciate Pegasi later in life.”  He’d never liked Muggle horses, finding them plebian and common.  Also, they were a symbol of a past long gone, and Marvolo, before he had learnt he was a wizard, was rather passionate about the idea of modernity and stepping into the future.  Abraxans, though, were majestic creatures and his lady clearly adored the sport.

At that moment, the doors opened and Draco casually strolled in.  Upon seeing Marvolo, he paused. Although his lips were in a thin line, he bowed before going to his mother and kissing her cheek.  He quickly took the place beside her.

Well, one thing Marvolo would give to the annoying boy.  At least his father had Abraxans and he was respectful toward his mother.  He had yet to see any other positive qualities to him.  He wondered how Heir Malfoy had possibly thought himself the potential equal of the future Lady Slytherin.  It was a mystery to him.

“Tea?” Narcissa inquired.

“We’re going riding in half an hour,” Draco responded, glancing at the clock.

“It might be slightly later than that.  Lady Haesel will require a chaperone, and both Lacerta and Rana may be indisposed.  Master Henry is also discussing business in your father’s study at present.”

“Business.  What business?” Draco inquired, looking at his mother in confusion.

“A betrothal contract,” was Narcissa’s succinct reply.

“Good on Lacerta,” Draco answered.

Lady Iolanthe flinched from her spot near Marvolo.  He offered her a comforting smile.  At least, he hoped it was comforting.  He doubted he’d offered one to any person apart from Lady Haesel, and they came naturally then.  Otherwise, he was just acting the diplomat.

“It is Lady Iolanthe,” Marvolo refuted when he saw Lady Malfoy hesitate.  “It appears he is much enamored.”

Draco stilled, looking at his youngest sister in a new light.  “My best wishes, Io,” he said fondly, getting up to kiss the top of her head.  “No wonder Lacerta is indisposed, though.  Rana is seeing to her?” he asked in general.

“Yes,” his mother responded.  “It’s best if she doesn’t see Lady Haesel or Master Henry, I think, until school begins, if it can be arranged.”

“She’ll keep to her room,” Draco said matter-of-factly, as if this were a regular occurrence.  “I doubt there will be a problem.”

The room descended into silence, all of them waiting for a Potter’s arrival.

Published by excentrykemuse

Fanfiction artist and self critic.

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