Part the Tenth
Haesel whimpered as Neville’s haunted face loomed over her. His features were twisted in a mask of hatred and unrelenting betrayal. “You’re mine. You were always meant to be mine,” he said, voice grating along her nerves. “I love you. I’ve always loved you!”
“No,” she muttered as she shook her head. That wasn’t true, couldn’t be. She wasn’t his, had never been his.
Neville’s hands grabbed her shoulders so tightly that she could feel bruises forming already. It was ruthless, unlike his usual tenderness in her presence. “Magic made you a Potter and my only godsister. We’re meant to be together, Haesel. Why can’t you see that?” He shook her like a rag doll, making her neck ache and her hair fall from its pins.
“We’re not!” she protested, terrified of her godbrother for the first time in her life. He was hurting her!
Neville thrust a hand into her hair and fisted it, knotting it around his hand and pulling until her scalp burned. Was he going to rip it out? “You’ve let him touch it, haven’t you? You’ve let him see it? Why?” Spittle flecked his lips. “You know only your fiancé has that right, Haesel. Only I have the right to see it, to touch it, to smell it.”
“It’s his right,” she moaned, wishing she had the strength to pull away. Why was he hurting her? She might not want to bond with him, but she still loved him. He had to know that.
“It’s my right.” A yelp escaped her as he yanked, forcing her neck to crane at an awkward angle. “Why do you let him touch you, Haesel? Why do you give in to his dark desires? Why do you surrender to that lying, deceitful philanderer?”
“He’s not—not—” Why did she let Marvolo touch her? Because she wanted his touch, and he had never abused that privilege, had never sought to take from her.
“Lord Bloody Slytherin deigns to return to England and you pant after him like a crup in heat. Where’s he been all your life, huh? Off shagging anything that moves, I’ll bet. How many ladies, whores, tarts, do you think he’s bedded? I bet he can’t even remember the number. I won’t let you join their ranks, Haesel. I won’t,” Neville growled in her ear.
Haesel felt like she was going to throw up. Neville had called her a whore. Neville had called her a whore! Her breath hitched in her throat and tears welled in her eyes. She wasn’t like that, and he knew it. She had kept herself pure for her future lord, swearing her virginity to her husband alone. Marvolo wouldn’t think of her as a tart on their bonding night . . . surely not. He loved her. He had said so multiple times!
“What are you saying?” she shrieked. She knew her refusal had hurt Neville, but for him to react like this . . .
“The truth,” Neville spat. “Hurts, doesn’t it?” He carded a hand through her hair in a mockery of the tenderness Marvolo had shown last night. Even when Marvolo had felt more betrayed than Neville possibly could, he had still been gentle with her.
“You’re lying!” Haesel clung to that one truth. Marvolo would never, ever, ever, ever think she was a whore.
“Of course, the magnificent Lord Slytherin is going to be accustomed to women who know how to service him. You don’t. I figure it will take him less than a year to get bored with you. And then what will you be left with?” Neville’s voice was a slow stab at her heart.
“T-that won’t h-happen,” she stuttered.
“Yes, it will.” Neville smirked at her in a patronizing manner, as if she were a young child who knew nothing of the world. “But I would never do that to you, Haesel. I would be gentle. I would forsake all others for you, and I would certainly never tire of you. I’ve loved you forever, Haesel. Nothing will change that.”
Haesel struggled, trying to escape the dark feeling of his presence. He was tainted—wrong. This wasn’t like him. Neville wasn’t like this. He was good, sweet, and caring. What if I broke him? she wondered. What if choosing Marvolo over him snapped his sanity and made him this . . . thing.
Neville’s hold tightened the more she fought against it. “If you bond with him, what do you think he’ll do when he’s bored with you, when he’s done? He’s been one of the most important people in the wizarding world since he stepped into it, Haesel. You can’t deny that. People like him lose interest quickly. Seducing you and making you love him is nothing more than a passing fancy of his, a game. How fast could he make you want him?” Neville grinded his teeth. “Much too fast, it seems.”
Haesel stilled, loose strands of hair falling forward to block her eyes. “He loves me,” she whispered.
“What was that?” Neville cocked his head, as if he hadn’t quite heard her.
“He loves me!” Haesel screamed, before throwing her head back. Her bid for freedom failed, resulting in nothing more than a wave of pain that almost made her faint.
“I love you!” Neville spat, literally, in her face. His visage was macabre, as if a demon had possessed him. “Why won’t you accept that? Why?” He shook her again, making her bite her tongue. Thankfully, it didn’t start bleeding. “I love you more than he ever could, than he ever will. Choose me!”
The tears overflowed, washing the spit away as she sobbed. “I’ve made my choice, Neville. I chose him.”
“Then change it!”
“I can’t!” she screamed hysterically. Her chest throbbed, her heart beating so rapidly that she wondered when it would burst and save her from this—this—monster.
Neville’s voice was deceptively soft as he breathed against her ear. “You mean you won’t.” He sounded dangerous, akin to the rage in Marvolo’s voice when she had foolishly allowed Zach to kiss her the night before.
“I won’t,” she agreed. Black spots danced before her eyes, and she prayed to Merlin and Morgana that she would pass out soon, or that someone would come and save her. Why hadn’t she thought of that before? Marvolo would come.
Haesel’s magic screamed his name so loudly that she felt it hum from her. Marvolo!
“What’s so special about him?” Neville’s voice was toneless now, which frightened her more than the earlier outward showing of anger. He was never quiet when raging. “What’s so bloody special about him? Is it because he’s already a lord? Is it because he knows how to please women? Is that what you want?” She wept and shook her head. “Is it because he’s wealthy? Are you that shallow now, Haesel? Has he brought you so low?” When she didn’t speak, he fisted her hair and stretched her neck back even more. “Answer me!”
“N-no.” Haesel’s neck trembled from the strain. Would it break soon? Was Neville going to snap her neck? Was she going to die without ever getting to bond with her lord?
“Is it his looks, then? Does his handsome face set your heart fluttering? Does he make you burn with longing, Haesel?” His lips curled in a vindictive leer. “Do you ache for him to complete you, to fill you with his heirs?”
It wasn’t like that! Neville made their love sound like lust—something filthy and base. “It’s not like that!” she pleaded, begging him to listen and let her go. “I swear it’s not like that, Neville. Please. Please just let me go!”
“So that you can crawl into his bed and give him what’s rightfully mine? I don’t think so, Haesel.” She didn’t know how to describe the look on his face, only knowing that it frightened her and made her want to hide where no one could find her.
“Why do you refuse to understand that I’m the good guy? I love you, Haesel. If I let Slytherin have you, he’d ruin you. He’d take everything you have to offer and give you nothing but lies and empty platitudes. He’ll tire of you. And do you know what he’ll do then, Haesel? Do you?” Neville’s left hand grabbed her face, bruising her cheeks as he forced her to meet his gaze. “Do you!” he yelled, eyes crazed.
“N-no.” Haesel’s teeth cut the inside of her cheek, and the taste of copper pooled on her tongue.
An insane, victorious light lit his eyes. “He’s going to leave you.”
Those five words pummeled her heart harder than everything else he had said combined. He’s going to leave you. He’s going to leave you. Like his father—the man he was named for—had left his mother. Would she be like that? Would she get abandoned by her husband, only to die birthing his heir? “That’s not true,” she said numbly, pulse racing. It couldn’t possibly be true, right?
“Oh, but it is.” Neville chuckled. “You’re still so naïve, Haesel. I know men like him. He’ll leave you, probably return to whatever exotic location he spent decades in, and forget that he ever had a wife or children. You’ll be nothing more than a passing memory of a game he won on a brief jaunt back to England.”
She gagged, bile rising in her throat. “N-no.”
“Yes, it’s true. He’ll leave you with nothing more than an heir, to ensure the survival of his bloodline. And you’ll spend the rest of your life with the child, a small bit of him, knowing all his words were lies. He never loved you.”
Haesel started hyperventilating, her heart tearing to pieces and crumbling to ash. “You’re lying,” she breathed. He had to be. She had felt Marvolo’s magic prove his vow of love to her. Marvolo had sent his magic to protect her. He had come when she called for him. He loved her!
“No, I’m not. You know I’m telling the truth.” Neville sounded scarily reasonable now, as if he really believed his own words. He loosened the tight hold on her hair and stroked it as if she were a well-loved pet. “But I can save you from that inevitable pain, Haesel. I can make everything better. I can give you a future full of love, laughter, fidelity, and as many children as you desire.” She opened her mouth to protest, but, before she could speak, he leaned down and whispered in her ear, “All I have to do is one—simple—thing.”
“W-what?” She felt weak, drained, as if for all her magical strength and power, she was helpless. Why couldn’t she escape? Why was he doing this? If he really loved her, which she knew he did, he wouldn’t hurt her like this. What was wrong with him?
Neville’s laughter was eerie, haunting, as it echoed around them. “I’m going to kill your precious Lord Slytherin.”
“NO!” Haesel screamed as she shot up in bed. She glanced around the room wildly, hands clawing out at a specter that wasn’t there—at a nightmare more malevolent than any Cedric had ever inspired.
Her chest rose and fell rapidly, straining against the sweat-soaked nightgown she wore. The sight of the silver-embroidered stars made her remember where she was: Black Manor. Aunt Elara must have changed her into one of Cousin Pleione’s nightgowns and put her to bed in one of the guest chambers after she had fallen asleep on Uncle Sirius. Her hair lay tangled in a loose plait and her hands rose to her scalp, which ached. She must have rolled over on it while thrashing about. The bedclothes were all over the place, and several of the pillows were on the floor. It looked like a particularly vicious pillow fight had taken place.
“It wasn’t real,” she whispered. Neville hadn’t—it wasn’t real. The realization sent her into another bout of tears, which she let flow without any attempt at restraint. She wrapped her arms around herself and curled her knees against her chest. “I-it felt s-so real,” she sobbed. The hateful glares and words returned to her, and Haesel barely made it to the edge of the bed in time to be sick.
The acidic taste only reminded her of the acidic bitterness in Neville’s eyes as she continually refuted his demands for her hand. When there was nothing left in her stomach, she cast a cleaning charm on the floor and then a refreshing charm on herself, wanting the taste of betrayal out of her mouth.
Haesel wiped her arm across her eyes, but it did little to stem the flood of tears. She felt so broken, damaged, and alone. Where was Marvolo? She needed him!
Where are you?
It was then that she realized she had forced her magic to encase her in a protective bubble, likely an unconscious shield she had created during the nightmare as she fought against Neville’s vitriolic abuse.
She bit her tongue when she noticed she couldn’t feel Marvolo’s magic at all. It wasn’t entwined with hers, as it always was these days. She felt bereft—abandoned.
“Neville wasn’t right,” she whimpered. “Marvolo won’t leave me.”
Haesel focused through her panic and tore the shield apart, which took longer than she would have liked. The second it shattered, she felt it: a duel of ferocious power and emotions. “Marvolo. Siri.” She threw the covers back and clambered off the bed, almost tumbling to the floor as her legs fought to support her. She felt weak, pathetic. Her fingers spasmed as she clutched the nearest bedpost and waited for her legs to work properly; any delay was deadly at this point.
She remembered, now, screaming for Marvolo in the nightmare. Haesel could only imagine how terrified she must have sounded for him to storm Black Manor to come to her. And, of course, he wouldn’t have bothered to explain himself to her godfather. The feral quality to Marvolo’s magic informed her that he wasn’t in his right mind. He felt dark, lethal, and the scent of hemlock was flooding the air.
If Haesel didn’t interrupt them soon, someone she loved was going to die.
The feel of their magic was steadily darkening, and she wasn’t stupid enough to assume either man was above using the Dark Arts when they thought they were protecting her. She couldn’t let it come to that.
Haesel’s whole body shivered and shook as she stumbled toward the bedroom door. She kept a hand on the closest wall, praying it would support her long enough to avert a tragedy of epic proportions. She fumbled with the doorknob for what felt like ages before it finally turned in her grasp. Haesel opened the door, shoving it back against the wall in a bid for their attention.
It worked. Thank Morgana, it worked.
Sirius and Marvolo spun to face her, but she only spared a passing glance for her godfather. Marvolo was here; he hadn’t left her. His hair was floating in the air from the strength of his aura, his magic was lashing out wildly in the hallway, and his eyes were the color of freshly spilled blood. If he had been anyone else, she would have cowered back into the bedroom. But this was Marvolo—her lord—and she trusted that he would never harm her.
“I need you,” she whispered, voice hoarse from crying and body still shuddering, as if she had been Cruciated.
Marvolo reached her just as she collapsed, arms curling around her and pressing her safely against his chest. Her hands scrabbled at the back of his robes as she clung to him and buried herself inside his magic.
Haesel struggled to lift her head, and then kissed him ardently, with all the love and unspoken fears of her soul. He returned it and forced her even closer, guarding her inside his embrace. His tongue begged entrance to her mouth, and she granted it—shocked, but pleased. He was gentle with her, always gentle, and she pushed the nightmare’s accusations back further. There was no way Marvolo could kiss her like this if he wasn’t truly in love with her.
It had been nothing but a woven realm of the blackest lies.
When the spots returned, reminding her of her need to breathe, Haesel reluctantly broke the kiss. Her eyelashes fluttered as she looked up and was met with the sight of crimson eyes. They were sanguineous, and not scary in the least.
“Promise me that you’ll never leave me,” Haesel pleaded, fingernails scratching against his back as she fisted his robes. “Promise me!” There was a hysterical edge to her voice that made his eyes flash with an emotion she couldn’t place.
A guttural hiss escaped his lips, unintelligible to her ears, but she knew he had granted her request and given her the promise she so desperately sought.
Eyes still wet with tears, Haesel leaned up and kissed his cheek. “Thank you,” she breathed.
And then she fainted.
* * *
“Lord Marvolo.” He recognized the voice instantly and, setting down his cup of tea, turned to Henry.
“Congratulations on your betrothal,” Marvolo said loudly enough so everyone could hear. Henry’s eyes flicked to Iolanthe, a look of adoration on his face, before refocusing his attention on Marvolo.
Lovesick fool. Marvolo, after meeting his own lady, highly doubted he did not look at her like that in private. Sentiment. The word no longer tasted like ash in his mouth.
“My sister had a bit of a shock this morning,” Henry continued, his voice lowered so that only Marvolo and Iolanthe could hear him. “Her godbrother visited and upset her.” Ice ran through Marvolo’s veins but he said nothing, instead choosing to nod. “Haesel is well but she went to visit our uncle, Sirius, Lord Black. She was rather—distraught.”
Marvolo paused for a moment. Ah, so that was why her magic had been fluctuating earlier. “Is it customary for her to seek out your uncle?” And not me? If his lady had a problem, he would prefer she sought a solution in his arms. Even though Lord Black was her godfather, Marvolo wanted to be the man she always went to for anything and everything. Lady Haesel was now his to possess and his to protect.
Henry nodded. “Black Manor is a place of refuge. As our grandmother is a Black, the family magics are comforting.”
“Of course,” Marvolo conceded, thinking of his own magicless Muggle manor house. It had never mattered to him before, but now—certainly there was something that could be done.
So, for the first time in over a week (since it sounded like Haesel would be unavoidably delayed), he gladly went to Riddle Manor. Marvolo looked at it critically from the outside, feeling the wards pulsing about the property. He had had the house-elves plant a wild garden in the back and, after purchasing a mithril gazebo, had enchanted the flowers to climb up the structure to create a haven for his future wife.
“Hazel trees,” he murmured to himself, before snapping his fingers and instructing a house-elf to go purchase mature magical specimens. The House of Slytherin would no longer just be known for the genetic ability to speak to snakes but would always bear the symbol of his bride’s name.
Yule. He had only to wait until Yule. Then he could bring his bride home and ravish her on their shared bed. Yule was less than six months away, but they felt like Island months—refusing to pass in the blink of an eye. Marvolo had already waited patiently for decades, and now his patience was rapidly wearing thin.
The suite of rooms he had prepared for her months ago would not be necessary. He no longer wanted any ‘proper’ distance between them; Haesel would stay with him in his chambers every night, where she belonged. In short order, another house-elf was summoned and orders were given out to turn the room into a feminine sitting room and library. She should be permitted her own sanctuary, especially over the Easter holiday when she would be studying for her N.E.W.T.s.
Marvolo was ensconced in the private library when he felt her. Her fear, her vulnerability, her sheer panic, and her desire to be held close and never let go ever again. Her magic screamed for him. Marvolo!
He hadn’t even realized he had Apparated until he found himself in a dark oak-paneled room, his yew wand clasped between his fingers. A small house-elf flinched away from him as it came into the room.
“Lady Haesel Potter, now,” Marvolo barked as he swept past the frightened creature and into a well-appointed living room. He could feel the wards pulsing against him, but he didn’t care. He battled them, refusing to let them eject him. Marvolo could feel her terror, her heartbreak, and he had to get to her now.
Before Marvolo could stop himself, he was out of the room and following the scent of jasmine, trying to send out his magic to calm his fiancée. But he could still feel her fear. And, on top of that, he couldn’t seem to contact her directly. Something was blocking his magic from reassuring her; the thought made him homicidal. Who dared to try to keep him, Lord Slytherin, away from his lady? They would die. Nothing else would ever satisfy him.
“Stop. Right. There.” The voice was cold, commanding, and Marvolo was suddenly looking down at the business end of a wand.
“What have you done to my betrothed?” Marvolo demanded, his own wand coming up to point in the handsome face of Sirius Black.
“Nothing,” Purple sparks flared from the end of Sirius’s wand and Marvolo’s immediately responded, shooting out gold and silver.
“Nothing,” Marvolo mocked, taking in Sirius’s handsome form. True hatred ran through his veins. “Absolutely nothing?”
Sirius bristled. “What are you insinuating, Lord Slytherin?” His wand cut down in a slashing movement but Marvolo neatly sidestepped the warning jinx.
“You like to turn in what you have for—let us say—a younger broom model,” Marvolo accused, going mad at the feel of her magic. It was so frightened that it drove him into a frenzy. Haesel hadn’t even felt this terrified when that Diggory boy attempted to kidnap her when she was fifteen. What was happening to her? Still, he tried to keep his calm. The magic pulsing at his fingertips, though . . . Green sparks erupted toward Sirius.
“How dare you—” Sirius began, but Marvolo cut him off.
“Lady Haesel is nearly of age. You are in a position of power. And she is here, unescorted, in your home.”
“With my wife and children.”
“Who are nowhere at present to my knowledge.” Marvolo felt his eyes flash and wondered if they had reverted to red. He couldn’t even remember the last time they had been the color of spilled blood, but he would never forget the first time it had happened: moments after his father and grandparents died. “What did you do to her?” Lord Black must have done something, despite his protestations, Marvolo mused. Why else would Haesel have cause to be so scared while in her godfather’s manor?
Sirius sent another hex, and then there was a cascade of livid green light. Marvolo hadn’t spoken a word but his lady was in trouble, needed him, and this ridiculous puppy of a man was in his way.
“Nothing. And if this is how you act—”
“If this is how I act?” Marvolo’s wand spit out purple and green sparks, though he longed to cast the Unforgivable Curses in succession. “I come to my lady’s rescue from a wizard she mistakenly trusts.”
“Now see here, you pompous, old geezer! If anyone is being mistakenly trusted, it’s you.” Another curse, the air now humming with magic. “Don’t think we don’t know the rumors of your former conquests before you left for Hell itself, deflowering witches left, right, and center, all of them begging for the esteemed honor of being Lady Slytherin.” His tone was mocking and his face vicious. “Please, Lord Slytherin. Yes, Lord Slytherin. Anything you ask, Lord Slytherin. You are not worthy of being in a crowded room with my goddaughter, let alone deserving of being her fiancé.”
Marvolo breathed heavily through his nostrils and shot an Unforgivable at Sirius Black, which just managed to brush his shoulder; Sirius was annoyingly good at dodging. He enjoyed the man’s cut off scream. Marvolo did not appreciate the implications; he had never deflowered a pureblood maiden. As skewed as it sometimes was, he did have honor. “Fortunately that is not for the likes of you to decide.”
The tip of his yew wand began to glow with the Killing Curse. He had to get to Haesel, and he had to get to her immediately. She needed him.
“How can you be so sure? I am her godfath—”
“Tell me where Lady Haesel is, or I swear by all that is good in me, I will kill you where you stand.” His wand was trained on Sirius’s heart, the curse on his lips, and it felt good to wield so much power. It had been decades—and this man was keeping him from his beloved Haesel.
Then there was a release of magic, flowing out to him, and he could suddenly sense her presence once more. Whatever had blocked her off, daring to hide her from him, of all people, had been shattered. The realization distracted him just long enough for Sirius to summon the same curse to the tip of his wand. However, before either of them could kill the other, a door slammed back against a wall nearby. Marvolo and Sirius both turned, and then Haesel was there.
Haesel leaned against the doorway in a crumpled, silken nightgown, which took his breath away. Her eyes were wet and glassy, and she shuddered as if recovering from the Cruciatus Curse. The thought of someone torturing her made him wish he had chosen the path of a Dark Lord, so that he could indiscriminately Cruciate countless followers for her suffering.
Her haunted, icy eyes bore into him as she whispered, “I need you.”
In a rush of wrinkled robes, Marvolo had his lady in his arms. And then he was inexplicably and suddenly content with the world, all anger melting from him. He buried his hands in Haesel’s hair, which had fallen down as if she had just awakened, and he felt her fear tangle with his magic as he soothed her with his presence. Nothing can harm you in my arms, my darling.
I love you, I love you, his heart sang. Marvolo could feel her relief and exhaustion as he kissed her again and again. With each swipe of his tongue against hers—Merlin, she tasted divine—she calmed a little more. His hold on her was firm and possessive as she huddled against him and surrendered her mouth.
“Promise me that you’ll never leave me!” The hysterical, begging quality to her voice turned his stomach. She couldn’t possibly think he would ever leave her; he was nothing like his father! What would arouse such a fear? “Promise me!” Haesel’s nails bit at his back, as if she sought to keep him at her side.
“Not even death could make me leave you, my darling,” Marvolo hissed in Parseltongue, grip tightening even further. She belonged to him, with him, and nothing would change that.
“Thank you,” she breathed, and then she fainted in his arms. Marvolo caught her effortlessly and held her close to him. He breathed in the scent of jasmine and vowed never to feel her terrified helplessness ever again. It was unacceptable.
Sirius was staring at the two of them, as if he couldn’t quite believe the tender flow of affection he had just witnessed. “You really do love her,” he breathed in sheer amazement.
Marvolo glowered. “If I didn’t, do you think that I would come here and almost kill you to get to my betrothed?” he quipped back, before lifting Haesel carefully into his arms. In her sleep, she wrapped her hands behind his neck and pulled him closer. He laid a gentle kiss on her forehead. “A sofa, I think.”
Sirius wordlessly held his hand out toward a living room, and Marvolo swept past him, barely giving him a second glance. Instead of laying her down on a plush sofa, he settled himself on one and kept Haesel in his arms. Marvolo couldn’t let her go—not yet—not when she needed him, not when her dreams plagued her.
He’d kill that Longbottom idiot if the boy were responsible. Henry had said she was distraught and, from her sleepy and desperate mumblings, he could only guess what the whelp had accused him of. The irony was that Longbottom would have been right if Marvolo hadn’t fallen irrevocably in love with the witch in his arms. Now, he would not return to the Lone Islands unless she accompanied him. He couldn’t bear to leave her. Haesel was too precious, his everything.
How had this happened? How had he fallen in love with this slip of a girl?
Marvolo barely noticed when Sirius settled himself nearby in his silent capacity of chaperone. He wasn’t surprised, though, when James Potter stepped through the Floo shortly after to take in the scene.
“What happened?” James asked, bewildered.
“Heir Longbottom, I expect, happened,” Marvolo icily replied. Thoughts of vengeance clamored in his head. “My lady had a nightmare and called for me.”
“Neville? He wouldn’t hurt a fly?”
Marvolo glanced up, his eyes narrowing. “A fly, perhaps not, but he did distress my future bride. Put him in line, Heir Potter, or I will.” He held James’s unusually solemn gaze before looking back down at his heart. After several long moments, he said, “I would like to issue an invitation to you, Heir Potter, your wife, and your two children to my home for tea tomorrow. It is time that Lady Haesel be given the opportunity of furnishing her future home.” And filling it with her irresistible magic.
“I—” James ran a hand over his face. “Of course. We would be delighted.”
“Excellent,” Marvolo responded crisply before snapping his fingers. A house-elf appeared and he ordered tea.
When Lady Haesel finally awoke in his arms, she snuggled closer. “Is that tea?” she asked sleepily. James immediately looked up from the racing section of the Prophet.
“Earl Grey, my lady. Would you care for a cup?”
“Hmm,” she responded, rubbing her cheek against his shoulder, clearly still half-asleep. “With more milk than usual.”
Marvolo looked over at the house-elf that had remained in a corner—his hands were rather full, after all—and immediately a cup was filled to her specifications. Marvolo picked it up and offered it to her. She took it with one hand and sipped it daintily, looking the picture of innocent debauchery, her curls falling out of the loose French-plait, her silk nightgown wrinkled from sleep. Marvolo’s breath left his body. Soon, soon, he would wake up to this sight every morning, but with her more suitably attired and with her hair flowing down her back.
“I love you, Marvolo,” Haesel murmured, leaning up for a kiss.
“My lady,” he whispered in reverence, before claiming her lips gently, uncaring of their audience.
James cleared his throat and Haesel barely startled, though she nearly spilled her tea. “Dad?” she inquired, turning and seeing the other two occupants of the room.
“Lord Slytherin has been kind enough to invite our family to tea at his manor house tomorrow. He wishes for you to start making notes on any changes you might like to make.”
“I think my grandmother was the last woman to reside there,” Marvolo said when Haesel turned bewildered eyes to him. “Her tastes were rather—dated—even for the early 1900s.”
“Your mother will chaperone you to the more private rooms,” James stated coldly.
Sirius was uncharacteristically quiet, his eyes flitting between his friend and goddaughter. It wasn’t his place to interfere in bonding plans of this sort.
“Of course, Dad,” Haesel responded as she lifted herself up into a sitting position. The tea remained unspilled. “I suppose it’s almost time for dinner?”
“Yes, darling,” her father said mischievously. “And what a story I will have to tell.”
“Dad!” Haesel admonished, blushing becomingly.
“You are a Potter to the last,” James chuckled as Marvolo took out his wand and charmed his lady’s hair into a simple bun.
She reached back to touch her hair and smiled. “Thank you, my lord,” she whispered.
“It was my pleasure,” Marvolo replied just as quietly. Anything to do with her hair was a pleasure. “Until tomorrow, then.” She was finally going to be where she belonged: his home. Unfortunately, tradition and her honor dictated he couldn’t keep her there until after their bonding.
“Yes.” Her words were now breathless. “Until tomorrow.”
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