Title: Craig Na Dun
Date: September 2017 (Outlander Season 3 – I heart Frank!)
Fandoms: Harry Potter / Outlander
Pairings: fem!Harry/Frank Randall, slight Claire/Frank, slight fem!Harry/German Officer
Summary: Ebony loved Frank with her whole heart and when she lost him to his Catholic faith, she was determined to find a time and a place where they could be together.
Warnings: rule 63, infidelilties, time travel, loss of magic
Ebony Potter had a secret. After the wizarding war, she had been on the cusp of a pureblood marriage with Heir Draco Malfoy. There was a fucking marriage contract. When the first Potter daughter was born, the eldest unmarried Malfoy heir could exercise his right to marry her.
Of course, this fell to Draco.
However, when Ebony turned seventeen, she had been an Undesirable, so he hadn’t claimed her. This left Ebony with a little—shall we say—wiggle room.
She had five pounds in her pocket. There was a chicken coop out back and the milkman had been there. Hermione would be glad for such a variety in breakfast. Ebony could certainly whip something up. All those years at the Dursleys had taught her how to be creative in the kitchen, after all. Ron might stop complaining in between his shag sessions with Hermione.
“Agnes!” a man called out just as Ebony was putting the third egg in her pocket. He came out from the back door to get the milk and looked at Ebony in shock. Her golden hair, inherited from her grandmother and her Aunt Petunia, caught in the light, and she pushed it back with her hand to better take him in.
She’d always thought it was strange her name meant “black” when her hair was anything but.
The Muggle was rather handsome and much older than Ebony, old enough to be her father. That was misleading. He was James Potter’s age or perhaps a bit younger. He was far too attractive with lines about his mouth, startling yet kind eyes, and short brown hair.
Their eyes locked and Ebony quietly said, “I can pay.”
“A vagrant who can pay?” he asked, taking in her fleece and worn jeans. His eyes were somehow warm, inviting, and she stood there a little confused.
Ebony cocked her head. “Vagrant. My aunt will like that. No, I need the eggs and milk to cook breakfast. I have five pounds sterling. I won’t be back to bother you.”
“Wouldn’t want to go ‘round the shops,” the Muggle suggested, “with the wanted posters. The strange thing is, they won’t say what you’re wanted for.” He looked down at his shoes and then held out his hand, his eyes now staring directly into hers. “I’m Frank Randall, Professor at Oxford.”
She hesitantly held out her hand. Ebony couldn’t believe that Voldemort had actually reached out to the Muggle news. “I’m Undesirable No. 1,” she laughed. “We Undesirables must eat.”
“Undesirable,” Frank stated cautiously, his eyes curious yet wanting. “What a peculiar turn of phrase. It reminds me a bit of Nazi Germany.” Still, he held her hand, and even placed his other on top of hers, cocooning it in warmth.
“I thought we won that war,” Ebony fired back, looking into those kind eyes, which held something more to them.
“Not if this country secretly has Undesirables,” he suggested. “That’s my line of history, I should know it. I wouldn’t like to think of Britain falling into the Fatherland’s old habits. I don’t like your inference that the government is labeling its citizens. What makes you so undesirable?” He leaned over and picked up the glass bottle of milk, with the cream on top, and held it out.
Their connection was lost, but still when they looked at each other, that fire was there.
Ebony knew what it was. She’d seen Ron look at Hermione this way countless times before. Frank wanted her—and she wanted him. It didn’t matter that she was in scruffy clothes and her hair was a little lackluster from being washed in rivers and left to dry in the elements. Something primal was at work here, and, strangely, it was with a Muggle. What would ‘Magic is Might’ have to say to that?
Although she rooted through her pockets for the five pounds, careful of the eggs, Frank signaled that it was unimportant.
“I’m alive,” Ebony told him, laughing to herself, “and I spoke out against the government. Don’t be blind, Professor Randall. You might notice that something is slightly off. Pay attention. Thank your wife for the eggs and milk.”
Frank laughed. “Agnes is my sister.”
“Beg pardon,” Ebony looked up with sharp eyes at this: “my mistake.”
“I’ll have a ration of bacon for you tomorrow if you come back,” Frank promised, coming toward her, taking the milk and setting it down on the ground. “Would you and your friends like a stove to cook your food on?” His eyes were desperate now, not willing to let her go, and she looked up into them searchingly.
Ebony was genuinely startled. She took in the kind lines of Frank’s face. “Do you often take in stray vagrants?” She teased him, using his own words against him, and it caused him to smile, the look reaching into his eyes, which she liked.
“Only the desirable ones,” he admitted, making Ebony blush.
She toed the ground. “We appreciate it, Professor Randall—”
“Frank,” he insisted, reaching out hesitantly and touching her cheek. Perhaps he had seen something in her eyes, too.
“Frank,” Ebony amended with a slight smile, “but we must keep moving.”
He sighed and then seemed to search his pockets. Finally he withdrew a card which listed the address of an office at Oxford along with a telephone number. “If you ever need a friend, Undesirable.” His eyes smiled at her. He then got out twenty pounds from his wallet.
“No,” she insisted. “I couldn’t. You’ve been far too generous.”
“It’s three fivers and a few singles,” he told her, crushing them into her hand. “You’ll want smaller bills if you’re pillaging chicken coops. I’m sorry but that’s all I have.”
“Really. I don’t want your charity,” Ebony pressed. “I hate charity.”
Their eyes met and his searched hers desperately. “It’s not charity,” he finally insisted. “If the government has labeled you as undesirable, then I want nothing to do with this government, though I honestly don’t understand fully what is happening.”
Ebony was about to refute it when there was a sound from inside the house. They both turned to look, but saw no one. Frank’s hand was still pressing against Ebony’s, the bills wadded in between, but his right pointer finger came out and caressed the back of her hand daringly.
Sensing his unspoken words, Ebony daringly asked, “Agnes is not your wife, but are you married?”
Frank just looked at her. Instead of answering, he took a step forward and cupped her cheek, and she let him.
“Engaged?” It wasn’t like a woman where he would be wearing a diamond. He was only wearing a thick university ring on his pinky that men often wore, which would tell her nothing. But there it was, the wedding band. She could feel it pressed against her knuckles. It was thick and gold, plain and so typical. She glanced up at him and saw that he was looking down at her.
”No. I’m not engaged,” he answered, still looking down at his wedding band. Now he was brushing golden hair from her face and tilting it upward.
She looked at him with her startling green eyes. “Girlfriend?” Her voice was no more than a gasp. He was married but was he already cheating on his wife? Was there more than just this stolen moment with chicken eggs and a milk bottle?
“No, I swear it.” His words were so earnest, his eyes so true.
Ebony closed her eyes, trying not to let the tears come out, and nodded. “Boyfriend?” she tried as her last question, a questioning lilt to her lips and a smile on her face now.
This made Frank laugh as he shook his head.
They looked at each other and Ebony’s eyes searched his, just as his were searching hers. Carefully, as if he were afraid of breaking her, Frank reached down and kissed Ebony softly.
It was like heaven in this strange half-life Ebony had been forced to live in. However, it was far too short. A stolen moment away from the war and away from his unseen wife.
“Frank!” the woman who must be Agnes called from inside, “Did you get the milk?”
He leaned backward and grimaced. “The milkman must have forgot!” he called back. “I can’t find it anywhere.” Looking down at Ebony, he smiled at her and stroked a lock of hair back off of her face. “Undesirable doesn’t seem a fitting word to describe you.”
She laughed and picked up her milk. “Goodbye, Frank. Are you sure you don’t want the five pounds?”
“Save it for the next farm you rob,” he suggested. “Just don’t go kissing the farmer.” He put his hands in his pockets, looking at her as she scaled a fence.
“I thought you were a university professor,” she laughed back, and then she was gone.
Ebony kept Frank a secret from Hermione and Ron, not even telling them where their eighteen pounds sterling came from. When she defeated Voldemort, she didn’t slip upstairs to Gryffindor Tower to sleep it off. Instead, she went to Parvati’s trunk and borrowed a black dress that she shimmied into and went and washed off her face, brushing out her hair before braiding it. Ebony hadn’t realized it had gotten so long. She walked into the Forbidden Forest and took out the little card she always had on her and Apparated to Oxford and a telephone box where she could call the number.
She didn’t bother to introduce herself on the line when he answered. “You have a wife.”
“But you called.” His voice was crisp, even, perfect.
She shook her head even though there was no one to see. “I’m not certain what I’m doing. I must be mad.”
There was a pause and the sound of a door closing. “Are you safe?”
Ebony loved him for that. “Quite. It’s all over now. I’m no longer Undesirable, though I think I’ll have you call me that just to remember that day in your sister’s back garden.” She laughed a little at herself.
“Are you still in Sussex? I lecture tomorrow but I can come up over the weekend—” His voice was serious and not exactly pleading, but there was a definite determination to his voice. Frank wanted to come to her, and she was going to let him.
“I’m outside Jesus College,” she told him, looking across the street. “I think that’s Jesus College.”
He blew out some air and then laughed. “You could drive a man mad. I have one more student to see in about a half hour and then should be free by five. Would you like me to take you out to dinner or perhaps a nice bed and breakfast?” His voice sounded hopeful and Ebony paused.
She hadn’t really thought about what she wanted. Naturally, she’d been working on instinct.
“Dinner,” he was now saying, “of course. I didn’t mean to insult you.”
“No,” she hurriedly told him. “It’s just, I haven’t had a bath since last year and I’ve never—I hadn’t thought—I just came to see you now that it’s all over—I don’t think I’ve eaten in days, come to think of it.” She closed her eyes and remembered the light of the green Killing Curse flying at her and it was only Frank’s voice that brought her back to herself.
“I have a lovely idea,” he told her. “Why don’t you go get yourself a room somewhere nice, at my pleasure, and have yourself a bath, and then I’ll take you to dinner. Then you can decide if you would like to invite me to your room or not. You’ll have the only key.” He sounded rational again, and that voice just made shivers run up and down her spine, but—
“What about your wife?”
He paused, clearly thinking. “Darling,” he seemed to decide on, not seeming to want to call her ‘Undesirable’, “why don’t we discuss that over dinner?”
She nodded, though he couldn’t see. “I’ll call you from where I land so you can find me. Goodbye, Frank.” Ebony didn’t wait for him to say anything. She just hung up the phone.
Claire Randall was a nurse at the local hospital, and seemed to be a woman that Frank respected but no longer loved. “I don’t want to compare you,” he told her one Saturday when Claire was on call and Ebony had asked to see a photograph. “When I’m with you I can be myself.”
“I don’t think you understand,” Ebony told him, their hands entwined as they walked down a street in London. “She’s your wife and I’m—I hate myself sometimes for what I’m doing. What we’re doing.”
“It all seems so unreal,” he admitted, wrapping his arm around her shoulders, their hands still entwined so her arm was crossed along her body. “A year ago you were on Wanted posters and now you’re training for MI5.”
“I have particular talents,” she teased. “Still, Frank.”
“I love you,” he suddenly confessed, turning toward her.
Ebony looked up at him in shock and her green eyes held his. She didn’t see a lie there.
“This is when I ask you to marry me, but, darling, I’m Catholic. We don’t believe in divorce.”
Having never been brought up with religion, Ebony only swallowed. She hated Claire suddenly when he said this. “You’re trapped?” she asked in a whisper. “I don’t know anything. You can’t get out?”
“No,” he told her honestly.
She pulled away from him and walked down the street at a quick clip. He ran after her and grasped her shoulder, forcing her to look toward him. His face was apologetic and full of turmoil and regret.
“I wish I’d never seen you,” he began and she slapped him. “That’s not what I meant.”
“Then what did you mean?” she asked savagely.
“Claire—well—she—she’s—ever since medical school she’s been distant. I hadn’t kissed a woman in two years until I’d met you.” He held up his hands when she was about to say something. “I’m not going to complain. I was willing to live my life in celibacy. I am willing to live my life in celibacy as I would never encourage you to commit a carnal sin with me—”
She looked at him in shock. “But that day, on the telephone—”
Frank leaned forward and kissed her, just there, and she closed her eyes and pulled him closer. He pulled away, the barest of an inch, and whispered, “You’ve made me want to sin since the moment I saw you in your flannel shirt and your wild hair. I hadn’t seen you in nearly six months. Forgive a man for confusing reality with the fantasies he had imagined during that long time spent away from you.” He reached forward and stroked her cheek. “I’d resigned myself, my darling, to living out my life alone, giving up my dream of children. I don’t think you know this, but I’m Sir Franklin Randall. I’d always hoped to pass that on to my son.”
“Frank,” she whispered in desperation, reaching up and holding his hand so that he couldn’t remove it from her cheek. “The law will let you.”
“But my faith won’t. I can’t compromise my beliefs, darling. You’d be asking me to be a lesser man than I am.”
She paused. “What if Claire divorces you?”
“Claire feels the same way.”
And for the first time since before Voldemort fell, Ebony cried.
It was raining and Frank pulled Ebony out of the downpour. She laughed and he kissed her full on the mouth, and she pushed into him. She was happy. Ebony never thought it possible, but she was happy.
Ebony had spent one month on the job, and she wanted to celebrate. Frank asked if she wanted to see the family home in Sussex again (his sister would be away), and so she agreed to go back to that old house with the gables and stones, the chicken coop out back, where she had offered to pay five pounds for milk and eggs.
“I stay in my childhood room,” Frank explained as he carried their bags up the stairs. “I let Agnes have the Master Bedroom. Claire hates the place so it won’t be used again by a Randall unless things change drastically and I have an heir.” There was a melancholic tone to his voice, and Ebony ran a hand down his arm in solidarity. “I’ve put you in the Rose Room.”
Her case was put on the bed and she looked about to see little roses on the wallpaper. It looked like something she thought her mother might have liked, if she had survived that fateful Halloween.
“To my darling, who survived her first month working for MI5,” Frank toasted with champagne later that night.
They clinked glasses.
“Did you have to tell them about me? For security reasons?”
She laughed. “You don’t even know my name for security reasons,” she joked. “No, Frank, I didn’t.” She reached out and took his hand. “I’ve kept you my secret. My best friends who know me better than anyone can’t even guess.”
Frank paused but entwined their fingers. “I don’t want to be your weakness.”
“There’s a problem with that,” she admitted. “You already are.”
She didn’t sleep in the Rose Room that night. She put on her pajamas and found his bedroom and knocked on his door. “Frank,” she greeted as she came in to see him reading a history on Himmler in bed. “You’re on holiday. You shouldn’t be reading that.”
“I’m always reading history,” he argued.
Then she noticed it. He was wearing reading glasses. Laughing, she kneeled down on the bed and plucked them off of his eyes. “Frank, you never told me,” she chided, taking the book out of his hands next, marking the page. “You know, my father wore glasses.”
“Now you’re comparing me to your father,” he mock-complained.
“He was very athletic,” she told him. “He could have been a professional footballer if he hadn’t been murdered along with Mum.”
“With bad eyesight?” he asked incredulously.
“Humor a girl,” she told him, leaning forward and kissing him. Pulling away, she stated, “It’s what my godfather always told me.”
“And what did he do?” Frank asked, his hand finding its way into her golden hair.
“Oh,” she stated as if it were nothing in the world that her godfather was one of the Four Lords, “he did nothing. He held a title.”
He surged up and kissed her again. Ebony did not go back to the Rose Room that night.
They would always go to Sussex when they wanted to be together. Frank would never mention Claire and Ebony assumed that she either didn’t care or was working at the hospital. Hermione was beginning to figure out that she must be involved with someone romantically, but Ebony would only smile and not answer any questions.
Most of her days were spent rounding up blood purists and dark supporters who would quash the rights of Muggleborns. It was tiring work, but it had to be done. Ebony was never so satisfied as the day that she watched Dolores Umbridge convicted of crimes against magic and sentenced to ten years in Azkaban (now run without the aid of Dementors).
“Do you wish I went to mass with you?” Ebony asked one Saturday night after they had made love and Frank was putting on his tie and combing his hair.
He turned and looked at her with a smile. “No, darling. It’s not your faith.” He reached over and kissed her lightly. “I would never make you do anything that went against your beliefs.”
“But do you wish it?” she asked again.
“I wish,” he stated, “that you were heavy with child and that I could claim it was mine to the world.” The answer was so unguarded that it surprised Ebony.
She looked at him in shock and then away again. Ebony didn’t take wormwood because there was such a stigma attached to it and buying it was difficult. It had to be done on the black market, and Muggle contraceptives, even condoms, didn’t work on witches. She took a gamble every time she made love to Frank, not that he knew it. He thought he was protecting her. Little did he know that that was not the case.
“I cannot give you that,” she whispered. “Not unless you change your mind—”
And then there was magic to consider. She was the Chosen One. The gossip rags including The Daily Prophet all speculated about her romantic life on a weekly basis. She would be considered a traitor to wizard kind if she married a Muggle. It would be a scandal if she married even a Muggleborn and perhaps even a half-blood.
“Darling,” he whispered, and he turned and kissed her softly.
She gave him a sad smile and got up, finding her sweater and jeans. Ebony saw him off and when the bell rang half an hour later, she was a little surprised. She opened the door to see a woman she had never set eyes on before.
The woman was older than she was, perhaps by ten years, with blue eyes, a thin face, and a riot of black curls that reached her shoulders. “Are you the whore my husband has been fucking?” she asked as she breezed right past Ebony, letting in the cold winter air. She took off her gloves and looked around. “I see the old bag of bricks hasn’t much changed.” The woman turned and gave Ebony a fake smile. “Claire Randall. And you are?”
Ebony stared at her. “Law enforcement,” she finally decided on.
“Good heavens,” the woman said insincerely. “Has a crime been committed?”
“Oh,” Ebony stated. “One of my collars got sentenced to ten years just yesterday. Proudest moment of my career.”
She clearly didn’t care. “Quite.” Sitting down regally, she crossed her legs. “I’ll just wait for my husband then.”
“If you wish.” Ebony left the room and went about making French toast.
Hearing when Frank came home, Ebony decided not to come out. This marital fight was clearly about her, but none of her business. She heard Frank call out, “Darling!” before Claire accused him of philandering. Ebony didn’t know people still used that word.
Carefully closing the door, she poured herself a glass of white wine and drank it slowly as she leaned against the counter.
After her first sip, she felt a stir within her stomach. That was odd. She took another sip. There was another movement. No, it couldn’t. She put the glass down and quietly left the kitchen. Magical embryos reacted negatively to alcohol. She had a spell to cast on herself and no one could be there to witness it.
There was a child, but she never told Frank. Ebony was never certain how his Oxford life would fit into the life of the Chosen One, the most recognized face in wizarding Europe. His religion wouldn’t even allow him to come into her life as his recognized partner. He became distant, withdrawn, and she watched him slip away from her.
So, after three months, she disappeared from his life. She didn’t leave a message. She didn’t leave a note. She was just gone.
“You’ll find this interesting, Ebony,” Hermione stated. They were all at Grimmauld Place and Ebony was seven months pregnant and feeling a bit fat that day. “I know your husband died after the war, but there are these wishing stones in Scotland and if your wish is pure enough, the stones will grant it to you.”
Ron grumbled from the corner. “You can’t wish someone back from the dead, Hermione. I thought your little story taught you that much.”
“No,” Hermione stated. “However, Ebony could wish herself away from all this into a world where she was happy with—what did you say his name was?”
Hermione had been trying to catch her out for months. The story was that in celebration of defeating Voldemort, Ebony had gotten married to a secret sweetheart who was then murdered by renegade Death Eaters, that had evaded ministry capture. There had been a few attacks after the war so it was probable. However, Ebony always insisted that she had decided to keep her own name. “Nice try.—Where is this place?”
Hermione went back to her book. “Craig Na Dun,” she read out clumsily. “I can take you there. You can’t Apparate and I’m sure someone will loan us a motor.”
Ebony considered. Was there really a world where she could be happy with Frank? Where she wouldn’t be the Chosen One? It was certainly something to consider.
She took the train down to Oxford that evening. Wearing the invisibility cloak, she slipped into Trinity College seamlessly, and made her way to Frank’s office. The door was closed but not locked. He seemed to be working late.
Turning the handle carefully, she then nudged it open with her foot so that it creaked open slowly.
Frank was sitting at a desk, a pen in his hand, clearly marking papers. She looked at him and flitted as clumsily as she could manage toward him. He had one picture on his desk. Ebony remembered when he had taken it. He had come up to London and they had gone about to the Tower of London, and he had snapped it as she was turning away from the window toward him. She was smiling and carefree, for once not the Girl Who Lived.
Her photograph was still up even after all these months. It wasn’t a one sided desire even though—after Claire came—it had all fallen apart. Ebony would go to Craig Na Dun. It was decided.
Ebony was gone through the door before Frank had time to process that it had accidentally opened to begin with.
“I don’t want to say goodbye,” Ebony stated as she stood in front of the stones with Hermione. “We’ll see each other in a moment.”
“Will you tell me his name now?”
“No,” Ebony told her. “He never knew mine. He just knew I was Undesirable No. 1.”
“Oh, Ebbie,” Hermione whispered, hugging her. “I didn’t realize he didn’t know you were famous. That must have been so difficult when he found out.”
“He never did,” Ebony whispered, tears whispering down her cheeks. “I never told him. He wouldn’t be able to understand. How could he? He’s a Muggle.”
Hermione gasped. “You’re going in hopes that he’ll be magical or you’ll be a Muggle,” she whispered. “Oh, Ebony.”
She tore herself from Hermione’s arms and looked at the humming standing stone. A place we can be together, she thought, and then she walked to the stone and disappeared.
Ebony was standing in the back garden. Her hand was resting on her flat stomach. It wasn’t that she had lost her child. It was that her child never was. An overwhelming sense of loss flooded into her throat, choking her, before evaporating like the mist in the air. There was nothing that had happened that could have been lost.
She felt something in her hand and looked down to see an egg and she laughed at it. There were two others suddenly in her left hand and she held it up to look at them.
“I see you’re a thief,” a familiar voice teased, and Ebony looked up to see the beloved face of Frank. She could see the instant attraction in his eyes, but it was a new, curious attraction. He didn’t know her yet. This was a time and place where they could certainly be together, but he had yet to meet her. This was their start.
“It would appear that way, wouldn’t it?” She laughed a little again. “They’re still warm, I promise you.” Ebony couldn’t help but take him in, the lines around his mouth weren’t quite as pronounced, his eyes though strangely showing a stress that had not been there before. “I’m Ebony Potter. Is this your home?” She looked up at the Randall estate with fondness, seeing the window that was Frank’s childhood room.
“It is,” he answered. “Professor Frank Randall, but if there’s to be war, I suppose I’ll be joining the army.” He said it was such cavalier certainty that Ebony was surprised.
War. She wondered if it was a war she knew about. She glanced at him, at his pressed trousers, his shirt and tie and suspenders that were a little dated but certainly the sort of thing that her Frank would wear. She made to look at the eggs in her hand and saw she was also wearing trousers, high up over her hips and a button down shirt tucked into it. She’d seen an old film star dress like this. Perhaps this was a war she knew about … ?
“Do you suppose it will be much longer?” she asked him in earnestness. “One wouldn’t want peace just for the sake of peace, but war can be so utterly ugly.” Her voice must have betrayed its bitterness, because he looked at her.
“You lost someone in the Great War.”
Her head snapped to him. Perhaps he was speaking of Hitler and World War II if he was referencing back to the Great War? That was the only thing that made sense. Carefully holding her eggs, she pushed a piece of golden hair away from her eyes. “My entire family,” she lied. “There aren’t many Potters left.”
“Yes,” he agreed, coming up to her. He tapped her left ring finger. “It would seem you don’t have a husband or a fiancé, so Potter must be the name your father gave you.”
She looked up into his eyes, so full of fire, and she marveled that the questioning was turned on its head this time. “No,” she answered. “I’m afraid I’m not that fortunate.”
“And no sweetheart to send to war—” He smiled down at her.
Ebony laughed. “Who’s to say that I would not go to war in my own way, Professor Randall? I am quite capable.”
“I have no doubt,” he determined, pushing her hair away from her shoulder, watching it fall between his fingers, before moving his hand to her cheek and staring again into her eyes. “Perhaps I would want you nursing me so I could invent all manner of ailments just to have you by my side as my caregiver.”
Wishing that her hands weren’t full of eggs, she simply pressed her face into his hands. She hadn’t felt him in so long—“I’ve always made a bad patient. Perhaps that will make me a more lenient nurse.”
“No doubt, Nurse Potter,” he teased, leaning down and kissing her softly.
A tear formed at the corner of her eye at the sweetness of it, and she wanted to grab his face so badly and hold him to her and never let him go that she crushed the eggs in her hands. She cried out when the eggshells cut into her hands. The kiss broke and the both of them looked down and saw the yoke mixing with the red blood from her torn skin.
“I’m so sorry,” she apologized. “I meant to touch you—I’m never clumsy—”
He held her wrists carefully and shushed her. “Come inside. We’ll clean this up. I’ll have to play nurse.” A wry smile crept onto his face.
She sob-laughed, but he kissed her again, bringing a smile to her face. Frank brought her in and her hands were washed carefully and iodine was ferreted out and placed on her cuts once the eggshell pieces were all removed.
When she was sitting by the fire, her hands taped up, she looked over at him. He was simply sitting with a cup of tea, regarding her with a small smile on his face. He was only wearing the college ring, no wedding band this time. “You have no sweetheart to send you to war?” She had to check. She had to be sure. She would not be thwarted by a marriage to Claire.
“I am—disengaging—myself from an entanglement at the present,” he told her. “I came to get away.”
“Away,” she echoed, looking around and remembering. “What an idyllic place to get away to.”
He stood and leaned over her, waiting for permission to kiss her. Lifting her chin, she waited for his lips to touch hers. His fingers caressed her jaw and she lifted up her iodine infused hands and brushed the side of his face just barely.
The doorbell rang, and he sighed, looking down at her. He left her and she was surprised when she recognized the voice at the door.
“I’m looking for my goddaughter. She was wandering the moors behind your property and no one seems to have come across her—”
“Padfoot?” she asked, coming into the hall.
A barklike laugh echoed around them, surprising Frank, and the handsome face of a Sirius Black who had never known Azkaban appeared, his hair cut to his head instead of falling to his shoulders. He wasn’t wearing robes but instead a respectable suit. “Pronglet. I see you have the marauding spirit. Your father would be proud, though he’d be rather upset if I’d lost you for much longer than I had.”
“I never ‘wander off,’” she argued back. “I always have a destination. Sirius Black, Frank Randall.”
“Please,” Sirius stated. “What would your father say if I didn’t stand on ceremony with a man whose house I found you in? The Earl Black.” His voice had turned deadly and his eyes hard.
“Sir Franklin Randall,” Frank responded smoothly. “I’m afraid I found Miss Potter stealing eggs from my chicken coop.”
“She probably meant to make her breakfast,” Sirius explained away, finally being let in. He walked over to Ebony and kissed the top of her head. “I have the motor oil. We can go to the nearest pub and get you breakfast.”
“You must come to the Chaise and Four and be my guests,” Frank offered.
Sirius looked at him probingly. “And ruin your wedding plans? I do read the Society Pages when the Races hardly stimulate, and I know that a Sir Franklin Randall is marrying tomorrow in London. Is this your idea of getting a bit of fresh air before the big day? Find a pretty girl and flirt with her a bit and somehow manage to injure her hands in the process?”
Ebony stood there and looked at Frank, her entire hopes being crushed in a single moment. But she had come just in time, hadn’t she, to this world that seemed to be without magic? He hadn’t married Claire yet—there was no—
“Claire,” she realized.
“I knew you read the Society Section,” Sirius pointed out with a gleam in his eye. “Now, Miss Potter and I were just leaving—”
“I’m not marrying Miss Beauchamp,” Frank stated harshly. “As much as I hate men who leave their brides at the altar, I’m afraid I’m going to be among them. Ebony, darling, I loved you from the moment I saw you in those bizarre American contraptions they call trousers, stealing my eggs. What did your guardian call it? Your marauding spirit. Even if he makes you disappear, I won’t go through with this sham of a marriage where I’m now aware of the difference between the paltry feeling I have for Claire in comparison with the—unguarded and unrestrained emotions I feel with you.”
He looked into Ebony’s eyes the entire time he said it, and she saw Frank. She saw Frank. This wasn’t a copy of the man she had loved. This was the exact man. Of course, he was changed a bit by circumstance. The impending war, which he was so obsessed with in her time, was weighing heavily on his brow, but he was the same man. And he still loved her at first sight.
“I didn’t lie,” he told her. “When I saw you, I knew I didn’t have a sweetheart.”
“Then I think,” Sirirus stated carefully, “that you have a very important telephone call to make. If in a week you find yourself unencumbered and still of the same mind,” he produced a card from an inner pocket and held it out, “I’m sure Miss Potter, the lady of the house, would be glad to have you for tea at Grimmauld Place.”
“I would be most pleased,” Frank said, taking the card and placing it safely inside his jacket. “Lord Black, Miss Potter.”
They left out the front door, Ebony still holding her hands, and Sirius looked at them. “Well, it seems being a Muggle has its application in the romantic world. Was it romantic when he tried to heal you without magic, Ebbie?”
Ebony was absolutely shocked. She hadn’t expected such words to come out of Sirius’s mouth. “Well, neither of us knew what we were doing.”
“Of course not,” he replied. “I sent you to that Muggle finishing school since you were a Squib. I don’t suppose they taught you how to use iodine and bandages, and I healed all your hurts when you were a child.—Thank goodness you found yourself a Muggle. I’ve been secretly despairing for years since you move in pureblood circles.”
He got into a motor and she carefully pulled the door open from the other end. “I thought you don’t approve.”
“I do approve,” Sirius stated. “Falling in love at first sight. Reminds me of Jamesie and your mum. Of course, Prongs was eleven, but we can’t hold that against Sir Franklin, can we? The fact that he was on the cusp of marriage and is willing to throw it all out for a girl who smashed her hands holding eggs shows he’s either mad or strangely serious about the endeavor. Otherwise he’d just try to keep you on the side.”
Ebony thought for a moment. She hadn’t told him—
“You saw!” she accused.
“Guilty!” he quipped. They were now speeding down a small country lane. “Have a heart, Ebony. I would never leave you in the hands of a Muggle unless I knew no harm would come to you.”
Sirius was conveniently out at his club when Frank came to call. Grimmauld Place had long ago been sterilized of magic since it was discovered Ebony was a Squib. Sirius had insisted that she live in a Muggle environment so that she have as “normal” a childhood as possible. He had had a wife, Lux Kingsley, and she had left him—well, sort of—over it. Sirius had stuck by Ebony, though. The two were still married and met up at Lux’s family home. It was rather unconventional, and Ebony felt horribly guilty once she had figured it out.
Somehow there were no children. She wondered if it had something to do with her.
With a fluidity of movement, Ebony didn’t know she possessed, she poured the tea. “This is all terribly contrived,” she admitted when she handed him his cup. “We had an entire class in finishing school on the art of tea.” She really had. It was in the syllabus she had kept. “Let’s ignore the proper topics of conversation.”
He laughed at her. “You are a wonder, Miss Potter.”
“Ebony,” she argued. “Ebony Amaryllis Potter. Ebbie to Uncle Sirius. I don’t think I like it, but he did raise me, so I suppose he’s allowed a vexing pet name.”
“Why were you given such a name given your beautiful golden hair? Surely it was gold when you were a baby?”
Remembering a story from when she was in her own world, she told Frank truthfully, “Most children are born with blonde hair. My mother had auburn hair, my father black. They thought the black would win out. My grandmother and aunt had blonde hair, so this couldn’t entirely be discounted, but it seems they didn’t even consider it. I was also named for Uncle Sirius. He’s Lord Black, if you remember. Could you imagine being named ‘Siria’? It sounds like the country.”
“He was a close friend of your father’s?”
“The closest,” she told him honestly. “My parents were murdered by the IRA, so Sirius took me in. I was quite young. I can’t remember Mum or Dad.—But I don’t want to rehash old tragedies. I’d much rather hear how you are doing. About your professorship. I’m afraid I’ll never be able to attend university so I’ll have to learn all about it from you.”
“Well, my dear,” he told her, “I rather fancy myself an expert on the French Revolution.” This was a change in topics.
“The French Revolution? How unpatriotic of you.” She smiled, taking a sip of her tea. “You must not be a proponent of it, holding a minor title yourself.”
“Your father did not hold one, though your guardian does,” he remarked casually. “How did that come about?” Taking a sip of his tea, his eyes never left hers.
“Public school,” she answered. “Father comes from an affluent though an untitled family. I hold several important patents. I’m rather wealthy. I suppose that interests.”
“No,” he answered. “I am not a wealthy man. I am land rich and cash poor. It’s why I teach apart from my obvious enjoyment of it. Despite the general custom, I never sought a wealthy wife.”
She paused, not sure if she should bring it up. “Then you were not seeking a fortune when—” She let the question hang between them.
“Heavens, no,” he answered. “I saw you as a common thief when I met you, but I didn’t care.”
“I was just holding some eggs.”
“My eggs,” he quipped.
“I was the one holding them. They could have been mine.”
“In my back garden?” he argued, setting down his tea and coming closer to her. “You’re absolutely the most ravishing thief I’ve ever met.”
“Aren’t I the only thief you’ve ever met?” she questioned as he took away her own cup and let his fingertips caress her upswept hair.
“I want to know everything about Ebony Potter, her hopes, her dreams. I know all about the French Revolution.”
“But it’s your work,” she chided as he watched the sunlight catch her hair just so.
“Work, while my passion, is still just work. Tell me of the marauding spirit or I think I’ll threaten to kiss you.” He was grinning at her now.
She smiled up at him. “I think I’ll tell you nothing at all.”
Ebony looked at the post. It was for rather a good cause. “I’ve been invited to a poker game where all proceeds go to the war effort. I guess this is what comes with being a wealthy heiress,” she told Sirius over the breakfast table.
“Take that Muggle of yours,” he suggested.
“Opening bid is fifteen pounds sterling. That’s rather high.”
Sirius’s gray eyes gleamed. “He’ll see what a woman of breeding and wealth he has within his grasp. Take him along. You need a male escort anyway and I’m certain you’re tired of having your godfather escort you around the Muggle world. Perhaps I can even grow my hair out.”
She flung the invitation at him just for fun. Ebony had a telephone call to make.
“You’re rather good at playing pranks on people and making them believe anything you want,” Frank stated as he put his hands in his pockets, the two of them walking through the park together. “However do you manage that, Miss Potter?”
“A simple smile and sheer earnestness. If you believe it yourself, then they are sure to believe it, too.—They were my eggs, after all.”
He looked at her and laughed. “Which you cracked in your own hands.”
“I was rather startled when you kissed me,” she chided, going up to a lily and smelling it.
Frank looked at her pensively. “I think you rather like flowers.”
“We’re all named for flowers, in my mother’s family. You’ll remember that I’m Ebony Amaryllis.”
“I could hardly forget. It’s more ostentatious than Franklin Wolverton.”
She looked over at that and smiled at him, remembering the name from before. “Frank, I’ve been offered a position in MI6 if the war breaks out here. I thought you should know.”
He paused and grabbed her arm, looking at her a little frantically before pulling her over to the bench. “I realize war could break out at any time, but how did this occur?”
“I believe it’s rather famous in some circles,” she stated, recalling the account from a diary she had found. Apparently it had involved Draco Malfoy and had gotten leaked to the Muggles of all things. “I convinced a Duke’s son I was a debunked German Princess. I had him on the verge of proposing marriage, all for a laugh, before I had to go back to finishing school for the next term. He had rather insulted me when we were quite small and I thought I’d rather play a nasty trick on him.” According to her notes, as soon Heir Draco Malfoy found out she was a Squib, he had been rather cruel to her and had even cut her hair with his rudimentary magical skills. “MI6 thinks I show real talent for infiltrating Nazi circles. I have perfected the German accent almost flawlessly and speak the language quite fluently thanks to Uncle Sirius.”
He was taking her in quite seriously. “That was you?” he finally asked.
“I’m afraid so.—I promise, nothing I have done or said has been a lie, Frank. You’ve been too important.”
“I was going to ask you to marry me before war broke out,” he whispered, taking her hand and kissing her. “I can’t bear the thought of you being put in the position of being a General’s mistress.”
“King and country,” she whispered, thinking of all the horrible possibilities. “You had a right to know before anything got much further.”
He looked at her with searching eyes. “You’ll do it then?”
“It’s what I’m good at,” she told him. “Fabricating truths.” Wasn’t all this, beyond the stones, one big fabrication? “I want to get them as much as the next girl and this is how I can help. I sick at the sight of blood, so I won’t be much good as a nurse. I can’t take up a gun and fight. What do you suggest I do to aid the war effort? They want me in training next week.”
“Then come to me,” he begged. “Be mine in law even if it’s only for a little while before I must give you over to the grasping claws of others. Lord Black must understand.”
She took in a deep breath. “I’m ready,” she promised.
And so they went …
She hadn’t been ready, not this time around, no matter what she had said. Ebony lay in the darkness of an Oxford flat she had never seen, feeling like her body had been used in desperation. This wasn’t love. How could this be a world where they could be together when war was to break out and they would be sent on their different ways?
It seemed he could sense a difference in her. She was to board the train to go to Dover and meet her contacts in France before transforming into her new identity. “Do you love me?” he asked.
She couldn’t bear to look at him. “Will you still love me after all that happens?”
A hand ran down her cheek and her eyes fluttered up. “I will love you until the end of my days.”
He kissed her and there were tears in her eyes. They weren’t because they were saying goodbye but because of all she felt she had lost in such a short amount of time. Her Frank had somehow left her in the gentle caress of the night and some gollum had taken over his body, having no respect for hers or her love. He was then replaced in the waking hours by the man she loved, again. She couldn’t understand it.
How could she?
Turning, she got on the train and left.
Wondering if she would ever see Frank again—and how had the wishing stones gotten it so wrong?—she watched him out the train window as they pulled away from the station.
Ebony didn’t believe in the war. She didn’t believe in the cause. Ebony believed in the lies and the weaving of stories and the handsome Colonel whose arm she walked on and whose child she carried.
“What shall we name her?” he asked her one night in Berlin.
“Kornelia,” she suggested, having always liked the name. “I think she might be a Kornelia.”
The first of every month, he asked her to marry him, and she always replied she had a husband on the front. “Divorce him,” the Colonel ordered. “You are much safer and happier with me.”
She would laugh at him and reply that she would if he died or if Germany won the war, something which always confused the Colonel, but nothing more was said about it.
The war ended, Frank was still alive, and Ebony had to decide if he would willingly accept Kornelia into their family. “Her father is facing serious charges in Germany,” she told him seriously, the little girl’s hands in her own. “Kornelia can’t understand a word of English. It would have been too risky to teach her.”
“Of course,” he answered, his face hard. “I was recruited to MI6. I read you file once a week.”
“So you knew of her—of us,” Ebony checked.
“Yes,” he agreed. “I knew. She’s the perfect little Aryan like her mother.” His voice came out like an ugly sneer. “Don’t worry. I shan’t divorce you. I’m Catholic.”
It felt like a slap in the face. “Perhaps I want you to divorce me. We didn’t have a great marriage for that half week I was in Britain before training. You knew what it would be. You knew this was a possibility and you still chose to marry me.”
“I loved you,” he suddenly cried and little Kornelia took a step back.
Ebony stroked her hand gently, looking down at her daughter, before glancing back up at her husband. “I’m still the girl with the eggs,” she promised him. “I’ll always be the girl with the eggs.”
“You’ll never be that,” he decided. “I’ll pay for the upkeep for you and your German bastard, but I don’t want to see your face, Ebony. I would prefer it if you would use the name Potter for both yourself and the brat.”
Swallowing, Ebony nodded. “Of course, Frank. But you needn’t worry. I’m quite wealthy, if you recall.”
“If that’s all then.” He was gone.
Ebony looked down at little Kornelia and realized that once again she was alone without Frank. “Shall we try this again?” she asked the little girl and, taking her hand, she was determined to find her way back up to Scotland.