But I will go down with this ship / And I won’t put my hands up and surrender / There will be no white flag above my door / I’m in love with you and always will be“White Flag,” Dido
Lycoris wrote two letters that night. One was to Narcissa, who of course was happy to have him, and the other was to the Dark Lord: Tom Marvolo Riddle. He asked to meet him, again, when he could next free himself from his duties. Lycoris didn’t think it was too much to ask. Instead, he just had some lingering concerns that he’d rather not address in a letter.
He thought of those red-brown eyes, piercing through him, of those pianist fingers holding his cheek, and a chill of pleasure ran down his spine. He fancied the Dark Lord. There was nothing for it. Surely that’s what this was.
“What is happening to me?” he whispered to Samhain one night as he looked out toward the moon. “Why do I feel this way?”
The Dark Lord was waiting for him in Lucius’s office the next week, the two men drinking a whiskey together.
The Dark Lord was still handsome, with defined cheekbones and a strong chin. His hair was long and came down into a ponytail, showing he was the Lord of a pureblood House.
“I think I need one of those,” Lycoris greeted and gestured to his uncle’s drink.
“Lycoris, I think you’re a bit young.” His blue eyes were unforgiving as they pierced through him.
“I’m about to have a romantic conversation with the Dark Lord. I think I need some bucking up.”
Lucius didn’t look like he was going to budge on the matter.
“Why don’t we order some tea, and pour some whiskey into his cup?” the Dark Lord suggested. “Just a hint. Nothing major.”
“Your aunt will be angry if she hears of this.”
“Then she won’t hear of it,” Lycoris said, putting up his hands.
The matter was settled then. The tea was ordered, the whiskey poured, and Lucius bowed himself out of the room.
The two sat in relative silence for several minutes while Lycoris slowly drank his tea. Then, he finally looked up to see the Dark Lord staring back at him.
“What should I call you?”
“That would depend. Are we having a chat as a Dark Lord to a dark pupil or as two men ready to become lovers?”
“The second. I think,” Lycoris added hastily. He thought of those fingers in his hair and tried not to gulp. “But I need more information first. I just—this is all confused.”
“Marvolo then. It’s what my friends at school called me. Your Uncle Lucius’s father called me by that name.”
“Marvolo.” He tried out the name on his tongue. “It suits you.”
“I like to think that it does.”
Lycoris raised his hand and it hovered above the Dark Lord’s cheek. “May I, Marvolo?” His heart raced at the prospect, but he held Marvolo’s eyes, begging for the chance to touch him.
They stared at each other while Lycoris’s hand fell onto the skin, caressing it, falling down to the jawline before he took his hand away again. His fingers burned where they had touched Marvolo.
“Do you fancy younger wizards like me and that’s why your longest relationship has only been four years?” he asked quietly, taking another sip of his tea.
“No. I fancy older men. Thirty, maybe forty. The four years came because he was a Muggle. Otherwise it would have lasted longer.”
“Then why me?”
Marvolo reached out with his hand now and let it comb through Lycoris’s hair. “You were so lost the day I met you. Beautiful and nearly broken. But I looked into your purple eyes and saw strength. Pureblood strength. The Black strength. I knew that fear had not broken you, merely that you had not learned how to process the great fear of coming up against a Dark Lord, which is no crime.
“Then I saw more strength in you, the strength of a young man who had survived living with Muggles for a decade. You were forced to serve that filth and were beaten down by it, but still you flourished. Lucius has told me a great deal about your childhood, about how you would go to the library and read, and learn how to control your magic and your metamorphmagus skills. It was that strength, Lycoris, that made me choose you. I wasn’t going to interfere when I thought you and Miss Rosa were going to make a match, but when you weren’t—well, I just couldn’t resist, I suppose.”
“I know I’m fifteen on Tuesday, but I’m not ready for sex. I just—no.”
“I can respect that. We have years, potentially decades together, Lycoris. Physical intimacy will come in time. May I ask two boons?”
“Boons? You sound like a Medieval knight.”
“Perhaps,” Marvolo agreed. “But I ask for them nonetheless.”
Lycoris laughed and said, “By all means, sir knight.” His heart had lodged in his throat, but he still looked in those brown-red eyes.
“The first is that when we are alone, you show your eyes in their true color. The gray hides so many emotions and I would like to know what you feel, that you are happy in our arrangement or if I am pushing you too far.”
His eyes flicked purple. “I can do that.”
Marvolo reached up and touched Lycoris’s chin. “Beautiful.—The second is for a kiss.”
“You don’t even know if I’m attracted to you,” he lied.
“Of course you are, otherwise you wouldn’t be here. You would have sent an owl with your apologies, and it would have been done with.”
“You’re so arrogant,” Lycoris pointed out.
“I think you like it,” Marvolo assessed as he brought his lips down onto Lycoris’s gently.
At first there was only pressure and then Lycoris surged upward, his hand grasping at Marvolo’s hair as an anchor to his sudden swell of emotion. Marvolo opened his arms, and Lycoris happily fell into them, crawling onto Marvolo’s lap, but still the kiss remained relatively chaste if heated.
When the kiss finally broke, Marvolo’s hair was mussed and Lycoris was looking at him with wide eyes. “I’m sorry—I just—By the gods—“ Lycoris breathed out, worried that he’d gone too far.
“Hush, Lycoris, I asked for a kiss. Never apologize for anything that happens between us.”
“I—I need to tell you something.” Lycoris took in a deep breath. “I’m a metamorphmagus. When I was a child, I made my stomach smaller after studying a book on anatomy so I wouldn’t be as hungry. I know, that with enough study, I can grow a womb and have children.” He looked into Marvolo’s eyes. “You have to know that that’s a reality for me—for us. I don’t want you to think that this is going to end when I marry some witch—“
Marvolo lowered his head down again and lips met lips, surer, and then one kiss followed another, and Lycoris thought he might actually be snogging the Dark Lord, but he wasn’t entirely sure. His hand was back in Marvolo’s hair and their bodies were pressed up against one another as Marvolo held Lycoris in his arms.
A knock sounded at the door.
Lycoris froze. Marvolo merely ran a hand down his face. Taking out his wand, Marvolo smoothed his hair and he allowed Lycoris to move to his side.
“Enter,” he intoned.
Lucius was carefully waiting on the other side. “I hope matters have been resolved,” he stated, tweaking Lycoris’s ear as he entered. “I’m afraid that Narcissa informs me that dinner is served and since you are here as a suitor and not as my lord, I took the liberty of coming to interrupt you.”
“Dinner. Right.” Lycoris sighed. “I promised Father that I would have a boys night with him in Diagon Alley. Hermione Granger is proving—interesting.”
“The Mudblood?” Marvolo asked. “How curious. Your supposed mother was a Mudblood who married into the Potter line, so such advantageous marriages haven’t been unheard of. Of course, you’d need the Lord of you House’s permission first.”
“Which will never be an issue,” Lycoris returned flatly. “She repulses me.”
“I’m glad to hear it,” Marvolo responded, “given our connection. That is another demand I must make. Despite what you said, if at any time you wish to pay court to a witch, or your father wishes you to, you must do me the courtesy of informing me so we may have a rational discussion on it.”
“I’m not a cheater,” Lycoris began, but Marvolo quelled him with a look.
“I never suggested that you were. There are simply Pureblood duties that need to be attended to at some point, if you choose to go about them the more conventional way. I merely wish to be given the courtesy of a discussion.”
Lycoris looked over at his uncle, then back at Marvolo. “It’s not needed, but you have my word.”
Marvolo gave him a thin-lipped smile. “Thank you, Lycoris.” He turned to Lucius. “If I may see the young man out before I join you for dinner?”
“By all means, my lord.”
The walk to the floo was silent, Lycoris heavily aware of who exactly he was walking next to. When they finally reached the fireplace, he took in a deep breath, and turned to Marvolo. “Can I tell people I have a boyfriend?”
“If you like, as long as you reveal nothing more than that I’m a pureblood and a Slytherin.”
“And out of Hogwarts?” Lycoris half-asked, half-joked.
“And that.” Marvolo reached out and caressed the line of Lycoris’s jaw. Lycoris’s heart stuttered. “What are you called? By your friends and family?”
“Coris, sometimes,” Lycoris admitted. Then he was kissed again, softly and sweetly.
“Enjoy the time with your father, Coris, and don’t forget to shift your eyes back.”
They smiled at each other.
“You’re smiling more than usual,” Sirius remarked as they sat in the Leaky Cauldron. Sirius was rather fond of it, and if he wanted to get Lycoris out of the house and relax a bit and this is where he chose to do it, then Lycoris wasn’t going to say anything against it. “Actually, you rarely smile except after a good fight with Draco Malfoy and I know you just went over to drop off a book.”
“I saw Io,” Lycoris smoothly lied. “She’s my littlest cousin? She’s going to Hogwarts this year and Draco and I are both trying to recruit her for our houses.”
“The sibling rivalry continues,” Sirius remarked. “You know, I don’t like the Malfoys”—they shared a laugh—“but I never had with Regulus what you and Draco have. I’m truly happy for you, Coris. After the horrors of your early childhood, you deserve the happiness siblings can give you.”
“I’m glad you can admit they are my siblings,” Lycoris remarked quietly. “That’s what they are to me after all.”
Sirius’s warm hand enveloped his. “Now tell me, which house?”
“Oh, Slytherin, definitely, if I had to choose. She’s a devious little thing. Io finds out just how to wrap you around her finger and then pounces, all the while looking like a princess, not that she isn’t one. However, if I were honest, I would say Hufflepuff. The whole family’s in a dither.”
They laughed heartily.
“When I was on the run and after Pettigrew, I don’t think I’ve told you this, but I looked for your bed in the third year boys’ dorm. I tore apart Weasley’s bed obviously, but I took a few extra moments to analyze each bed, and I couldn’t find one that would have belonged to you. I thought you’d ended up in Slytherin with the rest of the Blacks. Then, once I was free, I learned you were in Ravenclaw, and I couldn’t have been prouder if you’d wound up in my old house. A Black, clever enough to get in there. It was unthinkable! And in a few days we’ll find out if you’ve made Prefect!”
“Father,” Lycoris asked hesitantly. “If I make Prefect, and Draco does, too, could we and the Malfoys go out to The White Witch for dinner? To celebrate? I mean, just you, me, Draco, Aunt Narcissa, and Uncle Lucius. I love the girls, but they won’t understand, and I’d rather it just be Draco and I.”
“No Rosa Vane, then, if she manages to squeak past Hermione?”
Lycoris shook his head.
“I’ll write to Malfoy tonight and suggest it. I daresay you’ll want to sleep over so you and Draco can talk the night away?”
“Oh, really? May I?” All of these things he’d taken for granted before his father’s release were now novelty items to him.
“Of course you can. I won’t inflict a grieving or a triumphant Hermione on you, or the celebration Mrs. Weasley is bound to put on. That woman drives me insane. She keeps calling you dark.”
Lycoris laughed. “Well, if that’s all.”
Sirius flapped his napkin at him. “No son of mine will be called dark.”
“Father, I am a dark wizard. You know this.”
“That doesn’t mean other people get to say it,” Sirius griped, a scowl on his face. His gray eyes were sullen and had that look in them as if he were thinking about something rather unpleasant, which always made Lycoris uncomfortable, but he let it pass. Soon, Sirius came out of it.
Hermione Granger was named Prefect, and she managed to corner Lycoris the moment he got his owl and was opening it up in front of his father.
“Oh isn’t it just wonderful?” she breathed. “We’ll be prefects together!”
“Out!” Sirius cried. “Let him open his owl in peace!”
“But please—I want to see—“
Lycoris just huffed and opened up the package and a shining button fell out. “Write Uncle Lucius. We’re going out tonight.”
But then he was attacked by a mass of bushy brown hair who was screaming in his ear and he held his arms out wide, not wanting to hug her.
“Oh, I just knew it! I knew that Vane wouldn’t get it and that we would be prefects together! Isn’t it just wonderful? We can go on patrols together and do all sorts of things!”
“Hermione!” Sirius said, pulling her off his son. “Let Coris breathe.”
“Right,” she said, straightening her jumper. “Of course. But isn’t this wonderful? We shall have to go to Diagon Alley together, with the Weasleys of course, oh, poor Ron, I don’t think he made Prefect.”
“I’ll get my things with the Malfoys as I always do,” Lycoris interjected. “Family tradition.—And here’s Samhain.”
“What a horrid thing to name your cat! After a Dark Holiday of all things!”
“Miss Granger,” Sirius said, stepping in. “What you call a ‘Dark Holiday’ is actually a wizarding holiday. I myself follow it. I know Dumbledore does privately. Now, I have a letter to write, and I’m sure that Coris has his robes to pick out for this evening.—Actually, Coris, floo call The White Witch and confirm our reservation.”
Lycoris favored deep reds and so chose a robe of that color. He saw Hermione looking at him reproachfully, and she even asked, “Why wasn’t I invited?”
“I’m having a private dinner with my cousin.”
“But I’ve made prefect, too!”
“You wouldn’t be allowed in, dear,” Mrs. Weasley tried to soothe. “Only purebloods are.”
“But that’s just horrible!” She stamped her foot. “We should be out celebrating. Together.”
“Sorry, sweet pea,” Sirius said, coming down the stairs in dark blue robes. “Blacks and Malfoys only. You have to remember that Lycoris was raised as a Malfoy and likes to have family dinners with them occasionally.”
It was a raucous affair. Narcissa allowed champagne and Draco and Lycoris promptly got drunk off of it. They had to be dragged through the floo back to Malfoy Manor and soundly put back to bed.
Lycoris woke up with a pounding headache.
He wasn’t alone.
“Drink this,” the deep voice of Marvolo insisted as a vial was pressed to his lips. “It’s a sobriety potion.”
Taking it, Lycoris downed it in one go and immediately felt the effects. Pushing himself upward, on the pillows, he asked, “Marvolo? What are you doing here?” He must look a fright. This was the worst possible scenario in front of—in front of—he blushed.
“I came to congratulate my lover on making Prefect,” Marvolo murmured quietly. “How’s the head?”
“Better,” he answered, looking down and seeing he was wearing his old Quidditch jersey. He got issued a new one every year.
“Give it a few minutes, then you’ll be right as rain,” Marvolo whispered. He leaned forward and brushed Lycoris’s hair to one side. “You’re quite delectable when you’ve just woken up.”
“I don’t feel quite so delectable,” Lycoris admitted. He felt horrible. Absolutely undesirable—and then Marvolo would change his mind—and then—“I have this horrible taste in my mouth.”
“I thought you might.” Marvolo reached for a second vial. “Freshens breath after the worst of nights. Drink up.”
“You came awfully prepared,” Lycoris remarked as he took it, feeling how smooth it was as it went down his throat. Immediately, it felt like a cool wind was moving through his mouth and he breathed out a hint of mint.
“There you are,” Marvolo said, leaning forward and kissing him softly. “Congratulations. I had no doubt.”
Lycoris breathed out. “Hermione Granger made it through. We weren’t able to block her.” He sighed.
“Occasionally there comes along a tenacious Muggleborn who is descended from a Squib. You can tell by her name: Hermione. Your supposed mother was the same. I even tried to recruit her, although if I had known the crime she had performed against magic, I would have outright killed her before she got the chance to hurt you.” He looked at Lycoris. “How is your head?”
“Much better. How is Aunt Narcissa allowing you in my room?”
“I had to take an oath that I would not force you to do anything you weren’t entirely committed to.” He said it with such a straight face that he simply must be telling the truth.
Lycoris couldn’t help but laugh. “The Dark Lord—thwarted in love.” Oh, by the old gods, how his chiseled features made Lycoris’s heart flip flop.
“I’ll show you thwarted,” he threatened, pressing a hand against Lycrosis’s pillow and leaning his face against Lycoris’s. “Tell me when to stop.”
“I’m as silent as a ghostless grave.” He smiled.
Then soft lips descended on his chapped ones, and Lycoris leaned up into the kiss, smooth, sweet, tasting of morning eggs and porridge. Lycoris hadn’t even realized until he registered this that his tongue had snuck out between his lips and had caressed Marvolo’s.
He leaned back, “I’m sorry,” he squeaked. “I didn’t mean—“
“Hush, now,” Marvolo murmured. “I told you never to apologize for anything that happened between us.”
Lycoris was being kissed again, harder, and he poked his tongue out, only to have it be answered by a stronger, surer tongue, and the kiss deepened and shivered, until finally they pulled away.
“I wish you could come to Grimmauld Place again. Not all this cloak and dagger,” Lycoris breathed, their lips so close that they shared the air.
“You know that’s not possible, Coris. There are Order members, Dumbledore, not to mention, your father.”
“Yes, Father,” Lycoris agreed. “I don’t know what he’d say if he found I’d taken a lover. I suppose he’d be horrified.”
Marvolo reached up and combed his fingers through Lycoris’s hair. “Is he so disconnected to the Old Ways?”
“Yes and no,” Lycoris breathed, looking into Marvolo’s red eyes. “He speaks about the old holidays, he dresses in casual wizard robes, he lets me have my lessons, and yet he fights for Muggle rights in the war. I know he doesn’t speak of James and Lily Potter because of my relationship with them, but I know he doesn’t think ill of them.” He thought a moment. “Come to think of it, he might have a lady friend.”
“What makes you think that?” The hand still combed through his hair, and Lycoris closed his purple eyes in pleasure.
“He seemed horrified that I suggested that he and Remus were lovers and—he—well—sometimes he goes off by himself. It’s just a thought. Perhaps I should ask him about it.”
“Perhaps you should,” Marvolo agreed. “Do you know if you’ll be displaced?”
“Sirius promised that I wouldn’t be. I even appear on the family tapestry as his lawful son. He’s signed so many papers making me legitimate, I don’t think he’d go back on them. I could be his son. We just don’t know.”
“You’ve never thought of doing a blood test?”
“I think Sirius is too afraid that I wouldn’t be his. A blood test would only prove that I was of his blood—not that I was legitimate.”
“Of course,” Marvolo agreed. “You should ask. Today. It’s better not to be left wondering.” He tugged on Lycoris’s hair gently. “And I don’t want to hear anything about you and Rosa Vane this year. I know that Mudblood pushes herself on you and it cannot be helped, but I want only friendship between you and the ladies.”
Lycoris smiled. “Jealous much?”
“Where you are concerned, very.” Marvolo leaned in to kiss him and Lycoris ducked away, feeling a little playful.
“As long as you’re not jealous of my cousins. I spend most of my time with them and I won’t have anyone assuming anything untoward between me and either Draco or Lacerta.”
Marvolo leaned in. “I know they’re as good as your siblings,” Marvolo answered, finally gaining his desired kiss, stopping Lycoris’s heart once again. “And I know the Malfoy boy is sweet on someone.”
“What?” Lycoris squeaked, instantly throwing himself out of bed. “He’s never told me!”
He rushed to the connecting door and threw it open, Marvolo laughing all the while, safely hidden by the drapes of the bed. “Draco!”
A moan met his efforts. That didn’t deter Lycoris. He rushed over to the bed and grabbed Draco’s silk pyjamas. “You. Some girl. Spill.”
“Can’t this wait?” he griped.
“No!” Lycoris shouted, and Draco clutched his head.
“I need coffee. Coffee is supposed to help.”
Lycoris snapped his fingers and Dobby was there with a hangover potion. Draco instantly took it and within moments looked better. “What’s this about me and a girl?”
“You’re sweet on some girl! Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I thought it wasn’t important. She’s going into her third year, but her birthday’s in October.”
“Of course it’s important. Wait, October? Are we talking about Miss Astoria Greengrass?”
“We are! You dog! Never saying a word to me!”
“How did you find out?”
“The Dark Lord,” Lycoris answered truthfully. “I couldn’t wait a second longer before confronting you.”
“Father must have told him,” Draco muttered darkly. “What time is it?” He looked at his clock. “Looks like we’ve missed breakfast.”
“Aunt Narcissa will have planned for this and have had something sent up.”
“Most likely. She thinks of everything. Come, stay with me, and you can tell me why the Dark Lord told you.”
It was Lycoris’s turn to pink. “Let me just get something and I’ll be right back. He moved into his room and saw Marvolo. He kissed him on the lips. “This is my cue to go.”
“I see. Not a word about us,” he murmured and then was gone with a rustle of robes. “After all, he’ll figure it out soon enough.”
Lycoris returned home in a spare set of robes he always kept at Malfoy Manor and he instantly sought Sirius out. “No lingering effects then?”
“Don’t play dumb,” Lycoris bantered. “You know exactly what state you left me in last night. It did not leave me with a happy awakening.”
Sirius grinned wolfishly. “It’s a rite of passage in each man’s young life,” he answered. “You’re a bit young at fifteen, but still. Now you know which potions you need to stock up on when you leave home for one of the smaller Black properties.”
“Speaking of the Blacks,” Lycoris began hesitantly. “You know how I asked you if Remus was your lover?”
“And I admitted he wasn’t,” Sirius put in.
“Yes,” Lycoris continued. “But have you been seeing anyone? Courting someone? I wouldn’t blame you if you were—I just, want to know.”
“Her name is Florence. Florence Sweetings. She’s the youngest of three daughters and, well, has been written off by her family. I know you don’t like hearing about Lily and James, but I went to their graves to yell at them for all they did to you, kicked their stones a bit, and she grabbed me and held me as I cried. I took her for a drink at the local pub and, without going into details, told her how they had ruined my only son’s life. She was kind, and understanding, and just so beautiful. Not as beautiful or wonderful as—“ he paused “—that doesn’t matter. I went and called on her. And I went again. And it’s been months now and I didn’t know how to tell you. I didn’t want you to think that I was replacing your mum or, gods forbid, you.”
“Can I meet her?”
“Of course you can, if you don’t mind going to Godric’s Hollow and seeing the house where it all happened.”
“I think I can take it,” Lycoris said bravely. “Should I look different? Short hair?”
“No, Coris, look exactly as you are.”