“Trying to keep it clear, but I’m losing it here / To the twilight / There’s a dead end to my left / There’s a burning bush to my right / You aren’t in sight”“Standing Still,” Jewel
Rosa was following him. It was rather dreadful. Lycoris pushed his fringe out of his gray eyes and breathed heavily. “Aren’t you meeting Davies?”
“At two o’clock,” she answered. “It’s not yet one thirty.”
One thirty, yes. He had just enough time to make it. Getting the key from the innkeeper, he made his way up the stairs. “It’s not that I’m not happy for you, Rosa, Master Roger is definitely a catch, but could we do this another time? It’s just that I’m meeting my boyfriend.”
She huffed. “I don’t believe you have a boyfriend.”
He paused and looked down at her. “And why would I lie about such a thing? I could easily remain aloof and mysterious if single.” Lycoris took off up the stairs and he heard her dainty shoes.
“You know everyone puts our names together. It doesn’t matter that you didn’t speak to me for about a month before the whole Granger crisis happened, it just—“
Lycoris tuned her out. He found the correct door and placed the key in the lock. “For heaven’s sake, woman!” he growled, but she didn’t seem to hear him. The door swung open and he saw Marvolo in a high backed chair. The lamplight created a sheen off of his brown hair, which made Lycoris want to run his hands through it, which wasn’t an unusual desire.
Marvolo looked up from The Prophet he was reading and smiled at him. “Your eyes, Coris. Your eyes.”
“I was followed,” he breathed, and Rosa promptly walked into the room.
“Really, Lycoris. This is too much. Cloak and dagger, shall we?” She started when she saw Marvolo. “I’m sorry. We haven’t been introduced.”
“Miss Rosa Vane, I believe,” Marvolo said, standing and taking her hand. He lifted it up to just beneath his lips before releasing it. “If I am not misinformed you and Lycoris are prefects together.”
“We-we are. May I know who I have the honor of speaking to?”
“Lycoris?” Marvolo asked, his eyes never leaving Rosa’s. The sheer understated danger rolling off of him made Lycoris shiver. He was surprised Rosa couldn’t sense it.
“Right. Rosa, this is Lord Riddle, my boyfriend.”
“Lover,” Marvolo corrected. “Let’s call things as they are.”
Lycoris pinked and Rosa wasn’t quite certain where to look. “I’m sorry for doubting you, Lycoris,” she said after a long pause. “I’ll just leave you to your privacy.—But first, there are only four Lords!”
“Some Lordships,” Marvolo replied, “have fallen into disuse. There used to be more than four, and Riddle was one of them. I have, fortunately, inherited it and am now a Lord though not one of the Four.”
She pinked. “I’ll just go meet Master Davies,” she whispered. She closed the door behind her with a swish of her robes and Lycoris instantly threw himself in Marvolo’s arms, fusing their lips together.
“There now,” Marvolo whispered in between kisses. “I’m here now.”
“I’ve missed you,” Harry admitted. “So much.” He tightened his hold on Marvolo’s hair and just kissed him so hard that he could feel their teeth clink, but he frankly didn’t care. He wanted all of Marvolo. He knew he said he would wait, but he just couldn’t. “Now,” he begged. “I’m ready.”
“Eyes,” Marvolo demanded, stepping back although he kept a tight hold on Lycoris’s waist.
Shuddering his eyes, they turned purple and Marvolo looked into them. He sighed and traced a hand down Lycoris’s face. “My darling, you are not,” he tried to placate. “We shouldn’t rush into this.”
“Then hold me,” Lycoris begged. “Let’s forget about robes and your cravat, and there’s a bed, and just hold me.” The idea of skin on skin made his heart stutter and his breath catch, but Lycoris didn’t care. He just knew that he wanted this.
Marvolo surged forward and kissed Lycoris deeply. Again, Lycoris’s hands were in Marvolo’s hair but then he was pushing off the maroon robe and unknotting the cravat. Marvolo’s hands weren’t idle either. Lycoris was wearing a complicated leather robe that laced down the front to his trousers, before flaring out to his mid-calf. His long fingers pulled at the strings, and then he was pushing it from Lycoris’s shoulders and pulling the black t-shirt underneath over his head.
“I want to see you,” he begged as he looked at Lycoris, who was wearing nothing but his boots and his trousers. He ran a hand down his cheek. “I want to see your scar, your blond hair, I want to see you.”
“But this is who I am,” Lycoris argued. “I don’t want to be—that—ever again.”
“Then let me just see what the Muggles did to you,” he asked.
Lycoris came forward and unbuttoned his peasant top and shifted it from Marvolo’s strong shoulders.
“It is nothing worth mentioning,” Lycoris argued. “Please. This is about me and you and enjoying the short time we have together. This is not about fear and shame.”
Marvolo moved forward and clasped Lycoris’s face in his hands. “This is about trust and me loving you. Let me love you, Lycoris.”
“We’ve never spoken of love,” he admitted.
“Surely it has been understood.”
Lycoris laughed. “How could it be understood? You’re the Dark Lord! You’ve taken Muggle lovers. Did you love any of them? What if I was kept by the Dursleys”—he spat out the word—“and never went to Hogwarts? Would you have loved me then, Lord Voldemort? Would I have been worth it?”
He shuddered his eyes gray again and turned away, but Marvolo picked him up and carried him to the bed, laying him on top of the covers. When he crawled up beside him, he saw tears in Lycoris’s gray eyes, and his kissed his cheek softly. “I never meant to make you cry.”
“They’re just nightmares,” Lycoris explained. “Horrible nightmares. My life started when Draco found me in the robes shop.”
Running a hand through his hair, Marvolo kissed his smooth forehead. “I understand,” he murmured. “My life began the moment I stepped through the doors of Hogwarts.”
“Will you tell me about it?” Lycoris asked quietly.
“My father left my mother when he discovered she was a witch. She died giving birth to me.” He sighed. “I ended up in a Muggle orphanage where my only friends were the snakes that would come and find me in the night.”
“I can talk to snakes,” Lycoris admitted.
Marvolo looked up. “Do you have any Gaunt blood in you?”
Lycoris shrugged. “Not that I know of.—but you’re a half blood.” He then went silent, but he didn’t draw away from Marvolo. Instead, he began to draw circles along his ribcage. “Like I was supposed to be.”
“Yes,” Marvolo answered. “No one knows.”
For the longest time, Lycoris did not answer, but instead just lay in Marvolo’s arms. “I need to think,” he finally said. “Blood purity is—“
“Fundamental,” Marvolo supplied as he allowed Lycoris to push himself from his embrace and slide from the bed. He carefully went to his discarded clothes and pulled them on again.
Marvolo followed him upward. He came to a little table beside the two chairs in the room and picked up a box. “At least take this, even if you’re angry. Know that it was given in affection.”
Laughing sadly, Lycoris took it and just stared for several moments. He glanced at Marvolo, his heart once again twinging at the very sight of him, begging him to go closer, to run a hand down his chest, but no, no, he could not do that. Lycoris carefully opened the box and breathed out.
“I know you only wear your hair to your chin,” Marvolo explained, “and Hogwarts does not allow hair ornamentation. However, when there comes a time at Grimmauld Place or elsewhere when you want to grow your hair longer, I thought this might suit.”
It was beautiful. Made out of gold—the perfect shade to compliment his naturally blond hair—was a metal thong. Imprinted on the curved surface was the Black sign of the crow.
“Draco was right. You are trying to woo me.”
Marvolo came up to him and ran his fingers through Lycoris’s black hair. “Was there ever any doubt?”
Gray eyes met red-brown and Lycoris sighed. He turned away from Marvolo without even answering, though he still held the gift. “It’s funny,” he finally said, when he was at the door, holding the handle, though not looking at Marvolo. “My father wanted me to date a half-blood.”
Then he was gone and Marvolo was all alone. He cursed himself and slammed his fist down on the pillow, wondering if he would ever see Lycoris in private again.
She was tall for her age. Her dark brown eyes were obstructed by glasses and her hair fell in strawberry blonde curls.
Draco was waiting for her in Madam Puddifoot’s and he stood as soon as she approached.
“Heir Draco,” she said, curtseying slightly.
“Miss Astoria,” he greeted, taking her hand and lifting it to just below his lips. “You look beautiful.”
She blushed and didn’t look in his eyes, instead taking the seat across from him. When she didn’t speak, he ventured, “I didn’t choose a tea. I didn’t know what you’d prefer.”
“Oh,” she whispered. “I—do they have Irish Breakfast? I know it’s not terribly refined, but it is my favorite.”
Draco smiled at her and began looking through the tea box before withdrawing three packets. One for each of them and the third for the pot. “We’re in luck.”
“I suppose we are.” She was blushing again. “I—why not Daphne?” she asked boldly, still not looking at him.
“Your sister doesn’t interest me. She listens to Celestina Warbeck, reads Witch Weekly as if it were her favorite textbook, and has nothing to say although we’re both Prefects. You, on the other hand, are intelligent, heal wounded animals, and have started an illegal Quidditch betting ring that have the professors stumped. Even the Weasley twins can’t figure out who you are.” He grinned at her.
“How could you possibly think that?” she asked in shock.
“You’re dirt poor and yet you wear robes lined in acramantula silk. It’s a dead giveaway.”
She blushed again.
“Shall I play mother?” Draco asked solicitously and she could only nod. As he poured the tea and offered her milk and sugar, he noticed she was staring at him in wonder.
“Father drinks away all our money,” she suddenly admitted. “We’re Greengrasses. We should have nice robes.”
“I never said otherwise,” Draco agreed. “If you may have noticed, my robes are stitched with unicorn hair.”
“I had, actually.” She was clearly in her element. “Fairy Woven Silk? I can’t get an appointment there.”
“I’ll send them a line,” he promised. “No witch seen with me should be forced to dress inferiorly.”
“What if it’s just my family pushing me toward you?”
“I think,” he stated plainly, “you have more money than you can spend. You clearly could buy them off if you really wanted to.” He smirked at her when she clearly had nothing to say to that.
He took a sip of his tea. It was simply dreadful, but if Astoria liked it, then he supposed he could put up with it for the rest of his life.
Lycoris didn’t know what to do. He sat in the Three Broomsticks and eventually found himself staring at the fireplace. He couldn’t go and see Uncle Lucius. That would give too much away. But Father… he could go see Father…
Standing behind a group of students, he pinched some floo powder and threw it into the fire. “Twelve, Grimmauld Place,” he called out, before stepping into the flames. He swirled until he finally ended up in the kitchen and he looked around.
“Father!” he called out, but heard nothing. “Father!”
Kreacher popped in front of him. “Master be out with Mistress Flo,” he told Lycoris, who immediately sagged.
“Can you go find him? Please? I need to talk to him.”
Kreacher bowed. “If it bes what little master be wishing.” Then with another pop he was gone.
Lycoris waited in the kitchen for over an hour, but then he heard the front door opening and hurried footsteps rushing toward him.
“Coris?” Sirius exclaimed. “Coris?”
Flo was right behind him, but Lycoris didn’t care. He flung himself in his father’s arms and started crying. The gift was abandoned on the new shining oak kitchen table.
“What’s wrong, Coris?” Sirius asked desperately. “Shouldn’t you be at Hogwarts?”
“He’s a half-blood,” Lycoris admitted. “Everyone thinks he’s a pureblood, but today he told me he was a half-blood. He’s my boyfriend and I let him hold me and I let him kiss me and he’s a fucking half-blood!” By this point he was screaming and pulling at his hair, but Sirius just held him closer.
“What did he say?” Sirius asked quietly. “That makes all the difference.”
Lycoris choked back a sob. “His father was a Muggle who left his mother when he found out she was a witch.”
“Lie,” Flo said carefully, coming around, “I know how much blood status means to you. It means a great deal to me, too, and your father and I have fought about it a few times. But, Lie, he is essentially a pureblood. His father is a—what do they call it in the Muggle world when you just give your essence to create a child?”
“Sperm donor,” Lycoris admitted.
“Exactly. His mother was the true influence in his life. She’s the one who was abandoned, just as he was; she’s the one who nurtured him inside her body. He’s a pureblood, darling. Everyone thinks he’s one because he was brought up to be one. His heritage shows that. Now, traditionally, I would not make this argument. Far from it, but I think this may be the case for your friend.”
“But that can’t be possible. He was brought up in a Muggle orphanage.”
“It can be true in extreme cases,” Flo assured him. “I understand that you were raised by Muggles. If you had not been found and you had not been taught, you would have been a Muggle-born despite your pureblood status. Can you understand, Lycoris? I would bet my magic that your boyfriend did not enter this world as a Muggleborn. Far from it, in fact. You cannot trick a pureblood, Lie. Like recognizes like.”
“Oh, gods, what have I done?” He looked at Flo who was holding the thong.
“You must mean a great deal to him for such a costly gift,” she murmured. “This isn’t just some trinket, but something tailored to your House. And he told you about his parents because he trusts you. I doubt there are very few people he has ever told in his life.”
“Go find him,” Sirius said. “Take the floo powder. Make your best guess.” He kissed the top of Lycoris’s hair. “I can tell that you care for him. Go, now. Be happy.”
After grabbing the thong, Lycoris ran to the floo and took a pinch of it. “Malfoy Manor!” he called before entering the flames.
“What a strange place to go,” Sirius murmured, curling his arm around Flo’s waist. “You were wonderful, darling.”
“Young love. What can I say?”
Lycoris folded himself out of the green flames and immediately stepped out of the fire. Calling for a house elf, he asked, “Is the Dark Lord here?”
“I nots be knowing…”
“That’s a ‘yes,’ then.”
Lycoris took the grand stairs two at the time and guessed that the best place to check would be Uncle Lucius’s study. Without bothering to knock, he swung open the doors to see his uncle, Barty Crouch, Jr., and Marvolo. Without even thinking about it, he walked up to Marvolo, took the brandy from his hand, and kissed him, deep and slow, settling into his lap and moving his hands into his hair. The thong lay on the table beside them, momentarily forgotten in the feel of tongue on tongue and lips on lips.
“I’m sorry,” he murmured into Marvolo’s ear. “I was shocked. I talked to Flo and she explained it to me. I didn’t use names, of course, but I’m so, so sorry. I just, I didn’t know what to think. Not after everything that happened to me.”
“Hush,” Marvolo whispered, moving his face forward and clasping it in his hands. “You need never apologize for anything that happens between us.”
Lycoris smiled. “Thank you for the gift,” he murmured. “It’s truly beautiful.”
“The wizard at The Glass Slipper had no idea what to do with my order,” Marvolo admitted. “But it mattered not in the end. Now, champagne, I think, even for Heir Lycoris,” Marvolo declared. “I won’t hear a word about it, Lucius. I know you raised him, but some things are worth celebrating.”
“My-my lord,” Crouch stuttered. “I don’t—“
“Heir Lycoris is my lover,” Marvolo explained. “We had a small miscommunication. It’s settled now.”
Champagne glasses were passed out with strawberries placed in them and then the champagne was being poured.
“Come, sit beside me,” Marvolo requested, and Lycoris realized he was straddling him. They clinked their glasses and drank to their health. “I wanted to give you something—earlier,” Marvolo whispered and took out a small box from an inner robes pocket.
“Something beside the thong?”
“What can I say? My heart declares that I should spoil you,” he whispered into Lycoris’s ear, making him blush.
Lycoris set down his champagne flute and took the box, opening it. “But this is an heir’s ring!” he gasped.
“In the case of lovers,” Lucius explained, “they can sometimes be used to show commitment. It is a great honor, Son.”
Beaming at his adopted father as it was the first time he’d called him ‘son,’ Lycoris let Marvolo slip the ring onto his left hand, where he kissed it. “It’s the Gaunt ring, my mother’s family,” he admitted. “Now everyone will know you are taken.”
“Possessive much?” Lycoris teased, but Marvolo only chuckled.
They spent the night at Malfoy Manor. Lucius had kissed him on the head and told him he could go back to Hogwarts the next day, and said nothing when Marvolo had followed him out. Marvolo undressed as he had the previous afternoon, and Lycoris got into a set of his pajamas.
“Are you ready for this?” Marvolo asked. “It means a great deal, to sleep in each other’s arms.”
“I meant it, earlier, when I said I wanted to be held by you,” Lycoris admitted, pulling back the covers. “And I want to forget all the earlier unpleasantness.”
“Then we shall forget about it,” Marvolo decided as he caressed Lycoris’s cheek. “You are truly a wonder.”
“You don’t want to be with me for my power or my political capital. You seem to want to be with me, simply, for me.”
Lycoris smiled and kissed the palm of Marvolo’s hand. It was a simple gesture, but one that showed all of his longing for his lover. “You make my heart stop. I suppose I fancy you, Lord Voldemort.”
They climbed into the bed together and Lycoris rested his head on Marvolo’s chest. “I have nightmares,” he admitted. “They’re not as frequent as before, but I still have them about—before.”
“I do as well,” Marvolo admitted. “About the orphanage.”
“I’m sorry you didn’t have an Uncle Lucius and an Aunt Narcissa,” Lycoris murmured.
Running his hand through Lycoris’s hair, Marvolo whispered, “I’m glad you did.”
She wasn’t in Azkaban, not yet, anyway. Instead, she was in a DMLE holding cell. It was in the basement of the Ministry of Magic where it was cold and damp. Magical Maintenance didn’t bother to come down here so there was a trickle of water that dripped from above and occasionally a white rat would scurry by. The cells were half circles, so she only really could sit. She could never lean her back against anything as she had to pitch her head forward.
Her hair was greasy and hadn’t been washed for weeks. She hadn’t had a single visitor. That is, until today.
Snape’s hair was still cut to his shoulders, black, and lank with potions fumes. His hooked nose was more pronounced in the shadows, and his robes were blacker than black.
“Miss Granger,” he murmured.
“Professor,” she answered tearfully. “You’re the first friendly face I’ve seen down here.”
“You may be the first person to call me friendly in a great many years, Miss Granger.”
She shrugged. “You’re friendlier than my interrogators.”
“I would imagine so.”
They lapsed into silence. Hermione wondered exactly why he was here. Then, Snape spoke. “I represent certain individuals who have an interest in your particular case.”
“Do not interrupt, Miss Granger,” he warned. “In exchange for exerting their influence to seeing that these charges are either dropped or your sentence is greatly reduced, you will give up your magic for the rest of your life and emigrate to New Zealand.”
Hermione waited for him to stop. “New Zealand.”
“I understand it has an exceptionally warm climate,” he mentioned. “The interested parties do not want to see your family, mere Muggles, gain satisfaction from your conviction.”
“Why wouldn’t they?” Hermione was confused.
“Muggles should never rely on magic, even when harmed by it,” Snape replied. “You will enter a convent school for orphans and can continue your studies there. You will refrain from contacting any wizard or witch you have ever met. If you ever encounter the magical world again, you will act like a common Muggle, befuddled and confused. Do we have an accord, Miss Granger?”
She thought about it for a moment and imagined how much worse Azkaban could be. Hermione had heard Sirius talk about it a few times, and she would do almost anything to not end up there. “We have an accord,” she agreed. Immediately, she felt magic bind her to Snape and her breath caught. When the pulling sensation ended, she asked, “Who are these interested parties?”
“The Dark Lord,” he answered simply. “You angered his lover, who wanted you gone. Surely even you can understand the power of lust and possibly even love.”
“Some close to him say that he does, or he very nearly does. He has given his ring to his lover. That is a sign of great affection and love in the wizarding world.”
“Who?” Hermione asked.
“Can’t you guess? Who wanted you gone?”
Lycoris Black. Her heart sank. “Will my parents see me?”
“I understand they will be at the trial. The Dark Lord is said to be going. You will not, of course, recognize him. The only person who has is, of course, his lover. They seem to have a unique relationship.” He sneered at this. Then with a flare of his robes, he was gone.
Hermione curled up in on herself and began to cry.
Rosa was stunned. She folded up the letter and sat in the window seat of the library and just stared out the window. Her father was definitely going to be married this Yule, to a Miss Jarvis. Perhaps there would be a definitive heir after all.
“You seem sad,” Master Roger said, coming over and sitting at her feet. “I hope our date was not so horrible.”
A small smile played on her lips. “Hardly,” she disagreed. “I loved eating too much chocolate and mixing it with butterbeer. It was as disgusting as I thought it would be.”
“I thought that was entirely the point? To avoid Madam Puddifoot’s and just be ourselves?”
“It was,” she agreed, reaching out and stroking his Ravenclaw tie. “I was just lost in myself. Father’s getting remarried.”
“Is that a good or a bad thing?” he asked hesitantly.
“Good,” she answered. “I was passed over as heiress for my stepbrother, who is not even a Vane. With a new marriage, there might be a Vane boy who can inherit. I love my brother Roland, truly, I do, but it bothers me how fond he is of my younger sister Romilda.”
“Fond?” he questioned, a little uncertain. He perched himself on the window seat and she felt the heat of his body. It caused her to smile slightly.
“She’s thirteen and has started to grow up. He looks at her in ways that he shouldn’t. I tried to bring it up to Father, but he just brushes it off. Milly is too young to notice anything and whenever I try to speak to Roland about it, we end up having a shouting match.”
“They’re not biologically related?” Roger asked carefully.
“Thank the old gods, but no. Still, I don’t like it. They’re both my half sibling through different parents.”
“No, I suppose you wouldn’t.”
“Master Roger,” she asked after a pause. “I know we’ve only been to Hogsmeade once and I just told you something potentially disturbing about the Vanes, but will you escort me to my father’s wedding?” Rosa looked at him hopefully.
“I’d love nothing more,” he answered, “I’d kiss you right now if I could.”
She sighed. “I’ll just have to imagine it, then.”
They smiled at each other.
“Black,” Snape called, and Lycoris turned around and looked at him. “Are you certain you know what you’re doing with the Granger girl?”
“I don’t know what you mean, Professor,” he answered innocently.
“The Death Eaters are abuzz with it.” He stood up from his desk, his hands clasped behind his back, and walked around it. “We all knew there was some strange reason the Dark Lord was taking an interest in a Muggleborn student and creating this elaborate hoax to frame her so she would end up in the hands of the DMLE. Then Barty Crouch admits that you and the Dark Lord are lovers. Suddenly all the pieces fall into place. You despise the little Know-It-All and she had just made prefect over your own choice. So, are you certain you know what you are doing?”
“I always know what I’m doing, Professor,” Lycoris answered carefully. “I thought you knew how meticulous I was?”
“Yes, you have always been an ideal pupil.” He sighed. “She’s being exiled to New Zealand as a Muggle.”
Lycoris shrugged. “Could have been worse.”
“The Dark Lord in his mercy thought this would be best. It would be better not to let the Muggle family feel closure over the matter. You know how much he hates Muggles.”
“I can only imagine,” Lycoris murmured. “His track record from the war proves such.”
“You are very careful with your words.”
“I was raised by Slytherins. Would you expect anything less?”
“No, I suppose not,” he growled. “Now get out.”
Lycoris bowed slightly before collecting his bag. He walked out of the dungeon with his head held high, glad that Granger would be gone out of his life for good.