“So I sent [my heart] to a place in the middle of nowhere / with a big black horse and a cherry tree”“Black Horse and a Cherry Tree,” KT Tunstall
Lycoris sprang out of the fire and looked about him. Samhain had, of course, been in his arms, given his long stay, and the cat jumped from him into the main house. He was in a comfortable sitting room, done in dark green and gold, with several landscapes hanging from the upper level that was left open to a skylight.
“Welcome to my father’s seat,” Marvolo greeted, as he came from around the corner. “I’m afraid you won’t find any magical portraits here.”
“No,” Lycoris agreed. “I suppose I wouldn’t.”
The two wizards looked at each other, really looked, and then Lycoris was staring at the ceiling again. “This is a truly beautiful room.”
“I like to stay in here during thunderstorms,” Marvolo admitted. “I lie on one of the sofas and just look up.”
The very thought caused Lycoris’s heart to stick in his throat.
“Relax, darling. Nothing need happen that you do not want it to.”
“But we’ve planned—“
“For an entire weekend together, alone. You’re just sixteen years old. We can wait a few more months, a few more years even. Just because we’re both wizards doesn’t mean we have to jump into anything.” Samhain purred as she rubbed up against his leg and Marvolo looked down at the cat in amusement.
“No, I suppose it doesn’t.” Lycoris took a seat on the couch and looked at a beautiful rendition of the White Horse at Effington. “How did you do it?”
“Do what, Coris?” Marvolo asked as he came to sit across from him.
“Longbottom? The prophecy? I don’t understand. You never even told me. I found out with everyone else with The Daily Prophet. I thought we were equals—“
Marvolo pressed a finger against Lycoris’s lips. “We are, darling, in love. But you must know that I move politically. And it was something I wanted to show you. Something I thought you needed to know.” He sighed and withdrew back to his sofa. “I told you there was a mistake, that I was given false information. This was through a prophecy. There were two choices: the half-blood Harry Potter, who more mirrored my own origins, or the entitled Master Neville Longbottom. I chose Potter, and Heir Lycoris Black retained a scar he never should have had. In my moments of deepest contrition I believe it is a reminder to myself that I have hurt what I should have cherished and it is a blight on my very soul that all may see if you so wish it.”
“I kidnapped Longbottom,” Marvolo admitted, “over Yule. Through legilimancy I suggested he go to the Department of Mysteries and find that prophecy. If it truly was about him, then he could touch it without going mad—and that’s exactly what happened. Of course, he took a band of misfits with him, including a Lord’s son, unbelievably, but such is life.” He ran his hand through Lycoris’s hair, leaning forward again. “I didn’t tell you because your lover didn’t do it; Lord Voldemort did.”
“Lord Voldemort is my lover,” Lycoris argued. “I’m not dating half of you. That’s preposterous!”
“But you are a neutral dark wizard, Coris, with a father firmly on the side of the light!”
“So? I never give away your secrets! I never give away his secrets.”
“You prove my point. You are neutral.”
Lycoris cried out in frustration. “How am I supposed to trust you if you won’t trust me? I don’t want every single one of your battle plans, that’s preposterous, but now you’re out there for the whole world to see. You fought Dumbledore with this strange snake face that I’ve never seen before in my life! The whole Ministry of Magic knows you’re back. My father doesn’t want me at the Malfoys any longer now that it’s ‘official’ and lines have to be drawn in the sand. It’s ridiculous!”
“Lucius would never let that happen,” Marvolo countered. “Lord Black thinks you’re there now. Where is he, anyway?”
“I convinced him and Flo they should have a summer honeymoon for a week. It wasn’t right that they couldn’t see magical China without all the snow.”
Marvolo laughed at that. “It’s a wonder you aren’t in Slytherin, my darling.”
“What’s the snake face?” Lycoris pressed again. He’d picked up Samhain from one of the sofas as he wasn’t certain she was allowed on them, and was petting her soft fur.
“A potion,” Marvolo admitted. “One of my own device. I take it before raids and meetings. It lends me an air of inhumanity and fear. It also makes me unrecognizable.”
“It does that,” Lycoris agreed. “Promise never to wear it around me if we’re alone.”
“Only if it has yet to wear off,” Marvolo swore. “It lasts several hours.”
“I’m not sure I could kiss you that way.” Lycoris made a face. “I may be your lover, and I don’t think of myself as vain, but really, Marvolo: a snake face is the limit.”
“Duly noted.” He stood up and held out his hand. “Now, let me show you the prophecy.” Lycoris put Samhain down so she could explore the house. She didn’t like being carried about, the persnickety thing.
It was a swirling gray orb and Lycoris looked down at it with interest. “May I touch it?”
“No. It may not pertain to you. Just swipe your hand over it and you’ll hear what it has to say.”
A figure rose out of the ball and Lycoris listened until it was finished. He looked up at Marvolo. “That was vague.”
“Yes, and I only had the beginning all those years ago,” he admitted. “My spy wasn’t able to get the entire thing for me at the time.” He leaned over and kissed Lycoris for the first time that day. It was gentle, smooth, and Lycoris caught his breath as he brought a hand to reach it into Marvolo’s hair.
“Let it down,” he begged. “I never see it down, and we are at home.”
“True, the floo has been blocked to anyone but your uncle,” Marvolo breathed as he undid the thong that held his dark brown hair. It fell in waves around his face, down past his shoulders, and Lycoris just ran his fingers through it.
“It’s so fine,” he murmured. “You’re so beautiful to me.”
“I was always called ‘beautiful’ at Hogwarts, but I never thought it would mean anything to me, until it came from your lips.”
“Say this is forever,” Lycoris begged. “I know I’m just sixteen, and my uncle Regulus was your follower and grandfather was probably your age, and perhaps I’m just being silly, but I don’t want this to end. You make me feel safe, Marvolo. Do you know what that means? Do you truly know? I don’t even have to hide from Dumbledore when I’m with you.”
“Hush, my darling,” Marvolo promised as he kissed Lycoris again. “We have decades. I’m never letting you go. I refuse to release you to any witch even for a family. I’ll give you children. We’ll make it work. We’ll have to make it work.”
Hermione Granger was no longer Hermione Granger. Instead she was Hermia Grange, the smartest pupil at the convent, who had been given private tutors at the university and was set to attend next year.
All the nuns loved her. They tried to temper her less Christian attitudes and instill kindness and understanding in her, and she tried to be an apt pupil, she really did. Hermia helped the little ones with their studies, and on Thursdays she met with the Legion of English Descendants, who welcomed her with open arms.
Everyone wondered what happened to her parents. She never spoke of them.
There was a new parson. He had taken an interest in her and walked along a garden path with her one afternoon, while looking at her profile. “How are your studies?” Reverend Chambers asked. He was young and ruggedly handsome and everyone in the village said he should take a wife. He had a friend, a young lady who would come from the city every week, but she’d been doing that for over a year, and he still hadn’t asked her to marry him.
“Quite well,” Hermia answered. “I’ve been advanced in mathematics again and my Latin and French are quite good. My parents used to take us to France for the holidays.”
“How wonderful! How you must miss it!”
“Yes, Elissa and I always had a grand old time,” she admitted sadly. “Still, nothing for it. That was then and this is now.” Hermia looked at him and smiled. “I have a new family.”
“I’ve wondered why, Miss Grange, you were sent to us,” Reverend Chambers began carefully. “I looked in your file, and it’s said nothing.”
“Oh,” Hermia said, ready to rehearse the old story. “Mum, Dad, and Elissa died in a fire and I was left to an uncle. He lived out here. When he died, I went to the nuns.”
“How horrible it must have been for you.”
“Quite. I don’t like to think on it now,” she admitted. “Things had been said at the end that weren’t—what they should be.” Hermia looked over at him again. “What of you, Reverend Chambers? All of the girls are dying to know when the lady with raven hair will become the new vicar’s wife.”
“I’m afraid that’s just not possible,” he admitted. “She’s from one of the wealthiest families on the islands and I’m just a humble vicar.”
“I know what that’s like,” Hermia admitted. “Still, there’s always hope, unless she has powerful friends and frames you for a crime you didn’t commit. But let’s think the best of her.”
Chambers looked at her oddly. “I fear there is more to that story.”
“There’s always more to any story,” Hermia admitted. “Let’s just say I annoyed the wrong person who was lovers with a very powerful man. Things did not end well for me.”
“This counters your story concerning the fire.”
“Perhaps it does,” she admitted. “But even the most seasoned politicians, when they send somebody away, can rewrite your history, can they not?”
He looked her over and stopped his bike. “Come to tea with me,” he said suddenly. “Whoever you are.”
“What about the raven haired beauty?”
“Forget about her. Come to tea. Mrs. Waters will make something nice.”
“When?” Hermia asked cautiously.
“Tomorrow. Four o’clock. You don’t have lessons, do you?”
“No,” she answered. “I finish at three.”
“Then come to tea,” he reiterated. “If what you’re saying is true, they sent you a long way to keep you quiet.”
“Have you ever known me to lie?”
“No,” he admitted. “I never have.”
It was after dinner that Marvolo showed him through a series of halls and finally to an oaken door. “This is my bedchamber,” he began. “It is yours until you leave. If you ever wish for me to go, you have only to ask, and I will vacate the room. Is that understood?”
Lycoris nodded once and then the doors were pushed open.
Everything was done in oak with a large canopy bed engulfing the center of the room. It had dark gold coverings and shimmering gold curtains. “I take it you like gold,” Lycoris teased, taking Marvolo’s hand and kissing it.
“Gold is for royalty,” he admitted. “I am the heir of Slytherin, after all.”
“But of course,” Lycoris teased. “Do you take a particular side of the bed?”
Lycoris nodded and headed to the left, immediately unlacing his boots and pulling them off.
“Don’t be so unromantic about it,” Marvolo chided, as he came up to Lycoris and took the second boot in his hand and began to undo the lacings himself. Their eyes met for several seconds, purple on red-brown, and then Marvolo threw the boot to the side and surged up for a kiss.
It wasn’t passionate. Far from it. It was soft and warm and comforting, reminding Lycoris that he should have nothing to fear. Robes were pushed off languidly and thrown to the floor where house elves would undoubtedly pick them up, and Marvolo gently pushed Lycoris down on his back. He took Lycoris’s two wrists in his hand and pulled them above his head as he continued to kiss him, his hand snaking until he felt the bulge in his trousers.
Afterward, when the two lay curled around each other, Lycoris breathed in deeply. “Is that what a girl feels like?”
“I don’t know,” Marvolo answered honestly. “I’ve always given the pleasure. I’ve never received it.”
“Don’t you think that’s a little hypocritical?”
“Not particularly, no,” Marvolo answered. “I had no control as a child. I seek it whenever I can find it and I told you—I am a kind and generous companion.”
“True,” Lycoris snuggled closer. “Do we sleep like this or do we put on some sort of sleepwear?”
“Whatever you prefer. It’s entirely up to you.”
“Hmm. I don’t know which one I want.”
“Then think about it for awhile. It’s not yet ten.” He kissed Lycoris’s messy curls. “I must admit I like you like this, in my arms.”
“I’ll still be in your arms,” Lycoris groused. “I’d just be clothed.”
“Then let me take your mind off of it.” Marvolo looked down at him, his hair fanned out on the pillow. “I have a political proposition for you.”
“I thought I was neutral,” Lycoris began petulantly.
“That’s what makes you so perfect.”
Lycoris sighed. “Go on.”
“I’m going to suggest to Minister Scrimgeour and Professor Dumbledore that there be an Ambassador between the two causes, one that can travel freely between the two camps. They will come up with a list and I will reject every candidate, producing only one myself—you.”
“You’ve almost reached your majority. You’ve received political lessons since you were eleven. You have ties to both the dark side and the light side, and I am personally fond of you, although they won’t need to know that unless it’s strictly necessary.”
“And I’ll get to see you more,” Lycoris concluded.
“And you’ll get to see me more.”
Lycoris flopped onto his back. “Father won’t like it. At all. He wants me out of this war as much as possible. He still thinks it was a mistake to bring you to Grimmauld Place the beginning of my fifth year.”
“That was a necessity,” Marvolo argued. “You would have wasted away, probably.”
“Probably,” Lycoris agreed. “You know, we can use this to our advantage.”
“What are you thinking?”
“I can demand changes to laws regarding male metamorphmagi and how they are allowed to bear children to their own line as long as they are married to another wizard. I’ll get it in writing that I’m permitted to marry Lord Riddle upon my seventeenth birthday.”
“Dumbledore and your father will know who I am.”
“I don’t care. I’ll be seventeen and making decisions for my own house. It doesn’t matter if Flo has any sons: I secure the heirs. The others will just patter out into obscurity in a few generations.”
“Do you have so little love for your own stepmother?”
“I have great respect for my own stepmother,” Lycoris countered. “I just don’t favor any more children. I don’t want siblings young enough to be my children. Io is young enough at eleven.” He paused. “Can you do something for me?”
“What is it?”
“I know my mother wasn’t Miss Isabelle Rosier. I want to know who is. She won’t appear on the tapestry, it’s too late for that, but I’d like to know.”
“The results may not be to your liking.”
“No,” Lycoris agreed. “But I wanted to know who the Potters hated enough that they stole the child of their best friend.”
“Consider it done.”
And it was, as far as Lycoris was concerned. He snuggled into Marvolo’s embrace and let his breaths even out until he fell asleep.
Lycoris woke to sunshine in his eyes, his arm outstretched against an empty pillow. He looked up and saw that he was alone. His clothes were all neatly pressed and waiting on a divan and, after taking a warm shower and leaving his hair wet, he put them on.
He and Marvolo had decided on a simple weekend with no elaborate change of dress. They would not change for dinner or for different days. Instead, Lycoris’s clothes would be laundered.
Lycoris wandered about the halls until he found Marvolo in a bright and airy study, an oriental carpet on the floor. “Mal?” he asked, for the first time using the nickname he had devised for his lover.
Marvolo looked up and smiled. “I thought I’d get a start on finding your mother,” he mentioned. “I’m almost positive she was in Slytherin.”
“Why do you say that?”
“That secret nature of the wedding,” Marvolo replied as Lycoris came to sit on the edge of his chair. “The key here is ‘Rosier.’ If she was not a Rosier herself, then her mother probably was.”
Lycoris picked a piece of parchment off the desk. “It can’t be.”
“She is not in Slytherin.”
“No,” Lycoris agreed. “But she would be the most controversial. Imagine the scandal, Mal.—Lady Lux Kingsley. His own godsister. Her mother was a Malfoy. Such things are anathema.” He took a deep breath through his nose.
“Wizards can’t marry godsiblings, Coris,” Marvolo tried to explain. “The godsibling bond is too strong. They are brothers and sisters.”
“Look at the Blacks. They don’t marry brothers and sisters but they marry cousins. If they can get around that, then Sirius Black can get around this. I wonder if Uncle Lucius knows. He must have some inkling.—what happened to her?”
Marvolo took the paper and read it. “It doesn’t technically say, but I believe it was suicide.”
“She lost a baby and perhaps a husband in a time of war. It was not unheard of for witches to commit suicide.”
Lycoris felt lost and began to sway. However, Marvolo deftly caught him and held him to his chest. “I need to see what she looks like. I need to see. Now.”
“We’ll go to Malfoy Manor,” Marvolo promised, “just after breakfast. You’re looking too pale.”
They didn’t talk much over breakfast. Lycoris was too obsessed with the idea, and Marvolo let him be. They took the floo out midmorning and found Lucius in his study. Lycoris tried to speak, but found that the words would not come out.
“Lucius,” Marvolo began. “We might have a slight problem.”
“Problem? Is Lycoris not well?”
“He’s had a shock,” Marvolo agreed, settling Lycoris down into a chair. “A whiskey, I think.”
Lucius sighed but poured the glass and pushed it into Lycoris’s hand. He took a sip and felt the familiar burn down his throat.
“Lycoris,” Marvolo began, “believes that Miss Isabelle Rosier is not his mother.”
“I don’t think anyone believes that,” Lucius agreed. “However, she is the only Rosier we have to choose from.”
“It’s a ruse, Uncle Lucius. A terrible ruse,” Lycoris got out. “Mother wasn’t a Rosier at all.”
Lucius’s face darkened and he went to his desk where he pulled out a picture of a smiling witch with bright blonde hair. “She was named after me,” he admitted. “Lux was only about five years younger. Her mother and my sister, Lady Madeleine, was about ten years older than I was, you must understand. I was more of a brother to Lux than anything. She spent much of her time at the Manor.”
He came around the desk and handed over the photograph, which showed Sirius and Lux together, Sirius holding Lux closely to him as they smiled at each other.
“Lux was in Ravenclaw, like you, Lycoris. There was never a formal wedding, so I never brought it up. It’s shameful for siblings to marry and I didn’t want you to have to carry that burden. I’m so sorry, Son. I love you as much as I do my own children, and I would do everything to protect you. I hope you know that, but only your father can really say what happened.”
“Why Lycoris?” Marvolo asked. “Why not a star?”
“Lycoris is an old Black name. It was used for one of Lycoris’s great aunts. I remember Lux saying to Sirius once that it would suit if they were never godsiblings and had a child. She was the light, and her child would be the twilight.”
“Oh my god,” Lycoris breathed. “It’s really incestuous?”
Then Lycoris broke down crying and he felt warm arms wrap around him and he could only cry heavily onto a shoulder. His hair was brushed away from his face and then kisses were reigned down over his temple until his sobs became choked and short and finally ended.
He finally pulled away and found himself looking into red-brown eyes. “This is worse than what I was upset about—before,” he whispered, referring to the day he found out Marvolo’s father was a Muggle.
“I’ll tell you why it isn’t when we’re back at Riddle Manor,” he promised, “where I hope you’ll let me take you after all this.”
Lycoris nodded before turning back to Lucius. “Why did Lily and James hate her so much?”
“I can only speculate,” he began carefully. “You are aware that your father and his friends were called the Marauders. As far as I’m aware from your Aunt Narcissa, he was never as—tight—with them as he might have been. He was always with Lux, although she was a year older. They say that James Potter and Sirius Black were the best of friends, but that wasn’t strictly true. James Potter chased after the mudblood Lily Evans, and Sirius adored Lux. Of course, no one thought anything of it as they were godsiblings. Well, no one outside of the family.
“There was a terrible row about it just before Sirius’s fifth year and he left Grimmauld Place to stay with the Potters. I don’t know why he didn’t go to Lux and her family, perhaps they suspected, but he found sanctuary. For whatever reason, he wasn’t disowned. No one believed he would do the unthinkable. As far as anyone knows, he officially hasn’t.”
Lycoris looked at the picture and then let his cheekbones fall slightly. “I have her cheekbones,” he mentioned. “Look.” Both Lucius and Marvolo crowded around the picture and looked at Lycoris closely.
“It appears that you do,” Lucius murmured. “And her hair—the color and the curl, when you haven’t changed it.”
He laughed hollowly. “I guess you really are my uncle Lucius.”
“I was since that day Draco found you,” Lucius told him, cupping his cheek. “To me this changes nothing. Now. I only have the one copy of the photograph. I can magically make another in a couple of days and I’ll have it framed for you. I’ll make two copies, just in case Sirius gets agitated and ruins it.” They smiled at each other. “Would you like me to be there when you ask him about it?”
Lycoris shook his head. “No. I want to ask him first on my own. I think that’s only right. She may be my mother after all and the fewer people he thinks knows, the better. If it turns south, then, well, I’ll call you in.”
Lucius kissed his head. “All right, dear boy. Remember that I’m always here for you, even if I’m old and gray and confined to a chair. I am first and foremost, your father.”
“I know,” Lycoris answered quietly. “I wish I got a chance to call you that.”
“As long as I know that we are true family,” Lucius breathed, “then that will have to be enough. To the world, I am content to be your Uncle Lucius. But you will always be my ‘Son’ and I couldn’t be prouder.—Now,” he turned to Marvolo, “don’t get him drunk. Give him plenty of butterbeer if he needs to float away, but that’s it.”
“Duly noted, Lucius,” Marvolo purred, before he swept Lycoris into his arms and headed for the floo.