“I see that look in her face, she’s got that look in her eye / She’s thinking how did I get here and wondering why”“22,” Lily Allen
Lycoris held the photograph in his hand. There was one packed away in his trunk in a more ornate frame. This one was beautiful, of course, but it was simple and strangely reminded him of a wrought iron fence.
Sirius and Flo had gotten back from their second honeymoon the day before.
“What’s this all about?” Sirius asked as he walked into the library.
“I did some digging,” Lycoris answered. “You know how curious I am, being a Ravenclaw.” He tried to smile but it fell flat.
“Coris, what is wrong?” Sirius asked, coming closer, but Lycoris just shrugged him off.
“I’ve never believed that Isabelle Rosier was my mother. I know you’ve never believed it either despite all those papers you’ve signed. So—I looked for her. Mother, I mean. At first I thought since she probably wasn’t a Rosier, then her mother must have been, but then it occurred to me, what if it was a ruse?”
“Lycoris, stop right there!” Sirius said, coming closer.
“And then I found her,” Lycoris laughed hysterically. “Quite by accident. And then do you know what I found out? You were crazy about each other. Mad. She’d even picked out my name.”
“Lycoris—no good can come of this.”
“Of course it can’t!” Lycoris screamed, throwing the picture at him. “You and Mother were godsiblings!” He started crying. “The name Rosier was from the Blacks, wasn’t it? Aunt Narcissa’s mother was a Rosier! How could you keep this from me? I’m your son! James and Lily Potter stole me from you! And you put some woman up on the tapestry and let Mother rot! Did you know she committed suicide after she lost me and you got thrown into Azkaban? Did you? Why isn’t she immortalized in our family? Why?”
“It’s illegal!” Sirius railed back. “If anyone found out, I could go straight back to Azkaban! You’d be a bastard!” He ran a hand down his face. “You were never supposed to know.”
“I have her cheekbones. Her curling blond hair. Her eyes. How were you going to keep me a secret?”
“We had a little cottage and she was going to be a war widow, and I would see you during holidays. It was all planned, Coris. All planned. You wouldn’t know you were a Black until you went to Hogwarts.”
Lycoris was crying again. “Does Flo know? Did you tell her and not me?”
“Of course she doesn’t know and she’s never going to find out!” Sirius whispered. “No one is ever going to find out!”
“Well, Uncle Lucius knows. Where do you think I got the picture? I want it on your desk, by the way. I want the ones of Isabelle Rosier gone. I want all her pictures gone!” He sighed and sat down. “This is one large mess. Why did they take me?”
“I told James once we graduated. He didn’t approve. It was a bit rich considering he’d married a Muggleborn against his parents’ wishes. Things were never the same after that. Then Lux got pregnant. We were so happy. We invited Lily and James over and then—a few days later—you were gone. A month later Lily announced that she and James were going to have a baby and I was named godfather. I never made the connection.” He put his head in his hands. “Gods, I loved your mother so much, Coris. Words can’t describe. She was the love of my life.”
“This is such a mess,” Coris muttered. “I’m the product of magical incest, stolen, abused by Muggles, Harry fucking Potter, and now a bastard pureblood heir. I can never catch a break.”
“No, I don’t suppose you can.”
“I can’t be around Flo right now. It’s too painful.” He handed over the picture, which he’d somehow gotten back. “On your desk. Now.”
“I love you, too, Coris,” Sirius said sadly.
“And I never want to hear Isabelle’s name mentioned again. Not even by Flo. Tell her that. Make up any excuse you want. Just—no.”
“Understood. I’ll have Kreacher send you up something.”
Lycoris nodded and left the room, tears sliding down his face.
“This is a courtesy call,” Lucius said as he sat down in the library, the Dark Lord choosing to stand and look about the room.
Sirius glanced at his two guests and swallowed. “I understand that I have you to thank for certain photographs that came into my son’s possession.”
Lucius waved his hand. “Think nothing of it. Family is family and Lux was like a younger sister.”
“Yes,” Sirius said through clenched teeth. “I remember.”
“This, however, is not about your godsibling and wife,” the Dark Lord said, turning. “This is a courtesy call. I will be suggesting to Minister Scrimgeour and Professor Dumbledore that we use an ambassador to go between the lines. Someone who has complete immunity. As you are both interested parties, I thought you should both be here.”
“What does this have to do with me?” Sirius asked, a little petulantly.
“While I suspect the Light will have several candidates, I have but one: Heir Lycoris Black.”
Sirius stiffened. “He is just a boy.”
“A dark wizard with ties to both the light and the dark. I understand Lady Lux, despite her name, was quite skilled in curses and hexes, was she not, Lord Black?”
“You speak of Heiress Sirius, Dark Lord,” Sirius reminded him.
“Perhaps I do. However, your family tree says otherwise.” He smiled at him. “Heir Lycoris is brilliant, charismatic, and is noncontroversial. He owes no particular allegiance to you, apart from a love for his father, and no particular allegiance to me, apart for a love for his uncle. He is the perfect candidate.”
“What of his lover? I know you know who he is.”
“That is not a problem. They rarely speak of politics.” The Dark Lord smiled. “I am surprised he hasn’t told you.”
“He tells Lucius everything first. I am merely secondary.” His jaw clenched. Clearly he was displeased with the situation.
“A pity,” the Dark Lord said. “Still, it is what it is. Lord Malfoy is the man who rescued him. Now, where is this pretty young wife of yours I’ve heard so much about? Is she carrying another Black heir?”
Sirius simply glared at him.
“What do you want to do with your life?” Reverend Chambers asked as he looked at Hermia.
She swallowed a bite of her sandwich. “I used to want to work for the British government. Human rights,”—of course, what she meant to say was ‘creature rights,’ but that wasn’t possible here—“but I think I’d rather do something else now.”
“Well, I don’t want to be a nun, if that’s what you’re asking,” she laughed and he chuckled along with her. “There’s this theorem I’m working on in maths,” she admitted. “I think I’m very close to solving it, and if I could only get it published…” she shrugged.
“Big dreams,” he commented. “You don’t want a home and a family?”
“I did, once, in a way,” she admitted. “I fell for the son of a duke. Stupid, I know, got me in a world of trouble, but I thought if I was clever enough, he’d notice me and I could, well, be his duchess.”
“How romantic,” he surmised as he took a sip of his tea. “I take it this son of a duke had other ideas.”
“Quite. He has some lover who apparently has a lot of political power.” She laughed to herself. “If only his father knew.”
“Hmm,” Reverend Chambers said. “What of a simpler life?”
“Well, I’ve always had one. My parents were dentists. I think I’ve fit in quite well with the sisters.”
“I’ve heard nothing but glowing reports,” Reverend Chambers admitted. He paused. “What’s your real name, Hermia Grange?”
She looked startled.
“You were sent here by some court of law. Hermia Grange is not your real name. Tell me what it is.”
“She’s dead,” she whispered viciously. “They took everything she was and they killed it.”
“What did she do?”
Hermia looked at him with haunted eyes. “They found evidence on her sister that she had been cut on her back and upper arms with a rusty knife that was laced with poisoned herbs. Apparently they could tell it had been going on for years. The blade was found in my room so I was blamed. There was no testimony. Nothing. They just locked me up in this cell that was so small that I couldn’t even sit properly. And then this man I knew came. He said if I agreed to come and live in New Zealand, the man with the political power would have the charges dropped. I couldn’t stand twenty years of living in a hole.” She laughed. “I was a coward in the end. So they changed my name, gave me a fake life and papers, and sent me here. They even suggested it was the son of the duke who had set it all up. It was horrible.”
“What had you done to him?”
“I thought myself his equal. I know better now.”
He came over to her and placed a hand in her bushy brown hair. “You know, you’re quite pretty when you smile.”
“This hair ruins the effect. I’m thinking of cutting it.”
“That would be a sight,” he agreed, coming closer, his lips a breath away from hers. “What’s your name?”
“Hermia. Hermia Grange,” she whispered, and then he kissed her.
“You don’t have to do this,” Sirius reiterated as they gave over their wands to be weighed. Lycoris just sighed and looked down at his robes, which were a deep gold. He was royalty, he remembered. As the consort of the Dark Lord, he was royalty. “I also don’t see why you grew your hair out, and why it’s partially blond.”
That, at least was true. He’d grown it out to the middle of his back and then formed an elaborate twist so that it would hold without a ribbon. Of course, he was also wearing the golden thong for form. Dark blond streaks, reminiscent of his mother cascaded within the twist, making him look mysterious and powerful.
“I like it.”
“You look like you’re from the seventeenth century.”
“Mother would have liked it. I usually have blond hair when I’m not emulating you.”
“Your Cousin Andromeda has brown hair. It’s not unheard of for a Black. I understand her daughter Nymphadora might also have it when she’s not doing weird things with her hair as a metamorphmagus. So we don’t all have black hair. Look at Narcissa.”
“Please don’t make me meet them—well, I’ve technically met Tonks, but that was in passing. They’re blood traitors and half-bloods.” They were now walking toward the elevators and Sirius bumped shoulders with him.
“I’ve learned my lesson with Hermione Granger,” he promised. “I won’t make you associate with the ‘lowly’ when you don’t want to. You seem to have some strange sixth sense about these things.”
“If only you knew the half of it,” Lycoris whispered as they entered a lift.
They went all the way to the top floor to the Minister’s office. Lycoris would have done a double take if he hadn’t seen pictures of Marvolo as Lord Voldemort with his snake face. It was truly gruesome. He really wasn’t sure he could kiss him like that. He might possibly gag. Lycoris didn’t care if Marvolo was suddenly the winner of this war and there was a public appearance: he would not kiss him like that. No!
Dumbledore was also sitting on the desk and the other occupied chair was holding Lucius.
Sirius ushered Lycoris into the chair next to Lucius and then uncomfortably sat next to Marvolo.
“Well,” Dumbledore began. “It appears that Lord Voldemort wants an ambassador.”
“Very sensible,” Lucius put in. “There’s really no official way for the two sides of this conflict to talk or have cease fires.”
“Quite,” Dumbledore agreed. “The only name Voldemort is willing to consider, however, is Lycoris Black.”
“He’s too young,” Sirius stated. “I’ve already stated this in a previous meeting, but he’s far too young.”
“He’s sixteen,” the sibilant voice of Marvolo chimed. Lycoris certainly hadn’t been expecting that. He supposed a potion could change one’s voice, but could it make it that high? “He’s practically a man.”
“If I agree to this,” Lycoris began carefully, “I have certain conditions.”
“Conditions,” Minister Scrimgeour said.
Lycoris shortened his hair and turned it pink. “I have the Black metamorphmagus gene,” he declared before returning his hair to the long black and blond tresses. “I can have children if I want.”
“I want the choice of marrying my male lover the first day of August and for any issue I produce to be legal Black heirs.”
“Coris,” Sirius breathed, but Lycoris just looked at him steadily.
“I agree,” Marvolo stated. “If we treat him like a man and ask for so great a sacrifice, we must make certain concessions.”
“But imagine the precedent!” Scrimgeour announced. “It will be a nightmare!”
“Make it a special act of the Wizengamot,” Lucius declared. “Such things are not unheard of. It will be singular to Heir Lycoris Black. I have met this lover and he is of the highest order. He will make an excellent sire to Black children.”
“By the gods,” Sirius announced. “I don’t even know his name! No one’s ever told me!”
Marvolo remained quiet in his chair.
“Lord Riddle,” Lycoris supplied. “Tom Marvolo Riddle. I call him ‘Mal.’”
“You call him ‘Mal.’ What does he call you?”
Sirius groaned into his hands.
“Tom Riddle is over seventy years old,” Dumbledore stated, “and happens to be sitting to your right, Lord Black.”
“The Dark Lord,” Lycoris stated, pointing, “is definitely not Marvolo. I should know. He is my lover, after all.”
“I need to talk to my son,” Sirius suddenly exclaimed, standing up. “Malfoy, you come, too.”
The three walked out of the office and into the nearby alcove. Sirius took a deep breath. “We all know that’s not what You-Know-Who looks like.”
“Transfiguration, probably,” Lucius guessed, though his eyes gleamed with knowledge. “But what does that have to do with anything?”
“Coris,” Sirius said carefully. “What does Lord Riddle look like?”
“Are you trying to catch me out?” He looked affronted.
“I’m not—Malfoy!” Sirius looked at him seriously.
“If the Dark Lord is his lover, then I’m certainly not going to be the one to tell anything. That would be a breach of trust.”
Sirius deflated. “That’s a Slytherin ‘yes.’ You forget, Malfoy, I grew up in a house of Slytherins.” He turned back to Lycoris. “This is your time to come clean.”
“I’m not giving him up.” He looked hard at his father. “You broke all the rules. I come by it naturally.”
“And now he wants his young lover as ambassador. Gods, what are we going to do?”
“We’re going to let this happen,” Lycoris said coolly. “He knows I’m neutral. He respects that. He likes that. Why not use it to everyone’s benefit?”
Sirius sighed. “Very well. And don’t think I haven’t noticed you’re wearing his ring. He’s also coming to dinner, even though it will put him near Flo, may the gods help me.”
“She’s pregnant with a girl, isn’t she?” Lycoris asked.
“How could you possibly—?”
“I looked at the family tapestry, hoping it will name Uncle Regulus’s daughter. It tells all about this baby.” He walked back into the Minister’s office with his uncle and father walking behind him.
Lycoris and Draco lay on Draco’s bed, shooting stars out of their wands. “She moved into a boarding house for witches?”
“I got Father to serve as a reference,” Draco supplied. “It was time to get her away from her horrible relatives and she had the funds.”
“I thought you liked Lady Daphne.”
Draco shrugged. “She’s fine, as far as prefects go. Pureblood, beautiful. She keeps up her robes even though they’re a bit threadbare. Could be worse.”
Lycoris laughed. “What would Aunt Narcissa say if she knew you were courting ‘new money’?”
“Don’t tell her,” Draco mock-whispered. “It would simply break her heart.”
Iolanthe stood in front of her father’s desk. “I’m eleven now,” she pointed out. “Can’t you sign a marriage contract with Lie?”
“You know I can’t, sweetheart,” Lucius said kindly. “You’re too young, and he’s inclined toward another.”
“But wouldn’t Cousin Sirius want me? I’m beautiful and cultured and—“
“Yes, darling, of course,” Lucius said, coming around the desk and picking her up. “However, you’re also second cousins, and I don’t think cousin Sirius will like that at all.”
Her bottom lip trembled. “But I want to be with Lie forever!”
“He will always be your brother,” Lucius soothed, “and will always love you. Be content with that, little one.”
Sirius was sitting at the breakfast table and was reading a letter. “Oh no,” he murmured before passing the letter to Flo.
“Is this even possible? She’s only a hypothetical on the family tree!”
“The tree is fickle. It didn’t list Lycoris’s mother. Now it supposedly doesn’t like foreign witches.” He sighed. “Coris, it appears you have a cousin.”
“I have three,” he answered as he took a bite of his toast. “Wait, do you mean—?”
“Yes, I mean one closer to you. Regulus, it seemed, had a daughter before he died. She’s several months older than you are.”
“Are you certain? The tree’s not lost it after all these centuries? Where has she been all this time?”
“France, with her mother,” Sirius explained, taking the letter back and looking at it. “It turns out Madame Alix Vilaneuve Black has contracted some disease that’s in French and I can’t make sense of, and her family won’t take the girl, so she’s sending her here to England. We’ll have to set up entrance exams for Hogwarts. I think she’ll be a sixth year with you and Draco. She’s apparently November, 1979. That makes it—” He looked like he was thinking “—two months after she was conceived that Regulus was murdered, the old dog.”
“I—“ Lycoris cleared her throat. “Please say I don’t have to marry her.”
“Gods, no,” Sirius said, reaching out his hand. “You don’t have to marry anyone you don’t want to, especially considering your conditions to Dumbledore and Scrimgeour. It’s just, she’s your cousin and she’s my niece. We must make way in our household for her.”
“I’m glad you’re here then, Flo,” Lycoris said kindly. “She’d probably feel lost without another woman in the house.”
“Yes, I imagine she would,” Flo agreed, smiling.
“What’s her name?”
“Lady Selenadora. Or Mademoiselle Sélènadore as the French would say. This is going to be a headache. I don’t know the first thing about French etiquette.”
“They wear their hair down with wreaths on their head,” Lycoris put in, remembering the French witches from fourth year. “Don’t ask me why.”
Sirius and Flo exchanged a look. This clearly was going to be difficult.
Everyone stared at one another when she came through the floo. Her long brown hair, which curled at the ends much like the Blacks, fell down her back and there was indeed a coronet on the top of her head. Her eyes were gray as fog and her face was thin but with the Black cheekbones. She was wearing rose leggings made of velvet that went halfway down the calf that were met with pale pink stockings and she wore a pink velvet jacket that was laced up like a corset in the front.
It was the strangest fashion choice Lycoris had ever seen.
She made an elegant curtsey.
“Uncle Sirius,” she said in perfect English, coming up to him. “I may call you that, may I not?” She air kissed both his cheeks. “I’m afraid I know so little about the Blacks. Papa died before I was born.”
“Of course,” Sirius said, pushing Flo slightly forward. “My wife, Lady Black.”
“You may call me Florence,” she said kindly, copying the air kiss. “I hope we’ll be great friends.”
Selenadora smiled at her, a twinkle in her eyes. “And this young man?”
“My son, Heir Lycoris Black. He’s a few months younger than you are.”
“What’s an ‘heir’?”
Stepping in, Florence answered. “Great houses have a ‘Lord,’ such as your uncle. He’s Lord Black, as I am Lady Black. The heir to his title is known as ‘Heir Lycoris.’ All other children are Lords and Ladies. You, for instance, are Lady Selenadora Black as you are the daughter of a younger son, Lord Regulus Black.”
“How confusing,” Selenadora admitted, trying to smile. “Still, I have weeks to learn before school, yes, school?”
“I am certain you will help me with it.”
They all went to the drawing room where there was tea waiting. “Is there no café?” she asked, letting her accent shine through. “It is only, it is the afternoon.”
“We always drink tea,” Flo laughed, but she called Kreacher to make a pot of coffee for Selenadora.
After Selenadora was given a tour of the house, Lycoris showed her to her room. “This belonged to your father,” he offered. “We had Kreacher clean it out for you. You can have it redecorated however you want, but we weren’t certain of your preferences. Kreacher’s unpacked your trunks. Dinner’s at seven. Do you need anything?”
“No, I do not think so,” she said quietly. “Unless there is a book on English etiquette?”
“I don’t think we have one,” he apologized, “but I know Aunt Narcissa will. She’s Father’s cousin. I spent part of my childhood with her and her children. I’ll owl her for you and it should be here by morning.”
Selenadora slumped into a chair in relief. “It’s just so different. Even your clothes—“ she sighed.
“We can get you English ones, if you want,” Lycoris offered. “I know what this is like. I was stolen when I was a baby and left with Muggles, and had to suddenly learn everything in a month before school when I was eleven. It’s doable, Selenadora. You’ll surprise yourself.”
“I’m not eleven. I’m seize. Maman is sick, and I don’t know what to do. She always said Papa hated Uncle Sirius.”
“I think it went both ways,” Lycoris admitted. “But Father certainly does not hate you. You’re family and family is very important to him. Why don’t you come with me to Malfoy Manor in a couple of days? You can meet our other cousins and get to know more people.”
She nodded. “In a few days, yes. Could you have Kreacher come and find me when my harp arrives? I have no idea how they’re sending it.”
“Of course,” Lycoris promised, squeezing her shoulder, and then he left her to explore her new room.
“Your hair is still long,” Lucius noted when they arrived at Malfoy Manor. “And it’s a cross between your mother’s and your father’s.”
They held each other’s gaze. “I’m an ambassador now. I can keep my hair however long I please.” Lycoris grinned at him and Lucius engulfed him in a hug. “Lux would be proud,” he murmured. He then fingered the golden thong. “And the Dark Lord would be pleased to know you’re wearing this.”
Selenadora was behind him, wearing a new set of red robes that brought out the natural highlights of her hair.
“Oh, yes, everyone,” Lycoris called. “This is my cousin, Lady Selenadora Black. She was Uncle Regulus’s daughter.” He then proceeded to point everyone out and Selenadora greeted everyone carefully according to English etiquette.
Draco immediately pulled her to the side.
“I wonder what that’s about,” Narcissa mused next to Lycoris, clearly taking in the expensive cut of the robes, but the fact that her hair was down and a circlet was fitted atop her head. “A French tradition?”
“She refuses to break it. Apparently, it means she’s a maiden.”
“Interesting,” Narcissa said.
Selenadora turned her head to the side and blushed.
“I know I shouldn’t be asking given Draco’s courtship, and you may not even know, but what’s her marriage portion?” She looked coyly at Lycoris.
“Really, Aunt? Do you think Father will ever allow cousins?”
“He allows you and the Dark Lord,” she murmured. “You never know.”
Lycoris sighed. “Well, I know she’s here for good. Father won’t let her go now that he has her. He has English law on his side and he doesn’t want her in France with relatives who don’t seem to want her. As to her marriage portion, I suppose it’s whatever Regulus had in his vaults. They’ve remained untouched. Father is providing for her entirely out of the main Black fortune.”
Narcissa smiled. “Regulus was always favored. This can only be a good thing. Go to Iolanthe. She’s trying to get your attention, and let’s let the lovebirds be.”
Lycoris looked over at his cousins again. Draco was laughing quietly while Selenadora was giggling behind her hand.