Title: A Potioneer’s Secret
Pairing: fem!James Potter/Lord Voldemort
Name History: Jacquette is a French name. It’s the female form of Jacques or Jack/James. Interestingly, one of my ancestors is named Jacquetta. Had to use it.
Summary: He’d never met anyone like her, but was Jacquette Potter the only girl who wouldn’t look twice at the handsome politician, (Tom) Marvolo Riddle?
For: Kamerra – Happy Anniversary!
Warning(s): Rule 63, child neglect, (possible) child abuse, elopement, blood politics, lovable TMR
Part the First
He felt her as soon as she entered the exclusive club The Emerald Sphinx. She was too young, clearly using her magic to heighten her age. She was wearing robes of purple and silver. Interestingly, she came alone. Most women—if she could be called a woman given her youth—came with friends or a suitor. This goddess had neither.
Abraxas Malfoy looked at him as he had suddenly stopped listening. Tom Marvolo Riddle, Jr. had leaned forward in his chair, his elbow on the armrest, his arm perpendicular, his hand in a fist and his chin resting upon it. “My lord?”
Tom flicked his hand. “Quiet.” He stood fluidly. This child must be from Hogwarts. No, she wasn’t a child. Hardly that. Still, she was Hogwarts age. Then again, supposedly so was he if one weren’t looking closely enough.
He knew he made a strange picture, a boy of twenty-four surrounded by wizards in their fifties, and younger of course. Tom had found the Elixir of Life in Albania along with a way to split his soul. He had only done it once, not wanting the side effects. Rumors said that he would look less and less human and might even go mad. His soul was captured in a ring—a ring that belonged to his uncle, Morfin Gaunt, a ring that was his birthright.
That was interesting. She’d ordered a firewhiskey. The witch took her first sip and then he gently stole it out of her hand and downed it. “You’re too young,” he explained ordering a pear cider.
“I’m here, aren’t I?” she argued. “I also know that your order will enhance my sense of observation although I do like the taste.”
“A potioneer,” he complimented, putting the empty glass down. “I’m impressed. Are you in Old Sluggy’s N.E.W.T. class and I suppose his club if he takes women now?”
She ignored him and accepted the drink from the bartender, taking a sip from the martini glass of the steaming liquid. “You know,” she stated. “I could just wait an hour and come back for another firewhiskey or elven wine.”
He smirked at her. “I might still be here in an hour.”
“Confident,” she murmured. “I’ve known confident wizards before. Are you related to an Heir Sirius Black by any chance?”
“My blood is purer,” he told her smoothly, signaling the bartender who gave him his favorite drink, blood brandy.
The witch had turned away from the bar and was leaning against it. “Well, the Four Lords all have equally pure blood. I don’t believe your claim.”
He took a sip of the drink, making sure the blood didn’t coat his lips. “Don’t then.”
She looked at him sharply and then turned her attention to his followers who were casually sneaking glances at them, although they were pretending to be chatting among themselves. Then she walked away to a table where one would stand and place one’s drinks, a ball of light hanging above each such table. After a quick glance at his merry band of followers, he followed her. The witch didn’t even look at him.
“Are you political?” he asked after several minutes of silence as they each sipped at their drinks.
At first he thought she wouldn’t answer but finally, after looking out at the dance floor, she murmured, “A dangerous question for dangerous times. You know we have a Dark Lord who is rumored to be more powerful than Grindelwald.”
He crossed his wand over his heart in an oath. “I will not judge.”
Her eyes widened. “I—“ She hesitated. “There is this girl in my year, in my dorm. She’s a Muggleborn. She takes the top spot except in potions.”
“Your area of expertise.”
“She was invited to ‘Old Sluggy’s’ club a full six months before myself. My best friend has become obsessed with her. I’m sick of it. He would ruin his name; there are rumors he will be disinherited and he expects us to open our home to him because of our friendship although that is falling apart. I know I sound jealous—“
“Do you love him?” he asked cautiously.
She took another sip of her pear cider. “I see I’ve displeased you.—But, no. I miss my old friend before her. My mother was Head Girl. I do not wish to be a disappointment.” Setting her glass down, she looked back at the dance floor.
He took his time finishing his drink before he offered his hand. The witch looked at it and, after a moment that was strangely agonizing for Tom, she took it. They entered the dance floor just as a wizard waltz was beginning. His arm came around her waist as hers came around his. Their bodies were mere centimeters apart as their free arms came up around to meet above their heads as they danced.
After several dances, he led her back to the bar, and ordered her a peach cider, another potion, which he knew the witch recognized. It was for a natural glow to the cheeks not unlike a pregnant witch. It would take over sixteen hours to dissipate.
“Who are your friends?” she finally asked as he settled her on a settee.
He was drinking another blood brandy. He looked back at them. “Political associates.”
Her eyebrows rose. “Do you have a seat on the Wizengamot?” she finally asked. “Perhaps you should get back to them.”
“I have three and some of my friends hold one or two themselves.” The truth was that he had taken a heritage potion and had claimed some seats that had fallen into disuse. Taking a heritage potion was a practice that had fallen into disuse for whatever reason, most likely because wizards didn’t like to admit they didn’t know exactly who their ancestors were. Despite this, Tom thought it had one of his more brilliant moves. He held more power politically than any of the Four Lords.
She made no movement of recognition, just continued to sip on her drink. Finally, she commented, “You seem young for the Wizengamot.”
“Perhaps we are both older than we look.”
She looked at him. “Perhaps,” she agreed, setting down her glass. “Jacquette,” she offered.
He smiled in triumph.
Jacquette’s face remained impassive.
“Riddle?” She picked up her drink again. “I have not heard the name before.”
“My mother was a Gaunt,” he told her. She was one of the Sacred Twenty-Eight.
Jacquette nodded. “Well, your mother was pure of blood.” Looking away again, she ignored him as she had so often done throughout the night. “That certainly explains your associates. They have remained where you left them over an hour ago. Oh—one is coming over. At least he’s not my father’s age.”
Tom turned and saw Rabastan Lestrange who had been out of Hogwarts for only two years.
He bowed. “My Lord. Do you require our departure?”
Jacquette looked at the interloper. “He’s not one of the Four Lords,” she returned. “Or are you overly polite?” She turned back to looking at the dance floor. A look of disgust crossed her face.
Tom followed her gaze to take in a witch clearly of Veela descent dancing as if she were a common Muggle. “Miss Jacquette,” he tried to catch her attention, but when she didn’t respond, he placed his fingers under her chin and turned her head toward him. “Look away. She is not worth your attention.” He turned to Rabastan Lestrange. “Inform management of the inappropriate display. Women of high quality should not be forced to be in the same room with such a creature.”
Lestrange nodded and left.
He held Jacquette’s hazel gaze until the sorry excuse for a witch was escorted out, the poor wizard who was dancing with her coming out of a daze. “She’s gone,” he told her.
She lowered her eyelids in thanks before she sipped her drink. Then, suddenly, she told him. “Potter.”
He startled slightly at the familiar name. No wonder she knew about potions and was top of Slughorn’s class.
“Jacquette Potter. Because of my friend’s fascination with his Muggleborn—I know far too much about Muggle fairytales. Cinderella must go home now. Even my roommates will notice if I am not in the dorm by two.”
Tom looked at the clock and saw that it was a quarter to one.
She must have noticed when she told him, “It takes a great deal of time to walk to an unmonitored floo to go back to Hogsmeade and then to walk up to the Castle.”
“It would be my privilege to Apparate you to Hogsmeade,” he murmured, strangely meaning it. “You could stay another half hour, forty five minutes if you would prefer. I give you my word as a gentleman-wizard that I will not harm you or do anything other than what I promise you.” He crossed his heart with his wand again in an oath.
He hadn’t realized she was slightly tense until she relaxed just slightly.
Unfortunately, Lestrange appeared again.
Tom flicked his hand. “Leave us,” he ordered. “Everyone else may go. I will call another meeting when the time is more convenient for me.”
“Shall I remain, my Lord?”
Jacquette rolled her eyes ever so slightly and Tom caught the motion. “As long as you only refer to me as ‘Mr. Riddle.’ Miss Potter finds the title of ‘Lord’ ridiculous.—Would you care for another drink, Miss Potter?”
“Elven—“ she began, but a look from Tom had her quickly change her mind. “Elderberry wine.”
Lestrange nodded. “Mr. Riddle. The usual?”
“Yes,” he said, indicating the glasses.
Soon they were swept away and their new drinks were placed before them.
Again she was staring at the dancing. “And you have servants,” she sighed. “You are quite the riddle, Mr. Riddle,” she seemed to tease. “You know my family invented both the drinks you earlier paid for.”
“I am well aware,” he told her, “though of course I didn’t know at the time. Would you like to dance again?”
She shook her head, looking into her glass. “I didn’t come to dance. I just needed to get away from Sirius. I had to listen about the Muggleborn’s eyes for a full half hour. I thought being around purebloods would make me feel—well—not better but that it would restore my equilibrium.”
“I would threaten bodily harm,” Tom told her honestly, “if he were so uncouth in my presence.”
“I was thinking castration—I’m certain I could have Father invent something. I don’t know why I’m confiding in you.”
He smiled a half smile at her again after finishing his drink. “Because as soon as I leave you in Hogsmeade, I’m going to write to your father and ask him for permission to court you. Who better to tell your worries to than a suitor?”
“Suitors are for polite conversation,” she argued, not looking at him again.
“We haven’t been for polite conversation since the moment I took your firewhiskey from you,” he pointed out. “If I had been any other wizard, I would have plied you with firewhiskey and elven wine and held you far too closely on the dance floor. I also would have taken you somewhere other than Hogwarts.”
“But I’m a pureblood.”
“A young and impressionable one,” he told her. “You would have been forced into a marriage.”
She shrugged. “He would have been in for a surprise. I have no dowry, and I will be the sole owner of all of the Potter patents.” Jacquette glanced at him. “Do you still wish to court me, Mr. Riddle?”
“Yes,” he answered simply, holding out his hand. “Cinderella must return to her carriage.”
She glanced at the clock and then accepted his hand. He led her out of the club and held her close as they Apparated away to Hogsmeade. Tom was loath to give up their closeness. He placed his hand on the small of her back when she led him to the Shrieking Shack and then turned at the door.
“When I wake up, I’ll believe this is all a dream. How silly. I’m not remotely sentimental. Not anymore. Sirius has rather killed that part of me.”
Tom looked at her carefully and pushed a black curl away from her face before taking a chain he hid beneath his shirt, which held his mother’s engagement and wedding rings on it. “These belonged to my mother,” he told her. “Her name was Merope. Keep them safe until the next time I see you.” Tom placed them over Jacquette’s head and she marveled at the clearly expensive engagement ring.
“I don’t deserve these,” she told him, looking at the rings and avoiding his eyes.
He took a moment. “I say you do.” He picked up her hand and placed it beneath his lips without skin touching skin. “Goodnight, Jacquette Potter.”
She turned to the door and opened it. “Goodnight, Marvolo Riddle,” she whispered when she turned to close the door behind her, a sliver of her face showing itself to him.
Fleamont Potter was a man with shaggy black hair and, while tall, a bit of a stomach. He smoked a pipe. Rumors had it that it was a potion dipped tobacco that he had patented but had never released to the public.
“Mr. Riddle,” he greeted as Tom was shown to his study. The small manor was impeccably clean, but was showing signs of wear. Tom tried not to judge, given how his mother had grown up, but he wished his future bride—because Jacquette Potter would be his bride—had grown up in slightly better conditions.
The two wizards shook hands and Tom was offered a seat. “I believe you read my petition,” he began.
“Yes,” Fleamont responded. “I don’t like it.”
Tom wasn’t expecting the man to be as blunt as that.
“According to your birth certificate Tom Riddle, you’re old enough to have fathered her, although given my age…” Well, as the Muggles would say, he certainly didn’t pull his punches. “Jacquette may be only sixteen, but I don’t buy this story about The Emerald Sphinx. My daughter plays tricks and games, but this seems to be a bit beyond the pale. If it did happen, however, I thank you for keeping alcohol away from her. She likes to think she can break certain social conventions, one involving firewhiskey it seems.”
“Sir, I assure you I am devoted to your daughter—“ Tom tried.
Fleamont snorted. “How many other young ladies have you been devoted to? You’re in your fifties, you look like a twenty year old, and you are politically powerful. It’s a powerful aphrodisiac that could seduce any witch, and a wizard as handsome as yourself could easily seduce even the most well brought up pureblood maiden.”
Tom took a breath. This wizard, if he weren’t Jacquette’s father, would have gone under the Cruciatus Curse by now. “I have never asked any father to court their daughter and I am not the type of wizard to go behind another’s back in such a matter.”
“You aren’t,” Fleamont said doubtfully. He took the letter that Tom had crafted and threw it aside. Tom recognized the Gaunt family seal he had appropriated when he went into politics.
Tom was beginning to wonder if he should place Fleamont Potter under the Imperius Curse. It would certainly make things easier. “Mr. Potter,” he tried again, “when I parted from your daughter, she expressed the belief that she would think that the entire night would have been a dream. I gave her a necklace I always wear. It bears my mother’s engagement and wedding rings. She died just hours after my birth. This is no mere trinket. Surely you can see what a gift of this magnitude means.—She also expressed to me her disgust over her friend Heir Sirius Black’s attentions toward a Muggleborn and how she did not wish to give him sanctuary here in your home should he be disinherited because of the favor he shows this witch. This is no mere fancy on either of our parts. Surely you can see that.”
Fleamont paused. “She expressed that to you? She has made no mention of it to me. Excuse me a moment.” He stood from his chair and left the study. Tom could only guess that he had gone in search of his wife, Euphemia Potter, who was known for her skills in potions and her plainness, which Jacquette fortunately had never inherited. It could be possible that Jacquette had confided in her mother and not her father.
Twenty minutes later, Fleamont returned with a letter that had been folded and refolded several times. “You are correct,” he stated in total shock. “She does not want Sirius here.—And she told you this?” His blue eyes looked at him.
“She did,” he confirmed. “It came up when we were discussing politics. As you probably know, I hold three seats in the Wizengamot.”
“You mentioned,” he said distractedly, “when you were outlining how you could provide for my daughter.” Fleamont sat down and rubbed his graying beard. “Very well. A letter my daughter sent seemed well disposed toward you and in light of this evidence…” He sighed and then looked up. “You are on probation. Do not disappoint me.”
Tom stood and bowed his head. “Thank you, Mr. Potter.”
He waved him out. “You better leave before I change my mind.”
Walking at the quickest pace without seeming like he was hurrying, Tom left as fast as possible. At least he was able to save Jacquette the indignity of having Heir Sirius Black as a houseguest that summer.
Although it was winter, Tom and Jacquette were walking down Diagon Alley. Euphemia Potter had agreed as they were now courting and Jacquette had finished all her schoolwork a few days before. Neither was saying anything to the other, but Tom could tell when she noticed one of his followers bowing to them as they passed.
“They take this ‘Lord’ thing seriously,” she commented as he held open the door to The Sleeping Dragon.
He paused as they were shown to a table, away from the windows as Jacquette said, despite the fact that the glass was insulated, that it was slightly colder there. “They are merely showing their respect for my position in the Wizengamot.”
“How charming,” she said sarcastically once they were given menus. “I would find it annoying to be addressed as ‘Lady Jacquette’, though I suppose it does have a certain caché.”
“I cannot help but agree.”
The door opened but neither paid attention to it. Tom was looking over the menu—or rather pretending. Jacquette had this earnest look on her face, as if trying to decide between two dishes.
“Jackie,” a girl greeted, but Jacquette refused to look up, instead taking a sip of her water.
The girl, who had auburn hair and the greenest of eyes, sighed. “Jacquette.”
“Hello, Lily,” she greeted, still looking at the menu. “I didn’t know you were in London. I thought you’d be up North. Is it colder there?”
“Quite. I’m here to meet Sirius and his father.”
Jacquette closed her menu and only now looked up. “Are you certain that’s wise?”
“Sirius assured me—“
“Sirius is a dreamer,” Jacquette broke in. “You do know the words of his house are Toujours Pur. I thought you knew a bit of French.—What are you having, Mr. Riddle?”
“Lamb,” he answered over his menu. “Or the rabbit. I haven’t decided.” He usually could not decide when he came to that particular restaurant. Both were to his liking.
“I had decided on the lamb chops,” she mentioned casually. “Lily, you’re dressed like a Muggle. Lord Black is going to instantly know something is wrong.”
This Lily looked down at her coat and dress. “Really?” she sounded unsure.
“Trust me,” Jacquette answered, taking a sip of her water. “I know Lord Black.—You can see that I’m rather busy. I’ll see you at the start of term.”
Lily paused a moment but then turned away and went—somewhere. Tom didn’t really care so he didn’t pay attention.
Tom put down his menu. “I’ll have the rabbit as you’re having the lamb. That really was a horrid dress from what I could see of it.”
Jacquette didn’t bother to answer. Instead she took another sip of her water. Partway into their meal, she spoke again. “I looked up your voting record. You’re rather partial to the interest of purebloods and wizards in general who were brought up in our world.”
“Most members are. Would you prefer it if I weren’t?”
She shrugged. “I doubt it would matter. It wouldn’t change how you would vote.”
He looked at her over his firewhiskey. “Perhaps not, but I would still like your opinion.”
“You know my opinion.—And there goes Lord Black. At least he managed to finish his salad and hasn’t caused a scene.”
Tom turned to see Lord Black quietly exit the restaurant leaving Heir Sirius Black and the Muggleborn Lily behind him. “I hope neither of them comes over.”
“Of course they will. Sirius considers me his best friend and Lily is my dorm mate. Muggleborns like to share their romantic aspirations and experiences with other witches. Can’t figure out why, but it seems to be part of their culture. All one need do is mention that one is going to lunch with a certain wizard, then everyone knows there’s a courtship, and then after a given amount of time they ask if a proposal is in sight. It’s all simple and reasonable amongst purebloods and most half-bloods.”
“We speak of the honor to our houses a certain witch might bring,” Tom confided. “Then again, no one would dare to ask me.”
“As you’re ‘Lord Riddle’,” she sighed. “No matter how much time passes, it still seems a bit excessive.”
“Put it out of your head,” Tom suggested. “To you I am just Mr. Riddle, the politician.”
She paused and leaned forward. “You have the most seats in the House. Why aren’t you Chief Warlock?”
“Jackie!” a voice cried happily. Unfortunately, this time it belonged to Heir Sirius. “Darling, whatever are you doing sitting over here and not with us?”
“You were otherwise engaged,” she stated, cutting her eyes toward him balefully. “I’m in the middle of a conversation with Mr. Riddle, Sirius. I informed you several months ago that we were courting.”
He paused. “Did you?” He then grinned. “I think I was talking about Lily’s—“
“Sirius, the object of your conversation can hear you,” Jacquette reminded him, “so can the adjoining tables. Your enthusiasm does you no credit. Forgive me, but I was enjoying my lunch without your presence.”
Tom took his napkin and blotted his mouth. “Although we have not been introduced, I assure you it is entirely possible, at least where I am concerned. I also would not doubt a lady’s word. If you would be kind enough to excuse us.”
“Jackie,” Sirius said solemnly, “I’ve been kicked out of Grimmauld Place.”
She ignored him and took a sip of her Elderberry Wine.
Tom signaled over the maître d’. “This is a table for two,” he explained before motioning to Sirius.
The boy scoffed, but he was led back to his own table and Tom could detect a slight sigh in relief on Jacquette’s part. She returned back to her lamb, not saying a word, and Tom took a sip of his firewhiskey.
“I’ve never told you, but you’re very beautiful, Miss Potter.”
“This is only the second time you’ve seen me.”
“I don’t care,” he replied. “You’re beautiful.”
When she made no other comment, he went back to his meal, the two eating in companionable silence. Lily and Heir Sirius were still eating when they left, and Jacquette placed her arm through the crook of Tom’s elbow. It was snowing and she held out her free hand to catch the snowflakes, genuinely smiling and showing her youth at the action.
On a whim, Tom took her hand and began to lead her in a wizarding folk dance, right there in the street and for the first time he heard her laugh. A crowd began to surround them and he even heard a camera go off, but he didn’t quite care. He knew this would do nothing to harm Jacquette’s reputation and would only soften his image as he was known as a hard man that would never waver when it came to his beliefs.
When the photo led The Daily Prophet the next day, he smiled. It gave a biography on each of them, unfortunately documenting his age, and mentioned that they were legally courting according to the Ministry of Magic. All such matters were signed and sealed and then filed away in a specific department of registry. No one looked at the records. No one but the Minister was permitted access except for the occasional reporter. Only pureblood courtships were recorded but, then again, that was how Tom thought it should be and as everyone thought he was a pureblood—
He had tea later that day with the Malfoys, both Abraxas and his son along with his new wife. Abraxas, naturally, smiled coyly at him. “It appears the Potter girl is falling in love with you.”
“I remember the girl,” Narcissa stated. “She rarely speaks. It’s not that she’s shy or has nothing to say, it’s that she prefers not to.”
“An accurate assessment,” Tom commented, taking a sip of his tea. “Her idiot of a father almost didn’t allow me to court her. My honor and my age were called into question.”
“At least he didn’t know,” Abraxas said, his voice drifting off.
Lucius cut in. “My bride is a Black. She knows of our Lord’s identity. Her own sister Bellatrix is a Death Eater.”
“The other sister, I hear, ran away with a Muggleborn,” Tom stated coolly, looking over at the new Heiress Lucius. “Was she punished as I believe Heir Sirius will soon be given his—attachment—to some Muggleborn named ‘Lily’?”
“Sirius?” she said in astonishment. “He was always rebellious but this?”
“The stupid girl came over to our table and greeted Miss Potter and myself when we were at The Sleeping Dragon. It was most uncultured. Then your cousin followed her example.”
Narcissa paled slightly and took a sip of her tea.
“The Potters have always been against our cause,” Abraxas stated. “This could prove inconvenient.”
Tom waved his hand in a gesture showing his indifference. “I care not for the Potters. They will be dead to me the moment Miss Potter becomes Lady Voldemort. Of her politics, if I were to guess, they are on the darker side of neutral. She is certainly not a friend to Muggleborns in general. We haven’t spoken much on politics as of yet. It is a delicate situation.”
Of course, he wasn’t expecting Bellatrix’s overzealousness. He was sitting in his late father’s manor, drinking blood brandy, when he received the floo call. Throwing on a black robe, he Apparated to the cemetery in Godric’s Hollow and saw a circle of female Death Eaters surrounding an oddly cold and silent Jacquette Potter. She was in a white blouse and dark blue skirt. Her hair was undone, showing that she was probably among family or alone, and there were glasses on her nose. What was surprising was that there was a dead crow on the ground and her cheeks and forehead were smeared with blood.
He twirled again and with a crack appeared next to Jacquette. “Is this how you misuse the gifts Lord Voldemort gives you?” he hissed at his followers. “Who has done this to a pureblood lady?”
Taking off her mask, Bellatrix took a step forward. “She gives you no respect, my Lord. This child had to be taught a lesson. She had to be taught how to kill. She had to bathe in blood. She is lucky we didn’t give her a Muggle child.”
He cocked his brow. “Look away, Miss Potter,” he told her, but he saw her hair shaking and knew that she had refused. Not needing anymore of an answer, he screamed, “Crucio!” at Bellatrix and watched her writhe and scream on the ground.
A hand alighted on his arm and he saw Jacquette standing there, holding the corpse of the crow. “I know of a more fitting punishment,” she murmured before she walked toward Bellatrix and opened her mouth, dripping the blood from the bird between her lips, while muttering a curse beneath her breath. “Now your blood is unclean,” she stated. “I’m a potioneer. You may doubt my word, but then again, a part of you will always believe a Potter on such matters.” Kicking her once in the side, she moved away. The crow was still in her hand as the other witches moved out of her way.
Tom was absolutely entranced.
“Now I know why they call you ‘my Lord’,” she called back. “I suppose ‘Lady Jacquette’ is just going to have to grow on me. Goodnight, Mr. Riddle.” She didn’t look back, but Tom didn’t quite expect her to.
It was agony having to wait all night to see her. Calling hours weren’t until ten in the morning, but he had gone to the florist at nine and unfortunately had to choose flowers from the hothouse instead of having the option of picking wildflowers. He chose a single sunflower, hoping that she would like such a simple offering.
Her glasses were gone the next morning. He knew there was an expensive corrective potion that worked for a month, and as potioneers the Potters could easily brew it for Jacquette. They were left alone for morning coffee, the sunflower placed in a vase and then over on a side table.
“Is she in a cell somewhere?” Jacquette asked without even greeting him. “I want that thing I won’t even call a witch in a cell. I don’t like snapping birds’ necks.”
“She’s disfigured,” he told her, “and yes, she is in a cell. She won’t be let out for a very long time. I doubt she’ll remember her name by then. The other witches were punished.”
“I don’t care about them,” she admitted. “I only care about—whoever she was.”
He put down his cup. “You don’t seem remotely concerned that I’m the Dark Lord,” he began hesitantly.
Jacquette smiled. “My best friend is Sirius Black. He comes from a family of Dark supporters and Death Eaters. As soon as I saw you I knew who you were, although for some reason he didn’t. Perhaps it was because I saw your followers and knew many of them to be dark supporters. I only went on about your title because I knew that’s what you would expect, Mr. Riddle.—I still won’t call you ‘Lord Riddle’, though. I’m also not walking out that door. Are you?”
She leveled at him a stare with her hazel eyes.
Tom picked up his cup, and saluted her. “I find myself rather comfortable.”
Part the Second
It was a cold January afternoon when Tom was waiting for Jacquette to arrive. Once again Euphemia Potter had given her permission for Jacquette to take tea with Tom at a friend’s manor, especially as it was with Lord Malfoy’s Heir and his wife.
“She really made Bellatrix’s blood unclean?” Lucius asked as he stood by the floo, his voice full of awe. “I didn’t know there was such a potion.”
“No,” he answered. “Neither did I. Imagine the implications of it if it actually exists. I’ve been trying to recreate the movements of everyone involved in case part of it is a ritual, but I doubt the Potters would ever release something so dangerous.”
“But if they could reverse it—“ Lucius suggested.
“If they could reverse it so people could become pure of blood,” Tom agreed, “this might be a very different world.”
The fire jumped to life with green flames and the thin form of Jacquette Potter appeared, draped in winter reds, her hair in a simple chignon. She curtseyed to Lucius. “Heir Lucius, I presume.”
Stepping forward, her host took her hand, “Lady Jacquette. May I introduce my wife, Heiress Lucius, and you of course know the Dark Lord.”
“Yes, I have met Mr. Riddle,” she supplied. At the look in his eye, she amended, “Lord Riddle. Heiress Lucius,” she nodded her head. If she was now the Lady Jacquette due to her connection to the Dark Lord, all four of them knew that she was equal to or above her hosts in status despite the fact that she was not related to nor the Heir or Heiress of one of the Four.
Allowing Lucius to escort her out of the room and toward a marble staircase, she complimented him on his ancestors’ sense of design and open spaces, which were lacking at Heir Sirius’ ancestral home.
“The Blacks have a castle, of course,” Narcissa told her as she passed her a cup of tea. “Black Castle out in Berkshire, but my uncle Orion, Lord Black, does not care for it. It is quite dark and he has no love of shooting or hunting. A London address suits him better.”
“I was never told,” she stated. “That sounds just like Sirius.—Of course, he must be Mr. Black now, and his brother Heir Regulus.”
“Do you know him?” Tom asked. He was sitting to the right of her, on a love seat, his elbow on the armrest and his fingers just beneath his chin as he looked on her like a predator. The thing was, it seemed like she knew it and wasn’t acknowledging it at all.
She stared at him for a long moment, her hazel eyes reading into his brown ones that were tinged with red, before she inclined his head. “I’ve met him. I’ve spoken to you more than to him, and we’ve barely spoken at all.”
Tom could see Narcissa shift a little in worry, but then she took a sip of her tea to cover the action.
“So your affinity is not for all Blacks, just the ones who get disinherited—or like Muggleborns.”
She had turned away, but this time she set down the cup. “You put words in my mouth. How ungentlemanly.”
“I want to know how you feel, given our positions in society.”
Standing, she walked toward the window and stared listlessly out of it. When she didn’t say anything for several minutes, making both Heir and Heiress Lucius clearly worried, Tom stood and went over to her, careful not to touch or crowd her.
“Your parents support Dumbledore.”
“I killed a crow. They didn’t tell me to. They put it in my hands, told me to make sure it never flew again, and I broke its neck.” The last word was spoken so harshly, he doubted their hosts could not hear them.
“You could have clipped its wings,” he said after a long pause, his eyes running up her pale neck. “One wing even.”
She looked at him again before looking out the window. “I grow tired of this, Marvolo. Soon you’ll ask me what I would have done to a human child.—I would not stop you unless it were my own. Beyond that I suppose we will never know.” Jacquette looked at him a moment before walking back to their hosts. “I think our tea has gotten cold, Lord Riddle.”
Tom stood in place, only turning his head to watch Jacquette sit down and warm her tea with her wand, before taking it and sipping it again, apologizing to her hosts. He wanted her. He wanted her desperately. Before she was set to leave, he made their apologies and took Jacquette’s hand and whispered to her to trust him.
They flooed to Riddle Manor and there were ladders everywhere where wizards and house elves were working. “No one knows who the Riddles are except that they went into hiding during a Dark Lord’s reign back in the 1600s,” he lied. “Purebloods, of course. But they were an offshoot of some great house. We tended to stay in the shadows in case we were found and then—well, I wanted to change that.” He gave her a half smile before walking down the hall. “I decided it was better to be feared than to fear. Grindelwald taught me that during his reign of terror; the Muggle Hitler as well, if I were honest.”
Jacquette held up her skirts, looking out the windows. “Where are the portraits?” she asked.
“We have none,” he answered truthfully. “We were afraid of something—I’m not sure what. Portraits talk and give secrets to people they perhaps should not trust.”
She turned toward him, confusion on her face. “How? You’re a son of the House of Riddle. Surely you must know what you are afraid of, Marvolo. If you cannot tell me, you cannot tell me. I am not your wife; I am only bound to you through pleasantries and pureblood traditions.”
He gave her the same half-smile. “I grew up in a Muggle orphanage. Mother died and Father was too afraid—I inherited it all, but not the secrets, just scraps I could piece together from my father’s journal. He married Mother against his parents’ wishes. They thought it was dangerous to marry a Gaunt. Somehow they were able to convince him to leave his son behind,” he stated bitterly. “I hate the very thought of him. I refuse to use his name although we were both named Tom Riddle.”
“I thought you were—“
“Tom Marvolo Riddle,” he told her. “Not many know unless they go looking. Your father does. He ran me over dragon’s breath for it. Still.”
She turned back toward the gardens. “Are they beautiful? Well tended? A potioneer must have an herbal, magical, and flower garden.”
“I already have plans,” he promised her, leading her up a flight of stairs and to a study. “Now, these my gardener, a very helpful Muggle, gave me. One must blend in.” He showed her an extensive garden. “Now, in back I thought we’d put in two new gardens as soon as the snow lets up. I’ve hired a capable wizard gardener. If you have a list of what you’d like—“
“I’d need it from Mama. I’m used to just going out and getting what I need.” She leaned over the prints and Tom leaned over and smelled her hair. It was aloe this time. She stood up again and their faces were so close that their noses almost touched. Her eyes fluttered, but then she stepped away. “I’m sorry I didn’t bring a cape. We could have gone into the village and seen a bit of it. Perhaps Mama would chaperone.”
“I will write to her tomorrow,” he promised. “I wanted your opinion on the color scheme for the master bedroom, and for propriety’s sake I will stay here.”
“Where?” she asked after a very long pause.
“Up the flight of stairs, third door on your right. You should know it as soon as you open the door.” He wished to reach out to her, to take her hand and kiss it in the Muggle fashion or just entwine their fingers however briefly. However, with nothing more than a nod, she was gone—for a full forty minutes.
“Gold and ivory,” she greeted, “or ivory and dark blue. That would probably be better. I don’t care for green with ivory.”
He made a quick note in his ledger. “As my lady commands.”
“You do know we are not engaged,” she pressed. “Papa told me you are only on probation.”
“Yes,” he agreed. “However, I want the house ready for you. My grandparents’ taste is not my own, although I haven’t changed it since I inherited the house quite some time ago.”
“You know that I’ve yet to start my seventh year.” She took in his study, going to his window, which seemed to be a habit with her, along with her long periods of silence. “When did they die?” she asked casually.
“1942,” he told her honestly. “Do I shock you?”
She didn’t answer at first, taking in his desk. “No, I’ve heard the rumors. You need at least one picture on your desk, Lord Riddle.” She then swept out of the room, leaving a smirk on Tom’s face.
He slid open a drawer and took out a magical camera and followed her down the stairs and back to a window she was looking out of. Snapping a shot, he set it down, knowing he would remember it. The camera only made a click, and Jacquette had looked at him, her face blank but beautiful, and he knew he’d have that picture developed within the hour and placed on his desk, following her advice.
Leading her back to the floo, he threw in some floo powder, and without saying farewell to each other, she lifted her skirts and was gone in a moment. Tom stayed there for a few minutes before he turned, fetching the camera and taking three steps at a time as he went to his study. He went to a door that was closed and looked at the Potions Laboratory he had experts design. Everything seemed to be on schedule.
He turned and went to the study to write Madam Potter a letter, asking for permission to take her and his daughter to the village of Little Hangleton, sending coordinates for an alley behind a chemist. He’d send it tomorrow so as not to appear overly eager.
And she was there, in Muggle jeans and a thick coat, her hair in a ponytail. Tom normally would have been horrified at the sight of any witch dressed like a Muggle, but it made him want to draw Jacquette closer, and kiss the tip of her nose. “Madam,” he greeted, noticing that the elderly witch was wearing a dress, “Miss Potter.”
He lifted both of their hands, before he offered his arms to both ladies.
“I was young once, Mr. Riddle,” Madam Potter said, declining. “You wrote that everyone believes you are the local squire and you’ve let it be known that my daughter is Lady Jacquette. For heaven’s sake, may I ask why?”
“She is a lady of the finest caliber,” he responded. “I’m sure you’ll agree.”
They were now strolling down the street. Tom nodded to various people who showed him deference before he opened the door to the local pub. He hung up his winter coat before taking the ladies’, finding that Jacquette was wearing a red blouse.
“You look quite the thing, Lady Jacquette.”
“You forget that Lily Evans lives in my dorm,” she stated, speaking for the first time. “She’s fond of jeans for some unknown reason. At least they’re warm.”
Tom himself was wearing pureblood black in the form of pressed trousers and a turtleneck.
They found a booth and the owner came over. “Squire Riddle, Ladies, may I start you with drinks?”
“You always choose for me,” Jacquette stated. “Impress me.”
He looked at her for a long moment. “Coca-cola.” His eyes held hers for several moments as Madam Potter ordered a glass of red and he then asked for a whiskey, never breaking eye contact with Jacquette.
When the drinks came, she turned her gaze to her drink and she took a tentative sip, but said nothing. Her smile, so small though present, showed that she was suitably impressed.
“What interesting hats,” Madam Potter commented later when they walked down the street, Jacquette still on Tom’s arm.
“I believe they are from the twenties,” Tom commented. “Would you like to go in?”
“I could never wear them in our world,” she demurred. “Jacquette?”
She looked at one particular hat and Tom immediately opened the door for her and told the salesgirl he wanted to see the hat that was white with a black and white felt band sewn around it. Jacquette held it for a moment before passing it to her mother. Then, in opposition to pureblood customs, she took out her ponytail and swished her hair down so it was a riot of curls, astounding Tom.
“Jacquette!” her mother admonished.
“I couldn’t try it on any other way,” she rationalized. Taking the hat, she placed it on her head and smiled, her hair falling halfway down her back, making Tom stare at her in want and adoration. “Well, Squire Riddle?” she asked.
“If any pureblood woman could wear such a style with confidence, it would be you, Lady Jacquette. However, it is very daring.”
“Hardly.” She took her hair and put it in a ponytail to the side so that it fell across her shoulder.
Euphemia Potter approached her daughter. “It still goes against convention, Jacquette, darling.”
After several moments, Jacquette took it off and handed it to Tom. “Thank you for indulging me.” She turned away and Tom went to the shopgirl and instructed that she hold it for him until later that afternoon. Yule had already passed, but not her birthday, which he believed was in March. If she were to be the Dark Lady, she would often walk in the village and pose as a Muggle and the hat would be perfect for the role. Tom was already hoping for a June wedding, although he was on probation and technically couldn’t give her gifts. She would be seventeen by June and he would only have to suffer a year of separation as she completed her seventh year at Hogwarts.
When it was time for her to leave, he held her hand a little longer than he should. “The Emerald Phoenix, tonight,” he whispered as Euphemia Potter was giving them some privacy.
“You’ve seen all my robes.”
“I don’t care, and I’ll buy you new ones,” he promised, “when you sneak out and go to Diagon Alley.”
“I don’t need to sneak out,” she murmured. “There are such things as Hogsmeade weekends.” She took her hand and turned, once again not saying a goodbye, and then she was gone with a pop.
Tom stood there for several moments and then turned away, a supposed Muggle in a Muggle village.
He was waiting for her, his followers around him, both male and female to make her feel comfortable. Bellatrix was missing for obvious reasons and every few minutes his eyes would go toward the door until, finally, Rabastan Lestrange whispered, “She’s here.”
“Escort her to our table and then bring her some Elderberry Wine,” he instructed, seeing her in the purple and silver robes again. “Lady Jacquette.” He indicated a space beside him that was left for her. “You may know some of my companions. The others you need only to ask at any time.”
When the wine was served to her, she looked at him for a full two minutes. “Lord Riddle, is there a time when I will be permitted to drink Elven Wine?”
“March,” he responded. “You only have a few months to wait, my dear.”
The conversation ebbed and flowed, the Wizengamot often discussed, until she finally spoke, “That’s madness, Mr. Flint. It should only be a one year course, perhaps for Fifth Years, but all wizards should know about Muggles and how to dress like them for the purpose of camouflage. I never took it and found emulating Muggleborns helpful, but I tend to be resourceful—and you’re planning on removing Muggleborns from Hogwarts anyway.”
“Any more thoughts, Lady Jacquette?” he asked, bowing his head in respect.
“We also live in enclaves of wizards in Muggle villages and towns. I myself live near Godric’s Hollow. If I didn’t own a pair of these trousers called jeans, I could give myself accidentally away. I’d prefer to not have to pretend to be burnt at the stake.”
Her drink was replaced with a cranberry mocktail and she took a sip of it, glancing at Tom, who was looking at her avidly.
“So you believe it paramount for our safety?”
She turned back to him. “Quite. Isn’t that what we all want?—Safety for our wives, husbands, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, children? Muggleborns threaten it with their ties to the Muggle world would be your argument. Am I correct, Mr. Flint? We should continue with preserving that safety.”
“Their blood is dirty,” he spat.
She paused and took a sip of her drink before setting it down again. Her eyes flicked down and then up again, showing the dark eye shadow she had put on the evening. Tom was enthralled at her self-confidence. She had not once looked at him for approval, but instead argued with cold passion and logic. “Their blood is dirty because of Muggles, from whom we hide. It’s a matter of hiding. Muggleborns and people such as Dumbledore who, if I am not incorrect, is a half-blood, would have us assimilate to a certain degree. We need to purify and create a camouflage, not walk brazenly like Muggles and proclaim ourselves equal to them. They are not equal to us. We should also not walk about in robes for our own safety. Is this a concept you can grasp, Mr. Flint?”
Flint did not answer. Instead Abraxas, Lord Malfoy gave her a sly smile and complimented her. “Very astute, Lady Jacquette, especially for one so young. How is it you are friends with my kinsman-by-marriage, Mr. Sirius Black?”
“We share similar pastimes,” was the only answer she would give. “We have not been introduced.”
“You have met my son, Heir Malfoy, and his wife.”
“Lord Malfoy,” she greeted.
He bowed his head. “Lady Jacquette. Your parents follow Dumbledore—“
“Theoretically,” she answered.
“Theoretically,” he repeated.
“They do not favor violence or discord. They see Dumbledore as the path to least resistance. I have never heard them speak politically despite being their daughter. My own views have developed from my own experiences and from what I have witnessed at Hogwarts.” Her eyes then finally turned toward Tom. “Have I passed the test you planned for me?”
He laughed affectionately and raised her hand beneath his lips. “It was not a test, Jacquette.”
“Was it not?”
“You chose to enter the conversation. I wanted to show you this side of my life so you could walk away if you so desired.” He felt his eyes flash red, but Jacquette did not react.
She was silent again for several moments, never dropping his gaze. “I already told you I was not walking out of the door when you determined that I knew you were the Dark Lord. I doubt your friends’ politics could make me walk out of the club’s door prematurely, Marvolo. I also want to see my gardens planted. Then I could invent myself a drink that is not a potion that I prefer to whatever it is I am now drinking.”
He looked at her for a long moment before he motioned to Rabastan who bowed before he went to the bar. “Would you care for a dance while this matter is rectified?”
She glanced at the dancefloor. “This is from the 1800s,” she murmured as she accepted his hand and he led her to the two lines. The dance led them up and down, away and then close, their hands just brushing, until they were standing across from each other, curtseying and bowing, the dance ended. He led her from the dancefloor and she placed her hand in his arm.
“Not a waltz,” he apologized.
He heard her catch her breath. “No,” she agreed, “not a waltz.”
When he finally escorted her outside in her cloak, they stood alone, the snow beneath their feet, their breath visible. He ran a hand along the line of her hair, from her skin to the back toward where it was pinned back. “Jacquette,” he murmured. “What you do to me.”
“Will you marry again if we are wed and after I have died? You still look so young.”
“I will share my secret with you and just you,” he promised, holding her cheek in the palm of his hand. He knew he shouldn’t touch her so intimately, but he wanted to possess her so desperately, to carry her back to the Manor and make love to her as a husband does to a wife who is truly treasured and adored—not like his own father who left his mother in Muggle London. He smiled as a thought came to him. “You might have to kill a Muggle baby, though.”
She laughed quietly. “A Muggle baby, Tom?”
He paused at the name, and then he leaned down and let his lips touch hers. At first she didn’t respond, but then her hands came out from the folds of her cloak and grabbed the lapels of his robes. He carefully pulled away from the chaste kiss and looked into her hazel eyes that were gazing at him with worry. “Darling—“
“You think I’m loose now,” she concluded.
“No,” he answered. “You called me ‘Tom’ without judgment. I’ve never—no one—Jacquette.”
She smiled truly as she had when they had danced in the snow just a week before after they had dined at The Sleeping Dragon. “Tom then.” Jacquette reached up on her tiptoes and touched her nose to his. “Take me home.”
Tom put his hands around her waist and they turned in a circle, appearing in her bedroom, which was locked from the inside. He knew that she had put up a silencing spell, which she claimed she always used to sleep since she had first gone to Hogwarts and her parents accepted as normal behavior from her.
“Of course,” he agreed, tracing her cheek. “Goodnight, Jacquette.”
She didn’t answer back, but she watched him leave and when he reappeared in London, he felt his heart constrict at the thought of returning to his followers without her on his arm, the future Dark Lady.
Tom truly detested Fleamont Potter but at least he was taking tea with both Mr. and Mrs. Potter.
“You want permission,” Fleamont said, looking at Tom’s petition, “to visit Jacquette in Hogsmeade and to give her a birthday present.”
“Do you even know when her birthday is?” he asked in exasperation. “Are you corresponding with her?”
“Fleamont,” Madam Potter protested. “Let lovers be. We corresponded although my mama was quite angry about it.”
“I was not on probation,” he argued with his wife. His stomach was more pronounced now that he was sitting down, and Tom wondered how he could possibly be related to Jacquette. He was also smoking out of his potion riddled pipe.
“I do not correspond with your daughter,” Tom said truthfully. Instead, they used intermediaries. Tom would tell something to Heiress Lucius, who would write to her cousin, Heir Regulus, who would in turn inform Jacquette. “Her birthday is also the twenty-seventh of March. I have given her a gift before, if you recall, the night we met. Although she has tried to return it, as was the initial agreement, I prefer her to wear it.”
“Yes,” Euphemia Potter agreed while Fleamont sat there dumfounded. “Such a thoughtful gift to give one’s beloved your dearly departed mother’s engagement and wedding rings. It is truly thoughtful and touching. Jacquette wrote to me that she was a Gaunt.”
“She was,” he agreed. “Merope Gaunt Riddle.”
Fleamont set down his teacup loudly. “Euphemia spent the day with both you and Jacquette and approves for some reason. Society approves of you. The Head Mugwump approved of you when I wrote him for a character reference. It seems I must put up with you.” He made a dismissive gesture. “You are off probation and you may give my daughter a birthday gift.”
“And Hogsmeade?” he asked carefully.
“You are never to be completely alone with her. There must be the chaperone of other students or shopkeepers or residents of the town, Mr. Riddle.—I also expect you to ask permission if you choose to propose for a wizarding bond.”
He bowed his head. “Of course, Mr. Potter. I would expect such a thing if our positions were reversed if a young wizard wanted to magically bond with my daughter.” He took a sip of his tea and smiled falsely at the pleased look on Euphemia’s face. It seemed she was the engineer of his current position as Jacquette’s suitor. Unfortunately, if Jacquette proved fond of her parents, he’d have to live with them in his life until they died of old age, although he’d have close to an eternity with Jacquette afterwards. He’d much rather dispose of them, but he didn’t want to make Jacquette unhappy. She was worming her way into his heart, it seemed.
When she unwrapped the hat, her eyes glittered. “Tom,” she whispered. “I wanted to go back to that shop, but since I can’t legally Apparate, I didn’t know how to manage it.”
“Then you’re pleased,” he murmured.
She looked up aghast and then smiled. “I am more than pleased. This is truly a thoughtful gift. Perhaps next time I go into Godric’s Hollow, I’ll wear it.”
He paused a moment, his brown eyes shifting between her and the hat as he thought passed through his mind.
“You want another picture for your desk,” she surmised. “I saw your eyes when I let my hair down.”
“It is not every day a woman of your caliber would engage in such behavior, even in a Muggle village.”
“I’m still not leaving through that door,” she told him. “You can infer whatever you like.”
He gave her a half smile. A witch never let down her hair except in front of her closest family and her lord. She had been making a statement, and it was one that heated his blood. “When I was a young man,” he began carefully, “I always wanted to slip away for my handfasting. I didn’t wish for anyone to come. I was an orphan, alone in the world. Friends meant nothing in such a sacred ritual. What are your thoughts? Would you care for a grand affair?”
She cocked her head. “Marvolo, are you asking me to marry you?”
He held her gaze for a moment. “I haven’t gained permission from your father.”
Taking this in, she swallowed. “It’s heretical, what I want.”
“I don’t care. Tell me.”
“I want to perform the bonding of the athame in the Muggle church in Godric’s Hollow.”
He paused. “—Under the eye of the Christian god?”
“I go to church every Sunday,” she admitted in a murmur. “No pureblood wizard would marry me from Cranmer’s Book of Common Prayer.”
He was drinking a blood brandy and they were sitting in the crowded Leaky Cauldron, but that didn’t matter. All that mattered was her, and what she wanted for her future.
“Then let us go to the church,” he decided, “after the banns have been read, and bond with a handfasting this summer. I would not be breaking my word to your father if I marry you under Cranmer’s words in your church, darling.”
Her hazel eyes flicked up. “I’m too young in the Muggle world.”
“I’ll change the vicar’s memories,” he told her, taking her hand and entwining their fingers. “You may wear your hat if you can find something to match it and I will find something suitable.”
“Pureblood black,” she suggested. “Both of us can wear pureblood black, and I’ll charm the hat to reverse colors for the afternoon.”
“Then I’ll speak with the vicar when I leave Hogsmeade,” he promised. “Your parents don’t attend,” he checked.
“No,” she answered. “They’d never dream of such a thing.—Could we get platinum or white gold rings? I think the color compliments my skin.”
“Then that’s what we’ll get,” he promised.
When he watched her walking away with the hatbox, a smile painted his face but it was too dark for anyone to see. Within the month he would have his Dark Lady by his side. He’d only have to suffer the rest of the year and then the separation of her last year at Hogwarts. There was always the problem of asking Fleamont Potter for the hand of his daughter, but he was now willing to put the old man under the Imperius Curse if necessary when it came to their private handfasting.
He Apparated away and went into Muggle Godric’s Hollow after transfiguring his clothes. This was a Muggle wedding and the vicar would find robes odd.
Tom Marvolo Riddle, Jr. was getting married, and nothing had made him happier or more content in his life.
Part the Third
It was his wedding day. Tom was still disbelieving that such a day had come. At the age of fifty-one he was marrying a seventeen year old girl in a Christian ceremony that even the Ministry of Magic would recognize. He had not asked her father for his permission, even though he promised he would, mostly because this was not the wizarding ceremony that they agreed would take place in the summer. He would ask Fleamont after he and Jacquette had spent the weekend together. He would ask once he fully made Jacquette Potter his wife without dishonoring her so she could take place in a wizarding bonding.
There was a rustling through the Forbidden Forest and he saw a figure appear wearing a black cape, her hair down around her shoulders in black curls, a black cloche on her head, which he had given her as a birthday present less than a month ago. “Are you certain?” he asked, strangely caring for her welfare.
“I gave my word,” she stated as if that meant everything, and to him, it did. He took her gloved hand in his, her black blouse momentarily showing. When she noticed him staring at her naked neck, which bore a black and white diamond cross, she asked, “Are you disgusted? I only wear it in the privacy of my room at Potter Manor.”
“I am not disgusted,” he replied, wrapping his arms around her to prepare for Apparition. “It is your religion. I grew up in the Muggle world. I understand.”
“Do you, Tom?” she drawled.
He paused. “I am worried about your warmth,” he stated, turning on his heel after he kissed her brow. In a moment they were gone and near the graveyard of Godric’s Hollow, in the line of trees where the stones ended just a few feet away from them. “Jacquette,” he murmured, offering his arm. “I have convinced your parents to be in London today.”
They walked through the graveyard until they were almost at the kissing gate. “You placed them under the Imperius Curse,” she stated.
“Mildly,” he argued. “I could not risk them seeing us. It’s our wedding day.”
They entered the small church, winter light filtering through the stained glass window. The vicar was already preparing and Tom removed Jacquette’s cloak before taking off his own. He saw her surprise when he gave her winter flowers of red and white poinsettias, hoping she would approve of them. She said nothing, but she smelled them, showing her approval.
Walking down the aisle on his arm in a black skirt, black tights, and heeled boots that might have been borrowed from friends, they stood before the vicar and exchanged Christian vows, rings of platinum slipped on each other’s fingers. When it was time to kiss the bride, Tom leaned in and captured her lips sweetly, breathing out as she held him to her as she had grabbed his shoulders as if she never wanted him to leave her.
A signature on a certificate, using his real name, and he knew they were legally married in the eyes of the Ministry of Magic, their union being registered in the Hall of Bonding. Their wizard wedding was now unnecessary except for the fact that it was what he had wished for since he was still a school boy, and she was willing to give it to him.
“Come, Dark Lady,” he whispered as they exited the church and he led her away toward the graveyard. He Apparated away with his bride in his arms, the hall of Riddle Manor empty of workers and ladders, finally finished in time for his wife’s arrival.
She looked about as he took her cloak, and she told him, “My knapsack is in there. I brought some robes and my nightgown.”
He fished it out and resized it, noticing the sack was clearly well made but in style more suited to her parents’ era and not hers. “I shall buy you another,” he decided. “You are now wealthy, my dear.”
She had gone to a window and was looking out at the snow-covered garden. “I do not need much,” she stated. “I know that all our funds must go to the potion gardens.”
“That is not the case here,” he promised, coming up behind her and drawing her hair to the side so he might trace the line of her neck. “As I said: You are now wealthy.”
They stood for several long minutes in silence until she finally looked at him. “I did not marry you for your wealth.”
“I did not marry you for your talent in potions,” he retorted, “or the Potter patents.” His finger slid across her cheek and she turned toward him.
“Tom,” she murmured, and he swept down and gave her an aching kiss that she hesitantly returned at first, until she gained confidence and pushed her fingers into his hair. She pulled away and both of them were breathing heavily. “We can’t bond if we’re—“ she began, and Tom nodded.
He knew. A magical handfasting could not occur unless the witch remained pure. It was archaic, but it was true. Although it was their wedding night, Tom could not touch her, and Jacquette had been right to stop him.
He ran a hand through his hair and rested his forehead against hers. “Of course, darling. Forgive me. The Master Bedroom is at your disposal whenever you are here until our bonding.”
“Where will you sleep?” she inquired, not moving, her flowers dropped during the passion in their kiss.
“The guest wing, for the sake of your virtue,” he promised. “I’ve never desired someone as much as I desire you—it is nearly unbearable, Jacquette.”
“Should I go back to Hogwarts?” she questioned after a long silence. She made to move, but he held her steady, his eyes closing as they breathed in the same air.
“No,” he begged. “This is our wedding night. We deserve to be together, even if it is just for dinner and dancing later on.—I bought you a dress worthy of your position, Lady Riddle.”
“Tom,” she warned.
“You are the Dark Lady,” he argued. “You must appear as such. I have a fortune and have had no one to spend it on, Jacquette. It will make me happy to see you beautiful in the latest fashions—and if that does not sway you, I have three seats in the Wizengamot. Much is expected of me.”
She didn’t answer; instead she just looked out the window, his hands still on her shoulders. Tom stared at her profile for several long minutes before he called a house elf and gave it the knapsack and the fallen flowers. When an appropriate time lapsed they were called for tea. He knew from speaking with her in Hogsmeade that her favorite tea was Earl Grey and he had purchased the best loose leaf tea on the market specifically for her.
The parlor had been redone in shades of purple and gold, and Jacquette looked briefly at the room and did not comment, which hopefully meant she approved. She served the tea, still not saying anything, until she had poured her second cup. “Are we shopping tomorrow?”
“In Edinburgh if you don’t object. I thought your parents would be less likely to be present and there are several fine tailors. I often go there myself.”
“Where are we exactly?”
“Devonshire,” he answered. “I hope that doesn’t disappoint.”
She didn’t answer. Jacquette never did unless she believed she had to.
The next few hours were spent as Tom showed Jacquette the house, from the basement where he kept various prisoners including Bellatrix, her face torn by jagged knives beyond recognition, to the attics where the house elves slept. When he came to the Potions room, which was immediately next to her study, she looked around and said nothing. Her fingers trailed along the cauldron and she inspected the shelves, which displayed the less dangerous ingredients. When she tried the door to the cupboard she found it locked. Tom looked at her and whispered a word and then the door opened for her. “Your touch and yours alone,” he promised, and she gazed at him with hazel eyes before entering a long closet with dangerous and illegal potions ingredients.
“Tom,” she breathed before she lunged at him, her hands around his neck, her face nuzzling him. “It’s the perfect wedding present.”
“I’m glad you approve,” he told her, holding her close, before they moved onto the next room.
Dinner was a quiet affair, the two in the den eating fish and chips as she had asked a house elf for it earlier when it had inquired. Apparently her parents forbade it, and Tom was willing to indulge her.
He left her to change, and his breath nearly stopped as she met him in the hallway in a dress of white silk with lace over it in the style of a Muggle wedding dress. Her shoulders were completely exposed and her hair was tied up with white ribbons flowing from it. He was in robes of rich green and black, and he took her by the hand, twirling her for the full effect. “Lady Riddle,” he murmured just as he turned them, her breath catching.
They were once again at The Emerald Sphinx, his associates spread out among the highest echelons of society. He ordered her an Elven Wine along with his Blood Brandy before he found her a seat.
Not speaking, Jacquette looked at their entwined hands and then the dance floor, accepting his hand when the waltz was announced. She was enchanting as they spun across the dance floor, a radiant smile across her face, their wedding bands glinting in the half light.
Soon, wizards were coming up and congratulating them on their nuptials including his political rival, Lord Prince. “She’s demmed pretty,” he commented after taking Tom aside. “Wherever did you find her?”
“Right here,” he answered. “We’re not announcing until the summer. She’s still in Hogwarts—I believe she knows Lady Lucrece if I’m not mistaken—and Mrs. Riddle has snuck out for our wedding—“
“Pretty little thing, as I said,” Lord Prince commented. “You are demmed lucky that she looked twice at you considering your politics. Must have drugged her parents. It’s the only explanation.” He wandered off and Tom claimed Jacquette for another dance.
He carried her home, her head resting on his shoulder, his arm under his legs. Tom hated to Apparate, but there was nothing for it. She jolted awake and he put her down, threading her arm through his. “You danced with nearly every wizard your age,” he teased.
“Jealous?” she asked with a teasing note to her voice, her eyes flashing intelligently.
“Terribly,” he whispered.
He led her to her corridor, lifting her hand beneath his lips in goodnight, and watched her as he went to their bedchamber alone. The light of candles glinted off her wedding band and he knew it would be a long night. He cursed Fleamont Potter for putting them in this position. Then again, he had given his word that he would ask for her hand in marriage first—wizarding marriage. She was his wife except in the way it truly mattered. He hated it. He loathed it. Jacquette was now his and yet they were separated by an entire wing and he knew he would dream about her, her hazel eyes teasing him. It was inevitable.
Tom sat across from Fleamont Potter and hadn’t bothered to remove his wedding ring.
“Who’s the lucky witch?” Fleamont asked, but Tom ignored him.
“I’m asking for the hand of your daughter in a traditional handfasting,” he told the other wizard. “When speaking of it in general terms, your daughter and I have agreed on a private ceremony sometime this summer.”
Fleamont sat for a minute puffing his pipe. “You’re married.”
“According to Cranmer’s Book of Common Prayer. The Ministry recognizes it, but Jacquette and I agreed to undergo both of our ideal ceremonies.”
“Cranmer,” Fleamont stated angrily. “The Muggle.”
“I think he was an Archbishop,” Tom goaded. “It was very important to her. It seems she’s an Anglican and has been hiding it from you quite successfully for years.”
Fleamont was up in a flash, coming around the desk and gripping a smirking Tom by the collar. “If you’ve touched her…”
“I can’t have. She has to be pure for a handfasting.”
Tossing him back into his chair, Fleamont went for the door and slammed it open. “Euphemia! Our daughter has acted rashly—again. I told you the whip would only do so much!”
This time it was Tom who was grabbing him by his clothes. He slammed his father-in-law against the wall, the portraits shaking. “The whip?” he demanded. “You used a whip on Jacquette? If you so much as left a mark on her body, I swear, old man, I will have your head.”
Euphemia came in and gasped at the sight before her.
“What did you whip her with?” he demanded.
Fleamont remained silent and resolute. Magic was too good for him and Tom had promised himself not to use the Cruciatus Curse on this cretin, especially with a witness. “You should be grateful that your daughter loves you,” he stated, throwing him aside. “I don’t want your blessing and I certainly don’t want your permission to undergo a handfasting with my own wife.” He turned to Euphemia. “I won’t be this kind if I see his face again.”
He stormed out of the room, taking the stairs far too quickly as he headed to the floo.
One thing was for certain, he needed to see Jacquette immediately.
It was accomplished rather simply with a locator spell and a broom. He knew Gryffindors lived in one of the Towers and her dorm was rather easy to find. Her bed was also rather easy to pinpoint. The trunk he had purchased for her, which had her new initials imprinted on it—JPR, was at the end of her bed. Her nightclothes were folded neatly on top. It was only seven so she might be at dinner, he thought, and he had to be rather inconspicuous. Sitting on her bed, he looked at her bedside table and found a picture of them at The Emerald Sphinx on their wedding night that he had Abraxas take for them.
“It looks like a Muggle wedding dress, doesn’t it?” he heard and he looked toward the door to see the Muggleborn named Lily standing there. She looked hideous in her uniform and butterfly clips in her unbound hair of deep auburn.
“If you look closely enough,” he argued, “there’s a cape, making them wizarding robes.”
She shrugged. “If you like. It seems like splitting hairs.” Lily walked over to a bed across from Jacquette’s and stared at him. “Sirius and I are getting married—well, it’s a handfasting.”
Tom didn’t bother to ask any questions. Instead he picked up a book next to the photograph and saw that it was a crime novel set during the first Muggle world war featuring a wizard who was trying not to be drafted. Not disturbing the bookmark he read the first few sentences before Lily spoke again.
“You’re not supposed to be here even if you and Jackie are married.”
“If we’re married, this is exactly where he’s supposed to be,” Jacquette answered as if it were the simplest thing in the world. “A husband and wife should always be where the other is.” She walked into the room, Tom looking up at her and smiled. “You look troubled, Mr. Riddle.”
“Your father troubles me,” he answered, putting down the book. “Some privacy, darling.”
Jacquette’s eyes cut to Lily before she sat down and took off her shoes, before she tapped his to signal that he should do the same. They were then sitting on the bed, the curtains closed and a silencing spell put in place.
Tom just stared at her for several long moments before he admitted, “Your father stated that he whipped you and it sounded like it was a regular occurrence.”
“I use cream on the back of my legs to minimize the scars. It’s a potion I invented. It’s yet to be perfected mainly because my mother would not allow me all of the ingredients on Papa’s orders.”
She looked down, perhaps in shame, but he placed two fingers beneath her chin and lifted her head so that she was looking at him. “I told him I was going to perform a handfasting with you without his blessing or permission. We don’t need them, darling.”
Her eyes filled with tears and he pulled her into his arms and just let her cry out her pain. He had known the heartbreak in the orphanage when he wasn’t given enough food, when he had nothing of his own. When he first came to Hogwarts, the other Slytherins hazed him because he was a filthy Muggleborn—supposedly. He knew the self-hatred, the thought that he had done something wrong, when it was others who were to blame and if it were her own father—
“Hush,” he murmured. “I’m here. I can stay all night if you promise not to compromise me, Lady Riddle.”
She choked-sobbed, and he knew he had won the day. He stayed in the bed as she prepared for sleep, removing his robe until he was wearing just his trousers, his socks even removed. She took away his clothing, which he had already folded for her, and they crawled in together, just staring at one another.
“Who is your Head of House?” he asked in curiosity. “I know Old Sluggy is in charge of the Slytherins—“
“Professor McGonagall,” she stated.
“She was Head Girl a few years before me. She always had this severe look on her face. I could never talk my way around her, but I’m sure I can convince her that a conjugal visit was necessary.”
“I doubt that. It’s best to fly under the radar when she’s concern. Then again, Lily is a bit of a pet of hers. She is marrying Sirius though, and we’re supposedly best friends.”
He barely slept, instead feeling her breath on his cheek and running his fingers along her face. He must have fallen asleep in the early morning as he awoke to the feel of Jacquette’s fingers drifting over his eyes. “Awaken,” she whispered when he began to stir. “Unless you want to have to hide while six girls primp for the day before breakfast, you should go now.”
Wrapping his arm around her waist he pulled her toward him and murmured, “You torture me, Lady Riddle.”
She laughed, a sound so rare for her but a balm to his soul.
He smiled at her. “I need my clothes, darling.”
“Of course, Tom,” she said as he released her.
Tom got up and rubbed the back of his neck and stopped when he heard the sound of an owl at the window, which he knew could bear only ill will. He was immediately out of the bed, quickly taking his embroidered shirt from Jacquette given the cold of the tower and grabbing the letter from the owl. It was addressed to his wife. He looked up at the return address and it was from her mother. He opened it and ran his eyes over the contents. “This is not what happened,” he promised her before he traded the note for the rest of his clothes. “He attacked me first and then goaded me with his—transgressions. I did not harm him and said he should be grateful you cared for him. You know what I’m capable of when I am angry and can guess what I wanted to do with him.”
“There are too many people sleeping here,” she murmured as she grabbed her robe and he quickly got dressed, “I must—.”
He walked behind her down the stairs and saw the Common Room, and noticed she took a deep breath. “Marvolo,” she began, probably because they were in public, “I understand you wanted to do damage control, but I prefer to read my correspondence first and then have a discussion. I know how my parents lie. I have—scars—to prove it.”
“I didn’t want them to hurt you,” he told her desperately. “Can’t you understand that? You’re my wife. I never want them to harm you again.”
She came up to him and desperately cupped his face, her eyes searching his eyes. “And they can’t. They won’t. I married the most—singular—man in Britain. Your followers will give them crows and tell them to make sure they can never fly again. It will traumatize them.” She laughed at the memory that occurred earlier in their courtship, just a few months before. “Then again, they are potioneers. They may be used to much worse.”
He placed a hand on her smooth wrist and looked at her, noticing her hair was quickly pinned up for the Common Room. “Why don’t I go find McGonagall and ask permission to take you to breakfast as it’s Sunday? There’s no church in Hogsmeade, sadly—“
“It sounds perfect.” Her eyes shifted. “Sirius.”
“I’ll take care of him.”
Jacquette slipped back upstairs and he greeted his wife’s friend.
“Sirius Black,” he greeted. “I hear from your fiancée that you’re to marry. Come, I need to find your Head of House’s office.”
“She might be at breakfast.”
“Let’s hope not,” he disagreed, walking out of the portrait hole. “Where’s the handfasting?”
“Her parents’ living room. My parents won’t come and I’m trying to get Regulus to make an appearance—but he seems a bit shifty.” It was true that most handfastings were performed among family, but this was truly a sad showing. “Jacquette won’t even come because she’s not ‘family’. I’ve had Lily try to work on her, but she just won’t do it.”
Tom wasn’t even remotely surprised.
“And then she steps out and marries you and is having a handfasting this summer apparently. She won’t even tell me the location.”
“I haven’t told her the location,” he responded. “She doesn’t know.”
“She agreed without knowing?”
“We agreed to each other’s ideal wedding ceremonies without previous knowledge to the specifics of them.—Here it is.”
He knocked on the door, telling Sirius to wait, and was called to enter. Permission was instantly granted, most likely because Little Minnie wanted him out of her office, and when Tom returned to Gryffindor Tower he found his bride in a simple robe of blues, blacks, and golds.
“You are still Miss Potter,” he noted to Jacquette when they sat down in a small café for breakfast.
She glanced over the menu in the robes he had bought her just a week ago in Edinburgh, not commenting. “I thought you wouldn’t view our—bonding—as truly complete without the handfasting. I do wear your ring, as you can see.” She touched his as well to validate her point. Jewelry wasn’t allowed apart from basic ornamentation such as clips to witches’ hair and bonding rings.
“We are married,” he objected. “I will draft a petition as your husband. I will need your signature.”
“How will you get Papa’s?”
He looked at her and saw that she understood. The Imperius Curse if necessary. Somehow she no longer seemed to care.
Instead, she slipped a piece of parchment to him with a list of potions ingredients. “As I said, they’ve been withholding—“
“Of course. You know I would not care—I would still find you beautiful.”
“I’ve never found myself beautiful.”
“Then we will do everything to rectify the matter,” he promised, taking her hand and bringing it to just beneath his lips. “You are my bride. I would do anything in my power to make you happy and content.”
A letter was soon drafted and Fleamont Potter was made to sign it. Jacquette wrote to him that she was now Madam Riddle in all of her classes and Sirius had reacted negatively. He didn’t look forward to seeing that boy anytime in the near future, though his relationship to Jacquette made that unlikely.
Jacquette was in a dress of ruched white satin with a long train, this time holding white and pink roses. Her hair was down, a veil pinned on the top of her head. Tom was in deep red and white robes and they tied a red ribbon on their thumbs and then twined it around their hands in unison, neither saying a word, until their hands met and they entwined their fingers. “For mother magic,” he told her, staring into her eyes. “For mother magic,” she murmured, the ribbon turning white, completing the handfasting. He swooped down and kissed her lips gently, again and again and again, until his hand was tanged in her hair.
“Happy?” she asked when she finally pulled back.
“Very,” he agreed, untwining their hands and then kissing the ribbon before twining the ribbon up her bare arm.
He picked her up and twirled her around, Jacquette laughing, until they Apparated back to the Gaunt Cottage. He had had it redone so that it was a little hideaway for lovers.
“Where are we?” she asked as he set her down.
“This is where Mother lived,” he told her. “We’re close to the Manor and this place was in disrepair.”
She had walked to the window, looking out, though he knew she’d only be able to see open fields and a stream.
“I redid it for you. I wanted you to have a place to escape to if you wanted to escape or work. There’s a room with some basic potions ingredients in the back, but I hoped you would want to spend tonight here—our first night—“
She turned to him, her face blank but her eyes soft. Putting down her bouquet, she took off her veil. “Mama never told me,” she confessed. “I do know that most wizards only visit their illicit lovers during the day, and I am not your lover.”
He came up to her and ran his hand through her glorious hair. “Do you wish to wait? Many young women, I understand, prefer darkness—“
“You know about my scars; they were the only thing I wanted to hide.”
“Thank the gods,” he murmured, kissing her again and pulling her close, only releasing her so that he could turn her around to begin to undo the dozens of buttons that held together her dress. His hand ran down her corset and then unlaced it, soon disposing it as quickly as he had the dress.
She stood there, her hair falling down her back, allowing him to undress her. “Shouldn’t we put them away?” she asked, looking over her shoulder.
He waved his hand carelessly and the gown and corset were hung in a closet, his fingers then running tantalizingly down her arms. “Jacquette,” he breathed. “My Jacquette.” Then he turned her, his hands in her hair and kissed her desperately as if he were a dying man and she were a cure—and she was. He thought he would be alone for his eternal life. But here she was, a girl willingly in his arms, brave enough to look into his eyes and not fear him or want him for his power. He didn’t even know why she wanted him. He knew it wasn’t for power, it wasn’t for politics, it wasn’t for wealth—Jacquette had been silent on the subject. Then again, he had never told her; Tom had only spoken of his deep desire for her, and he could feel a similar desire running through her as she pushed him back against a wall and grabbed at his robes.
Willingly, he hastily undressed until he was only in his trousers, socks, and shoes.
“This is intolerable,” she finally decided, tugging at his trousers, trying at the buttons as he went for her panties, pulling them down her long legs. He then swept her up in his arms and deposited her on the bed, her hair around her shoulders, covering her quite effectively, her knees up against her stomach. He kicked off his own shoes before kneeling and removing hers.
She accepted him back into her arms, her fingers touching every inch of skin she could find, her breath ragged even when she murmured his name against his lips. Their first lovemaking was hurried. They were both too desperate and afterward, he held her in his arms, a cooling charm around the bed where only a sheet covered them.
Jacquette was the first to speak. “What happens during a failed handfasting?”
He had been gazing at how her hair fell over her shoulder, but now turned his attention to her face. She was looking at him, her eyebrows raised slightly. “I’ve never been,” he admitted. “I imagine the ribbon doesn’t turn white. Why do you ask?”
Although it was a warm July day, she pulled closer to him and rested her head against his shoulder, her fingers playing with the hairs on the chest. Tom grew used to the quiet, the only sound being the birds singing, when Jacquette spoke again. “I can’t be certain, I only heard it, but I believe Sirius and Lily have done what we just did.”
“You’re curious,” he realized, laughing a little.
“You hate them.” It was a simple statement, not a judgment.
“I would be happy to escort you, as your husband. I would prefer you not to be near one such as Sirius Black alone. I cannot stop what occurs at Hogwarts and I realize you were once close friends and he considers you family, but if you wish to go, then I will not stop you. I would never stop you from anything unless I believed there were harm—“
“Or if I was untrue. I assume both our marriage bands stop that.”
He stared into her hazel eyes, answering the question. Running his hand down her cheek, he kissed her softly. “Let’s not think on that now. We’re alone, together, and free to do as we will for the first time, Dark Lady.”
“I’m not dark.”
“You’re not light either,” he stated, kissing her deeply so they wouldn’t get into the finer details on their wedding night.
Jacquette must have sent out the necessary letter to Sirius as three days later she was dressed in a gold summer robe over a blue dress that Tom had purchased for her earlier that week. He absolutely adored taking her shopping, saying that she deserved silks like a king of Persia and velvets like a dauphin of France.
They still Apparated together although she had her license. There was something intimate about it that he couldn’t really explain. They had never explained it; she just always stepped closely to him and he gladly took her into his arms.
When they approached the house, Jacquette startled when she saw a boy in a worn black robe. “Snape?”
A boy with greasy hair and a crooked nose turned. Ah, yes. Some of his followers had told him of this particular boy. Like Jacquette, he was particularly brilliant in potions. He had a finesse that was usually unseen outside of potioneers who were trained from a young age.
“Riddle,” he stated. “This must be your husband.”
“Yes,” she answered. “He is in the Wizengamot. Husband, Severus Snape. He’s a classmate of mine from Slytherin.—I didn’t know you lived in Milltown.”
“I’m here for the handfasting.”
Jacquette did not show any surprise. “Of course. How silly of me. I forgot you and Lily were friends. I’m here on Sirius’s behalf, and I know the two of you are not the fondest of one another.” They were now at the door and Snape knocked and it was unfortunately opened by Muggles. Fortunately there were only three: the parents and some snooty girl who had locked herself upstairs. Tom supposed that made it two, considering.
Sirius introduced everyone quickly, and Tom noticed that at least he was wearing appropriate wizard robes though his bride to be was wearing a simple pink Muggle dress. It was inappropriate for such a ceremony. Tom knew from Jacquette that Sirius had just inherited a fortune from his Uncle Alphard so he easily could have bought Lily robes but it seemed either he was stupid, mean, or she had refused it. None of the options boded well for felicity in the wizarding world. At least they weren’t polluting the main line given the fact that Sirius’s brother Regulus, who showed great progress according to his younger followers, was now the heir.
Tom watched the familiar motions and, as Jacquette had predicted, the ribbon did not turn white. It turned a smoky gray. They waited for over twenty minutes for the color to change back into white, some more patiently than others, until Snape finally asked angrily, “Lily, did Black hurt you or rape you before the ceremony?” Then it was all chaos. Lily was crying, Black was sputtering as the Muggle father was threatening him, and Tom escorted Jacquette to the door.
“I am glad we did not succumb after our first wedding,” she breathed when they were back at Riddle Manor, sitting down to a late tea.
“As am I,” Tom agreed, trying not to smile. “How humiliating. At least Lord Black wasn’t there.”
She sighed into her tea. “It’s Sirius’s fault. He never pays attention to anything, especially if it relates to pureblood tradition. Lily is a bookworm, though. She should have known.”
Tom picked up her hand and in a moment of sentimentality, actually kissed it. “Why did you marry me, jacquette? You’ve never said.”
She looked at him for several minutes, his hand still holding hers, before she answered. “You were mine since the moment you drank my firewhiskey.”
Jacquette couldn’t have spoken truer words for them both.