Unexpected Invitation

Title: The Unexpected Invitation
Author: ExcentrykeMuse
Pairing: Draco/fem!Harry
Summary: Everyone was bowing to her and calling her “Lady Helène.”  He came up to her and called her “Potter.”  How could she not go to the Yule Ball with him?

Warning: infidelity, Helène not really being a Potter, consanguinity, pureblood politics

Part the First. Originale.

Everyone said that Helène Potter was the illegitimate love child of Sirius Black and Lily Potter.  Her face was all Lily.  It couldn’t be denied.  It was diamond shaped, with almond shaped eyes and a nose that was rather more character forming than pretty.  The rest of her was pure Black.  Narcissa Malfoy née Black had golden hair that was not unusual in the Black family.  One would find it every generation or two.  It was beautiful and sought after—and Helène had such hair.  She also had the gray eyes of a Black.

Helène’s aunt had always said she was a bastard, that her mother must have nipped out one night.  She’d said it so often that Helène had started to believe her.

It was only part of her sense of normality when the rumors started at Hogwarts.  She learned that Sirius Black had been her godfather and her father’s best friend—and was serving time in Azkaban prison for killing twelve Muggles with a single curse. 

It suited, she supposed.

Uncle Vernon always said her family were good-for-nothings.

However, Helène refused to be worthless herself.  She was brave, being sorted into Gryffindor, and so she did the brave thing.  She went against everything the Dursleys ever taught her.  She studied and she improved herself and with a unique perspective she left Hermione Granger in the dust when it came to marks.  Helène figured out the nuances of magic when Granger could only recite facts from books.  It came naturally to Helène.

That did not mean that Helène was not a danger magnet.  With her best friend at her side, Rosa Vane, she battled trolls, three headed dogs, diaries, ex-convicts who insisted they weren’t her father, and now dragons.  It was fourth year and the Yule Ball had just been announced.

That’s when it had gotten strange.

A Hufflepuff, sixth year, Helène thought, came up to her and bowed low, his arms outstretched to the side.  “Lady Helène Flora Potter,” he intoned deeply, “will you do me the great honor of attending the Yule Ball with me this Christmas Eve?”

Helène stared at him and looked over at Rosa for help.  Yes or no? she mouthed.

Rosa shook her head.

“Lady Helène thanks you for your kind invitation, but fears she must decline,” Rosa stated imperiously.

“Can the Lady Helène not speak for herself?” the Hufflepuff inquired.

“I—what she said,” Helène squeaked.

He got up from his bow and looked the two of them over before leaning through the crowd that had formed.  They were all whispering.

“What was that?  How did he know my name?” Helène demanded.

“That was a pureblood invitation,” Rosa stated calmly.  “I would get used to them.  They’re going to be coming fast and quick, especially now a precedent has been set.  And every wizard worth his salt knows your name.”  She sighed.  “I only hope someone asks me to the Yule Ball soon.”

Neville Longbottom was the sweetest.  Rosa had told her that he was from one of the wealthiest houses in England, which seemed to matter to her, but that didn’t mean three frogs to Helène.  She would have sent him to Rosa if she knew that Rosa didn’t think he was a bumbling idiot.  “Lady Helène Flora Potter, will you do me the greatest honor of attending the Yule Ball with me on the Twenty-Fourth of December?”  He almost stuttered it out, and she felt sorry for him.

“Why don’t you ask Ginny,” she said, referencing the youngest Weasely that she knew in passing.  “She’s only a third year, but I hear she’s dying to go.  You two might have a lot of fun together.”

He smiled at her gratefully and got up from his bow.  “I’ll do that, Lady Helène.”

The next thing in the gossip mill that Helène heard was that Neville was taking Ginny to the ball.

Rosa was fortunately asked before long.  Clarus Montague, a Slytherin, had asked her one day after Potions when Helène was trying not to pay attention.  He was bold, to-the-point, and overly confident, but Rosa still said ‘yes’ and talked about color schemes for the rest of the day.  He was a few years older than them, though Helène supposed that didn’t matter much.

Ron Weasley was the most ridiculous of her so-called suitors.  He stood before her, grit his teeth and then inclined his head with his arms holding his books to his chest.  His back was tilted halfway into a bow so that he just looked awkward.  “Lady Helen Potter,”—He always pronounced her name wrong—“will you go with me to the Yule Ball?”

“No, she won’t, Weasel, don’t even bother asking,” the sound of Draco Malfoy echoed up the hall.  His platinum blond head was suddenly in the sea of others and then he was pushing Ron aside and standing in front of Helène.  “Potter,” he said.  “You.  Me.  Ball.  You in?”

It was so refreshing to hear someone talk to her as a normal person that she actually smiled.  “Do you dance, Malfoy?  I’m afraid a dance is compulsory for me and my date.”

“Oi!” Weasley butt in.  “I don’t think—“

“I do.  I’ve had lessons since I was five.”

“Well, I’m afraid I’ll step on your toes, then,” Helène bantered.  “We had one lesson in Gryffindor and I’m afraid I’m rather abysmal.”

“I’ll happily show you the ropes, Potter, if you agree to be my date,” Malfoy bargained.  He smirked at her.  “Unless you’re not Gryffindor enough to say ‘yes’.”

She bristled.  “Oh, I’m Gryffindor enough, Malfoy.”

“So you’ll come, Potter?  No more of these sycophants bowing to you in the hallways.”

“Well, I doubt they’ll stop,” she admitted.  “But I’ll come.  Make sure you look the part, though.  I won’t have you embarrassing me.”

He laughed, deep in his throat.  “Vane is your closest friend, right?  I’ve seen you partnered in Potions.  I’ll let her decide if my robes pass muster.”

It was all quite freeing. Helène hadn’t realized what she’d been missing.  Ever since the stupid ball was announced she was suddenly “Lady Helène” to everyone, even Dean, who was a Muggle-born.  It was ridiculous.  Granger had even started calling her “Lady Helène” in an uppity tone.  The only person who hadn’t, apart from Malfoy, was Rosa.

“Potter,” Malfoy squawked when she stepped on his foot for the ninth time.  “You really must stop that.”

“I’m trying!” she squeaked.  “It’s not like I’m trying to punish you by stepping on your toes.”

They were in some room in the dungeon, which had a phonograph that was playing the same song over and over again.  It really had to be magic.

“Don’t look at your feet,” Malfoy instructed.  “Look into my eyes.”

“Why would I want to look into your eyes?  That would suggest this were a romantic dance.”

“You always look into your partner’s eyes.  It’s good form.  I would look into your eyes even if you were a hag.  Well, for a little while.  I’d then look over your shoulder, Potter.  There’s only so much I can stand.”

“Fine!”  She griped and she looked into eyes as gray as her own.

“That’s it,” Malfoy coaxed.  “Just like that.  Let your body sway to mine but keep looking into my eyes, Potter.”

“Is this a teaching tactic, Malfoy?”

“If I say ‘yes’ are you more or less likely to look away?”  He smirked at her.

Without realizing it, she was actually stepping to the beat, her school skirt swishing about her knees.  “It’s just—your eyes are so gray.  It’s horrible.”

“No more horrible than yours, then, Potter,” he concluded.  “Just forget about the color and keep looking.”

She did as instructed and let the music wash over her.  Before long, she found that she had rested her head against Malfoy’s shoulder and he hummed to himself.  “That’s it.  Just like that, Potter.  Feel my movements.”

Overall, the lessons were a flying success.

When a Ravenclaw asked her to the dance, bowing low, Draco actually hexed him from behind.  “Lady Helène is previously engaged, or haven’t you listened to the gossip mill?” he inquired nastily.  “Now get out!”

Helène looked at Malfoy in shock. 

“All right, Potter?”

“You just called me by my title.”

“It would be rude not to.  However, as we know each other so well, it seemed a little ridiculous.  You’ve been ‘Potter’ to me since we were eleven.”

“Yes, I remember how you offered your hand on the train,” she murmured.  “I suppose you don’t think Rosa’s a bad sort.”

Draco looked at her piercingly.  “Honestly?  The Vanes are from one of the Middle Houses.  The Potters are the third most preeminent house.  If the rumors are true and you are a Black, then you are probably the Black heiress, which is the most preeminent house.”

“Where do the Malfoys fit into all of this?”

“We’re second only to the Blacks, and one rung above you.  You are essentially my social equal at this pile of stones.”

Helène considered.  “You have the Black eyes, like I do.  Why?”

“My mother is Narcissa Malfoy née Black.  One of the minor offshoots, but a fine match for my father, who is Lord of our House.  You really know nothing about this, do you?”

“No,” Helène admitted cautiously.  “I grew up with Muggles.”

“Well, we’ll see about that, Potter.  I can’t have my date knowing nothing of her social heritage.”  He looked at her in that strange way he’d been looking at her recently.  “Meet me in the library.  Four o’clock.  Don’t bring Vane—she’ll just get in the way.  No, better yet, meet me in the kitchens.  Do you know how to get there?”

“Yes,” Helène admitted.  “Are you sure you don’t need the books from the library?”

“Every wizard worth his salt has his own private copy of Spungen’s and I’ll bring mine.  We can work through dinner if necessary and have all manner of treats available.”

Draco was true to his word.  He brought this large copy of Spungen’s Guide to Pureblood Dynasties, c.1500-present.  “Right.  First thing’s first is to look up your family tree.  Are you sure you want to do that?”  He looked at her kindly, which was strange for a Malfoy.

She breathed out through her nose.  “Do you think I should?”

“I already looked up the Potters.  James Potter doesn’t have any Black blood.  His mother was a Bones.”

“Christ,” she murmured.  “Better open up to the Blacks, then, see if I’m there anywhere.”

Draco looked at her hard before turning to a marked page.  The double page folded out to show a large family tree.  “There’s Mother,” Draco pointed out, “and as you can see she was married to Father, and there I am with my two sisters.”

“I didn’t know you had sisters, Malfoy.”

“Lacerta’s a first year.  Slytherin, of course.  Little Iolanthe’s only nine.”

“How wonderful.  I always wanted brothers and sisters, though I wouldn’t give them my childhood for the world.”

Draco looked at her perceptively.  “No, Muggles aren’t the most understanding of creatures,” he murmured.  “We better look under Sirius Black.  He is your godfather after all.”  However, there were no lines under him.  There was, however, a line under his brother Regulus Black.  It read Stella Helène.  “It seems you’re legitimate—and have a different name.  He recognized you before his death in 1979.  That was the year before we were born,” Draco mused.  “I wonder what the story is.”

“I have absolutely no idea,” Helène whispered unhappily.  It was all her nightmares come true.  She traced the thin line, her mother’s a pale gray and she was surprised when a warm hand enveloped hers. 

“We’ll get to the bottom of this.  Mother will know something, I’m certain, and she’ll have pictures that you can have, if you want them.”

“I just—where did my hair come from?”  She took her free hand and looked at her golden tresses.

“That I can answer, Potter,” Draco said quickly.  “Mother has the same hair and she’s a Black.  Also, Aunt Walburga, your grandmother, had the same golden coloring.  It clearly must come to you through Regulus.”

“Aunt Petunia always said it came from her, but her hair comes out of a bottle, I’ve seen it.  It’s really this mousy color.”  Helène sighed, noticing that her hand was still covered by Draco’s.  “I guess this makes us cousins.”  She looked at the book.  “Second cousins.”

“Yes, you’re Lady Stella Black.  You can’t inherit the title, but you’re the closest to it, given that your uncle Sirius is the current Lord.”

She laughed darkly.  “Oh, this is dreadful.  You must swear not to tell anyone.  Your mother, perhaps, but no one else.”

He squeezed her hand.  “As long as I can call you ‘Black’ in private.”

“I think we’re a little beyond that now.  Call me Helène.”

“Helène, then.  Only if you call me Draco.”

He leaned forward toward her and she was very still.  It was not the most romantic of moments, but then she realized something, “Aren’t we cousins?”

“Second cousins is far enough away,” he murmured, tilting his head to the side.  “And the Blacks enjoy marrying each other—look at your grandparents.”  And then his lips were on hers, soft and pliant.  She could feel the thinness of them, but she felt so lost and needed to ground herself to reality.  Entwining their fingers of their joined hands, she took her free hand and brushed the hair at the top of his neck.  When he finally pulled away, she opened her eyes, surprised to realize that she had closed them.

“I’ve been wanting to do that, Helène, all year,” Draco admitted and she blushed.

“What is it?  My gray eyes?”

“Your blonde hair,” he admitted freely, now blushing himself.  “Malfoys love blonde hair.  We have a bit of a weakness for it.  It’s why we’ve remained blonde for over three hundred years.”

“I’m a prospective bride then,” she teased.

“I wouldn’t have kissed you if you weren’t.”

They looked at each other, and then Draco pushed the book forward.  “You should read the chapter on the Blacks.  Then on their courtship rituals.  I realize that with the name ‘Potter’ most people will get it wrong, but you need to be prepared, especially once you reach the age of fifteen.”

“I—all right.”  She took the book from him and flipped to the appropriate section.  It was ten pages long in tiny print.  “Er—I may have to borrow it.”

“Then borrow it for a day or so.  I’ll get you your own copy for Christmas.”

“I—I couldn’t possibly.  I know we just kissed and we’re related—“

“You’re my kinswoman and as far as I’m concerned, my girlfriend.  It’s the least I could do.”

“One swallow does not make a summer.”

“It does in the wizarding world, Helène.  I’ll write to Mother tonight for information and photographs.  It’s customary to have photographs of the dead in places where people will view them.”

“I couldn’t—what if people will see?”

“You don’t have to say who it is, just put it on the bedside table.  Your mother, though a Muggle-born, should be accorded the same respect.  I’ll have Mother send an extra frame.—Ah, steak pie for dinner.”

The house elves had come over with steaming plates for them and Helène pushed Spungen’s aside for fear of getting it dirty.

“I think I’m dating Draco Malfoy,” Helène told Rosa that night, as they were sitting in their nightgowns on Rosa’s bed.  Helène practically whispered it so that no one would hear.  Parvati and Lavender liked to gossip and she didn’t know how Hermione Granger would take it.

“You are going to the Yule Ball with him,” Rosa replied quietly.

“I know, but he kissed me and I kissed him back.  Apparently that means we’re dating.”

Rosa sucked in a deep breath.  “He’s declared his intentions toward you.  He can’t court you until you’re fifteen, but he’s claimed you.  Why did you kiss him?”

“I was upset—and he was there and he was real—and he is handsome when he’s not being so Malfoyish—and he’s been so helpful recently—“  She tugged at her hair.  “—I don’t know.  I know Weasley calls him Ferret-Face and that’s wrong and his features are a little pointed, but—“

Rosa put a hand on hers.  “Breathe, Helène, breathe.  Did you like it, when he kissed you?”

Helène nodded.

“Well, then, that’s all that matters.  You’re only dating.  Just don’t let him shove you into any broom cupboards.”

“I don’t think that’s really his style,” Helène answered truthfully.  “He told me that Malfoys like blonde hair which is why they’ve all been blonde for three hundred years.  He likes my hair, Rosa.  Should I be insulted?”

“No,” she replied smoothly.  “He just finds it beautiful, and it is.  I would die for hair like yours.  Mine is all black curls that have to be brushed just right to form into ringlets.”

Three days later, an eagle owl perched on her shoulder, with a brief message to meet Draco in the kitchens for dinner that evening.  She had finished with Spungen’s, even taking some notes, and so brought it along.  Sliding it across the table, she smiled.  “Thank you.  I never knew the family was named after nighttime rituals.”

“It’s amazing what you learn in Spungen’s,” he answered, leaning forward and kissing her cheek.

She blushed, and she cursed herself for it.

“Did you read the bit I marked about pureblood women wearing their hair up at all times?”

“Yes, I talked to Rosa about it, but I’m not a pureblood.”

“You should conduct yourself as Lady Helène Black or Lady Helène Potter, if you prefer.  I had Mother send some magazines with tips on how to do hair.”

Teasing him, she said, “Wouldn’t you rather see it down?”

“Only if I’m the only one,” he replied truthfully.  “I haven’t been given that honor yet.”

“I’ll think about it,” she replied noncommittally.  “Now, what else have you brought me?”

“Photographs, as promised.  I had to tell Mother why—she wouldn’t just send them.  I did try that,” he sighed.  “Expect a letter in a day or two.”  He laid out three photographs for her.

Regulus Black was quite handsome.  Handsomer than Sirius even.  He had long black hair and distinctive gray eyes.  One showed him in his Quidditch uniform, another dressed in formal robes, and the third was surprisingly with Lily Potter.

“When was this taken?” Helène asked in surprise.

Draco picked up the photograph and flipped it over.  “A month before her wedding.  In Hogsmeade.”

“They really did know each other,” Helène breathed.

“It would seem so,” Draco agreed.  “Mother wrote that she knew nothing of a romance between the two of them, though she said if there was one, it would have been kept secret because of the war.  Regulus was a Death Eater, although he was killed by the Dark Lord in the end.”

“Hopefully it was for something heroic,” Helène murmured, still looking at the photograph.  “I think I’ll keep this one private.”

“As my lady commands,” he laughed, bowing. 

That night they had ziti with treacle tart and Draco complained about a hankering for quail’s eggs, something which Helène had never tried.

The Yule Ball was fast approaching and everyone was all aflutter.  Hermione Granger was straightening her hair while Helène was painstakingly trying to put her hair up in one of the twists that was recommended for formal occasions in the magazines Draco had given her.

She donned her emerald green robes and descended the staircase, hair up and gray eyes shining.  Draco was waiting for her at the bottom in black robes that rather made him look like a priest. Helène tried to stifle a laugh.  He kissed her gently.

“You look beautiful, Helène.”

“Like my hair?” she asked with a grin.

He looked it over appreciatively.

“Love it.”

Then, with the calling out for the Champions, they marched into the Hall, side by side, her hand clasping his.

Part the Second. Entr’Acte.

She took the piece of parchment and folded it as the house appeared before her.  Helène took a few steps forward, hating the feel of her too large jeans, and just wishing to get into her trunk and the few robes that Draco had purchased for her.  They were simple and had resizing charms on them.  The more elaborate the robes, the fewer charms could be placed on them.  Still, she preferred her simple robes to her oversized Muggle clothing.

They felt like her right.

Because Helène had a secret.  She wasn’t the daughter of James and Lily Potter, but the recognized lovechild of Lily Potter and Regulus Black, Lady Stella Helène Black. 

Only she knew along with her boyfriend Draco and his mother, Lady Malfoy.  No, that wasn’t correct.  She’d signed a contract that on her fifteenth birthday she would enter an exclusive courtship with Heir Draco Malfoy.  Lord Malfoy must also know by now.  And today was that day.

Her parents were dead and Sirius had yet to recognize her as Head of the House of Black, so she had the authority to sign such contracts.

There were no friendly faces at the Headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix.  She really wished all of the Weasleys weren’t there, and Hermione Granger was an odd edition, but c’est la vie.  She went in search of Sirius and found him in the kitchen with several other wizards.

“Uncle Sirius,” she greeted.  She’d taken to calling him that ever since she’d learned the truth.  He didn’t seem to mind.  “May I talk to you, say, four o’clock tomorrow?”

“Why not now, prongslet?”

“Don’t call me that,” she begged.  Helène hated thinking about James Potter now.  It was just too painful.  She wasn’t sure what her mother’s relationship to either her father, Regulus, or her supposed father, James, had been—but it had to have been complicated.

“But Helène…”

“Please,” she begged.  “Just tomorrow.  I need to send an owl.  It’s lovely to see you again, and under better circumstances.”  She offered him a smile and rushed out of the room.

She sent an owl with the time and the note to Draco, begging him to be there, possibly with his mother.

Fortunately, they showed up.

Helène was waiting by the door, so no one else would know, and she threw herself in Draco’s arms. 

“Stella,” he greeted.  He’d taken to calling her by her father’s name for her in private.  “Do you really think he won’t recognize you?”

Narcissa, Lady Malfoy, swished into the hallway, with the same blonde hair and gray eyes that Helène had.  She smiled kindly at Helène and Helène offered her a smile back.  They had never officially met before, although Narcissa sent her weekly letters of encouragement and on comportment in society.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” Draco said hurriedly, disengaging himself from Helène, but keeping an arm around her waist.  “Mother, my suited, Lady Stella Helène Black.  Stella, dear, my mother, Lady Malfoy.”

Helène curtsied before the two women shook hands. 

“It’s so wonderful to meet another Black and Draco has told me so much about you.  You look quite like your grandmother Walburga.”

“Yes,” Helène said.  “Her portrait doesn’t seem to be shrieking for once.  Let me find Uncle Sirius and we’ll see if we can get him to write a letter to the Ministry and hopefully one to The Prophet.”

“I hope you know, my dear, that Lord Malfoy has worked tirelessly to keep your name pristine after this unfortunate business with the Dark Lord.  Minister Fudge was quite against it, but Lord Malfoy reminded him of your political capital.”  Narcissa smiled at her.

Helène tried to smile back and was grateful that Draco squeezed her slightly.  “Thank you,” she murmured.  “Let’s try down in the kitchen.”

Unfortunately, it was not just Sirius Black who was in there.  That strange auror whose hair kept on changing was sitting at the table, along with several other individuals, including Remus Lupin.

“What are they doing here?” Sirius demanded loudly.

“It’s four o’clock,” Helène stated.  “I said I needed to speak to you and, well, I brought reinforcements.”

Sirius just looked at them angrily. 

“This is my suitor, Heir Draco Malfoy,” she introduced, “and his mother, Lady Malfoy.  She was Lady Narcissa Black, your cousin, if you remember, Uncle Sirius.”

“I know who they are.”  His voice was like stone, cold and dead.  “You’re wearing robes,” he said a moment later.

“Yes, I like them better,” she said inanely.  “Draco got them for me when I asked.  I was hoping to see a tailor while I was here so I could get something that wasn’t so basic.”

“Prongslet!” Sirius barked.

“Don’t call me that,” she stated.  “You know I hate it.”

They stared at each other.

Fortunately, Narcissa broke in.  “Why don’t we go to the Drawing Room?  The tapestry is there, is it not?  I think it will suit our purposes.”  She turned and swept from the room.  Helène’s eyes followed her before they snapped back to Sirius’s.  “Are you coming?”

“I don’t see why you had to bring the Malfoys.  How did they get in here?”

“Witch’s secret,” she stated slyly, before she allowed Draco to guide her from the kitchen.  They found Narcissa in a room full of Weasleys who were gaping at her.  They may not have seen a witch so richly attired before.

She was wearing sea green and white robes embroidered with unicorn hair and her hair was swept up in a chignon.  Ever since Helène started dating Draco at about the time of the Yule Ball, she had started putting her hair in a braid and then circling that into a bun, in accordance with pureblood style.  She could never really seem to manage much else.

“Weasleys, go,” Sirius demanded.  “That’s enough cleaning for the day.”

Narcissa had turned to the moth eaten tapestry and had cast a few Scourgifies on it.  “Now,” she stated, standing.  “Would you like the tapestry first, or Spungen’s?”

“I think Spungen’s,” Helène decided.  “We can start with the Potter family tree.”

Reaching into her small handbag, Narcissa produced the thick tome and laid it on a table.  She turned to the correct genealogical tree and opened the folded pages so that a large tree was produced.  “Find Lady Helène Flora,” she told Sirius.

“This is ridiculous,” he stated, before striding over to the tree and tracing down the lines.  Then his face went blank.  He checked again before glancing at Helène.

She stood in Draco’s arms, but she stared resolutely back.

Narcissa made a humming noise and folded up the tree before turning to the Black Family one.  “Now, find her here.  The common name is ‘Helène,’ Sirius.”

He stared at her unbelievingly before his eyes started tracing the lines.  It took him a lot longer before finally his eyes seemed to light on it.  “Stella Helène?” he asked in shock.  “My brother and—Lily?”

“Yes,” Draco put in.  “Go look at the Tapestry.”

He tore toward it and traced the line with his finger before it stopped over a name.  “Your picture is here and everything,” he breathed.  “You’re my niece.”

“I was hoping,” she began carefully, “that you would write to the Ministry and The Prophet and recognize me.  Please, Uncle Sirius.  I want to honor my father.  I know he was a Death Eater and I know the Dark Lord killed him, but please—he loved me enough to recognize me even though my mother married someone else—“  She was crying now, kneeling on the floor behind him, reaching out but too afraid to touch.

“But Prongs—“

“Did right by me,” she concluded.  “He gave me a home and protection.  His will must have been written in such a way that I gained his estate even without biologically being his child.  Draco looked it up for me.  But please.  Regulus is your brother.  He’s my father.  Don’t make me live a lie anymore.”

“The Malfoy family,” Narcissa stated carefully, “will recognize her under my name if you do not.  It would be better coming from you, although you are a fugitive, but we have all the proof we need that Helène is Regulus’s daughter.  She’s your heir, Sirius.”

“She was my heir anyway, as my goddaughter.”

“Yes, she’s your goddaughter, but blood is thicker than water.  I know you didn’t like Regulus, Sirius.  That was plain as day.  But can you really deny his child her birthright?”  Narcissa was calm and collected.  “Can you not love her for who she is instead of simply because she is the child of your dead friend?”

Sirius looked up at her.  Then he glanced at Draco.  “They’re second cousins,” he seemed to realize.  “Helène said he was her suitor.  They’re second cousins.”

“Your parents were second cousins,” Narcissa reasoned.  “Granted they weren’t the happiest of couples, but this is nothing new for the Blacks.  I don’t think Regulus would have disapproved.”

“Regulus had an affair with a married Muggle-born.  He hated Muggles!  I don’t know what he would have approved of anymore.”  Sirius ran a hand down his handsome face.  “Come back tomorrow.  Four o’clock.  I need to—process all this.”  He got up and quickly left the room, not even looking at Helène.

She looked up tearfully at Draco and Narcissa.  “Did that go well?”

Draco lifted her off the floor and hugged her to him.

“Very well, I think,” Narcissa stated.  “He just needs time to process.  It’s a great deal to take in.”

Helène suddenly laughed.  “Do you want to hear something funny?  When I first got here, Kreacher looked directly at me and my eyes and put me in Regulus’s room.  I thought I’d cry from the shock of it all.”

“Well,” Narcissa stated, clapping her hands.  Kreacher instantly appeared and started bowing to them, including to Helène.  “Tea, I think, Kreacher.  Lady Stella Black, I believe, loves strawberries.”  She looked at Helène mischievously as Kreacher threw himself at her and started crying in happiness.

Sirius, it seemed, ended up in the library with a bottle of firewhiskey.  Helène found him along with Remus, who was looking at him worriedly. 

Remus glanced at her.  “He hasn’t been making any sense.  All he keeps on going on about is how Regulus had a child.”

She sighed.  “He makes perfect sense.  He’s just in shock.”  She took the bottle away.  “Uncle Sirius!” she shouted, and he looked at her.  “Do you really want to see Lady Malfoy with a hangover tomorrow?  Do you really want to embarrass me in front of Draco?”

“He’s your second cousin!”

“I—don’t—care,” she stated imperiously.  “He doesn’t care that I’m the Girl-Who-Lived.  He doesn’t care that I’m Lady Helène.  He just cares that I’m ‘Potter,’ the girl with the golden hair who doesn’t care if he’s Heir Malfoy.  For us it’s not about position, Sirius.  Do you know how rare that is?”

“But you’re cousins.”

She sighed.  “We’ve established that.  The Malfoys don’t care.  Why should you?”

“Because it’s wrong!”

“Then recognize me and as the Head of my House, you’ll get some say from now on!”

Remus stared at her, completely shocked.

Sirius crossed his arms.  “At this point I’ll only get to thrash the whelp if he steps out of line.  Though I’ll get to approve the marriage if it comes to that.”

Not if I’m over twenty-one, she wanted to say, but didn’t.  She’d read Spungen’s Guide to Pureblood Dynasties, c.1500-present, and knew all the Black laws.  Lady Malfoy’s father wanted her sister Bellatrix to marry Lord Malfoy, according to Draco, and so he wouldn’t approve the match.  As a result, Lord and Lady Malfoy had had to wait until she turned twenty-one.  Apparently Bellatrix became a Death Eater and was now in Azkaban.  Then again, Lord Malfoy was a Death Eater, as well, but Helène didn’t think on that.

“Stella,” Sirius was now saying.  “Star.  What a Black name to give to a girl.”

“Yes, we rather thought so,” Helène agreed.  “Regulus obviously wanted to follow the Black family tradition.  He just couldn’t find a star or constellation he liked enough, so he chose the all-encompassing ‘Stella.’”  Really, Helène had stared at herself long and hard in the mirror and wasn’t sure if she looked like a ‘Stella.’  Then again, she was so used to being ‘Helène.’  It had been a lot to take in and she’d had half a year already.

“Remus,” Sirius suddenly said.  “I need to talk to Helène.  Godfather business.”

“Right, of course,” he said, making to leave.  “Just don’t say anything you regret.  You’ve had a bit to drink.”

Sirius nodded and they both waited until the door closed behind Remus.  “First, I need to know.  What’s so bad about being Lady Helène Flora Potter?”

Helène sighed and took a seat.  “There’s nothing wrong.  It’s just—it’s a lie, can’t you see that?  I’m denying a half of myself.  And she’s the name everyone associates with the Girl-Who-Lived.  This is a chance to be myself.  This is a chance to get to know my father, to have actual relatives.  You’re my uncle, Sirius, don’t you see how important that is?  I’m your niece.  I’m the closest thing you have to a daughter.  I know, once you’re cleared, you may get married and have children, but I’ll always be your brother’s daughter, even if you don’t recognize me.  You can’t deny the truth.”

He sighed.  “It’s really what you want?”

“Yes,” she said desperately.  “Please, Uncle Sirius.  You’re the Head of my House.  Don’t turn me away callously just because you didn’t like your brother or because you’d prefer to think of me as your best mate’s child.  I deserve more than that.  I deserve my home.”

“All right.  And I’ll try not to call you ‘Prongslet.’  I can see why you dislike it so much, now.”

“And don’t tell Dumbledore.  Don’t tell anyone until it’s official.  I don’t want it being mucked up because of my status in the wizarding world.”

He looked at her piercingly.  “Fine.  Now, this Draco whelp.  He’s good to you?”

“Very,” she stated.  “He treats me like a human being.  Only my best friend Rosa Vane does that.”

“Yes, I’ve seen the Weasley Twins.  They don’t prank you and instead bow every time they see you.  I can’t figure out if they’re being funny or serious.”  He laughed hollowly.  “I’ll have those letters done by four o’clock.  Now get Kreacher for me and get a sobriety potion.  He likes you.  It’s probably because you’re a proper Black, even though he’s yet to figure out you’re not a pureblood.  Let’s not tell him.  Even that horrid portrait of my mother became quiet when she clapped eyes on you.”

Well, that was all true.  She really needed to sit down with Walburga’s portrait and learn more about Regulus.

“Stella,” Draco greeted the next day as she let him in.  “How was everything last night?”

“I had a heart-to-heart with Uncle Sirius.  He promised to write those letters and I’ve ordered us tea.  Kreacher’s really outdone himself.  As soon as he learned exactly who I was, he pulled out all the stops.”

At Narcissa’s blank face, Helène quickly added, “Muggle expression.”

She led them toward the library, past several curious Weasleys and a snooty looking Hermione, and they entered the Drawing Room.  Sirius was waiting in a suit and sitting around a tea table.  “Oh, good,” he said, seeing Narcissa.  “You can play ‘Mother.’  You always did it so well.”

“It’s good to see you too, Sirius,” she greeted, taking a seat.  She was in pale yellow today, her hair in a French twist.  “What type of tea are we having?”

“Rose tea,” Helène answered.  “I was talking to Kreacher, and he said that Grandmother Walburga favored it, so I thought we could try it.  We also have biscuits and clotted cream.”

Draco kissed her cheek.  “You are a treasure.”

“I do try.”  They smiled at each other.

“Right,” Sirius said, looking at them.  “Don’t think I don’t have my eye on you,” he told Draco before producing a few pieces of parchment and handing them over to Narcissa.  “I thought you’d like to read those.”

“I’ll pour tea for everyone first,” she decided, and they all sat round the table. 

Helène took her cup with a smile and smelled the aroma.  “I think this would be best without milk,” she decided, before taking a sip and humming.  “Kreacher was right.  This simply is divine.”

“Kreacher is devoted to the Blacks,” Narcissa said.  “Well, everyone but Sirius here.”

“Well, now he has Helène,” Sirius muttered.  “A proper mistress.  I don’t intend to marry so this bundle of bricks will one day be hers.  So she can remain independent without a second cousin for a husband,” he added to Draco, who looked coolly back at him. 

“I assure you my intentions are entirely honorable toward Stella,” he began, but Sirius cut him off.

“I don’t care about your intentions.  I care about how incestuous the relationship is.”  He took a bite of his biscuit. 

Helène sighed.  “Uncle Sirius, we’re second cousins.  Please.”

Narcissa was now reading through the papers.  “It’s good that you’ve renamed her.  She can still go by ‘Helène’ but she’ll be ‘Black’ at Hogwarts.  That’s important.”

“Yes, I wrote a letter to them, too,” he stated.  “It’s in the pile.”

She turned the page.  “So you have.”

“Also, a few days after these hit the press, you can take her shopping for robes.  Her trunk needs to be updated as well.  She’s a Black.  It should be new and monogrammed.”  It seemed like the words were being torn out of him, but Helène smiled at him.

“Thank you, Uncle Sirius.”

“I can see there’s a letter to the goblins, giving her access to Regulus’s vaults,” Narcissa said.  “You really did think of everything.”

“I thought she could save the Potter money for her dowry—to someone who isn’t her cousin.”  He was glaring at Draco again.

“Uncle Sirius, really.”  Helène set down her cup.

“I have a right to be worried,” he argued.  “You’re my niece.  You’re under my protection and, unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to stop all this from happening.”

“Why don’t we let the young be young?” Narcissa suggested.  “It could come to nothing.”

“Hardly,” Draco said into his teacup, and Helène smiled at him.

The letter was in The Daily Prophet the next day.  It created quite a sensation.  When Helène walked down the stairs in her blue robes, she didn’t notice at first, but as soon as she sat down at the kitchen table and Kreacher obsequiously served her breakfast, she noticed all the Weasleys were staring.

“Is it true, Lady Helène?” Hermione said mockingly.  Ever since Helène started receiving invitations to the Yule Ball using her supposed title of Lady Helène Flora Potter, Hermione had been referring to her as such was sarcasm.  “Are you really a Black?”

“Yes,” Helène stated carefully.  “I’ve known for a few months now.”  She looked down at her egg.  It was over-hard with two pieces of toast.  Just the way she liked it.  There was also a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice.

“So you’re the daughter of a Death Eater.”

Helène stared at her.  “I suppose so, yes.  However, I would have you remember that I am now Lady of this house and you are technically all my guests.”

Ron Weasley coughed. 

It was Ginny Weasley who spoke next.  “It doesn’t bother you then?”

“Why should it?” Helène asked.  “He loved me enough to name me after the stars.  He recognized me.  Uncle Sirius has recognized me.  I thought that would be enough for everyone to be going on about.”

“But you’re dating Malfoy.  And you’re the daughter of a Death Eater.”  This was one of the twins.

Helène just hummed.  Really, this was too much. 

She started using her new powers immediately.  The children had been kicked out of the kitchen for an emergency Order meeting, and were all relegated to the Drawing Room where they were sorting through the cabinets.

“Kreacher can do that,” Helène stated imperiously.  “Those are Black family treasures.  Stop at once!”

“But, Helène,” Ginny whined.

“I won’t hear another word.  Kreacher will take care of the detoxification.  As to the artifacts, I don’t care whether or not they’re dark.  They all have historic value.  Go do something useful like trying to listen in on that Order meeting.” 

Sirius had not been pleased.  “This is my house,” he asserted.

“It was also my father’s,” Helène countered.  “And, if you haven’t noticed, I’m the lady of the house.”

“You’re fifteen years old!”

“I’m old enough to be courted!”  They stared at each other, gray eyes meeting gray.

“It’s amazing how much like my mother you look,” he stated.  “It’s a wonder I didn’t see it before when you first asked me if I was your father.  You’re more beautiful, like Narcissa, which is probably Lily’s influence, but you have all the softer Black features.”

“Softer?” she questioned, looking down at her hands.

“The blonde hair, the less pronounced high cheekbones.  The harder Black features are more chiseled with the black hair that curls a bit, like your father and myself.”

She nodded.  “Please don’t let them purge the house, Uncle Sirius,” she begged.  “I know it’s a lot to get used to, the fact that you have a niece who has opinions on such things, but this is all I have left of my father and my grandparents.”

Sirius slumped his shoulders.  “We’ll leave it for now,” he decided.  “I’m not giving in, just putting it on hold.  Also, you better make Kreacher deal with the doxies and that boggart and—oomph!”

Helène had launched herself in Sirius’s arms and was hugging him tightly.  “Thank you,” she murmured.  “Thank you.”

He held her close and didn’t release her until she pulled away.  “Dumbledore wants to see you,” he finally added.  “I know you may not want that.”

“Hardly,” she answered.  “I’m going to fight tooth and nail to stay with you instead of with Aunt Petunia, though.  If he doesn’t listen, I’ll just run away to the Malfoys.  Aunt Narcissa wouldn’t mind playing the chaperone.”

“No,” he growled.  “She wouldn’t mind every opportunity to snare the Black heiress for her son.”

“She’s been a great help to me,” Helène argued, “since I found out.  She sent me pictures and wrote about pureblood comportment, and even sent silly stories about when Father was a child.”

“Yes, she was rather fond of Regulus,” he remembered absently.  “They were both the youngest child and not the favored one in the household.  Now, come, better get this over with with Dumbledore.”

Helène nodded and left the library where Sirius had come across her, holding her head high as the other children watched her descend the stairs.

Dumbledore was flamboyantly dressed, as always.  His sky blue robes depicted waves crashing onto the shore, and the waves moved every few minutes to show this.  It was rather beautiful and Helène wondered at the magic placed in it.

“Ah, Helène,” Dumbledore said, looking her straight in the eye.  “Or should I call you Stella?”

“Only the Malfoys call me ‘Stella,’” she stated.  “Not even Uncle Sirius does—yet.”

“No, I suppose he wouldn’t.”  He gestured for her to take a seat and she did so without looking him in the eye.

“I will not ask if this claim is true, as Sirius has taken an unbreakable vow that you are, indeed, his brother’s child.  I merely wish to ask you if you’ve thought of the ramifications of such an action.”

“You mean that I’m now the heiress of a dark family and the daughter of a death eater?”

He nodded.

“I would remind you that my mother was a Muggleborn and she and her husband were members of the original Order of the Phoenix.”

Dumbledore sat back.  “All very true.  However, I doubt Voldemort will see it like that.”

“Well, that’s how it is,” she answered simply.  “My parents fought on two sides of the war and I believe they must have loved each other.  Stranger things have happened.”

“Stranger indeed.  You will tell me if anyone approaches you about aligning yourself to Voldemort.”  It was a command from a man who was not used to being thwarted.

She looked him straight in the eye.  “I will do no such thing.  If I tell anyone, it will be Uncle Sirius.”

Dumbledore sighed.  “At least that is something.”  He waved his hand for her to go and she quickly took the opportunity.

She shut the kitchen door behind her and sighed.  Looking up, she saw the Weasleys and Hermione looking at her over the ledge from the floor above.  “Don’t you have anything better to do?” she asked a little angrily.

“You took away all our chores, Lady Helène,” one of the twins told her.

“So I did,” she muttered.

Hermione was the first to find the tapestry.  Helène was in the corner having tea with Nymphadora Tonks, who turned out to be a relative of hers, when Hermione gasped.  “Draco Malfoy is your cousin!”

“Second cousin,” Helène explained, not even looking up.  “So is Tonks, here.”

“But you’re dating him!”

Helène sighed.  “I’ve heard this all before.  Also, he’s my suitor.  We’re in an exclusive courtship.”

Tonks choked on her biscuit.  Helène looked at her in worry, but Tonks waved a hand to show she was all right.  Her purple hair turned to green. 

“Does Sirius know about this?”

“Of course he does.  I wasn’t going to keep my own uncle under a lethifold, now, was I?  Such a thing would be criminal.”

Hermione took a deep breath.  “Does Vane know?”

Helène thought of her best friend, Rosa Vane.  “I wrote her a letter the day before the news broke.  I didn’t want her being surprised.  She already knew about Draco, however.  How could she not?  We were always meeting in the kitchens and the library.  I swear you saw us there a couple of times.”

“Yes, I thought it rather odd at the time, but he was your date to the Yule Ball.”

“And you went with Viktor Krum.  Surprises never cease.”  She took a sip of her tea.  She couldn’t wait ‘til the next day when the Malfoys would be taking her out to properly go shopping.  According to Sirius, since Malfoy was a Death Eater, they would give her ample protection.

Draco’s sisters did not come along, as Lord Malfoy didn’t want them getting in the way of a blooming courtship.  It was the first time that Helène had officially met Lord Malfoy.  He was tall and broad shouldered, with his hair clipped in the Roman fashion.  It was the same platinum blond as his son’s, though he had expressive ice blue eyes.

After she curtsied to him, he even bowed to her.  “How is your excellent uncle?”

“Oh, do you two know each other?  He hadn’t mentioned.”

“We met at my wedding,” Lucius, Lord Malfoy, admitted.  “He didn’t seem very happy to be there, though he did have a kind word for Narcissa.  How is he, though?”

“Well, though officially I couldn’t possibly comment.”

“Of course not.”  His eyes gleamed at her. 

“Stella,” Draco murmured as he leaned in to kiss her.  She brushed his fringe away from his forehead and let their lips meet for just the briefest of moments.  It was all that was seemly in front of close family members.  “I hope no one is proving too troublesome.”

“Oh, you know, the usual,” she stated.  “I put my foot down as lady of the house, Mrs Weasley was running things, and then Granger found out we were cousins, which ruined a perfectly good tea with Cousin Nymphadora.”

Narcissa looked at her.  “We do not speak of my sister Andromeda and her child, Lady Stella.  They are anathema to us.”

They had already passed out of the house and were headed toward a 1940s automobile.

“For heaven’s sake, why?”

“Aunt Andromeda married a Muggle-born,” Draco explained.  “It’s simply not the done thing.”

She stared at him.  “Please tell me that my fame doesn’t make me the exception.”

“It helps,” Lucius said blithely as he got into the driver’s seat.  “However, your mother’s unfortunate status was raised by her association with your father.  It was the other way around for Andromeda.”

Draco looked at her apologetically even when she stared at him accusingly.  He took her hand and kissed the back of it. 

“I suppose it helps that I’m now a Black instead of a Potter.  Don’t I outrank you now or something?”

“You do,” Draco told her.  “You’re the heiress, though indirectly, and therefore hold an unparalleled position.”

Helène sighed.  This was all too complicated.

She twirled in her new robes in front of Draco, not minding that Lucius and Narcissa were looking on.  “I think ‘yes,’” she decided.  “Yes?”

“Definitely,” Draco agreed.  “Mother, give a woman’s perspective.”

Narcissa smirked.  “It has a flattering cut and aracumantula silk breathes well.  The color is also very flattering to your complexion.”

“Yes, I like blues and violets,” Helène agreed.  “I’ve rather decided they’re going to be my signature colors.”

Draco stood up and showed her some emerald green robes.  “For me, Stella?”

“How Slytherin of you,” she teased, but she took them to the dressing room and promptly tried them on.

In the end she left with twelve new robes, some formal, some not, and she was wearing a new violet set.  A reporter was waiting for them outside Fairy Woven Silk with a camera.  “A picture, Lady Stella?” he asked.

Helène looked at Draco and he smiled impishly back at her.

“Mother, Father, I’m afraid we’re posing.”  Lord and Lady Malfoy promptly walked to the side and Helène threaded her arm through Draco’s.

“What would Uncle Sirius say?” she laughed as the photograph was taken.

“Is this a family outing?” the reporter asked and Helène smiled secretively.

“Yes and no,” she admitted.  “While Cousin Narcissa has been invaluable in her support, it is my suitor Heir Draco Malfoy who has been with me from the very beginning of the process of learning my true identity.  I owe it to him that I am now recognized as a Black and that I know who my father is.”

Draco took her hand and squeezed it and they smiled at each other.

“Is there any fear of consanguinity?”

Lucius took this question.  “On the Malfoy side, there is not.  Lady Stella Black and my son, Heir Draco, are only second cousins.  Lady Stella’s own grandparents were second cousins, so it is not unusual for the Blacks.  We would be happy if, in two years’ time, we could call her a member of our family.”

Another photograph was taken, which rather startled Helène.

“Come now,” Lucius said.  “We have reservations for lunch and we still need to commission that trunk.”

“I hope it’s black,” Helène told Draco.  “My current one is a beaten up brown.  It’s sturdy, but that’s about all I can say for it.”

They didn’t return to Grimmauld Place.  Instead, Lucius put a portkey on the automobile and they were transported to an estate where there was a large manor house and white peacocks littered the lawn.  “Leave the parcels, dear one,” Narcissa said.  “We just want you to meet someone before we return you to your uncle’s for dinner.”

“Oh dear,” Helène whispered to Draco.  “This can’t be good.”

“I promise you that it hopefully will be.”  He leaned over and kissed her head.  “And remember, there’s a truce as soon as you enter the manor.”

“Truce?” she asked, confused.  The entryway was full of light and on the right hand side there was a staircase leading up to the next level. 

“I’m afraid I’m going to have to insist on your wand,” Narcissa said carefully.  She motioned to a small table where another wand was set.  “No offensive or defensive magic can be cast during your meeting.”

“But who am I meeting?” she asked, carefully handing over her wand.  She trusted her Aunt Narcissa implicitly because of the support and help she had offered her since before Christmas.

“You’ll see, Stella,” Draco promised.  He led her up the stairs and down a hall to an oak doorway.  “He means you no harm,” he reminded her.

“You’re being terribly cryptic,” she reminded him.

He snaked his arm around her waist and drew her in for a slow, languid kiss.  They hadn’t been in private since they had left Hogwarts, so she gasped at the new sensation of it, before she placed her arms around his neck and ran her hands up through his hair.  When he pulled away, they smiled at each other.

“I’ll be waiting right here,” he promised her, before opening the door.

She stepped inside.

It was a library.  A very small one, but there were shelves lining the walls filled with books.  There was one window that looked out onto the sprawling gardens at the back of the house and a figure, draped in black robes, was standing, looking out.  She knew those pianist fingers, the tall frame, and the bald head.

“Lord Voldemort,” she said, a little in shock.  “Whatever are you doing here?”

He turned, showing his intelligent red eyes and his snake nose.  “Ah, Lady Stella,” he greeted.  “I was so pleased to read about your birthright in The Daily Prophet just the other day.”

He circled around a plush armchair toward her and picked up her hand.  His fingers, strangely, weren’t cold, but teamed with the heat only blood could give them, despite the unearthly paleness of his skin.  Voldemort lifted her hand to just below his nonexistent lips and then released it.

Helène looked at him in shock, surprised that he would follow pureblood niceties, before realizing that he was indicating she should sit.  When they were across from each other, he looked at her openly.

“May I say,” he started in his attractive voice, “that you look every inch the pureblood lady.  I will admit that last time I saw you, you were dressed for a competition, but here I see you in expensive robes, with your hair on your head.  You make quite a stunning portrait.  I might even say, that when you are full grown, you will be more beautiful than your cousin, Lady Malfoy.”

She blushed.  She couldn’t help herself.  “Even with the scar?” she asked, a little daringly after several long moments.

“Even with the scar,” he conceded.  “I would like to apologize.  I was fed false information that led me to believe that killing the child of James and Lily Potter was in my best interest.  I did not know you were of the House of Black.”

“You did kill my father Regulus, though, did you not?”  She looked at him boldly, daring him to deny it, but he lifted his hands in defeat.

“He stole something very dear to me.  Very dear.  I believe it is hidden somewhere at your residence, though I am content to leave it there at present, in your capable hands.”

They watched each other for several moments.  “This is because I am a Black, and we’re supposed to be a dark family,” she surmised.

“You catch my meaning.”

“You must know my uncle—“

“Yes, but your suitor is not,” Voldemort stated.  “If he were, this meeting would not be taking place.  I wish your neutrality, Lady Stella.  I will not harm you directly or indirectly, if you offer me the same courtesy.  I also fully apologize for what happened in the graveyard.”

Well, that was something.

Helène breathed in deeply.  “I’m sorry, but I’m a bit surprised.  May I have a day or two to think on it?  I’ll owl Draco with my answer.”

“I’ll have him send a contract that we’ll both sign,” Voldemort said calmly.  “And thank you for considering this, Lady Stella.  I know it’s not the easiest thing to do.”

“I value my life, Lord Voldmort.  I want to live long enough to marry Draco and have children.  It’s all any witch can wish for, is it not?”

“Yes, I believe so.  From the little I know, I believe Heir Draco is quite besotted with you.  It seems that Malfoy men value Black women.”

“I understood it that Malfoy men value blonde hair.”

Amusement flashed through Voldemort’s eyes.  “You are most likely correct.  You may leave and I will not follow until I know you are safely within the bosom of your uncle and whomever he chooses to associate with.”

She nodded to him.  “Treat Draco right,” she begged.  “We’re only fifteen and—“

“Lucius is most favored,” Voldemort told her.  “Your suitor is quite safe.”

Helène breathed out in relief before exiting the room.  She immediately flung herself into Draco’s arms.  “Can I have hot chocolate?” she asked.  “Can your house elves make some?  I think I need to calm down a bit before seeing Uncle Sirius.  I need to get excited about my robes and my trunk again.”

Draco smoothed out her hair nuzzled her ear.  “Of course, Stella.  We can even go down to the kitchens and sit at the small table down there, if you’d like.”

She nodded.  “I’d like that very much.”

Ginny had been very envious of her new robes, which she wore around the house.  Helène had even caught her snooping in her room, so she’d asked Kreacher to put up a ward so that only she, or guests she had specifically invited in, could enter. 

Helène penned a note to Draco, accepting Voldemort’s offer, and the contract came via owl.  She read it over and everything seemed to be in order.  He would even control Death Eater attacks against her person.  She hadn’t quite expected that.

She had, however, been surprised that he had signed it, “Tom Marvolo Riddle.”  She, of course, knew the name from her second year.  She just hadn’t expected to see it again.  Taking up her quill, she signed her own—“Stella Helène Black”—and sent it back by owl.  She didn’t tell Sirius.  She certainly didn’t tell Dumbledore.  However, if they wanted her help in this war, they weren’t going to have it.

One thing Helène hadn’t expected was to be summoned to the kitchen to see Snape.  She knew that he floo’d into meetings and then right back out, not staying for dinner.  Helène hadn’t spoken to him since the school year, and hadn’t expected to really see him until September the first.

Both Sirius and Dumbledore were in the room, and Snape looked at her appraisingly.  Aunt Narcissa had gotten her a book on magical hairstyles, which she had said, in her note, that Kreacher could do for her, and so her hair was in an elaborate mass of small braids that twisted on the top of her head.  She was also wearing the emerald robes that Draco had picked out for her.

“Well,” Snape began.  “You certainly look every inch the child of Regulus Black.”

“Is that supposed to be insulting?” Sirius sniped, glaring at Snape.

“Hardly.  I had a great respect for your brother.  He was a fine Slytherin.  I am only sorry, Miss Black, that you did not follow your father into his house.”

She wasn’t quite certain what to say to that, and so remained silent.

Everyone seemed to be waiting.  Finally, Snape spoke.  “You are an excellent student.  This, of course, you know.  What you don’t know is that I had the greatest respect for your mother.  I despise your uncle but I respected your father.  I am great friends with Lucius Malfoy, who is married to your cousin Narcissa.  I believe I may have to reevaluate your character.”

Helène was shocked.  “Thank you,” she finally said.  “I don’t know what to say.”

“You need say nothing.  Just know that I will be watching, and that I expect you to make your parents proud.”  He turned to Sirius.  “Until this one is no longer a fugitive from the law, I will conduct all parent-teacher conferences with your cousin Narcissa.  Is that understood?”

“Yes, sir,” she stated.

“Excellent.”  He was gone in a swirl of his black cape.

Helène could only stare after him.

Dumbledore, when she looked back, had a twinkle in his eye.  “I never thought I’d see the day,” he admitted.  “Well, Sirius, this will make your niece’s life easier.”

“I expect her at my home for the duration of next summer,” he stated plainly.

“Sirius, we’ve talked about this,” Dumbledore warned.

He slammed his hand against the table.  “I am her nearest relation.  As close as her Muggle aunt.  I am the Head of her House, which makes me even closer.  I will not have her raised by Muggles.  She’s a Black.”

“I’m afraid she must go back… The wards.”

“I’ll have Narcissa Malfoy take it to court.  You know she’ll win, and she’ll allow me fair visitation rights.”

Dumbledore’s eyes had gone hard.  “If that’s how you feel about it,” he said stiffly.  He turned to Helène.  “Miss Black, what do you think?”

“Aunt Petunia hates magic,” she stated, “and Dudley does nothing but bully me or try to force himself on me.”  She shivered, remembering how he had taken an interest in her that summer.  “I’m a pureblood heiress now.  I should be among purebloods.”

The light seemed to go from Dumbledore’s eyes.  “I will not fight it,” he finally said.  “She may come here.  Letters arrive tomorrow.  I think you’ll be happy with yours, Miss Black.  You’ve been named Gryffindor prefect over Hermione Granger.”

Helène smiled widely.  “And Draco?”

“Also a prefect,” Dumbledore revealed.  “I would ask that you keep this information a secret.”

“Of course,” she demurred, though she was secretly gleeful.

Early next morning, when she was in a negligee Aunt Narcissa helped pick out, Helène called for Kreacher.  “Might I have some cornflakes this morning?” she asked.  “With some strawberries on the side.  Oh, and the orange juice.  You know how much I love that.  I just fancy a change.”

He bowed low and she smiled at him.  He was just about to pop off, he had done her hair about a half hour before.  Ringlets fell from a twist at the back of her head.  She quickly held out her hand.  “And Kreacher.  I was wondering if you had something of Father’s.  I’m not sure what it is, but he would have acquired it just before his death.  Stolen it, perhaps.  Something powerful and probably dark.”

“Master Regulus gave Kreacher a locket that he told him to destroy just before he died,” the house elf admitted.

“Yes, something like that.  May I have it?  It’s just, I have so few things belonging to Father, and if he wanted it destroyed, I’m sure I’ll find a way.”  This wasn’t exactly true.  Given the contract, she probably couldn’t destroy it even if she wanted to.

Kreacher bowed before popping away and fetching the locket.  It was a heavy piece of golden jewelry with an ‘S’ carved in it with emeralds.  She could feel the sheer power coming off of it.  She opened a drawer and slid it in before getting up and putting on a pair of white robes she had gotten for herself.

Seeing as it was not yet time for breakfast, she sent a note to Draco asking about the locket and if that was what Voldemort had been talking about.

Then there was the rustle of owls.  Ah, it seemed her prefects badge had arrived.

Part the Third. Finale.

“I don’t know why I’m letting the little whelp escort you,” Sirius griped as they waited for Draco to floo in.  “I forbade him to marry you at least until you got out of Hogwarts.”

Lady Stella Helène Black, who had been born Helène Flora Potter, just sighed.  She had heard this all before.  Not only was Draco from a dark family, but they were second cousins.  The consanguinity was unforgivable in her uncle’s eyes.

“It wouldn’t do to have me unescorted,” Stella tried to explain.  “You know this.  If I were to show up with only my uncle—I could be seen as undesirable.”

Sirius sighed.  “Sometimes I hate these pureblood rules.  Still, it will be funny having a Malfoy at a Weasley wedding.”

Bill Weasley was marrying Beauxbatons champion Fleur Delacour.  Stella couldn’t figure out exactly why she had been invited.  Was it because she was a former champion with Fleur?  Or because Sirius had such a good relationship with the Weasleys?

The fire spun green and Draco stepped out of it, his hair immaculately combed, and in dark purple robes.  “Good,” he breathed, coming up to her.  “We match.”

“You know my colors are pale blue and violet,” she murmured, kissing him lightly.  She was wearing a strange set of robes that were long vertical stripes of dark purple and white.  She’d been out shopping with her best friend Lady Rosa Vane when she’d come across them, and they’d simply been the find of her life.  She adored them.

Sirius cleared his throat.  Draco disengaged from her and bowed to him.  “Cousin Sirius,” he offered.

Of course, Sirius only harrumphed. 

Fleur was, naturally, lovely, though Stella privately thought that she personally wouldn’t marry Bill Weasley.  His hair was too long and too ginger, and his face was covered in scars that he had attained at the Battle of the Astronomy Tower.  Stella still wasn’t certain what Draco’s role had been.  She hadn’t asked.  She, herself, had stayed in her dorm and had forced Rosa to stay with her so that she would be “under her protection.”  Nothing was formally placed within her contract with Lord Voldemort where they agreed to not harm one another directly or indirectly, but she thought it was worth a shot.

Still, there was champagne and dancing afterwards, and she found herself in the arms of Draco.  There were halfbloods and Muggleborns who danced casually, but there were purebloods who recognized the cadences of the music and danced the complicated steps that dated back for centuries.  Stella had fortunately convinced Sirius to give her dance lessons the year before, and now she moved about with ease, her hands twining and twisting around Draco’s head as they shifted toward and away from one another.

Chaos erupted all around them as it was announced that the ministry had fallen and everyone started rushing hither and there.  Draco grabbed her hand and looked into her gray eyes, moving his hand outward to cup just in front of her ear in a dance move, and, understanding his message, Stella fell into step.  “You’re quite the dancer,” she murmured as she passed him, the music barely audible.

“Do you think you could bear to dance with me the rest of your life?” 

They looked at one another, gray eyes meeting gray, and he took her hand and kissed it.

There was the sound of clapping and Stella turned to see a witch with a mass of black curls, wearing black robes, looking at them with pride and interest.

“Aunt Bellatrix,” Draco greeted.  “Whatever are you doing here?”

“A couple of my friends thought we’d crash the party,” she responded.  “It was heaven to watch proper dancing again.  Draco, dear, introduce me to your lady-friend.”

“Aunt Bellatrix, you already know.”

“Amuse me, then.”

He sighed.  “Aunt, my suited, Lady Stella Black, heiress to the Black fortune.  Stella, your cousin, Lady Lestrange, my mother’s eldest sister.”

Bellatrix curtsied.  “I had heard that Regulus had a child.  I had no idea she would have Aunt Walburga’s coloring.”  She stepped forward and made to reach for Stella before thinking better of it.  “I’m afraid you have both been requested back at Headquarters.  We’ll get you home in plenty of time, Lady Stella.  Lord Black is detained somewhere so he’ll probably just think you got away.”

“Do you really think that’s wise?” Draco asked quietly.

“Quite.  Our Lord commands!” Bellatrix twirled.  “Now, darlings, I can call you that, can’t I, Lady Stella?  Hold tight.”  She proferred an old book and, recognizing it as a portkey, Stella touched it only after Draco had placed his hand upon it.

She found herself at Malfoy Manor.  “Your house is Headquarters?” she looked at Draco a little suspiciously.

“Your house is Headquarters,” he reminded her.

“True,” she admitted, lifting up her skirt and ascending the stairs.  “I wonder if Aunt Narcissa or Uncle Lucius is about.”

“Probably,” Draco muttered from behind her.  He turned to Bellatrix.  “I take it the Dark Lord wishes to see her?”

“Of course.”

Draco sighed before leading Stella to a large drawing room.  Wizards and witches, many of whom she did not recognize, mulled about the room, but upon noticing her they parted ways.  Draco’s hand was at the small of her back, and she felt stronger for it, and she moved forward through the crowd until she came to where Lord Voldemort was talking to a sandy haired wizard.

Stella promptly stopped and took in a deep breath.  The room had gone eerily silent.  Voldemort’s eyes flashed to her and he then immediately flicked his hand toward the other man.  “Lady Stella,” he greeted.  “We meet again.”

“I trust our peace treaty is still in effect?” she asked.  “Congratulations, by the way, on seizing the ministry.  I’m sure my house will be overrun by the distraught in the days to come.”

“I understand we broke up your party,” he apologized.  “However, I wish to ask a favor.”

“A favor?” she asked, incredulously.  “I already keep the item which my father stole safe and hidden.  I’ve turned down Dumbledore’s repeated attempts to teach me how to defeat you.  What else could you want?”

“There are going to be some changes at Hogwarts.”

“Changes,” she repeated carefully.

“Changes,” he agreed.  “It would go a long way if the Lady Who Lived endorsed these changes.”

“How can I endorse them if they haven’t already happened?” she questioned.  “The school year has not yet begun.”

“I thought, perhaps, that you might have a unique take on Muggles that could be incorporated into Muggle Studies,” he said carefully.  “I understand your mother was a Muggle-born, but …”

“I grew up with magic-hating Muggles.”  She sighed.  “I’ll meet with your representatives for tea in the next week.  Would that suit?  Send an owl by Draco.”

He inclined his head.  “You are a paragon to the Black family, Lady Stella.”

“Get it right,” she begged him.  “You now have the Ministry.  It seems you may have Hogwarts.  Get it right, Lord Voldemort.  You have the potential to do so much.”

“I shall take that under advisement.”  He lifted her hand to beneath his lipless mouth before releasing it again.  Stella wondered, briefly, why purebloods never kissed a lady’s hand.

Bellatrix was missing when she was shown into a room where Narcissa had tea waiting.  “Ah, Stella, dear,” she greeted.  “Your father’s been floo’d but he wasn’t at Grimmauld Place, so we left a message with Kreacher.  We thought we’d keep you here, safe and sound, ‘til he could come and get you.”

Stella air-kissed her cousin and then sat down next to her.  “That’s probably for the best.  I don’t know what I’d do if I were in a house with screaming Order members.”

“It must be a trial,” Draco agreed.  “You never told me.  How has it been since Dumbledore died?”

She leaned back against the couch, but only because she was with family and could shirk decorum.  “No one can decide who’s in charge,” she admitted.  “It’s a madhouse.  Everyone’s blaming me for Dumbledore being dead.  I was in my dorm room!” she stated hotly.  “How was I supposed to know what was going on in the Astronomy Tower?”

Draco looked at her piercingly.  “I was abiding by the contract,” she stated.  “I thought Voldemort was at the castle.”

“An easy mistake to make,” Narcissa stated smoothly.  “Now, I’ve ordered Rose Tea.  I know how much you like it.”

Stella didn’t move.

Draco leaned across the sofa to her, his hand briefly brushing the edge of her blonde hair.  “Darling, please.  I know that war is hard, and you’re in an impossible situation.”

“I hate James Potter,” she admitted.  “Am I allowed to say that?  If it weren’t for him, maybe my parents could have been secretly married, I never would have been Helène Potter, I never would have been targeted, I just would have been plain, old, ordinary Stella Black.”

“You’re hardly ordinary,” Draco reminded her.  “You’re the Black heiress.”

She sighed, sitting up.  She supposed that was true.

Sirius had pulled her close as soon as he was able to fetch her.  “You’re safe,” he murmured into her hair.  “I don’t know what I would have done if I’d have lost you.”

“Finally accepting me as a Black, then?” she asked, hugging him close.

“Don’t be like that—Stella.  You know I try and I give you every privilege.”

“Yes, I know,” she answered honestly.  “If you didn’t see me as a Black, it probably would have been my wedding to Draco Malfoy that would have been targeted.”

“I doubt You-Know-Who would target a Malfoy.”

“That’s all speculation,” she reminded Sirius.  “Lord Malfoy was imperiused during the first war.  You shouldn’t cast aspersions on your cousin’s husband.”

“Well, I can say this,” he stated, releasing her and leading her up the stairs of Grimmauld Place.  “Your cousin Bellatrix was in Azkaban serving time for being a Death Eater.”

“So were you, Uncle,” she laughed.  “When are cousin Tonks and Remus getting married?  Are we invited?”

“I am, but I’m afraid you aren’t, star,” he said, using his affectionate nickname for her.  “I believe they’re each having one witness.”

“Yes, I suppose the daughter of Regulus Black isn’t the most desirable in this situation,” she admitted.  “I will always be grateful that he taught me The Patronus Charm.”

Sirius looked at her and smiled.  “You’re the niece of a Maurader.  You deserve all the help the older generation can bestow upon you.”

“Did I ever tell you?” she asked.  “I have the Marauder’s Map.  The twins gave it to me third year, and I know I’m technically not a child of a Marauder.”

“You’re my heir,” Sirius said firmly.  “Just use it for more than sneaking off with the Malfoy whelp, if you can help it.”

“I don’t sneak off with Draco.”

“Of course you do.  You’re courting and the Head of your House won’t let you marry.  I wasn’t born yesterday.”

Stella laughed despite herself.  Little did he know that their rendez-vous took place in the kitchen, where it was nice and warm, and they could sit on small furniture and laugh at how they were playing with doll’s furniture.

Unfortunately, everyone was there, and Stella had to endure Hermione and Ginny.  They were sitting in the drawing room, all dressed in their finery, though Hermione and Ginny were wearing dresses as opposed to robes.  Neither were wearing hats, unlike Stella.

“Lady Helène,” Hermione breathed.  She’d called her that ever since their fourth year when Stella started receiving invitations to the Yule Ball.  “Did Malfoy tell you?”

Stella clapped her hands and Kreacher appeared.  “Tea, I think, for three.”  She ordered.  “Strawberries with clotted cream and,” she looked about her, “Lady Grey, I think.  Rose Tea is only for family.”  Tears rolled down his eyes in joy and he took her hand and kissed it.  She patted his head and then he was gone.

“You really shouldn’t treat your house elf like that,” Hermione chastised.

“Like a devoted and valued servant?” Stella asked.  “I don’t see why.  He was devoted to Father until the last and has always done right by me.”

Hermione sighed.  “You.  Malfoy.  Did you know?  You kept on dancing, if that’s what you can call what you were doing.”

“Yes, I saw you dancing with Ron Weasley,” Stella mentioned.  Well, Muggle dancing.  He was holding her close to her body so they actually touched and moving about the dance floor like it was their personal walking space.  “Draco and I decided we didn’t wish to run and hide.  Dancing is a pureblood courtship ritual.  Our courtship is important to us.  Plus, we knew we wouldn’t be harmed.  He’s Heir Draco Malfoy and I’m the heiress of the Black fortune.  Death Eaters would be fools to harm a hair on our heads.”

Opening up her mouth, probably to say something scathing given her expression, Hermione quickly shut it when Kreacher appeared with the tea.  The table was dainty and elaborate as always.  Stella was glad when she saw Kreacher hadn’t brought the best china.

“Was that Viktor Krum you were talking to, Ginny?” Stella asked, and Hermione’s head whipped around.

Ginny blushed.  “Yes.  We were talking about Quidditch.  Of course, I mentioned how you were our Seeker and that I’d only been Chaser for a few years, but he seemed interested.”

“I wonder if he’ll owl,” Stella mused.  She looked over at Hermione.  “Don’t look like an offended hippogriff.  You have Ron Weasley.  I thought he was what you wanted.”

“He is—I just—“  She looked down at her hands.

By this time, Stella had finished pouring the tea and was handing the cups to her two companions.  “Is he courting you?” she finally asked.  “I don’t know what the exact rules are, but I’m only a half-blood and Draco’s courting me.”

“You’re an exception,” Ginny pointed out.  “You’re the Lady Who Lived, the Black heiress.”

“Yes,” she sighed.  “I wish I were just the daughter of a Death Eater and a Muggle-born.”

“What a horrible thing to say!” Hermione exclaimed.  “After all Sirius has done for you!”

“He’s my uncle and I love him, of course,” Stella told her.  “It doesn’t mean I wish I weren’t quite such a prominent figure.  It was bad enough when I was Helène Potter.  Or was it worse?  I can’t seem to decide.”

Hermione and Ginny shared a glance with each other.

“Well, I got Draco and that’s all that matters.  So, you and Ron Weasley.  Courting?”

Hermione blushed.  “We’re not dating.”

Stella looked at her piercingly.  “I’d try to change that, personally,” she took a sip of her tea.  “And Ginny.  Since we’re on the topic of boys, weren’t you dating Dean Thomas?”

She nodded hesitantly.

“I always thought he had lovely hands,” Stella murmured, now taking a strawberry.  “Don’t you agree, Hermione?”

“I—his hands?”

“Well, he draws with them.”

“I know he sketches.”

“Well, you need good hands for that.”  She thought it would really be obvious.  Hadn’t she stopped and watched Thomas sketch just once or twice when she was taking a break from writing an essay?  Apparently not.

“Why are we having tea?” Hermione asked.

“I thought we were being female and talking about boys while everything runs amok downstairs,” Stella supplied.  “If you’d rather go get a headache…”

“I’d rather be inducted into the Order.  I’ve put my request into Moody.  He said I’d know by the end of the summer.”

Stella exchanged a glance with Ginny.  Personally, she wanted to stay as far away from the Order as possible.  They overran her home, she was constantly fighting with Mrs. Weasley who ran Grimmauld Place during the months she was at Hogwarts, and she could rarely have Draco over because everything was too “sensitive.”  It was disgusting.

Fortunately, despite Sirius’s dislike of consanguinity and his cousin Narcissa in general, he allowed Stella out with the Malfoys as he wanted her to have the proper life of a Black.  There was always much fighting at Headquarters when she was about to take one of her outings, but Sirius always had the last say.  He was her uncle and as she was now seventeen, no one had the right to tell her what to do.

Voldemort’s representative was a balding little man with beady eyes.  His name was Creep, apparently.  Stella had come prepared.  She had written down every aspect of her childhood and handed them over.  “I remain anonymous,” she stressed.

“Anonymous,” he agreed, quickly reading through the second page.  “A cupboard?”

“A cupboard,” she stated sadly.

“Now,” Draco said, pulling her up by the hand and then threading it through his arm.  “Flourish and Blotts, I think.  I noticed a new crime novel in that series you’re reading.”

“Yolanda Reaver?” she asked in excitement.  “Has it come out?  Oh it must have done, it’s already August.  Aunt Narcissa, Uncle Lucius, do you mind terribly if we stop?”

“We thought, in honor of your birthday, we’d give you the morning to yourselves, before meeting you for lunch,” Lucius told them.  “And then we can see about your wardrobe.”

“Yes, you all have to watch me play dress up—again,” she laughed.  “Then again, poor Draco has to see the result all year long.”

He kissed the side of her head.  “I hardly mind, Lady Stella.”

They ran amok in Diagon Alley, or as amok as two well brought up heirs could do.  Stella spent far too long buying books and then Draco wanted a walking stick as he was now of age.  “Not a snake,” Stella said.  “You want to strike out from your father.  Don’t go with a unicorn because, well, you’ll have to deal with the horn.  What about a Pegasus?  Remember when we rode your father’s abraxans and you proposed even though we knew Uncle Sirius wouldn’t let us marry?”

“How could I forget?” Draco murmured, looking for the correct stick and happily accepted three from the shop owner.  “Which wood?”

Stella laughed in happiness.

They walked up to The White Witch in style, Stella on Draco’s arm while he tested out his walking stick, and they turned several heads.  They always did.  They were the two most powerful wizards under the age of thirty-five.  Also, they both had strikingly blond hair and gray eyes.

“Did you have a good day?” Sirius asked, as she came into the room with her plethora of shopping bags.

“Rather,” she agreed.  “Draco got a walking stick.  I rather liked walking on his arm while he was using it.”

“Whelp,” Sirius muttered. 

Remus was in the room.  “Stella, dear, Moody was wondering why you haven’t put your name forward along with Ron and Hermione to join the Order.”

Sirius glared at him.  “Remus.  I told you I’d ask in my own good time.”

“It’s simple,” she explained.  “This is not my war.”

“Reggie was a Death Eater, Lily was a member of the Order, Remus, what would you have her do?” Sirius bit out.

“You-Know-Who murdered both her parents,” he ground back.

“That doesn’t change their allegiances,” Stella put in.  “I’d be happy to explain this to the Order.”

Unfortunately, she had to do just that.

Everyone was sitting there and watching her, including Snape, who had a calculating look in his eyes.  “I don’t think anyone should be coerced into joining,” she began.  “You have the run of my home.  I think that’s quite enough to be getting on with.”

“Sirius Black kindly allows it,” someone put in.

“I am lady of this house,” Stella put in, “and seventeen.  If I were Sirius’s wife I could kick you all out.  As it is, I can only make life difficult for you, but I have chosen not to.  All of this, however, is rather antagonizing.”

“Help us understand, then,” Kingsley said from his seat.  “You’re the Lady Who Lived.  You-Know-Who killed your parents.  We would think you would want to fight in the war against him.”

“I do not.  He may have killed both my parents, but my father was a Death Eater and my mother was an Order Member.  One was from a Dark pureblood family, the other a Muggle-born.  Would you have me deny a part of myself?”

“Is this because you’re dating a Death Eater’s son?  A boy that could already be a Death Eater?”

“I hadn’t thought about that.  I’ll be sure to ask.  I don’t want Voldemort interfering in our courtship in any way.”

Sirius actually laughed at that.  “You’re not marrying him.”

“Of course not, Uncle Sirius.  We’d just like to be married.”

“You’re second cousins.”  The twins sniggered.  She really hated them.

“Grandmother Walburga and Grandfather Orion—“

“—are not good role models.  I don’t care how often you speak to Mother’s portrait.  She’s not going to change my mind.”

Stella closed her eyes and counted to five.  It really was the only option in this horrible case.  When she opened them, she looked directly at Snape.  “I didn’t like Dumbledore after the tournament.  I didn’t like him at all.  However, he respected my position of staying as neutral as I could in this war.  Lord Voldemort has respected it, as far as I can tell.  I would ask that you do the same thing.”  Stella glanced at Sirius who was nodding at her.  “Now, if there’s nothing else?”

She didn’t wait to be excused.  She picked up her pale blue skirts and swept from the room.  She found the Weasleys and Grangers piled up behind the door.

“Hear anything interesting?”

“The door was spelled, Lady Helène,” Hermione said.

“It usually is,” she agreed, before making her way toward the Drawing Room.  The Black Family tapestry always made her feel better.  When the Order meeting broke up and people started dispersing, Stella sought out her room and sat at her vanity, tracing the lines of her face. 

There was a knock at her door. 

“Uncle Sirius?” she asked, and the door slid open.

It revealed Severus Snape.

She quickly stood, but he didn’t come in.  “It’s a little late for tea, but I was wondering if you would be kind enough to have a sherry with me,” he murmured.  “I understand there’s a smoking room that Kreacher keeps stocked.”

Stella looked at him wearily before nodding her head.  She did find the posited sherry along with glasses and gave Snape his drink.  “I didn’t know you were a drinking man.”

“I do not mind an aperitif after dinner,” he commented.

“You didn’t have dinner here,” she guessed.  “You never do.”

“Perhaps not.  But the time of evening is correct.  You must understand that I am in a precarious position in this war.  I am trusted by both sides implicitly and can thus pass messages back and forth.”

“You must realize,” she answered carefully, “that any messages I may have for Voldemort pass through another avenue.”

“I am aware of that,” he said silkily, “however, he sends you this.  I believe you will recognize the handwriting.”  Snape took a scroll from his inner robes and handed it to her.

Stella put down her drink and opened it up, scanning the tight cursive.  “Does this say—?”

“Yes, he wants to name you ambassador.  A version of this contract will be given to the Order before the week is out, but the Dark Lord wanted you to have time to think about it, to discuss it with perhaps your uncle or your suitor.”

“You knew my mother well,” she stated cautiously.  “Uncle Sirius told me that you were her closest friend since before she went to Hogwarts until you had an argument fifth year.  What would she have thought?”

“She strongly believed in the dichotomy of the war, last time I knew her,” Snape confessed.  “However, then there is the case of Regulus.  He was Death Eater material from the moment he walked into Slytherin.  It was plain as day, and yet it seems your mother loved him.  She transcended boundaries that she would not transcend for me, her oldest friend.  This offers you protection, Lady Stella.”

“I have protection.  Surely you must know.”

“I do.  I will never reveal your secret, you have my word.”

She smiled at him.  “I thank you for it.  Not even Uncle Sirius knows.  I doubt I’ll ever tell him.”

“This,” Snape said, motioning to the contract, “gives you power.  You are on neither side of the conflict.  You are above reproach.  The Order will be beholden to you.”

She smirked at that.  “If only I could get them to leave my house.”

“If you declare this your base of operations, it may just be possible.  I offer myself as an ally in this endeavor.  I know what it’s like to go between the two sides, having to choose what to say and to whom.  It is not easy, but you would be living out in the open, and not in the shadows.  Think on it, Lady Stella.”

“Ambassador Black does have a ring to it,” she murmured.  “Are you going to Malfoy Manor before the news breaks?”

“I go there now.”  He set down his glass of sherry, which was now empty.

“Tell Draco for me, will you?  I’ll try to write tonight or tomorrow.  I need to speak with Uncle Sirius as soon as he gets out of that horrid meeting.”

“They’re inducting Weasley and Granger.”

She closed her eyes.  Two more lives wasted, in her opinion.

Sirius always came up to the library for a drink of firewhiskey and she had poured three glasses in case Remus came with him also.  The two friends showed up and Stella smiled at them.  “Uncle Sirius, something important’s come up, but perhaps we can all have a drink first.”

“Just because you’re seventeen, doesn’t mean you should be drinking more than wine and sherry,” Sirius commanded.

“I’m a Black, I break the rules,” she half scolded him.  “And you know I drink with you in solidarity.  It was a long meeting.  It’s half past eleven.”

They accepted the tumblers from each other and they all clinked glasses. 

“Now, what do I want to talk to you about?” Sirius asked when they were halfway through their glasses.

“I’m afraid it’s rather private.  I need an uncle’s opinion.  I’d also like to see Draco tomorrow to get his ideas on the subject.”

“I wish you’d give him up on the basis of consanguinity,” Sirius griped.  “Love him as a cousin, and be happy when he marries some blonde witch.  You can marry some wizard and we can write the contract so that he takes the Black name to continue the line.”

“Have anybody in mind?”

“Yes, actually.”  He stood up from his seat and exited the room.

“He’s gone to his library,” Remus said.  “There’s three candidates who have all shown interest and whom he finds acceptable.”

“Lord.  He’s Head of my House so I’m honor bound to at least meet them in a neutral and friendly setting.”

When Sirius entered, she intoned, “They better all be purebloods.”

“Your mother was a Muggleborn.”

“And I thank her for giving me life, but I will give the House of Black nothing less than a pureblood, so you can throw out the dossier of anyone who isn’t from an ancient house.”  Her gray eyes were piercing and Sirius sighed.

He placed one of the pages away.  He then handed over the two others.  “Neither has blond hair,” she realized.

“I didn’t want to make it too close,” Sirius told her.  “I wanted to make it so that he could be his own wizard.”

“I suppose I can respect that,” she breathed, taking a look at the first profile.  It was a Hufflepuff.  Mediocre grades.  Worked some mid-level job at the Ministry.  “I don’t know how he got through,” she muttered, giving him back to her uncle Sirius.  Then she paused at the third candidate.

The sketch of him wasn’t handsome.  No, he was striking.  His nose was perhaps a little large for his face, but he had a full mouth and expressive green eyes.  His high cheekbones made them seem smaller than they were, but they still appeared rather large.  His hair was curling and black, much like the Blacks, which she had to admit she liked.

He was independently wealthy, although a second son.  He achieved top marks and eleven N.E.W.T.s.  He was now an Unspeakable which spoke to his discretion and his sheer brilliance.  They accepted someone every five to ten years.

She looked at the name.  Januarius Montague.

“Is he any relation to Clarus Montague in Slytherin?”

“I looked that up,” Sirius said.  “They’re distant cousins.  Januarius is from the main branch.”

“Where did he get his money from?”

“His mother’s fortune was saved in reserve for the second child, along with the daughters’ dowries.  As it is, there’s only him and his elder brother.”

She looked at the face again.  Then Draco’s flashed before her eyes.  Could she really do this?

“Do I take this as a ‘yes’?”

“I want you to hear what I have to say first.  Remus, if you wouldn’t mind?”

Remus finished his tumbler and quickly left the room.  Stella took the contract out.  “This won’t be presented to the Order quite yet.  I just got advanced warning and I want to discuss it with you.”

Sirius took the parchment, unrolled it and then sucked in a breath.  “But this means…”

“Yes.  I would be entering the war, but as a protected agent.”  She took in a deep breath.  “This is not the first time that Voldemort and I have had—dealings.”

“What are you saying?” His head snapped up.

“He doesn’t try to kill me, I don’t try and kill him.  It’s simple really.  Oh, his Death Eaters can’t try to kill me either.”

“You signed a contract.”

“I signed a contract.”

“No wonder you don’t want to enter the Order.”

“Everything I said was true,” she admitted.  “It’s just—with this—“

“And now he wants to deal with you.  Star, this is not good.”  He looked pensive.  “We have property in France.  I’m sending you there tomorrow.”

“What?  What about Hogwarts?  What about Draco?”

“Kreacher will go with you,” Sirius decided, “you are his favorite after all.  Pack your trunks and by the time you’re twenty-one this will all hopefully be finished.”  His face had turned sour and stern and it frightened Stella.

“But Uncle Sirius—“

“Go,” he commanded quietly.  “Be ready in the morning.”

Tears were streaming down her face when she flooed to the house in France.  She had all her trunks, all her possessions, but she was all alone.  The Dark Lord had virtually exiled her.

The End.

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