Stephanora

Title: Stephanora. AU of The Wicked Stepmother.
Author: ExcentrykeMuse
Pairing(s): slight Lily/Lucius, past Narcissa/Lucius, Bellatrix/Rodolphus, past Andromeda/Ted Tonks, Sirius/Lux Kingsley, Lily/Voldemort
Summary: What if Alphard Black had found Lily before she had a chance to meet Lucius Malfoy.  The two lovers meet a little earlier and the path of love does not always run true.  Instead, a new love is formed between the Lady Lily Stephanora Black and the most dangerous wizard in England.

Warnings: child abduction, pureblood culture, pureblood bigotry, dark arts, torture, death, massive AU of an AU

Lily Stephanora Black looked out over Diagon Alley from her father’s apartment above Fairy Woven Silks.  It had been nearly four years since he had first seen her, alone, a girl of only eleven, and had recognized in her the face of his deceased wife.  Alphard Black had believed his daughter had died, but he had bought her an ice cream, shown her Gringotts so she could exchange the money she had barely gotten her ‘father’ to give her, and had her blood tested.

She never went back to Cokesworth again.

Now, a pureblood heiress of a younger son, Lady Lily Black had life laid out before her.  She was entering her fifth year, and in a few hours she was going to a party at Malfoy Manor.  All of the Blacks were invited—all of the eligible ones.  There was great speculation that her cousin Narcissa would be entering a courtship with Heir Lucius Malfoy.  She, like Lily, was the niece to Lord Black, and she had the distinction of being the only Black in their generation of having blonde hair, a trait that was crucial for the Malfoy line.

As it was a family occurrence, Lily was wearing a simple crimson set of cotton robes.  They cinched at the waist, falling without the fashionable slashes to the knees.  They had cap sleeves to make it a summer dress, even being without a collar, having a square neck.  Her auburn hair was curled to her shoulders and put into a clip to have it fall at various lengths.  Her legs were encased in dark blue lace tights.  She was dressed boldly, although showing how young she was.  Narcissa was sophisticated and twenty-one, and she was only fifteen.

“Darling,” Alphard called.  “It’s time.”

“Of course, Father,” she answered, smiling.  She took up her purse and Lily followed Alphard through the floo.

Malfoy Manor was grand and the entrance hall was made entirely of marble.  Lily stepped carefully out of the floo room and saw a stairway along the far wall leading upward, a house elf there to show the way, and Lily nodded to it in kindness, following the other Blacks.  She hurried up to her cousin, Lord Regulus, linking arms.  “Any news?” she murmured.  It was quieter than whispering.  “Has your father or mother said anything?”

“No,” he muttered back.  “Uncle Cygnus hasn’t told them anything.”

“How peculiar,” she mentioned.  “If only I were a little older, Narcissa might let me take her to tea.”  Lily sighed.  Narcissa was a bit—well, she wasn’t fond of her younger cousins.  She tried to stay in Heir Sirius’s good graces, but no one but Andromeda could do that, and that was only because she was a bit of a rebel.  She was probably wearing pureblood black instead of robes, knowing her.  Sirius disliked Slytherins, and that was putting it politely.  Apart from Sirius, the entire Black family were in Slytherin House.  He only put up with Lily because they were in he same year and his friend James Potter was in love with her.

Although Regulus was often overlooked and was two years younger than she was, Lily and Regulus were each other’s favorites so they each took glasses of Fairy Soda and Butter Beer respectively, looking about them and clearly together.

“I don’t see him,” Lily murmured.  “Then again, Cissy is with Bella and they’re whispering about something.”

“I hate Bella,” Regulus moaned as he often did.

“Don’t we all.”

Mademoiselle Bellatrix Black, the eldest of the three Black sisters, was whispered to be one of the few female Death Eaters.  She was rather frightening even to her relatives and actively tried to scare her younger cousins.  Bellatrix had even threatened to cut Lily’s hair off once until Alphard Black had found out and gone straight to Orion, Lord Black, who’d put an end to Bellatrix even speaking to Lily on any subject other than the weather.  She was still menacing, however, even when talking about the sunshine.

“I’ll mingle,” Lily suggested.  She moved about, nodding to her relatives, and kissed her aunt, Walburga, Lady Black, on both cheeks.

“How lovely, dearest,” she said.  “I always say how lucky that Alphard was able to save you from those thieving wizards.  To think that they had you for eleven years!  But you surprise me every time I see you with what an accomplished young pureblood Black you are.  Did you choose that hairstyle yourself?”  She touched the auburn curls, which Lily had inherited from her mother, Lady Elenora Prewett. 

It was a common misconception among the Blacks that she was stolen by lesser purebloods or even half-bloods, and Alphard had told Lily to never correct them.

“Yes.  I thought it would be nice to have them first end at my shoulders and then fall all the way down my back.  Muggles cut their hair to look like that, I don’t know why, but the idea has some merit with curls.  One wouldn’t want to ruin one’s hair permanently.”

“Mordred, no!  Muggles have the queerest ideas!”

“Fun to watch the Muggleborns, though,” she confided.  Lily often did it a bit wistfully.  Sometimes she wished she could wear colors outside of robes instead of just pureblood black.  Jeans also looked interesting.  Petunia probably wore them, if Alphard hadn’t killed her.  She knew her ‘parents’ had been murdered shortly after she had been discovered.  “Mudbloods have the strangest ideas.”  She kissed her aunt’s cheek.  “Must see Andy.”

She walked away and in a direction away from Andromeda, the middle sister of the Black sister trio.  Lily could pick her out from the casual black she was, of course, wearing. 

Going toward the window, she looked down at a beautiful maze in the gardens.  She gasped, wishing she could run down the back stairs, if only she could find them, take off her heels, and run into the maze with Regulus, losing themselves in there for hours.

“I see you like a bit of mystery,” a cultured voice said from beside her.

“Is it mystery that I like?” she asked.  “I thought it is uncertainty—in moderation.  Then again, my entire life has been uncertainty.  I don’t think I know anything else.”  She paused.  “You don’t sound like any of my uncles—“  She turned and saw a young man with long platinum blond hair and ice blue eyes. 

“You’re not a Black sister,” he responded.

Lily and the young wizard just stared at each other before she remembered herself and curtsied.  He bowed and took her hand and lifted it up to just beneath his lips, skin not touching skin.  However, a spark ran through them, causing their eyes to flash to one another again in a strange recognition.

“I,” she began, but her voice failed her.  He was far too handsome, and she was afraid she knew exactly who this was.  “I’m the stolen child, Lady Lily Stephanora Black.”

“Mademoiselle Narcissa never mentioned—“

She laughed.  “Of course not, Heir Lucius.  I’m at Hogwarts.  I’m unimportant although my mother was the only child to the late Lord Prewett.—Now you know my flaw.  I’m proud.”  Lily turned back to the window.

His reflection in the glass was still looking at her.  “You have every reason to be proud.  Your mother was of impeccable birth.  Then, to be stolen, you probably did not hold your proper place in society.  You would, of course, wish to proclaim it especially when it might not be recognized, even by a close relative.”

Looking down at her glass, Lily nodded.  “Thank you, Heir Lucius.”

Someone called his name.

“What are your years?” he asked quietly, his hand moving to touch hers in a way that was inescapable.  The same jolt, a little more quiet, passed between them, causing her eyes to flash sideways, even if for but a moment.

“My father won’t allow it.  I am only just made Slytherin Prefect.”  She took a sip of her Fairy Soda.

“Would you allow it?”  His eyes were desperate.

“I had not thought—“ She replied desperately.  “I’m here to celebrate my horrible cousin’s courtship.”

“Horrible,” he repeated.

“Have you met her?” Lily asked.  “She’s dreadful.  Really, I could give you a list of the Blacks and their good and bad character traits, but you’re wanted.”

“Then I will wait for you,” he told her carefully, giving her a small smile and her stomach flip-flopped.

She couldn’t help but give him a small smile in return.

As soon as he left, her father approached her.  His dark hair fell into his gray eyes and he looked at her carefully.  “I chose not to interrupt, Stephanora,”—He only ever used just her birth name when a situation was serious—“but what were you speaking about?”

“The maze,” she insisted, “and the fact that he would rather the Lady Lily Stephanora than Mademoiselle Narcissa.  I did not solicit the reaction, Father.  It’s just, when our hands touched.”  She looked at Alphard desperately.  “I cannot explain.”

He closed his eyes.  “You’re not blonde.  There’s going to be a scandal even though there’s no courtship and you’re a Lady.  The press has been speculating for a fortnight.”

“I did not give him permission,” she promised.  “I said I had not thought of such a thing.  And I haven’t.  I’m fifteen!”

“Fifteen?” This was Sirius now.  This was just getting worse and worse.

Alphard was leaving now to speak to his sister Walburga, Lady Black, and Lily thought this was a good time to find Andromeda.  Definitely a good time.  She saw that the Malfoys were casually congregating around Lucius, and their eyes caught and held.  Then the announcement came—except it wasn’t an announcement.

Abraxas, Lord Malfoy clinked his glass and the gathering quieted.  “My lords, ladies, and gentlemen,” he stated.  “It is a pleasure to see you here today.  I would like to take a moment to say that I hope, in the future even if it is several years in the making, our families will come closer in friendship.”  He nodded his head toward Lord Black.  “Thank you for your time and enjoy the refreshment.”

Narcissa stood tall and pale, the women flocking to her.  Lily decidedly did not flock to her.  Instead, Regulus looked at her and, perhaps noticing her strange behavior, came closer to her.  “I saw you speaking to Heir Lucius earlier,” he stated carefully.

“Unfortunately so did Father.  I hope no one else did.”  She watched as Lord Malfoy carefully made his way to Lord Black and, after a hushed conversation, was introduced to Monsieur Alphard Black.  So it was beginning.  The two left through a side door.  Lucius looked toward her before following.

What is happening?” Regulus demanded quietly.  “Steph, it’s better I hear it from you.”

“We talked.  He touched my hand.  He changed his mind about Cissy.  Bellatrix is going to kill me.”

“She can’t kill you.  Father says she can only talk to you about the weather,” Regulus sighed.

The two cousins looked at one another, neither one believing it at all.

“There is a positive side to this,” Regulus claimed as they sat on two plush chairs.  “Potter.”

Lily smiled slightly despite herself.  “Whatever possessed Cousin Sirius to introduce us?  It’s so delightful to watch him try to decide if he wants to be in love with me or that he hates me because I’m in Slytherin.”

“You’re wicked,” Regulus said in delight.

“Am I not?” she agreed.  “I had all of the training of about two months before being sent to Hogwarts.  All of a sudden I had ambition as I wanted to best Sirius even though I was one generation further away from a Lord, and I was cunning enough to try.”

“And you were right about Snape,” her cousin continued.  “Of course, he never would have had the acceptance of our House without your support.  They’re looking at him, you know.”

“I know,” she answered.  “I’m worried about him.  However, we are on par in Potions.  I am only sorry that Slughorn passed him over for prefect.  Then again, Brett’s Transfiguration is truly brilliant, and his Charms work—“

“—will never be as good as yours.  No, it was a political move.  He’s from a gray family.  Dumbledore would never accept both of you, even if you grew up—away from us.”  That was the polite way of saying that she had been brought up by Muggles.  Then again, no one knew.  Alphard had never told anyone, except perhaps Orion, as his Head of House.  Everyone thought she had been with an undistinguished family or even Half-Bloods.  No one even thought that Muggles were involved.

The rest of the afternoon passed pleasantly and then, in the end, Alphard reemerged with Lord Malfoy and Heir Lucius.  Heir Lucius personally wished her farewell.  She thought it had been devised that she would leave last so Narcissa would not notice or anyone else in the family who might tell her. 

When she exited the floo, she immediately went to her room and changed into pureblood black, not wanting to hear what was discussed.  She sat on her bed, her feet bare, cross-legged in her linen trousers and lace peasant top, reading a wizard detective novel.

She came out for dinner, black flats on her feet, and saw her father was similarly dressed. 

“Would you like your Wicked Stepmother card?” he asked casually.  “I have agreed that Heir Malfoy may meet you there—and only there—this summer on a Thursday.  You may of course go any other day you choose with one of your friends from Hogwarts or a Black or Prewett cousin.”

“You know my only Prewett cousins are those ones from Gryffindor including that twin who now holds that title.  They’re barely Prewetts.  They’re my third or fourth cousins.  One’s named Molly.”

“Yes,” he agreed.  “However, they are purebloods, and I thought you liked Fabian.  Or was it Gideon?  I could never keep them straight.  Take Regulus to establish yourself.  He’s too young for a card, but you are not.”

Lily looked down at the vined ring around her left ring finger.  It was silver with golden flowers on it.  Regulus had just gotten his this past summer.  She had not noticed if Heir Lucius had worn one—

“Yes,” her father answered for her.  “It’s entirely in platinum with diamonds.”

“Diamonds?” she asked.  It was expensive then, more than she could afford on the interest from her mother’s dowry.  Then again, the Malfoys were the richest family in England.  Lord Black was wealthy but Alphard and Cygnus were not.

Her dress was black on Monday, hugging her form with sleeves that came out to a bell that she had to wrap around her wrists.  It fell to the ground.  Regulus was in robes and when they entered the battered door of the Wicked Stepmother, Lily was appropriately surprised toward the ancient elegance of the wooden floor and exposed beams of the entrance room.  She went up to the maître d’ and presented her letter of introduction from her father.

“Lady Lily Stephanora,” the wizard bowed.  “Your wand.”

She placed it in a wooden cone that was angled toward the ceiling and, after a moment, it began to spin faster and faster until, suddenly, it stopped.  Then a ticker tape was coming out of the base.  The wizard’s eyebrows rose.  “Your ladyship, you are to receive a Black Card.”

Lily looked at Regulus.  Cards were in various gradations of gray or gray hybrid colors to show one’s propensity to dark magic.  A pure black card was unheard of.

“Forgive me,” Lily said, “did you say black as in the color, not my surname?”

“Indeed, my lady.  May I offer my sincerest congratulations?  If you will follow the gentleman inside the doorway, he will seat you and your guest for tea.”

She turned to Regulus.  “I suppose I dressed appropriately,” she tried to joke but it fell flat. 

As soon as they entered, the club became instantly quiet and then whispers of “Black Card” began to circulate.

The cousins took their place and were served their tea and shortbread, and Lily tried to ignore the people around them.  “Is Sirius still threatening to run off from the family?” she asked casually.

“Yes.  He says we’re too dark.”

She tried not to snort.  It was unladylike.  “I’m too dark, clearly.  Weren’t the Prewetts a light family?  Father has never said why he and Mother married.  I suppose I never really—it never really mattered.  Only the Blacks did.”

“I can understand that.  She didn’t really survive long after your birth.”  Regulus took a sip of his tea and then looked down at it.  “This is rather good.  It must be magically embued.”

Lily tried her own.  “You might be right.”

Narcissa seemed to be ignorant of what had happened.  The days were idyllic.  Lily had finished her homework, and so she met up with Severus at Florean Fortescue’s, read, walked about Diagon Alley, and wrote letters to her friends.  She kept track of the number of times Sirius wrote to say that James had mentioned her.  She had a little notebook just for the occasion.  It was silly, really.  His love and self-loathing, however, were comical.  He rarely approached her except when necessary in class.  Potter loved her from afar.  Not that it was love.  It was—something comical.

She chose to wear gold when she was meeting Lucius.  It was another sundress with a high collar that surrounded her neck, leaving a diamond shape around her neck and chest where she could wear a wizard cross.  Her sleeves fell open to show her arm before coming together at a wristlet.  The same collar was at her waist before the dress fell to her knees.  Red tights to match her hair topped off the look with matching gold slippers. 

When she arrived, the maître d’ bowed and she was shown to Lucius’s table.  He stood when she approached her table and she held out her hand, which he took, the sliver of magic shooting between them.  “However did you talk Father into this?” she asked as she was handed a menu.  “Dark chocolate biscuits?”

“Dark chocolate,” he noted.  “Do you prefer it to milk chocolate?”

“Always,” she told him, putting down her menu.  “Since I chose our sweet, I’ll let you choose our tea.”

“Oh, no,” he told her.  “It must be café.”

“Really?” she inquired.

“Well, it will taste better as soon as I convince you to dip your biscuit into it.”  He leaned forward.  “I discovered it in France.  It tastes delectable, Lady Lily.”

She sat back.  “You’re trying to corrupt me.  What will everyone here think of us?”

“I shall say La Vie Français enough so they understand,” he promised, “and as to your father, I promised to wait for you, love you, and give you a position in society not even your mother could claim.  He also does not care for his niece.”

She laughed lightly.  “No, he doesn’t.  Now, Heir Lucius, am I allowed le lait en le café?”

“Only if you must.”

“I see you truly mean to convert me,” she sighed.  “Very well, Heir Lucius.  I put this experience in your hands.”  Lily smiled at him.  His breath caught in a way that Potter’s never had.

It wasn’t until a week later, on Wednesday night, that she received the invitation.  The black notecard was simple, her name written in white, for a private tea at Malfoy Manor.  No name was given.

“Father,” she called, going to him.  “What on earth is this?  I thought you agreed with the Malfoys that—“

He took the card from her.  “It’s your Black Card.  It’s gained his notice.”

“Whose notice?” she asked, but he was already gone through the floo.

Lily didn’t see Lucius again until she was at Platform 9¾.  He arrived, dressed impeccably, holding back.  Hugging her father, Lily noticed Lucius and, carefully, approached him.  “I don’t think—“ she began, and Lucius only nodded.

“Lady Lily, it was never my family’s intention to offend you or Monsieur Alphard.”

“I’m not entirely certain what happened.  An invitation arrived, Father left, and there were no more teas.  I know I’m full young, and it was perhaps for the best, if one weighs—everything.”  She looked away from him, uncertain what exactly to say or do.

He sighed and took her gloved hands.  “You are full young for that invitation, and I apologize.  It was not my decision.”  He leaned in closer. “It was the Dark Lord’s.  Your magic, you see, impressed him.”

“I—see.  The card.”

“With your father’s consent, may I write to you on other matters?  Politics perhaps, your dreams for the future, your studies?”

“Only if I have his written permission,” she stated, looking over her shoulder.

Alphard was standing there, watching them closely but respectfully giving them their privacy.

“I will leave you to your father,” Lucius said in farewell.  “Please write with his consent, if you are able.”  He lifted her hand and then, with a sorrowful look in his eyes, he was gone.  She wondered if she truly felt regret despite their private interlude and the magic that passed between them.  Perhaps she was full young.

On her prefect duties, she unfortunately had to break up an angrily whispering Sirius and Potter.  What they were doing in the hall, about to throw curses at each other, was anyone’s guess.  They were supposed to be best friends. 

However, Sirius—who hadn’t seen her since that day at Malfoy Manor—was quick to speak to her.  “Steph,” he said, using the nickname that many of the Blacks used, “why were you seen with Heir Lucius at the Wicked Stepmother?”

“We ran into each other,” she lied.  “I usually go with Reggie, as you know, but I went by myself one day, and he happened to be there.  He offered to show me how they ate chocolate biscuits in France.  As I’ve never been, I thought I’d join him on a lark.”

“But he was on the Platform with you,” Potter put in.

“Oh, you adore me today,” she observed.  “Back in your carriage.  There’s no loitering.  The corridor is for movement, not duels.”

“Sirius was lying about you,” Potter tried to explain.

“In your carriage,” she insisted.

“He said you had a Black Card.  I’m getting mine over Winter Hols. My mother’s a Black.”

“Is she?—Go.”

“Lady Dorea Potter,” he told her.

“How lovely.  In.”  She pointed her wand toward the carriage and they finally went in, Sirius grumbling about familial affection.

When her duties were finally discharged, she was sitting with her friend Apricot Selwyn when an owl arrived for her.  The majestic animal made it through the window, and Apricot took the letter and then handed it to Lily.  “It’s for you.”

The paper was once again black and this time it was addressed to Lady Stephanora Black.  The Dark Lord had done his research.

Lady Stephanora, it began.  I did not mean to offend Monsieur Alphard, however your prowess in magic has come to my attention.  Please receive my compliments for the future. LV.

Lily took the letter and placed it in her pocket.

“Who’s it from?” Apricot asked.

“No one good,” she replied, looking out the window.  “At least I don’t have to write back.”

She watched that year as the older boys were courting Severus.  It was certainly interesting when the Dark Lord was actively courting her—or at least had tried.  He seemed to at least respect either her father or her age, as he was not pressing her. 

It was unfortunate that just before Christmas Severus declared his love for her.  “Severus,” she begged, knowing that there were other Slytherins about as they were in the Common Room.  They weren’t even in a secluded part of a sofa.  They were at a table working on their essays, Manuel Selwyn’s notes open next to Severus.  Apricot’s twin brother could wander back at any moment, as could anyone else.

“Remember when we first met?” Severus asked.

“You know I can’t.  You’re lucky Father did not Obliviate you; that I never told.  We met our first night here in Slytherin, Sev.”

“Of course,” he agreed carefully.  “Surely you must have known what I felt the first time I saw you perform magic.”

She looked up, remembering how she had flown through the air, carefully crafted, when she jumped off of the swing.  She was going far too fast, swinging far too high—she should have broken a leg if not her neck.

“I loved you then,” he told her desperately.

Glancing up and then dipping her quill with her free hand, she smiled.  “I know.  It wasn’t fair that I had all of my cousins and that Regulus became the brother I never had, but I hope I’ve been a good friend to you, if not the proper sister you deserved.”

“That’s not what I mean,” he said, grasping her hand a little more firmly.

“Sev, I—“

“I love you.”

“You said,” she agreed.

“I’m in love with you.”

She looked at him.  “Sev.  I’m a Black now, not just a Stolen Child.  I’ve never even considered—I could never consider—Someone else has asked for my hand and my father has granted permission for him to gain my favor.  Those are those letters I write when I’m done with my essays.  As soon as I’m done with this one, I was going to write another to him tonight.”  She misrepresented the situation, but she thought it was best.  Lily did write Lucius, mainly because he was an intelligent wizard and to annoy Narcissa even if she didn’t know about it.

“What letters?”  He hadn’t released her hand.

“The letters,” she repeated.  “Severus, give me back my hand.”

Manuel had somehow come back with a book.  “Snape, what are you doing?  Give her back her hand.  Her gentleman caller won’t like it if someone writes to him.  Regulus Black at least must know who he is.  Not even Apricot can find out who he is, but surely after this, someone will demand his identity from Heir Regulus to inform him of this breach of propriety on your part.”

Severus released her hand immediately.  “You’re not lying?  I haven’t seen any letters!”

“That’s because you’re off with your Death Eater friends,” Manuel answered casually.  “Some of us like to attract the notice of the Ministry and not the Dark Lord.  We have more time for gossip.  Who is he, Black?  No one will say.”

“That’s rather the point.   Privacy.  He’s a pureblood, though, and rather well established.”

“Well, most of us had gathered he wasn’t at Hogwarts,” Manuel said.  “It’s a pity.  I was going to ask you to Hogsmeade when Apricot suggested this wizard’s existence.  At least it’s not Potter.”

“It never would have been Potter,” she told him.  Without looking at Severus, she completed her Transfiguration Essay.  Looking at Manuel and a sulking Severus who was hiding behind his hair, she asked, “Am I going to have to go hide in my dormitory, or can I write his name without you stealing my parchment?”

“Snape did declare his undying love for you,” Manuel stated casually, surprising both of them, “and I think everyone is going to know by tomorrow.  You might want this wizard’s name to get out.  Damage control.”

“That is not damage control,” Lily asserted.  “It’s adding dragon’s breath to fiendfyre.”  She packed her bag and went up to her dorm to write a letter to her father about the catastrophe that had just happened.

Of course everyone knew, even Cousin Sirius.  The two were sitting in a window together on the fifth floor as they occasionally did when there were family matters to discuss.  Lily was hiding from Slytherins in general, though she wouldn’t have minded seeing Regulus.

“He’s so—greasy.  The only reason why I make Jamesie stay away from him is because he’s your friend, and family has to count for something, and you were—well—taken.  Father explained your importance to the Family before we went off to Hogwarts.”

“Mordred,” she murmured.  “No wonder Bella and Cissy hate me.  I always thought it was because I was female.”

“That probably has something to do with it,” he offered unhelpfully.  “But—Snape.  He actually thought he could have a chance with a Black?  With a titled Black?—I mean, even I’ll admit that James is a bit delusional, and he’s a pureblood and his mother is a titled Black by birth.”

“I wish you’d make him stop, although he is amusing,” she laughed a little, although she felt like her situation was hopeless.

“We’ll show him the one-two,” Sirius promised, “just before we go home for Yule.”

“Don’t be too cruel,” she made him promise.  Lily knew she couldn’t make him not do anything—family honor was at stake—but she could do this much.

They ended up shoving him into the air by his ankles using some spell Lily had never seen, his robes falling to show his threadbare underpants.  “Stop!” she shouted to Sirius.  “This is too much!”

“He insulted you!”

“Yes,” she agreed.  “And now it’s over.—I’ll go home and I’ll be taken to tea by my—gentleman caller, and all will be well.”  Until Bellatrix or Narcissa found out.

“Fine,” Sirius said, letting the spell go. 

Severus fell badly, the sound of bone cracking reaching Lily’s ears and she cringed.  “Mudblood!” he shouted at her.  “You’re little better than your magic hating sister Petunia, and your trumped-up Black father murdered her along with the rest of your kidnappers!”

Lily froze and stared at him.  Petunia was dead?  Petunia was dead.  There was shouting and someone’s arms came around her and she was led away from the scene in the snow.  She was surprised to look up and see that it was Theirn Nott.  They were in the kitchens with Apricot who was getting her hot cocoa. 

“Well,” Theirn was telling her as she sipped her chocolate.  “He’s done.  The Dark Lord won’t have a Black Card member of The Wicked Stepmother being called a ‘Mudblood’ in public for no plausible reason.”

“I wonder who Petunia is,” Apricot murmured, taking a sip of her own drink.

“I don’t want—“ Lily whispered.

“Of course, darling,” Apricot told her.  “Think of your handsome gentleman that you’ll see in a few days.  Was he that man in the shadows who saw you off?”

The teasing, though, couldn’t pull her from her thoughts.

When she did finally see Lucius, though, it was at Malfoy Manor.  Lily felt as dead as a stone, still shocked at what happened, and took the seat offered to her. 

Lucius looked at her stiff form, sitting next to her.  “Lady Lily,” he murmured, his hand resting unobtrusively against her chair.  “What happened?  We heard there was an—altercation at Hogwarts.”

“My oldest friend called me a ‘Mudblood’ in public.  They’re saying the Dark Lord will kill him.  I can’t decide if I’m happy or terrified.”  Her tone was dead and she looked away from everyone, wondering why her father had suggested that she come and see someone other than a Black.

“Severus Snape,” he seemed to realize.  “Did you know him before?”

She turned to him quickly in shock, her neck hurting from the sudden movement.

“I would never judge you for those who stole you, Lady Lily.  I am merely trying to grasp his horrible accusation.  My lady, they are childish and hurtful words that mean nothing.  You are the trueborn daughter of Monsieur Alphard Black and Lady Elenora Prewett.”  The words did not comfort.  “You’re safe from him.”

“This is not the best venue,” Alphard stated firmly, causing Lily to look at him in gratitude.

“Of course.”  This seemed to be Lady Malfoy now.  “Lady Lily is still distressed, as is only natural. If Monsieur Alphard allows, a little elven wine perhaps, and then you can meet someone very dear to Lucius, his niece.  I think she’s in your year at Hogwarts.”

“Oh,” Lily seemed to remember herself, and turned toward the assorted people.  “I thank you.”

“I explained the situation, Lily Stephanora, before we arrived,” her father said kindly as he gave her the suggested elven wine.  “Drink slowly and don’t be afraid to have some Fairy Soda or some elderberry wine in between sips.”

“Thank you,” she replied, decidedly not looking at Lucius.

Lily had met Lady Lux Kingsley before in passing as she was Sirius’s godsister, although a year older than both of them.  The two were incredibly close friends, some even suggested they were closer though that was unheard of between godsiblings, and she sympathized over the situation.

“I berated Sirius for not magically silencing Snape just before the entire situation,” she told Lily.  “It was unforeseeable, but one could perhaps have thought he would spout off something stupid and unfounded.”

“If only they would expel,” Lucius’s uncle, Lord Roman, suggested as he gave Lily a glass of elderberry wine, “for such insubordination to the ruling classes, but it’s fools like Dumbledore who are in charge.”

Smiling at him, Lily replied, “I know nothing of his personal history.”

“Father died in Azkaban,” Lord Roman said.  “Tortured three teenage Muggles using the Cruciatus Curse after they did unthinkable things to Dumbledore’s little sister when they saw her using magic.  Pro-Muggle nonsense, again.”

Lily raised her eyebrows.  This certainly was information.

What was surprising during the rest of her holiday is that Lord Fabian came calling.  He was her third cousin, once or twice removed, and had inherited the title from her grandfather, once he had died.  He had graduated Hogwarts the year before and the two had barely spoken.  Gideon was the interesting one.

“Cousin Fabian,” she greeted, recognizing him by the goatee he had decided to grow his last year.  “I—Welcome.  How is your brother?  Molly?  I heard she was marrying?”

“Gideon is well,” Fabian told her.  “Molly is planning her wedding.  None of us are happy with her choice; however, Molly wishes to rule her household, and she certainly will with Arthur Weasley.”

She wasn’t certain what to do with this information.  “I haven’t received an invitation,” Lily finally decided upon.  “Is it soon?”

Fabian looked surprised.  “I’ll speak to Molly.  It’s this summer.”

“Of course.”

They sat in silence.  The two cousins had nothing in common.  When he finally left twenty minutes later, she sighed in relief.

Severus didn’t come back to Hogwarts.  She heard through the grapevine that he had died through mysterious circumstances. 

Lily decided it was time to meet the Dark Lord.  She spoke with some of the older students and the time and place were set.  Wearing pureblood black, she placed a cloak over her head and went into the Forbidden Forest.

She couldn’t see his face, but his voice was high and seductive.

“I’m not prepared,” she told him.  “However, I am thankful to my champion.”

“A dark witch will always have a champion,” he told her, “whether in my followers or in her suitor.”

“Who is a follower,” she checked.

“I can neither confirm nor deny.  You will have to ask whoever is courting you.  I have heard many different theories, including one that you stole Heir Lucius away from your own cousin.”

She looked up at him.  “You will not confirm.  I don’t want a husband who will disappear away from me.  I do not want a husband who might put credence in this Mudblood nonsense when I would rather not speak of it in the public of his family whom I have never met before.”

“You will not want one protecting wizards?  I heard that you were stolen by those who are inferior to your own esteemed parents.  Should they not have been punished especially if filthy Muggles?  To attempt to lower a lady such of yourself is one of the basest crimes, though your privacy should always be respected.”  His white hand was glimpsed in the moonlight.  It sent a shiver down Lily’s spine.

“They were—inferior.”  She paused.  “You mean for me to one day protect wizards, as they say.”

“Yes,” he hissed.  “And to glorify in your magic.”

“I hate Bellatrix,” she objected.

His hood turned toward her.  “Most do.  Some find her alluring.  Some of my followers say you are far more beautiful even though you have not quite grown into your full potential, my dear.”

She shivered a little in fear—and, dare she believe it, excitement.

“You need not worry.  I would respect your husband if he were to be Heir Lucius.”

“And if it were not he?”

He leaned forward, his magic touching her ever so briefly, enticing her closer.  “I would respect your magic and what it told you.—Let me see your hair, Lily Rachelle Evans.”

Her green eyes flashed toward him.  “You play with fire.”

“I have and will never be Mademoiselle Bellatrix’s lover if you show me your hair, no matter how much she pleads, Lady Stephanora.”

A sense of power came over her, and wishing to thwart her cousin in all things as she suspected that the power radiating off the Dark Lord was exactly what Bellatrix might covet, Lily turned from him and let down her hood to show him her auburn hair that was in braids that were strung up in a complicated twist.  She didn’t expect his fingers to flutter over her hair or to start taking out the pins, dropping them in the snow.  When the five braids were down, he began to undo them and she looked over her shoulder.

“I have not given you leave.”

“You would show me your hair.  I cannot see it in braids.”

Sighing, she waited until her hair waved down to the small of her back.  His fingers ran through it and it seemed like he brought it to his face as if to smell the vanilla shampoo she favored.  Finally he conjured a ribbon and tied her hair in a low ponytail, placed her hair in her hood, and then centered it over her head so that her face was hidden.

“What do you want?” she asked him.  “I know you want a follower—my Black Card.  But what is it you want, Dark Lord?  I wished to thank you although my father would be horrified that I was here with you now, that I let you touch me so intimately.  My suitor would be—disquieted—by he latter, I am sure, though he would never say anything to either of us.”

“I daresay your suitor would not,” he admitted.  “You are a Black Card.  I want you in every way.  I meant to steal you away from under Heir Lucius’s nose, just as you stole him.”

“If he were my suitor, I did not steal him.  There was no intention.  Any intention would have been his.  I was fifteen.  I would have wished to think of Hogsmeade dates and holding hands at Madame Puddifoot’s.”

He bowed to her.  “I understand.  However, you are now caught between three grown wizards who would have your attention.”

She did not answer.

“You do not ask how I know about your Lord-Cousin Fabian?”

“I do not care.  I care not for the other Prewetts.  Do what you will.  I would prefer to go to Cousin Molly’s wedding as it is an excuse for dancing, so if you are to plan anything, I would ask you to wait until afterward.—Do I deserve your face?  I gave you my hair.”

“You will not find me handsome.”

“Then I will not find you handsome.”

He stepped into the moonlight and with long pianist fingers removed his hood.  He had a full head of dark brown hair with natural auburn highlights, startling blue eyes, slightly slitted, and a nose that disappeared into his face, slightly snake-like. 

“Ritual?”

“You are astute, Lady Lily Stephanora.”

“Were your eyes always such a startling blue?  People ask me about my eyes, as well, though they are green.”

“Yes, they always were.”

She curtsied.  “Goodnight, Dark Lord.”

When she turned to go, he grabbed her gloved hand.  “Agree to see me again.  It must be at a follower’s house.  I will not be so obvious as to send a black notecard.”

“I do not know,” she answered.  “I must think.  Bellatrix will hate me for Heir Lucius.  I cannot have her hate me for you, too.”

He stepped closer to her, his foot crinkling in the snow.  “I can teach you,” he whispered to her.  “We’ll take the trace off your wand, and I’ll teach you personally how to best even the fearsome Bellatrix Black.—I can prove it.  You’re wearing gloves but I can prove it.”

“The magic between,” she whispered.

“Give me leave.”

“I don’t know what—“

He came up closer so that his eyes were looking into the darkness of her hood.  The Dark Lord was a good six inches taller than her, so her face was slightly illuminated by the moon as she looked up toward him.  “Give me leave.”

She took off her glove.  “You have leave.”

However, he didn’t touch her hand.  Instead, his arm wrapped around her waist and he kissed her.  It was gently, a simple press of lips to lips, and the magic moved between them, until she had reached beneath his hood with her gloved hand, cupping his cheek, her other hand grasping his shoulder.  She felt so alive, her nerves on fire and she wanted him closer, closer—if they could merge into one being, she would gladly consent.  Lily wanted to lose herself into him completely, to never leave his side, to run with him across England and hide, letting him teach her.  Her father suddenly didn’t matter, neither did Regulus, nor her studies.

When he pulled away, she sucked in a breath and looked at him in wonder.

“Dark Lord—I don’t even know your name and—after—“

“See me again and I will be true and give you my name—“

“—What reason can I possibly give the Malfoys?  What will I tell Father?”

He didn’t give her an answer and instead demanded, “Promise me,” his hand coming up to cup her head through her hood.  “Lily.”

“I promise,” she swore.  “I’m a prefect.  I can’t be late.”

He kissed her on the forehead.  “You’ll receive an invitation over Easter break and I’ll write you.”

“As who?” she begged as he walked her more closely to the tree line.

He paused.  “I’ll reference your hair in braids.  I’ll need to figure out being true to my name without Dumbledore or the Malfoys realizing who I am.  The problem is that your uncle also knew me at Hogwarts.”

She didn’t quite realize this, but she nodded dumbly.  Kissing her sweetly again just out of sight of Hogwarts, the feeling of wanting to fly out of her skin flooded through her.  Lily was the one to pull away this time, their hands linked until he let go and she was running through the snow away from him although her heart protested every step.

When Apricot saw her hair, Lily laughed, twirling around her dorm.  “Can I tell my gentleman caller I think I’m too young for a courtship?  I’m only just sixteen.  That’s a valid excuse, isn’t it?”  She sighed as she got out her naturally black pajamas.  Purebloods and their culture.  “I’ll be right out.—I need to write Father first.”

Apricot stared at her in shock.

The letter to Alphard was short.  Father, she wrote, I know I’ve never said anything against Heir Lucius, but I don’t want to continue.  I think it would be unfair to him and untrue to myself.  Please don’t make me do this.  Also, don’t tell Fabian.  I want him to go away.  L. Stephanora.

Fortunately, she had his full support.  The letter to Lucius was much more difficult.  Severus’s death was so sobering.  It made me realize I just wanted to be a sixteen year old girl, going to Hogsmeade, with non-political concerns.  Everything else is too much.  I’m not ready to be courted.  I’m too young and, while I am fond of you, I think it’s more like a brother of a friend or a brother yourself.  It’s unfair to take my frustrations out on you when you see me differently.

Lucius, of course, refused to give up.  He wanted to wait for her and be her friend for now.  He invited her to tea at The Wicked Stepmother along with his niece.  After thinking about it, she agreed to an unspecified date if she could bring Regulus.

Hilariously, both Potter and Sirius had gotten their cards.  Sirius’s was pure white.  He could only enter in the company of a dark card member, preferably family.  Potter was just dark enough to enter, a wisping green-gray, but he could not invite Sirius in.  Being the son of a Black only got him so much.

A few days before they were to leave when she was reading a note from him, Theirn Nott approached as she sat by the fire, pretending to finish up a Potions Essay.  “My Mother would like to invite you to tea on Tuesday,” he began carefully.  “She believes you’ll know the other guest.”

“Really?” she mused, half-paying attention.  The notecard was dark green.  Still white ink.  Figures.  The Dark Lord was in Slytherin.  “I’ve never met your mother, Nott.  I’m not certain if Father will allow it.”

“I think your cousin Mademoiselle Bellatrix knows him intimately and your uncle Lord Black is acquainted.”

Her head whipped up.  “Does he fancy white ink?”

“I have heard of that peculiarity,” he stated cautiously.  “I’ve never seen it myself.”

She looked at the letter and the reference to a friend.  Theirn wasn’t a friend, but most Slytherins had few if any.  “I would be delighted,” she stated.  “I’ll tell Father we have a joint project so I’m afraid that I’ll be coming over in pureblood black.  Please apologize to your mother, Madam Nott.  Tuesday?”

“Tuesday at four, if that suits.”

She took out her homework planner and turned to Tuesday, which was of course empty and jotted it in.  Four o’clock.  Charms Project.  Nott Hall.  “See you then.”

On Monday, she was staring out the window at Florean Fortescue’s.  That was how Alphard had first seen her, she remembered.  She wasn’t surprised when the floo activated, but when it was Sirius, she looked at him oddly.  “Cousin?”

“Steph.  Got a second?”

“Yes,” she stated.  “Just looking out the window.”

Alphard came in.  “Sirius.  Whatever are you doing here?”

“I was hoping to take Lily to The Wicked Stepmother, my treat.  We need her card to get in.  She’s wearing wizard robes, although casual.”  She was wearing a bell dress that was black with pink shining through the eyelet bottom, with three-quarter sleeves.  The slashes in her pink tights with black showing through was what made it just acceptable for a more formal environment.  Sirius, strangely, was in red and black robes.

“Lily Stephanora?” her father asked.

Turning to her cousin, Lily tilted her eyebrow at him in question.

“It has nothing to do with Potter,” he promised.  “There’s just this rumor about the Blacks at Hogwarts and I need help figuring out what to say.”

“That place,” she sighed, going toward her room.  “I need a cloak and boots.”

When they were seated, on Sirius’s bill of course, Sirius erected a privacy barrier.  “Steph,” he stated.  “They’re saying you broke it off with your fancy man.”

“Fancy man?  What are you, a Muggle?”

He waved her off.  They both knew he was in Gryffindor and picked up some strange expressions.  Also, Apricot might have mentioned something to someone and it could have gotten back to Regulus who told Sirius.  That’s hopefully as far as it had gotten.

“I decided I was too young,” she told him, taking a sip of her Lady Grey.  Sirius had indulged her.  “I want to possibly one day go to Hogsmeade with a wizard, not just Apricot and a few of our friends.”

“That’s not what they’re saying.”

She put down her cup with a decided clink.

“Who are ‘they’?”

“Does it matter?” he asked her quite seriously.

No, no it didn’t.

“They’re saying you not only traded up, but you traded more dangerously.  Now—we’ve got to get in front of this.  Let’s get this out into the open: Regulus saw you talking to Heir Lucius so if your gentleman caller was him, I don’t even want to think who is trading up and who could be more dangerous than him.”

“Don’t imagine then.  The Four Lords are all married and I don’t go after married men.  That should answer your question.”

Sirius seemed to deflate.  Then he paused.  “There has been another suggestion by Mother, but she said I was not to mention it to anyone, but you at least deserve to know.”  He looked at her steadily.  “The Dark Lord.”

“Don’t tell Bella that.  She’ll definitely kill me if she would have only tortured me over Heir Lucius Malfoy.”  Lily was trying to joke, holding her teacup in front of her lips, making her eyes sparkle, and it seemed to work on Sirius.

“What are we going to say, then?” Sirius begged her after a few minutes of silence.  “Snape is dead.  There are whispers you’re cozying up to other dark families and known followers of the Dark Lord—“

“Sirius,” she stated carefully, “there is no way to stop these bizarre rumors.  The more we say against them, the more they’ll spread.  Just let it go.”

The next day, Lily was trying desperately to look as sophisticated as she could in pureblood black.  The best she managed was a flowing skirt to the knees, black leggings, and a sheer black blouse.  She arrived at Nott Hall promptly at four, seeing Theirn and Madam Nott.  “Thank you so much for inviting me,” she stated, taking her school satchel from her shoulder.  “Is there somewhere I can hide this?  They’re my Charms book and my finished essay.”

“Of course, Lady Lily,” Theirn said, taking it.  “Mother will show you the way.”

The room was small with a tea table and the Dark Lord was staring out the window.  He turned when the door closed, and took her in.  “Your eyes are a startling green,” he mentioned in greeting.

“I’m not a liar,” she told him, sitting down.

He came around, running his hand over her chignon, before he sat.  “I think Monsieur Alphard would notice if you came home with your hair down.”

“I think he might,” she teased, smiling.  “Lady Black supposes that we might be romantically involved.  Where would she get that idea?”

“Lucius Malfoy asked me to discover what happened to the lady of his heart as he suspected dark magic, and I said that a woman with such magic as hers would surely be immune to anything but seduction from only the most powerful of magic.  It was imprudent, but I currently can’t stand the sight of him.”

She looked at the Dark Lord for several long moments, and he waited for her to speak.  “You’re oddly human.  I hadn’t expected you to be jealous.”

“I thought I had proved that at our last meeting.”

Lily picked up the tea and poured them each a cup.  She took a sniff of her cup before sipping to discover it a Japanese blend, which would explain the lack of milk or cream on the table.

“You are a prefect,” he suddenly said.  “You wish to be Head Girl?”

“Quite.  Neither of my parents were either, but I would like to exceed their own achievements.”

“I was Head Boy.  It was very rewarding.”  He took his own sip of tea.

“And who were you?”  She smiled.  “You promised to tell me.”

“I cannot,” he told her sadly.  “However, I can give you a name.  I am descended from Cadmus Peverell.”

“I always supposed you to be distinguished.”  She sighed, looking at him.  “Do you wish me to call you ‘Cadmus’ then?”

“No,” he answered.  “That is my ancestor’s name.  I thought ‘Peverell’.”

“Peverell,” she repeated.  Lily indicated a ring on his finger, roughly hewn gold with a small black diamond-shaped stone in it.  “Is that what I think it is?”

“Perhaps, Lady Stephanora.  What name do you prefer?”

“Lady Lily,” she told him honestly.  “Lady Lily Stephanora, if you must.  My cousins call me ‘Steph’, my friends ‘Lily’.”

“Then I shall hope for ‘Steph’ one day,” he whispered, just loudly enough for her to hear.

When he saw her looking at his left hand, he offered it to her, and she took it.  On it was the simplest vined ring, a silver vine, without leaves, moving upward from the base of the finger to the knuckle.  “I hadn’t expected—it’s so elegant in its simplicity.”

Peverell looked down at hers.  “It was the custom to be as gaudy as possible at the time.  I am glad to see that is no longer the case.”

She offered him a small smile.  “No.  However, I’ve seen some with diamonds,” she teased.  “Whatever will they think up in the next five years?”

A small laugh escaped his lips and soon they were chuckling together and enjoying just looking at each other openly instead of trying to steal glances in the moonlight.

When she stood to go an hour and a half later, he placed his hand on her cheek, the magic making her breath catch.  It was wicked of her to think this, but it had never been this strong or wonderful with Lucius.  She had been right to let him go, to sneak away with this horrifyingly powerful wizard.  “Peverell.”

“Lady Lily,” he murmured back.  “I want to teach you dark magic.”

“Then you must find some witch I might be friends with and have me invited for an afternoon.”  She kissed his cheek, which was daring for a pureblood witch.  They smiled at each other and he opened the door for her, and she walked away although her soul was crying for her to stay.

Theirn looked at her and she smiled at him.  “I trust we finished our project.”

“We could have another.”

“I’ll leave my answer vague enough to Father although we go back on Friday.  Why we need to be back for a weekend is questionable.—Will people find out about this?”

“If it happens more frequently and at various followers’ estates—“

“My aunt’s guessed,” she sighed.  “Mum’s the word.”

Theirn looked at her oddly.

“Oh, sorry.  Sirius says it, I guess.  It means, ‘Don’t say anything’.  See you on the train, Theirn.  Thank you.”  She flooed out.  Her father was out having drinks with one of his generation, which could only mean potentially bad things for her, so she dropped her bag, and reclined on a divan.

When she saw Lucius, Regulus in tow, she was surprised to see that Lady Lux was not with him.  She sat and Lucius glanced at Regulus.  “I’m not certain he should be here for this conversation.”

“I’m certain he should be,” Lily refuted.  “I don’t like your tone, Heir Lucius.”

“I don’t like being lied to,” he hissed back.

Lily paused and looked at Regulus.  “Why don’t you decide on our tea and our sweet, if you care for one?  Heir Lucius’s treat.”  She turned back to her former suitor.  “Why do you say that I lied to you?”

“The Dark Lord as good as said that he seduced you away from me with his magic,” he stated darkly.

Regulus squeaked and put down his menu in shock.

Looking over at Regulus to make certain he was all right, Lily turned back to Lucius.  “Unfortunately, you are not the first person I have heard these rumors from.  I’m not going to dignify them with a response.”  She stood.  “Reggie, I find I’d rather have ice cream.  How would you like that despite the fact that Muggleborns will be around us?”

Lucius stood.  “Lily.”

She glared at him.  “Have I given you leave to use my name?  You think too much of yourself, Heir Lucius.  How could you be so callous as to treat the granddaughter of the former Lord Prewett, the cousin of the current Lord Prewett, and the niece of the current Lord Black, thus?”

Regulus stood with her.  “Steph.”  He offered his arm, which she took.

The two walked out and Lucius, fortunately, did not follow. 

“Mother said something similar,” Regulus confessed.

“I know.  Sirius told me.  Thank you, Regulus,” she said over her Fairy Lavender ice cream. 

“It’s just—they told Uncle Alphard.”  He quickly scooped up a large bite of Dragon’s Smoke.

Lily stared at him.  Then, after a pause, she murmured, “He never said anything to me about it.”

“He wouldn’t, would he?  Uncle Alphard wouldn’t want to know.  You’d either lie if it were true, or deny it if it were not.  He’d get the same answer either way.  Would you ever tell him that you were actually with him?”

“I might,” she argued, “maybe.  I hadn’t thought about it.  When Sirius told me, I kind of went into shock.  I never expected to hear it from Heir Lucius.”

“I think he wants you to come over to Grimmauld Place for tea, but Mother wanted Uncle Alphard to know and Dad’s afraid of what Sirius would say.  Of course, they were talking about shipping him off to Potter’s.  He—well, you know—wants to teach you dark magic.”  He paused.  “Darker magic.”  As Blacks they were all taught dark magic.  As soon as they turned seventeen they would even be given the option of learning the Unforgivables.  However, the more untraceable and little known curses were largely a mystery to most families, even the Blacks with all of their grimoires.

Of course, Lily decided to confront her father.  She couldn’t let this lie.  “What did Uncle Orion and Aunt Walburga tell you?” she demanded.  “Lucius Malfoy tried to interrogate me about the Dark Lord and then Reggie tells me about—well—what did they tell you?”

Alphard was sitting in a chair, the only one visible from the outside door she had come through, rather than the floo as she they lived in Diagon Alley.  “Your Uncle Cygnus is here.  He’s worried about Heir Lucius.  However, since he was just interrogating you, perhaps you can tell your uncle about the Malfoy heir.”

He was peevish.  Her father was definitely peevish.

“Hello, Uncle,” she greeted, trying to calm herself.  She kissed his cheek.  “I apologize for my outburst.”

“You saw Lucius Malfoy?” he asked.

“I know his niece, Lady Lux.  She’s in the year above me at Hogwarts.  We were to meet, but this Dark Lord business became a problem and Heir Lucius was concerned on my behalf.  He wouldn’t want his niece in such a precarious situation.”

“Quite.”

She turned to Alphard.  “Father.  Why haven’t we discussed this?”

“I have wondered this myself.  Are you being threatened?  I cannot seem to determine what is truth and what is not.—Were you actually working on a project earlier this week?”

Quietly sitting down, Lily made a decision.  “I was not.”

“It is as I feared.”  He looked resigned, though strangely not frightened.

“Father—I went to thank him for protecting my honor when Severus Snape called me a ‘Mudblood’ and shouted that nonsense about Petunia Evans.  I thought it polite.”

“Severus Snape is dead.”

“Yes,” she stated carefully.  “I think Sirius’s solution a bit more—appropriate—for the original offense.  However, the sentiment behind the action is what I was thanking him for.”  Lily bit her lip.  “The magic thing happened again.”

“I’m beginning to think you’re terribly prone to that, Stephanora,” he stated rather sternly.  “Naturally he claimed you for his own as it’s supposed to be rare.  What does he want?”

“Mutual fidelity,” she whispered.  “To teach me dark magic.”

He sighed.  “You are never going to be alone with him again, Stephanora.  I will not have it.”

“Father,” Lily stated carefully.  “Peverell”—He looked startled—“The Dark Lord, Peverell, is rather opinionated and used to getting his way.”

“I don’t care what the Dark Lord is used to.  You’re sixteen.  When you’re out of Hogwarts, I cannot stop you from losing your reputation.  Until then, I will protect you, Stephanora.”

“Right,” she stated.  “I better go write.  With your permission, Father.”

He waved his hand at her.

Alphard would allow nothing more formal than pureblood black when they went to Grimmauld Place.  Sirius had been packed off to Remus Lupin’s and Uncle Orion and Aunt Walburga were all obeisance.  It was rather peculiar.  Alphard was introduced to the Dark Lord, who then took her hand politely, the magic visibly passing between them, and then she hugged Regulus, before she and Peverell sat down in a corner with a book in Dark Theory.

“This is impossible,” she stated, turning the book around and to the side to try and see the diagram from several different angles.  “I’ve learned the Bubble Head Charm to go over one’s head in water so you can breathe, but to just create bubbles and then transfigure them all at once into shards of glass.  Bubbles are water and glass is, well, not.  You need a full transfiguration on multiple points of contact.”

“The trick,” Peverell told her, “is that it’s all the same piece of transfiguration, just on multiple targets.  Shall we try it?”

“We won’t have enough room in the garden if everyone comes and I’ll feel a little—watched.  I wouldn’t want to fail in front of my relatives.”

“There is a conservatory,” Peverell suggested with a grin.  “They can see from there.”

She smiled at him.  “You’ve been here before.”

“I’ve been here before.”

After half an hour she was able to create pink bubbles, only about a dozen, but they were definitely there.  “Pink!” she exclaimed.  “What think you, Dark Lord?”

“You’re a Hufflepuff,” he determined, and she shrieked, chasing him, forgetting about her relatives, until he caught her and threw her over his shoulder, the two of them laughing when she overbalanced him and they fell in the grass.  His hands came about her waist to steady her as one of her hands was crumpled on his chest while the other was next to his shoulder.  Their faces, although not aligned, were quite close.  “Lady Stephanora,” he whispered and her breath caught as their eyes met.

“We can’t.  They’re watching,” she reminded him and they heard a door open. 

Peverell carefully sat up, her hand going to his shoulder and she looked up to see Aunt Walburga. 

Lily smiled and offered her other hand to her for help getting up.  “I’m apparently a Hufflepuff,” she laughed, “and all because of the color pink.”

“A tragedy,” she agreed as soon as Lily was on her feet.  “I am certain, with practice, they will become blue or green perhaps.”

“Perhaps,” she agreed, taking out her wand and blowing on the tip to create another dozen and a half pink and purple bubbles.  “I think that may be worse.”

“Or improvement,” Peverell suggested.  “Purple is blue and red, and pink is merely red mixed with white.”

“You flatter, but I don’t think you like being chased,” she teased, smiling at him kindly.  “Then again, the Ministry is so inept in their chasing, it would appear.”

“Shall we practice your transfiguration?  We must first start with a force field,” he reminded her.  “Lady Black?  Is that permitted by your brother, Monsieur Alphard?”

She turned.  “A moment or two and then he will wish to take Lady Lily Stephanora back to Diagon Alley.  He had confided in me earlier this year he had hoped she wouldn’t find the company of wizards flattering until she reached the age of thirty-five.  I fear he is still unused to even the concept.”

Lily tried not to laugh.  When her aunt left, she whispered, “That’s actually the truth.  I overheard him telling Uncle Cygnus that my third year when he had to sign my permission slip to Hogsmeade.”

“Poor Monsieur Alphard,” Peverell said unsympathetically before blowing several dozen blue bubbles from his wand before taking Lily’s hand and helping her with the wand movement to create a force field to trap all the bubbles.

She had not quite mastered it when Alphard came to get her as he did not wish her to become “overtired.”  Turning to Peverell, she asked, “You never told me how to reach you.  I’ve been passing notes like a twelve-year-old!”

“Simply, ‘Lord Peverell.’  I had a few followers test it for your future use.”  He lifted her hand courteously.  “Although I know we will write before your exams, I know you will do well and wish you the best of luck.”

“What should I say—?”

“Neither confirm nor deny.  Simply give my name as ‘Peverell’.  It will confuse most and signal to others.—Monsieur Alphard.  Thank you for this precious time with your daughter.”

“Dark Lord.  Come, Stephanora.  I thought we might walk home and pick up some mystery novels for you.  Dorothy L. Sayers, perhaps?”

“You give away my closely guarded secrets,” she smiled.  “Lord Peter is about to be married.  I’d like to pretend he won’t.  Perhaps a Monsieur Leander detective novel, Father.”  Lily grinned at Peverell.  “He cannot discover if his nemesis is a clever Muggle-born or an impoverished pureblood.”

“Then I leave you to your pleasure.”

The father and daughter left with quick goodbyes to the other Blacks, though Lily looked back at Peverell once before she disappeared through the front door.

Apricot was staring at her on the train.  The two friends were talking about homework, mainly.  “You went to the Notts’?”

“Only for tea with his mother,” she offered.  “She might have known mine—I believe.”

“So,” Apricot said, “he’s not your new gentleman caller.  I didn’t believe it for a moment.  A schoolboy is not trading up from an ‘established wizard’ outside of Hogwarts and I certainly wouldn’t call a schoolboy terribly dangerous.”

Lily looked at her in shock.

The door opened then and unfortunately it was James with Sirius trying to keep him off.

“His name is Peverell and he’s descended from Cadmus Peverell.  Go away, James Potter!”

Sirius shoved his friend out of the way, a gleam in his eye.  “Does he have the resurrection stone?”

“I’ve seen it,” she confirmed.  It was in the ring, of course.  “Not in use.  I don’t want to see Severus come out and accuse me as he may think his death is my fault or something.”

“Delusional sod,” Sirius offered.  “It’s Peverell then,” he checked, clearly realizing this was an alias.

“Yes, and he’s descended from Cadmus.  Would you like to see his latest letter, Cousin?”

Sirius looked a little shocked at the offer, but soon recovered himself.  “Not necessary, Cousin.  He’s probably love struck.”  Well, he was rather.  Or at least pretending to be. 

Apricot was looking at her.  “May I see it?”

“There’s an entire paragraph on my hair and how it was unbound the evening we met,” she warned.

“I remember that evening quite well,” she stated happily as she took the letter.  Her eyes widened.  “That curse exists?”

“I forgot about that bit,” Lily grumbled.  “Go to the romantic bits.” 

After a few minutes, Apricot murmured, “Lily, did you know this opened to a middle section and it gets quite—explicit.”

Her eyes widened and she grabbed it.  Peverell talked all about what he wanted to do to her when she fell on top of him in her uncle’s garden.  “That’s fiction,” she tried to explain.  “There were four Blacks watching.”

“It doesn’t sound like pure fiction.  It sounds like a wizard enthralled.”

Lily grabbed it.  If only you would have let your hand slip, so that I could hold you close and your lips could be claimed by mine, your knee a little higher as a tender passion hinting at the future.  I wished for us to be one, or as close as possible, my darling girl.  I remember the taste of you in the snow, the feel of you against me, the touch of your hair that I was denied.  To see it falling around your face, covering us from the watching eyes of others—“I’ve seen much worse in fiction,” she declared.

“Does your father know you read such fiction?”

“Of course not,” she smiled.  “He thinks they’re simply detective novels.  Monsieur Leander may be a bit of a rake.  What Father doesn’t know will not hurt him and I am almost of age.”

“Not until March.”

“Not until March,” she groaned.  “It’s April.”

A card arrived, finally, for Cousin Molly’s wedding.  However, it was as Lord Prewett’s personal guest.  Clearly the rumor hadn’t gotten to him yet.  She would far rather go with Manuel Selwyn who was her best friend’s brother and, as word had it, a sublime dancer.

A few days later, she declined the invitation, citing a previous engagement as she had not had enough notice, and hoped she was done with the affair, although she would not be able to dance.  Life was so disappointing somehow.

Of course the rumors followed her.  She answered them with the name “Peverell”, which meant something to the darker families.

Potter, of course, wouldn’t believe it.  He had become her champion even when Lily asked Sirius to make him stop.  “He’s making the rumors worse,” she told him.  “Just get him to shut up.”

“He can’t.  He’s in love with you.  Calls you ‘Lily-flower’ in private.”

“Doesn’t he know I was born ‘Stephanora’?”

“Try telling him that,” Sirius complained.  “Look.  You’re going to have to tell him yourself.”

“He’s your friend.  This is ultimately your fault.”

When she made to leave, Sirius grabbed her arm.  “But we both know he’s lying.  This Peverell name is just that—a name to make him respectable.  I’m not stupid, Steph.  I never expected this from you or Uncle Alphard.”

“So it’s true then?” she asked, tipping the conversation.  “You’re going to leave us for the Potters?”

“I’m not going to leave you to him.  Regulus is too young to protect you, Uncle Alphard is probably browbeaten and Mother, Father, and Uncle Cygnus are not going to help.”

“Poor Reggie,” she mock-sighed.  “I thought he’d be made Heir.”

“He wouldn’t turn the family around.  I have plans.”  He grinned at her in his prankster way.  “No, Steph, I’m around and I’m around for good.  I don’t care if you even marry the blighter.  I’m not deserting you.  Something’s going on that I’m just not getting.”

“As the Muggles say,” she commented, punching him on the shoulder, “you’re a brick.  Get Potter to let up, would you?  He’s making it worse with McGonagall.”

When she got back to Slytherin that night she sat down with Regulus and his friends.  “Well,” she told him.  “Sirius has decided he’s not leaving the family for anything.  I’m a maiden in distress, and he will not leave me to the warring goblin armies, whatever the consequences.  I think he means to disinherit some of our cousins, though he didn’t say as much, only that he has ‘plans’.”

Regulus looked up, startled.  “I’ve never thought of you as a ‘maiden in distress’.”

“Maybe when I was eleven and Father saw me and bought me an ice cream before getting my blood tested by the goblins.  Very sneaky of him.  I had no idea what was happening as there was no reason for me to be blood tested before.  Then again, I had this.”  She rolled up her white shirt to show her name that was imprinted on her arm.  Lady Stephanora Astra Black.  Toujours Pur.  It was the first time she had showed it to any of her cousins.

Lily was your name before, of course,” Regulus remembered. 

“Yes.  It would have been confusing.  At least it was a very pureblood name.”

“That’s what happens when wizards take you.  They give you a wizarding name.”  Regulus went back to his Transfiguration book.

Lily didn’t bother to correct him.  She always wondered why she had a flower name, especially one nicer than Petunia.  It didn’t really bother thinking about, did it?  Peverell knew, strangely.  He did not hold it against her.  Why, she could not say.  She was no better than a common Muggle-born with her history.  Then again, she was a Lady by birth.

The next letter from Peverell was peculiar.  He wanted to bring her to one of his meetings, her honored father or one of her uncles also invited.  She would be hooded in a green cloak he planned on buying her for the occasion with a black mask.  She supposed this was singular for Death Eaters.

She approached Nott and showed him the passage, looking up at him.  “What’s the normal dress code?”

“Black hoods with bone white masks.  Your uncle or father might be required to wear a variation although your letter does not specify.”  He looked at her with respect.  “The rumors are true.  We all believed them to be, but this is absolute confirmation, as I could not say what went on in that room over tea.”

“I’m trusting you, Theirn.—My hair is rather singular.  Heir Lucius will not be happy.”  She sighed.  “I’ll write to Father.”

“An invitation would have been sent.”

“Right.”  There was nothing else, really, to be said.

The days passed, Potter remained a nuisance, and Fabian came to see her as ‘Lord of her Mother’s House.’  She looked at Slughorn when he told her that Fabian was waiting in Dumbledore’s office.  This really could not be happening to her.

“Cousin Fabian,” she greeted when she came through the door.  “There was no reason to bother the Headmaster over a wedding invitation.”  She nodded to him in respect.  She hated the old man.  He was far too curious about her captors, especially after Severus’s accusations and subsequent death.

“Lady Lily, you really must come.  Molly will be so disappointed.”

“I find that hard to believe when she forgot to invite me and still hasn’t invited me independently.  I do apologize but I am already engaged on that particular day, as I said when I refused the invitation.”

She made to leave, but he came closer and said in a low tone, “There are rumors.”

Her eyes widened.  “They’ve left Hogwarts?  What are people saying about me now?”

“They say that you’re the Dark Lord’s lover.”

Lily looked at him in shock, turned to Dumbledore who was gazing at her quite seriously, and then she turned back to Fabian.  “I hope they mean ‘lover’ as in ‘romantic partner’ and not ‘physical lover’.”  She sat down.  “Dark Lord’s lover?  That’s worse than the original rumor.”

“You see why it’s paramount you come with me to the wedding.  We need to dispel these rumors, begin a courtship—“

“No,” she stated.  “Cousin Fabian, I respect you, but I want more than simple respect.”

Dumbledore finally spoke.  “Miss Black, I don’t think you realize the seriousness here.”

“I think I do,” she countered.  “It doesn’t matter anyway.  I’m in a courtship with a Monsieur Peverell.  I have my father’s approval; my family’s met him.  He’s been teaching me this very difficult form of Transfiguration.  It involves bubbles.”

“Bubbles,” Fabian stated.

“Yes.  Mine are currently pink.”  She looked between him and Dumbledore.  “Well, if that’s that.  Thanks for letting me know anyone who’s anyone thinks the Dark Lord and I are romantically linked.  Very—illuminating.”  Lily stood and flattened her tie.  “Headmaster.  Cousin.”

She didn’t bother to let them answer, and instead skipped down the stairs.  There was only one way this had gotten out.  Lucius Malfoy.

Immediately writing Peverell, she told him exactly what had happened in Dumbledore’s office and what she suspected. I know I’m with you, she wrote, but I can’t afford to be anathema to society at large.

When she saw her father on the platform, she hugged him dearly.  “I know, Stephanora,” he told her.  “I’m sorry this had to get out the way it did.”

“What’s done is done,” she supposed, drawing away.  “Do we know if it was Heir Lucius?”

“No one’s said anything to me.”  He stroked her cheek.  “Come.  Let’s get you home.”

Peverell was waiting for her at the apartment when she got back.  He was reading the first of her Monsieur Leander novels, which he must have gotten from her bookshelf, casually drinking what seemed to be Blood Brandy.  Her father didn’t keep it so he must have donated a bottle to their sidebar.

He looked up at her and smiled, nodding to her father before taking her hands, the jolt of magic between them visceral.  “My darling.  Welcome home.”

She gave him a weak smile.  “Cousin Fabian knows.  Dumbledore knows.  Fabian even demanded that I go to Molly’s wedding as his courted to dispel the supposed general knowledge.”  She looked at her father.  “Have you been invited independently?  I thought I could take Apricot’s brother for the dancing.  He wants to be Minister one day.  I could be a byline in his official biography,” she stated wryly, looking up at Peverell with light in her eyes.  “Is it even safe for you here?”

“Your concern warms me,” he answered, leading her to a seat.  “I have an emergency portkey and I am prepared to take you with me if it proves unsafe.  Your father knows this.”

Lily’s eyebrows shot up as she looked at Alphard.  “I’m not ready.”

“Of course not,” Peverell told her.  “I am speaking of a raid.—I come to speak of repercussions to Lucius Malfoy.”

This certainly got her attention.

“It has been decided that I will bring you to a meeting in a fortnight with your Uncle Orion as he is an avid supporter and I do not wish to overly involve your father, if necessary.”

When Lily looked at her father, he smiled.  “This is not a situation I would have wished, but I have been shown the virtues of it.  Orion knows the intimacies of the Dark Lord’s plans and associates, and I have only ever been a gray wizard, unlike yourself, my darling.”  He’d been strong armed.  Lily could plainly see it but could do nothing about it.  However, she did not want to.  She wanted to be on Peverell’s arm.

“Who showed you?” she demanded.  “I may want this, but you’re my father.  Who?”  Lily looked at the Dark Lord accusingly.

His slitted blue eyes looked at her.  “I did nothing.  I obeyed your family’s rules.”

“Uncle Orion, then.  No—it was my aunt,” she realized.  “She’s always been mad for truly dark magic.  She delighted in that transfiguration that is past NEWT level I’ve been practicing.”  She sighed, lowering her head, and counted to ten before looking at the two most important men in her life.  “No, they would never tell.  Lucius Malfoy.”

“He will be questioned in depth.  He was the only one with the information.  Before that, he will be humiliated at his own family home.  There will be a small group of like minded individuals when I will request his gardens—“

“Which are visible.”  She nodded her head.  “Will we be using the maze?”

“I thought you could try to impale me with glass.”  Peverell said it with such a straight face that Lily had to desperately try not to laugh, and she just barely succeeded.

Lily was surprised Alphard let her wear what the Dark Lord procured for her for their maze excursion.  She would be wearing long dragonhide leggings that went into boots, a black tunic, with a leather holster on her wand arm for her wand.  Her hair was braided into three braids and then twisted down to her shoulders and back up to the base of her head in a Medieval style that looked sophisticated but would keep her hair out of her face. 

She remembered the marble receiving room and saw Lord Malfoy bowing when she arrived beside the Dark Lord, her bare hand held carefully in his.  “We require your maze,” was all was said.  “You have a little gathering?”

“Heir Lucius and some of his class from Hogwarts,” Lord Malfoy assured quickly, trying clearly not to look at Lily too closely.  He had never gotten quite a good look at her at either of the two gatherings they had both attended.

“Supporters?” the Dark Lord asked.

The wizard nodded.

“All is well then.”  He turned to Lily.  “Lady Stephanora.”

Lord Malfoy’s breath caught as Lily preceded Peverell through the Manor, following his hand and his subtle directional hints with his body, and they exited through the back of the House.  They went to the mouth of the maze and Lily waited.

“Lady Stephanora?” she asked, trying not to laugh.

“It sounded more formal.  Now—your bubbles.”

She blew at the end of her wand and three dozen blue and purple bubbles erupted from her wand and floated upward toward the windows where she knew Lucius and his friends were congregating.

“Force field,” he commanded when they were at exactly the right height.

Without a word, Lily jerked her wand slightly to the right at an angle and then up, and the bubbles held and then, without being asked, she transfigured them all to shards of glasses.

“And just for Heir Lucius,” she murmured.

She held her wand between her thumb an third finger, letting it swing as if she were trying to hypnotize a Muggle, and with a great clash of sound the glass erupted into thousands of tiny pieces.

“I believe they are definitely looking,” the Dark Lord said with a smirk.

“Isn’t that what you wanted?”

“There is an argument for that,” he stated, taking her hand and lifting it to just below his lips before darting into the maze.

“Peverell!” she shouted, darting in afterward.  What resulted was two hours of running back and forth, getting lost, trying to cut through a magical hedge no less than seven times, and her clothes having more cuts from the Dark Lord’s own shards of glass than she cared to count.  They came out of the maze laughing, Lily blowing bubbles in his face on purpose.

Lord Malfoy was waiting for them with Licorne Lemonade.  They each took a glass, toasting each other, and Lily drank heavily. 

“Thank you for your hospitality,” Lily stated.  “Do the revels continue upstairs?  Did we provide entertainment?”

“I cannot speak for the young men, Lady Lily, but you may of course inquire if you are thus inclined.  Dark Lord?”

“Lady Stephanora would perhaps care to sit for a moment before I return her to her father where I will have to explain how I damaged Dragonhide.”

“Magic?” she suggested, as they were led through several rooms until they reached a back staircase, that Lily had divined nearly a year before.  “Dark Magic?”

“Dark Magic,” he agreed.  “Monsieur Alphard can hardly disagree with that.”

The door was opened and, as if with one mind, about eight young men kneeled and bowed their heads.  Lily looked at them in surprise, but let the Dark Lord gaze over them before he signaled for them to rise.  She was introduced to every one of them, pausing only at Theodred Nott to learn if he was related to Theirn (an older half brother), before coming to Lucius.

“Heir Lucius,” she greeted without introduction.  “How is Lady Lux?  I heard she hopes to be Head Girl this year?”

“She does, my lady.”  He bowed his head.  “I understand you share her ambition for your Seventh Year.”

“I do.  It’s hardly a secret.  I’m wondering if it’s likely since someone let slip I was close friends with the Dark Lord.”  She raised an eyebrow at him.  “How’s Narcissa?”

He stared at her.

She turned from him and accepted a new glass of Licorne Lemonade and took a seat that a Monsieur Randall offered to her.  Glancing at the Dark Lord who was clearly enjoying every moment, she continued.  “I was hoping to dance at my distant cousin Molly Prewett’s wedding, but unfortunately that would involve Lord Prewett as they’ve failed to invite me independently.  I’ve been looking for another event to dance at.”

“The Dark Revel perhaps, Lady Lily,” Monsieur Randall suggested.  “I do not mean to overstep, but it is not formal dancing, but perhaps if your father allows, you may enjoy it.”

She looked at him.  “Dark Revel?”

“She’s sixteen,” Lucius hissed.  “She’s too young.”

“That is a subject for another time, which I’m sure the Lady Lily Stephanora can understand as the topic has been yet to be raised with her father and uncle.  However, her father prefers she remains unmarried until she is thirty-five, so I doubt he would allow her to be in so informal an environment.”  That was the Dark Lord.

“Well,” she stated into the silence.  “It sounds like something wonderfully illicit that is bound to terrify my sensibilities.  The most excitement I’ve had in my life was when my cousin came after my hair with scissors.  I believe you’ve all met Bellatrix.  She’s my least favorite relation.”

It was almost as if a decree had gone out.  It seemed to hit the wizards in the room, sink into their minds, and a decision had been made.  The Dark Lord valued Lady Lily Black.  Lady Lily Black disliked her cousin, Mademoiselle Bellatrix.  The Death Eater was lowered heavily in their estimation, a stigma on her reputation.

“Your hair,” one of the young wizards said, “must come from the Prewetts.  I’ve never seen the Blacks with such hair.  Blond, yes, but not auburn.”

“Yes, I have mother’s hair and her mother’s eyes.  The rest, I am told, is pure Black.  I look a great deal like Lord Regulus, I believe.  We have the same curls.”

“Lucius,” one of his friends said.  “Weren’t you supposed to marry a Black?  Lady Lily said her name.  Was it—“  He looked at Lily for help.

“Mademoiselle Narcissa.”

“Yes, but then you went on another turn, and then you told everyone about—“ He stopped.

“Yesss,” the Dark Lord hissed, speaking for the first time.  “And why is that, Heir Lucius?”  When Lucius looked away, he simply continued.  “You saw a fifteen year old girl and you decided to try and take her when you were meant to announce your betrothal to her cousin instead.  And when she decided to have none of you, you lashed back at her when you learned she was a free thinking, spirited girl who preferred your Lord to your insipid, insignificant self.”

Lucius had gone pale.

This only brought a smile to the Dark Lord’s eerie face.  “Do you want to know my trick, young one?  I killed Severus Snape.”

“Peverell,” she chided.  “You know I thought that was a bit like an enraged hippogriff.”

“Perhaps, my dear.  But you appreciated the sentiment.”

“I did,” she agreed.

“When you decide to steal a lady’s heart, be sure you have something to steal it with, not just a title or her sense of dislike against of a relative.”  He stood and offered her his hand.  “Stephanora.”  He had dropped the title completely.

She looked into his unapologetic eyes.  “Peverell,” she answered as she took his hand, the same magic lighting between them—and they left the room together.  “My name is ‘Lily’,” she reminded him.

“Not formally,” he murmured as he handed her into the floo.

Somehow she was in his arms and they were waltzing across the small area in front of the fireplace before the kitchen.  He caught her face between his hands and he gently kissed her and she grabbed his shoulders.

“I’m here.”  Alphard’s voice was cold.

Pulling away, Lily looked at him fondly.  “Father.  Peverell put Lucius in his place.  It was quite wonderful.”

“That does not mean you can kiss him goodbye without a chaperone as if you were on the eve of your wedding,” he told her sternly.  “Don’t make me regret this anymore than I already do.”

Looking at the Dark Lord, Lily pulled full away and walked to her father who was looking at her apparel.  “We were battling in a maze.  Dark magic, Father.  It could not be avoided.”  He kissed her cheek.

The Dark Lord watched her possessively, their eyes meeting once more before she disappeared to change.

When she emerged, he was gone. 

“Stephanora,” her father implored her.  “A little decorum.”

“I know,” she apologized.  “I just—can I be in love?”  Lily sighed and leaned back on a divan.  “He respects me and gives me magic.  It’s the only gift a girl could ever truly desire.  I don’t need teas or diamond vined rings.  I just need his magic.”

“He’s a dangerous man and he is on the run from the Ministry, Lily Stephanora.  You must be careful.  I want you to go to that wedding.”

“I will not go with Fabian.”

“Then go with a Gryffindor,” he demanded.  “They’re horrible and vain, but there it is.  Sirius doesn’t count.”

“I haven’t been invited,” Lily stated sullenly

“I’ve seen to it.  You’re going.  It’s in three weeks.  Find someone.”

Well, the only someone was James Potter.  She wrote a long apology letter to the Dark Lord and then had Sirius set it up.  It was so odd, looking out over the garden where the Dark Lord had begun to teach her the transfiguration she had played out only a few days before.

“Right,” she stated.  “Father said I must go and he wants me to dispel these rumors.  I know you’ve been my champion and I was wondering if you would do Sirius the favor by helping me—I just want to wear a nice set of robes and dance with someone other than Cousin Fabian.  No romantic attachments, Potter.”

She passed the card.

“Sorry for the late notice.”

Potter’s big hazel eyes looked at her.  “No, no problem at all.  I’ll of course escort you.  Let me just write this all down.”

Good.  It was done, then.

It was in her cloak of green, a mask of black, her hair in braids across her scalp, that she was presented to the Death Eaters.  Uncle Orion hung back, in a black cloak and a similar black mask.  “My Dark Lady,” the Dark Lord introduced.  “You all know her identity because of one of us here—Lucius Malfoy, step forward.”

There was rustling and then, carefully, Lucius stepped forward.  “You bear the lady no ill will, I hope, as you meant to make her your bride.”

He did not answer.

“Or did you?  You would not betray your lord?  You seek then to damage the reputation of a beautiful young woman.  Well, darling.”  He reached out to Lily.  “Let me teach you a spell your family won’t teach you for another year.”

Her breath caught and she looked to her uncle who nodded.

She stepped forward and took out her wand.  The Dark Lord wrapped a hand around her waist.  “I want you to feel your hate toward him.  Everything that made you leave him.  Everything that he has done since.  All the whispers at Hogwarts.  Your cousin insinuating that the world knows.  Dumbledore.  Make him scream.”

Holding her wand out, she whispered, “Crucio.”  It was only a whisper but he screamed and screamed and screamed until she couldn’t stand the sound of it anymore and she stopped.

Uncle Orion didn’t seem to mind when—later—the Dark Lord carried her into a plush room with white and golden sofas and held her on his lap, his hand running into her hood like the first time they had met, and he kissed her long and slow.  Their kisses drugging, she reached her hand behind his neck, her fingers splayed against his pale skin.  The touch clearly excited him as he pulled her closer, only green eyes looking out of her black mask.

He hissed something to her she couldn’t understand, but it was so desperate, like a man searching for water in a desert.  It was as if he had given up hope, only to have found her just when he was trembling on the edge of death.  All this she could hear in his tone, read in his eyes.

“I’m here,” she promised, hoping it was the reassurance he needed.  “No one can truly keep us apart.”

“No one,” he swore.  “I will come and find you if I have to rip England apart.”

“Then come and find me,” she begged.  “I can feel something—“  She couldn’t express it, and he didn’t need her to.

Summer days were spent in various gardens, once Lily insisting that she and the Dark Lord read Romeo & Juliet to each other, although he claimed it was “terribly Muggle.”

“My—the woman who called me her mother started reading this to me before I got my letter,” she told him quite succinctly.  “I don’t know how it ends and you’re going to help me find out.”

Well, it ended quite badly.  The Dark Lord claimed it was Muggles.  Lily stated that it was human emotion getting the better of thirteen-year-olds.

“And you’re much more sophisticated,” the Dark Lord checked.  They were at the Lestrange Stronghold with Bellatrix of all people.

“I have three years on these idiots,” she told him lightly.  “I’m also not sneaking around with the enemy.  My family is dark, if you recall.  We’re the blackest of them all.—What do you think of this Lestrange character?  Bella’s remained unmarried for all these years.”

“He wants the name.  She’ll have pride of place at his table.  They’re both Death Eaters,” he flung out casually.  “I don’t really care about who my Death Eaters mate with in their free time unless it affects the cause.”

“I care if it affects the family,” she replied, no bite to her words.  “Anything to get Bellatrix away is a good thing.”

“Your other cousin is running away with a Muggle-born,” he told her.

“Sirius is too young,” she commented without even looking up.  “Then there’s Lady Lux.”

“Not him.  The other one.”

Lily looked at him.  “Andromeda?”  She sat up on her elbow from her reclining position.  “How can you possibly know that?”

“Bellatrix told me when I ordered her to serve as chaperone.  She thought it would gain my favor to have foreknowledge.  I think she will be gone by the time we return.  It seems your cousin’s love of her family is not great enough to save her sister’s reputation.”

Lily couldn’t help but stare at him.

Jolting to her feet, she ran toward the house.  “Bella!” she cried, knowing the Dark Lord was behind her.  She found her, sitting down with two young men, the younger definitely handsomer.  She slapped her cousin hard across the face.  “The weather is fine is it not?  How could you let your own sister throw herself away?”

Bellatrix’s face turned red, but she smiled.  “Anything to make the black days brighter, Cousin.  What a shame.”  Lucius ruined her reputation by insinuating she was the Dark Lord’s mistress.  Now Bellatrix was trying to ruin her reputation with the Dark Lord by allowing the Blacks to run haywire.

“The blackest nights will run blacker still.”  Lily’s voice edged darker.  “I do not require a chaperone.”

She ran to the floo and was lost in green flames, the Dark Lord jumping in just in time.  They arrived at an empty Black Heath, or what seemed to be empty.  Lily moved smoothly through the small house that could barely contain three daughters until she heard voices speaking rapidly.

“No, just the pureblood black,” Andromeda was saying.  “I don’t have anything apart from the robes and I can do without them.”

“Andy,” a male voice said, “where we’re going, pureblood black will seem odd—“

“No,” Lily retorted, coming into the conversation, “it will be absolutely perfect, if perhaps a bit underdressed, but I’m sure the proprietors of The Wicked Stepmother will understand.  Andromeda, you promised me tea.  You remember the Dark Lord?”

He emerged out of the shaded hallway into the room, and both Andromeda and this nameless Muggle-born gasped.

“We were with Bella,” Lily explained, “but talking about the weather when we’re trying to speak of other things can be so exhausting.—Andy?  Who is this?”  She looked the Muggle-born over.  He was handsome, she supposed, if you liked that sort of thing, but he was dressed abominably.

Andromeda didn’t seem to want to answer.

“Ted Tonks,” the man said, holding out his hand.  “And the rumors are true then?  Lady Lily Black is mistress to the Dark Lord?”

“She is the future Dark Lady, if that is what you are insinuating,” the Dark Lord stated.  “I don’t much care for your presence in a House of Black.”  He raised his wand and murmured a word.  The man started, blinked, looked at them all oddly, and walked past them all and out the door.

“What have you done to him?” Andromeda asked shakily.

“He’s forgotten about his afternoon engagement and what happened here,” the Dark Lord merely explained.  “Now, your cousin wishes to go to tea.  I’ll write you a letter as you’re both in pureblood black.  Your desk, if you please, Mademoiselle Andromeda.”  He didn’t wait for a reply.  Instead, he majestically walked over and wrote a short note, folded it, and handed it to Lily, kissing the side of her head.  “Go have tea, Ladies.  I shall see you soon, Stephanora.”

He left the way he had come, a wisp of black robes, Andromeda staring after him.

“Tea,” Lily reminded her.  “I think I may be the only Black who will listen to you about all of this.  Get your card.”

Hurrying to do what she said, the two witches flooed to their destination, handed over their letter of entrance, and were admitted.  Andromeda’s card was a strange golden gray that Lily had never seen before.  The two caused quite a stir when they were seated as they were so casually dressed and Lily was so recognizable, but they were served promptly.

“Do you love him?” Lily asked after several minutes of silence.

After a long pause, Andromeda shook her head.

“Then why do something so stupid?”  It really was the only question Lily could ask.  A Muggle-born was stupid.  Incredibly so.  She didn’t care how wealthy or titled he was in the Muggle world.  Andromeda would be anathema to them.

“He loves me.”

“Andy,” Lily said, taking her hand.  “That doesn’t mean a pureblood wouldn’t love you.  Doesn’t already love you.  I know from Apricot her cousin, Lord Pomonus, thinks very highly of you—and they’re not dark, so don’t even use that as an argument.”

“Lord Pomonus is.  I believe your friends Apricot and Manuel are the exception.”

“Well,” she stated.  “It wouldn’t hurt to take tea with him.  I could suggest it to Apricot.  The three of us could come along?  Really, Andy,” she said, taking her cousin’s hand, “best to put your best foot forward.  Prove Bella wrong.  You are better than this.  You could be Lady Pomonus, the cousin to Lord Prince.  He likes you.  You might like him.  Wasn’t he in Ravenclaw or something?”

“A few years ahead.”

“And unmarried.  I wonder if he’s waiting for someone,” she joked, which made Andy smile despite herself.

Andromeda, however, would not be put off.  “I hate purebloods.  It’s all the same.  Robes, teas, incessant nattering on about blood.”

Lily paused for a moment.  “I think you listen to Cissy too much,” she put in.  “If you listened to Bellatrix it would be robes, dark magic, the Dark Lord, how to kill people, and (if I’m around) the weather.”

This at least caused Andromeda to laugh.

“But really,” Lily said, “what did this Ted person have to talk about?”

“The people on the Night Bus.”

Staring at her, Lily took a sip of her tea.  “Please tell me he doesn’t work on it.  Your uncle is Lord Black.  You may not hold a title, but three of your cousins do.  I bet you don’t even have a conversation about these people.  He’s a Muggleborn—they just talk about things.  He tells you, lectures you a little about how silly the old pureblood witch is who’s getting a bit too old and lost her wand again or can’t manage a simple Apparition, right?  Tell me I’m right.  Andromeda!”  Her voice never was raised, but it was passionate.  The only eyes that were drawn to them were from curiosity concerning their Pureblood Black or Lily’s status as the Dark Lord’s lover or of possessing a Black Card.

Andromeda, though, did not answer. 

“I’ll make you a wager,” Lily tried.  “One tea with Lord Pomonus and see if he has something to say, some conversation that’s a bit stimulating.  Don’t shut it down before the pleasantries are finished along with any awkwardness.  If I’m right, I won’t tell them about today, if not I’ll say that you served as chaperone with an unknown wizard at Black’s Heath for me an the Dark Lord.”

“You’re blackmailing me.”

“I’m giving you incentive.  I can’t control Bellatrix, but this is what I am going to do, Andromeda Nannadora Black.”

“I hate my name.”

“I’m Stephanora.  We all must get used to it.”  Lily’s eyes sparkled.  “Now, Andy.  Let’s enjoy ourselves.  Our beaux have both abandoned us and we’re here, breaking custom the way you always do.  You know you want to put these ladies in their places.”

Her cousin’s eyes flashed.  Clearly Lily had said the right thing.  Also, at least she’d gotten her cousin thinking about someone other than a Muggle-born.

Strangely, it was at Lord Numitor Prince’s residence that Lily and the Dark Lord next met.  Lord Pomonus was there, of course, with Andromeda serving as chaperone.  “They seem to be talking,” Lily observed as they moved toward another sitting room where tea was waiting for them.  “That is well.  I made sure Uncle Orion knew what was happening.  I placed the blame on Bella, saying that she knew of Andy’s vulnerabilities and tried to stop this from happening.  Andy only came out the other side because I mentioned that I put this in order.”

“I don’t like this wedding,” he stated, changing the subject.

“Father insists.  It’s only James Potter.”

“The boy wants you.”

“He’s better than Fabian.”  She shrugged.  “Think of me,” she whispered as she came over to him, sitting far to close, “thinking of you as I dance with him.”

“The boy looks nothing like me,” he stated petulantly.

“Very well,” she said, pouring herself a cup of tea.  “The boy looks nothing like you.  That does not mean I do not have a good imagination.—Doesn’t mean I don’t want to dance.  I spend all my time hiding because the Ministry is apparently thinking about questioning me.”

“I modified Lucius Malfoy’s memories and threw him to the dogs,” the Dark Lord stated.  “You should be receiving a full apology soon.”

“A full apology,” she stated in shock.

“Isn’t that what I said?”  He grinned at her and though it was a little menacing, Lily smiled back. 

The Dark Lord quickly took a pillow and placed it on his lap and Lily obligingly laid her head upon it, feeling the Dark Lord’s hands feather over her French twist.  She was surprised when she felt combs being placed in her hair and she got up, looked into his eyes, and waited for him to conjure her a mirror.  They were black and bejeweled with sapphires and she laughed with delight.

“Peverell, they are wonderful.”

“They were my father’s mother’s,” he told her.  “She was a horrible, small minded woman, but I wanted you to have them.”

She leaned forward and kissed him softly, only to lay her head back in his lap, his hands tracing up and down her arms.  Lily didn’t realize it, but she fell into a light doze in her contentment.

Lily wore them to the wedding.  She was wearing the robes she was wearing the day she had met Lucius, not wanting to buy new robes for either Molly or James, although she knew that she was getting a little old for them.  The morning of the wedding, a dark sapphire necklace arrived with a dark green card.  She smiled and was glad that her tights matched sapphires.

Potter was gentlemanly and in robes of blue and purple.  Smiling at him, she apologized for all of her cousins in advance.  “If Fabian speaks to me, save me,” she begged.  “Take me dancing, let us get cake.  I don’t care.  Make up an excuse.”

The wedding was colorful and bright.  Molly was there, plump but pretty in her robes, Arthur a bit shabby but wearing a rose in his buttonhole.

“A garland and a veil,” Lily murmured, looking at the bride.  “Interesting choice.  They usually don’t go together.”

Potter looked at her strangely.

Unfortunately, after half an hour she had to give Fabian a dance.

“Your calendar cleared up?”

“Father cleared it.  I was so looking forward to spending time with Bellatrix.”

“Gideon said you didn’t like her.”

“He is my favorite Prewett.”  She smiled sweetly at him. 

He was clearly trying not to glare back.  “My twin doesn’t have a title.”

“Neither does Potter and yet I’m here with him.  He is best friends with Heir Sirius, another of my cousins.  Father thinks he will dispel the rumors, but then again I have it on good authority that my reputation will soon be restored.”

The song ended and Potter thankfully tapped Cousin Fabian on the shoulder.  “Cake,” he offered, stealing her away.

“You know you’re eating it.  I have a figure to keep up,” she murmured.

He looked at her.  “You’re such a girl.”

“Guilty as charged, as Sirius might say.”

“Well, you need to eat it.  Your cousin is watching us and you need your alibi to actually hold up in court.”

In court, she remembered that phrase, not from Sirius, but from the man who had been her father.  He had been a small town lawyer, but all of that was gone now.  It had been gone for a very long time.  It was strange coming from a pureblood’s mouth, especially considering the fact that his mother was titled and a Black.

“Can you be any more Muggle?” she asked, a little disdainfully, feeling the old hurt.  “I must find Gideon for a dance.”  Lily left James there, clearly a little bewildered at her sudden change of mood, but she couldn’t care.

The announcement of Bellatrix’s marriage came soon after and there was a grand affair at Grimmauld Place.  Bellatrix was wearing torn black satin robes, her hair wild, her blushing groom—the unhandsome brother—on her arm.  The Black children milled about among various Death Eaters, including Lucius Malfoy.  The two hardly looked at each other, Lily glad as she was wearing pink robes that fell to the floor in Regency style, white lace covering her arms and the inner folds of her skirt.

“You look heavenly, Stephanora,” the Dark Lord complimented, touching his combs that were in her hair that was up in a complicated chignon.  “I daresay you are growing up.”

“Seventeen in January,” she reminded him.  “Then I get to learn two of those three curses.  I hear they take us to a Muggle town so we may use them.  Have you met my cousin, Lord Regulus?”  She indicated Reggie with her left hand who was standing close to her.  He was finally fourteen and turning into the handsome man she knew he would be, although perhaps never as handsome and surely never as roguishly charming as his brother Sirius.

“Lord Regulus,” the Dark Lord greeted, and Regulus bowed.  “I have heard a great deal about you.  I saw you watching as I was teaching Stephanora transfiguration.”

“Yes,” he answered cautiously.  “It was most informative.”

“He was riveted,” she told Peverell.  “Reggie’s been on me to teach him the theory.  I told him that it’s hard enough having not completed O.W.L.s let alone N.E.W.T.s.”

“Very wise,” the Dark Lord agreed, wrapping a hand around her waist possessively.  “Stephanora, I must simply dance with you.”

“There’s no one to play,” she told him back gleefully, a thrill running up her spine.

“Hardly matters,” he whispered, taking out his wand and casting a Sonorus on himself.  “Dance!” he cried.

Bellatrix looked in his general direction and Rodolphus led her to a make shift dance floor that was opening up for them in the middle of the room.  Someone had spelled music in the air and the two began to dance in a Renaissance dance where they danced around each other, and at the point when they were finally revolving around each other, hands touching hands, back against backs, faces facing away from each other, other couples joined them including Lily and the Dark Lord.

“Your hair is in braids,” he whispered into her ear as they turned around, palms touching palms, before changing partners in the dance before finding one another again.

“I thought you liked them,” she teased him, only to hear him growl, “I hate them, Stephanora.”

Her light laugh filled the air, causing both Bellatrix and Narcissa to look at her.

As the dance ended, she curtseyed to the Dark Lord and let him lead her off the floor as there was no formal dancing at the affair.  She noticed that Lucius was holding Narcissa’s hand.  Lily wasn’t sure if she should be glad that the affair was finally being set to rights, if the two dreadful people deserved each other, or if neither deserved any happiness.  Maybe they’d make each other miserable.  Happy thought indeed.

When Peverell went to fetch her some elven wine, Sirius found her.  “I see snake face is here, playing the lover,” he stated, looking over her shoulder.  “You’ve made James very unhappy.”

“I took him to a wedding, ate the cake when he told me to, posed for a photograph with him for The Prophet, and danced with him.  Why is he upset?”

“He claims you’re a moody girl,” Sirius told her honestly.  “I told him he shouldn’t be surprised as you are a girl and girls are moody—“

Lily sighed, accepting the wine from Peverell who was now joining them.  Sirius ignored him.

“Do I even want to know where this is going, Siri?”

“You broke my best friend.”

“For being a moody girl?  How do you expect me to fix him—become a hormonal boy?”  She looked at Peverell in shock.  “Was it this difficult when you were at Hogwarts?”

“I wouldn’t know.  I ignored your sex.  They tended to want to snag the newly found ‘Heir of Slytherin’ and I wasn’t ready to start a family.”  He drank what seemed to be his favorite, blood brandy.

Sirius looked at him in shock.

Drawing his attention away, Lily just said, “Maybe this is a good thing.  Maybe Potter won’t be in love with me anymore.  He can stop defending my honor and making my life worse.”

“You don’t understand,” Sirius told her, leaning in and glancing at the Dark Lord and then looking about, his eyes honing in on Lucius Malfoy.  “He was so absorbed with you he didn’t notice Lux.”

“Oh,” she said in confusion, before she realized it.  The two were closer than close because there was something going on.  “Oh.  Sirius.”  She put her hand on his wrist.  “Now’s not the time or the place.”

“You want to be controversial with your choice,” was all he said, indicating the Dark Lord.  “So do I, Steph.”

She swallowed and looked at Peverell.  “Well, I’m sure we can help, can’t we, Dark Lord?  I’ll think of something.  Malfoy owes us and Lady Lux Kingsley is his niece.”

The Dark Lord looked down at her indulgently.  “I cannot be seen to be unduly influenced.  You must find a way to make this marriage desirable.”

“You’re keeping him in line,” Sirius suggested.  “We all know what he did to Steph.  There must be reprisals.  I’m sure there have been some, but there must be more, surely.  Snape died for slurs against her name.  Malfoy should only be so lucky.”  He didn’t show any obeisance to the Dark Lord but held his blue slitted eyes with his own gray ones.

There was a pause.  “I like you, Heir Sirius,” the Dark Lord decided.  “I need a petition written in both of your hands separately.  It will make the magic undisputable.  Tell your lady-love.  You will have to wait for a formal betrothal until you are both seventeen.”

“She already is,” Sirius told him.  “I will be in November.”

“Only a few months then,” the Dark Lord said as he took a sip of his brandy, a thin layer of bloody liquid coating his lower lip before his snakelike tongue darted out to taste it and clear his lip.  “As I said, Heir Sirius.”  He flicked his hand to show that Sirius should leave. 

Sirius’s gray eyes met Lily’s green ones and then he left.

“Thank you,” Lily breathed.  “This whole unfortunate publicity has brought us closer.  There were rumors that he was going to run off and get himself disinherited, but he decided to stay and fight for me.”

“I commend him for his filial sensibilities,” the Dark Lord said, taking her hand and placing it just beneath his lips.  Her lace sleeves extended so that her thumb and third fingers were caught on rings that were attached to create a spider-like affect.  “Darling Stephanora.”

“Peverell.”

“I would lead you down one of these corridors and take down your infernal braids, but I fear what it would do for your reputation.”

She whispered so that he could barely hear her, “Come to Hogwarts.  We could do it again.”

His blue eyes flashed at her and a thrill ran up through her spine.  “We must marry,” he decreed.

Lily wanted to laugh.  “How unromantic of you.”

“I would see your hair down whenever I please,” he hissed almost in that strange language of his.  She reached up and with the back of her hand stroked the side of his cheek.

“Hush now, I know.”

He paused as if thinking.  “I saw your Muggle birth certificate.  Does it speak the truth?  Were you born the second of January?”

“Yes.—You want—before Hogwarts?”

The Dark Lord didn’t answer her.  Instead, she walked through the party as if through a zombie.  She did, however, have a guest the next day.  It was Lux Kingsley.

Lux sat down in the small living room, accepting a fairy soda.  “I understand I have you to thank for my impending marriage, Lady Lily, but that is not why I am here.”  She took out her small bag and there was a smaller pouch of burnt orange in it.  Lily recognized that pouch.  It was the signature of the dark jewelers The Pumpkin Carriage.  Their eyes met, and Lily took it.

Opening it up, she found a platinum ring with a single pink diamond in it, pink like the dress she had been wearing the day before.

Lux leaned forward.  “He wanted me to tell you, ‘January’.”

Lily’s eyes flew up.  January.  That was only six months away.  They would not have even known each other for a year.  To think, this had all begun when Severus was killed—no, before that, when Lucius Malfoy had spoken to her and, after getting her Black Card, he had decided to choose her instead of Narcissa and then the Dark Lord, Peverell, decided to steal her away—and he had, although not in the way he had intended.

She held the diamond up to the light with a smile and then slid it onto her left ring finger.  Well, she thought, it seemed like she was engaged.

The End.

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