Written: July 2018
Warnings: prejudice, pureblood culture, abduction, torture, manipulation, self-loathing, dark arts
Lily had just blown out the seven birthday candles on her birthday cake by squinting her eyes, Petunia calling her a “freak” and then being sent up to her bedroom, when the wizards had stormed into the Evans home.
Not knowing who they were, what their wands were, Lily pushed her magic out toward them and two of them fell a few steps backward.
“It’s the little ginger top,” one shouted, motioning the others to move forward.
Before she knew what was happening, she was being grabbed and forced down with a bag on top of her head. She screamed and screamed and tried to bite, but she could not get away. Lily felt herself being lifted and the shouts of strange words—Abra Cadabra, or something similar—and soon the screams were only her own. Her parents had gone silent.
Then the strange happened. Suddenly she couldn’t scream. She would have brought her hands to her throat as she opened her mouth, no sound coming out, but they had been bound behind her.
“Strange that we come to a Muggle House,” one wizard commented to another. “What do you suppose Lord Black wants with her?”
“No idea,” the second answered. “Could be anything.”
Lily could hear the door open and she was pushed through a strange tube, only to be dumped unceremoniously on the ground. She felt ill, confused. She had stopped screaming, but tears were now running down her face.
The bag was suddenly pulled off her head and she squinted at the bright light, finding herself in a room with a tapestry, candles floating in the air, and heavy curtains. A man stood in front of her, his eyes weary and tear stained, with black hair that fell to his shoulders. She noticed premature gray in his hair that matched his gray eyes, and wondered at it. “Stephilee,” he whispered, holding his hand out to her cheek. “You’re safe. You’re home.”
She watched as the stranger paid the men with gold coins, thanking them for bringing his daughter back, before he came up to her as if she were a wounded crup.
“If I take down the spell that keeps you silent, do you promise not to scream, Stephilee?” he asked quietly.
Thinking for a moment, she nodded her head, and he whispered, “Finite Incantem,” and she let out a deep breath.
“My name is ‘Lily’,” she told him, her voice a croak. “It was my birthday party.”
The wizard kneeled down before her. “It is not your birthday,” he told her simply. “Today was the day your mother took you from us.”
Looking at him cross-eyed, she wondered if he were mad.
“She hid you from my sight,” he apologized, unbinding her wrists and then holding her small hands, “but she could not hide your magic.”
“Magic,” she whispered. “Is that what I can do?”
He gave her a small smile. “Yes, Stephilee,” he promised her. “That’s what you can do.” He stroked her hair lovingly and then kissed her forehead. “You have two brothers,” he explained. “A twin, Sirius, and a younger brother, Regulus. They’re both excited to meet you. We just need to get rid of the enchantments your mother hid you under.”
“Enchantments?” she asked quietly. “What enchantments?” Lily was so confused. “Who are you?”
A hurt look came over him, but he rallied. “I’m your father, Stephilee. I’m Orion, Lord Black. We’re a pureblood wizarding family and your mother hid you with Muggles—non magical people—because we had an argument about how to bring you up.”
“Why—why would she do that? They’re my family!”
“They’re not your family,” he stated harshly. “They were never your family. The Blacks have always been your family.” His thumbs pressed into her palms, making her wince a little, and she nodded. He calmed down for a moment, and then whispered, “Your mother is quite mad, child. I know you’re confused. Let us take the enchantments off of you and then you can meet your brothers in a few days.” He gave her an encouraging smile.
A little afraid of him, she nodded when he took her hand and had her sit down on a chair.
“Now,” he explained, taking out a piece of intricately carved wood. “This is a wand. Your mother changed the color of your eyes and hair. We need to change them back, Stephilee.”
“My name is ‘Lily’,” she whispered, looking away.
“That is a Muggle name,” he told her firmly, grasping her chin. “We do not suffer Muggles here. They are filth.” There was a slight madness in his gray eyes. “Do you understand me, Stephilee?”
She nodded quickly and he let her chin go.
“Now,” he explained, taking out a large hour glass. “This will hurt.” He tipped back her head and opened her right eye using his fingers before touching her eyeball with his wand. A whispered spell later and Lily was screaming. She had never known such stinging pain. It was as if the green of her eye was being scraped off to reveal something below. Screaming and screaming until she was hoarse, the hour glass suddenly shivered next to her and she was released.
Conjuring a mirror for her after nodding his head in approval, Orion Black gave it to her.
She inspected herself and gasped. Her right eye was red from friction though the iris was gray, the same color as the wizard before her. It was absolutely unreal. “Not the other one,” she begged.
“Better to get it done with before bed,” he told her simply, and he pushed her head back forcefully and the process began again for the other eye. She wondered how he could do this if she was his daughter. How could he possibly love her and cause her to scream?
Lily had to be given Dreamless Sleep because her eyes were in so much pain that she couldn’t drift off. She had been given a beautiful room of dusty pink with constellations on the ceiling, and she wondered if torturers were usually so considerate to their victims, at least when it came to their gaol cells.
There was no one else in the house except for Lord Black.
“Don’t go up to the attics,” he told her plainly. “It’s not safe up there for little witches.”
“I don’t understand,” she responded plainly.
“Magic can be dark,” he explained, “very dark, and it can hurt you if you don’t know how to use it properly.”
Lily gulped at the thought and allowed herself to be led to the Tapestry room again, which was a mistake. He sat her down on a stool and then he shaved off all her hair. She wept as she saw the long auburn locks fall to the floor, but he didn’t heed her when she begged him to stop, that she’d be good. He just kept on shearing her hair.
When it was all over, she fell to her knees and just cried into her hands, but it wasn’t over. Orion Black took out a thick black paste and massaged it into her bald head. It burned so much, Lily thought she might scream. However, only tears fell from her eyes, until there were no more tears left to cry.
A strange cloth was wrapped around her head so it didn’t drip down her neck or into her eyes.
Lily breathed in deeply at the feeling. She went to bed after the hours of torture and even though it was only afternoon, she tried to pull off the cloth but it wouldn’t come off. Not even her magic could manage it. A magic stronger than hers was keeping it in place. When the next day she was sitting at her vanity and Orion unraveled it, the paste was gone. In its place was long black hair with a brown sheen and slight curls that fell two feet past her shoulder blades. He ran a brush through it and Lily could only stare at herself.
“There, Stephilee,” he murmured, “you are yourself again.”
She could not recognize herself as small braids were placed in her long hair and then it was crisscrossed into an elaborate hairstyle that fell down her back.
“Are you certain I am your daughter?” she asked hesitantly. “I am Stephilee Black?”
He leaned down so his face was right next to hers and she could look into his identical gray eyes in the mirror, hers still a bit red from the eye treatment and crying. “I am certain of it,” he promised. Squeezing her shoulders, he added, “I would never allow a filthy Mudblood in my house.”
She turned around in confusion. “Mudblood?”
“A wizard born of Muggle parents,” he explained patiently. “A halfblood is somewhere between a pureblood, a wizard who has blood that is completely pure like us, and a Mudblood.”
“Oh,” she whispered, her mind doing somersaults, trying to absorb the information. “My sister” (he pulled her hair) “Petunia—was a Muggle?”
“What was Severus?” she inquired. “We did magic together. He lived on Spinners End.”
“Severus,” he mused, continuing with her hair. “What was his surname?”
“Snape. Severus Snape.”
“Halfblood,” he sneered. “I will make inquiries nonetheless. It would be best to make a clean break, Stephilee. No one should associate the Mudblood Lily Evans with the Black Heiress Stephilee.”
A conundrum appeared in Stephilee’s life. She was terribly devoted to her twin Sirius, but she hated Muggleborns and Muggles. She remembered the happy years with the Evanses, but it was tinged with a disgust that they should take her away from her actual family. She tried to explain this to Sirius, quietly in dark corners even when they were in separate houses at Hogwarts, but he would just kiss her forehead, and pick her up and spin her around until she was laughing.
His annoying friend James Potter was absolutely devoted to her despite his dalliances with other witches. Whenever he had a chance, he tried to partner with her although he was in Gryffindor and she was in Slytherin.
With a sadness she watched Severus Snape in Slytherin House. He had grown into a gawky child and teenager with greasy hair and a hooked nose. He fell into a dark crowd and she feared for him. However, she never approached him. She remembered her father’s injunction. Lily Evans and Stephilee Black should never be confused. Also, Lady Stephilee Black never associated with half-bloods. It just wasn’t done.
At the end of her grueling OWLs, all anyone could talk about in Slytherin House was getting their membership card to The Wicked Stepmother. It was an exclusive club for purebloods which only accepted wizards who could prove their pureblood lineage six generations back and measured their dark magic potential.
The witches would flutter together because they were finally eligible to go on marriage dates, but Stephilee wasn’t thinking about that. She wasn’t ready to fall in love, to have someone fall in love with her. She wasn’t a simpleton, however. She knew it was about dynastic concerns, obviously.
When Lord Roman Malfoy first bowed to her in the Slytherin Common Room and asked her to The Wicked Stepmother having gained permission from her father, she had colored and asked if she could defer her decision until she and Sirius had received their membership cards.
Her cousin Narcissa had married his older brother Heir Lucius, whom Stephilee secretly fancied, but she would never even tell Sirius that. She knew he wouldn’t stop teasing her. The thought of replacing Lucius with his brother, a poor though handsome copy, was a bit peculiar to her.
The second day of Summer Break, Sirius and Stephilee dressed in summer robes and went to The Wicked Stepmother with a letter of introduction from their father, Lord Black. Like her cousin Bellatrix Lestrange, Stephilee favored dark colors and on that particular day she was wearing deep red and black, her hair in a chignon with braids.
Sirius went first. He put his wand in the cylindrical cone that was facing upward at an angle, and the cone began to turn counter-clockwise slowly. It was a slow drudgery and in the end, Sirius had a completely white card. He had white magic. He was a pureblood and allowed in the club, but only when he was accompanied by a wizard or witch of proper standing.
Stepping up next and smirking at her twin, Stephilee inserted her wand.
She didn’t notice the handsome wizard who entered as she looked expectantly at the cone. Nothing happened at first. And then, still, nothing happened for a full two minutes.
The maître d’ cleared his throat. “I’m afraid Madam does not meet our standards.”
Sirius’s face turned red. “I beg pardon? Are you disparaging Lady Stephilee of the House of Black?”
The little wizard looked nonplussed. “Perhaps Lady Black had an affair with a wizard of little repute,” he drawled. “So much can go wrong. We see it every few years or so.”
Lunging forward, Sirius brandished his wand, “She’s my twin, you blast-ended skrewt,” he spat, but Stephilee pulled him back.
“Come, Sirius,” she murmured. “There’s obviously been some mistake. Obviously. Perhaps my magic is too white to register, whiter than yours. Papa will know.”
The little wizard adjusted his robes although Sirius hadn’t even touched him. “I seriously doubt that, Madam. You are not welcome here, even as a guest.”
Stephilee paled and turned with the majesty of a pureblood heiress, not waiting for Sirius. She turned the corner outside the club, putting her hand up against the stone wall and took a deep breath. Never having been so humiliated in her life, her early childhood passed before her eyes. The birthday party, the abduction, the torture. Perhaps she had always been the Mudblood Lily Evans and Papa had gotten it wrong? Could such a thing have happened?
A soft hand rested on her shoulder, and she turned suddenly, thinking it was Sirius. However, she was mistaken.
Before her was a tall wizard and even she had to admit he was absolutely gorgeous. He had stunning blue eyes, mahogany hair clipped to his head, and a physique for a Muggle boxer, not that he would engage in anything so plebian. She took in his expensive robes that fit him perfectly, showing off his toned muscles, and realized he was far more desirable than Lucius could ever be.
“May I be of assistance?” she asked calmly, straightening.
“Lady Stephilee,” he greeted, taking her hand and placing it beneath his lips so it was hovering an inch or so beneath his mouth. “I believe I may be of help to you.”
“Oh?” she asked in confusion.
“Not to be indiscreet, but I am Sacred Twenty Eight and suffered the same problem you just did at The Wicked Stepmother. I was able to solve it with a potion. A very dark potion, I warn you. I wonder if you might be interested in my help.”
The idea certainly had merit. “You’re not from the Ministry?” she asked cautiously.
The wizard laughed charmingly. “I do work for the Ministry,” he admitted, “however, I would be aiding a beautiful witch of impeccable birth. My allegiance to your plight is greater than to any other organization.”
This caused her to tip her head toward him. “You intrigue me. Your price?”
His hand, which still held hers, flicked down to her third finger, which was empty. Traditionally, purebloods about her age would begin to wear a vined ring which would pledge their fidelity to their future spouse and magically punish them if they strayed. “That you lie with me, Madam, before you place a ring on your hand.”
She gasped. Her gaze flicked down to his hand. “You will be punished, I would imagine.”
“Let me worry about that. Think of your husband, Lady Stephilee. Your future children.”
Her stomach clenched and over the wizard’s shoulder she saw a ruffled Sirius walk out of The Wicked Stepmother. Leaning forward, she whispered, “You know how to find me,” before running after her twin.
She went up to Sirius and he looked at her angrily and ran a hand down her cheek. “I have half a mind to contact the Dark Lord and have him raise the place to the ground!” he spat angrily.
Stephilee laughed lightly. “He’s probably a member—or was before his rise to power. We’ll tell Papa I want to delay having tea with Lord Roman so I didn’t get a card. Then we’ll figure this out, Siri. It’s simply white magic. I’m certain of it.”
She took his arm and began walking back down the cobbled street. Looking back behind her, she saw the wizard leaning against the building, his eyes on her, the piercing blue cutting at her soul.
“Siri,” she said lightly as they passed The Pumpkin Carriage, “I think you’re right. I don’t want a vined ring.”
“Now you’re seeing sense. It’s slavery.”
“Quite,” she lied, looking at the display of beautiful vined rings longingly before moving on.
The first owl came two days later. It was the location of a pub off of Knockturn Alley and a time. Making her excuses to her father later that day, she dressed in pureblood black so as not to arouse suspicion, and made her way to the pub. Looking around, she didn’t see the wizard anywhere, so she took a seat and ordered a licorne lemonade.
Three minutes later a note arrived with a room number.
Taking a deep breath, she walked up the stairs and knocked, only to see the wizard, pristinely dressed though without his outer robe, standing before her. Breathing out, she took him in before entering.
“Is the potion ready?” she asked casually.
“Three more weeks,” he promised. “However,” he said, undoing his cufflinks of his billowing shirtsleeves, “I thought it wouldn’t be a bad thing if we knew each other better.”
Surprised, she looked up. “Better?”
He walked up to her and ran a hand down her face. “You really are exquisite, Lady Stephilee.” Then he leaned forward and gently kissed her.
Pureblood maidens were never kissed until they were engaged, so she was quite taken aback. Still, she leaned in toward him, pushing her hand into his hair. The gentle pressure was reapplied when he kissed her again and soon they were kissing each other gently, just two people who alone existed in the world.
Pulling away, she looked down at his vined ring. “Nothing happened,” she murmured. “Is it a fake?”
“It’s not a fake,” he promised, letting his hand run up her neck so as to pull her closer. Another snaked around her waist. “How haven’t you been snapped up?”
She looked up with vulnerability. “I’m trying not to be,” she admitted.
Then he was kissing her again, his head angled to the side, the gentle kisses just what she needed to lull her into a sense of safety. Something inside her told her she needed this, she just hadn’t realized it. Pulling him closer, she moved him forward until she had slammed him against the wall. The wizard laughed and dragged her closer, but she let him. Stephilee wasn’t certain who pulled away first, but his nose nuzzled hers and she rested her head on his broad chest. “I don’t even know your name.”
“No,” he agreed. “You don’t.”
“No hints?” she quietly asked. “I could go through all of the Sacred Twenty Eight.”
A laugh rumbled through his chest, causing her to smile. “I suppose you could.”
His hand ran along the side of her face and she breathed out happily. Finally, she untangled herself and looked at the clock and grimaced. “I’m going to be late for dinner. Papa so hates unpunctuality.”
“Yes,” he agreed. “Lord Black is fastidious.”
She looked up, shocked. “You know Papa?”
“I remember when your mother hid you, Lady Stephilee, and she was locked in the attic. It was a grim day.” He shook his head. “Lord Black didn’t dip you in a potion when you were recovered, did he?”
“Just the one for my hair,” she admitted quietly.
The wizard nodded solemnly. “What was your name?”
She looked at him with tears in her eyes.
“Let me guess,” he stated calmly. “He found a Muggleborn child who was the right age and showed great potential for magic and then turned you into what you are now. He stole you from your family, slaughtering them so they could never object—”
Stephilee slapped him hard. “They were my kidnappers.”
“That’s what he told you,” the wizard murmured, massaging his jaw. “You were too young to know the difference, I imagine.”
Slapping him again, she moved toward the door angrily.
“She murdered that child,” he called out behind her. “Drowned it in the tub. The first Lady Stephilee is buried in the back garden. You can find her body under the roses.”
Pausing, Stephilee looked over her shoulder before leaving.
That night she went out into the garden with Sirius. “What are we doing here?”
“Someone told me your twin Stephilee was drowned and wasn’t hidden,” she whispered desperately, “and buried under the roses. I might be—the girl I thought I was once, which was why I couldn’t get into The Wicked Stepmother. She might be who I actually am. I just wanted to check.”
Taking a shovel, she and Sirius dug up the rose bush and down farther, until they hit a wooden box. Bringing it up, they found the remains of a young child in a baby blanket. It was embroidered Stephilee.
Unable to stop crying, Sirius carried his twin into the house and put her to bed and didn’t leave her side until they woke the next morning. Looking at eachother, they made a silent accord never to speak of it again. Still, Stephilee knew she was Lily Evans and had been since the day she was born.
A note came a week later. The same pub was mentioned and a time. Uncertain what to do, she dithered all afternoon before going out again.
This time the note with the room number came immediately and she didn’t bother knocking before entering.
“You were right,” she stated angrily. “The child was buried under the rose bush. There’s no need to help me. I’m a filthy—”
But then he was on her, kissing her desperately, his hands around her waist, pulling up her black blouse so his hands could feel her skin.
Stephilee fell into him, breathing in his scent, her hands grabbing at his waistcoat and undoing the toggles and pushing it from his shoulders. He helped her shrug it off before one hand was pulling the pins out of her hair. They fell all over the floor, scattering to the point where she knew she wouldn’t be able to find them all again.
“Don’t call yourself that,” he breathed against her lips as he pulled away, his hand in her hair which was flowing down her back. “You’re an upstanding pureblood witch.”
“We both know that’s not true,” she retorted, nudging her nose with his. “Is that why you want me in your bed? Because I’m not a pureblood maiden?”
“Hardly,” he disagreed, as he angled her until he was sitting in an armchair and she was standing over him. “I want you because you’re my equal.”
She moved to sit on his lap, one leg on the side of each of his legs, and she leaned down and kissed him. “And how am I your equal?”
“We each need to cheat polite society—and we’re going to do it.” And then his hand was in her hair again and his other hand was palming her breast, making her squirm with delight. “Steph, darling,” he whispered against her ear, and she was utterly lost.
It became a game well before dinner. She sat at the little table and mirror and he would appear with a pin, handing it to her like an acolyte might to a priestess, causing her to laugh.
“You have such magnificent hair,” he murmured, letting his fingers skate over it, a dark brown sheen to it in the half-light. “May I ask—before—?”
“Auburn,” she acknowledged quietly. “Papa shaved it all off.” Not looking at him, she made to stand but he grasped her hand and raised it to beneath his lips.
“There, darling,” he breathed. “You need not worry. It is still beautiful.”
Still, when she looked at her reflection, she wondered what Lily Evans might have look liked staring back at her.
The kiss was sweet and slow when she said goodbye, and she looked up into his piecing blue eyes. “I know nothing more about you than when you approached me in front of The Wicked Stepmother. You know my entire history.”
“That’s not true,” he pressed, taking her hand and holding her heart. “You know the sound of my heart beating, the taste of my tongue, the feel of my lips. You know me perhaps better than anyone in wizerdom.”
“And still your vined ring does not hurt you,” she murmured in shock. “What potion is this?”
“No potion,” he promised. “No spell.” Kissing her on the tip of the nose, he opened the door for her. “I’ll see you soon, Stephilee.”
Roman sent her a beautiful comb, unadorned and simple. Black witches were courted with hair ornamentation. Although this wasn’t much of an ornament, the intention was clear: Lord Roman meant to make her his bride.
Sirius teased her about it for over a day. “He doesn’t have the funds,” he finally seemed to realize, “to get you anything finer.”
“You suppose he bought it out of his allowance?” she questioned. “I would have supposed that his family would have been more generous if they knew he was courting a Lord’s daughter.”
Her twin brother had a discretionary fund for gifts for witches he wished to court. It could be added to if Orion deemed that he was using it “wisely” and approved of the witch in question.
When she received an invitation to The Wicked Stepmother a day later, she had expected it to be from Roman. Instead, it was from his older brother, Heir Lucius.
Putting it aside, she didn’t even tell her father. There was no way she could go. Stephilee was banned from the club. Biting her lip at her writing desk an hour later, Sirius was leaning up against the piece of furniture. “All right,” he decided. “We need a plausible reason to change the location.”
“The Sleeping Dragon or The White Witch?” she asked. “The White Witch is more exclusive—”
“While The Sleeping Dragon is more private. Show you’ve got nothing to hide.”
The problem was Stephilee had a great deal to hide. It all surrounded The Wicked Stepmother and the wizard whose name she did not know. It was as if she made a deal with the Muggle devil—one as beautiful as an angel, but a devil nonetheless.
Sirius was standing there, pensive, when his gray eyes lit up. “You have a hankering for quail’s eggs. James Potter wrote that some witch he knew wrote to him about it. Apparently the idea that she’d care about such things put him right off her.”
“Well,” she stated prettily. “I would care about such—trivialities. We’ll just see why he wants to see me.”
As always when she knew she was going to see Heir Lucius, Stephilee dressed simply but to the height of style. She didn’t want to look like she was trying. Remembering the first days her father brought her, she put her hair in tiny braids before criss crossing it and leaving it down, an old pureblood style rarely employed but still considered acceptable. The comb from Roman she placed at the top of her head to show her appreciation to his brother.
He was waiting for her, all lean lines and male beauty, but he rather paled in comparison to the wizard who had taken up her days and haunted her dreams. Still, she smiled at him and offered her hand, and they were shown to an exclusive table where she ordered quail’s eggs, although she wanted nothing of the sort.
“How may I help you, Cousin? Is Narcissa well?” she asked over salad.
“Narcissa is indeed well,” he agreed. “It is not her I’ve come to speak about.” He looked over his glass of champagne at her. “There are rumors that you have been barred from The Wicked Stepmother. It’s only a matter of time before all of London hears, including Lord Black.”
She stilled and daintily took a bite of her salad. “It’s a misunderstanding. Sirius’s magic was so white—it seems mine was even whiter—” Her gray eyes fluttered and glanced down at her food, but she quickly looked up at him. “It’s being handled.”
“How can you possibly handle this?” he demanded. “Are you a changeling?”
That was the problem. She was a changeling.
“Hardly,” she disagreed with him with a slight laugh. “I’m as much a Black as Narcissa. More so. I am the daughter of the Lord Black.”
“It’s the reason,” he drawled, making her care for him less and less, strangely, “that Pater wouldn’t give Roman any money for a courting gift and he had to rely on the small amount of galleons he hadn’t spent in Hogsmeade this year for that paltry comb you’re wearing.” Sirius had been right, then. He always was.
“I suppose,” she stated airily, “that it’s the thought that counts, isn’t it, Cousin?”
“And not only this,” he continued casually, “you and Sirius refuse to buy vined rings, suggesting you mean to live the life of a harlot.”
She threw champagne in his face. He didn’t look surprised at all.
“Well, Cousin,” she stated, finding him to no longer be the gentleman she thought he was. “I think you’ve said quite enough, don’t you?”
A note came to the table and was offered to her. She recognized the handwriting. It was a room number.
Slipping it into her bag, she breathed out, “Give Narcissa my best, and enjoy the quail’s eggs.”
Unfortunately, her robes drew attention to herself but she slipped down Knockturn Alley and to the pub where she always met the wizard. She didn’t hesitate to go up to the room and found that it was empty when she arrived. Sitting down, she noticed a carafe of wine and poured herself a glass. She didn’t have long to wait.
There was a light knock and without using her wand, she waved her hand and the door opened.
The wizard stood dressed in a brown waistcoat that buttoned to the side and maroon robes.
“I suppose you were at The White Witch,” she murmured, taking another sip of her wine, “and saw the whole debacle with my cousin’s husband.”
He, however, changed the subject. “Where did you get that ugly comb?”
She grimaced. “His brother. I’m not acceptable to the family, so he wasn’t given any galleons, you see—” However, a package had been produced from the inside of his robes, and she nearly dropped the glass of wine. The orange ribbon showed that it had come from The Pumpkin Carriage and she wondered at it as she accepted the gift. “You didn’t need to—”
“I wanted to,” he responded instead. He took the box out of her hand, untied the ribbon with deliberate movements, and opened the lid to reveal a thick chain of burnished gold. Then, taking it out, it was revealed to be a circlet, which he then twined around the top of her head. “Glorious!—the spell, to attach it, is written on the inside of the box.”
Sighing, she reached up, and took off the gold chain. “I cannot accept this.”
“Why, Steph darling?”
“I am your mistress. You are not courting me.” It was simple enough.
He breathed out heavily and took her hands between his own. “Did it ever occur to you that my vined ring does not harm me because I am not being unfaithful to my future wife?”
She blinked at him. “How could you have possibly known? Why would you want—before?”
“Because I want to be in love with my wife before our wedding day,” he answered simply, “and I had to be sure.”
She rested a hand against his, moving her face closer to his in desperation. “I don’t even know your name. What shall I tell Papa?”
“That you’re wanted,” he responded, kissing her, “by a black card.”
An hour later, they lay, clothed, lying on the bed, side by side. He still had not taken his price, and for that she was grateful. Instead he would kiss her, stroke her hair, hold her to him. She felt loved and respected and utterly adored. His hand was playing with hers, and she let him, content to rest there as she did not need to be home for hours.
“How soon until the potion?” she inquired.
“Not long. A week or so,” he promised. “It won’t be pleasant.”
“I wouldn’t expect so,” she agreed. “Nothing worth having is ever easy or entirely pleasant.—Tell me about yourself, something small.”
“My mother was punished by her family for falling in love with my father. They ran away together—to London.”
She sighed in contentment. “How romantic! Do they still live here?”
“Mother died a long time ago,” he whispered with sadness in his voice. “Father deserved the death he got.”
Looking over at him, she saw the raw anger, but decided to let it go.
When it was time to leave, she took out the comb and let him sing on the circlet, which looked glorious on her. Smoothing out the wrinkles in her robes, she kissed him once more and let herself out, walking through the pub and out into Knockturn Alley. She was aware someone was following her and turned to see a photographer.
“Who are you?” she demanded.
The woman held out a card, and Stephilee immediately took it. It read Witch Weekly.
“I take photographs for the ‘Best Dressed’ column.”
Stephilee looked at the card again and slipped it into her purse. “By all means,” she agreed before walking away. With a smile on her face, she passed The Wicked Stepmother just as Lucius and Roman Malfoy were leaving. She knew they saw the circlet when Roman moved into his brother and started whispering, but she kept on walking, determined to get home and show off her new gift to her twin brother.
“It’s positively delightful!” Bellatrix told her over crumpets at her place. “I saw you in Witch Weekly, Narcissa sent over a copy, and I went over to The Pumpkin Carriage immediately to make inquiries. I was the fifth one that day! You’re positively trend setting, my dear!”
“Well, not to give away names as I do prefer discretion during a courtship,” Stephilee breathed, “but he is the handsomest wizard I’ve ever set eyes on.”
Bellatrix seemed surprised. “Handsomer than Lucius? He was considered England’s Most Eligible Bachelor before Narcissa snapped him up.”
“Much,” she disagreed. “I feel positively giddy sometimes.” She didn’t mention it was when he kissed her or held her down on the bed as he stroked her cheek.
“And still no word on who,” Bellatrix wondered. “This is delightful, as I said. I told Lucius he was being a stick in the mud about The Wicked Stepmother. All a misunderstanding. You are a Black.”
Stephilee didn’t hesitate to roll her eyes. “He’s just jealous that I prefer another to his younger brother.”
“That must be it,” Bellatrix agreed. “I didn’t know Roman was interested.”
“It’s one of the reasons I don’t feel like rectifying the situation with The Wicked Stepmother,” she admitted. “I promised to go to tea with him as soon as I had my card.”
Bellatrix put a hand on her arm. “You poor thing. To be pursued so.”
The two cousins looked at each other and openly laughed. Bellatrix called for more tea and they sat chatting about Dark Lords and Death Eaters.
When she got in that day, Stephilee went to see her Papa and found him in the Tapestry room—but he was not alone. He was with the wizard. “Forgive me,” she began, glad that she was wearing the circlet. “I did not mean to interrupt your cigars and firewhiskey.”
“Not at all, Stephilee,” her father denied, offering her a chair much to her surprise. She had assumed the wizard had come to offer suit. “We were speaking politics and as a young lady in Slytherin, you may perhaps be able to give us a pulse on the younger generation.”
Surprised, she looked between the two and then, carefully, she asked, “How candidly may I speak?”
The wizard looked at her with his stunning blue eyes. “As openly and candidly as you can. I wish to hear of the Dark Lord and potential Death Eater activity.”
“I will never inform—” she argued, surprised her father would want such a thing. “These are my classmates, my colleagues, dare I say it, friends.”
Handing her a glass of elven wine, Papa explained, “You misunderstand, my dear. Our friend shares our sympathies. He himself has the ear of the Dark Lord and comes seeking information.”
“The ear of the Dark Lord?” she mused, looking at him with a private smile. “I had no idea I was in such illustrious company! But you wish to hear of him. He’s a folk legend and very highly regarded in Slytherin House. I don’t know of a single person who would openly speak against him and I’ve heard no whispers of the kind either.”
He took a sip of his firewhiskey. “I’m pleased to hear it. Do you know of other Houses?” His gaze darted to her, a kiss, a dance, and she reveled in it.
“My brother is in Gryffindor. I doubt the Dark Lord finds much support there,” she apologized. “I know nothing of Hufflepuff or Ravenclaw.”
“Tis no matter. Our Lord was in Slytherin himself and approves of likeminded individuals. Are you likeminded, Lady Stephilee?” They had never talked politics before. They had only talked of their pasts, of their attraction, of their future.
Her eyes fluttered down a moment in thought, before they shot up again. “I’m afraid Muggles stole me from my family. I hate such filth that would make me a Mudblood.” Her voice was calm and reasoned. They both knew the lie behind it, but it was enough—enough for the Dark Lord.
“And you would love purebloods and blood purity that would raise you up again,” he laughed at her. “You live a charmed life.”
“So do you,” she countered. “You hold a place of high privilege that few could aspire to.”
The wizard smirked but did not answer. Instead, he asked, “The Death Eaters.”
“In clumps by age. Some are brutes, sheer force. Others are being recruited by talent regardless of blood purity. An example is Severus Snape. He’s a fine potioneer. His recruiters are willing to overlook the fact that he has a Muggle father because he hates all Muggles and is quite, shall we say, inventive.”
“But he’s not as talented as you, I hear,” the wizard shot back. “Ten OWLs—Nine O’s and one lone E.”
“You’re very well informed.”
“What would it take for the Dark Lord to gain your support?”
“My cousin Bellatrix Lestrange is a Death Eater,” she supplied. “Perhaps he should be content with that.”
“He is not content!” he demanded with a fiery passion. “He demands everything from his servants, even from the Lady Stephilee Black!”
The two stared at each other for a long moment, Papa strangely silent, before she murmured into the silence, “I fear my talents have better use elsewhere than the torturing of Muggles.” She curtseyed to her father and swept out of the room, pattering down to the kitchen, waiting for the wizard to come to her.
She had not long to wait.
Before long, she heard footsteps on the stairs and the familiar angular face and bright blue eyes showed themselves in the gloom. “Lady Stephilee,” he greeted stiffly, “I’m afraid you will have greatly offended the Dark Lord.”
“Why must I serve?” she asked. “When I can heal with potions and charms? Why must I see death unless a patient slips away from me? Why must I bring it about with my own hands when others surely can do it better?”
He stepped up to her and looked at her searchingly. “Why did you not say that in front of your father?”
“Because as a pureblood lady, I am to drink tea and host soirees,” she enumerated as if he should have guessed already. “Being a Death Eater is only acceptable because Bellatrix has done it before me and then only because her husband is also a Death Eater!—But perhaps I don’t quite have that problem, although you came for the Dark Lord and not for me.”
Gentle lips caressed her ear and she felt hot breath against her skin. “You think I would ask for you as if I were a dog begging its master for a bone? You know me not.”
“Why must you be so difficult?” she answered back. “First you want me as your whore, then you give me courting gifts, now this—bizarre command from the Dark Lord. If I did not love you so—”
Realizing what she had said, Stephilee quickly stepped away from him, but he pulled her back into a hot kiss that frightened her with its passion. Still, she clung to him, clung with her beating breast, and breathed in his scent although her nose was smashed against his. He pushed her up against the floo, which was difficult as it was a fireplace, but she pushed back against him so as to not fall into the grate.
Suddenly, she felt fire behind her, and she jumped back into the wizard, who pulled her away from the green flames, which only betrayed her twin Sirius.
“Wherever did you come from?” she cried, looking him over in his Muggle jeans and tshirt. “Papa doesn’t want you out late because of your OWL scores.”
Sirius rolled his eyes and seemed to take note of the fact that the wizard had his arm around her waist. “Courting gift,” he told her, throwing her a package, “from James obviously. Just so you know, he has a date with a Muggleborn tomorrow, which probably won’t change your mind as you dislike him so much.” He whistled and waltzed through the kitchen, leaving the couple alone. “Nice meeting you!”
Silence fell between them.
“I’m a little afraid to open it,” she admitted. “Anything Potter picked out has to be suspect. They’re all Muggle-loving, the four Marauders.”
He looked at her askance.
“My brother and his three friends. They like to play pranks.” She looked down at the box for some clue as to the jeweler but found none. Turning back to the wizard, she murmured, “You want to elope with a handfasting without me knowing your name, don’t you? Or you’ll bed me first and then use one of the other traditions that require that I shan’t know my own name until afterward.”
A smirk crossed his features. It was obviously what he had in mind.
After he left, she went back to her father. “Who was that?” she questioned, trying to kneazle out the answer.
“A great man,” was all he would say. “You greatly offended him.”
“I think I made amends when I caught him by the floo,” she admitted, putting down the courting gift for later. “It was fortuitous that I was here.”
“He asked for you by name.”
She looked up and caught her father’s gray gaze. “Did he really? I wonder how he knows me.”
“Obviously, your academic reputation precedes you, my dear.” He looked at her and then the box. “Aren’t you going to open it?”
“In a year,” she suggested. “It’s from James Potter.” Spitting out the name, she glared at the box contemptuously.
Her father sighed and took the box and opened it to reveal a necklace of faux pearls.
Stephilee scoffed at it. “I’m certainly not wearing that. Has the boy even read Spungen’s?” She picked up the necklace, fingering the faux pearls that could probably fool the undiscerning eye, and tossed them back in the box. “I’ll have Sirius berate him for it.”
The potion was ready before she next saw the wizard. An owl came late at night with an address in Cornwall with a date and time. She would have to take the floo there. Hoping that everyone would be out, she crept down to the kitchen on the appointed day and flooed to the given location.
He was waiting for her.
For once, the wizard wasn’t dressed in robes, but was in comfortable pureblood slacks and a turtleneck. He lifted her carefully from the green flames and kissed her gently, his hand running up into her hair and pulling the pins and combs from it.
“There’s a bed,” he whispered, “just hold onto me.”
A little afraid, she grasped to him, and let herself be Apparated to another room, where she was gently placed onto a bed. It was a small, cramped room. Nothing about it was romantic, except that once she was sitting down, he bent over and undid her boots himself, putting them to the side, his hands coming up over her feet.
As they climbed higher underneath her dress so that they were skating her inward thigh, she stopped him with the palm of her hand, and begged, “Is this really what you mean to do?”
He paused and looked up at her. “I must see you naked for the potion,” he apologized. “I would give you pleasure first.”
Taking a deep breath, Stephilee looked at him. “I know I gave my word,” she whispered, “but I gave it in desperation. I would rather be the Mudblood Lily Evans, whose parents loved her enough to fight for her to the end, than the whore Stephilee Black. If—if you do want to marry me,” her voice became hesitant but hopeful, “I will never ask your name until after we have joined in the marriage bed. Either way, I thank you for whatever time and effort you put into this potion for me, whether or not you give me the use of it.” She sucked in air through her nose and then peeked up at him through her lashes.
The wizard was looking directly at her. “This is truly what you want?”
“I apologize,” she whispered. “I find I am not so foolhardy as my brother.”
“You would give up The Wicked Stepmother, being a Black, being a pureblood of any sort, all for not lying with me, the Dark Lord’s favorite?” His voice was still calm and cool, but it rattled her the wrong way.
“I don’t care if you are the Dark Lord himself,” she replied as smoothly as her voice would allow. “I also don’t think he would exact such a price, even from my cousin Bellatrix who is one of his Death Eaters.”
“She would give it,” he smirked.
Stephilee blinked. “That’s why she paid over a thousand galleons to have her vined ring ‘replaced’ and then couldn’t decide on another one,” she murmured. “I did not know she was the Dark Lord’s mistress.”
“She isn’t,” the wizard explained. “She wishes to be. There is a difference.”
“Perhaps he favors more fair haired witches like Narcissa,” she snapped, uncertain why this was an argument.
“Perhaps,” he drawled, “he favors anyone who can cheat their way into polite society, those who were not born to it, who had to give something of themselves.”
She looked into his eyes. “You’re referring to the both of us,” she murmured. “You never told me why you had to do such a thing.”
“No,” he agreed, going for her dress again and pulling up at the hem so that her knickers were showing. “I need you naked for the potion, Stephilee. Do you want it or not? I will not touch you.”
Stephilee looked at him a long moment before she stood, her breasts against him, and removed the robes herself so that she was in nothing but her corset and underwear. He didn’t look down at her but instead gazed into her gray eyes before going to the bedside table and removing a piece of parchment, ink, and a quill.
“Six generations,” he murmured, unfurling the parchment. “Did I get this right?”
On it, she saw an elaborate Black Family Tree, which had her name labeled on it as “Stephilee Cassiopeia Black, self.” It did, indeed, go up six generations in a complicated family knot. Carefully, she took ten minutes to read it and then handed it back. He gave her what she remembered was a Muggle hair tie.
“You remember these. I need your hair completely off your shoulders, your corset off and you lying, still, on your stomach.”
She paused a moment and then nodded before putting her hair like he asked and undressing nearly completely. At one point, when he was near the bottom of her back, having been writing on it for a good hour, he swore. “I need you to take your underwear off. I need more room,” he apologized.
Lifting her hips, she felt him sensually remove the offending undergarment, and then breathed in as she felt him write on her skin.
When it was all over, she saw him bring out an hour glass and he turned it over, setting it up so that she should wait two hours.
“I sent a note to Lord Black,” he murmured, “saying you are aiding me with a small task for the Dark Lord and will be home tomorrow.”
“He would never permit—”
“He would never think to refuse,” the wizard argued back. “I also already have you in my possession. He cannot refuse.”
“What strange power you have over men,” she murmured, her arms crossed under her chin. “You never told me why you needed to cheat society.”
He paused and looked at her with his beautiful blue eyes. “I doubt you’ll believe me.”
“I was a Mudblood stolen during her birthday party and then tortured for days as her eye color was eroded and her hair was shorn off!” she demanded. “What won’t I believe?”
“There are two versions of the tale,” he admitted. “I suspect the sordid is the more truthful. If you had asked my mother, she was a pureblood witch who fell in love with the local squire’s son, a Muggle, and through her magical arts and allurements, ran away with him to London. When he discovered she was a witch, she left her to give birth to his son alone, on the streets of the city, where she died a few hours after her son’s birth.”
“Which would make you a half-blood,” she murmured, not daring to reach out to him for fear of disturbing the ink and for being rejected. “What’s the other story?”
“My family,” he sneered, “believed in blood purity to the last. They were so twisted, so beyond reason, that my grandfather took for a wife his own niece.”
Stephilee looked at him and swallowed. His own grandmother was his—she couldn’t quite figure it out. However, it was certainly convoluted.
“When my mother fell in love with the local squire’s son, he ordered her brother, my father and uncle both, to take her to his bed and get rid of the notion. I do not know whether they were married. The result was me. She was so distressed, she ran away to London and with her last bit of magic, cursed me to look like the Squire’s son and even named me for him. My father was unaware of me and so I was left in a Muggle orphanage with the face of a Muggle. The magic killed her, you see. It seems to have been this dark magic that confused the cone in The Wicked Stepmother. I had to have a very convoluted and incestuous family tree written out on my back for the potion all those years ago.”
“Your mother is dead,” she murmured. “What happened to the rest of them?”
He paused and looked down at her, stroking her hair back from her face before his fingers ran down her cheek and scooped into the curve of her neck. “That is a story, my darling, for another time.”
“I’ve never heard of such a thing, but these aren’t the Blacks, are they?” she questioned suddenly. “Father married his cousin Walburga—who went mad—”
“It’s not the Blacks,” he promised. “I would never think to marry into the family that gave birth to me.” His hand still traced the curve of her neck and she smiled.
“You do still mean to marry me, then?” she whispered into the half-light of the room. “I had thought you might have given up on the notion.”
Without directly answering the question, he instead told her, “I have a new comb for you, for when we go to The Wicked Stepmother together tomorrow. I want you to know how greatly you are valued and for others to see it as well.”
“I don’t have the robes—” she apologized. “Just these house ones which aren’t suitable.”
“Your father,” he stated, stepping away, “is sending them over tonight. You’ll be exhausted from the potion which must be done in moonlight and I daresay will sleep until teatime.”
She looked around a little. “Where are we?”
“The attic of my ancestral home,” he admitted. “The potion,” he pointed to a tapestry, “is through there. I had it brought up because the moonlight shines through and I thought you wouldn’t want to be caught out by accident in case anyone came up from the village, as they occasionally do. I’m known as a kind master and do not begrudge my people my outer gardens.—I’m afraid, my darling, you cannot dress until then.”
He leaned down and kissed her lips lingeringly.
It was oddly liberating to walk around the strange room with no clothes on. She had let down her hair and flushed it forward so that it covered her breasts, but other than that, she was as naked as Magic had made her.
When it came time for the potion, she put her hair back up again and was brought into a room with a man in death eater robes next to the largest cauldron she had ever seen.
“Now, Stephilee,” the wizard explained. “I need you to submerge yourself into that cauldron until you cannot breathe anymore before taking a breath. Then I will tell you what to do.”
“That cauldron,” she checked. It was a light brown like coffee and even smelled like it, though with milk that had gone bad for several days.
He inclined his head and she stepped over to it before climbing in and doing exactly as she was told. It was disgusting. It was freezing cold and it felt like there were a million tiny pinpricks on her skin. She felt violated as the cool, smooth liquid surged up her sex, but she just bit her lip as it flurried between her breasts. Her throat began feeling like it was on fire, but she fought the feeling until, finally, she surged upward, gasping for air, her eyes completely shut and her tongue coated with the horrible potion.
A cool cloth was placed over her eyes and they fluttered open to see the wizard looking at her. “Come, my dear. I need you to lie prostrate on the wooden floor while we inspect your back.
That took hours. Photographs were taken, candlelight shown against it, and finally she was shown to a bath where she rubbed her skin and hair nearly raw, trying to get the disgusting potion off of her. She was carried back to the bed, nearly asleep, and did not mind when she was drawn against the wizard’s chest, just glad that it had hardly been as bad as when she was a child.
The robes were red with slashes of violet. The comb was tall and meant to be stuck into the back of an elaborate knot, surging upwards so that it could be seen and admired by everyone.
“The filigree is beautiful,” she murmured to the wizard, who kissed her gently before offering her his arm.
Her clothes from the day before had been sent ahead to Grimmauld Place by owl, though she herself was not expected until dinner.
The club was just as she remembered, but the little wizard looked at her with cold eyes. “Lady Stephilee Black is not welcome here,” the maître d’ told them succinctly.
“You’ll find,” the wizard responded as he led her up to the cone. “That she is. There was a little miscalculation last time, that I would like to have rectified. I will work the instrument myself, if you don’t, wizard.”
Gazing at him with something akin to respect, the little wizard came forward and merely stated, “m’lady?”
She took out her wand, ten inches, unicorn hair and hawthorn, and she put it into the cone. At first, she thought it had all gone wrong. Then, it began to turn clockwise. From what she remembered, that was wrong. It should be turning the other way. Then, after about half a rotation, the cone fortunately seemed to change its mind, and moved the other way. It was nowhere near as slow as Sirius’s. In fact, it seemed to get faster and faster. At one point, it got so fast that Stephilee could hardly see the cone move except for a slight imperfection in the wood that spun around and around and around and around so quickly that it made her ill. A small tickertape of parchment was coming out the bottom and she bit her lip, wondering what it might say.
Finally, the torture was over and the wizard gave her back her wand. The maître looked at the tickertape skeptically with his glasses, glanced up at her in confusion, and then back down at the parchment again. “It seems that there has indeed been a mistake before, Lady Stephilee,” he apologized, bowing. “You are the darkest witch since the 1700s. No doubt this confused the cone. You are a black card.”
Stephilee blinked. “My twin has white and I have black?” she asked, trying not to laugh. “Poor Sirius.”
“Your card will be ready when you have completed your tea.”
Shakily she walked forward though paused when she noticed the maître d’ speaking to the wizard. She waited, respectfully, and then he came up to her, putting his hand on her lower back, and escorted her to a free table.
“What was that about?”
“He warned me not to do it again,” he smiled. “The maître d’ can prove absolutely nothing, and as I invented the potion—”
“You are skilled,” she suggested. “Then again, I never doubted it.” Taking her seat elegantly, Stephilee stated, “You work for the Ministry.”
“You will not tell me how. You will not tell me your name. I merely know that you help damsels in distress.”
“Perhaps it is my calling,” he laughed.
“Perhaps it is,” she agreed.
No one questioned her when she got home. Instead, she removed her robes and looked at her back and buttocks, which were scarred with her family tree. Dark magic always exacted a price. She wondered if it would fade over time, if a husband would want her after this. Then she thought of the wizard’s hands that caressed her the night before as she fell in and out of sleep. Yes, if the wizard loved her, he would want her, she thought. Perhaps the wizard had scars of his own, though faded with time.
She dreamt of him, sitting over her bed, and running his fingers through her hair. He was whispering sweet nothings in her ear, but by the time she had awakened, Stephilee discovered that he was nothing more than an Apparition.
“It couldn’t read my black magic after Sirius’s white!” she declared happily to Narcissa and Bellatrix the next day, wearing the ornate comb from the wizard. “I didn’t know that little instrument was so temperamental! I had to go back. I knew it was all a mistake.”
“Lucius will be so relieved to hear,” Narcissa admitted. “We had a long fight about his brother Roman.”
“Not Roman,” Stephilee begged. “I really have no interest in him. He looks too much like Lucius. It’s peculiar.” The problem was that he was a sad copy of his brother and just could never live up to him. However, she had a wizard of her own now…
Bellatrix leaned forward and smiled. “Give him a chance. I know he’s a younger son—”
“You married the elder,” she pointed out with a grin.
“He is charming,” Bellatrix admitted. “I danced with him at Narcissa’s wedding. I thought he was a sweet boy and perfect for perhaps you or some other Black relation.”
Stephilee paused, trying to figure out what to say. “I want to strike out on my own, not marry into the families of my relatives,” she decided on. “Also, don’t I need to be blonde?”
“Dispensation,” Narcissa told them carefully, “last term. He said he would get you to agree to a washing.”
A washing was very dark magic. It pulled back dominant genes, such as her father’s dark hair, for less prominent ones, such as her mother’s blonde hair. It was supposed to be incredibly painful and permanent. It also wasn’t entirely reliable. Also, given the fact that Lily’s hair was the product of a dark potion, she doubted it would work and that it wouldn’t somehow backfire.
She swallowed. “I would never agree.” There was no way she would ever be tortured again.
Narcissa leaned forward, “Steph—Roman really does love—”
“I would never agree,” she stated a little hysterically just at the thought of it all. “Why would he want to torture me?”
“It would only be for a little while,” Narcissa soothed.
“Narcissa,” she deadpanned. “I have been tortured. It is never for a little while. It lasts forever. I may have been seven when I was saved from Muggles, but I assure you, what happened to me then still happens to me every night when I go to sleep.”
She leaned forward to caress Stephilee’s cheek, but she just shied away from Narcissa. Bellatrix watched the two cousins with interest.
When Stephilee was preparing to return to Malfoy Manor so that she could speak with Roman, Bellatrix took her aside. “I desire the Dark Lord,” she told her point blank.
Looking at her, Stephilee admitted, “I had heard a rumor. I thought it rather peculiar, but I was never going to bring it up.”
“Well,” she answered primly, “it seems the Dark Lord desires you.”
Stephilee grinned at the idea. “And why would you say that? I’ve never even met the Dark Lord!”
“Have you not?” Bellatrix smirked. “I understood that he took you to The Wicked Stepmother. He even escorted you to get your card after the debacle with white magic, made the maître d’ set it right. Is he the wizard who gave you that elegant hairpiece?”
“That wasn’t the Dark Lord,” she explained quickly. “He’s one of his trusted followers, a friend of Papa’s.”
“And who told you that?” Bellatrix smirked. “No, I would imagine it’s the Dark Lord. Those eyes of his, don’t they make you just want to snog the life out of him?”
And wasn’t that the truth of it all? Stephilee had done just that.
She didn’t say anything to Narcissa when they arrived at Malfoy Manor. Narcissa asked a House Elf to find Roman for them and the two cousins sat down and began to play chess as Stephilee was rather tired of drinking tea.
“A washing?” she asked Roman angrily when he came into the room. “Are you mad?”
“You would look lovely with blonde hair,” he argued back.
“I would look lovely with ginger hair,” she quipped, remembering her auburn locks that had been shaved off over eight years earlier. “That, however, does not mean that it is going to ever happen.”
A presence moved up beside them and a hand lingered just over her hair. “I would have liked to have seen you with ginger hair, Stephilee.”
She looked up and smiled at the wizard. “I was quite a beautiful child,” she admitted. “I had the most wondrous green eyes. It’s a pity Father had to scrape them away back to gray.”
His thumb came around and paused near her eye.
Being bold, she said, “Bellatrix thinks you’re the Dark Lord.”
“Bellatrix thinks a great many things,” was his only response, and she shrugged. “That being said, I wouldn’t mind hearing that from your lips.”
“Dark Lord, then,” she agreed, smiling to herself. “Now, Roman, I am never marrying you and I am not washing my hair.” She doubted there was any color underneath, even another layer of black.
“Are you,” Roman hesitated, “the Dark Lord’s mistress?”
They looked at each other and changed their answers. Stephilee really couldn’t say which one she had initially chosen.
His hand came down her neck to her shoulder. “I suppose, Stephilee, we should leave for our wedding, now that others including Bellatrix know.”
“Now?” she whispered, and he looked at her solemnly.
Then, despite there being wards to prevent such a thing, he Apparated them out of Malfoy Manor.