Written: November-Christmas 2018
Fandom: Harry Potter Series
Universe: The Wicked Stepmother
Summary: The Inquisition had come to Hogwarts and was purging “Mudbloods.” So, Lily did something desperate. She handed over the old adoption certificate she had found years ago, praying that it would prove she was a pureblood.
Warnings: Pureblood Supremacy, Pureblood Lily, Prejudice, Intolerance, Kidnapping, Unresolved Threads
The Ministry had fallen.
Actually, that wasn’t quite true.
The Government had fallen, new elected officials had been put in, and everything had changed.
It was as if the Dark Lord’s agendas were suddenly a reality. Muggleborns were being forced from their homes—the term ‘Muggleborn’ wasn’t even legal anymore; you were a ‘Mudblood,’ always a ‘Mudblood’—students tossed out of Hogwarts.
Lily didn’t understand how everything could change overnight. It was so—it was so.
Every student at Hogwarts was required to submit themselves for verification. Normally, Lily would have faced her fate with a calm fortitude of the accused, knowing what would happen. As she was only an O.W.L. student, she would have her wand snapped, her family obliviated, and she would be tossed back into the Muggle world none the wiser. If she were lucky.
She just had to convince the examiner that she wasn’t a threat.
The problem is that she wasn’t sure she could do that.
The thing was, Lily had a secret, and she was going to take a chance on it: she was adopted. If this all went South, then she was going to get in so much trouble. She was going to be seen as a sentence dodger, which she wasn’t. Okay, she was. However, that wasn’t the point. The point was, she didn’t know who she was.
About four years earlier, she had nicked an old piece of paper that she had found in her father’s file drawer, which had listed her as Electra. No last name. It was Latin. Rare. She had it with her now as she waited in line. As soon as The Inquisition had invaded Hogwarts, as the Muggleborns (sorry Mudbloods) called it, she had stopped dyeing her hair a deep auburn. She had let it grow out into a natural blonde.
Everyone had been surprised. Sirius Black, strangely, most of all. She would have thought it would have been Potter. Black, after about a month, had tipped her head, looked at it, and asked her when her birthday was. She hadn’t had an answer. Not a real one. So, she had shrugged and walked away.
They hadn’t exchanged words since.
“Evans, Lily.” That was her.
The wizard was an oily man, a good looking man with longish hair (short, but longish), black and arresting eyes. Tankard was his name, she thought. She’d seen him in The Prophet.
Without saying a word, she took out the folded certificate of adoption from the seams of her school robes and placed it on the desk. She looked out the window of the usually disused classroom, and took in a deep breath. It all came down to this.
She couldn’t bear to watch. It was all too horrible. Her fate rested on this one slip of paper.
“Electra,” he stated carefully, “no surname.”
“No,” she agreed quietly.
“It’s certainly a wizarding name.” She could now hear the sound of a quill on parchment and she hoped that was a good sign. “Are you sure you want to pursue this?”
“Am I sure I want my magic?” she answered just as softly and he made a noncommittal noise.
Something clanked on the desk and she took a deep breath as she looked over and saw a bowl. She had no idea what it was for. “If this is forged …” he warned.
“If it is,” she stated, “then it is not by me.” Tilting her head up, she was absolutely resolute.
Her Hogwarts robes were taken from her and her sleeve rolled up. It was all terribly clinical. When a slash was made in the crook of her right arm, she did not cry out, even when the blood dripped into the bowl. She watched it with a sense of horror as more and more blood dripped out. After a good minute, a blood replenishing potion was slipped into her left hand, already open, and she took a swig of it. Throughout the process, she was given three more potions before, finally, Tankard was satisfied and he wound was healed up.
With a flourish, a long piece of parchment was placed on the desk sideways. “Dip your wand into your blood,” he told her as if he didn’t really much care, “and then roll it onto the parchment. Do it until the parchment is covered.”
Blood magic. That was legal now?
With horror, Lily bit the inside of her lip and did as Tankard told her. Carefully, she dipped her holly wand into the mixture and rolled it across the parchment. The blood slid a sickening red and she had to gulp down her revulsion. She did it again and again.
Tankard didn’t bother watching her.
When it was finally done, the blood uneven despite her best efforts, she cleared her throat.
Without even looking up, he tapped the parchment, whispered something she couldn’t even hear, and then the blood was gone. Well, that wasn’t true. The blood wasn’t gone. It just now formed words.
Electra Amabilis Black. Toujours Pur.
“As in Sirius Black?” She hadn’t even realized she had said it out loud until Tankard looked up at her with his calculating dark eyes and a curve to his lips.
“Quite,” he agreed. His sly eyes just continued to look at her. “You will be brought to the Ministry of Magic until you can be properly claimed, Mademoiselle Electra.”
A door must have opened from somewhere—either that or they had been standing against the walls and melted into the room proper. Some witch came up and took the parchment and her adoption form, another took her wand and cleaned it before giving it back to her, and then she was led from the room. Her robe had somehow been handed to her, but she was too stunned, at first, to realize it.
She didn’t remember what happened next. It must have been the shock. Surely that must have been it. She could only suppose that she was led out into the hall and taken to a floo before she was brought the Ministry of Magic. The thing is, she couldn’t remember what it looked like. All she remembered was a small little room where she was sitting on a rather spindly chair. When she touched her cheek, she found that she had been crying.
There were no windows so she couldn’t tell the time of day.
Somehow, she had forgotten that she was a witch and could cast the tempus charm.
It must have been the shock.
Finally, a wizard came in who looked suspiciously like Sirius Black, only older. His eyes were a sharp gray, his hair as black as ever. He was wearing a set of dark blue robes and some sort of billowing shirtsleeves underneath. She didn’t really have time to take it all in.
He looked her over once and then waved his wand. “Hmm,” he stated. “That’s better.”
“Pardon?” she asked.
She picked up the ends of it and saw that all the dye was gone. It was now a rich honey blonde. “Oh,” she murmured. “My—er—sister called me a ‘freak’ all the time so I wanted to look as little like her as possible, so I dyed it ginger. Thing is, she called me a ‘freak’ even more.”
“Muggles,” he spat. “They don’t know what’s good for them. Well, Electra, I know your story from our end, but I don’t know it from yours.”
She paused. Then it hit her. She wasn’t Lily Evans anymore. She was Electra Black. How odd.
Licking her lips, Electra explained. “There’s not much to tell. I live in Cokeworth with my—parents and sister. A few years ago I found that adoption certificate. I didn’t know what to do. I was so confused. So, I just nicked it and when they started screening Muggleborns, I thought I’d present it as possible proof that my parents were wizards.”
“You didn’t think that your poor parents were looking for you?” the wizard asked carefully.
She shook her head. “No,” she responded. “I thought I was given away. The adoption looks legal from a Muggle point of view.”
He was nothing if not elegant. For a moment, she thought he would snort in derision, but he merely pressed his fist to his lips and then nodded once. “We don’t know what happened to you, Electra. You were born on January 2, 1960 to my wife’s brother, Cygnus. You’re the last of four sisters. Cyggy never did have much luck in producing heirs, but he is the second son to an offshoot of the Black family. You went missing from your crib when you were three years old. No one saw what happened. There was an extensive investigation, but it led nowhere.”
Electra paused. “I have—sisters?”
“Three, as I said. All in Slytherin. I was told you were in Gryffindor with my good-for-nothing son, Sirius.”
“Yes,” she answered carefully. “I know Black quite well.”
The wizard—Black’s father—looked away for a moment as if considering, before taking her in again. Her prefect’s badge then seemed to catch his attention and he reached out and touched it. “Good. You’re intelligent, at least.” He indicated that she should stand. “You’ll need a quick rehearsal of pureblood etiquette. I suspect you’ve never read Spungen’s.”
“Oh,” she stated quickly as she followed him out the door. “Of course I have. I’m just still trying to figure out who you are. I never studied the family trees as everyone is called ‘Mr.’ and ‘Miss’ at Hogwarts and I didn’t want to accidentally start referring to people by their titles and having points knocked off.”
He turned to her with a look of approval in his eyes. “I’m Orion, Lord Black, your uncle. You are Mademoiselle Electra, daughter of Monsieur Cygnus and Madame Druella. Got that? Now, your sister Mademoiselle Bellatrix has begged your father to let her have you for the first night—Hogwarts has given you the next few days and the weekend to come to know us a little better—she’s quite a bit older than you, but she took your disappearance the hardest, from what I recall. I should warn you, given that you’ve read Spungen’s, that she is quite old not to be married, but she does so like her independence.”
Electra had been following him through winding corridors and trying to take in her surroundings, and found herself in front of a floo.
“Your school trunk will be waiting for you so you can wear whatever Muggles do in their spare time instead of your uniform,” Lord Black sneered. “Druella, I’m sure, will see to your wardrobe.”
He threw some floo powder into the fireplace and shouted, “Black’s Hole,” before urging her to step through. After the familiar feeling of ash all round her, she got into a crouching position and rolled out of the fireplace in a way that she had developed when she discovered she had difficulty stepping out of it like purebloods.
She found herself in a comfy living room of a flat with a woman with a strong jaw, brooding gray eyes, and a mass of dark curls waiting for her.
“Ah, Electra!” she cried happily as she came to help her from the fire. “I see your hair never darkened. Dromeda and I had bit of a bet going as we were both born blondes, as well. Welcome home.” She kissed Electra on both cheeks. “Let’s take a look at you.” Standing back, Bellatrix Black looked at Electra with critical eyes before smiling indulgently. “You have mother’s eyes.”
“Do I?” Electra asked. “I hadn’t realized.”
“Quite,” Bellatrix answered. “You’re quite beautiful, even in that horrible Hogwarts uniform. I always hated the thing. Nothing for it, though. Go on, go change. There’s only the dining room and the bedroom. I’m afraid we’re going to have to share, but then again, we’re sisters. Put on a dress if you have one.”
Well, Electra did have one. It just was terribly Muggle. It was nothing like what witches wore. It was one long piece that came down halfway to her thighs, sleeveless, and you wore a button up shirt underneath. And go-go boots. You wore go-go boots.
Brushing out her hair and looking at herself in the mirror, she supposed she would have to do because it was either this or bellbottoms, so she came out and looked around.
Bellatrix was still in the living room, but it appeared that someone had flooed in when she was away.
He was a tall wizard, with hair so blond it could almost be called white, with gray eyes and pointed features. He was rather good looking, she thought, and Electra believed she recognized him from when she was a first year. He was an upper year in one of the other houses, she thought. Quidditch, maybe.
“Ah!” Bellatrix exclaimed excitedly when she saw Electra. “There you are!” She came up to her and took her hand before looking at her dress. “We must do something about your clothes, my dear. This is simply shameful for the House of Black.”
Electra looked down at herself self-consciously. “Er—the Evanses never gave me enough money for anything besides my school things.”
“Muggles. They steal a child and then don’t treat her right.” Pulling her into the room, she brought her to the couch and sat her down. She indicated the man by the fire who was looking at the two of them. “Lucius, this is my sister, who I was telling you about. Electra. I convinced Papa and Uncle Orion to let me have her for the night. See—I wasn’t making an excuse. I’m entirely serious.”
Imagining Black parodying, “No, I’m Sirius,” which always annoyed her, Electra had to hold in a smile. “Hello,” she decided on instead.
“Oh,” Bellatrix said. “How remiss of me. Electra, Heir Lucius Malfoy.”
She took a deep breath. Having never done it before, she stretched out her hand as she’d read about and Heir Lucius’s eyes gleamed as he claimed it, raised it just beneath his lips without kissing it, before releasing it again.
Bellatrix seemed to be looking in between them with interest in her eyes. “You have no plans,” she suddenly said to Heir Lucius as if the opposite were true. “Why don’t you be bohemian and dine with us? We can embarrass poor Electra together. Ask her about boys in Slytherin. See what Reggie is up to.”
“Who’s Reggie?” Electra asked quietly, not sure how she should tell Bellatrix (who she knew from all of Black’s complaining were in Slytherin House) that she was in Gryffindor. “I don’t think we’ve met.”
Patting her hand and about to explain to her sister, it was Heir Lucius who instead told her. “Lord Regulus Black, your cousin.”
“I—well—I’ve never met him,” she admitted. “I’ve heard Black—er—Heir Sirius Black?—mention a brother a few times. He’s always complaining about something concerning his family.”
The others stilled. “You know Sirius?” Bellatrix asked. “How? He’s in Gryffindor. I would have thought—” Understanding came into her eyes. “Oh, you poor dear. Of course you had to be brave. You were taken by Muggles.”
Well, that was an explanation Electra wouldn’t have come up with herself, but she wasn’t going to refute it.
It was Heir Lucius who answered for her, fortunately. “We’ll get a look at a different side. You finally have a potential spy on your cousin, Bella.—Let me send a quick owl. Ladies.” He bowed to them formally and seemed to go out a door that Electra hadn’t noticed before.
“Is he your boyfriend?” Electra asked quickly before he came back.
Bellatrix laughed. “Heavens, no! I’m a bit old for Lucius, though we’re good friends. And purebloods court, dear. We’re never casual about our romantic affairs. Besides,” and now she leaned in closer and whispered in Electra’s ear, “Malfoys are only ever interested in blondes.”
A chill ran up Electra’s spine at the implication and Bellatrix leaned away with a knowing look in her eye just as Heir Lucius was coming back in.
They all sat around the living room with large bowls of beef stew in their lap, laughing and telling stories of their time at Hogwarts. “And then, just to get me to avoid taking points, he got down on one knee and proposed!” Electra laughed. “It was the most ridiculous thing I ever heard in my life. I’m still not sure if he meant it or not.—I took points, anyway, of course, even though he begged me not to while he was professing his undying love.”
“And this is Sirius’s best mate?” Bellatrix checked in between laughs. “Of course it was.”
“He calls me ‘Lily-pad.’ It’s quite dreadful.” Electra shook her head. “Lily is my Muggle name.”
“At least it’s a flower.—I’ll write to Sirius,” Bellatrix promised, “and try to put a stop to your ‘ardent suitor’. A Black should always inspire devotion but never incur harassment.”
Heir Lucius had been quiet the entire time and was looking at Electra quite plainly. “No,” he agreed, “she should not be.—Tell us of your friends.”
“Well, there’s Severus. We grew up together. He saw me do magic and, well, he’s a wizard and in Slytherin.”
Heir Lucius looked pensive. “I believe I know that name. Severus—Snape?”
Electra was honestly surprised. “Yes. He’s fallen in with a rough crowd. It worries me.” She took another bite of her stew.
Bellatrix and Heir Lucius shared a meaningful glance that she caught. She wondered what it meant.
“I’ll use the old Slytherin network,” Heir Lucius promised. “Check in on him. You need worry about nothing. For now, you must focus on your family, your studies, and becoming Head Girl.”
“And you needn’t worry about the Muggles,” Bellatrix added darkly. “Uncle Orion is handling the situation.”
Electra swallowed heavily. She wasn’t sure she liked the sound of that. At all. Then again, she wasn’t sure what she could do about it. This was all so strange to her. All of it. She was in some strange witch’s apartment, with a wizard she only vaguely recognized, eating beef stew on her lap. It was all rather surreal.
“I hope,” Heir Lucius said over some strange yellow cocktails later that evening, “that I can expect to have your company at The Wicked Stepmother this weekend perhaps, Mademoiselle Electra?”
At this Bellatrix crowed to herself, and the entire situation confused Electra immensely. “What’s The Wicked Stepmother?”
Bellatrix only sniggered.
“Perhaps I should leave the ladies to the ladies,” he suggested, setting down his glass. “I shall apply to your excellent father for consent, with your permission, of course.”
Bellatrix leaned forward put down her glass decidedly. “She happily accepts your invitation. We shall be sure to get her robes fit for the occasion, shan’t we, Electra? You shall be quite the proper pureblood lady.”
“I—don’t know what that means.”
“No, dear,” she answered quietly, taking her hand between her own. “You must be so confused. The thing you must realize is that you get a pretty new gown and get to have tea with someone who admires you.”
Electra’s eyebrows shot up.
“I expect—twenty-three or so is quite a respectable age to marry, Heir Lucius.” Now she was teasing him.
The entire situation was confusing to Electra. “I think—I think I’ll just go to bed,” she decided, her voice smaller than she would have liked. “Goodnight, Heir Lucius. Thank you for—everything with Severus.”
She was just turning away, when she felt him catch her hand and raise it to beneath his lips. Her green eyes met his grey ones and they held for several long moments. Neither moved; it was as if they were statues magically held in place.
It was Bellatrix who broke the spell. “Come now, dear,” she suggested. “Off to bed.”
Electra let her fingers slip from Heir Lucius’s and turned away, feeling his gaze upon her back. It was rather peculiar in its sheer hedonism.
“Well,” Bellatrix said as she slipped into bed that night and held out two tumblers of the same yellow cocktail. “He was certainly taken with you.”
“I don’t know why,” Electra confessed. “All I did was tell silly stories of Sirius Black and his ridiculous friends.” She sighed. “What’s The Wicked Stepmother?”
“An exclusive club,” Bellatrix told her. “Only the purest of purebloods can get in. It’s rather a meeting place for likeminded individuals—but a place of refinement and manners and grace. Wizards often congregate there to discuss politics, to be safe from what is generally considered politically correct, to celebrate occasions such as betrothals and weddings and mergers, … to court ladies of good breeding …”
“Court,” Electra whispered again. “I’m fifteen. Just the age.” Her mind reached back to Spungen’s Guide to Pureblood Dynasties, c.1500-present and everything she had learned for the pureblood elegance and rituals. “I don’t know the first thing about Black courting rituals.”
“Well, we’ll just have to keep you informed, Electra,” Bellatrix suggested as she tapped her nose. “I knew when Lucius saw you, you would be his type. There was some talk of Cissy—our sister Narcissa—who is terribly close to him in age, but he never made an overt move toward her, even at Hogwarts.”
Electra bit her lip, not sure she wanted to be talking about any of this at all. “She won’t be angry, will she?”
Bellatrix shrugged. “It’s not her place to be angry. Now. Tell me what you think of him.”
The problem was she thought nothing at all. She was flattered, he was certainly handsome, but that was where it ended.
It appeared that something had happened to Andromeda. No one would really talk about it.
Narcissa was lovely. She was twenty, also from Slytherin House, and Electra didn’t really remember her at all. She had flowing golden hair, gray eyes like Bellatrix, a pert little nose, and a superior attitude that rather confused Electra. At least it wasn’t directed at her.
“Heir Lucius was here to see Papa,” she told Electra that Thursday as soon as she arrived. “Isn’t it marvelous?”
Electra was confused. “Is it?”
“Yes,” she confided. “He’s blond. I’m blonde. It’s all truly wonderful.”
She didn’t have the heart to tell her otherwise.
Bellatrix found it hilarious when they went shopping when Electra favored what she called “Ravenclaw colors.” Everything was pale blues, violets, golds, creams, and the occasional white. She didn’t want anything dark. Far from it. No greens. She thought they washed her out and, well, pinks were pinks. Horrid color.
She came home in cream robes of pure lace, the cap sleeves a beautiful little puff before falling into three quarter stretches of pure unadorned fabric. The actual robes were a deep green that fell down to the bottom of the dress, were sleeveless, and had a high collar that forced her hair to go up into an elaborate style.
Druella—who wished to be called “Mama”—explained that this was why pureblood women always wore their hair up. Electra had noticed this peculiarity and hadn’t understood the reasoning behind it and several backcopies of Witch Weekly had been purchased for her. There was an entire section just on how to put up one’s hair in various styles with just the few simple flicks of a wand.
When they returned, Papa had a guest in his study.
Knowing that her Muggle father always allowed her to go in when she had something to show him, Electra knocked on the door and opened the door at the gruff tone to enter. The study was sparse, but she barely paid attention, her eyes arresting on the peculiar figure who was sitting across from the desk.
“Cyg—Papa?” she asked as she came in. “I thought—you’d like to see me out of Muggle clothing?”
Cygnus Black, who had the same honey blond hair as his youngest child, paused for several long moments, looking at his guest, and then immediately stood from his chair and came up to her, taking her hands and drinking her in. “Very pretty,” he told her. “You do us great credit, Electra.”
Immediately letting out a breath she didn’t know she was holding, she admitted, “Narcissa didn’t like it. I don’t know why—but Bellatrix and—Mama—said I had excellent taste and was already developing my own style. Apparently it’s important even outside of Slytherin House?” She was still a little confused and looking for approval in her new life which was barely a day old. Yesterday, she had been sitting in that line, awaiting her fate as the Muggleborn Lily Evans; today, she was learning to become a pureblood lady of position and character.
“I, for one, agree, Mademoiselle Electra,” the—man—who was sitting with her father—determined, and she turned to him, wondering at his peculiar face. His eyes were unusually slitted and he—didn’t have a nose. It was rather erotic, she realized, which was a little horrifying to admit to herself. “Quite the pureblood maiden.” He made a motioning movement that Electra didn’t understand and she was given the other chair in front of the desk that her wizard-papa had been sitting in.
She frankly didn’t understand what was happening.
“You’re in Gryffindor?” the guest asked.
“Yes,” she answered, her voice a little strained as she tried to smooth out her robes, still not used to them. “I—I’m with my—cousin—” she glanced over at Papa Cygnus “Heir Sirius Black. I suppose we should have to try to get along from now on.” Good, she was finding her confidence though she couldn’t keep her eyes off of him, he was so unusually arresting.
“I understand he’s difficult, from his father, Lord Black,” this strange wizard told her. “Tell me of your accomplishments. Your records haven’t been sent over from Hogwarts.”
“Oh,” she murmured. “I’m in the Slug Club. I’m rather good at Potions, but my best subject is Charms. I had hoped to be a spellcaster.”
“Indeed?” he professed. “A spellcaster?”
“Yes,” she stated excitedly. “I’ve been improving the movements to spells for a little over a year now. I hope they don’t deduct points for that for my O.W.L.’s. Do you think they will?”
He took her in for several long moments. “I’ll put in a word.”
Then she realized it. “You’re in the reformed government.” Her heart sank. “Tankard is quite terrifying.”
“He’s meant to be,” he told her plainly. “It’s why I appointed him to the task.”
There was a stretch of silence, where the three of them said nothing. Then, finally, Electra asked, “Are you going to go after half-bloods next?”
“Whyever,” the wizard asked, “would you say that?”
“Muggle—Mudbloods,” she corrected, “first. It’s only a leap in logic.”
He appraised her for a moment and then, carefully, he leaned forward and let his hand lightly touch her honeyed hair. “I shall let you find out,” he told her succinctly. “You are quite a rarity, Mademoiselle. You are the first non-Mudblood to be discovered in our purge of Hogwarts. Every single one who has claimed that they are a half-blood but have offered no proof whatsoever have been denied. You had the forethought to bring in that adoption certificate. I applaud you for your cunning. I have half a mind to resort you into Slytherin for it.” He let his thumb move over her hair and she remained perfectly still and Electra realized her wizard-papa was holding his breath.
Then, as they continued to stare at each other, Electra boldly spoke: “Do you have such power over the school? I realize that many of the professors have been summarily dismissed—”
“Yes,” he agreed with a distinct drawl, “Muggle lovers, all of them.”
“They say Defense Against the Dark Arts will simply become The Dark Arts. It’s rather—peculiar. I’m in fifth year and how am I supposed to study with all these changes? I have examinations to take.” His thumb paused for a moment as his eyes, which were neither brown nor red, took in her sharp green gaze. Then his thumb plunged into her hair and the pad of it caressed the rim of her ear.
“This will be taken into account,” he promised her as if he weren’t touching her so intimately. “We want our students to do well, to succeed.” His brown-red eyes flashed with intelligence. “Do we not, Monsieur Cygnus?” He never turned away from Electra. “What are your views on your kidnappers?”
She had been afraid of this question. She honestly had been. Without moving her head or dislodging the guest’s hand, she glanced up at Papa, her eyes full of questions. “I’ve been trying to think of myself of ‘Electra’,” she answered honestly, her gaze shifting back to this stranger. “When I was with Bella last night, I tried to think of her as my sister. She is more of a sister, truly, than Petunia—the Muggle I lived with my entire life—ever was. Everyone here is a little overwhelming because there are—Mama and Papa—and Narcissa—all at once. Where’s Andromeda?”
“Nevermind,” Cygnus told her, his hand coming up and resting on her shoulder.
The stranger’s hand remained in her hair and she wondered at it. She knew that her papa should not be standing for it. Electra also knew that whoever this was was extremely powerful and the scent of his magic—like the sweet vermouth her Muggle mother put in her gin—was utterly intoxicating.
“But the Muggles,” the wizard pressed.
She looked at her hands, his thumb tracing up her ear and her dangling earring getting caught. “I don’t know. No one has told me what happened. I—I don’t know. I’m grateful that my wand has not been snapped and that I have not been obliviated. I am thankful that I am not in Azkaban. I—I don’t know.” Her eyes filled with tears and she looked up desperately then, begging with her gaze for them to understand.
The wizard regarded her for a long time. “I suppose it is natural for you to be overwhelmed. It does not help that Heir Malfoy wishes to take you to The Wicked Stepmother, I imagine.—Put him off,” he instructed Cygnus harshly and with a suddenness that surprised Electra. “He will wait if he truly wishes to escort Mademoiselle. Others will surely come, I imagine.” His hand disappeared from her hair before stroking it back into place and carefully undoing the earring from where it was caught. “And they say I know nothing of women’s fashion.”
He stood, and, after a moment, Electra realized that he was holding a hand out for her.
Placing her gloved hand in his, she rose, her wizard-papa’s hand falling from her shoulder. “I know your uncle, Lord Black, well,” he confessed, in his fluid voice, his slit of eyes looking at her intently. “Looking at you, I can hardly tell that you are his niece.”
“Perhaps that is why Heir Sirius, whose best mate believes he is in love with me, never guessed we were related either,” she stated after a moment. “Potter follows me everywhere, and Black is never far behind him.”
A repressed anger covered the guest’s face for a long moment, his nostrils flaring which seemed peculiar given that he didn’t have a nose. “Monsieur Cygnus,” he instructed, his hand still holding Electra’s, his eyes still holding hers. “I trust you will write this Potter’s father and tell him that you expect him to stop harassing your daughter or offer proper courtship.”
“No courtship necessary,” she instructed quickly, looking over at Wizard-Papa quickly with pleading eyes. “He’s horrible. He likes to humiliate my best friend to get my attention. It does get my attention, but in the wrong way.” She paused and then looked back at the guest. “Heir Lucius said he’d look after Severus for me. He’s in Slytherin.”
“Indeed.—I hope you have written to your friend, Severus, to make certain that he knows you have not been obliviated.”
Horror crossed her face. She hadn’t thought of it in all the stress and upheaval.
“I am certain he will forgive you,” the guest whispered, leaning forward so that his sensuous lips were tickling her ear. Leaning back, he added, “I’m sure your father will even allow you the use of his desk and owl while I speak to him.” He lifted the hand he was holding to beneath his lips before lowering it, holding it between both of his. “Mademoiselle Electra.”
“Who are you?” she asked, being so confused. “Forgive me—it’s just—” She looked at her wizard-papa.
The guest didn’t, however, answer her. “Perhaps, with your father’s permission, you might like a tour of the Ministry with your favorite sister before you go back to Hogwarts? I’m sure Mademoiselle Bellatrix might be prevailed upon as she has an interest in politics—”
He was looking at Cygnus who seemed to catch his drift. “Yes,” he agreed hastily. “Electra spent last night with her. I understand they got along quite well. Would you like that, Electra? It might be something to tell your friends back in Gryffindor and—Severus?”
For a moment, Electra wondered why she would be allowed to go with this guest to the Ministry when he had been allowed to touch her and not to tea with Heir Lucius, although she was intrigued by this wizard and wanted him to reach into her hair again, just to feel the tips of his fingers against her scalp.
“If Bella wouldn’t mind,” she demurred. “I don’t want to be a bothersome little sister.”
“Hardly,” Cygnus disagreed. “We’ll set the date and time while you write to your friend.—In fact, if your sister’s here now, I’ll send her in.” He kissed the side of her head and then opened the door.
He didn’t see. Her wizard-papa had already walked toward the door when the stranger leaned forward and kissed her forehead and then, with a smirk, just left.
Electra was left staring after them, the door shut closed when they left.
She stared for a good minute before taking a seat at her wizard-papa’s desk and finding a piece of parchment and writing a note to Severus. Of course, it turned out to be several paragraphs long. She had almost finished (it was nearly a full page of cramped writing!) when Bellatrix knocked and came in.
Holding up a finger and then jotting off a few words and signing her name as both ‘Electra Black’ and ‘L.J.E.’, she used her father’s family seal and sent off the missive.
“Sorry, Bella,” she apologized. “I forgot to write to Severus to let him know I’m not imprisoned or a Muggle.”
“Of course, dear,” she replied, coming over and hugging her. “I sometimes forget you’re not a baby in the cradle anymore. How old are you, Electra? Fifteen? Sixteen?”
“Fifteen,” she responded. “Sixteen this January.—Who is that man? The rather distinctive one? All I can tell is he’s in the new Ministry.”
“He is,” Bellatrix responded, taking her hands and leading her to the two chairs where she had been sitting before with the stranger. “I know him decently well. He likes his work to speak for itself. He’ll go for the longest time without having you put a name to his face. It’s his way.” She shrugged.
Swallowing, Electra wasn’t certain what to do or say. She’d only really had Severus to confide in or Morag McDougal, another Muggleborn who had been obliviated or sent to Azkaban earlier that month, and she could never keep her counsel. She’d never told Petunia anything that mattered since she was ten.
Bellatrix reached out and took her hand. “What is it?”
“It’s just—” She bit her lip. “He touched my hair when Papa was right there—and when Papa was leaving, he kissed me on the forehead. And he’s so unbearably attractive. Does he have creature blood? We’re Blacks. We’re not supposed to find creature blood attractive, are we?”
A look of disbelief washed over her face. “He—Electra!” She lunged forward and hugged her close and Electra embraced her. “We must make you as beautiful as possible. Not that you aren’t beautiful, but you look so innocent.” She pulled back. “Then again, perhaps that’s what he likes.”
“Who is he?”
“A very high official,” Bellatrix told her. “He’s been part of the—changes—since the very beginning.”
Electra’s heart sank. “He did say he appointed Tankard.”
“Oh,” Bellatrix waved away. “That idiot. I never cared for him. He tried to take me on a marriage date once. I suspect he’s a half-blood.” She laughed a little and placed her hand against Electra’s cheek. “Did he say anything about Heir Lucius?”
“Only that I shouldn’t be overwhelmed and if Heir Lucius truly wanted to take me to tea, he’d wait.”
A sly smile curved her sister’s lips. “That confirms it. Let’s hope he invites himself over to dinner, though he is busy helping to run the country.”
Narcissa became in an every more and more depressed mood when Heir Lucius wasn’t even mentioned while Electra was there the next few days. There were no owls, nothing. Papa just looked between his two youngest daughters with a knowing glance, though it seemed as if he wasn’t quite certain what to say.
Electra knew there was nothing to say.
Her next eldest sister would be upset—and hopefully would never find out about the potential marriage date. That was the best scenario. No, the best scenario would be if Heir Lucius forgot her and somehow fell in love with Narcissa. Then again, Bellatrix wouldn’t like it—although she had been pleased about the strange wizard who had been visiting her wizard-papa.
When Sunday morning dawned and she was getting ready for the Ministry at Bellatrix’s—Electra was hiding from Narcissa—she felt uneasy. Her green eyes shone out of her face, her honey blonde hair sweeping down across her forehead and around to a small knot at the back of her neck. She was wearing an ice blue bodice over white shirt sleeves, wide trousers of a deeper blue, and then robes over the outfit. Electra was undoubtedly trendsetting, modern, the epitome of the young witch, and beautiful. Her black heels stretched as she flexed her toes and then she put on her fingerless gloves.
“I still can’t believe that Mama let you purchase that,” Bellatrix greeted as Electra came out of the bedroom. “It must be the rouching along the bodice and trousers.” She took her in for a long moment. “No, I still don’t understand.”
The two linked hands and walked into the main room. Not looking up, Electra admitted: “I’m a little afraid of going to the Ministry. I don’t want to be an object of interest.”
“You’re Electra Black,” Bellatrix argued.
“For less than a week,” she amended. “Bella, please, try to understand. I was in The Prophet just yesterday morning and Narcissa was snarking at me about how I looked too blonde. She doesn’t even know about—and still I’m too blonde!”
At this a dark laugh came from a chair in the corner, and Bellatrix smirked at her before turning toward it. There sat the wizard, noseless, as enticing as ever. The magnetism and power came off of him in waves and Electra had to repress a shiver.
“Indeed, you are blonde,” he stated as he stood, coming toward the sisters. “Mademoiselle Narcissa will no longer be the rare jewel in the Black family.” The wizard took Bellatrix’s hand and lifted it to just beneath his lips before releasing it. Then, daringly, he reached up and ran the back of his index finger along Electra’s cheekbone. His red brown eyes looked into her green eyes. “Would you prefer more privacy, my lady? I heard your concerns?”
“Where could we possibly go?” she asked, aware that he was still touching her and Bellatrix was allowing it. Her eyes flicked to her sister who was smiling at her a little… devilishly.
He stroked the side of her face once more. “Perhaps the Tower of London—I’ve had it declared under repair for today.” He snapped his fingers, which was probably the magic needed to do just that. “Now all of wizerdom can go visit, m’dear.” The way his tongue fell over the endearment sent a pulse straight to Electra’s sex. It was positively indecent.
She took a breath and looked between this strange compelling wizard and her sister. “What should I call you?”
His eyes flashed red in humor.
“Monsieur?” she continued. “My lord?—But then, perhaps, people might think I’m confusing you with the Dark Lord—or my uncle.”
He, however, did not answer. “Do you have a sweetheart? An actual sweetheart, Mademoiselle?”
Shocked by the question, she glanced at her sister.
Bellatrix was now biting her lip and laughing into the back of her fingers that were pressed into her nose. She was obviously enjoying this far too much.
“The title is untaken then,” he decided for her, his eyes probing into her soul.
Immediately thinking to Eastenders, she giggled a little. “I’m sorry. It’s just Muggles call each other ‘baby.’ Petunia would look at herself in the mirror and whisper ‘baby’ when she thought I wasn’t upstairs.” Her eyes caught Bellatrix’s, and her sister obviously found that amusing.
“Ickle wickle Pet?” she cooed in a sickening voice. “Her brain is so insy tinsy that she is just a baby!”
The wizard turned to her in amusement. “You are positively frightening, Mademoiselle Bellatrix. I’m certain you will be there for her trial, although your esteemed sister will be at Hogwarts.”
They Apparated to the Thames, to a clump of trees where they wouldn’t be noticed by any passing Muggles. After brushing his fingers along the back of her hand, the wizard went to a dock where a goblin was renting out punts. He helped Electra and then Bellatrix into the boat and the two sisters reclined against the cushions. Moments later strawberries and champagne melted around them and Electra smiled as Bellatrix poured her a glass and showed her how to soak the strawberries in the bubbly liquid.
Electra was resting her face in the sun when she felt the boat suddenly begin to drift and the boards shift beneath her. She looked up and saw that Bellatrix had retreated and was looking out the back of the boat, her fingers playing in the water.
The wizard was kneeling beside her. “I hope,” he began, “that my intentions have been marked, Mademoiselle Electra.”
His voice was deep, strong, resonant, and she allowed it to course down through her soul to the point where she had to visibly still her reaction. “Who are you?” she asked. “Wizard-Papa lets you touch my hair—Bellatrix, my face—You are not chastised when you bid me call you ‘Sweetheart’—” She took in his mauve waistcoat, unadorned except for the platinum toggles, the bronze shirtsleeves. Robes of a deep maroon were tossed to the side. He was simply though elegantly dressed. He was someone. It was obvious.
He leaned forward so that there were only a few inches between their faces. So easily she could lean forward and kiss him, feel what it was like to touch skin to skin, have her nose press against a snakelike face—
Green eyes must have flicked down to his lips, her mouth had certainly pouted, because he reached up and his finger tilted her chin to the side to give her better access to him if she should choose to close the distance.
“Say it,” he begged, the fingers of his free hand coming up and tracing her brow, “you beautiful girl. Call me your sweetheart.”
“You would have seen me obliviated with my wand snapped,” she murmured sadly, her eyes hidden by blonde lashes. “My own cousin who is in my house, in my year, stood by and watched as my name was called and held back his friend who calls me his ‘lily-flower’—”
“Darling,” he breathed, his eyes searching for hers. “The moment your wand would have been snapped, my heart would have been broken. I am convinced of it. I would have noted the exact time and I would have gone searching for the reason—and I would have found you. Hopefully it would have only taken me hours, and I would have gone to your godforsaken Muggle house and claimed you back for wizerdom, but I would have searched years as I am convinced that my heart would bleed without you here in the wizarding world beside me.”
Her eyebrows furrowing in confusion, Electra hesitantly reached out and lightly touched his soft hair. “Why would you say that? There have been dozens of Muggleborns—Mudbloods,” she corrected quickly. “Sorry. I’m still getting used to the new regulated language.”
At first he didn’t answer her. Instead, the wizard took her in and then pulled back, his fingers leaving her face. Her own touch fell away as he sat back on his heels. A moment later he produced a box and presented it to her.
It was wide and shallow, a pale brown color and tied with a deep orange ribbon. Electra didn’t recognize the jewelers, but when she looked at the ribbon she saw that the words The Pumpkin Carriage were inscribed on it.
Her eyes flicked up. She knew that jeweler.
Her wizard-mama had taken her just the day before. It was the premiere jeweler in Knockturn Alley and focused on “pureblood” spells. Of course, Electra knew what that meant. Pureblood spells were ones that were acceptable to all magic regardless of politics—light, of course, grey, and dark.
She had been taken to make a preliminary selection of a vined ring. It was illegal to wear one in wizarding England before a wizard turned sixteen—the pureblood age of consent. Electra had already made her choice. It was a rather archaic ring. It was a thick band of gold that went from the base of her finger to the knuckle with the vines inscribed in it. It was highly unusual. The particular design had gone out of fashion in the fifteen hundreds but the jeweler had been feeling nostalgic twenty years earlier and crafted it before Electra was born—and it had yet to sell. Electra had put down a deposit.
Eyes flicking up, Electra looked up at the wizard and undid the ribbon carefully. Then, with the movements of a girl who so rarely received presents, she slowly took off the lid to reveal a beautiful comb. It was in the shape of a lily etched in gold with long prongs, meant to obviously stand at the top of the head.
“Your name was ‘lily’, was it not, sweetheart?” he murmured as he picked it up and reached over to put it into the knot in her hair. “I thought I would honor who you once were as it informed the ethereal creature you are now.”
Glancing up to him, her fingers reaching up to feel the comb, she murmured, “Why do you say such things?”
At first she thought he wasn’t going to answer her when he picked up her left hand although wizard culture dictated he shouldn’t be so informal with her. His long fingers traced up hers. “To think that these fingers improve our spells, these fingers which Muggles would have us believe belonged to a Mudblood. I can see by the way you move them that every stroke is precise. Your fingers dance, Mademoiselle Electra. Something inspired Lily Evans. Something caused her to think outside the box, to bring that certificate.—Did you know that you dream walk?” Now his eyes flashed red and caught hers.
“I dream only where lilies grow,” she whispered against the lapping of the water, “I always have.” Electra thought of the strange gray landscapes where she wandered her dreams, lilies at her feet, splashing the gray with the white, even the murky waters filled with lilypads.
“But you are not the only one among the lilies, sweetheart,” he told her plainly, surprising her. “It is why I know my heart would have bled. I have spent so many of my nights with you that if you were taken from me, I would have searched for you.”
Her green eyes gazed into his, looking for truth. His blue eyes were haunted, as if they had seen too much, as if they had seen actual Muggle wars of centuries gone past, but she didn’t understand. They were speaking of lilies and somehow just the thought of the flower that had once given Electra her name, haunted him.
“I only dream of lilies and the wind,” her voice was firm in her confusion.
He glanced at her for a long moment and reached up to touch her face. The pads of his fingers were rough, which wasn’t unusual for wizards who constantly wielded a wand, and she glanced to the side as his gaze was suddenly too strong with those slits for eyes and that nose that wasn’t a nose. This wizard overpowered her, and he didn’t even have a name.
“Who are you?” she demanded again.
Bellatrix turned her head to half-look at them but did not interrupt the lover’s tryst.
“I am the wizard,” he murmured, “who walked among lilies since the night of September 1st, 1971.” His noseless face came close to hers, his eyes scanning her and flicking down to her lips, before he looked over her head. “We’re here, sweetheart.”
She glanced up and saw that they had come to the bank where there was a door. “This is not the Tower of London,” she told him very carefully.
“No,” he answered as he stood and offered his hand.
Taking it, Electra allowed him to help her step onto the dock. “You can’t show up dressed as you are there. I can’t show my face without a media frenzy.—Did you enjoy the champagne, Electra?” His eyes were oddly piercing and she looked into them for a long second.
“I did,” she agreed carefully, his fingers now intertwining with hers. Without a word, she waited for Bellatrix to step out of the boat and come up to them.
“You look beautiful, Electra,” she complimented, touching the base of the comb carefully. “Papa will be so happy.” Her eyes darted to the wizard in obvious hidden meaning, but Electra didn’t understand.
“Will he?” she questioned in absolute shock. Then again, given how close the two were, perhaps it shouldn’t shock her in the least. She took in a deep breath and turned to the wizard who was standing with her on the dock. “Where are we?”
“South of London,” he told her as he led her up to what was an obvious wizarding café of some kind. Bellatrix had taken a card out of her purse, a deep maroon, and was showing it to the maître d’, who was ushering the three of them forward. “A little sleepy place where people come to rest when they are boating.” His slits of eyes cut to her as they approached a table and he held out a chair for her.
The tables were made of wrought iron as were the chairs. The clientele were in various states of dress, some in casual Pureblood Black, others in robes meant for a late autumn afternoon out in fair weather, while yet others seemed to be dressed for a ball. The group of three fit in quite well with the wizard’s clean and expensive robes, Bellatrix’s sophisticated looks, and Electra’s edgy and en vogue ensemble. Without even having to order they were brought three glasses of milk—in fact—everything seemed to be white, Electra realized, down to the candle wicks. Only the people themselves offered color.
Various spreads, all white, were presented, with white crackers and white breads.
“Here,” the wizard suggested, picking up a butter knife, bone white. He pointed to the fourth. “Do you have a sweet tooth, Mademoiselle Electra?”
Glancing at her sister, she leaned toward him. “Why don’t you give me a name—any name—and I’ll let you call me ‘Elle’ in public even if Papa yells at me later on. I know you’ll call me ‘sweetheart’ in private, no matter what I do or say—” She bit her lower lip and looked at him imploringly. “Please.”
She could hear Bellatrix gasp, but she didn’t look away from the wizard who was now regarding her cunningly. “They say you aren’t a Slytherin.”
“I’m bold like any Gryffindor,” she suggested. Biting her lip again, she used Bellatrix’s excuse. “It was living with the Muggles, I think. Knowing I was Electra and not knowing what that meant but knowing it meant something—every time they told me I was ‘unnatural’ or Petunia called me a ‘freak.’” At the very thought, her green eyes darkened to a jade and her voice lowered dangerously. A slight wind swept up around them, not that she noticed.
A cold hand slid over hers on the table and she glanced up, not even realizing she had looked away from her companion.
“Deal?” she suggested hopefully.
“I would love to be your ‘Sweetheart,’” he murmured, his fingers stroking the top of her hand. “Beyond that I cannot say.”
She looked at him desperately—“I cannot go up to Black—” (she swallowed) “Cousin Sirius in Gryffindor and say that I wonder what ‘Sweetheart’ is doing at the Ministry or write to Bella and ask her if she’s seen ‘Sweetheart’! If you send me more combs, am I to write to ‘Sweetheart’?” Feeling exasperated, she sat back in her chair and looked over to her sister for help, but she was simply regarding the two of them with casual interest.
“It would please me,” he told her. “You can tell Heir Sirius that ‘my sweetheart’ just sent me the most lovely necklace although it’s not a Black courting gift—” He let his finger trace a line across her neck and a moment later several chained links of a deep gold formed, a single jewel of the size of pebble clasped between them and nestling against her collar bone. Next, he let his hand trace up to her jaw so he was holding her face in his grasp. “Or you can write to Bella about ‘my sweetheart’ and how much you just wish neither of us were wearing vined rings so that you could taste your first kiss before your wedding day.” Electra’s breath caught and she looked into his eyes for the longest moment before he pulled away and offered her his hand, which showed the simplest of vined rings, a simple curl of a vine, unembellished, unadorned, back and forth, around the finger, up past the knuckle to the base of the nail.
“Mine’s different,” she whispered, her fingers now dancing over the cool metal. “Mine’s a thick gold band—”
His eyes were resting to where their fingers were playing with one another, but they quickly glanced up. “I beg you, don’t, Lady Electra. I know the Renaissance band you’re referring to. Thick gold, nearly to the knuckle, intricate vines engraved in it with emeralds as leaves?”
Confused, she drew away from him, but he reached out carefully and curled his fingers around hers. “But it looked so beautiful when I put it on. No one has anything like it.”
“Sweetheart,” he sighed, trying to catch her eye, but she was instead looking down at her right middle finger, which was completely unadorned, which was next to his own vined ring. “Yours looks like some sort of Medieval torture device.”
At this, Bellatrix held in a laugh for the most part, but Electra still heard it, and it at least lightened the mood. “Look at mine,” Bella murmured, reaching out her right hand. A similar vine, this one of gold and black, skated over her finger, little leaves and rosettes shooting off from the fine. “They’re quite pretty.”
She shot her a look. Then she looked over at the wizard. “If you can convince the jewelry singer by my sixteenth birthday to create me something with lilies, I’ll change my mind.” Her eyes shone green and he looked at her appraisingly.
Then, after a moment, he picked up his knife and suggested, “If you’re a sweet tooth.”
“I’ll even call you ‘sweetheart,’” she bargained as she let him spread the white paste on the white bread and pass it to her on the plate.
“What will you call me now?” he enquired, his lips curling into a smile. It looked positively devious of him, and for a moment Electra wished she was a Muggleborn again and could just lean forward and kiss him—not that she’d kissed anyone. James Potter had been her only option as he’d kept all other wizards away—and she was not kissing James Potter.
Glancing at her sister, she asked, “Potter. James. He’ll be wearing a vined ring next year, won’t he? I mean, he can’t try to kiss me as soon as I put one on”—
“He can’t try to kiss you now. Father’s made his displeasure known to the Potter Household.” She was nibbling away at one of the spreads. “Do ignore me, though, Elle. I’m here as a chaperone.” Her eyes glittered and then she looked out over the water at the sound of the bell, which seemed to signal that a boat was coming in. Electra was watching her face, so she saw it darken, and glanced over at the water.
“Why is Heir Lucius boating?” she murmured to no one in particular. “He can’t see me—If Narcissa finds out he even just sees me with my blonde hair…”
“Our sister is ridiculous,” Bellatrix suggested, turning back to her spread. “Tell me, Elle, darling. Have you thought of children?”
Electra paled. She had, briefly, when she was just Hogwarts age. She thought it was marvelous that she and Severus were both wizards—and so naturally they would get married and have children. However, she had never mentioned it to anyone, would mention it to no one, and wasn’t she just contemplating her first kiss and children was a bit of few steps further on from that?
“You’re frightening your sister,” the wizard suggested as he looked at Bellatrix sternly. “Go annoy Lucius with talk of Narcissa.” He made a motion for her to leave and she stood, curtseying strangely enough, before going down the dock, leaving Electra with the strange wizard.
She looked over at the two friends, at how unlikely a pair they were but how sophisticated they looked with one another, and she leaned in toward her companion. “I know Bella doesn’t have blonde hair and Heir Lucius would never consider it, but he’s the only one of her friends I’ve even met. They seem so comfortable around one another.”
Smirking at her, he carefully suggested another spread and prepared her plate as she took a sip of her milk.
“Lucius Malfoy admires Bellatrix,” he admitted, “but he’s the type of man who would want a wife he can protect. She’s older, sophisticated, extremely dangerous—”
“You mean with the Takeover,” she suggested carefully as she bit into her new spread and then carefully put it down again. “Bella was involved in the Takeover.” Her voice was little more than a whisper. “As were you. And Heir Lucius.” Swallowing, she asked, “Was Narcissa? Papa? Mama?”
“You were correct about the three of us,” he told her carefully as he made her a choice she had previously liked, snatching the one she had discarded, seemingly uncaring that she had already taken a bite. “Your Papa is a law wizard and offered support that way. Lord and Lady Black were important supporters financially. Your sister Narcissa is a vapid young woman who cares little more than who she marries.”
Biting her lip again thoughtfully, Electra suggested, “I could come to care only about whom I marry.”
He looked at her indulgently. “Sweetheart,” he told her simply. “I’ve read your reports from your professors—about your spellcasting, about potions. You’re not studious.” (She was about to object, when he reached up and grasped her chin gently, his eyes flicking down to her lips although they both knew he could never kiss her because of that simple vine on his finger.) “You’re curious. You’re curious about that which has been set so long that you had to be brave in your curiosity. That’s what makes you a Gryffindor and not those Muggles.”
Electra glanced away, but he ducked his head to the side to try and catch her eyes.
“That’s part of it, I’m sure, but they made you brave and daring, sweetheart, and you applied it to magic.—When I sweep you off your feet, and I promise you, Mademoiselle Electra, I will be the one to sweep you off your feet, it will not be because you’re trying to catch a husband or because you are trying to escape your father or you couldn’t be bothered to try to be independent. It will be because I will support you in your every endeavor and I will help you be glorious.” His eyes were so honest, so pleading, that she couldn’t help but reach up and grasp his wrist, letting her fingers caress his skin.
“And what would you want when you sweep me off my feet? Who are you?” She asked the question again, begging him with her green eyes to just tell her.
He looked down at her fingers and smiled softly to himself. “I am your sweetheart, and while I appointed Tankard to Hogwarts, I will make certain that no one ever terrorizes you again.” The wizard’s fingers caressed her chin, the tip of one brushing the side of her mouth, and she turned her head to the side to get a better look at him.
Silence spread between them but they just sat there, locked together, catching glances of one another. “I’m going back to Hogwarts tomorrow,” she finally whispered when the server came with two steaming teacups of frothy white liquid. Breaking away from him, she picked up the cup, inhaled the steam for some hint of what it was, before taking a sip. Electra smiled. She rather liked it. “What will you do?”
“I shall continue my work with the Takeover,” he told her carefully, picking up his own cup now, barely looking at it as his long fingers wrapped around it. “There is a great deal of work to do.—I shall write to you, if you will let me.”
Her mind flitted to the idea. “Whatever will we write about? Whatever will my mama let me write about? How will my owls get to you?”—She wondered this last one mostly to herself.
Shrugging, he suggested. “Give them to Tankard.”
Electra paused. She looked down at her cup and then back up at him. “He’s staying at Hogwarts?”
“He has my complete confidence.—He has the Dark Lord’s complete confidence,” he added almost as an afterthought, as if he thought it should be said, not that it needed to be said.
This, however, confused her. “I thought he needed the Dark Lord’s complete confidence, and you make it sound—it’s just.” Electra took a deep breath. “Is he to take the position of Headmaster? Old Sluggy has the position currently, and I’m rather fond of him despite his obvious nod toward—favoritism.”
There was a long pause, and then Electra looked up at the wizard who was gazing at her carefully over his own cup. “The Dark Lord oversees all aspects of wizarding Britain, it’s true, and Hogwarts is one of them.—I have been, appointed, to keep a closer eye on it for him. All decisions, for instance, must come to me if they are important. Tankard couldn’t, for instance, release you from suspicion even with the blood test without coming to me. I gave him permission to inform Lord Black. I could have let Tankard follow up with Monsieur Cygnus, it’s true,” he paused and looked at her longingly, “but those dreams for all those years and your name, Electra. It was as if you’ve been trying to tell me something since you first went to Hogwarts and I was just not clever enough to listen.”
She put down her cup. “I don’t believe you’ve had those dreams.”
“The three swans clumped together on the pond?” he murmured just loudly enough for her to hear. “The fourth wandering off across the pathway near the tree. There’s one tiger lily—and that’s down the pathway near the stonewall, where exactly seven bricks are broken—one perhaps for each year at Hogwarts—”
Immediately, she reached out and grabbed his hand, her manicured fingernails digging into his skin. However, he just continued.
“I would guess those three swans are the Evans family, the parents and the daughter. You’re the one wandering off into magic. Why the tiger lily?”
Her green eyes sought his, but she shook her head. “You should not walk other people’s dreams, wizard,” she warned carefully before she stood and went toward the dock where she unfortunately saw Bellatrix speaking with Heir Lucius. Electra was careful to keep out of Heir Lucius’s sight, always to the side or behind him, moving down the dock to where she could see their boat.
She could hear the wizard moving behind her but didn’t move faster to escape him or slow to accommodate him. When she finally came to the boat, his hand rested at her elbow as he carefully lifted her down and she settled herself.
The rest of the boat trip was a bit of a blur to Electra. She wasn’t even aware of Bellatrix joining them or of them sailing down the Thames. After being returned with Bellatrix to Black’s Hole, she settled in for an evening of schoolwork and daydreaming, her sister looking on with a knowing glint in her eye.
As it was Sunday when she returned to Hogwarts, everyone was in their Common Room. Gryffindor was as glaringly red as Electra remembered, and she felt a little uncomfortable with her hair done in elaborate braids and in a black tunic and black bellbottoms, the height of sophistication for Hogwarts, Bellatrix had assured her.
She barely had time to step through the portrait hole with Tankard escorting her when Black of all people rushed over to her, paused to take a good look at her, and then threw himself in her arms.
“Oh, Elle,” he whispered desperately into her neck as he held her close. “I’ve lit a candle for you on your birthday every year since I was old enough to light a match without magic.”
Looking around at the other students watching them, she carefully folded him into her arms and held him close. It felt so nice to be held, to be wanted. She’d never really had that until she had first met Bellatrix, and even then her sister was no more than just verbally affectionate. Her mama never did more than pat her on the cheek and her wizard-papa was stoic though kind.
Finally, he pulled away and she looked into his gray eyes.
“Does this mean you’ll prank Potter for me next time he asks me to Hogsmeade?” she asked hopefully after a long moment.
At this he let out a bark like laugh, and led her into the common room toward his three friends who were waiting for them. James Potter had messed up his black hair again, his hazel eyes dull behind his glasses. There was Lupin who was thin and wan as usual, and then the little chubby one she never bothered to remember.
“Er—” she began, looking between the four of them. “I think we’ve met.”
“They haven’t met my brilliant little cousin,” Sirius stated, coming up to her and placing his hands on her shoulders. “Electra, for one of the Pleaides. A star like most Blacks.”
She glanced at him. “Don’t get me started on how vapid Narcissa is and she’s not a star. Where’s Andromeda? Nobody will tell me. They just look at each other and change the subject. I mean, Bellatrix is brilliant although she’s trying to micromanage my love life—”
“Woah,” Potter put in quickly. “Your love life, Evans—er, Black?”
“Love life,” she repeated carefully as if he were stupid. “It’s the hair, if I’m perfectly honest. Uncle Orion charms away the ginger dye, and all of a sudden everyone and their brother wants to take me to The Wicked Stepmother—but that’s not the point,” she annunciated carefully. “Bellatrix, as I said, is brilliant, although she micromanages everything, and Narcissa keeps on going on about her hair and about Heir Lucius Malfoy’s hair and I just want her not to notice my hair’s the same color in case she decides to cut it while I’m sleeping.”
“Right,” Sirius mentioned. “Sounds like something she would do. She’s on Malfoy, is she?” He glanced at his friends. “Wonder if we can get Reggie to help us in Slytherin mess it up somehow.”
“I messed it up for you,” she answered tiredly, “without even trying. I’m also pretty sure he was aware of how idiotic she was before Bellatrix and I had dinner with him that night in her flat.” Slouching she then demanded, “Black—Sirius—Cousin of mine who lights candles for me, where is my sister Andromeda?”
He cleared his throat and looked around carefully. “She, er, married a Mudblood,” he told her carefully. “He’s probably in gaol or on the run by now. I think she has a daughter.”
Electra sat up. “I’m an aunt? And no one told me?”
“No one speaks about her. She’s a half-blood,” he told her carefully. “Our family motto is—”
Right. Of course. How dreadful. She’d see about meeting Andromeda and her niece later on if she could arrange it. The wizard could arrange it, she realized. She’d just have to convince him.
In the end, Sirius was a godsend. He kept people away from asking her insipid or insulting questions. However, when they went down to dinner, she rushed over to the Slytherin table, not caring that she was a Gryffindor and there was house rivalry, and hugged Severus long and hard.
All the time, she felt Tankard’s eyes on her. Still, at dessert, she sat down with Severus and chatted away about Black’s Hole and about the little café near London on the Thames.
“That’s the Mortuary,” her Cousin Regulus told her when she was describing it. “Since the Takeover, you have to be a Death Eater to get in.”
“That must be Bellatrix then,” she mused as she took a sip of her hot chocolate. “Of course, we were with—whatever-his-name-is. He’s terribly secretive about it. Half the time, I’m tempted to grab his hair and tug just to get his attention since he suggests I call him the most bizarre things.—thing.”
A blond wizard with silver eyes who resembled Heir Lucius, strangely, leaned toward her and asked, curious, “Who?”
“I don’t know. He’s a friend of Papa’s and my sister’s. He’s somehow involved in the Takeover. Apparently, he appointed Tankard of all people.” She pointed out the wizard who was sitting on the right hand of Headmaster Slughorn. “It’s just peculiar. I met him when he came to ask Papa about how I was settling in or—something.” Electra shrugged. “It’s one large mystery. Everyone seems to know except me. It would be more infuriating if I weren’t so caught up in trying to remember my own name.”
Severus looked at her. “Well, I suppose you’ll see him over Christmas or this summer if he’s a Death Eater along with your sister.”
“I suppose I will,” she agreed, not telling him how she was already composing a letter to him in her head about her ‘homecoming’ to Hogwarts. She drummed her fingers against the wooden table in a tell, showing her nervousness, and then quickly got up.
That night she stared at the ceiling and thought that she was awake for hours. However, she jumped when the alarm went off, sunlight streaming over her eyes when it hadn’t just a moment before.
Today she was really going to be Electra Amabilis Black. She would have to approach her studies with new vigor, breathe life into a world that was crumbling around her, and she would have to navigate through a pureblood existence.
Electra was sitting next to Sirius at breakfast, just sipping at some orange juice, when Tankard approached her not three minutes after the morning post came with a letter in his hand. She didn’t even see him approach until the fat little one leaned in and whispered, “Lookout.”
Her eyes slid to the side and she saw his imposing figure and wondered if he really was a half-blood and if that should matter now. Her favorite sister was a Death Eater, her father was a supporter, and the wizard who was giving her gifts seemed to be some sort of official. She was the victim, it seemed, of Muggle cruelty, if the whispers between her wizard-parents was to be believed.
A presence settled behind her and she stilled, part of her programmed for fight of flight, until the not quite kind voice of Tankard greeted, “Miss Black.”
She put down her glass and turned in her seat to see him standing in his black robes, a crisp wad of folded parchment in his hand. Looking at the letter in his hand up to his cold, dark eyes, she forced herself to smile: “Good morning.”
“Your sweetheart has sent you a letter, to be put into your own hand.”
Sirius who was sitting quietly beside her suddenly started and glanced about wildly, exchanging looks with his friends, but Electra forced herself not to look at him.
“He,” her voice caught. “He couldn’t send me an owl himself, Mr. Tankard?” Her eyebrows furrowed. “Is there—I mean—it’s not like you’re reading them first?” Now that she thought about it, Electra was terribly confused.
“Your name, while yours since birth,” he explained carefully, “has been lost for over ten years. He was uncertain if an owl, who didn’t know you, would find you.” He held out the letter and she carefully took it, looking at the direction. Then she flipped it over and sighed.
“There’s no name,” she mentioned carefully. “He can’t mean for us to pass letters as if we were in class—” Electra looked up at his impassive face. “Of course he does.” The wizard would not tell her his name—and their only link was Tankard. “I don’t know when—” she apologized, flipping the letter back over again.
“I shall come inquire tomorrow morning. Your studies, I am sure your sweetheart knows, come first.” His eyes were gleaming—gleaming. The terrifying bastard found this amusing! And to make matters worse, Sirius was elbowing her to try and get her attention.
“That is gracious,” she finally decided on, fighting not to bite her lip. She glanced, now, at Sirius who was looking at her in terror.
“Enjoy the rest of your morning, Miss Black,” Tankard said in farewell, nodding to her before leaving.
There was silence along their part of the table and, after a long moment, Electra carefully unsealed the letter (she didn’t recognize the coat of arms) and shuffled through the five pages of tightly scripted lines to find the final flourish.
“Your Sweetheart,” Sirius read over her shoulder. “Elle, you weren’t kidding about your love life.”
“No,” she agreed, as she put the letter back together. “My—sweetheart—enjoys anonymity for whatever reason and Papa and Bellatrix are determined to give it to him. If he weren’t so fascinating I’d stop talking to him just to make a point.” Grimacing at her cousin, she took him in.
Unfortunately, Potter interrupted. “Lily-flower.”
It was, however, Sirius who interjected. “That’s not her name. Shut up, Prongs.” His voice was harsh and he didn’t even bother looking at Potter, his eyes still on his cousin. “What does he say?”
“Er—” she glanced down at the letter again, skimming the opening lines. “You want to—really?” This was surprising, Sirius Black the romantic.
Electra’s green eyes began to flick over the lines. “He—he wonders how Hogwarts is. I’d mentioned that my closest friend in Gryffindor was a Mugglebor—Mudblood,” she added quickly, “so he’s curious as to who I’m sitting with in class.”
“Me,” Sirius answered for her, “except when we’re with the Slytherins, I suppose,” he added darkly. That was true, as she was now Electra Black she could sit with Severus when they shared classes. The day before everyone had stared at her with her expensive ostrich plumes and her thick parchment, pearls in her ears, the only jewelry she was allowed to wear. Her cousin pulled her from her thoughts. “And?”
Picking up the letter and noticing that she had absolutely everyone’s attention, she admitted after a few moments, “He wonders what it’s like for a witch to suddenly go about with her hair up in the pureblood style if she’s used to it keeping her neck warm in a drafty castle.” Electra put the letter down. “I didn’t think that would occur to wizards.”
“Everything about your hair occurs to us,” Sirius told her plainly. “There was a situation with Dromeda when a wizard cut a lock of her hair. Apparently she was rebelling against pureblood culture and had worn it down and it was so long she could sit on it. Uncle Cygnus was so infuriated with the wizard, that even Dumbledore gave him detention for the rest of term and Andromeda was forced to cut her hair to her shoulders.”
Swallowing, Electra nodded. Even she knew that was a humiliation as it would have been difficult to put up and she would have had difficulty putting it in any style. “But it must have grown since then.”
“Supposedly,” Sirius agreed. “Then again, I haven’t seen her since she ran away.”
“Right,” she agreed.
He prodded her toward the letter and she turned toward it again. “He talks about Hogwarts when he was here, which was—he doesn’t say. Slughorn was his favorite professor, too. Oh, there are a few paragraphs about Sluggy’s Yuletide Party.” Glancing at her cousin, she murmured, “I wonder if he’ll come. Maybe someone will say his name.” Their eyes met. “Does Andromeda have eyes like the rest of you? I’m the only one with Mama’s eyes?”
The fat one grasped at the letter, but Electra was too quick for him and pulled it away.
Sirius glared at him before turning to her. “You’re the only one with green eyes,” he apologized. “Both of my parents are actually Blacks so Reggie and I were bound to have them—”
“Oh,” she murmured, looking at the letter, and scanning the edge of the first page and going onto the second. “Now he wants me to wear the necklace he enchanted onto my neck at the Mortuary—for the party. He’s wondering if I’ll accept earrings to match—Oh, Papa’s given permission.”
“He’s given you a necklace?” Potter demanded loudly and at this the next table became quiet as everyone turned to listen.
Some of the Slytherins had been eyeing them ever since Tankard had come over with the letter, and Regulus took the opportunity to take a final bite of his toast and come over. “Who’s it from?” he asked. “What’s this about jewelry for Electra?”
Sirius sent his friend a dirty glance. “Some wizard who signs his letter ‘your sweetheart’. Though, you said he took you to the Mortuary. Great, Uncle Cyggy is marrying you off to a Death Eater, though with Tankard involved, we shouldn’t be surprised.”
Regulus sat down on her other side, pushing aside whoever was there, and picked up a goblet of pumpkin juice. “What’s he say, then? Only the best.” He leaned in. “Severus fancied himself in the running—before—” The brothers shared a look “—but a few of us set him straight.”
“I—don’t want to know what that means,” Electra decided. At the dark look Potter was sending the two brothers, she flipped over to the third page of his letter. “He’s wondering if I don’t mind being photographed if he takes me to The Wicked Stepmother,” she announced a little loudly in her nervousness. “Wait—I missed why we were being photographed.”
Carefully, Regulus took the letter from her hands and went back to the second page. Quoting, he intoned, “I’m afraid, Sweetheart, that the press are rather wild for any photograph they can get of me. I’ve become rather a recluse in the past few weeks. We were rather fortunate at the Mortuary. We were not expected and the place is one of leisure with patrons staying for sometimes only minutes at a time as they grab some elves’ milk to drink.”
He was now turning the page. “I don’t want to thrust you into the role of celebrity when you haven’t even taken your O.W.L.s—”
The two Black brothers shared a look and Electra just stared at them. “Are you making this up?” she finally asked.
“No,” Regulus told her, showing her the last line.
She grabbed the page and swallowed. “Oh, dear. I just—hmm.” The scraping of chairs caught her attention and she realized it was time for class. She folded up her letter and stuffed it in her new bag that had her monogramed initials on it: EAB.
At first she didn’t write back the wizard, instead pouring over the letter again and again until it was quite worn. She could feel Tankard’s eyes on her, and occasionally she would look up at him in the hall, look into his dark eyes, and think that, no, she didn’t want him anywhere near her sister.
Owls came and went from her sister Bellatrix and her mama. There was the occasional one from her Papa.
Finally, on Sunday afternoon, she curled up in an armchair, and wrote back. At first she spoke of Petunia and her love of various movie actors and how she wanted to be famous and adored—but she, Electra, had never wanted that. Electra didn’t want her photograph taken unless it was for the family mantle. Sometimes she wanted to be a star in the heavens, shining brightly, looking down on everyone. “One of the Pleides, given that I am named for one,” she suggested. “Andromeda has her own constellation—but I don’t need that much.” Of course, the letter just expanded when she spoke of Sluggy and how she didn’t need anything extra such as earrings but she would, of course, wear the necklace. She’d even wear the comb if her hairstyle allowed it.
Then she asked, her handwriting a little cramped from fear of his answer, “Can you sneak me off to see my sister Andromeda and her daughter?”
That Monday, without even going to the Gryffindor table, she walked directly up to Tankard at the Head Table, and held out the thick letter. “It’s—long,” she apologized as her opening. “It kind of—expanded. It will keep him occupied.” She smiled, or at least tried to.
Tankard was holding his knife and fork over his blood pudding but he put them down and took the parchment-letter, and looked at the direction. “S?” he inquired, slightly amused.
“Well,” she admitted boldly, “he signed it ‘Sweetheart’. ‘S’-‘sweetheart’. Only thing I could think of unless I start describing the unusual blue of his eyes.”
He paused. “You wouldn’t describe the shape of them?” he asked her as his own eyes tried to catch her out.
“I’ve yet to discover how his eyes,” she told him, “came to look like his eyes. I wouldn’t do them justice.” She shrugged at the thought, of how they were slitted like a snake’s, and yet were strangely seductive. “My sister won’t tell me. Then again, she won’t tell me anything.”
There was a slight tick to the side of his mouth, but his eyes didn’t leave her. “Which sister is this, Miss Black?”
“Mademoiselle Bellatrix,” she informed him carefully. “She has fully warned me that she still sees me as a baby in a cradle. I suppose I’ll stay that way for quite some time. I understand you two know each other?”
She hadn’t realized it, but he had been tapping the letter against the table. “We do,” he agreed. “How is Mademoiselle Bellatrix?”
For a moment she wondered if he was being polite or if he was genuinely curious. Deciding to pretend this was a social engagement, she told him, “The Dark Lord has given her the position as Special Correspondent at The Daily Prophet. I believe she’s working on something, though of course she wouldn’t share the details with me as I need to focus on Hogwarts.”
Clearly distracted, he murmured, “I’m glad to hear it. Mademoiselle Bellatrix has always been talented.”
“Perhaps you’ll read her story when it comes out,” she suggested carefully. “Thank you for playing the postowl.”
He nodded to her and slipped the letter into his robes. It would get to the wizard, she knew. Heads would roll, if it didn’t.
She hadn’t expected to be pulled out of class later that day. The boy told her that the Headmaster wanted to see her and, secure in the fact that she was Electra Black and they couldn’t do anything to her and she had just been chatting with Tankard of all people that morning, she ascended the winding staircase to his office.
Dumbledore had occupied these four walls once. However, it was rumored he’d been placed in Nurmengard, where Grindelwald had been held before his release.
“I had no idea that Muggles dyed their hair,” Slughorn greeted from behind his desk, turning her thoughts back to the present. “I’m glad to see you well, Lily Evans.”
Smiling at him, she approached the desk and sat when he offered her a chair. “I think you’ll find I was adopted.”
“I’ve seen you with the Black brothers,” he agreed with a twinkle in his eye. “Two dark heads and a blonde one. It rather reminds me of the Black sisters—forgive me, your sisters.”
“Andromeda has dark hair?” she asked. “People say so little about her.”
“Well, yes,” he admitted uncomfortably. “Enough of that.—Tankard.” His beard was small and looked suddenly weak on his chin, but Electra forced herself to look him in the eye.
“What about Mr. Tankard?” she asked.
“You passed him a letter this morning. In fact, I think he passed you one last week.”
“Owls are a bit difficult right now,” she explained airily. “Although I was born Electra Amabilis Black, owls don’t quite see it that way. My correspondent and I agreed to use him at the moment. It’s clumsy, but it will serve our purpose.”
“Miss Black,” Slughorn pointed out carefully. “You don’t need to give Mr. Tankard a letter for it to get to whoever you’re sending it to, if what you say is true. He only needs to deliver letters to you.”
She blinked and merely looked at her professor for a long moment. “Papa knows.” It was really her only defense. “It’s quite—really. Why don’t you ask Mr. Tankard?”
“I can’t,” Slughorn admitted after he gazed at her for several long minutes. “He has the confidence of the Dark Lord himself.”
“You have his confidence,” she argued. “You’re his Headmaster—doesn’t that mean something?” Electra looked at him desperately. “You’re molding young minds, his future Death Eaters, his future citizens. I know I’m being watched.” Of course, she did. The very presence of the wizard first appearing in her father’s study was proof she was being monitored. “If I didn’t know the person watching me was receiving my letter, I wouldn’t doubt that Tankard would open it.”
Slughorn sat back. “You’re so certain that he hasn’t?”
“Positive. It’s going to someone higher up.”
Her headmaster regarded her. He opened his mouth to speak, but he paused for a long moment. Blinking, he looked at the door, which after a moment opened to reveal Tankard.
It must have been the wards, Electra realized. She regarded him for a long moment as the two wizards stood looking at each other. There was a rather obvious power struggle going on between them as they just stood there, appraising the other one, as if he were a rival.
“You had been warned,” Tankard stated into the stillness.
“Yes,” he agreed. “The Dark Lord personally requested her files.”
That was certainly a surprise. She hadn’t realized he had gotten involved. Tankard, yes. The wizard, yes. The Dark Lord would keep an eye on the Mudblood situation, but—personally? She had been looking off out of the window, and was called back by the sound of her name—Her Muggle name.
“You are addressing Mademoiselle Electra Black!” Tankard spat. “Do not think the Dark Lord’s fondness for you is so pronounced that he will allow you to call your students by filthy names.” His ire was apparent as a dark wind began to fluff his otherwise straight and perfectly combed hair. It was rather silky, a little too silky, Electra thought, but really her opinion of Tankard’s grooming habits didn’t matter. Bellatrix’s on the other hand…
“Why does he care?” Slughorn demanded, indicating her. “Yes, she’s clever. She’s going to be Head Girl, especially with her family name. I doubt she’ll make a Death Eater like other members of her family because of her background, but she’ll be a good, productive member of society.”
“You honestly think the Dark Lord cares if Miss Black becomes a Death Eater?” Tankard laughed. “You’ve been out of the game so long—”
“What, are they passing love notes?” Slughorn laughed and Tankard’s face suddenly blackened.
Electra laughed. “Don’t be ridiculous, Professor. I’ve never even met the Dark Lord.”
Tankard gave her a pitying look and she just stared at him.
“That—no—” she gasped, as she suddenly realized what his look meant. “That can’t—”
At Tankard’s continued dark gaze, she got up even though they could have her in detention, and slipped into the dorm at Gryffindor Tower. No one really came down and she could hear people in the Common Room milling about before dinner, but she didn’t move. She just curled up in her covers and looked at a photograph of her with Bellatrix and Narcissa in Diagon Alley. Bellatrix was wild and carefree, Narcissa stuck up and trying to pose, while Electra was in between them, trying to smile and seem at ease. It was all playacting.
She must have drifted off into sleep, but she wasn’t alone when she woke up, the moon high in the sky.
“Sweetheart,” the wizard whispered. He was sitting at the end of her bed, his head leaning up against one of the posts. “Tankard—he—I did not mean for you to find out this way.”
Her heart sank as her fears were confirmed. “What happened to your face, Dark Lord?”
“Sweetheart,” he begged. “Call me ‘sweetheart’.”
Sighing, Electra asked. “How many witches have called you ‘sweetheart’? We cannot call you by your name, it was reported just last month that it was taboo. It is as if you are the one and only Dark Lord to ever exist and you were never another ‘Lord’.”
She could feel his gaze on her, and at first Electra believed he wouldn’t answer her. “I had a Muggle name when I was here at Hogwarts. I hated it. A witch I rather fancied used to call me by it. She was the only one.”
“What happened to her?” she asked, not looking in his direction.
“I wrote a few essays for her, everyone thought she would be Head Girl, until she took her examinations and couldn’t remember a single thing I had written for her or taught her. She married someone, by that point I didn’t care who. I believe she has children.”
Laughing a little to herself, she bit her lip. “You did a girl’s homework to impress her.”
“I was young and foolish,” he admitted. “I thought my unusual good looks had wooed her and she had seen past it all to my mind.”
“You’re not good looking,” she informed him carefully. “Singular looking, perhaps.—Seductive,” Electra admitted quietly, perhaps too quietly for him to hear. With a firmer voice, she continued, “But never handsome.”
“Sweetheart,” he murmured, a smile in his voice. “I did not always look like this.”
“Well,” she suggested, “if you had, perhaps you’d be married and you wouldn’t be exchanging love notes with a school girl.” Glancing over, a terrified thought occurred to her. “You’re not only the Dark Lord but you’re married, aren’t you?” Electra sat up and looked at him in the darkness. “How could it be any other way? This talk of lilies in dreams and your heart breaking is just—talk.”
“There is no Dark Lady,” he swore as he reached out and cupped her cheek, her hair falling down around her face. “Not yet.”
She searched for his eyes, but couldn’t find them in the darkness. “Why do you do it?”
He didn’t answer, so she pushed the covers off of her knees and moved closer to him.
“The Takeover. I had to keep it from—my Muggle parents. Every year. Excuses for why they couldn’t come to the train, why everything got more and more expensive, how I had a legal magical guardian in second year—all so they wouldn’t pull me out. I’ve been terrified since I was a small child because of you.”
“You were never meant to be terrified,” he hushed. “You were meant to be kept safe, Electra. You’re the pureblood daughter of Cygnus and Druella Black—”
“Don’t say such things to me,” she murmured without any anger, “as if that’s supposed to be a love poem.” Electra began to move away from him, but his fingers curled around her cheek, begging her to stay.
“Then what things shall I say to you?” he begged. “This is the third time I’ve seen you and I would make you my wife with only the stars as my witness if I could.”
“The Dark Lord,” she scoffed, “married to a Mudblood school girl.”
His hand reached into her hair and she felt it tumble even further down her shoulders, but there was no one to see. His fingers were long and slender, and yet had a firm presence, stroking against the rim of her ear and the side of her neck. “The Dark Lord,” he told her carefully, “would have obliviated the Mudblood school girl, but you were never that.” His arm came around her and pulled her into his arms and she just rested against him until, carefully, she let her arms come around him. It was as close as she could get to him. Schoolgirls in the Muggle world could kiss their sweethearts, but all she could do was be held. Even this would be scandalous if anyone learned of their behavior.
“I would have come and found you,” he whispered in her ear. “I would have followed the lone swan back to the lake, and I would have looked into your eyes until you remembered magic again. Sweetheart.”
She laughed brokenly. “What is it with you and that word?”
However, he didn’t answer her. He just held her closer.
In the end, nothing was resolved. She merely pulled out of his arms and turned on the light before going and fixing her hair. “There is time still for dinner,” she murmured and he kissed the top of her head.
“I’ll see you at Slughorn’s Yuletide Party, sweetheart.” And he walked out the door…