Part of the Willow Series
Summary: When Harriet Potter disappeared, everyone assumed she was traveling. Little did they know that she was a metamorphmagus and was waiting to return to England under an assumed identity.
Warnings: Rule 63, Assumed Identities, Character Death
Part the First
Blacks were not only born: they were made. It was a little known fact that Nymphadora Tonks was in fact Lady Nymphadora Black. The metamorphmagus gene had manifested itself in her at a young age and she was entitled to the Black—and indeed any other—family name. She could have been Lady Nymphadora Rosier after her maternal grandmother, if she so wished. With this gift also came the position of being a Lady in society. She would not be the Lady of a House, such as her aunt Narcissa was Lady Malfoy, but a Lady born of a house, such as the Ladies Lacerta and Iolanthe Malfoy, Lord and Lady Malfoy’s daughters. Before her gift had manifested, Nymphadora had no title at all because her mother had been disinherited and her father was a simple Muggle-born.
Nymphadora Tonks had this all explained to her when she was five years old. However, she hadn’t much cared. She was proud of being just plain Nymphadora Tonks, and Nymphadora Tonks she had remained, although whispers followed her throughout her Auror training program.
Harriet Potter’s grandmother was Dorea Black, but she didn’t know this. In fact, she knew next to nothing about her own family. She didn’t even know she was a metamorphmagus. Thinking it was an odd coincidence of fate, her hair always grew long when her Aunt Petunia cut it short like a boy’s. When she would wake up with it messy, it would always form into soft curls by the time she was up and cooking breakfast for the Dursleys. When she had fancied it straight for the Yule Ball, it had straightened for her with just a brush of her comb. Unbenownst to her, her scar was sometimes hidden from view, but she thought it was hiding under her fringe. It wasn’t. It was simply gone.
Imagine everyone’s surprise when she was seventeen and taken by snatchers and she had morphed into a girl with golden hair, brown eyes, and a round face. She looked nothing like herself.
“What spell is that?” Hermione whispered when they were alone in a cellar at Malfoy Manor. “You are Harriet Potter, aren’t you?”
“Of course, I am!” Harriet repeated hotly. “Who else would I be?”
It got her thinking after the war. There was all this publicity, all the fame, and some purebloods were deriding her because she was simply Miss Harriet Potter because her mother was a Muggle-born.
That was when she began researching what she was. She began to quiz Tonks about being a metamorphmagus and what exactly that meant and then, finally, one day she disappeared.
Her disappearance went at first unnoticed. Everyone thought that she was simply being a recluse. Then she didn’t go to events in her honor, or even to Quidditch matches of her friend Oliver Wood. She wasn’t seen in Diagon Alley and a real panic began. Harriet Potter was missing.
The Aurors were called and the disappearance made headlines for weeks until finally, when nothing was found, the news died down. It was just accepted that Harriet had probably gone off on her own accord. There was, after all, no evidence of foul play. Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place was boarded up and everyone but her closest friends forgot about her.
Then there was a stirring in France. A strange beauty had been spotted, tall and slim, with long brown hair and piercing blue eyes. She was invited to all the French Ministry events and spoke French with an English accent. She said her name was Lady Helène Peverell.
Immediately Kingsley Shacklebolt, the Minister for Magic, dispatched an invitation to the heiress of one of the oldest families of the British Islands. At first there was no response. Then, a masked owl arrived and accepted the invitation—specifically the opening dinner to the school year at Hogwarts.
The press was elated. One of the daughters of Britain was coming home. Songs were written in her honor and when she arrived on a Muggle ocean liner, there were reporters from The Daily Prophet to snap her photograph and Minister Shacklebolt himself to welcome her.
Helène breathed in the air of her home country. She hadn’t been in Britain in two years and was now twenty. An old maid, by pureblood standards.
Still, she wasn’t sure if she meant to marry. During all her time in France, first at the Sorbonne learning French under a different identity, and then at the Ministry, no one had caught her eye. No one since—
But that didn’t bear thinking about. He hated her. He had since first year when she refused to shake his hand.
Seeing her old friend Kingsley, she tried to keep a calm face with only the hint of a smile on it. This would be hard, she realized, seeing all the friends she once had when she was Harriet Potter.
“Minister Shacklebolt,” she greeted, using the posh accent she had perfected over the years. “What a pleasure to meet you.” She offered him her hand, as equals, but instead he picked it up and let it hover just beneath his lips before releasing it. An old pureblood custom.
“The pleasure is mine, Lady Helène. Won’t you come this way?” They posed for more photographs and Helène was glad that she had worn robes despite traveling on a Muggle vessel. Her hair was swept back from her smooth forehead in an elegant twist, in the custom of pureblood women who never let their hair down except in the presence of family.
Surprisingly, she was housed with Hermione Granger. “She’s one of our rising stars,” Kingsley explained. “She works in the Magical Creatures Department for Creature rights, but we have our eye on her.”
“I see,” she said, looking over the tidy flat and noticed the door opened to the room where she would be sleeping. It seemed Hermione and Ron hadn’t gotten married directly after the war, after all.
She smiled at Hermione. “What a pleasure to make your acquaintance.” The words, once so foreign, fell off her tongue. She had been coached how to be a proper lady of society.
“It’s nice to meet you, too. I’m sure you’re used to house elves, but I don’t believe in the enslavement of innocent creatures.” Ever the activist, then.
“I think I can find my way around a kitchen,” Helène offered, much to the obvious surprise of Kingsley and Hermione. Harriet Potter had cooked for the Dursleys for seventeen years, after all.
“Well, I’ll leave you to unpack. I’ll be back for you at seven p.m. sharp.”
Helène nodded to him before looking at Hermione. “Well, I guess I better get started then.” She turned to leave, but then Hermione spoke.
“Where have you been all these years? You were never at Hogwarts. Were you at Beauxbatons?”
“No. I had private tutors.” At least for the last couple of years. “And are you going to Hogwarts tonight?”
Hermione blushed. “No, I’m not part of the formal delegation.”
“I see,” Helène said. She supposed it would only be her and the Minister of Magic. Perhaps the Undersecretary. “Do you know who is going?”
“Minister Shacklebolt and Lord Malfoy.”
Helène raised her eyebrows. Why would Lucius be going there?
Sensing Helène’s thoughts, Hermione persisted, “After the late Lord Malfoy passed, the current Lord Malfoy gained his seat, along with the seat of Lord Black. He’s made quite an impression in the Wizengamot and many believe he will be Chief Warlock in a few decades. He was a classmate of mine at Hogwarts.” Displeasure coated her tone of voice. She must be talking of Draco Malfoy.
“I take it you were not friends?”
“You could say that. Anyway, his wedding is the talk of the season. Anyone who’s anyone is invited, even me, surprisingly enough, and I’m a Muggle-born.”
“I’ll be sure to offer him my congratulations.” There it was again, the proper society dialogue rolling off her tongue. One offered the groom ‘congratulations,’ the bride ‘felicitations.’
Helène had a wand from France. It was also phoenix feather but hawthorn, the wood used in Draco Malfoy’s wand, strangely enough. She used it to iron out the creases of her gowns and robes as she unpacked. She didn’t want to favor a particular house in color, and so she opted for ivory. The under-dress was lace and came up to the collar bone, while the over robe was made of acramantula silk, with long medieval sleeves that reached to the ground and a hood that could come up and shade her features. It tied together with a cord of brocade.
She left her hair as it was, though she strung a white ribbon through it. White pearl earrings finished the outfit perfectly.
Kingsley arrived at the appointed time and the two Apparated to Hogsmeade. Helène was grateful that her white slippers had a dust repelling charm on them as she made her way up to the castle. When she arrived, Draco Malfoy was already waiting for them.
The Peverell line was thought to have died out centuries ago but due to its ancient nature it was probably considered on par with the Malfoy family. Draco, though, sketched her a gallant bow. She offered him her hand.
“Lady Helène,” he greeted. “An honor.”
“The honor is mine, Lord Malfoy. I hear that you hold two seats on the Wizengamot. Quite a feat, if I am not mistaken.”
“Thank you,” he said, pulling out a seat for her. The professors were looking at her in curiosity and she noticed that Headmistress McGonagall in particular was glancing at her. “I try to be of use during the Reconstruction.”
“Yes, the Reconstruction,” she said, wondering of how much use Draco actually was. Harriet had spoken for him and his family at their trial, but Helène wondered how much he had mended his ways—whether he was a true reformer or a traditionalist.
She decided to test him. “What is your position on purebloods?” she asked, swirling her butterbeer. She was surprised that the professors didn’t drink elven wine or something.
He looked at her carefully. “Whatever do you mean?”
“The little I know of the Reconstruction is that it meant to give Muggle-borns more rights that perhaps infringed on pureblood traditions and agendas. You’re a member of the Wizengamot. Where do you stand?”
“I stand with magic,” he answered archly.
“That’s not an answer,” she observed.
“I think that this is not a conversation for Hogwarts, or for new friends.” His gray eyes hardened at her. Well, if that was the tactic he was going to take, that was the tactic he was going to take.
“To new friends,” she said, offering him her glass. How this reminded her of the time when Harriet Potter refused his hand on the Hogwarts Express. Here she was, a different person, and her way out of her life had been through pureblood laws and traditions.
He clinked his glass against hers. “To new friends.”
His gray eyes shown out to her and she looked at for them a moment. She wasn’t quite an expert on eyes, but she realized they were different than Harriet godfather’s eyes. His had been a darker gray, smokier. These were—well, not silver—but lighter, crisper. Perhaps he had inherited them from Lucius? She seemed to remember he had gray eyes?
Helène didn’t realize she was staring until Draco took her glass from her carefully and she turned away from him and recollected herself.
When Helène looked back, he was still observing him. “I must confess,” she admitted, “that French politics are rather baffling. I spent an entire set with one wizard—a dancing set–,” she qualified, “where he tried to explain to me the different between a Beauxbatons student with Veela mother or a Veela father. Apparently, they have different accommodations.”
“I imagine,” Draco stated carefully, “this is not of personal concern?” He glanced at her and made a motion behind them and it seemed they were actually served elven wine, much to Helène’s appreciation.
“Indeed not,” she agreed with a small smile. “I confess I have no creature blood to my knowledge. It would greatly surprise me.”
He leaned in conspiratorially. “They say that all magic comes from the children of the fallen angels—the Nephilim. That is a little less than human, Lady Helène.”
A full smile erupted on her lips. “But not creature,” she argued. “One has to wonder how long ago that was.”
However, his gaze seemed to be drifting past her.
She turned toward the Slytherin table but saw nothing amiss. “Lord Malfoy?”
“Forgive me,” he apologized, his eyes glittering again, making her stomach twist. Draco was always out of reach, first when she was Harriet Potter, and now when she was Lady Helène, he was engaged to be married.
Helène could reach out so easily and tuck his hair behind his ear and they would be lost for just a few seconds with each other before reality would come crashing in. She would prove herself to be uncouth and would leave in disgrace—the students might write home to their parents. It would be an unmitigated disaster.
Helène, however, was perhaps not completely surprised when the invitation to Malfoy Manor came the next day. She remembered the last time she was there, no, when Harriet Potter was there, with blonde hair and blue eyes, where no one could identify her as a Muggle-born, half-blood, or pureblood. In retrospect it was all rather amusing.
Dowager Malfoy was present. Narcissa had always been beautiful, with blonde hair and delicate features and, of course, the gray eyes of a Black. She was, naturally, to serve as chaperone. A single lady could not call on a single gentleman, after all.
After being introduced, Helène sat down to tea. Narcissa was sitting off to the side, away from the conversation, while Draco sat next to her. It was rather intimate as they were on a loveseat, but Helène didn’t really mind. She was surprised, however, to see a wrapped package next to the tea set. “Is this—Is this for me?” she stammered in confusion. That was unlike her. It was more like Harriet Potter.
“Yes,” Draco admitted.
The gift was small, in the shape of a jewelry box, and wrapped in gold paper. Gold was the paper of a Peverell courtship. She narrowed her eyes. Thinking that perhaps it was an unlucky coincidence, she reached forward and delicately unwrapped the present. It was, in fact, a jewelry box. She opened it and dropped it immediately.
Draco fortunately—or unfortunately—caught it. It must have been his Seeker reflexes. “Do you not like it?” he asked, though his tone betrayed that there was no fathomable reason that she wouldn’t like it.
“No, it’s beautiful,” she admitted. “I thought that you were engaged. Invitations have already gone out…”
“Cancelled as soon as you put this lovely bracelet on your delicate wrist,” Draco said confidently.
Helène looked at him hard. “I—“ she floundered. “What do you think of the reforms for Muggle-borns?”
“Honestly?” he asked. “I thought we discussed this last night.”
She simply stared at him.
Carefully he admitted, “I think they’re a waste of time. The reason why the war was fought was because purebloods were not having their voices heard in the Wizengamot. If we continue to ignore pureblood traditions and rites, even at the earliest levels of childhood at Hogwarts, then we may as well be preparing for another war.”
“I read that you were a Death Eater.”
He flinched almost imperceptibly. “While it was not my choice, some of the Dark Lord’s ideas had merits. Others, of course, did not.”
“No, they certainly didn’t.” She looked at the pearl bracelet. It was exquisite. Could she accept an offer of courtship from Draco Malfoy, the boy who had disarmed Dumbledore and had been sent to kill him by Lord Voldemort? The boy Harriet Potter had nearly killed with Sectumsempra? The boy who had always hated Harriet Potter but had piqued her interest when she should have been interested in other boys?
She looked over to Narcissa. “What do you think, Dowager Malfoy?”
Narcissa looked up from her needlepoint. “I want my son to be happy. He thinks he can be happier with you than he can be with Lady Astoria Greengrass.”
Helène didn’t recognize the name. She remembered a Daphne Greengrass, a girl who had been in Slytherin in her year, so this girl must be some relation.
This all seemed so unreal. Draco Malfoy wanted to marry her. “I’m a metamorphmagus Black,” she found herself confessing, at a loss at what else to do. “I took my family name of Peverell from my genealogy because Black would be too easy to associate with—who I once was.”
Narcissa dropped her needlepoint. “This isn’t what you look like?”
“No,” she admitted. “And no one will ever see my other face.” She peeked a look at Draco. He seemed intrigued.
“Well, whoever you were, you’re Lady Helène Peverell now,” he said decisively. “Your blood cannot be denied.”
“You are so strange,” Helène admitted. “You’re not even going to pry into my secret?”
“No.” He licked his lips. “You are a strong woman who seems to agree about pureblood rights, at least marginally, otherwise you would have argued with me. I want to marry you, Lady Helène.”
“And when the next new and shiny Lady Someone turns up? Will you cancel our wedding once our invitations have gone out?” It was a valid concern.
“I’ll swear an unbreakable oath that if you agree to marry me, I will go through with it, my lady.”
And he did just that, with Narcissa as the binder of the vow, Draco swore to her that he would not leave her. She then let him clasp the bracelet around her wrist and stared at it, a little in shock.
“I had not thought of marriage,” she confessed. “Now I suppose I must wrap my mind around it.”
He kissed her goodbye, just a hint of lips brushing against lips, but she put her hand up against his cheek.
“I’m staying with Hermione Granger,” she informed him. “I’m sure you can sort out the address, because I’m not quite certain where it is myself.”
She wasn’t at all surprised when the announcement that the Malfoy-Greengrass wedding had been called off arrived the next day. Hermione had looked at it strangely and muttered, “There’s Malfoy for you.” She’d nearly screamed when he’d Apparated into her apartment three days later, an ivory rose in his hands. “Malfoy, what are you doing here?”
“I’m here to see Lady Helène, of course.”
“You’re here to see—“ Helène was standing in the doorway in pale blue robes that complimented her eyes. Fortunately her hair was up in a bun. “Oh, no. Tell me you haven’t, Helène.”
“You called off your wedding for someone with higher social currency!” Hermione shouted in Draco’s face. “That’s low, even for you. And you,” she turned to Helène, “you haven’t been in the country for a week! Were none of the French wizards good enough for you?”
She shook her head. “They’re far too progressive in France.”
“Far too progressive?”
“They’re practically socialists.”
Draco laughed at that. “You’ve got to admit, Granger, the magical government is socialist. I heard the Muggle government is almost fascist.”
“Hmm,” Helène answered.
It was evening and he brought her to a glade that he said was in New Forest. Dowager Malfoy was there, sitting on a rock, wearing pale pink robes that highlighted her features. Another visit with a chaperone. Draco was playing all his cards right.
They stuck to the tree line, with Draco’s hand around her waist and his lips to her ear. “Fairies are said to come out at night,” he explained. “We can only hope we’ll be so lucky.”
Helène turned to him and their noses were almost touching. Draco was not exactly handsome, with his pointed features and gray eyes. He looked a great deal like his father, actually.
“What happened to your father?” she dared to ask. “You’re terribly young to be the Lord of your own House.”
“Mother doesn’t like to talk about it,” Draco admitted. “But a Muggle-born shot him in Diagon Alley with what they call a gun. In her statement at her trial, she said it was retribution for all he had done as a Death Eater.”
“How horrible,” she murmured. “I hope it was quick and relatively painless.”
“Yes. She shot him through the head. He was dead within thirty seconds.” Thirty seconds of pain could be a long time. Harriet Potter had known this, having been held under the Cruciatus Curse. Fortunately, Lady Helène Peverell had never had the same experience.
They watched as night fell and then, just there, there was a speck of blue light. It flitted through the trees and was soon joined by a flash of pink, then yellow, then green, until the glade was filled with tiny beating wings and magical light.
“How beautiful,” she murmured and, drawn to the pulsing of the fairy magic, she walked out of Draco’s grasp and into the glade. The fairies lighted down onto her hair, teasing it out of its bun, until there were thick strands falling into her face. They flew around her, dainty and magnificent, tweaking her ear or brushing against her nose. Then, one by one, they flitted out of the glade again and were gone into the trees.
“By the gods!” Dowager Malfoy exclaimed, looking at Helène. “Draco, turn your back.” They could barely see each other in the trees, but he did so anyway, his shoulders broad and straight. “Come, dear, your hair. Don’t worry, I can’t see you.”
Carefully, Helène undid the pins in her hair and passed them to Dowager Malfoy before finally braiding her hair and twisting it into some semblance of a hairstyle.
“You can turn back, Draco,” Dowager Malfoy called. “I think it’s time to take Lady Helène back to that Muggle-born’s house.”
Helène wrapped herself in Draco’s embrace and felt him kiss her brow before they side-Apparated away.
“Your hair’s different,” Hermione noticed, her own bushy hair falling around her shoulders. “Aren’t purebloods supposed to keep their hair up?” She was lying on the sofa and had looked critically as Draco had run his hand down Helène’s cheek. He then Apparated away.
“Some fairies had a different idea,” she confessed breezily, walking toward her room. She thumped onto the bed and giggled. She remembered the way the fairy light had fallen on Draco’s awed face and the gentle way he had held her. She had never felt so precious before in her life.
“Helène, snap out of it!” Hermione commanded from the doorway.
Helène turned to her. “Snap out of what?”
“He’s just going to break your heart, you know. I heard that Astoria Greengrass hasn’t been seen since the engagement was broken off. He’ll do the same to you.”
“No he won’t,” she countered. “He swore an Unbreakable Vow to me.”
Hermione sucked in her breath. “He couldn’t possibly have.”
“Well, he did. He can never leave me. I could, of course, leave him, but I don’t want to at the moment.”
“You know, there’s supposed to be an interview in The Daily Prophet with Iolanthe Malfoy. She’s a few years younger than Astoria Greengrass but the two are supposed to be great friends.”
“Who’s Iolanthe Malfoy?”
Hermione actually snorted. “You don’t know? You, who have an Unbreakable Vow from Malfoy himself, don’t know that he has two sisters?”
Helène looked at her blankly. She had never seen this side of her friend—no, Harriet Potter’s friend—before. Yes, she had been bossy, but never cruel about someone else’s ignorance.
“Do you even know old he is?”
“About twenty,” she supposedly guessed. “My age.”
“My God, have you told him? You’re old by pureblood standards!” Her voice was full of derision and Helène couldn’t stand it.
“Just shut up!” she snapped, reverting back to the vocabulary of Harriet Potter. “Shut up, shut up!” Standing from her bed, she twirled on her heel and Apparated to Malfoy Manor. They’d been out in the fairy glade until past two in the morning, and now it was even later.
The place was eerie at night. The white peacocks shone brightly against the landscape and the manor was tall and imposing. Knowing what she was doing was against pureblood etiquette, she marched up to the door and knocked, hoping a house elf would hear her.
No one answered the door.
She waited for two minutes and then knocked again.
Still, no answer.
Backing away from the house, she saw that a window was lit on the third floor. There was plenty of gravel at her feet and if she could just throw a stone at the right angle—Her third attempt hit the mark. And the fifth, sixth, and ninth. Finally, the window opened. The young face of a witch appeared, her blonde tresses hastily put up into a bun, her blue eyes narrowing. “Don’t you know it’s three in the morning?”
“Yes, and I apologize,” Helène said, “but I really need to speak to Lord Malfoy and no one’s answering the door.”
“Couldn’t you have floo’d in?”
“The place I’m staying doesn’t have a floo,” she admitted. Hermione was apparently against the things. “I Apparated here.”
“Who are you? And you better have the right answer, otherwise I’m calling the Aurors.”
Helène smiled. “Lady Helène Peverell.”
The girl rolled her eyes. “Lady Lacerta Malfoy, your future sister-in-law if Draco doesn’t go and do something stupid this time around. I’ll get him for you.”
“I thank you.” There it was again. The purchased breeding.
Helène didn’t have long to wait. Draco appeared at the front door in a dressing gown, his hair wonderfully mussed. “Lady Helène, are you all right? Lacerta said you were throwing pebbles at her window.”
“May I come in?”
“We don’t have a chaperone.”
Lacerta came up behind them. “I’m already awake and I’m over seventeen. I’ll chaperone.”
Draco ushered Helène inside, taking her hand. He didn’t let go. They went up to a study which had a portrait of Lucius Malfoy staring down imperiously at her. “Ah, so this is the replacement,” the portrait said, but Draco hushed him with a wave of his hand.
There were two plush chairs in front of an oak desk and Draco led her to them. Lacerta placed herself by the cold fireplace.
“Lady Helène, please, tell me what is wrong. You’ve been crying.”
Helène looked at him, shocked, before bringing her free hand up to her wet cheeks. “I hadn’t realized. It’s just—Hermione was so cruel.”
“You shouldn’t let that Muggle-born hurt you.” It sounded as if he wanted to spit out the word ‘Mudblood’ but didn’t for propriety’s sake. “What did she say?”
“She mocked me for not knowing that you have two sisters. Do you have any brothers?”
He shook his head. “No. It’s just me, Lacerta, and Iolanthe. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you about them. It’s just most of wizarding England knows because of my position as Lord Malfoy, so I didn’t think.”
She nodded. “I just—she then taunted me for being old for a pureblood. I hadn’t thought about it. Not really. I’ve just spent the last few years in seclusion that age didn’t seem to matter. I never really ever celebrated my birthday, even when I was a child.”
Draco looked at her perceptively. “You’re twenty, aren’t you?”
“I won’t say that I’m not.”
“She should have had a baby or two by now,” Lucius’s portrait was saying. “Astoria was already pushing it at eighteen.”
“Father, not now,” Draco chided, his hand still wrapped around Helène’s.
“I’ll walk away if you want me to,” she promised. “I just—I thought you should know before this gets any further. I’m not some blushing maiden just out of Beauxbatons.”
“I’m twenty,” Draco admitted. “And I don’t care when your birthday is. When is it exactly?”
“February twenty-first.” It was the day she slipped away.
“You’re only older than me by four months and there have been worse obstacles. All that matters is that you’re here, in the present, with me. And I’ll try to remember that you don’t know what’s common knowledge in England. Also,” he stood up, pulling her with him, “I won’t stand for you staying in that horrible apartment with that accursed witch. You’ll stay here, in Iolanthe’s suite. I know she won’t mind.”
“But I can’t—“
“But you can,” he said firmly. “You’ll be right next door to Lacerta, and I’m two floors up in the Master Suite so there will be both chaperones and plenty of propriety. You’re our guest now.”
“I don’t even know how long I’m staying in England,” she said as one final protest.
“Indefinitely, if I can help it. Now, come, you need your sleep. Lacy will lend you something to wear.”
Helène got lost on her way to the breakfast room the next morning. She had to summon a house elf to guide her and then she was late. All eyes were on her from the table. “Good morning,” she murmured to no one in particular. “Is that this morning’s Prophet?”
Draco was staring at it rather hard; it was crumpled where he clasped it in his hands.
“Lady Iolanthe’s report not that favorable then?”
“How did you know?” Dowager Malfoy asked, stunned. It was clear that it had been a surprise to her.
Helène took a sip of tea. “Hermione Granger might have mentioned something last night.”
“Of course,” Draco muttered darkly, “she was friends with Miss Lavender Brown who writes for the society pages.”
Hermione hadn’t been friends with Lavender but they had bonded over the fact that Ron was clueless over the fact that they fancied him. They should have been bitter rivals but, strangely, they weren’t.
“Hmm,” was all Helène said. She managed to get hold of the copy of the paper later that morning when no one was looking at her. It was rather sympathetic toward Lady Astoria Greengrass and suggested that whoever had stolen her brother’s heart away at the eleventh hour was rather heartless herself.
“You shouldn’t be reading that,” Lacerta asserted, holding out her hand.
“It’s not like I’m not familiar with bad press,” she told the other witch, remembering how Harriet Potter’s name had been torn to pieces fifth year after Cedric Diggory had died during the Triwizard Tournament.
Lacerta looked like she was about to question her when Draco walked in. “Lady Helène, might you join me for lunch at The White Witch?”
“The White Witch? What’s that?”
“It’s a pureblood restaurant, my dear, entirely made out of magical glass.” That meant that there were no seams, just one solid sheet. How remarkable. “It’s extremely exclusive.”
“Are you making a statement about the article?” Helène asked cautiously. “I won’t be used in a tug of war.”
“I simply want to show you off,” he promised. “And you deserve to see wizarding London at its best.”
Helène looked at him dubiously.
“Come, Lady Helène,” Lacerta said. “I’ll help you pick out some suitable robes. Your trunks arrived this morning with our house elf.”
“Darling, your studies,” Narcissa reminded her daughter. It turned out Lacerta was a seventh year, but had opted to be tutored at home instead of spending another year at Hogwarts.
“They can wait half an hour,” Lacerta replied breezily. “Now, come. I bet you look simply marvelous in red.”
In the end, Lacerta dressed her in brown robes with streaks of blue, green, gold, and dark pink in them. The underdress was a dark pink and fell to the floor. “Are you sure this isn’t—lacking?” Helène asked, staring at herself in the mirror.
“It’s understated, yes, but it’s very beautiful.”
“Perhaps I should put on the violet one.”
“No, no, this one,” Lacerta demanded. “I’m sure Draco will agree with me.”
“Lord Malfoy can’t come into the room to disagree or agree with either of us,” Helène pointed out. She traced a thin line on her forehead where the lightning bolt scar used to be. Remembering the terror of the night visions that had assaulted Harriet Potter, she shivered.
Lacerta didn’t notice. “Come, come, I insist. We’ve kept him waiting long enough.”
The White Witch was even more beautiful than Helène had imagined. It was domed so that you could see the sky, which today was filled with clouds. Their table was at the center of the dome, but Helène was not ignorant. All the patrons were craning their necks to see her and whispering behind the backs of their hands.
The food was a little too rich for Helène, so she ended up moving it about her plate to the point where Draco noticed. “What’s wrong?”
“I’ll make myself sick if I eat this,” she admitted. “I’m used to simple living.”
“We can go to The Leaky Cauldron next,” he offered. “I don’t particularly care for it, but you can get fish and chips or a steak pie.”
Helène beamed at him. “I’d love that.”
A reporter took their photograph as they were wending down Diagon Alley and the paper the next day proclaimed that Lord Malfoy was out with his “mystery witch.”
“Well, they should be able to put the pieces together soon enough,” Narcissa said. “Her picture’s been all over the political pages of The Prophet since she arrived here.”
That night Draco had hired a lute player and the doors of the ballroom were opened for the first time in over a decade. He took Helène’s hands and led her in blindfolded. She gasped when she saw the chandelier above them and the marble floor beneath her feet.
Narcissa and Lacerta sat in a corner, neither pretending not to pay attention.
The lute started up and Helène turned into Draco’s arms, dancing the memorized steps that she had been taught just over a year and a half ago. As he held her close against him, she could feel his heart beating against her chest, and she smiled at him when he stole a kiss.
In the end he had grabbed her hand and run with her out into the garden, and held her against him as he kissed her deeply but carefully. He pulled back, looking for any sign that she might not want him, but she leaned forward and claimed his lips again. It was with a cough that they pulled apart, though her hand was still tucked away in Draco’s.
“Don’t forget I remember what it was like to be young and courting,” Narcissa said, amused. “Now, I’ll let you walk Lady Helène to her chamber and say ‘goodnight,’ but that’s all, Draco.” She turned on her heel and left them.
Helène couldn’t stifle her giggles.
Draco kissed her again at her door, long and sweet, and Helène held him to her and smelled his hair above his ear. “Are you going to grow it out? Like your father?” she asked, pulling away. She knew many purebloods grew out their hair, but Draco’s hair remained as short as it had been at Hogwarts.
“I haven’t decided. The title’s still so new—“
“Of course,” she murmured.
“What would you prefer?” His gray eyes looked at her hopefully, perhaps wishing that she had an opinion.
Out of habit, all she could see Draco with was short hair. However, he was a grown man now and this was the start of a new life together. “Long,” she finally decided. “You can always cut it short if you don’t like it.”
“I won’t go to the barber next week, then,” he promised. “There is a lengthening potion but it’s always so unpredictable, and hair can be brittle.”
“Then do it naturally. There’s no rush,” she promised him.
She danced into her room, away from prying eyes, and fell onto her bed with a gasp. Helène was happy, actually happy, for the first time in her life. She laughed at the strangeness of it all. She, Helène Peverell, happy with Draco Malfoy!
Smiling, she skipped to the breakfast table the next morning and was surprised to see that Draco wasn’t there.
“Poor Astoria committed suicide last night,” Narcissa said. “Draco’s been called in to give evidence.”
Pain erupted in her heart. She had killed someone. Actually killed someone. And not as Harriet Potter fighting Lord Voldemort, but as Lady Helène Peverell. She hadn’t realized she was crying until Narcissa’s arms snaked around her shoulders.
“Hush now, you mustn’t blame yourself,” she murmured. “Draco wasn’t happy in the relationship. He would have found some pretense to get out of it before the wedding ceremony. He often talked about it.”
“Is that what I am, a pretense?” she choked. “By the gods.”
“No, no, you’re not. I’ve never seen Draco so happy. He blushes like a schoolboy whenever your name is mentioned.”
Helène spent the rest of the day in her sitting room, pretending to read Shakespeare. When there was a knock on the door, she intoned “Come in” without really thinking about it.
“Darling,” Draco whispered, taking a hesitant step forward. “I had to see you.”
“Lord Malfoy, shouldn’t we have a chaperone?”
“I don’t care about that,” he stepped forward and dropped to his knees in front of her. Then, carefully, he laid his head in her lap. “Don’t send me away.”
Hesitating, she began to stroke his hair rhythmically. “Would you like me to read to you?”
“Anything, Lady Helène, I just want to be near you.”
And so Helène turned to the fourth act of Romeo and Juliet, reading of the two lovers arguing over whether or not they heard the lark or the nightingale. She continued to stroke Draco’s hair, pausing now and again when she got caught up in the lyrical poetry, but then her hand would rest comfortingly on his head. They stayed like that for hours while she summoned various plays and read the love scenes to him, but she knew he wasn’t really listening.
When a house elf came to tell them dinner was served, Draco clutched to her robes, clearly not wanting to move. Making a decision, she told the elf to bring dinner to her rooms, and she hoped Narcissa wouldn’t make anything of it.
“Come,” she whispered. “Come sit by me.”
Carefully, Draco disengaged himself from her and then sat beside her on the couch. A small coffee table was in front of them. He grasped her hand and kissed the back of it. She smiled at him. It was horrible seeing this side of Draco Malfoy, but she was glad to know that he was still human, like everyone else.
“I’m going to the Wizengamot Thursday,” he said carefully. “Would you like to come see it? You’d have to sit in the gallery, but you’d be my personal guest.”
Their dinner appeared before them but neither of them made a move to touch it.
“Are you sure you’re ready to go out by then? After everything?” Tears were now forming at the corner of her eyes, and he brushed them away.
“A Malfoy is always prepared,” he quoted. “We never let our guard down.” However, he had let it down for her, and for that she was grateful. Kissing his cheek, she breathed in his scent again before pulling away.
The Wizengamot was chaos. Its members stood from their seats, waving parchments and shouting at the Chief Warlock, and Draco was no different. He was a platinum blond head against grays and browns. Helène was seated in the chair designated for guests of the House of Malfoy. Beside her, in the chair for the House of Black, was Narcissa, ever the chaperone.
Narcissa hadn’t said a word about Draco and Helène’s absence from dinner. In fact, Helène wasn’t even certain if Narcissa had known that Draco was home at the time. Still, she was thankful that nothing had been said. The hours stolen were too precious and private to be explained.
“Lord Malfoy!” the Chief Warlock finally exclaimed and all the other wizards sat down as Draco began his speech on the need for “wizard studies” at Hogwarts.
“Isn’t he just magnificent? He does his father proud,” Narcissa whispered.
Helène could only smile.
Minister Shacklebolt invited Helène to a performance of some wizard playwrite’s new play the following Saturday. The invitation was only for one, but Helène wrote back asking for a second ticket. Kingsley had immediately agreed, and so Draco escorted her to the theatre.
She didn’t want to be without Draco in English society, she was still so unused to it, and Draco was adamant that they had nothing to hide, even after Astoria’s suicide. They should be proud to be a couple and should be seen as one.
Kingsley was shocked. He obviously didn’t read the society pages of The Prophet. “Lord Malfoy, I—“ He was at a loss for words.
“Minister Shacklebolt,” Draco greeted. “It’s a pleasure to see you outside of the Ministry.”
“I—yes. I had no idea the ticket was for you. I had thought it was for Hermione Granger.”
“Hermione Granger and I parted ways,” Helène informed him simply. “We had a disagreement about my relationship with Lord Malfoy.”
“Relationship. With Lord Malfoy.” Comprehension dawned on his face. “Then where are you staying?”
The curtain came up. “Shh,” Helène whispered. “I’ve never seen a play before.”
They were all over The Prophet the next day. The wild speculation over Helène’s past took up a good portion of the article, as well as Draco’s sordid history with Astoria. However, the columnist wondered if this were the political match made in heaven. He called Helène “a breath of fresh air” into England’s pureblood society and Draco “shrewd” for seeing the possibility of gaining the Peverell seat which had lain empty for so long in the Wizengamot. Women, after all, couldn’t hold seats, but their husbands could for them.
Overall, it was good press.
Draco insisted on being seen with her that very day and in a swirl of blue robes, he had taken her to a little bistro off of Diagon Alley.
“We’re very happy,” Helène told a young reporter who had come up to their table. “Aren’t we, Lord Malfoy?”
He kissed the back of her hand in answer.
Later that week, he had taken her Pegasus riding on the Malfoy Abraxans. “I’ve only ever flown on a broom!” she announced, leaving out Buckbeak. “I don’t know how to ride side-saddle.”
“Allow me,” Draco said, lifting her into her seat. He arranged her legs while caressing them. “You know,” he began cautiously, “if I didn’t know any better, I would say you had designed yourself specifically to attract me.”
“And how would I know what would attract you, Lord Malfoy?”
He swung himself up into his saddle. “I don’t know. Perhaps you were watching me—throughout Hogwarts perhaps.”
Helène ignored the comment about Hogwarts. He was only grasping at straws. “Perhaps I made myself up to look like my ancestor, Ignotus Peverell.”
Draco looked up. “You have a portrait of him.”
“A sketch,” she admitted. “And before you ask, I won’t talk about the Hallows. At all.”
“Point taken.” He smirked at her. “I take it, then, that there’s something to know.”
“Suppose all you want.” She urged her Pegasus closer to him and reached out to straighten the tie he was wearing. He seemed to favor wearing them more than most wizards. She adjusted it. “Just know that I will always have secrets from you,” she murmured.
“You don’t trust me?” His voice was low and husky and he brought his horse closer to hers.
“Think of it this way. I remember a time when I wasn’t myself. It’s like I’ve been reincarnated and I try not to think about it.”
He brushed his lips against hers. “You can trust me, Harriet.”
She reared back as if slapped. The two stared at each other for a long time. Helène’s horse became restless. She tried to reel him in, but he cantered to the side.
“Hush,” Draco said, his Pegasus stepping close enough so Draco could grab the reins from Helène’s fingers. “He’s nervous because he can feel your nervousness. Forgive me, Lady Helène Peverell,” he said formally. “I thought we understood each other well enough for me to call you by that other name.”
Looking down, Helène’s mind raced as she tried to think of what to do. However, she could come up with nothing. She just kept on circling back to the fact that Draco knew, and she didn’t know what he was going to do with the information.
“My name is Helène Louise Peverell,” she finally stated as calmly as she could. She glanced up at him. “I will always be Helène Louise Peverell.”
She left the Manor before dinner. Leaving her trunks behind, she put on a pair of jeans and morphed into a petite girl with golden curls and light green eyes. Her nose was no more than a button and she gave herself full lips. Looking in the mirror, she realized she was pretty, but nothing special.
Just as she was about to Apparate away on the front lawn, a hand grabbed her arm. “Lady Helène, what do you think you’re doing?”
She turned to see Draco staring at her incredulously. “I need to get out. I’m suffocating.”
“No one’s suffocating you,” he argued, taking her in his arms. “Helène, please. I’m sorry. I will never mention that name in reference to you ever again. Please stay here. With me.” When she said nothing, looking down at her shoes, he sighed. “Haven’t you come to love me even just a little? I thought that you had.”
“It’s not that, Lord Malfoy,” he murmured, morphing back into Helène Peverell. She grimaced at the feeling of her bones growing. She picked off a piece of nonexistent lint from his robes. “I do love you.” She looked up at his eyes questioningly.
“I love you, too, Lady Helène, though that’s hardly the fashion.”
“You and Lady Astoria,” she guessed.
“Yes. I thought she might make a great mother to Malfoy heirs.” He fell silent. “Call me vain, but the Malfoys have always been blond. I was trying to ensure that.”
“Our children may not be blond,” she admitted. “You’ll never call me ‘Harriet’ again,” she stated firmly.
He held her closer. “I swear it,” he murmured as he leaned in to kiss her, soft and tentative.
She moaned and pulled him closer by his lapels. Their kiss deepened and they both pulled away breathless a few moments later.
Untangling his arms from around her, Draco pulled a small jewelry box from his inner pocket. “I meant to ask you after we went flying, but we never seemed to get the chance,” he laughed, his smile genuine. He fell on one knee, and opened the box to reveal a sapphire, the Peverell engagement stone. “Helène, will you do me the great honor of becoming my Lady Malfoy?”
Squealing, she jumped into his arms. “Yes,” she said as Helène, not as Harriet. Harriet never would have agreed no matter her fascination.
The ring was slipped onto Helène’s finger and she smiled at him. Without even looking for him, she had found her prince charming.
Part the Second (or, rather, the Sequel)
It was dark. Night maybe. There were gravestones all around and one read “Tom Riddle.” Helène was trapped against a gravestone, her arm bleeding. A cauldron steamed in front of her and the body of Voldemort, all snakelike and horrible, rose from the bubbling liquid.
Everything seemed to go in fast forward. Helène was holding a wand that belonged to someone else. The name was on the tip of her tongue. It was holly with a phoenix core. She was being forced to bow to Voldemort through the Imperius Curse.
Then there was pain. Horrible pain. She was writhing on the ground. For some reason she had curling black hair and startling green eyes that were staring at the stars above her as all she felt was the searing pain in her nerves.
She screamed and screamed and screamed.
Helène wailed as she sat up. She raised her hands, perfectly manicured, up to her face. It was oval instead of heart-shaped. Her hair was straight and up in a coif. The eyes that shone out of her face, she could feel, were blue.
She breathed out heavily and felt the sunlight shine down through the leaves above her.
“Lady Helène,” the concerned voice of her fiancé said as hands encased her shoulders. “Shh, you’re safe.”
She leaned into the touch and turned to look into pointed features and gray eyes. Platinum blond hair fell across the forehead and was a little long.
“Lord Malfoy,” she murmured. “I—where am I?”
Draco pulled her toward him. “You’re here in the gardens of Malfoy Manor,” he informed her. “It was just a dream. Whatever it was, it was just a dream.”
“I—“ Helène was never so inarticulate. “I dreamt I was her.” They both knew who she was talking about. Once, Lady Helène Louise Peverell had been Miss Harriet Potter. She had discovered she was a metamorphmagus and had never looked back.
Of course, Draco had figured it out. He had even called her by that name the day he proposed four months ago. She had tried to run, but he had stopped her. He had promised that he would never bring up the past—the girl she had been—ever again in relation to her. She had been Harriet. Now she was Helène. Still, she was haunted by the memories of being the Girl-Who-Lived.
Draco ran a hand down her cheek. “Hush, darling. It was just a dream. You’re safe.” He leaned in and their lips brushed sweetly.
A voice cleared. Both Helène and Draco looked over at Narcissa, Dowager Malfoy. She was sitting on a stone bench embroidering a cushion. She was wearing sea green robes. Unlike her sisters Andromeda and Bellatrix who had dark hair, she favored lighter colors to suit her fair complexion.
“I allowed Lady Helène to rest her head in your lap, Draco. Don’t push your luck.”
Narcissa was ever the proper chaperone.
Draco was sitting under a tree on the edge of a beautifully laid out garden at the back of the Manor that was meant for hosting parties. Helène had been lying down in the grass, looking up through the dappled leaves, when she had fallen asleep. Magic kept it a perpetual Spring although it was now December.
“Have you decided when the wedding is going to be?” Narcissa asked. “I realize it’s been less than six months since Draco has broken his engagement with Lady Astoria, may the gods weep for her soul, but still it bears thinking about.”
Helène raised her left hand to in front of her face. A teardrop shaped sapphire caught the light. Platinum filigree edged the stone. It was large enough to almost be called opulent. She would expect nothing less from a Malfoy. However, it was comfortable on her finger and seemed to fit perfectly.
“Mother, we haven’t even told Lacy yet.”
And they hadn’t. Lady Lacerta Malfoy was Draco’s younger sister. She was in her last year of schooling and she had, of course, seen the ring on Helène’s finger. The traditional Peverell engagement ring was virtually unknown so she probably just thought it was a jewelry accessory.
They had been rather lucky that she hadn’t put the pieces together.
“Let us not forget Lady Iolanthe,” Helène put in. She was referring to Draco’s youngest sister who was in her fifth year at Hogwarts.
Narcissa sighed. “After that article about your parting of the ways with Lady Astoria, I do not believe she will rejoice in the news of your new engagement.”
“No, I agree,” Draco mused.
“I believe,” Helène began hesitantly, “that perhaps we should make a few more public appearances. We can tell Lady Lacerta and ask for her silence, but perhaps should wait before we tell Lady Iolanthe.”
“It is not uncommon to have family gatherings during Hogsmeade weekends. They’re only for lunch, but we can tell Io then,” Draco decided.
“That should give her enough time,” Narcissa agreed.
“Should we really wait that long?” Helène asked. “Perhaps we could have a meeting this month or tell her at Yule. Surely her Head of House will allow it.” Helène wondered exactly who that was. After the Battle of Hogwarts, the school had been completely been restructured. Harriet hadn’t paid much attention as she had been too busy with trying to avoid the press.
“Slughorn would be happy to have such illustrious guests as Lord Malfoy and Lady Helène Peverell,” Narcissa spat out, which was uncharacteristic of her. “It is his loss, however, that he did not include Draco in his Slug Club when he was at Hogwarts.”
“Slug Club?” Helène asked, although she knew the answer.
“A club of students that Professor Slughorn ‘collects.’ He collected all the Blacks and, of course, the late Lord Malfoy,” Narcissa explained. “However, when Draco was a student Lucius was in Azkaban so Draco was not desirable. Lacy was in the club and it is expected that Io will be invited next year.”
“I see.” Harriet Potter had been a member, but that was another lifetime ago.
Draco brushed a piece of wayward hair behind Helène’s ear. “How would you like to go to the zoo?”
“The zoo?” Helène asked in confusion.
“Yes, there’s a magical preserve in Devon. Father used to take me when I was a child. You might perhaps enjoy the unicorns.” He looked at her in curiosity. “I could leak it to the press that we’re going to be there.”
“As long as it’s not that horrible Rita Skeeter,” Helène said, forgetting herself. It was Harriet Potter who hated Skeeter.
Draco looked at her perceptively. “No. I’ll invite Miss Lavender Brown. We’ll show her that there are no hard feelings and get her on our side.”
“If you think that’s best,” Helène murmured as she leaned her forehead against Draco’s forehead, closing her eyes.
He brought his hand up to her cheek and stroked it gently. By the gods, Helène had fallen in love with this man. It had only been a matter of a few short months and Harriet had been his enemy despite her strange fascination with him, but Helène loved him. She could only hope that he loved her in return. He had only said it once, when he thought that she would leave him. He was affectionate and she knew he cared for her, but was that love?
“Can I trust you, Draco, alone with Lady Helène at the zoo and to go send that owl to Miss Lavender?” Narcissa asked.
Helène laughed despite herself, her hand running up Draco’s arm so that she was holding his wrist in place.
Draco drew back from Helène although he kept her gaze. “I promise not to jeopardize Lady Helène’s virtue.”
It was four hours later, just past lunch, that Draco Apparated Helène to Devon. He held her by the waist and she leaned into his chest, a parasol in her hands.
She had dressed for a photoshoot. Helène was wearing a mustard colored Illyria dress that came to just above her knees with a matching hat. Her robes were a dark blue as well as her parasol. She had decided against wearing stockings. It wasn’t cold enough yet.
Draco paid their fare and led her through the gates.
It was wondrous. Helène was enchanted by the mermaids, a memory of Harriet Potter at the bottom of the Black Lake coming back to her. She watched the crups play with each other and noticed how much kneazles looked like Hermione Granger’s pet Crookshanks.
“I don’t have a familiar,” she noticed to Draco. “My owl died unfortunately. Perhaps a crup? Would you object?”
“Do you like dogs?”
Helène thought back to Sirius and his form as a grim. “Very much. I don’t think I could ever view an owl the same way I did—“ She almost said ‘Hedwig,’ Harriet Potter’s owl, but caught herself “—my previous bird, and I’ve never been fond of cats, but a dog would be nice.”
“Then we’ll see what we can do about that,” Draco promised.
It was at the unicorn pen that Lavender Brown found them. She had a photographer with her.
“How’s the fledgling romance going?” she asked. “Has Lady Astoria’s suicide at all affected it?”
Draco laid a hand on the small of Helène’s back. “Lady Astoria’s Greengrass’ death was a horrible tragedy. Although it was never made public, that relationship was never going to end in marriage. It has, of course, affected us given my history with the lady. However, it has only made our relationship stronger as we share a bond of sadness over the cause of Lady Astoria’s suicide.”
Lavender looked surprised. “Do you have anything to add, Lady Helène? You did, after all, take her place.”
Helène shared a glance with Draco. She was about to lie through her teeth. “Lord Malfoy never would have made me an offer of courtship if he had been in a relationship with Lady Astoria. Obviously the termination of that particular relationship had not been publicized, but Lord Malfoy was a free man.” The words flowed off her tongue, her training to be a pureblood lady coming to the fore.
“Now, a question we’ve all been wondering and which Lady Astoria remained silent about: is Lord Malfoy a good kisser?”
Draco actually blushed and Helène laughed. “I never kiss and tell, Miss Lavender. I’m afraid you’ll have to find a different source.”
Lavender looked a little disappointed, but she quickly turned to Draco. “How do you feel about your sister Lady Iolanthe’s editorial four months back about your break-up with Lady Astoria?”
“I think they were very good friends,” he answered honestly, “and that my sister did not have all the facts.”
“Now, Lady Helène, where have you been hiding all these years? Our readers are desperate to know.”
“France,” she answered. It was partially true. She’d been there for the past two years.
“And yet you have an English accent. Would you call it your native language?”
“I would. I also had excellent tutors.” They had, actually, taught her how to speak like a lady and had coached her in how to speak with a posh accent.
“Where were your parents in all this?”
“I think this interview is over,” Draco said suddenly. “We will answer no more questions.”
He began to lead Helène away and Lavender had the good sense not to follow them.
As they left the park in silence, Helène thought over what had happened. She allowed Draco to Apparate them back to the Manor, but she quickly broke away from him.
“Don’t be angry with me, Helène,” he begged when she turned and made her way toward the front doors.
“I’m not angry,” she murmured.
She heard Draco running over gravel behind her and he gently grabbed her arm. He tried to turn her around, but she stayed stationary. “Do you think I don’t have an answer for such a question?” she asked quietly. She then turned to him with sad eyes. “I don’t need protecting, Lord Malfoy.”
“Don’t you think, that at least in private, we can call each other by our names?”
“What am I supposed to call you?” she asked in earnest. “Lady Lacerta calls you Dray-ko while your mother calls you Drah-ko. Which is it?”
He looked lost. “I always assumed you’d call me Dray-ko. Everyone does, except for Mother. She’s a traditionalist when it comes to heavenly bodies. Most Blacks are named for stars and constellations.”
“Dray-ko, then. You know, I do have an answer.”
“What is it?”
“My mother died in childbirth and my father was killed by a Muggle. It’s why I’m a traditionalist politically.”
He breathed out heavily. “I apologize. I didn’t mean to undermine you.”
“I know you didn’t. You just have to remember that Lady Helène Peverell is a full person.”
Draco moved toward her and snaked a hand around her waist, pulling her up against him. They breathed in the same air as she looked up at him. Helène was tall, but Draco was over six feet. “Elle,” he murmured, kissing her deeply. Breaking away, Helène’s eyes were still closed when he asked, “May I call you that?”
“No one’s ever been close enough to me before to give me a pet name,” she breathed, leaning her head against his shoulder. People had been close to Harriet Potter. In fact, she had generally been called Harry.
“Elle then,” Draco whispered, kissing the top of her head. “I’m so happy you walked into my life and I didn’t end up in a marriage of convenience.”
“I’m glad I came back to England then,” she said, playing with his lapel. “I suppose I have a saving-people complex.” At least Harriet Potter had. “We better get inside before Dowager Malfoy has a heart attack. I think she’s looking at us through the window.”
“Ever the chaperone,” Draco laughed.
“Ever the chaperone,” Helène agreed.
Lacerta stared at the ring dumbly. She looked between Draco and Helène before glancing down at the sapphire ring again. “Are you sure it’s not a little hasty?” she asked. “You met each other on the first of September. It’s December third. I think this ring appeared mid September if I remember.”
“I’m entirely certain,” Draco answered. His hands rested on Helène’s shoulders. “I want to marry Lady Helène.”
They were sitting in the study, a fire roaring in the grate. The portrait of Lucius Malfoy was watching them closely. “I thought you wanted to marry Lady Astoria Greegrass,” the portrait said. “All you would do was talk about was blond haired babies.”
“I was talking about the next generation,” Draco argued back, “not my own happiness.”
“Do you think I married your mother for my own happiness?” Lucius scoffed. “She was considered the Black bastard because of her blonde hair. But she was the only witch of her generation who fit the profile of a Malfoy bride.”
“Well, as illuminating as that was, Father,” Draco spat, “Mother was the best thing that ever happened to you, and you know it. I’ll never believe that you didn’t love her.”
“Love comes with time. It would have come for you and Lady Astoria.”
“Astoria was vapid and vain. All she cared about was the next fashion routine. You know she flunked three of her O.W.L.s? She was an idiot who cared for nothing but money and prestige.”
Helène blinked. “Perhaps we should have this conversation somewhere else,” she suggested.
“Perhaps I should take his portrait down,” Draco muttered darkly.
Lacerta reached out and looked at the ring from several different angles. “You know, I’ve been wondering why you’ve been wearing this for several months all of a sudden,” she admitted. “Well. I suppose you better call me ‘Lacerta.’”
“Only if you call me ‘Helène,’” she agreed.
“Lacy,” Draco pleaded. “This must remain private for now. We’re going to tell Io later this month in person, and we don’t want the press getting wind of this just yet.”
“Of course,” Lacerta promised.
“We wouldn’t want the press to find out how inconstant you are,” Lucius put in. “Have you no respect for the Malfoy name?”
“How about you think of it this way,” Helène suggested. “Lady Astoria brought nothing to the match except for her coloring. She brought no money, no prestige, she was from a lesser house if I’m not mistaken, she had no intellect to pass on to future generations—I could go on, but I believe we understand each other. I, on the other hand, bring a great deal of raw magical power, the Peverell seat, the Peverell name with all of its prestige, and while I was never a scholar, I still did well in my test scores when I applied myself. Also, I am the only living person who can answer the question of the three hallows.”
Lucius looked at her shrewdly. “I see your point, Lady Helène. If only you were a blond.”
“I am afraid there are some aspects of myself I cannot change,” she replied, turning away.
Draco managed to get her away from everyone two days later. He pushed her up against the wall in the gallery and kissed her hungrily. She brought her hands up to his hair and pulled him closer. His hands rested on her hips and she could feel how badly he wanted her against her.
Pulling away, she grasped his hand. “Come here,” she murmured, and they raced down the corridor and up the stairs to her suite.
Again he was kissing her and she felt hot in her dress and she pushed off his robe. She then moved her hand down to his trousers, but he quickly pulled away. “No, Elle,” he murmured.
“I was only going to—“ she tried to explain, but he was once again on her, kissing her jawline and running his hands up her rib cage. Then, with a swoop of his arms, he picked her up bridal style and she laughed. He shoved open the doors to her bedroom and laid her on the bed.
He was then on top of her, his hands holding him up as he kissed her breathless. At one point, his hand reached behind her head and she felt her hair being mussed until it fell to her shoulders. But she only held him closer and let her eyes flutter shut as he kissed a trail down her neck and to the swell of her breast. He ran a hand along the curve and she moaned. Then he was up again and kissing her, their tongues intertwining, until he groaned and pulled away from her. He flopped down on his back and the two looked at each other.
“You look beautiful with you hair down.”
She giggled. “You’re not supposed to see me like this.”
“I was not supposed to kiss you like that,” he countered.
“True,” she agreed. She reached for his hand and he kissed the back of hers.
“I want to marry you. Soon.”
“We can’t. The scandal,” she reminded him. “It’s all too soon. I hate to bow to the wizarding public, but we’re both public figures. Your former fiancé ingested Rhododendron leaves just a few months ago. We have to pay our respect.”
He looked away. “I hate it when you’re right.”
“Draco,” she murmured, reaching out and running her fingers down his cheek. “I—I know I asked you never to speak about it but perhaps this is the time. She knew you as a spoilt bully who made her life miserable for six years. She nearly killed you, Draco, don’t you remember? Because I have all of those memories.”
He turned a tortured gaze on her and it pained her to see that look in his eyes. She traced the edge of his cheekbones and sighed.
“I love you. You have shown me wonder and magic and acceptance and most importantly the ability to be the woman I really am. But don’t you think you should learn who that witch is? Don’t you perhaps believe that Helène should learn who you are now that you are an adult?”
He leaned forward and pressed their foreheads together. “You know me better than anyone.”
“Then let me know what wizarding Britain knows. Let me show you some of Helène’s secrets.”
“Do you have secrets from me, Elle?”
They both smiled at each other. “Every woman has secrets.”
He reached out and tugged at her hair so it was falling down her shoulders.
“Tell me something, Draco.”
“Of course.” He was still playing with the ends of her hair, which in fact fell halfway down her back, and she liked the feeling of it.
“Why did you choose Lady Astoria instead of Lady Daphne Greengrass? I know she was in your year, and she had blonde hair.”
“It was dishwater blonde, more of a brown really. Miss Pansy Parkinson caught her dying it once in our fourth year. I made Astoria take an unbreakable vow that her hair color was natural.”
Helène laughed. “All women are vain,” she admitted. “I’m quite fond of my eyes.”
Draco looked into them, not that he had ever looked away. It was more that he suddenly focused on her gaze and squinted slightly. “Why blue?” he asked, referring to her Metamorphmagus abilities.
“I was always known for my eyes,” she admitted. “I found I couldn’t give that up. I had thought of using the Black gray eyes, but my face was less striking.”
“Your eyes seem to be filled with magic,” Draco agreed. “A storm of magic just waiting to be unleashed.”
“Well, I have no plan of unleashing it,” she admitted. “I intend to be the pureblood wife who goes to tea parties and plays bridge and attends political functions whenever her husband or the Minister needs me.”
Draco grimaced. “Yes, Shacklebolt. He was in that ruddy Order of the Phoenix. Doesn’t he have you cutting the ribbon on some new children’s ward at St. Mungo’s next week?”
She hummed. “It’s at three on Tuesday, but I have to be there at two. There will be plenty of chaperones. Can I ply you away? It could be part of the good press we need.”
He brushed her hair behind her ear with his fingers. “Well—Chalsie!” he called and then there was a crack and a little house elf was standing before them.
Helène was so startled that she almost fell off the bed. It was Draco’s quick thinking of holding her waist so that she was instead pressed against him.
“Go to my study and get my calendar. Not a word of my location in the Manor or with whom I am choosing to spend my time to anyone—especially my mother. Remember that I am now Lord Malfoy and your master.”
The little elf looked frightened.
“We just want some privacy as an engaged couple,” Helène placated. “Just bring Lord Malfoy his calendar so we can coordinate our schedules next week.”
“Yes, Master, Mistress.” The little elf bobbed and was gone.
“You’re rather good with house elves,” Draco observed before the creature was back with his calendar. He flipped through it. “I have a meeting at eleven but I should be able to come. I’ll pick you up at the Manor at one thirty?” He looked at her inquisitively and she nodded to him happily.
On Tuesday, they arrived promptly at two, Helène wearing purple robes etched in gold, her hair a mass of ringlets on top of her head. It was a handy spell that she’d picked up in France and was rather favored on the Continent at the moment.
“Will I fit the bill?” she asked Draco when photographers immediately started snapping their picture. “Lady Helène Peverell, back from the dead.” She laughed.
Her arm was looped through his and he pressed his free hand on top of hers.
“I think you make a stunning public figure,” he answered honestly. “Are you sure this is what you want?”
“The fervor will die down in a few months,” she answered honestly. “Then I can go back to a life of near anonymity.”
“You’ll never be anonymous as Lady Malfoy,” he warned her, smiling for the cameras.
She squeezed his arm. “Not compared to most people, but for me, it will be.”
They smiled at each other before she greeted Minister Shacklebolt.
Helène had not been expecting to see Ron Weasley after the ceremony. He was in his red Auror robes and clearly looking out for any possible threat. She paused when she saw him and Draco paused beside her, his hand now at the small of her back.
“That’s an Auror,” Shacklebolt explained, coming up behind them. “They’re tasked with protection against Dark Wizards.”
“I—see.” She looked at Draco before turning back to Shacklebolt. “It must be a dangerous profession. Is he married, children?”
Ron tensed up against the wall. “I believe neither.”
She nodded her head once. Something needed to be done about this. The question was what.
Lavender Brown was hailing them as a modern day fairytale. It was all rather startling. Pictures of the two of them were all over The Prophet and by the end of the day Draco had received a rather angry letter from Lady Iolanthe. It seemed whenever they appeared, which was whenever they were in public, she would write a scathing letter.
Helène felt rather badly about using her suite. She wondered where she would stay once Iolanthe came home for Christmas.
“I’d better go see Io,” Draco announced to everyone after lunch. “Today, preferably.”
Helène turned back to her tea, knowing she would only make the situation worse.
“Take Lacy with you,” Narcissa said. “She and Helène have become friends. She can perhaps offer an unbiased view as she was not unfond of Lady Astoria.”
They were gone within the hour.
Helène wasn’t quite certain what to do with herself. She found her way into the front garden, walking amongst the white peacocks, trailing her fingers along their plumage.
“They’re a testament to a Malfoy’s love of all things blond and white,” Narcissa stated, gravel crunching under her slippers. “If you’ve noticed, all the roses in the garden are white as well.”
“I had noticed, yes,” Helène admitted.
“Draco said you were wearing white the night you met.”
Helène’s head turned around quickly. “I beg your pardon, Dowager Malfoy?”
Gray eyes were leveled at her. “You know, I find it all rather convenient. My son favors dark haired beauties who do not fit the pureblood norm.” She, of course, was referring to the ideal of petite witches who supposedly carried more power. Helène was tall and slim, much like Narcissa was, though Helène was still much taller. “You’re politically powerful, well mannered, educated, and you wear white. It’s almost as if this were planned, especially given the fact that you’re a Black metamorphmagus. If I didn’t know any better, I would accuse you of being my sister’s daughter, Auror Nymphadora Tonks.”
“You forget that I was in France and a guest of the French Ministry for six months before I arrived here. My appearance has not changed. Also, how was I to know that Lord Malfoy was going to be at the opening dinner at Hogwarts?”
Narcissa circled her. “Point well taken. But the white, Helène, the white.”
“It was simple, Mother Malfoy. I did not want to show any sign of preferential treatment toward any of the houses. Hermione Granger had explained them to me. I couldn’t wear brown because it was too close to red. I couldn’t don cream because it was similar to yellow. Purple favored blue. Black could even be construed as choosing Hufflepuff. So I chose the only color I could: white.”
Narcissa looked at her proudly. “Ever the diplomat. You will serve Draco well, I think. You know, between us women, I served him a bezoar when he got home that night as I was convinced you’d laced his Butterbeer with Amortentia. However, your reaction the next day proved that you were just as surprised by his reaction to you as I was.”
Helène chuckled. “I wonder what Lord Malfoy’s potion would smell like. I suppose we’ll never know.”
“Professor Slughorn does. He keeps track of every student’s preference. It’s a hobby of his to see if matches are made based on love or not.” Narcissa shrugged. “I smelled this strange musk that I was never able to place throughout my life. If it weren’t unseemly, I might try and find it, but I suppose I shall never know.”
Tentatively, Helène reached a hand out and squeezed Narcissa’s arm. “The late Lord Malfoy’s portrait said he grew to love you.”
“Yes, yes he did. I also cared deeply for him, but I doubt it is the same. He never held that fire that Draco’s eyes now carry whenever they land on you.”
Helène didn’t know what to say to that, so she remained silent, looking over the well manicured lawn. Finally, she breathed, “Mother Magic has seen to bless me.”
It was some minutes later that Helène realized she was alone. When it grew cold she returned to her suite, skipping dinner. She wasn’t hungry.
She was taken completely by surprise when her door slammed open and a harried looking Draco Malfoy stood there. His hair was slightly mussed, as if he had been careless in his Apparition or had been running, and his gray eyes were wild.
“Elle,” he breathed, running to her, slamming his lips against her own. Startled, she gasped, and he held her tightly against him so that she could feel every sinuous frame. Suddenly, his mouth was removed from hers, but before she could take in a breath, his lips were caressing her jaw and his hands were fumbling at her robe.
“Draco, what are you—?” she asked, but he kissed her again, achingly sweet, and so she ran her fingers up into his hair, pulling at it slightly.
The robe was pushed down her arms and she immediately went for his tie, and tossed it over the sofa. He hurriedly threw off his own robe and removed his hands from her hips just long enough to undo his waistcoat and throw it on the floor.
“Draco, what are we doing?”
“We’re still clothed,” he stated, pulling back and looking into her eyes. “Just not so formally.”
“If anyone found out—“ she worried.
“We’re clothed,” he stated firmly, “and the door is open.”
She looked over his shoulder. It was. Then he was kissing her again, and sweeping her off her feet until she was lying on the divan. His hands traced her sides, brushing against her breasts, before coming and resting in the curve of her neck. She moaned and pressed toward him, closer, closer, feeling him up against her, all the while kissing him desperately.
The door slammed shut again. He must have charmed it closed.
“We really shouldn’t,” she stated hesitantly as he drew away from her to look into her eyes. “You love me because I’m not like other witches who would throw themselves into your bed—despite that one time.”
He looked startled.
“You know it’s true. It’s what Astoria did, wasn’t it? Why not wait ten years until there are more blonde witches? There was no hurry. But you somehow felt obligated and were looking for any way out. Your mother said so.”
“And all the good I could see in it was blond babies.”
She nodded firmly. “I’m not like that, Lord Malfoy. I have never been like that in any incarnation.”
He breathed raggedly and then moved to sit next to her still reclined form. Helène took a moment to center herself before she, too, sat up. She reached for him but he flinched away.
“Draco, please, look at me,” she begged.
He sat there sullenly, staring at the wall, before eventually turning his broken gaze on her. “I just can’t do anything right today, can I?”
“What’s wrong?” she tried.
He sighed. He took her hands in his and kissed them. “I’ve been horrible to you. I’ve not treated you as a lady should be treated. I’ve undressed you. I’ve undressed myself. I always find myself in your private apartment.”
She didn’t know what to say to that. It was, after all, true.
Silence enveloped them. Then, he broke it with a quiet “I love you, Helène Louise Peverell.”
Squeezing his hands, she whispered. “Thank you.”
He looked at her earnestly. “I’ve never loved anyone so much in my life,” he admitted. “Not Mother or Father, not Lacy, certainly not Astoria, and even precious Io.”
“She means a great deal to you, doesn’t she?”
“Mother almost died giving birth to her. Io almost died as well. Io had to be monitored at St. Mungo’s for nearly a year before she could come home to us. I was only five, but I visited her every day with either my Father or my Mother. She was so small, so beautiful, so weak. Mother had ingested some potion that had harmed her, we think. But with the right care Io thrived and she’s always had a special place in my heart.”
“It must be wonderful, to have family,” she murmured and smiled at him sadly. “What did she say?”
“She insulted you, said that I was using you for political gain, that I’d broken Astoria’s heart. Astoria never had a heart, to be honest. I remember after we’d lain together, she looked at me coldly and said, ‘Well, you’ll have to marry me now. Luckily I have blonde hair.’ It wasn’t really blonde, it was more strawberry blonde, to be honest.”
“That must have been horrible.”
“It was my own fault. I let myself get drunk at a party and she must have slipped something in my drink.”
“Come,” Helène suddenly said. “There must be a wizarding night club. Take me dancing.”
“You can’t dance,” Draco said suddenly.
She looked at him hard. “Remember the evening with the lute? I can certainly dance,” she corrected, her mind turning back to Harriet Potter and her abysmal performance on the dance floor at the Yule Ball.
His lips twisted upward. “True. I must have been thinking of someone else.”
She threw him out of the room in order to get changed and looked through her wardrobe. Night club. Night club. Night club. She pulled out a dress she’d purchased in Paris that was sleeveless and full of sparkled ruffles. This would have to do.
Helène had covered it up with a robe so Draco didn’t see until they were somewhere in London and she removed it to give it to the attendant. Draco stilled behind her.
“Paris fashion,” she explained.
He shook his head. “We’ll be in all the papers tomorrow.”
She laughed and strung her hand through the crook of his arm. “Show me around, Lord Malfoy.”
He led her forward. “If you thought what we did before was indecent, this clearly is more so.”
A flash came from the side but Helène ignored it. There was another flash. Then a third.
Draco smiled at her, that wonderful look in his eyes, like he was the happiest and proudest wizard in Britain. She smiled back at him, her blue eyes shining.
“I think we started gossip,” Helène all but giggled.
“I know we did.”
They were on their way to the bar when Helène recognized a shock of red hair. It wasn’t Percy. No, it was Ron. She paused and then whispered in Draco’s ear, “A raspberry margarita.”
He nodded, looking briefly at Ron, and left her on her own.
Helène took a deep breath. It was risky doing this, but she had to try. Harriet wouldn’t have allowed otherwise. She squared her shoulders and moved forward. “Auror Weasley,” she greeted. “You may not remember me but we briefly ‘met’ at St. Mungo’s the other day.”
He looked at her as if she were mad. “Aren’t you marrying Malfoy?”
“That’s only speculation,” she answered. “I’m Lady Helè—“
“I know who you are.” He took a drag of his beer.
Helène was silent for a second. “Forgive me for being so blunt, but why aren’t you married to Hermione Granger?”
He glared at her.
She had to try again. “I know you were close at the end of the War. All signs pointed toward marriage. However, you’re here, in this bar, alone, and she’s probably reading in her apartment some tome that’s so dusty it would make the average person’s throat scratch.”
“You don’t know me,” he ground out.
“No, but I know Hermione, and I know she’s not happy.”
He grunted. “She would never admit to such a thing.”
“It was obvious,” Helène stated, to someone who really knew her. There had been the jealousy of her relationship with Draco and the cruelty when she hadn’t known everything there was to know about him. “Maybe you could go round for tea.” It sounded lame even to her ears.
“I don’t want Hermione,” he stated viciously. “I wanted Harriet.” He stared into her impossibly blue eyes.
She visibly flinched. Harriet had never known. Helène had never suspected.
“Yes, yes. We all know you wanted her for her money and her fame,” Draco said, coming up. “It’s an old story. Come, Elle, there’s someone I want you to meet.”
Looking at him confused and utterly lost, he pushed the drink into her hand. “Drink some of this and then just remember who you are.”
She nodded and she took a large sip of her margharita and then closed her eyes to refocus herself. When she did, she stood smoothly and smiled at Draco. She turned briefly back to Ron. “Goodnight, Auror Weasley.”
He just grunted at her.
Draco led her away into the crush of bodies to a table where a single individual sat. Helène recognized him peripherally from Hogwarts. If she was not mistaken, he was in Slytherin.
“Lady Helène Peverell, I’d like to introduce Lord Theordore Nott.” A younger son, then. “I had hoped to introduce him to Lacy at the wedding, suggest him as her escort, but unfortunately that opportunity is no longer available.”
Helène took in the other wizard. He was tall, lanky even, with a heart-shaped face, light blue eyes, and chocolate curls. She supposed he was attractive. “You have an elder brother?”
“Yes, Lord Nott,” he agreed, taking her hand which she offered. “Our father passed away in Azkaban.”
“My sympathies,” she murmured, her bought breeding coming out again. She turned to Draco and smiled. “He isn’t blond.”
“Nor a first son.”
“Your father would have had a fit.” She turned laughing eyes on Theodore. “It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance. Were you and Lord Malfoy school mates?”
“Yes,” he offered, relieved at the question. “We were dorm mates and friends, of a sort, at Hogwarts.”
She hummed. “A perfect candidate then. However, shouldn’t Lady Lacerta finish her schooling first?”
“She’s seventeen. She’s allowed a little romance in her life,” Draco countered. “I’ve seen the way she looks at us.”
“Yes, I had begun to notice that, too, and since she is not at Hogwarts she cannot find anyone for herself.” Helène sat down gracefully. “Now, Lord Theodore, tell me exactly why you are interested in escorting Lady Lacerta. Is your House of the First Tier?”
“Just. Lady Lacerta is a beautiful, intelligent witch. I find myself—intrigued by her.”
“Have you actually met her?”
Draco looked pleased at all this questioning. They shared a look and he smiled at her. Her eyes crinkled back in enjoyment.
Theodore was looking between them and finally said, “A few times, at Hogwarts. She always had such poise—“
“All pureblood maidens have poise,” Helène interrupted. “Some half-bloods have it. Muggle-borns from wealthy families have poise, much to purebloods’ displeasure. What else does she have apart from poise?”
“They don’t have it like Lady Lacerta. She walks as if she knows she’s better than everyone else without making it seem like she’s condescending to their level,” he stated hotly. He breathed heavily. “Why do you even care, Lady Helène? You’re only being courted by Lord Malfoy.”
“I take an eager interest in the Malfoy family. I intend to make it to the bondler with Lord Malfoy, unlike my predecessor.” She sipped her drink. Her sapphire ring shone in the artificial lighting.
A look of comprehension appeared on Theodore’s face. “May I offer my felicitations, Lady Helène?”
“You may,” she stated. “Of course, this has not been fully discussed within the family or released to the press.”
“I understand.” Theodore’s eyes met Draco’s. “I won’t breathe a word.”
Helène smiled. “Good. Now, Lady Lacerta. Tell me of your previous girlfriends.”
“I really don’t think.”
“Fine then. Draco, I feel like a dance,” she said turning to Draco. “We can let Lord Theodore think for a moment.”
Draco held out his hand. “You know I love dancing with you.” He led her away from the flabbergasted Theodore and onto the dance floor where they held each other at arms length, waiting for the down beat. Then they were off, twirling around one another, their hands linking then unlinking in a form of intricate modern dance that purebloods had perfected over the last few years. Their bodies never touched, but their elbows would brush, or a hand would stroke down a cheek and then a neck, and they were both breathless by the time that Draco escorted Helène from the dance floor.
Theodore was waiting for them, their drinks still sitting where they left them.
“You won’t be pleased with me,” he stated and Helène just looked at him. “Daphne Greengrass.”
Helène glanced at Draco who stared back at her.
“What ended this relationship?”
“My brother was expected to die as a Death Eater. At least, she expected him to die and for the title to pass to me. Obviously, that didn’t happen.”
Helène nodded. “I see. Well, I think it would be lovely for Lord Malfoy to take me on a picnic in a magical garden somewhere so it can be snowless and warm, and for you and Lady Lacerta to serve as chaperones. I expect Lord Malfoy and I would like some privacy so that should give you time to speak with Lady Lacerta. When are you next free, Lord Malfoy?”
“Saturday,” he answered swiftly. “Well, Friday, but Lacy has lessons.”
“Saturday then. Luncheon is served at around two o’clock so if we meet at Malfoy Manor at one, that should give us ample time. I’ll leave the location and details to you, Lord Malfoy.” She grinned at him.
“I could kiss you right now.”
Helène smiled at Draco. “I think that would be unseemly in public. However, I’m only allowing an introduction. Lacerta might hate Lord Theodore.” She turned toward him. “Does your brother have a son? Why aren’t you Heir Theodore?”
“Yes, I have a nephew. He’s a little over a year old,” Theodore said happily. “I love seeing him when his nanny brings him down.”
“So you live with your brother and his wife.” Helène hummed. “I like the idea of an active father. That could serve you well.”
The pictures, of course, came out in The Daily Prophet. Miss Lavender Brown had at least realized her dress was in the French style, and had written about how fashionable Helène was. This led to Iolanthe sending yet another angry letter to Draco, which made him edgy for a morning before going to the Wizengamot.
Helène went with Narcissa as her chaperone, watching from the Malfoy and Black guest seats. They were debating budgetary concerns for the Ministry, which was rather dull, so Helène didn’t bother to pay much attention except when Draco was speaking.
“We’ll have a guest today,” Helène informed Lacerta that Saturday just before lunch. “Lord Malfoy and I thought that you might like someone to talk to.”
“Anyone I know?”
“I believe so,” Draco answered, putting on a pair of lightweight gloves. “Lord Theodore Nott. He was in my year at Hogwarts.”
“Tall? Brown hair?”
“Yes,” Draco replied. “I think you’ll like him.”
Helène didn’t pay much attention to Lacerta and Lord Theodore during the date. She was holding Draco’s hand, playing with his fingers, as he fed her mince pies with his fingers.
Lord Theodore, however, showed up the very next day with a present wrapped in pale lavender and asked to see Lacerta. Draco was out at the Wizengamot and Narcissa was in her room with a migraine.
He was shown into the smaller of the two drawing rooms, which Helène used as her own personal space as she was not yet technically part of the family and only a guest. She had received Minister Shacklebolt there a few times when it was necessary to discuss her appearances at charity events that did not involve the Malfoy family.
“Lord Theodore,” she greeted, standing and putting her Molière aside. “To what do I owe this pleasure?” The words fell off her tongue as if she had always spoken them.
Theodore looked a little abashed. “I was hoping to see Lady Lacerta. I’m told she’s in her studies?”
“Yes,” Helène agreed. She looked at the clock. “Lacerta should be done in half an hour or so, if you can bear my company for that long.”
“A gentleman should never be alone with an unmarried lady,” Theodore began.
“Perhaps not,” she agreed. “However, I am serving as chaperone for you and Lady Lacerta. I won’t tell if you won’t.”
He tipped his head to her. “Very well, Lady Helène. Please, don’t let me disturb you.”
Lacerta was fetched as soon as she was out of her lessons. Her hair was elegantly coiffed and she was wearing a rather fetching blue skirt that flared out and a white button up blouse with peasant sleeves. “Lord Theodore, I hadn’t expected you. Are you here to see Draco?”
“No,” he blushed, which was rather becoming on him. “I have a gift for you, Lady Lacerta, if you would be kind enough to accept it.” He handed the large packet over to her.
She looked at it and then glanced over at Helène. Helène, of course, recognized it for what it was. As soon as Draco had mentioned Theodore’s interest in Lacerta, she had looked up Malfoy courting rituals in Spungen’s Guide to Pureblood Dynasties. This was the first gift.
Lacerta carefully unwrapped the package and breathed out. “I’ve never heard it before,” she commented and then read, “The Silver Swan. Do you know it, Helène?”
“Yes, I heard it in France,” she admitted. “It’s a very haunting piece of music.”
Looking torn, Lacerta glanced between the sheet music, Theodore, and Helène. “Lord Theodore,” Helène said, “might I have a moment alone with Lacerta? This is, I believe, her first courting gift.”
Lacerta seemed relieved and Theodore bowed his head in acceptance, though indecision warred on his features.
“We’ll just be a few moments,” Helène assured.
He left them.
“Now,” Helène said, coming up to Lacerta and looking at the beautiful sheet music. “What are your reservations? Do you not know Lord Theodore well enough? Do you not like him?”
“It’s not that,” Lacerta replied, holding the sheet music carefully. “It’s just—I don’t know if Draco would approve.”
“I can tell you that Draco does approve wholeheartedly, though that should not sway your opinion. What do you think, Lacerta? You’re only seventeen. I know that’s old enough to marry, but you’re still in school.”
Lacerta closed her eyes and seemed to be centering herself. Opening them, she said firmly, “I think I’d like to know more of Lord Theodore.”
“Then shall we repair to the music room so that you might sing for him?” There were the words again, falling off of her tongue. “I’m sure he’s anxiously awaiting your opinion.”
Her recital was far from perfect, given that Lacerta was only a second soprano, but Lord Theodore seemed pleased and actually kissed her hand at the end of it—a nicety which frankly did not exist in pureblood society.
“We should go to the opera,” Draco announced over dinner one night. “The two ‘courting’ couples. I know you’ve been enjoying your courtship dates with Lord Theodore, Lacy, but it might be fun to go out together.”
“It will also launch you as a couple,” Narcissa put in wisely. “If you’re seen with Draco and Lady Helène then speculation will surely be excited.”
“You know I can’t suggest it to Lord Theodore, brother,” Lacerta said. “You’re going to have to propose the idea.”
“Consider it done,” Draco said with a smile. “It will be a joy to be out at the opera with two of my four favorite ladies on this earth.”
“And we can all serve as each other’s chaperones,” Helène added with a smile. “We can give Mother Malfoy the evening off.”
Narcissa tipped her head to Helène.
The opera was dazzling. Lacerta had tried on six different robes for Helène which Draco had to eventually choose from before going through Helène’s closet and making her try on several. In the end Helène wore crimson red with ruby earrings. The sapphire ring was heavy on her finger and the pearl bracelet was a constant reminder of her early courtship with Draco.
“You look stunning this evening,” Draco whispered in her ear, hand at the small of her back, as they entered the theatre lobby. A flash went off and she knew the four of them had been spotted.
“Lacerta will be glad you approve,” she answered quietly, their noses just brushing as she stared adoringly into his eyes.
“Lord Malfoy! Lady Helène! When can we expect wedding bells?”
“Your guess is as good as mine,” Draco joked. “The lady will not tell me.”
“Is this your sister? Does she serve as chaperone tonight?”
“Lady Lacerta and Lord Theodore Nott are chaperones to us both,” Helène put in, “just as we are chaperoning them. It’s a nice family ‘double date’ as I believe the Muggles would say.”
It was with a sad heart that Helène moved all of her possessions from Iolanthe’s suite a few days later before Iolanthe herself arrived home for Christmas. Helène was moving to Draco’s childhood room, which was more masculine and covered in bookshelves. The house elves had put flowers on the windowsills to try and give it a woman’s touch, but the dark blues and black showed that it was clearly a man’s space.
Helène did not go to meet the Hogwarts Express and instead stayed with Lacerta in her small sitting room. “She’ll hate me,” Helène decided. “All of her letters show how much she dislikes the idea of me. I doubt the actual reality will prove a difference.”
“She doesn’t know you,” Lacerta claimed. “Give her time.”
Iolanthe did not need time. She took one look at Helène and said that she didn’t know what all the fuss was about. “She’s not even blonde,” she explained to Narcissa heatedly. “I thought all Lord and Heir Malfoys married blondes.”
“Draco is different, darling. He chose to break from the mold.”
“For what? Political power? This is ridiculous. Astoria was a friend.”
“She was no friend of mine,” Draco put in seriously. “I know the two of you were close, but it was just a match of convenience between the two of us. You may be surprised to hear this, Iolanthe, but I chose to go against hundreds of years of Malfoy tradition and marry for love.”
“And can you honestly say that you love her? What do you know about her?”
Draco and Helène shared a knowing glance. “More than you can possibly imagine.”
Yule came and Helène was so excited she put on the first robes that she found and ran to the dining room. “I’ve never had a Yule before,” she told Lacerta excitedly as she tried a Norse pastry called Kringla. “I got everyone presents in case it’s like Christmas.”
“You did not need to do that, dear,” Narcissa said kindly. “Gifts are not usually exchanged except between those who are bonded. I believe Draco got you something, though.”
Helène looked over at him eagerly and he was blushing. “Come, let me take you to your small sitting room. I have two gifts for you this morning.”
“A crup!” Helène squealed as she got down on her knees and held the puppy close. Its forked tail had been severed so that it resembled a Muggle terrier, as per wizarding law, and he was absolutely adorable. “You remembered.”
Draco came over and laid a hand on top of the twist of her hair. “Of course I did. How could I forget anything my beloved tells me?”
Helène looked up at him, the crup in her arms. “What’s his name? Her name?”
“His name is ‘His Serene Highness Prince Ernst.’ The breeder had a penchant for Muggle royalty.”
“Ernst then.” She kissed his nose. “Thank you, Draco. My gift seems silly after this.”
“What is it?”
“It’s in my room, but it’s a tie with snakes all over it—for Slytherin. I know how much you like to wear ties and—“
Draco swooped down and kissed her lightly, the crup still in her arms. “That’s perfect, Helène. I know I’ll love it.—Now, to your second gift.” He offered Helène a hand and she stood, never putting down the crup and he walked her to a table with an athame and pomegranate on it.
“I thought today would be auspicious.”
“What about your mother? Your sisters?” Helène questioned in confusion, recognizing the bonding tools. There was a little jewelry box off to the side and, putting Ernst down, she went and opened it to see two Malfoy bonding bands inside.
“Mother and Lacerta know. Io will just have to be told.” Draco took up the athame and slit his hand open diagonally. He handed it to her and, after hesitating, she accepted it and sliced her own palm open. Their blood intermingled and then they were cutting the pomegranate, their blood mingling with its juices and feeding it to one another.
Then, carefully, Draco picked up one of the bonding rings and slipped it beside her Peverell engagement ring. He kissed the palm of her bleeding hand and smiled at her as it healed.
Mirroring the original gesture, she slid the bonding ring onto his hand and watched as the cut closed, before finding herself in his arms, kissing him languidly.
Helène was married and there was nothing anyone could do, even the shade of Harriet Potter, to change that.