Mr. Sandman

Part of the Willow Series

Title: Mr. Sandman
Author: ExcentrykeMuse
Pairing: fem!Harry/Bartry Crouch, Jr.
Prompt: The Last Person James Potter Thought the Matchmaker Would Pair His Daughter With was Lord –

Wordcount: 11k

Lyrics: “Mr. Sandman” by the Puppini Sisters
Preferred Version: “Mr. Sandman” by SYML

Warnings: rule 63, lemons, age disparity (34/16), arranged marriage, death eater accusations & activities, murder, David Tennant impersonations (he did play Barty, after all)

“Absolutely not!” James Potter declared, breathing in heavily.  “I employed you so she wouldn’t be seen with Death Eaters.  I certainly don’t want her to marry one!”

Halle sat stony faced on a couch in the little cottage in Godric’s Hollow.  Ever since James’s marriage to Lily Evans, the small family had been exiled here.  It didn’t matter that Lily had given her life to save Halle’s from the Dark Lord.  No, all that mattered to James’s father was that she wasn’t a pureblood, that Halle, her child, wasn’t a pureblood.

“Isn’t he dead?” James finally said.  He looked over at his daughter.  “He’s most certainly dead.”

The old woman smoothed out her robes.  “He most certainly is not dead.  I met with him on several occasions.”

Not wanting to show any sign of weakness, Halle shut her eyes momentarily.  She had only agreed to a professional matchmaker because her boyfriend, Theodore Nott, had broken up with her because she was a “filthy half-blood.”  That didn’t stop him from taking her virginity. 

James had wanted it because he was hoping a marriage to a pureblood would bring about a reconciliation with his parents.

The matchmaker had only agreed to take on the assignment because Halle was the famous Girl-Who-Lived.  Otherwise her half-blood status would have disqualified her.

“He is dead!  I remember it clearly!  He died and his mother died shortly after him!  If he’s alive, how can his father possibly explain it?”

“I cannot possibly imagine,” the matchmaker said.  “However, he’s living in his father’s house.”

“I’m confused,” Halle finally put in.  “Why is he suitable?”

“I determined you needed a mature man.  You’ve seen so much, my dear, in your fight against You-Know-Who, and now it’s been revealed that you’re the Chosen One!  You need someone who will lift that burden, not exploit it.”

Well, that was something.  Halle had wanted to call upon The Sandman, a magical bogeyman who was known to answer the plea of lovers and give them the name of their ideal mate.  It was known as a sanding.  Of course, the person could be married already, dead, not born yet, a socially unacceptable gender.  And the other person would know nothing about the sanding.  It was up to the calling witch or wizard to pursue them or not.

“How can a Death Eater do nothing but exploit it?”

“The gentleman in question certainly wishes to unsully his reputation with the connection, but he has no interest in her fame or the royalties she brings in per year.”

That was actually a considerable fund.  James kept on having to set up bank accounts at Gringotts to hold all the gold she made just by being mentioned in the papers or having her photograph in books.  It was really quite remarkable.  Halle Potter was one of the wealthiest women in Britain, and that was without inheriting wealth.

“What else?”

“Shared interests.  He adores Quidditch and has a penchant for Muggle poetry, which you must admit is rare among wizards in general.  He has expressed a desire to take you Pegasus riding after the wedding.  He thought, given the fact you take Care of Magical Creatures, you might be interested.”

Halle turned to her father.  He scoffed.  “He’s still Death Eater scum,” he griped.

“You know that a match cannot be unmade, Dad, and Madame Ipswich is the best in England.”

“I should have specifically told her no Death Eaters.”

“You told me no followers of the Dark Lord.  The gentleman in question does not currently follow He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.  He took an Unbreakable Vow.”

Sandman, I’m so alone,
Bring me somebody to call my own.
Please turn on your magic beam.
Mr. Sandman, bring me a dream.

“What else?” Halle said, tearing her gaze away from her father who was now chewing his fingernails and looking out the window.

“He offered to buy a small house in Hogsmeade so that he might be near you and so that you might have your own home.  I know you value independence, and wouldn’t want to live with his father.”

James snorted.  “I’d say.  The man’s horrible.  Thank the gods he never made it to Minister of Magic.”

The matchmaker didn’t pay any attention to him.  “Also, and this might please you, Mr. Potter, but he’s from one of the most influential families in Great Britain.  That goes without saying, given his name.  Halle’s reputation would not suffer.  Two more points.  He loved his mother dearly and saw that she wasn’t treated with love and respect by his father.  He vows that he will not make that mistake in his own marriage.”

“I see,” Halle conceded.  “And the last point?”

“I hate to bring it up, but he was the only candidate who would accept the fact that you were both a half-blood and not a maiden.  He threatened to gut the wizard who took your purity, but that is understandable.”

James was now purpling with rage.  “So I’m to be the father-in-law of Barty Crouch, Jr., am I?  May the old gods help me!”

“Cheer up, Dad,” Halle tried to placate.  “At least it’s not Draco Malfoy.”

He scowled at her.

The first meeting was at the Crouch Residence.  Halle didn’t catch the name of it walking in but it was spacious and airy and, perhaps not surprisingly, there was the little house elf from the Quidditch World Cup that was tripping all over herself.  Winky.

Dad was there, of course.  A chaperone was needed.  Of course, it could have been the matchmaker, but Dad had wanted to see Bartemius in the flesh.

The matchmaker was right.  He was handsome.  He was tall with a somewhat slim build, brown hair that flopped into his eyes, and an infectious smile.  He would lean back into his chair and say, “Well!” as if it were the most important word in the English language, making Halle smile.

“You must be him then,” James greeted, not extending his hand.  Bartemius was standing by a coffee table with a china tea set on it.  “The Death Eater.”

Halle, always the peacemaker, hushed him.  “He doesn’t follow Voldemort, remember, Dad?”

“Yes, well, he better not.  I didn’t fancy watching him possess you that night last June.”  He sat down heavily. 

Bartemius only smiled at them.  “Miss Halle,” he greeted, reaching for her hand and kissing it gallantly.  “I’ve been waiting to meet you for weeks.”  There was something more to his tone, as if he meant months or even years.

“That’s because the call has been out for weeks,” James said hotly.

Halle blushed at her father’s words.  Still, gathering her resolve, she looked Bartemius in the eyes and stated, “Mr. Crouch.  I hear you like Quidditch.”

“Barty, please,” he said, offering her a seat.

James mimicked him in a high-pitched tone, “Barty, please.”

“Dad!” Halle snapped.  “This is about me, not about you.”  They’d had that conversation this morning.  Apparently it hadn’t sunk in.

“Right,” James muttered.  He took a cucumber sandwich and stuffed it in his mouth.  “Mum’s the word.”

Halle highly doubted it.  After giving her dad a reproving glance, she looked over at Barty who was smiling at her.  “Quidditch.  Love it.  I was at the World Cup, actually.  A few seats down from you.”

“No one was there.  There was only an empty seat,” Halle mused.

“There was an empty seat,” James intoned.  He had poured himself a cup of tea and was now drinking it.  Halle and James had been invited by the Weasleys to the 1994 Quidditch World Cup in England and there had been an empty seat in their box, supposedly reserved for Barty Crouch, Sr.  “He must have been wearing an invisibility cloak.”

“Dad!” Halle chided.  “Why can’t I have a simple conversation with my betrothed?”

“If I kill him he won’t be your betrothed.  What are you?  My age?  By the old gods!”

Halle rolled her eyes.  “You weren’t always wearing an invisibility cloak though, were you?  I think I saw you in the tree line.”  She cocked her head.  “Yes, I think it was you.  Under the Dark Mark.  Well, not under it, but I could see you in its light.”

“Well,” Barty said, pouring her a cup of tea.  “I couldn’t possibly comment.”

James mouthed, “I couldn’t possibly comment,” but fortunately didn’t say anything about the Dark Mark.  He easily might have.  Really, this was going to be rather difficult.

“Perhaps you could come see me play Quidditch,” Halle offered.  “I’m on the Gryffindor House team.  What house were you in?”

“Ravenclaw,” Barty admitted.  “I never tried out for the team because I was too busy studying.  But I’d love that, Miss Halle.”

“A Ravenclaw not smart enough not to join the Death Eaters,” James muttered, but no one paid him any attention.

“I follow the Hollyhead Harpies,” Halle admitted.  “I know, I know, it’s the only women’s team, but a girl can dream of one day joining.”

“Well,” there it was again, the importance poured into the word was simply astounding, “don’t you want to be a trailblazer on one of the other teams?”

Halle’s china clinked as she set down her cup.  “Do you really think that’s possible?”

“I think with you anything is possible.”

James was snorting now into his tea.

Barty’s eyes were impossibly blue and Halle found herself leaning closer to them. 

The familiar rhyme played in her head and it frightened Halle a little.  Mr. Sandman, bring us a dream,

Give him a pair of eyes with a ‘come-hither’ gleam.  Perhaps this could work?

Barty raised up his eyebrows at her in amusement, but that didn’t stop her from putting her hand on his wrist to steady him.  After James cleared his throat, she pulled back. 

Halle took a sip of her tea.  “What does your father say about our arrangement?”

“Well, to be honest, he has no idea.”

There was the clatter of china on the ground.  “What!” James shrieked.  “What do you mean he doesn’t know?”

“Dad, please,” Halle begged.  Her father really was too hotheaded. 

Barty leveled his eyes on James.  “Well,” and there it was again (it made Halle smile behind her teacup), “a better way of putting it is he knows I’m reentering wizarding society.  He’s agreed that enough time has passed where I won’t be recognized and I could easily be another Bartemius Crouch.  Really, I’m technically the fifth.  I can easily become the sixth.”

James’s eyebrows rose.

“Now, and I know I can count on your discretion as we’re practically family, there have been a few well placed bribes to give me a past.  A birth certificate, an application for homeschooling, O.W.L. and N.E.W.T. scores.  Fortunately, the goblins need no persuading.  I have my own vault, have had ever since my mother died, may the old gods bless her, and they keep their money private.”

“So you’re a Bartemius Crouch who wasn’t a Death Eater,” James said carefully.

“Exactly.”  Barty pointed with his cup toward James, a fluid gesture born of pureblood poise and arrogance, that Halle could recognize from her Uncle Sirius.  He, like her father, had managed to get himself disowned.

“How old are you then?  Are you in your twenties?”  He sniggered.

“I’m supposedly thirty-two, actually,” Barty explained calmly.  He turned to Halle.  “I’m actually thirty-four.  I hope you don’t mind.  The matchmaker said—“

“Yes, yes.  She thought a more mature wizard would be a good idea,” James snapped.  “Really, I think we must be going now.”

“No,” Halle said with finality in her voice.  “I think we should stay.”  She and her dad glared at one another and finally he looked away.  Halle hummed to herself and smoothed out a wrinkle in her robe.  She had bought them especially for this occasion.  Usually light blue clashed with red hair, but she found that it looked rather nice on her.

Halle was an unusual match between her mum and dad.  She had flowing auburn hair like Lily Potter, gray eyes like her paternal grandmother Dorea Black, bad eyesight as well as the complete facial features of her dad.  Every day Halle placed a correction charm on her eyes that lasted for twelve hours.  She carried around a pair of horn-rimmed glasses for the rest of the time.

She turned back to Barty.  “So he doesn’t know you’re marrying.”

“Well, no,” Barty admitted.  “He knows I’m buying a house and moving out before the summer’s out but I haven’t actually told him about the upcoming wedding.”

“Why not?” Halle wondered.

“I really didn’t know how to tell him to be honest,” Barty began.  “Well,” (she grinned) “I thought about just coming out and saying it over breakfast this morning, but he was in such a good mood that I didn’t want to spoil it with the thought that I might be happy.”

“That’s certainly considerate of you,” James sniped.

“I thought so,” Barty agreed.  “He’s never really cared about my happiness, just that I got good marks.  Are you studious, Miss Halle?”

Before she could answer, her dad had done it for her.  Again.  “No, she takes after me in that regard.  She’s too busy sniffing out danger and playing Quidditch.”

“I’ve just never found school that interesting,” Halle offered with a half-smile.  “It’s all so dry, really.  My friend Hermione always has her nose in a book and is berating me for not studying harder.”

“What family is Hermione from?” Barty asked innocently.

“Er, she’s not.  She’s a Muggle-born.”

Barty’s eyebrows rose infinitesimally and he looked over at James who just stared him down, almost begging him to say something. 

“I see.  Is she in Ravenclaw?”

“No, Gryffindor.”

“Well, there are bookworms in every House,” Barty joked and Halle tried to laugh.

Silence fell over the small group.

Finally, Barty said, “Tell me of your other friends.”

“Just come out and say it.  Tell me about your ‘fuck.’”  James looked pleased with himself.

Halle was so horrified that she actually brought her hand up to her ducked forehead and tried to hide behind it.  Her cheeks were glowing red and probably clashed horribly with her hair.  She wanted to make a good impression.  Why couldn’t her dad just let it all go?  Sandman, I’m so alone.

The matchmaker thought that she could be happy and this matchmaker was rarely if ever wrong.  There was not a single complaint lodged against her!

Halle could hear a teacup being placed down on the coffee table.  There was a long silence.  She couldn’t bear to look up.  Bring me somebody to call my own.  Let it be Barty, she silently pleaded.  Let it be Barty.

“Mr. Potter,” Barty finally said, “I would have a care for your daughter’s feelings.  She’s clearly distressed.”

Another long silence fell and, to her shame, Halle felt her shoulders begin to shake and realized that tears were streaming down her cheeks.  The shame was all brought back to her.  Theo.  She thought she had loved him.  Maybe she had.  It was madness with that Umbridge woman and the horrible dreams and he just made her feel safe and wanted.  When he said he loved her and led her into the tree line of the Forbidden Forest, she had followed him willingly, and let him kiss her against a tree and then—and then—

Warm, unfamiliar hands embraced her and turned her so that she was leaning against a strong shoulder.  “Hush now, Miss Halle.  It’s all right.”

It will never be all right, she thought bitterly, but she didn’t say it.  Instead, she clung to Barty’s robes and let herself cry out her emotions, the feeling of his hand rubbing up and down her spine lulling her into comfort.  Finally her sobs began to slow and, when she stilled, she pulled away carefully, not looking into his eyes.  He took one of her hands in his and she stared at it curiously.

“My mother’s Scottish,” Barty offered into the silence of the room.  “Her favorite poet was Bobbie Burns, and he writes, O, my Luve’s like a red, red rose / That’s newly sprung in June; / O my Luve’s like the melodie / That’s sweetly played in tune.”

She looked up at him then, smiling a little, but her dad broke the spell.

“What, Death Eaters can quote love poems, can they?  Do they do it while torturing Muggles?”

“Dad!” Halle practically yelled, her hand still warm in Barty’s.  “Please—just, leave.  You’re being horrible.”

“He’s the one quoting bad poetry—“

“You made your daughter cry,” Barty defended.  “On a marriage date.  We’re going to be married, per tradition, within the next fortnight and you won’t give her the chance to get to know me!  You may not approve of me and you may disagree with the matchmaker’s choice, but that is no reason to punish your daughter.”

James stood up angrily.  “She will see you at the altar,” he promised.  “But not before.”  Looking over at Halle he reached out a hand for her.  Glancing between the two wizards, she finally stood, but she didn’t take it.  The hand, which Barty had held, felt warm to the touch.  “You go through the floo first,” James instructed.

“So you can fight some more?” she argued.  She didn’t have much of a choice, though, when James threw the powder into the flames, called out “Potter Cottage,” and tossed her in.

She fell out on the other side.

In a huff, she didn’t wait for her dad.  Instead, she took off to her rooms for a good cry.

Uncle Sirius, who had narrowly escaped death at the hands of his cousin Bellatrix Lestrange at the Department of Mysteries, came over that night and got drunk with Dad.  She continued to hide and didn’t come out for a full week, refusing to hear James’s apologies and pleas to come out.  “Halle, we know he’s a Death Eater, so you can hardly blame me,” he began one time.  Halle opened the door and threw a cushion at him.  The rest of the time her door was firmly locked.  Only their house elf could get in to deliver food.

She did, however, receive a letter.  It was short, giving her a time and an address, and signed simply “Barty.”  Wondering if it were some trick her dad was playing, she almost didn’t go.  However, when she heard him floo out for work, she got dressed in the only pair of summer robes she owned.  They were a pale yellow and a bit out-of-date, but she only owned Muggle clothing.

Flooing to Hogsmeade, she searched the names of the side streets until she finally found “Honeysuckle Avenue” and came to number seven, a small three-storied house that had personality and charm.  Barty was waiting for her in the front garden.  Next to him stood the matchmaker.  Halle smiled.  He’d provided a chaperone.

“I thought you’d like to see the place before I bought it,” he explained as he inserted a key into the lock.  “Now, unfortunately Winky belongs to Father so I don’t have my own house elf.  We’d have to keep it up ourselves.”

“I know a house elf that needs a home,” Halle offered.  “He’s a little enthusiastic, but he means well.  His name is Dobby; he’s up in the Hogwarts kitchen.  Mention my name and he’ll come.”

“If you’re sure then, darling.”  The endearment rolled off his tongue and it made Halle smile. 

He really was breathtakingly handsome.  Young, charismatic.

Mr. Sandman, bring me a dream,
Make him the cutest that I’ve ever seen.

The front hallway was a little cramped, but they could make do. 

“I like art,” she offered.  “Muggle art.  Street art on occasion.  I love to go around London with my friend Hermione and admire the paintings there.  You have to know where to look, but you can find some real treasures.  I’ve never had much pocket money, my dad didn’t want me to get a big head what with being the Girl-Who-Lived, so I’ve never bought any pieces, but perhaps we could go?”  This was perhaps the most she had ever spoken to Barty.  She had been staring at an expanse of wall, imagining the possibilities, but then she turned to Barty.  “I know it’s not wizard pictures, but I value privacy.”

“You don’t have a portrait of your mother that you want hung?”  His voice was tentative.

Halle squared her shoulders.  “You don’t approve of her.”

“I’d be lying if I said that I did.  I believe in the preservation of pureblood society, Halle.  You must have guessed that given my history with dark wizards.”

She nodded.

“Well,” there it was again, she couldn’t help but smile, “she is your mother.  I thought you might want a portrait of her.  I have one of my mother from when she was younger.  Granted, it’s in a pocket watch, but I treasure it.”

She pointed to the pocket watch in his waistcoat.  “That pocket watch?”

He took it out and opened it.  There was a small miniature of a frail woman with blond hair and a wispy look to her. 

“Mrs. Crouch has your eyes,” she noted, turning up to him and catching his gaze.  “But my father never had a portrait of my mother painted.  There wasn’t time.  I have a photograph of her that I keep beside my bed, but I thought I’d move it to the hearth once we’re married.  I wouldn’t want her seeing—“ She blushed.

The matchmaker tutted, making herself known.

Halle moved away from Barty.

Next, she explored the kitchen, noticing the lack of modern appliances, but surely that could be fixed.  There was an icebox instead of a fridge, but that wasn’t unheard of in the wizarding world.  The dining room was at the front of the house and could probably comfortably seat six.  “Where are we getting our furniture?”

“I have some in the vault, which Mother inherited,” Barty explained.  “We can buy the rest.  I want it move-in ready by the time we’re married on Friday.”

Halle looked up, shocked.  She glanced between Barty and the matchmaker.  “It’s Friday?”  She wouldn’t have enough time to buy robes!  What was she going to do?  She couldn’t show up in a sundress!

“Yes, dear,” the matchmaker said.  “I told Mr. Potter.”

Halle hummed in annoyance before going to look at the sitting room, which had a floo.

“I thought we could use this space as a library,” Barty explained as they entered the largest room on the next floor up.  “I know you’re not one for books, but every proper wizarding household has a library.”

“Where would we get all the books for one?”

“We’ll build up a collection, bit by bit,” he said, coming up to her.  “We could have two armchairs where we could sit in the evenings and play chess.”

“I always lose at wizards chess,” she admitted.  “Well, at least to Ron.  He taught me.  Er, he’s another friend from Gryffindor.”

“Exploding snap then,” Barty plied.  “We could even get a dog or two.”

Halle laughed, thinking of her Uncle Sirius.  “Yes, I suppose we could.  Just no crups.  I had one attack me once.”

There was a pokey old room that was the guest room and then a midsized room, which was to be the master bedroom.  Halle looked at it, a little in shock.  She would be getting married and sharing a bed with this man in just over three days.  But didn’t purebloods…?

“I can take the pokey room if you want, at first,” Barty offered, seeing the look on her face.  “Ideally, we will actually make a great match on the personal level and want to share this room.”

The matchmaker tutted again, but Halle just continued the conversation.  It needed to be talked about.

“Yes,” Halle said boldly, looking into his eyes.  “That would be wonderful if we hit it off.”

“Excellent,” the matchmaker put in.  “It’s so nice to see young people getting along.”

Give him the word that I’m not a rover,
Then tell him that his lonesome nights are over.

Halle managed to sneak back into Potter Cottage without her father being any the wiser.  Carefully and quietly she began to pack her things over the next few days, going so far as to take her poster of The Weird Sisters down off the wall.

On Friday morning there was a crisp knock on the door.  “Halle,” James called.  “You have to come out now.  It’s time for the match.”

Halle had been sitting on her bed, in the same robes she had first met Barty in, and she plastered a smile on her face.  There hadn’t been time for her to buy new robes considering the fact that she’d been locked away for over a week.

Her trunks were all piled next to the door.  “Can you have my trunks forwarded to this address?” she asked her dad as sweetly as she could manage.  She handed him a piece of paper on which she had printed out the floo name.  Honeysuckle House.

He stared at her blankly.  “How are you ready?” he accused.

“A little bird told me,” she replied airily.  “Now, are we Apparating or are we flooing?”

“Apparating.”

The marriage was in a glade, somewhere in Wales.  Barty and Halle each cut the palm of their hands with an athame, then entwined their hands together.  Next they fed each other from a pomegranate and, in the old pureblood rite, they were married.  Only James and the matchmaker attended.  James, fortunately, was silent during the entire affair.

If Barty noticed she wasn’t in new robes, he didn’t say anything.  Instead, he looked into her gray eyes and kissed her bleeding palm at the end of the ceremony.

He Apparated them away to the gate just outside of Honeysuckle House.  Before Halle could open the gate, she was swung into his arms and carried down the garden path and into the open doorway.  She smelled food coming from the kitchen, but Barty carried her upstairs instead, into the master bedroom which had a large four-poster bed in it.  The room was done in blues.

“Oh, it’s beautiful,” she murmured, as he laid her across the sheets.

“You are beautiful,” he amended, caressing her cheek.  “You know, this is the first time we’ve been alone together, Mrs. Crouch.”

“Please tell me that you’re not going to be one of those wizards who refer to his wife as ‘Mrs. Crouch,’ even in private.”

“Well,” and she smiled at his tone of voice, “you haven’t given me permission to use your name, Mrs. Crouch.”

“Mrs. Bartemius Crouch VI,” she chided.  “You don’t need permission.  To you I’m just Halle.”

“Just Halle then,” he leaned down and kissed her, their first kiss.

It was different than what she had expected.  With Theo it had been rough and heady and urgent.  With Barty it was slow and tempered and deep.  She sighed into Barty’s mouth and brought a hand up into his hair.  It was coarse.  Oddly enough, it didn’t look it, but the texture rooted her to reality.

When he pulled away, she smiled at him.  “Hey, you.”

“Hey, yourself.”  He lightly kissed her.  “Would you like dinner first or—“

“Oh, right, the—yeah.”  She blushed.  Marriages had to be consummated for them to be legal.  Halle wasn’t a virgin, so she wasn’t sure what her problem was.  However, last time had been messy, and in the dirt, with her shirt torn open and her tie pushed to the side.

Before she could say anything else, Barty was moving away.  “It smells wonderful.  Dobby is a real find.”

“Wait,” she cried desperately, pulling him back forward.  “I didn’t mean to ruin the mood.”

“Well, I did, by asking,” he joked.  She kissed him just for that.

The kiss elongated and Halle arched into Barty who was hovering above her.  He was wearing grey robes dusted in silver.  They made his eyes appear even more impossibly blue.  Her hand stilled in his hair, she pulled his face to her and she kissed him, kissed him, kissed him, soft, wet, long, one tumbling into another.  She and Theo had never really kissed.  Not until that afternoon.  But this was not that.

No.  No, it wasn’t.

Give him two lips like roses and clover,
And tell him that his lonesome nights are over.

His lips left hers, his hand wrapped around her, and his lips kissed her chin and then the line of her neck.  She gasped at the sensation.  This was unlike anything she had known.

He stopped at the v-neck of her robe and he looked up at her.  She looked down at him.  “Darling,” he murmured, his gaze catching hers.  “Was he ever gentle?”

Blushing, she looked away.

“Hey, now,” he murmured, bringing up his spare hand and turning her face toward him.  “I need to know.  I don’t want to hurt or overwhelm you.  I know how cruel schoolboys can be.  I was one myself,” he reminded her.

She nodded.  “He—it was horrible,” she murmured.  “I don’t understand how anyone can call it ‘making love.’”

“Well,” he said in his exaggerated manner.  “We’re just going to have to change that, now, won’t we?”  He grinned.  “Now.  Take off those ugly shoes.  They’re not needed here.”

“They’re not ugly.”

“Darling, first thing next week, I’m taking you shopping.  None of this Muggle rubbish.  I don’t care what your father says.”  He then kissed her long and slow so that she couldn’t offer to pay.

She, of course, kicked off her shoes and she didn’t object as his hands trailed down her body as he leaned down and stripped away her long, blue stockings.  One hand traveled up to her knee and she shivered.  He smiled at that.

Pausing at the back of the knee, the fingers toyed with the skin there, before the hand moved upward.

Halle squeaked, but met his gaze boldly.  Grinning at her again, he tugged at the bottom of her robes.  “These off, I think.”

“You first,” she dared.  She didn’t want to feel vulnerable.  Never again.

He slipped out of his robes and then was kneeling before her.  He didn’t say a word as she tugged at his tie and loosened it, throwing it over his shoulder.  Next, she unbuttoned his waistcoat, and he let her, all the while watching.  When he was in his shirtsleeves and trousers, he began to take out his cufflinks and carefully set them aside.  Halle noticed that they were of his initials.  They obviously had some sentimental value.

Then she was unbuttoning his shirt and untucking it from his trousers.

Sandman, give me a dream,
Make him the cutest that I’ve ever seen.

“You can touch, you know,” he murmured and she glanced up.  Without another word, she reached out and tangled her fingers in his sparse chest hair.  Looking up at him, she saw that he was watching her.  She became bolder, running her hands over his muscled frame, and was pleased when she elicited shivers from him.

With a single movement, he had her back on her back again and she was giggling as his hands came to the buckle of her outer robe.  The clasp was silver and rather simple, but Halle liked it.  With a click of a switch, the robe was unclasped, revealing the underdress. 

Halle bit her lip, watching her husband closely.  She had plenty of money but she couldn’t access it and James thought she could do with a couple of pairs of jeans and a few sweaters, along with her Hogwarts uniform.  She had found this black lace dress in a second hand wizarding dress shop in Knockturn Alley the summer before last.  She’d had to hem it so that she could wear it under her robe, and she hoped it passed muster.

“This is an Illyria,” he murmured, running a hand from the neckline, between her breasts, down her stomach to the hem of the dress.

“It is?”

He leaned up and kissed her again.  “You have very expensive and exquisite taste, Madame.”

She laughed at that and kissed him harder.  Her hands roved over her husband’s back underneath the shirt and she felt his muscles tense as he held her face and kissed her. 

They were now sitting, kissing, enjoying each other, and before Halle knew it, Barty was undoing the tiny buttons on the back of her dress.  “You’re ready now,” he murmured in her ear.  Leaning back so as to not be looming over her even a little, he helped her to sit up on her knees.  “I’ll be careful of the dress,” he promised.  She lifted her arms and he pulled the dress over her head.  As promised, he set it carefully aside.

Halle crossed her arms around herself, wearing nothing but her bra and panties.

“Well,” he said in his charming way.  “This isn’t right.”  He threw off his shirt, stood from the bed and stripped off his trousers, tossing them carelessly aside.  Then he was next to her in bed again in nothing but his briefs and his socks.  Halle thought there was something attractive about a man in his socks.  Their wands had both ended up on the nightstand to Halle’s left.

He kissed her chastely and allowed her to snuggle into his arms.  After several wonderful minutes, their arms had entwined around each other and her hands were in his wonderful hair.

“Evanesco,” Barty murmured, his wand in his hand, but then it was thrown to the side. 

Halle was completely pressed against Barty without the barrier of clothing.  She began to blush again, but the feel of his strong hands around her made her feel safe.  She hardly noticed when he lay her down on the pillow and leaned over her.  Breaking the kiss, he whispered, “I’ll be gentle.”

Sandman, I’m so alone,
Don’t have nobody to call my own.

Hooking one of her legs over his hip, his fingers probed between her legs.  Something was wet and moist down there and he moved it around a little nub until she was panting.  She kissed him hard so as not to scream and it was then that he entered her.

She was completely relaxed and suddenly she felt overly full.  Gasping, Halle looked into Barty’s eyes, only to see him staring back at her. 

The thrusts were gentle, careful, reverent, and all the while Barty was kissing the line of her jaw or whispering sweet nothings in her ear.  When he sped up, his hand reached for that sensitive nub again and Halle was lost.  She was only marginally aware of warmth spilling inside of her.  What a new and odd feeling.

Afterwards, she lay with her back to his chest, their fingers entwined as they twirled around each other.  She wasn’t aware that she had fallen asleep until she was greeted with cheese quiche and tomato soup, courtesy of Dobby.

Please turn on your magic beam!
Mr. Sandman, bring me a dream!

There was a loud banging at the door.  Halle was lying on her front, her arms splayed on either side of her.  Barty’s arm was wrapped possessively around her waist.  He’d offered to withdraw to the pokey bedroom, but she wouldn’t hear of it, not after what had happened earlier.

Fortunately Halle was wearing a nightgown and she fumbled for a dressing gown.  She just couldn’t figure out which trunk she’d put it in and she couldn’t use her wand.  Then she remembered that Dobby had unpacked.  It would be on the back of the door!  Throwing it on, she rushed down the stairs where Dobby was arguing loudly with James Potter.

“Halle!” he greeted.  “Good.  He hasn’t taken you to Voldemort yet.”  At the familiarity, Dobby seemed to fade into the shadows.

“No, of course not!” Halle practically shouted.  “Why won’t you stop all of this?  Snape was a Death Eater but he’s part of your precious Order of the Phoenix!”  She’d been there often enough the previous summer to see him sweep imperiously from the floo, give his report, and sweep back out.

“He’s a spy for Voldemort!  Dumbledore just won’t see it!” James insisted.  “You know he asked Voldemort for your mother as a prize for his service?  Did you know that, Halle-flower?”

It was like a punch in the gut.  That was—new.  She had no idea that her mum even knew Snape outside of classes.

Halle opened up her mouth, but James just kept on talking.

“You know, I told Dumbledore about your little dalliance, and he wasn’t pleased at all.  Of course, I didn’t say that Bartemius Crouch VI was actually the Fifth, but I told Dumbledore he had dark sympathies, and he thinks we should file a complaint against the matchmaker.  In fact, we should have done that to begin with!”

Still reeling from the information about Snape, Halle ground out, “Dad, I don’t want to file a complaint.  It’s been less than twenty-four hours, but so far I’m happy.”

“You can’t possibly be happy, Halle.  He’s a Death Eater.”  James said it like that was only logical.

“If you’re going to insult me, Mr. Potter, I would rather it be to my face,” Barty intoned, coming down the stairs.

“That’s it, I’m filing a complaint,” James decided.  “And all the proof I’ll need is your left forearm.”

Halle thought back to the night before.  His arm had been clear of the Dark Mark and she hadn’t felt the magical tingles of a Glamor.

She sighed.  There’d be no stopping James now.

“Well, you can’t file a complaint,” Barty said, quite suddenly.  “You’re not one of the matched.”  His blue eyes fell on Halle then, and he smiled.  She couldn’t help but smile back at him.  He turned back to James.  “As to the other matter, I’m not marked.”  He pulled up his dressing gown and bared his left forearm.  It was completely clean except for a couple of freckles.  A Glamor would have gotten rid of freckles, Halle thought.

“Great,” James said undeterred, “It’s like the other Death Eater.  One shag and there’s undying loyalty.”

“You will not speak to Madam Crouch in such a manner,” Barty stated coldly.  “Especially in her own house.  Now, get out before I have Dobby throw you out.”  House elf magic was strong.  They could evict any wizard that made its masters unhappy. 

“You,” James swallowed and leveled a finger at him.  “cheated.  With the matching.”

Halle stepped back as if slapped back in the face.  She looked over at Barty.  “That can’t be true.  You can’t ‘cheat.’  The matchmaker is above reproach.”

“Not if a sandman is called.”

Mr. Sandman, bring me a dream,
Make him the cutest that I’ve ever seen
Give her two lips like roses and clovers
And tell her that her lonesome nights are over.

Halle remembered her own wish at the beginning of the process to call a mythical sandman instead of a matchmaker.  They were highly unpredictable and only gave you the name of your beloved; they did not bring the dream witch or wizard to you or even made them aware that a sanding had been made.

“You,” James accused, “told Madam Ipswich about the sanding; she told me herself.  Don’t even think to deny it.  You lied about the sanding, thereby entrapping my daughter into this marriage.”  He grabbed Halle’s wrist.  “We’re going.”

“I’m not dressed!” she exclaimed, “And, no,” she stated clearly.  “I don’t care what he did.  That’s a matter between the two of us to discuss.”

James hesitated.

“Out!” she demanded and James scurried toward the door at the anger in his daughter’s voice.  When it was shut behind him, Halle looked at an apprehensive Barty before going into the dining room.  There were eggs overhard on toast, just the way she liked them.  Dobby really was a dream.  He always seemed to know what she wanted before she did.  Cutting into her egg, she saw Barty hovering in the doorway.  “I can’t possibly wrap my head around anything without food,” she explained.  Especially not the idea about her mother and Snape.  Shrugging, she added, “Might as well join me.”

He poured himself a cup of Earl Grey but didn’t touch the sausages in front of him.  “You look very beautiful this morning.”

She smiled at him, “Flattery will get you nowhere.”  She was lying, of course.  Sincere flattery would get him somewhere.  That’s what had happened with Theo—no, she would not be haunted by him.

“It will get me everywhere,” Barty disagreed, “especially if it’s true.” 

Halle looked into impossibly blue eyes, which held her gaze.  Unadulterated truth was portrayed there.  She saw no remorse, only affection and desire, and that undeniable pull that she felt toward him. 

Mr. Sandman, bring us a dream,
Give him a pair of eyes with a ‘come-hither’ gleam.

Well, that was certainly true.  And if the Sandman was somehow involved, that just opened a whole new realm of possibilities.

“My hair’s probably all wild from last night—“ she argued, bringing herself back to the present.

“Well,” she smiled, “Like an Amazon,” he inserted lightly.

“My clothes are all crumpled.”

“It’s endearing, this time of the morning.  It makes me think of exactly what you let me do to you last night.”  He grinned wolfishly and finally turned to his sausage.  He cut it and ate a piece as if he hadn’t brought back the images of skin pressed against skin to her mind.

“I haven’t had a chance to put the eye correction charm on my eyes yet.”  Her horn-rimmed glasses were perched on her nose.

“Those things really are ugly,” he agreed.  “Have you ever thought of a more permanent surgery at St. Mungo’s?  The old gods know, we have the money.”

“But you spent all your money on the house and the furniture,” she objected.  “I couldn’t ask you to spend your money.”

“Well, then, we’ll use your money, if you’d rather,” he said conversationally.  “You’re sixteen and a married woman.  You have full access to your vaults.”

The thought hit her. Yes, that was right.  Normally, she wouldn’t be emancipated until she was seventeen and that was in a year.  However, with her marriage she was considered an adult.  Huh.  How strange.  She could probably legally Apparate now too.  Fortunately, Uncle Sirius had taught her on the sly.  She’d have to sign up for an official licensing later that month.  It was August and she was going back to Hogwarts on September the First.

Changing tactic, she put down her own cup of tea.  It was Irish Breakfast.  She had always been partial to it.  “Did you know about my mum and Snape?”

Barty hesitated.  Ah, he had known.  “They were a few years above me at school, but their friendship was a little legendary given the fact that she was in Gryffindor and he was a Slytherin.”

She nodded to show that she was listening.

“There was an incident my third year, where Potter—your father—levitated Snape by his heels.  It was by the Black Lake.  I was there actually.  Evans, your mother, came and laughed a little before she insisted that Potter set Snape down.  Well, he of course did.  He was sweet on her even then.  It was obvious.  Snape was so angry that she laughed at him that he called your mother a ‘Mudblood.’  It was the end of the friendship as far as I know.”  He shrugged, taking another sip of tea.

“There’s more to it than that.  I know you somehow got rid of your Dark Mark, but you were a Death Eater.”

He stared at her.  “Yes.  I invented a rather handy potion.  My Ravenclaw mind at work.  Father was happy to see the mark gone and it was only then that he agreed to let me back out into society.”

“Then what about Snape and Mum?” she prodded, her egg finally finished.  Dobby came through and cleared the plates before reheating the pots of tea.

Barty waited until the house elf was safely back in the kitchen.  Dobby was new to the family so although he was clearly devoted to Halle, he didn’t have the same loyalty to Barty.  Yet.

“Snape never forgot your mother.  He heard that prophecy you were fighting over in the Department of Mysteries, part of it anyway, and in exchange for telling it to the Dark Lord he asked for your mother.  Obviously, that did not happen.”

“Obviously,” she whispered.  “No wonder he hates me.”

“I’ll have a word with him at wand point,” Barty promised.  “He’s probably already up at Hogwarts.”

“Probably,” she admitted.  It was August Fifteenth.  Yes, term was almost going to start. 

Mr. Sandman, someone to hold,
Would be so peachy before we’re too old.

Halle leaned back in her chair, her hands cradling her cup of tea.  Looking down, she stated coolly, “I wanted Dad to call the Sandman instead of a matchmaker.  He was convinced, though, that my supposed affinity for Death Eaters would show itself.  Dad wanted my best chances in society that he could salvage after everything.”

“I did call the Sandman,” Barty stated, his voice strong.  “Well, it’s a blood ritual.”

Her lips quirked.  She already loved the way he said his “well’s.” 

“Father had me under the Imperius Curse until I broke it at the Quidditch World Cup,” he admitted.  “It never worked after then.  I made a bargain with him, if I could prove that I was no longer a follower of the Dark Lord, then I could leave the house and start my life anew.  I got impatient, though.  I was so close to getting rid of my dark mark, and I’d lost so many years under the Imperius Curse that I wanted to know if there was anyone who might be able to love me.  So, I found the ritual in an old book in our library.  I admit I nicked it and it’s now in our library.  I scribbled all over the thing and couldn’t have Father finding it.”  He took a deep breath.  “So I performed the ritual and the Sandman came.  Words can’t describe him, Halle, he’s wondrous and he’s terrible, but he wrote your name out in sand.  Fortunately, I performed the ritual in my bedroom so that I could keep the evidence.”  He sighed.

Halle still didn’t look up.  She had been placed in Gryffindor, but she was never good with conflict.  “Then what happened?”

“I was going to wait until I had myself settled and you had graduated Hogwarts.  I had planned to run into you in the ministry, I was sure that you would have to go there as the Girl-Who-Lived, and then I’d ask you on a marriage date, and take it from there.  But then the call was made.”

She laughed hollowly.  “The call.”

“At first it was only for a bedded half-blood.  A friend sent me a letter, laughing at the joke of it all.—I’m sorry, Halle,” he admitted, and then their eyes caught.  Those eyes, those eyes.  Halle licked her lips, and Barty reached out a hand to clasp hers.  It felt so safe and warm.  “I began to think what half-blood would be strong enough politically to enter a matching and you were the only answer I could come up with.  So, I answered the call.  I didn’t know until Stage Four that it was you for certain.”

“Does your father even know that we’re married?” she tried to laugh.

“He will if he read this morning’s Prophet.  He’s probably being congratulated all over the Ministry.”

She genuinely laughed at that.

Please turn on your magic beam!
Mr. Sandman, bring me a dream!

“I suppose you would have pulled out if it hadn’t been me,” she said, with a lilt to her voice.

“Yes, I was only interested in you.  The only deterrent would have been if you married someone else, but fortunately that didn’t happen.  When it was down to me and one other candidate, I showed the matchmaker the Sandman’s message on my bedroom floor and, fortunately, I was chosen.  I don’t know if it influenced her decision.  I honestly don’t.  But I was getting desperate then.  Matchings usually only make it to Round Three, not Round Six.”

“That’s odd,” Halle mused, intertwining her fingers with Barty’s.  “She told me that very few wizards answered the call because of my half-blood status and the fact that I wasn’t a maiden.”

“I don’t care who you were with, as long as I can kill him.  If he is a Death Eater, as your father claims, then so much the better.”

Halle actually burst out laughing.

Barty took her back to bed.  They stayed there for the rest of the day, and the day after that, and the day after that.  The two of them only emerged when Dobby informed them in the middle of a tumble that Bartemius Crouch, Sr. was there to see them.

Barty looked down at her and she started laughing.  They untangled themselves from the sheets and Halle put the Illyria dress back on and the yellow summer robe.  Barty stared at her ‘ugly’ shoes.  “Shopping tomorrow,” he growled, buttoning up his own waistcoat.

He held the door open for her as they exited.  He had carefully cast freshening charms on them and Dobby had quickly put up Halle’s hair, as befitted a pureblood lady.

“Father,” Barty greeted, not warmly.  “Welcome to Honeysuckle House.”

“Yes,” he said tersely, looking around.  Clearly, there was no love lost between father and son. “There are no paintings on the walls.”

“We haven’t had time,” Halle put in.  “Barty just bought the house about a week ago and we’ve only been married a couple of days.”

They sat down and Halle called for tea.

“I’m sorry to interrupt your honeymoon, but I wanted to meet my daughter-in-law.  Of course, I met you in a professional capacity during the Triwizard Tournament.”

His pencil moustache twitched with his upper lip.

“How did you two meet?”

Halle looked over at Barty, allowing him to answer the question.  “We were matched, Father.  I answered her call.”

“Well,”—this he didn’t say in the charming, exaggerated way his son said the word—“I wish you had told me, Barty.  It came quite a surprise when I read it in The Daily Prophet.”  He sniffed.  “Anyway, I came to thank you, Madam Crouch, because of your marriage to my ‘nephew,’ I have received a promotion to Undersecretary to the Minister of Magic.  It turns out Madam Umbridge is a bit unstable after her time at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.”

“I’m glad I can be of some use,” was all Halle could think to say.

Bartemius Crouch, Sr. left soon after that.

Halle was glad to be the back of him.  “He thinks I’m a political pawn.”

“Well, at least his dream of being Minister for Magic seems to be rekindled,” his son said, scornfully.  “All I heard when I got out of Azkaban was how I ruined his reputation and had denied him that particular office.  Still, this only looks up for us, darling.  I fancied work as an Unspeakable when I was at Hogwarts, and I have the N.E.W.T. scores, and with my uncle placed so favorably and being married to the darling of the wizarding world, it can only help.”

Halle scoffed.  “Think such things if you must, but I don’t like hearing about my political capital.  Last year I was slandered in The Prophet but now I’m The Chosen One.  I find it all disgusting.”

“Of course, darling,” Barty said, coming up to her and running the back of his fingers down her cheek.  He then kissed the back of her hand.  “It was selfish of me.”

“No, it wasn’t.  I want you to pursue your dreams.  How could I not?”  She leaned her forehead against his.  “And I think it would be good for you not to be cooped up in this house while I’m at Hogwarts.”

“I promise to get all your matches and Hogsmeade weekends off,” he swore.  “You know how much I love Quidditch.”

She laughed.

To make up for his father’s visit, Barty had them dress in Muggle clothes.  Granted, he insisted that Halle wear her Illyria dress, just without the robes, and he just shirked out of his own robe so that he was wearing shirtsleeves and a waistcoat.  “You need a coat or a jacket,” Halle laughed, but he didn’t have one, so they had to do without.

Barty insisted they go to all the reputable art dealers in London.  No street art.  She told him she was happy with street art, but he insisted that only the best was suitable for his wife.  People looked at the odd couple, at their fingers which were intertwined as they discussed pieces of art.

“It’s modern,” Halle insisted.  “It’s supposed to look like splotches of paint on a canvas.  It will make our house unique from any other,” and now she whispered, “wizarding house.”

He looked at her dubiously. 

“This one is called cubism,” she explained, bringing him to another painting.  She stared at it and gasped.  “Is this a Picasso?”  She turned to the art gallery manager.  She then squinted at the small plaque.  It was indeed a Picasso.  It was small, little known, but that didn’t change anything.

“We bought this from a private collector trying to liquefy his assets,” the manager explained.  He was a young and somewhat handsome man, and Halle could feel Barty’s grasp on her hand tighten.

“We’ll take it,” Halle said.  “This would look beautiful over the mantle.  And don’t worry, Barty, it can come out one of my royalty accounts.”

He just shrugged.  “This is your afternoon.”

“Don’t you like it?” she asked, the manager going to get a sticker to mark that the painting was sold. 

Barty looked at it.  “Is it of a woman?”

“Yes.”

“Why would anyone want to obscure the beauty of a woman in such a way?  It defies reason.”  He brought her closer to him and kissed her gently.  “You’re too beautiful.”

“Not too Muggle for you?”

He laughed quietly.  “Haven’t you noticed that you look rather like your father, a pureblood?  As far as I can tell, the only thing you inherited from your mother was the color of her hair, if I remember correctly.”

She kissed him for it.

“Right,” he told the manager when he came back.  “We need to take it immediately.  Our house is rather bare.”  They already had four paintings, miniaturized and in Halle’s bag. 

“But you can’t just take it from the collection, sir,” the manager argued.

Halle waved a hand.  “We’ll pay an extra ten percent,” she offered. 

The manager’s eyes bulged. “Of course, sir, madam.  Right this way.”

Give him two lips like roses and clovers,

And tell him that his lonesome nights are over.

Dobby had hung the pictures around the sitting room and the library, which was full of empty shelves.  There was a fireplace in the library and Barty and Halle sipped champagne in front of it. 

“A good day’s work,” Halle stated.

“Tomorrow clothing,” Barty promised.  “We’ll have you dressed like the proper pureblood wife while at Hogwarts.  You’re leaving all those Muggle jeans behind.”

“I couldn’t possibly!  Not in Gryffindor!” she exclaimed.

His blue eyes softened and he kissed her.  “Please don’t fight me on this, Halle.”

And she didn’t. 


All too soon she was back at Hogwarts.  She didn’t bother to take the Hogwarts Express since she was already in Hogsmeade, but she did ride the carriages up to the castle.  Her trunks would be transported to her room by Dobby. 

Hermione was the first to pounce on her.  “A marriage call?  Isn’t that a bit archaic?”

“Blame Dad,” Halle answered.  “He was so determined after the whole fiasco with Nott.”  No one really knew what had happened.  Halle wasn’t speaking about it and Theo, fortunately, didn’t seem to be either.

“But you’re married!”

“Happily,” she agreed.  “Barty is wonderful.”

“Wasn’t his cousin a Death Eater?” Ron put in.

“Well, Uncle Sirius’s cousins are Death Eaters and they’re in Azkaban, thank the old gods.”

Hermione looked at her sternly.  This was an old argument.  Fortunately, they just stared at each other whenever Halle invoked the pagan gods and when Hermione called upon the Christian god.

Halle was surprised when she was called to Professor McGonagall’s office directly after the feast.  “Hello, Professor,” she greeted, closing the door.  There was a pot of tea waiting for her.

“Sit, Mrs. Crouch,” McGonagall ordered sternly. 

Once tea was poured, McGonagall staring at Halle over her cup, the professor finally spoke.  “It is not unheard of for matchmakers to match young witches.  Quite the reverse, in fact.  When a witch is sixteen, she can be matched.  However, in your case when the old ways are invoked and the sixteen-year-old witch is actually married before the end of her Hogwarts career, there are special provisions.”

The look McGonagall gave her told Halle that she better be quiet.

“You will henceforth be known as ‘Crouch’ or ‘Mrs. Crouch’ by all faculty and staff.  There has already been a pre-term meeting to discuss this.”

Halle nodded and then took a sip of her tea.  It seemed the only thing she could do.

“Now, as you are not married to another member of the student body, you will remain in your dormitory, Mrs. Crouch.  Is that acceptable?”

She squeaked her affirmative.

“Also, because of this reason, you will be allowed conjugal visits with your husband.  Usually, you would only be allowed each Saturday afternoon in Hogsmeade, but I’ve been informed that you and Mr. Crouch have taken up residence in Hogsmeade.  Is this correct?”

Now it seemed like she was supposed to answer.  “Yes, we have a house on Honeysuckle Avenue.”

“After lunch every Saturday you may repair to that address and you will return before lunch on Sunday.  If your Quidditch practices interfere, then you will leave after practice.”

Halle nodded.

Whispers followed her wherever she went.  Hermione stood steadfast with her though Ron seemed green by the entire affair.  A few students even bowed to her.  It seemed like the Crouches were one of the Ancient and Noble Houses and Barty, even though a ‘nephew’ to Bartemius Crouch, Sr., was next in line to be Head of the Family.

When the first Saturday arrived, Halle couldn’t be more glad.  She walked down to the gate that separated the school from the hamlet, and was happy to see that Barty was there waiting for her.  He instantly took her satchel from her.  She’d folded another robe in it and brought along her school books.  Halle was rather fascinated by her potions book, which was previously owned by the Half-Blood Prince.

It was after Barty had carried her to bed that she brought her books out and laid them on the bed.  The sheets were brought up to just under her arms as she sat up.  She still felt oddly shy.

Barty had no qualms in lying completely naked on the coverlet.

“Look at this,” she said, showing him the book.  “The potions notes are brilliant.  They’re actually better than the original directions.”

He took the book and flipped through it.  His eyebrows rose.  “Don’t use any of the spells, Halle.  This one here could easily kill someone.”  He pointed to one called Sectumsempra.

Halle shivered.  “Perhaps I shouldn’t use the book after all.”

“I can give you my potions book,” Barty offered, bringing a hand up to cup her cheek.  “I had a knack for potions as with everything.  Nothing as detailed as this, but I can promise you’ll have more precise potions.”

“Would you, really?”  She stared into his eyes.  She kissed him and rolled on top of him, the potions book forgotten.

Mr. Sandman, bring us a dream,
Give him a pair of eyes with a ‘come-hither’ gleam.

Halle felt herself being distanced from her housemates.  Her rich robes were noted and it didn’t help that Halle was seen around Hogsmeade and named third in The Best Dressedpoll in Witch Weekly.  Narcissa Malfoy took first and then Helen Dockery, whoever she was.

Barty did get a job as an Unspeakable and he was often away until late on Saturday nights, but he would wake Halle with sweet kisses and smooth even thrusts.

He did, however, get the first Hogsmeade Weekend off.  They met at the Three Broomsticks, which was crawling with students. 

Unfortunately, Theo had to come over to their table.  The two had been murmuring about the try-outs Halle had for various Quidditch teams lined up over Christmas break.  Both Barty and Halle turned towards him.  Halle had a sinking feeling in her stomach.

“This is him, then?  You know you picked up my leftovers,” he said snidely to Barty before turning to Halle.  “Thank you, by the way, for putting my father in Azkaban.”

“Consider us even,” she spat out just as Barty was standing and grabbing Theo by the scruff of his robes.

“If you ever talk to Madam Crouch like that again, I swear, boy, I will have your head,” he hissed, barely loud enough for Halle to hear.  Barty shoved Theo away from him.  “Now scamper off to the scum you call friends.”

Halle stared at Barty as he sat down.  “You didn’t need to do that.”

“Yes, I did.”

They were walking down a side road, a street or two away from Honeysuckle Avenue, when they spotted Theo with Malfoy and Zabini.  Parkinson was laughing at something that was said.  Another girl, Greengrass maybe, was also there. 

Barty drew his wand.

“What are you doing?” she whispered.

“Just keep walking.”

As they passed the group of Slytherins, Halle’s eyes met Theo’s and she heard a single word muttered from beside her.  “Tardamortem.”  Cutting through an alleyway, Halle dragged Barty back to their home.  Shutting the door firmly behind them and casting every privacy spell she knew, she whispered, “What was that?”

His blue eyes stared at her hard.

“I know ‘mortem’ means death,” she said carefully.  “Barty, what did you do?”

“I defended your honor,” he said, dropping his wand to the floor.  He came up to her and placed his two hands on her upper arms.  “I love you.  Surely you must know that.”

“You love me?” she asked, her eyes now moist.

“I love you, Madam Crouch.”  He kissed her lightly and then he was picking her up and carrying her up the stairs.  She lost herself in his kisses as she undid his tie and his nimble fingers unstrung the lacings on the back of her robes.  When she was finally in his arms, she felt so right.

As darkness fell, she lay awake in Barty’s arms.  “I love you,” she murmured, kissing his hand.  His arms tightened around her.  All thoughts of the curse and Theo were gone.

Give him the word that I’m not a rover,
And tell him that his lonesome nights are over.

She didn’t notice when Theo stopped eating.  Around Christmas he was taking potions with his meals.  She caught the glint of a bottle one Friday.  Then, the morning before winter break, she found him vomiting in the girl’s toilet.

He looked at her hauntedly.

Halle left him to his privacy.

At first she didn’t notice when he was gone when she came back from Hogwarts.  She always tried to push him from her thoughts as much as possible and his presence was only a reminder.  When he wasn’t there, she just thought that she was getting over his betrayal.  Break had been full of Yule celebrations and lazy days spent in bed.  Then in potions, one day, she noticed that Malfoy didn’t have a partner.  How strange.

She didn’t read The Prophet so she didn’t at first know that there was a Death Notice for Theodore Nott.  She heard the whispers, though, and she immediately went to the library and took out the Latin dictionary.

Tarda.  Slow.  Mortem.  Death.

Slow death.  It had taken half a year and there was nothing to link Barty to the crime except for a fight in the Three Broomsticks.  Nothing else had been traced to him.  She wasn’t even sure if it wasn’t a spell he had invented himself.

When she came home for Easter, she asked him outright, “Did you invent the spell?”

He looked up from the book of poetry he was reading.  Assessing her, he finally said, “Yes.”

She sat down heavily on the couch. 

“Well,” he made light of it and she smiled, “I was defending your honor,” he said coolly, turning the page.  “Come, sit by me, and I’ll read you these sonnets.”

As if in a daze, she sat down and rested her head on his shoulder and let his smooth voice run over her.  She closed her eyes.  This was what love was, keeping your beloved’s secrets.  And she would take it to the grave.

Sandman, I’m so alone,
Don’t have nobody to call my own,
Please turn on your magic beam,
Mr. Sandman, bring me a dream.

THE END.

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