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Snow White Queen

Chapter Text

It was winter break, and I decided to remain at school for the holiday. This was no surprise. However, this time I planned to do some secret research, which had nothing to do with my studies. No one else needed to know what I was up to.

I waited until a few hours after dinner, when all my Housemates had left. I showered, brushed my teeth, reapplied my makeup, and put on one of my personal outfits—I figured I’d attract less attention in Knockturn Alley by not wearing a Hogwarts uniform. I climbed the stairs out of the dungeons, into the Entrance Hall, and out of the school. Every few seconds, I shifted my eyes around to make sure no one was following me. I’d never trusted anyone, and today was no exception.

I quickly Apparated to Knockturn Alley upon arriving in Hogsmeade. Suddenly hit with a blast of cold air, I wrapped my green and silver scarf around my neck. This didn’t do much, so I cast a quick warming spell.

I grinned as I looked around at all the shops. Considering that I had never been there before, I was pleased with how well I was containing my excitement.

The thing is, my family is “good people.” Everyone on my mother’s side, from England, has either been in Gryffindor or Ravenclaw, and never caused any trouble with the Ministry. My mother moved to America to marry my father, where the Wizarding world operates more democratically—they hoped to raise their children in a more secure environment, outside of the shenanigans in the UK. So, imagine their surprise—and apprehension—when I not only got a letter from Hogwarts, but I then became my family’s first and only Slytherin! (My little sister ended up a Ravenclaw, so no more surprises there.) Though I tried to justify my sorting by accentuating my ambition and desire for success, I couldn’t be truly honest with my anxious parents. I never can be. They don’t even know me. They know I’m a little off-center and have never quite fit in anywhere, but they’ve never grasped exactly how different I really am. I may behave reasonably well in public; but on the inside, I am a fucking monster and my parents would disown me if they had the slightest inkling of my true nature. I have always felt stifled around my relatives, which is why I only return home when it’s absolutely necessary. I don’t blend in with my family of model citizens. (If you’d like to peruse the American or British Ministry’s records of troublemakers in Wizarding world, be my guest. You’ll not find a single relative of mine.)

I was five years old in May of 1993, when the American Wizarding world learned of the death of twelve-year-old Harry Potter and the subsequent second rise of Lord Voldemort. No one knew for sure how the Dark Lord was able to return, after the Potter boy had somehow vanquished him while still an infant. I didn’t know too much about this—it all happened before I was born, and it was completely outside my realm of understanding. I was more interested in learning to read, and counting down the years until I was old enough to use a wand.

For as far back as I can remember, rumors have been circulating that Death Eaters are slowly infiltrating the British Ministry of Magic. I’ve heard whispers of new rules...new regulations...laws that would never have been put into place ten years ago...a few disappearances...but no one can pinpoint exactly where these changes are coming from and who is pulling which strings. Suspicions don’t necessarily point to guilt, afterall, and most people are afraid of speaking out against the Ministry anyway. The way I see it, as long as I’m safe and secure, there’s no need to worry—and Hogwarts is pretty damn safe. My sister and I wouldn’t have been allowed to go to school there if our family thought we wouldn’t be adequately protected.

Though I can write you a textbook definition of why my parents have the concerns that they do, I can’t empathize with their raw emotions surrounding the risks of existing in a politically unstable environment. I’m not concerned about the welfare of others—I’ve never been a bleeding-heart people person like the rest of my family. I’m a stone-cold survivalist. Apart from a few close friendships and crushes I’ve had here and there, I only care about myself. And making sure no one else knows that about me. For obvious reasons. Trust me when I say that it is quite jarring for a toddler to realize that being true to themselves is dangerous, and thus never being able to relax in the slightest. Enduring trauma like that forces a child to grow up and develop acute self-awareness much faster than most kids, which is what I had to do. Considering how often I’ve had to put others’ needs before my own just to protect myself and keep the peace, it’s no wonder I turned out like this. It’s no wonder I’ve always been drawn to the dark, dusty corners of human nature, scorned by most people in an effort to maintain their illusions of moral superiority. To me, darkness feels like home.

My parents, on the other hand, despise the Death Eaters and their leader, but they also make a point to keep their views close to the vest—even though they did choose to build their life together in America, far from the epicenter of political unrest. They consider it a dangerous time, especially for my mother’s family in England, but it’s all I’ve ever known. If anything, I am fascinated by all the different views on how the Wizarding world should function. As someone who has always been intrigued by the darkness present in our world, I’ve never felt explicitly threatened, apart from instances of bullying among my peers. I’ve encountered a lot of prejudice at Hogwarts, both for being different from the other kids, and also for my heritage—my sister and I are likely the only Americans at that school. Though the harassment used to get under my skin because I’ve had to constantly be on high alert, it doesn’t bother me as much anymore because I have more pressing concerns: success and survival. Along that vein, my parents would lose their minds if they knew that my post-Hogwarts plans included learning more about the darker side of the Magical world, and later joining that niche in Wizarding society. Hence this first trip to Knockturn Alley.

I walked along the darkened street, trying to act as inconspicuous as possible. This went well until I thought I saw one of my Housemates’ mothers. Not bothering to see if it really was her, I slipped into the nearest store.

The store turned out to be a bookshop, and I soon found myself getting lost in a volume entitled Magick Most Evile. After a while, I was jerked back to reality when a high-pitched voice pierced the silence.

“Excuse me, Miss, are you buying that?”

I almost dropped the book, and swore under my breath. Fighting the urge to shoot the clerk with my signature death glare, I plastered an angelic look on my face and said, “Actually, I was just browsing. I might come back later though.”

The woman nodded. “All right.”

How in Salazar’s name did she get the job with a voice like that?

I was almost out the door when the woman’s voice stopped me with another aggravating inquiry.

“I must say, though, you look awfully young to be looking at books like that.” She eyed me strangely.

“I’m in my seventh year and don’t need your judgment,” I shot back, walking briskly out of the shop with an eye roll.

After advancing only a few feet, I stopped dead in my tracks. The streets were suddenly deserted. Looking around and seeing nothing alarming, I shrugged and continued on, although I did have a strange feeling in the pit of my stomach. I needed to get out of Knockturn Alley as fast as possible. Something was definitely not right.

Chapter Text

I thought I was being alert as I walked. I made sure to look everywhere, including behind me. Somehow, that wasn’t enough. I didn’t see it coming.

It all happened too fast for me to comprehend. Two strong arms wrapped around me, and the world suddenly began to spin. I had to close my eyes to minimize the dizziness. Within seconds, I was released from the stranger’s grip and I collapsed in a heap on a cold stone floor.

“Where am I? Is anyone here?” I called out breathlessly. I couldn’t see a thing, yet I slowly managed to achieve a sitting position.

“No need to be afraid, my dear.”

The man’s voice made me jump, and my eyes darted around the room. Although my vision was starting to adjust to the darkness, I couldn’t see anyone.

“Who are you and where are you!” I demanded, standing quickly.

“Insignificant details,” he muttered.

“Fine then. At least tell me how I got here.”

“Side-Along Apparition; haven’t you heard of it?”

“Of course I’ve heard of it!” I snapped. “I’ve just never done it before.”

“Well, that much is obvious,” he chuckled. “And by the way, if you mouth off at me again, I assure you, you’ll regret it.”

Neither of us spoke for a moment. Then he broke the silence.

“My, my. You’re terrified.”

“How—”

His voice was moving, but did not seem farther away. He was circling me. I reached for my wand, and yet again his voice made me jump.

“I’d put that away if I were you,” he warned.

“How could you see that? And—”

“And what?”

“How did you know what I was feeling?” My voice had suddenly become very small, which bothered me. It showed exactly how insecure I felt in that moment, but I sensed that he’d already figured that out.

“I assume you’ve heard of Legilimency, being in your seventh year,” he continued.

I sighed. “Yes...I—wait a minute! How did you know that about me?”

“I know you better than you know yourself.”

I felt my heart hammering in my chest as I looked frantically around the room. “This isn’t fair. You’re scaring me and you won’t even tell me where the hell you are!”

“Well, life isn’t fair. You should know that, coming from a family of Ravenclaws and Gryffindors, and being the only Slytherin.”

I drew my wand again.

“PUT YOUR WAND AWAY OR I WILL CONFISCATE IT.”

I gasped, and then reluctantly pocketed my wand as he continued speaking.

“I must say, I was impressed with your caution when you noticed that everyone in Knockturn Alley had cleared the streets in fear,” he praised. “However, you did not take Disillusionment charms into account, which is how I managed to follow you without you seeing a thing.”

My eyes widened. “You’re under one now, aren’t you,” I said, surprisingly calmly.

“Perhaps,” he replied, sounding amused. I got the sense that he was smiling.

“Why did you follow me?” I demanded. “What do you want from me?”

“I followed you because I find you nothing short of fascinating, and the darkness in your young mind is something I haven’t seen in quite some time.”

He paused to let his words sink in, and then went on. “And what I want from you is unwavering loyalty.”

I was confused beyond belief. “But...how can I be loyal to someone when I don’t even know who they are?”

“Patience. You will know who I am soon enough.”

“Okay. So...you can follow me around without me knowing about it, then you kidnap me and demand my loyalty, thinking I’ll be perfectly content to blindly go along with this and not even know who the hell you a—”

“CRUCIO!”

I screamed and fell to the floor as dozens of white-hot knives of agony furiously pierced my skin. As I writhed on the cold stone, I tried to think of something to distract myself from the pain raging through my body—I refused to scream again. I didn’t want to give him the satisfaction.

It felt like hours had passed by the time my anonymous captor finally lifted the curse. I heard quiet footsteps as he approached me, but I still couldn’t see him.

My heart raced. My eyes glistened. My skin was clammy. I thought he was about to kill me.

“I’m...sorry....” I whispered, trying to reel in my rapid breathing.

I inhaled sharply as he chuckled and brushed the hair off my face. I felt powerless.

“You’re so strong,” he murmured softly. “How you managed to stifle your agony when I cursed you...amazing.” He was clearly enjoying himself.

I didn’t know what to say. I still couldn’t think straight, and didn’t want to risk saying anything else that would anger my captor.

As if on cue, he said, “Tell me what you’re thinking.” It wasn’t a suggestion; it was a command.

“I...I want to go back to school....”

He chuckled again. “Alex, do you really think you belong there? Where all your reading of the Dark Arts must be done in secret, and you can never voice all of your opinions—even to your Housemates?”

I froze. How did he know all of this? I wanted to protest, but didn’t know what to say.

“I know where you could truly belong,” he continued.

“Where?” I asked.

He grabbed my hands and pulled me to my feet.

Why can’t I see you?!

He let go and walked behind me. I tried to turn around, but he immediately gripped my shoulders to hold me in place.

“With me,” he whispered.

My mind began to race. Why is this happening? Is this a trap? Am I going to die? What the fuck is going on??

I once again tried to turn and face this stranger who had been playing games with my head for the past ten minutes; however, he tightened his grip on me.

I don’t know why I thought to ask the next question, but something made me do it.

“Do I know you?”

“Not personally, but I’m aware that you’ve wanted to for a long time now.”

I could only think of one person who matched that description, but I quickly dismissed the idea. There was no way.

“Hold onto that thought,” he encouraged. “It wasn’t as outrageous as you may think.” He finally let me turn to face him.

I thought my eyes were deceiving me, but I knew he was real. I’d seen his photo in the 1945 Hogwarts yearbook. My jaw dropped.

If put in this situation, most people would recoil in terror, but all my fear had vanished. I was simply in shock—the one person on whom I’d done so much secret research was standing no more than six inches in front of me. I had always privately hoped to someday join his ranks, but to think that he would call me ‘fascinating’ was something I’d never even dared to dream of.

“I’ve wanted to meet you for a while, too,” he said. I was at a loss for words.

He pointed his wand at the far wall, and the stones vanished. He walked toward the new exit, and motioned for me to follow.

I couldn’t help but grin. I was so excited, I practically forgot that he’d just had me under the Cruciatus curse. We walked into a dim, narrow hallway, which gradually opened up into a massive library about half the size of the one at Hogwarts. I was quite impressed.

“Is this yours?” I asked.

“Everything on this estate belongs to me,” he replied flatly. “And yes, you may look at the books.”

Damn it, I keep forgetting that he can read minds! I have to learn Occlumency...soon....

“Um...I hope you don’t mind me asking, but how long do you plan on keeping me here?”

He seemed to ponder momentarily, although it felt like ages. “All through your winter break, I’ll say,” he finally responded. I slowly breathed in and out, processing this surprising news.

“I thought you wanted to look at the books,” he added.

“Oh, right.” I slowly shook my head a few times, trying to force my mind back into focus.

Scanning the shelves, I spotted a familiar title: Magick Most Evile. I reached up and took it off the shelf, smiling because no one was here to tell me I was too young to read up on Dark magic.

“I was just looking at this today,” I remarked, still smiling.

“I’m aware,” he replied as he walked toward me.

“You...followed me in there, too?”

“Of course,” he answered, as if I should’ve known. “Every step you took in Knockturn Alley, I was right behind you.”

My eyes widened as I looked at the floor. He was stalking me?!

That did it. He violently shoved me up against the nearest wall of bookshelves. The wood from the shelves dug into my back, yet I hardly noticed as his eyes bored into mine. Now I was afraid.

“Do you dare question my actions, young lady?” he challenged.

“No....” I refused to look away from him.

“Do you realize that you can hide nothing from me?! Your thoughts are as clear to me as your voice!”

I nodded.

“Are you quite certain that you know who you’re dealing with?”

I knew my answer would make it clear to him. “Yes, my Lord.”

He released me; yet I remained in that spot, shaking slightly.

“Unless you give me a reason, I have no intention of harming you—or letting anyone harm you, for that matter,” he declared. “I only cursed you to remind you of your place. As long as you are with me, I am in charge. You will obey me. Do not forget that.”

I nodded, trying not to lose my nerve as the Dark Lord stood about an inch away from me, looking quite stern.

What do I do? Am I supposed to remain silent? Am I supposed to say something? Why am I suddenly terrified? This is so unlike me. Is he waiting for something to happen? Will I die if I say or do the wrong thing? I know he just said he didn’t want me harmed, but—

“Unless you threaten me in some way, you will return to Hogwarts in one piece,” he offered with a smirk.

“I won’t threaten you, my Lord. I know better than that,” I replied, forcing myself to look up at him. “I promise.”

Why do I have to be so much shorter than he is? This isn’t helping.

“Your mindset isn’t helping.”

I wanted to scream in frustration, but didn’t dare. I glared at the floor and chastised myself for my blatant inability to control my thoughts.

“I’m quite enjoying this, you know,” he teased, smiling and resting his arm on the shelf directly above me. “I’ve wanted to meet you for a very long time. You seemed so much like me. So dark, so fearless, so proud, so smart, so determined to succeed. I know you harbor a secret desire for power, and yet you’re standing before me with all your weaknesses on display. I can see that you’re terrified of making a misstep and infuriating me, but don’t worry. You’re actually proving to be immensely entertaining,” he chuckled.

I was bursting to ask him how he’d found me and learned so much about me, but thought it best to remain silent. Thankfully, he ignored my thoughts; however, he seemed determined to shatter my nerve or find out where I’d break. He was testing my temper and my fears in a way I’d never imagined possible. And he was still standing uncomfortably close to me. My stomach was in knots.

“I know you want to prove yourself to me,” he continued, interrupting my thoughts. "You want me to see that you are a force to be reckoned with. Among your classmates, this is very clear to me. I admire that. However, they can’t see your thoughts. They are insignificant, and many are hardly deserving of life. I see that, and I know you do, too. You must learn to channel this into thoughts and actions that can be of advantage to you. You cannot let your emotions get the best of you around a powerful Legilimens, or you won’t last long.” He paused. “And that would be a tremendous shame. I see such potential in you. I see greatness—and I would hate to see you perish because your emotions betrayed your pretty face.”

I blushed. There was no way to hide it, and he was clearly enjoying it. I looked at my feet.

He tilted my chin up and said, “Tell me what you’re thinking.”

Again?! Um, you already know...so why are you—oh, fuck it. “I’m...I’m a bit tired,” I confessed.

“I can see that,” he replied as I stifled a yawn. “Come with me. I have a room ready for you.”

I thanked him as he led me out of the library.

Chapter Text

I followed the Dark Lord through a few corridors and large rooms. At the end of a long, narrow hallway, I saw a door with an ornate sculpture of a silver snake that covered over half the length of the door. I smiled in spite of my nerves—the snake was beautiful.

As he led me inside, I gasped. I had never seen such a beautiful room. It reminded me of the Slytherin dungeons, as it was entirely constructed of large stones from the floor to the ceiling. Next to me was a dark brown wooden door, which I figured was a closet. There was a small, full bookcase across from the bed. Next to it was a large mahogany desk filled with parchment, quills and a few ink bottles. Behind me and to the right, about a foot down from the ceiling, was a tiny window.

My eyes traveled back to the bed. It was huge.

“What’s the problem,” the Dark Lord asked. It sounded more like a statement.

“No, the—the room is beautiful. I’ve never seen anything like i—”

“Yet, you are troubled.”

I opened my mouth to speak, but no words formed. What exactly do I say?

“Is the bed bothering you?”

“No, not at all. I’ve just...never seen such a big bed,” I chuckled nervously. Am I missing something?

He placed his hands on my shoulders and coaxed me closer to the bed. “It won’t hurt you,” he teased.

“I, um....” How do I tell him I’d like some privacy?

He leaned in and whispered in my ear, “I’m not going anywhere.”

I whirled around. “What?? What do you mean?!”

“This is my bedroom.” He grinned.

The blood drained from my face.

Oh no.

He moved behind me and slipped his arms around my middle. He was incredibly strong, but I struggled anyway.

“Do fight me again, my dear girl,” he encouraged. “There is nothing a snake loves more than when his prey futilely struggles in his death-grip.” An involuntary whimper escaped me as his teeth grazed my neck.

“I am not your prey!” I shot back without thinking.

“Oh, but you are,” he insisted. I bit my lip as he licked my cheek.

“I can almost taste your fear,” he hissed. “And, as a matter of fact, I’d quite like to.”

I continued to struggle, until I realized that that was what he wanted. I stopped moving altogether and he released me.

In a moment of blind desperation, I lunged toward the door. He was in front of me in an instant. He gripped my shoulders and backed me up against the wall.

“Are you trying to run away? Where will you go?” He pressed his body as close to mine as possible. “I can find you anywhere, you know.”

I hung my head and closed my eyes, forcing down the cold panic threatening to take over me. After a few seconds, he coaxed me to look up at him. I let him lift my chin, but kept my eyes closed. The darkness was my only refuge.

Oh my god...he’s going to rape me...to Hell with my winter break—what if he never lets me go? I’m not ready to die...not like this....

“Closing those beautiful eyes of yours won’t change the reality,” he reminded me, running his thumb over my chin. “The fact of the matter is I now have you in my possession, and I’m not about to let you go.” He leaned in and began gently kissing my eyelids. I winced.

“I’m not going to stop until you open your eyes,” he said softly.

I didn’t move.

After several more kisses, he chuckled and glided his thumb over my lips. “You either think I’ll give up eventually, or you’re starting to enjoy it.” He gripped my head tightly. “Shall I probe into your mind and find out?”

My eyes flew open to see him smirking down at me. There was nothing I could say. I inhaled slowly, trying to calm my racing heart. It was no use.

“You have two choices,” he went on. “You can either surrender now and enjoy yourself tonight, or you can expend all of your energy by putting up a useless fight against me. It doesn’t matter to me which option you choose, as it will be to my benefit either way.” He brushed the hair away from my left shoulder and kissed my neck. I forced myself not to make a sound, but it became increasingly difficult as he began biting my neck and throat. I tilted my head away from him, inadvertently allowing him more room, and he pressed in closer. I inhaled sharply as he started sucking on the flesh above my collarbone.

This isn’t supposed to happen! This isn’t what I wanted! How did I get into this? This can’t really be happening...this isn’t real....

I felt his lips venturing lower, and struggled as hard as I could. THIS IS NOT HAPPENING.

For a split second I thought I could have gotten away, and then he had me pinned to the wall again. I grimaced as my chest and shoulders slammed into the cold stone. He tugged my hair back so my head would rest on his shoulder.

“You’re going to struggle all night, aren’t you?” he laughed. I clenched my teeth and made to elbow him in the gut, but he was too quick. He tightly hooked his arms through mine and held me still.

“I’ve wanted you for so long,” he murmured, breathing heavily on my neck. “I can’t keep away from you any longer. Look what you’ve done! Look what you’ve done to me!”

“I’ve done nothing!” I growled. I tried to wriggle out of his grip, but he pinned my arms behind my back.

“You feisty little thing,” he spat. “Your fighting only makes me want you more. I didn’t think that was even possible.” I squirmed as he fiercely groped my breasts and pressed his arousal into my back. “Is this really all that bad? I’d have thought you would enjoy this. Other men have been too afraid of you to try and win your affection, haven’t they?”

How does he know this?!

I gave one last mighty struggle, and he simply let go of me. I turned around and snarled at him. He laughed.

What the hell is so funny about this?!

“You leave me no choice, my dear,” he sighed, not sounding the least bit disappointed. He drew his wand and pointed it at my middle. “Incarcerous.”

A rope materialized from thin air and wound around my waist. My arms were pinned at my sides, and I felt a stinging burn as I struggled.

He shook his head and cupped my face in his hands. “This is such a shame,” he remarked. “I wanted you to enjoy this.” He kissed my lips softly.

Now you’re just mocking me!

I glared up at him as a new wave of determination stirred within me. I lifted my chin defiantly and declared, “Forcing yourself on a girl won’t make her want you, my Lord.”

He looked at me as if he were trying to burn holes in my flesh with his eyes—he clearly couldn’t believe that I’d had the audacity to speak to him this way. I held his gaze and willed myself not to smirk at his shocked expression. I felt oddly triumphant, considering the circumstances.

He scooped me up in his arms and threw me on the bed. I didn’t react. Pointing his wand at the rope that bound me, he whispered, “Reducto,” and the rope vanished. I still didn’t react.

“What are you waiting for?!”

Silence.

“What are you trying to prove?!”

Silence.

“Alex, I don’t care what kind of games you’re trying to play. You will not succeed. I am in charge.”

Not at this moment, you’re not.

I remained silent even as he climbed on top of me and began ripping my clothes off. Ignoring the fact that he was also stripping, I looked at the ceiling and studied the patterns created by the stones.

“Your skin is even softer than I imagined,” he murmured, running his hands up and down my sides.

Focus on the stones...focus on the stones...they’re very pretty....

I jumped as he began tracing random patterns on my belly.

“Ticklish, are we?” he chuckled. I covered my stomach in a lame attempt to stop him from tickling me again. As I waited for him to simply ply my arms off my stomach, he reached lower and pressed his fingers against my clitoris. My hips bucked involuntarily.

“Why do you even bother to struggle anymore? Your body is telling me what I need to know.”

I shook my head.

“You still don’t want this? You’re not aching to feel me moving inside you?”

“N-no....” I whimpered. My body had betrayed me.

“Fine.” He rolled off of me and laid on his back.

‘Fine?’ That’s it? There’s got to be a catch.

I sat up, hugged my legs to my chest, and stared at the wall. I knew he was watching me, but I didn’t care. I busied myself with the stones again.

After about ten minutes, he slowly ran his hand down my back. “You’ll have to sleep sometime, you know,” he said.

I remained silent.

“Just because you’re not talking to me doesn’t mean I can’t see inside your mind. I see everything.”

Just look at the stones...concentrate on the stones....

We remained in silence for the next half hour, until I finally collapsed from exhaustion.

Chapter Text

I awoke with a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. I felt violated, even though the Dark Lord hadn’t actually taken me. For that, I was grateful.

Suddenly, I felt a hand stroking my hair. I pretended not to notice, even though the sensation was almost soothing.

“Your hair is very soft,” he murmured.

“Thank you,” I replied unenthusiastically.

“You must be exhausted from last night,” he taunted. I could practically hear him smirking.

“Only emotionally.”

Why the fuck did I just admit that aloud? Ugh...me and my big mouth.

“Well, that won’t do.”

“What, you’re not trying to break me?”

He scooted closer and rested his hand on my shoulder. “Not at all,” he purred. “I did not rape you. I have no intention of raping you. I want you begging me to make love to you.” Reaching over my arm, he cupped my right breast and began rubbing his thumb over the nipple.

“I don’t beg,” I declared, biting my lip to keep myself from responding to his ministrations.

“Not yet,” he insisted, giving my breast a final squeeze.

You just keep telling yourself that, you egotistical bastard.

He suddenly bit into my shoulder, drawing blood. I buried my face in the pillow, trying to stifle a loud moan.

“Will you ever learn, you incorrigible bitch?” he growled.

“Got that right,” I snarled. “I am indeed a bitch, and I like it.”

He turned me over on my back, climbed on top of me, and viciously bit into my neck, shoulders and breasts until I was whimpering and tears began leaking from my eyes. I turned my head away from him, and he firmly gripped my face in his hands.

“You will not talk back to me again, or your punishment will be much more severe,” he warned.

I nodded slowly, trying desperately not to cry. I wouldn’t give him the satisfaction.

He slowly licked all the blood he’d drawn off of me, seeming to savor every second. I did everything I could to not react, but my attempts were futile.

“You love it when I lick you,” he teased, grinning impishly.

I cringed and shook my head.

“You’re a terrible liar,” he chuckled. “You’re not even trying to resist me anymore.” He began licking my breasts at a snail pace, firmly pressing his tongue down on me. He didn’t stop until he had touched every inch of skin. I grasped the sheets and went rigid as I felt his tongue glide across my chest. My breath caught in my throat and I could hardly even blink as I stared up at the ceiling. Though I was scared out of my mind, I couldn’t deny that my body was also responding to him—by the time he finally lifted his head up, the throbbing in between my legs was almost painful. I squeezed my thighs together and tried to turn away from him, but he held me in place.

“Your body is a delicacy,” he murmured. “Trust me...I will have you crying and begging me to take you before the day is through.”

He started licking my breasts again, faster this time. I couldn’t stop myself from whimpering as he forcefully sucked my nipples. Half of me wanted him to stop immediately, and the other half was desperate for him to continue—purely to relieve the ache building in my core, even if the feeling was involuntary. Despite this, I refused to beg for it. I was terrified that he was right about me completely giving in, and he was clearly determined to shatter my will to resist his touch.

Being a Legilimens, and supposedly knowing me better than I knew myself, he must have figured out that he was everything I secretly wanted in a man—brilliant, ambitious, cunning, powerful, pure evil, and devastatingly handsome. And though I had always hoped to meet him and join his cause, I’d never thought of him this way.

Or had I?

I think I’d always had a bit of a crush on him, but it was more admiration than anything else. I looked up to him. I wanted to be like him. The thought of being near him had been thrilling, but I’d never actually fantasized about going to bed with him. And I certainly never imagined that he would covet me enough to kidnap me and hold me hostage. I was terrified of what he had in store for me, but I also worried that I was starting to like it. Why did that thought scare me so much? He explicitly told me that he didn’t want me harmed, but he was still Lord Fucking Voldemort and could change his mind on a dime. Though, that thought in and of itself was oddly arousing. Why was I afraid of admitting how overwhelmed I felt when his eyes smoldered and his lips touched my skin? Why was I afraid of how much his presence saturated me?

I wasn’t ready for something like this—especially with someone of his caliber. I’d never even kissed a boy before, much less a grown man who could hardly control himself around me. And I never thought that the greatest, most malevolent wizard in the world would desire me so intensely. Given his obsession with power, I never imagined him to be interested in sex, except maybe as a meaningless one-night stand.

It may have been fun to imagine talking with him about subjects I couldn’t discuss with others without incriminating myself, but this...this...what was this? Did he only like my appearance? Did he plan to break me and keep me there forever, to use as a toy whenever he wanted? He certainly could, as I had no way of escaping. But what if this was something more? What if he saw me the way I saw him—as an equal in a world of inferiors? That couldn’t possibly be it. That was surely wishful thinking. He had no equals.

My thoughts were racing too quickly for me to keep up, which only seemed to encourage him.

After sliding down my body like a snake, he licked my belly up and down, occasionally biting the skin. I struggled to stop him from prying my legs apart, but it didn’t work. Gripping my inner thighs, he violently forced my legs as far apart as they would go, and began sucking on my clitoris. I reached down and tried to push his head off of me, but he grabbed my hands and slammed them down onto the mattress, clutching my wrists so tightly that he nearly cut off my circulation. I writhed and struggled until he started sucking harder. An unexpected jolt of pleasure shot through me and I shuddered.

“I know you want me now,” he insisted, breathing heavily on my belly. He still had an iron grip on my wrists.

“No,” I whimpered. “Stop...please....”

“No. I will continue until you’re delirious with desire and desperate for me to take you.” He forced his tongue deep inside me, licking and sucking hard while I resumed the struggle to free my wrists. When he realized that I was too tired to fight anymore, he released me and wrapped his arms around my thighs, gently stroking the skin and chuckling at my exhaustion. My will to resist was now dangerously close to nil—I suddenly noticed that even though he had slackened his grip on me and lifted his head up, I hadn’t even attempted to close my legs. What was I doing? Why wasn’t I struggling anymore? Why couldn’t I move?

He obviously noted his affect on me, and my subsequent mortification. And he wasn’t done rubbing salt in the wound. Looking up at me with a devilish grin, he spread my swollen folds and flicked his tongue up and down my clitoris until my back arched and I came violently.

What’s happening to me? Why does he want ME??

I bit my lip as he licked every drop of fluid off of my leaking entrance. He caressed my outer thighs and crawled back on top of me.

“You taste phenomenal,” he murmured, “and you look more beautiful than ever in the throes of ecstasy.”

I don’t want this. I don’t want him. I can’t like this. I promise I don’t. I swear....

My terror and humiliation shocked me into silence. I had never felt so confused or violated in my life. I twitched and turned my head away from him as he licked my neck slowly. After squeezing my shoulders, he got out of bed and walked over to his closet. I turned over on my side and curled up in a ball as I heard him dress.

Make it stop...make it stop...make it stop...this is just a nightmare...I’ll wake up in my bed at Hogwarts at any moment...please....

I was jolted out of my reverie when he roughly grabbed my left shoulder, turned me over onto my back, and fixed me with a penetrating stare. My face burned. I felt more exposed than ever.

“Although I love the taste of you on my tongue,” he said, like he was discussing the weather, “I’m going to eat breakfast now. You will join me.”

“I need clothes,” I whispered, barely able to maintain eye contact with him.

“Of course.” He pointed his wand at the heap of ripped garments on the floor and muttered, “Reparo. Scourgify.” I sat up, and he handed me my clothes.

“Thank you,” I responded shakily. I slid out of bed and dressed in silence, making a point to look away from him. He placed his hand on the small of my back and led me to the dining room.

*   *   *

After the most awkward meal of my life, the Dark Lord led me back into the library and motioned for me to sit on a thick black rug. He sat across from me, barely two inches away. His eyes bored into mine.

“Tell me everything,” he commanded.

“What do you mean?” I asked quietly.

“Your life. Your opinions. Your goals. I want to know everything about you.”

I was speechless. No one had ever approached me with such a request. If he supposedly knows me better than I know myself, and wants to constantly read my thoughts, then why does he want me to—”

“I can read your thoughts anytime, but that’s not why we’re here,” he snapped. “Talk to me. I want to hear your voice. I want to see the way different aspects of your life affect you. I want to know everything.”

WOW. No pressure. No pressure at all....

“Um...” I stammered.

Oh, good grief...where the hell do I start?

“Well, I’m from America, obviously, and so far I think I’m the only American at Hogwarts, other than my little sister, Morgan. There may have been others before me, but I wouldn’t know.”

“You have family from England, don’t you. I imagine that’s the only way you could have been admitted.”

“Yes. My mother was born and raised here. She moved to America to marry my father.” I paused. “I was expecting a letter from Ilvermorny, but I got a letter from Hogwarts instead.”

I tried to tell him my life story in a nutshell, but he wanted all the minute details. He wouldn’t let me omit anything. He hardly spoke as I talked and talked; he merely sat there, with his eyes absolutely glued to me. He would nod occasionally, or make a comment about something I said, but these responses were rare. It felt strange to be babbling on about myself to someone I’d known for less than twenty-four hours—and the Dark Lord, of all people—but it seemed like it had been longer. So much had happened since the previous day.

Somehow, he knew that I’d been researching him and his background for years. This pleased him immensely. I tried to skip over that part, as I had never told anyone and the thought of doing so had made me uncomfortable, but he wouldn’t allow it. He wanted to know everything I’d thought about him before meeting him. And I obviously couldn’t lie to the world’s most powerful Legilimens.

After I’d been talking about myself for around an hour, he rested his hand on my knee. I inhaled and fought the urge to scoot back.

“You’re anxious to learn the Dark Arts,” he said.

I nodded.

“I will teach you everything I know,” he declared, leaning in close. “You will practice every day that you’re here. By the time you return to school, you will be on your way to becoming the most skilled Dark witch the world has ever known. I promise you that.”

My eyes dropped to the floor. I bit my lip and smiled in spite of myself. “I’d like that.”

“And it will happen. Now, take out your wand.”

Chapter Text

Despite the fact that I was reeling from the mind-boggling events of the past twelve hours, I thoroughly enjoyed the day’s Dark Arts lessons. They were pretty basic, as I’d had no prior experience with Dark magic other than reading about it, but the Dark Lord was surprisingly patient. He seemed heavily invested in helping me master these skills, and made sure I understood every concept thoroughly before he introduced something new.

I was so engrossed in my lessons that I found myself dismissing everything that the Dark Lord had done to me just hours earlier. He was in a completely different mindset whilst teaching me. I realized that the side of himself he was showing me now was what had initially sparked my secret fascination with him. When I’d finally grasped the depth of the darkness inside me, I realized that I wanted to surround myself with like-minded individuals, and he seemed the ideal person to turn to. I never dared tell anyone this. The thought of meeting him and joining his ranks had just become one of those unspoken wishes I wasn’t sure I would be able to realize—at least until after I graduated from Hogwarts. From reading about the Dark Lord and learning bits and pieces of his history in my schooling, I figured out that he was not only evil personified but also incredibly smart, cunning, and resourceful. I admired him for this. I was now interacting with him in the way I had always hoped I could, which allowed me to get a glimpse of how his brilliant mind worked. He was entirely focused on making sure I developed the skills I would need to flourish in the Dark Arts, and I loved it.

Though I was excited to finally be learning Dark magic, there were breaks in my lessons during which I couldn’t fight the nervousness and apprehension that had been screaming for attention in my mind all day. I tried not to think about what might happen that night, and it almost worked, as the Dark Lord kept me busy with several spells. However, I couldn’t shake the feeling that he was about to make the previous night look like child’s play.

He walked with me to his bedroom that evening, and I stopped on the way to look into another room with a very comfortable-looking couch that I wouldn’t have minded sleeping on. Alone. The Dark Lord noticed the look on my face and clicked his tongue a few times.

“Don’t even think about it,” he scolded, while gripping the inside of my arm and coaxing me along. I sighed.

He stopped in front of the bathroom and motioned for me to go in. “You’ll find everything you need in there to wash up,” he said. “I’ll be waiting for you.” I nodded and closed the door. I listened to him walk away, and locked the door as quietly as I could when I figured he was in his room.

Why am I bothering? If he wants to barge in here, no lock will stop him.

I took a minute to try—unsuccessfully—to calm my nerves, and then looked around. Like his bedroom, the bathroom was enormous. I opened the medicine cabinet and scanned the contents. My eyes bugged out when I saw what was on the lowest shelf: lined up neatly were a few tubes of silver lipstick, a bottle of black nail polish, and my favorite brand of eye makeup.

“Are you fucking serious?” I whispered to no one. Shaking my head in bewilderment, I walked over to the shower and opened the glass door. My preferred shower products just happened to be inside.

How the hell does he know??

I realized I probably shouldn’t be surprised, given everything else he’d already learned about me.

A few feet away was a small shelf with a few dark green towels. How appropriate for the ultimate Slytherin, I thought. I reached up and ran my hand along one of them. The material was so soft, it almost made me smile.

I focused on every minute detail of my nightly routine to try and take my mind off of what could possibly happen after I left the bathroom. Attempting to go on autopilot, I mechanically turned on the water in the shower, adjusted the temperature, and glanced behind me before stepping into the stall and closing the glass door.

I tried to enjoy my shower. The warm water was soothing, but I kept finding myself looking anxiously toward the bathroom door to make sure I was still alone. I realized that I had just become very self-conscious about washing myself, which was quite unnerving because I’d never been terribly insecure with my body—my current situation, however, had instantly turned all of that upside-down. I was suddenly hyper-aware of every part of my body and every move I made.

He’s probably dying to do this for me.

My stomach flipped.

He’s probably thinking about it right now.

Cringing at the mental image of the Dark Lord standing opposite me and running his hands all over my body, I finished my shower in a hurry to try and banish these disturbing thoughts—and also to ignore how warm my face suddenly felt. It had quickly become suffocatingly hot. I craved the cooler air outside the shower stall.

As I stepped out of the shower, I briefly entertained the notion of leaving my hair a tangled mess; I thought that if I walked into the Dark Lord’s bedroom all sloppy-looking, maybe he wouldn’t want to touch me—and I nearly laughed aloud at the absurdity. Oh please, Alex. He’d find a way to fix you up in no time. I reached for my wand and cast drying spells on my hair and skin, and wrapped one of the larger towels around my body.

I inhaled slowly and pictured myself walking steadily down the hall to face the Dark Lord without letting my nervousness show. After another deep breath, I slowly reached out and opened the bathroom door. He was right there. I stepped back instinctively.

“If you’re not in my bedroom when I’m finished....” he warned. He didn’t need to finish the threat, as I got the message from the tone in his voice and the expression on his face. I nodded and looked at the floor. After he swept past me, I padded down the hall to his room and reluctantly placed my wand on top of the bookcase. I didn’t want to be unarmed, but I knew that the Dark Lord would punish me if he saw me trying to defend myself from him—which would never work, anyway. He was too powerful.

I gingerly sat on the edge of the bed and clutched the towel around me until my knuckles turned white. I gazed forlornly at my wand, wishing I could Disapparate and return to Hogwarts. What would happen if I just...tried? Once? Surely he wouldn’t know, if he was focused on showering. What if I really could Disapparate, and he had only lied about having anti-Apparition wards to scare me into subservience? Could I just stand up and attempt Apparition once? Could I be back in my dorm before he finished his shower? What would he do when he saw that I’d disappeared? Could he find me at Hogwarts? What would he do if he tracked me down there, and I told him I promised I wasn’t trying to get away from him permanently; I just needed some time alone to think? How had he even found me in the first place? And what would happen if I waited too long, and he saw me reaching for my wand as he was entering the bedroom? He would surely kill me.

Maybe I should just grin and bear it. He did say he would let me go at the end of winter break, anyway, but what if I would return to school damaged beyond repair? He was the most powerful wizard in the world. He could do anything he wanted to me without any fear of repercussions. And as successful as I’d been so far in my study of magic—I was top of the class, on my own merit—I was still just a student. I was a kid. He was lightyears ahead of me.

But, oh Merlin, could I try to Apparate only once, just in case? If it didn’t work, would he even know?

My heart pounded in anticipation, but my indecisiveness paralyzed me. I was rooted to the spot. It felt like precious seconds were slipping through my fingers as I tried desperately to catch them and hold them in place, if only for a blessed moment. Time seemed to both speed up and slow to an agonizing crawl.

I didn’t have enough time to mentally prepare myself for the moment he walked into the bedroom, wearing nothing but a towel wrapped around his waist. I watched as he approached me, my heart hammering in my chest, and I chastised myself for admiring his toned physique.

When he was directly in front of me, he reached down and ran the back of his hand down my cheek. A chill shot down my spine.

“Good girl,” he praised with a smile. “I knew you wouldn’t try to run off.”

Please don’t read my thoughts. Please. I didn’t go anywhere, see? I’ve been right here this whole time, like you instructed. You surely can’t punish me now....

He motioned for me to stand. I slowly rose to my feet and gripped the towel tighter, slightly caving into myself while cringing and looking at my feet.

He reached for my wrists and tugged gently. “Drop the towel,” he commanded.

Biting back a shudder, I squeezed the towel for a moment longer before begrudgingly letting it fall to the floor. He smirked and threw off his own towel before pushing me down onto the bed. I gasped and scooted back until I couldn’t move any farther. After climbing on top of me, he grabbed my wrists and forced them down over my head. My struggling only made him laugh.

“You are completely at my mercy now,” he said darkly, his voice thick with lust.

“You said you weren’t going to rape me!” I growled.

“Obey me and cooperate now, and I won’t,” he replied with a grin. He pulled my arms together and pointed his wand at my left wrist. A rope materialized from thin air and wound around my wrist to secure it to the nearest bedpost. I jerked my arm as hard as I could, even though I knew it would get me nowhere, until he pressed the tip of his wand to my neck. My heart rate sped up again.

“You’re only hurting yourself,” he warned quietly. He moved his wand to my right wrist and another rope fastened it to the opposite bedpost. “As I said yesterday,” he continued, “I will not let anyone else harm you, but you’re trying my patience. I enjoyed your little struggle last night, but I don’t want to deal with that anymore. Keep trying to fight me off, and I will rape you. I will tear your beautiful little body to shreds. You might not even live through it.”

“You promised!” I cried out.

“Darling, have you forgotten who I am?” he cackled, and kissed my neck. “There’s no point in fighting, as I know you want this. You proved that this morning with the way you responded to me. And don’t think I missed that look you gave me when I walked in a few minutes ago.” He kissed my neck a few more times. “I told you that I would make sure you begged me to take you by the end of the day, and I intend to so now, as you were so stubborn this morning.”

I can’t do that...I WON’T....

“You will,” he insisted, gripping my hair and forcing me to look into his eyes. “That I can promise you. I don’t even understand why you still resist! Giving in would make this so much easier for you. Why do you fight it? Why do you deny the fact that I can bring you pleasure like no other man ever could? I should remind you that I can see inside your mind clearly. I know about all of your dark, twisted fantasies, and I can make them come to life. All you have to do is beg me for it. It’s not that difficult.”

I whimpered. I didn’t know what else to do.

“Cooperate now, my gorgeous girl,” he urged, while stroking my hair. “Let me do everything I want to you right now, and I promise you will give in. Tonight, I plan to drive you into such a frenzy that all you’ll be able to do is beg for more.”

“Oh my god....” I whispered shakily. My body began trembling. I had to force myself not to hyperventilate.

“I know you’ve always secretly wanted a man to desire you as much as I do, and who better to do so than me? I am everything you’ve ever wanted and more. No one will ever understand the way your wicked mind works better than I do, and I know you see that. Stop. Resisting.” He slowly ran his tongue up the side of my neck.

“I—”

“Shhh,” he whispered, and placed his thumb over my lips. “You have nothing to be afraid of. Have faith that I’m about to give you more pleasure than you could ever have hoped for. And you will love it. Trust me.”

He slid off of me and walked to the foot of the bed, and then pointed his wand at my ankles. Ropes wound around them. I wanted to get away, but I was powerless to stop the ropes from attaching to the bedposts. I tried to move my legs, and was surprised to see that I actually could—enough to bend my knees fully. I didn’t want to do that, though, as that would expose me completely.

That was exactly what he had in mind. He climbed back onto the bed, pushing my shins back as he came closer. He didn’t stop pushing them until my knees were bent completely and my legs spread as wide as possible.

“Keep them there,” he instructed, resting his hands on my knees before crawling back on top of me. I realized that being in this position was incredibly arousing, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to go through this with him. My confusion and nervousness made my heart rate skyrocket.

“Take a few slow, deep breaths now,” he advised, “because you won’t be able to do so for a while.” I tried to slow my breathing, but it was impossible. He started kissing my neck and rubbing my shoulders, inhaling deeply at the same time. Sliding lower, he circled his hands around my breasts a few times and then stroked the sides with his palms.

“These are so soft,” he murmured, running his lips over the skin as he spoke. “So beautiful...” He squeezed my breasts hard and stopped to suck on my nipples before trailing several slow kisses down my belly. I began to moan softly without even realizing it. He stopped and looked up at me with a mischievous grin.

“See the way you respond to me? Just admit it now. You want this. You want me.”

I bit my lip and groaned.

“No matter,” he said. “I’m about to prove that even more.” Without waiting for a response, he leaned down and placed a line of slow, firm kisses down my entrance while snaking his arms under and around my thighs. I bit back a moan. He licked the swollen flesh a few times and then slid his tongue inside. He opened his mouth wide and drove his tongue as deep as he could, licking and sucking hard while holding my thighs in a steely grip. After about a minute of this, he licked his lips and gazed up at me. The look in his eyes told me that, with enough effort, he could pry open my very soul.

“Who do you think you’re fooling?” he demanded. “You’re soaked.”

I opened my mouth to speak, but no words formed. My head was spinning.

He shook his head and sneered. “You’re delicious,” he went on. “I’m enjoying this just as much as you are. The only difference is I freely admit it.” He kissed my lower belly a few times, and then began flicking his tongue over my clitoris.

Oh my god...he’s doing that again....

I wanted to stay still and somehow convince him that he wasn’t affecting me, but all I could do was whimper loudly. My legs shook. My nails dug into my palms and broke the skin.

Stop...stop doing this...oh god, but it feels so good...I can’t....

He didn’t stop. He kept it up until the orgasm crashed over me. Mentally cursing myself, I cried out as my hips began bucking of their own accord. He gripped them tightly and began sucking the nub urgently. I squealed and felt myself grinding hard into his face. I was enjoying it and hating myself for it at the same time, but all I could do was respond to him. I couldn’t even think straight.

He forced his tongue back inside to suck me completely dry. I felt him groan against me, and the vibration made me twitch uncomfortably. He chuckled and started stimulating my clitoris with his tongue again. I screamed. He added more pressure gradually, building me up until another orgasm rocked my entire body. I screamed louder. I thought he would give me a break after that, but a break seemed to be the farthest thing from his mind. He forced my gyrating hips down so I couldn’t move them, and continued licking. My legs convulsed violently.

I looked down at him pleadingly, and I forgot to breathe for a few seconds—the crazed ferocity I saw in his eyes nearly stopped my heart. His facial expression was that of a ravenous apex predator tearing apart the prey he’d been chasing for ages, which had always managed to escape at the last second...until this moment. So he now not only wants to devour his prey, but he also wants to make sure that the prey can feel the predator’s brute strength and the depth of his frenzied need to conquer, driven past the point of natural behavior by the prey’s prior elusiveness.

It was the most frightening, arousing sight I had ever seen. I couldn’t tear my eyes away.

He had begun breathing heavily and gruffly against my sex as he continued stimulating me, sounding more and more frenetic the more my body responded to him. With the modicum of strength I had left, I furiously thrashed my arms against the mattress and struggled to break free of the ropes binding me.

It was no use. He would not be stopped.

My wrists bled and the muscles in my arms twitched from exhaustion.

But he would not be stopped.

He was the ultimate predator who would not stop destroying until he’d eaten his fill. I was absolutely powerless. By the time he finally relented, I’d orgasmed four more times and practically screamed myself hoarse. Tears were streaming down my face.

He slowly crawled back onto me, pressing his pulsing stiffness to my abdomen.

“Do you have anything to say?” he asked softly, and placed a feathery kiss to my ear.

I whimpered. “I...I can’t—”

“You can’t believe I make you feel this good,” he chuckled, and slowly kissed the tears off my flushed cheeks. My breath hitched. He then grabbed a fistful of my hair, forced my head down to the side, and sank his teeth into my neck. The harder he bit me, the tighter he gripped my hair as his breathing once again grew faster and heavier. I groaned into the pillow. I felt his other hand slip between us, and I gasped as he slid two fingers inside me. Growling with excitement, he continued biting all around my neck and shoulder. I moaned loudly as he pumped his fingers in and out of me, faster and faster until I came once again with a strangled cry. He smiled and brought his fingers to his lips to suck all the fluid off.

“What about now?” he inquired again. “Anything you’d like to tell me?”

“I’ve never—I’ve never begged for anything,” I whispered breathlessly.

“It doesn’t matter. I know what you want just as well as you do. Say it. Beg me for it. Tell me how much you’re aching to feel me penetrate you.”

“I can’t....”

He shook his head and pressed his lips into a firm line. His voice turned very sinister. “For such a brilliant girl, you’re making a very foolish choice,” he admonished loudly.

“No! I—”

He interrupted my protest by slapping his hand over my mouth. “It’s too late,” he declared. “I am out of patience and beyond aroused. I’m going to take you. Right. Now.”

Keeping his hand clamped over my mouth, he plunged into me. I moaned loudly as I felt my barrier break, which only made him smile wickedly. He moved his hand to tilt my chin up, forced my head back with his other hand, and crushed his lips over mine. I gasped. He shoved his tongue into my mouth and began firmly massaging, practically forcing me to twirl my tongue around his. I wasn’t even sure why I was going along with it, but I figured it would make my predicament easier. He gripped my head tighter and kissed me harder while forcefully driving into my body in a slow, steady rhythm. I moaned in his mouth and balled my hands into fists, returning his kiss with equal vigor and telling myself that I was only doing this to satisfy him enough to stop him from punishing me later.

He finally released my lips after a long moment, and began thrusting hard and fast. I growled in frustration until the pain began to subside. To my alarm—or my relief, I couldn’t be sure—I started to feel a ripple of pleasure with his every thrust. My cries of agony became cries of pleasure, and I began forcing my hips upward to meet his. He moaned with me while gripping my bound wrists, pounding faster and harder until he spilled into me. I spasmed around him and whimpered as he bit my neck again before kissing it lightly.

We lay this way, in complete silence, until he ran his fingers over the ropes binding my wrists. The bonds disappeared. He slowly brought my arms down, kissing them as he did so.

The realization of what had just happened slammed into me, and I felt sick.

“You’re mine, Miss Halaway,” he growled directly into my ear. “You belong to me. You can’t fight me anymore.”

I turned my head to the side to avoid his piercing gaze, but he grabbed my chin and forced me to look at him.

“As you satisfied me tonight, I will give you one more day,” he said. “It doesn’t matter that I know how much you just enjoyed me, because you’re still not saying the words. I will give you until this time tomorrow to admit the truth; and if you don’t, I will rape you. You will be in absolute agony, but I will enjoy you immensely.”

With that, he sat up and pointed his wand at my ankles. The ropes disintegrated. He then climbed off of me and laid on his back. I regarded him for a moment and noted that he almost seemed relaxed, albeit a bit agitated. I didn’t know what to say, so I turned over on my side, drew my knees up to my chest, and closed my eyes. He edged closer and began running his hand up and down the curve of my waist, while kissing my upper arm and inhaling slowly. I begrudgingly accepted that I found this soothing, and soon drifted off. 

*   *   *

I woke up the next morning feeling scared and confused. I didn’t want to open my eyes. I wanted to be back at school, in my own bed. Alone. Where I wouldn’t have to think about the possibility of getting raped by the Dark Lord—as if I hadn’t been a few hours before; I wasn’t entirely certain—or whether I secretly wanted him and his masterful touch.

Not two days prior, my biggest concern had been sneaking into Knockturn Alley and getting away with it. I thought I was such a badass. From thirteen years old onward, I’d felt like an absolute powerhouse. I’d felt almost invincible. Now, suddenly, I felt completely helpless and borderline incompetent. I was trapped in an undetectable mansion, sleeping next to the most feared and accomplished wizard in the world, who had just threatened my life and taken my virginity by force. All of my former goals and problems suddenly seemed so insignificant. Childish, even. Laughable. What the hell had my life turned into? I didn’t even know what I wanted anymore. I didn’t even feel like myself anymore. He had penetrated my mind as well as my body. Who was I becoming? How was I still a child? I suddenly felt much older than sixteen.

The Dark Lord scooted closer so that his chest was lightly touching my back. I didn’t open my eyes until he snaked his right arm over my belly and pulled me back to him possessively.

“That wasn’t so bad, was it?” he whispered. I sighed as he ran his hand over my waist and up to my arms, which were covering my breasts. He took hold of my right wrist and slowly moved my arm down so he could reach the skin underneath. I let him massage my breasts and kiss my neck, hoping that would be enough for him—at least for now. Thankfully, he seemed satisfied after a few minutes.

The day went by much like the one before: we got dressed, ate breakfast, and immediately started on my Dark Arts lessons. I was a bit shaky on the spells and techniques I had learned the day before, as my mind kept drifting back to the previous night.

There were fierce, fingerprint-shaped bruises on my hips and inner thighs.

There were angry red bite marks all over my neck, shoulders, and breasts.

My palms were tender from having dug my nails into them so forcefully.

My inner walls were so sore that walking was painful.

There were little red droplets in my underwear.

There were thick, dark pink rings around my wrists and ankles that stung when I moved those joints.

Blood pulsed furiously in between my legs and my core ached heavily when the past two days flashed before my eyes.

He was devouring me.

But I couldn’t break. I couldn’t give in. I couldn’t lose myself.

I had to grit my teeth through whatever this was, and make it out alive. Something positive had to come out of this situation. I had to hold onto whatever shred of dignity I still possessed.

I also had too much to learn about Dark magic. I needed to learn. It was a visceral pull in the pit of my stomach. And I knew I was drawing from the most credible source. As sneaking around in Knockturn Alley clearly wasn’t happening, my only option so far was right in front of me.

I forced my focus back to my lessons by reminding myself that I didn’t want to give the Dark Lord another reason to think about punishing me—or worse. I couldn’t die here. I was too young. I had too much to do.  

*   *   *

That night, I lay on the Dark Lord’s bed as he showered, staring at nothing on the ceiling. I refused to fall asleep; I would not let him take me by surprise. I also couldn’t help but recall the intensity of the past two days. I cringed and shook my head. It had been utterly humiliating. Yes, humiliating. Then why did I keep replaying it in my head? Why didn’t I try to think of something else? My body had responded to him involuntarily, not because I’d wanted him.

Would it have been different if I had wanted him? Yes...I’m sure it would. Wait. No. Why did I even consider that? What is wrong with me?!

I waited and waited, knowing that he would soon come in and do whatever he wanted with me. I braced myself when I finally heard the door open, but nothing happened. I allowed myself a glance to my left. He was standing in the doorway, looking at me.

Just come in here and get it over with. The sooner it starts, the sooner it’ll finish.

“I meant what I said last night,” he declared. I was confused and unnerved, as he’d said a lot last night, but I concealed my emotions and forced myself to look at him. I held his gaze as he slowly approached me. When he got to the bed, he simply stood there, unmoving. I sat up and stared at the wall.

“Just get it over with,” I uttered morosely. “I don’t care anymore.”

“Is that so?” He sat down next to me and slowly laced his right arm around my waist. His touch was so gentle, it almost tickled.

“I want you to care,” he insisted. “I want you to enjoy everything I do to you. I want you to stop resisting, even if your protests are only words.” As if to enforce that statement, he tucked my hair behind my left ear and lightly kissed my cheek a few times. I felt a slight flutter in my stomach.

“I don’t understand....”

“I am not interested in a private whore. If I only desire physical release, I can take any woman I want. I can simply curse her so she’ll obey me. You are not just any woman, Alex Halaway. I told you before: I see tremendous potential in you. If I ruined that potential by breaking your spirit, both of us would suffer. I won’t have that.”

“But you threatened to rape me,” I whispered. “How would raping me not break my spirit? And how do I know you still won’t?” And how do I know you haven’t already? Why the hell can’t I figure that out??

“Because I know you’ll admit what you want tonight. I see a change in the way you look at me. The way you talk to me. I know you’ll make the right decision.” He began massaging my neck with his right hand, then quickly added his left. Closing my eyes, I let my head drop down. His hands glided down my back and continued rubbing with more pressure. He edged closer. As I felt his hot breath on my neck, a throbbing ache swelled within my core.

Am I actually enjoying this? Was he right yesterday? Yeah, okay, he’s gorgeous and...THE DARK LORD, for crying out loud, but after what he’s already done to me, I didn’t think—

My thoughts blurred. He stopped massaging my back after a few minutes, and I slowly turned my head to look at him.

“Do you see now?” he whispered, cupping the back of my neck.

I didn’t know what to say. He leaned in and pressed his lips to mine. He lingered for a moment, gauging my reaction. As I wasn’t fighting him off, he wrapped his other hand around the back of my head and claimed my mouth again, coaxing my lips apart with his tongue.

I couldn’t be bothered to think anymore. I could only feel and respond.

He pushed me down onto the mattress and crawled on top of me. Within a minute, he had torn all my clothes off and made quick work of his own. He rained hard kisses all over my face and licked my neck as if I’d been doused in caramel. I reached up to touch him, but he grabbed my wrists and pinned my arms above my head. He started sucking on my upper right arm, almost gently, but soon he was biting and sucking forcefully. Tears sprang to my eyes.

“Why...” I whimpered.

“Marking you as mine,” he growled. After releasing my arms, he gripped my face in his hands and began kissing me aggressively. As I tentatively placed my hands on his biceps, his hands glided down my sides and wound my legs around his back.

“Do you want me now?” he asked softly.

Oh god, who the hell am I kidding. “Y—yes....” I whispered.

He smirked. “Tell me exactly what you want.”

My heart pounded. I froze. I couldn’t speak.

“I don’t care that I see it in your mind!” he snapped, louder than was necessary. “I’ve been seeing it for the past two days. Now, speak the words!!”

“I...want...you to....” I trailed off. How could I say this? Not twenty-four hours ago, I had been so sure of being desperate for him to stop, and so determined to prove him wrong. I had cherished my pride more than almost anything.

“SAY IT!!” he commanded, eyes blazing.

I squeezed my eyes shut for a moment, and then forced myself to look up at him. “Make...love to me...p-please...”

“Good. Girl.” he praised, with a look of pure triumph. The predator had finally ensnared his prey. His eyes bored into mine as I felt him poised at my entrance. “You know this may still hurt,” he warned.

Before I could respond, he pushed into me at full speed. I was still very sore from the previous night, and pain ripped through me at his violent intrusion. I bit my lip to stifle a scream, and tasted copper. He tugged on my chin and licked the blood off my lips.

“There was more of that between your gorgeous legs last night,” he taunted.

I bit my lip again as he began thrusting forcefully in and out of me. The pain was intense, but it dulled after a little while. I moved with him, and bit into his shoulder as I felt the tension build inside my body.

“Let me hear you scream,” he hissed. “Scream my name when you come.”

He’d let me?!

“T—”

“Yes!” he urged.

“TOM!” I cried as the release flooded out of me. My face burned as I screamed his name again. And again. And again. He exploded inside me with a colossal roar, and thrust further until it was over. Completely spent, he collapsed onto me and nestled his head in the crook of my neck. I felt him smile as I lightly kissed his shoulder before sinking back into the pillows with a soft moan. I closed my eyes and exhaled slowly.

“Are you tired?” he asked, kissing me below my ear.

“A bit...I—”

“Well, that’s a shame,” he replied, stroking my hair while smirking down at me. “Because we’ve barely started. The night is young.”

I sighed as he began placing firm kisses down the side of my neck. This was going to be a long night. 

*   *   *

A clap of thunder startled me awake the next morning.

Why can’t I move my upper body?

A firm hand stroked my belly. “Morning, beautiful,” Tom murmured slowly. I realized that he’d kept me wrapped tightly in his arms all night. It felt good. I smiled, recalling the night’s activities. To hell with resisting—he was right. Despite everything he had done, I wanted this. I wanted him. Holy Merlin, I had fallen for the Dark Lord. I had begged him to fuck me. I had screamed his name and blushed at the sound.

I turned, still in his arms, and kissed his chest.

“I don’t know about you, but that was the most fun I’ve had in quite a while,” he remarked with a smirk.

“Yeah,” I chuckled. I stretched and turned back around.

He moved closer and began massaging my shoulder. I moaned softly.

“Wait here,” he whispered, and got out of bed. I listened to the rain and quickly drifted off again.

After a few minutes, I awoke to a chill on my arms. Tom was dressed and sitting next to me, slowly taking the blankets off my body. I tugged on the fabric, trying to cover myself again, but to no avail.

“I don’t think so,” he hissed, and yanked the blankets off me completely. I curled up in a ball.

“Give that back,” I groaned.

He turned me over on my back. “You do not tell me what to do,” he scolded, though he sounded mildly amused.

“I’m cold.”

“Of course you are. That’s why I brought you this.” He placed a black satin robe on the bed. “Put this on.”

Shivering, I got out of bed and reached for the robe. I caught him staring at my body as I dressed, and averted my eyes.

He walked in front of me and pulled me to him. “I’ve noticed how nervous you become when I...look at you,” he teased with a smirk. “I suggest you get used to it. It’s practically impossible for me not to stare. You’re an incredibly gorgeous girl—” He pressed his face close to mine and whispered, “Whether or not you’re clothed.”

My face burned.

“Even more so, when you blush,” he continued, stroking my cheeks. I closed my eyes as he licked my neck a few times.

Is this actually happening? Have the last two days been a dream?

“This is real, so get used to it.”

I pressed my lips together and looked away. He grabbed my chin and forced me to look up at him.

“What a treasure,” he pronounced, refusing to let go of my chin. “A devilish mind, a beautiful body, and no defenses against Legilimency.” He smiled broadly and twirled a lock of my hair around his finger. I didn’t know what to say. I wished I could use Occlumency, and made a mental note to learn as soon as possible.

“Alex, even if you learn Occlumency, which I’m sure you will, you won’t be able to block me completely. I have become the most skilled Legilimens in the world, and there is nothing you can do to dampen that.”

I sighed and nodded.

Chapter Text

The next two weeks seemed to pass by in two days. In that time, I seemed to be making up for all the lost years during which I’d always felt like an outsider, at school and at home. Whenever my family would discuss what was going on in our world, I would ask a question here or make a comment there, but I’d known better than to say what I was really thinking.

Now that I was here (wherever “here” was, that is; Tom never told me the exact location) I didn’t know what to make of all of my new freedom. Not only could I freely speak my mind for the first time, which was cathartic beyond my wildest dreams, but I could also perform magic outside of Hogwarts with no fear of getting caught. The estate’s enchantments were inpenetrable.

Tom and I spent most of our time in either his library or the large circular room where he’d originally brought me. He had many books on Dark magic, which I read from every day. There were books on the origins of Dark magic, different approaches to practicing it, and lists of Dark spells, potions and charms. Some reminded me of a more twisted version of my schoolbooks, which I liked. This was all fairly new to me, as my prior exposure to Dark magic had been DADA classes and the small amount of books I’d tracked down in the Hogwarts library. At first, I was slightly embarrassed about how little I knew, but Tom had expected that. He answered my every question without judgment or hesitation.

Sometimes, either before or after practicing my new skills, I would simply sit on the floor and read through Tom’s books. There never seemed to be enough information to satisfy my curiosity.

After about a week and a half, I was sitting on the thick, fluffy black rug in the library, reading another book on Dark magic. (That rug had quickly become my new favorite place.) I was so engrossed in what I was reading that I started when I felt a light kiss on my ear. Tom laughed.

“I should do that to you more often,” he said. I shot him a playful glare, and then returned to my book. He sat down across from me, plucked the book off my lap, and placed it on the floor.

“Yes?” I asked. I couldn’t help but smile.

He leaned in close and stared me down. He was not smiling. “You want to join my Death Eaters, don’t you.”

“Yes.”

“I have watched your skills in the Dark Arts improve tremendously since you’ve been here. I have no doubt that you are fit to become a Death Eater, but first you must pass an initiation.”

“Okay. What do I have to do?” THIS. THIS is what I’d been hoping for.

“Since you cannot yet perform Side-Along Apparition, I will go to Muggle London and pick someone out. I will bring the person back here, where you will torture and kill him. And don’t think about a single Killing Curse—I want to see creativity. I want to see pure nerve, absolute ruthlessness, and no hesitation,” he declared, “or the results will be disastrous.” The threatening look on his face told me all I needed to know.

And we’ll be learning Side-Along Apparition at school in less than a month. If I’d learned it sooner....

He touched my cheek. “Alex, I will not have your safety compromised. You will learn when you return to school, but it is not something that can be rushed. Stop beating yourself up.” He paused. “This will take place tomorrow.”

“Wait...I’m not allowed to use magic outside of school. I still have the Trace on me. I mean—I know I’ve been doing magic here, but Unforgivable curses—”

“It doesn’t matter. No one knows what goes on at this estate. No one even knows it exists.”

“How—”

“I have placed enough protection around the property to ensure that no one can get in unless they are with me.”

“How? What did you do?”

He gave me a vague idea of the charms he had to perform, and my head was spinning by the time he’d finished. He chuckled at the confused look on my face. “I have invented and performed countless curses here. If I hadn’t put up the complex wards that I have, the Ministry may very well have found me. They have not.”

I nodded. “Wow. That’s—that’s impressive.”

“Thank you.”

“Have any of the Death Eaters been here?”

“None. As I said, no one else but you knows that this estate even exists. Though they do my bidding, I do not trust them implicitly. I trust no one.”

“Neither do I.”

“A wise choice.”

“Yeah. I’m...flattered that you decided to bring me here.”

“You didn’t seem so flattered the day you arrived,” he chuckled. “You were terrified for your life.”

Thank you for reminding me...!

He scooted closer to me, a maniacal grin on his face. “It was my pleasure, darling!”

I sighed and looked away.

He edged closer still, until our knees were touching. “You’re adorable when you’re frustrated. You show me how much power I have over you.”

I figured that anything I said would either infuriate him or egg him on, so I remained silent and looked at the floor. I was stewing and he knew it.

He coaxed my chin up. “Save your energy. Tomorrow you’ll show me what you’re capable of.”

I nodded. “You won’t be disappointed.”

“I’d better not be.” 

*   *   *

We returned to the circular room early the next day. I was both excited and nervous, but let no emotion show on my face. I had been waiting for a moment like this for years, and it was finally here.

“I should be back within the half hour,” Tom said. “Wait right here.”

I nodded.

The time seemed to drag by; I paced around the room for about five minutes before I realized that I should probably remain roughly in the same place until Tom returned. Sighing, I sat down on the floor and drummed my fingers on my knees until I heard a pop.

Tom stood in the middle of the room, gripping a young man by the back of his shirt. The man yelped as Tom threw him to the ground, and screamed as his knees cracked on the stone. Tom smirked, then looked up at me. “Do what you must,” he commanded, holding me with a piercing stare.

I drew my wand and walked over to the man trembling on the floor. He was lying on his side, clutching his knees. I chuckled and said, “Well, hello there, you worthless piece of vermin! How are you feeling today?”

“WHO THE HELL ARE YOU? HOW DID I GET H—”

I kicked him in the ribs. “You do NOT talk back to me, you filthy Muggle!” I growled.

“What’s a Mu—”

“CRUCIO!”

The man screamed as his body jerked violently back and forth. I lifted the curse after about a minute.

“I told you not to talk back to me,” I warned. “You serve no purpose. You will respect me.”

“I have a wife! She’s pregnant with our first child! How can you—”

I kicked him in the side. “That’s nice. Do you think I care? The world is overpopulated anyway.”

“WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME? I’LL DO ANYTHING...JUST...LET ME GO!”

“PETRIFICUS TOTALUS!” I shouted. The man went rigid and fell to the floor. I sauntered over to him and leaned over his face. “I want you to die,” I answered playfully, enunciating each word slowly and carefully. I lifted the curse and said, “Aguamenti.” Water shot out of my wand and doused the man completely. When he tried to hold himself up on his side, I pointed my wand at his knees and shouted, “SECTUMSEMPRA!” His knees began bleeding profusely, and he collapsed back onto the ground. His eyes were streaming as he gasped for breath.

“Not nearly good enough,” I muttered. I pointed my wand at his stomach and yelled, “Sectumsempra!” several more times, until the man was lying in a pool of his own blood. He tried to turn over as he began coughing it up, and I shook my head. “Uh-uh. You’re already making too much of a mess. LANGLOCK!”

His mouth snapped shut, and he continued convulsing as his breathing began to falter. I reversed the spell and allowed him to attempt to sit up while he vomited and coughed up more blood—I wanted him to believe that he actually had a shot of getting out of here alive. Twirling my wand, I waited patiently for him to finish spewing projectiles all over the floor before I began to prance around him, humming cheerfully.

“What—where are you—what are you doing? What the...fuck is wrong with...you?” he croaked, twisting his head around to keep me in his line of sight. I unfastened my robe and removed it slowly, as if I were performing a striptease. The man looked at me like he wasn’t sure if he was supposed to be frightened or aroused. Tom appeared ready to protest, but thought better of it, as he understood that this must be part of my show. It was hard not to laugh at his dumbfounded expression. Yeahhh, like I’d actually fuck this pathetic excuse for a man, bloody or otherwise, I thought. Have no fear.

After walking back over to my victim, I raised my robe with both hands and began waving it over his body, making sure the fabric fluttered over his skin enough to tickle him. He winced.

“What is that? No, stop it! STOP it! What are you—”

“Shhhhh,” I whispered. “It’s okay! Don’t worry! Everything’s going to be fine!” After draping my robe over my shoulder, I pointed my wand at the man’s wrists and said, “Incarcerous.” Ropes bound his wrists together and attached themselves to the floor to render his arms immobile. He screamed as I repeated the process for his ankles before calmly draping my robe over his torso.

“Get that off of me! What—stop! STOP!!” He shouted as I straddled his waist.

“It’s just to contain the mess, that’s all! And it’ll keep you warm from all that blood loss. There’s nothing to worry about!” I cooed. (Really, it was so that I wouldn’t have to sit in vomit. But I didn’t need to tell him that.) I stared into his horror-stricken face, daring him to look away. He couldn’t. The gradual changes in his facial expression fascinated me—eyes widened in shock, then narrowed in defiance, and then widened again in sheer terror. Jawline set, and then softening to a panicked tremble. Teeth clenched, and then chattering.

In a lightning-quick movement, I grabbed his hair and forced his head down against the floor. His shrieks filled the air as I traced the tip of my wand across his eyelids to detach them from his face. I held the flaps of skin in front of him for a moment, using them to both break him mentally and tickle his cheeks, and then dropped them into his screeching mouth. I repeatedly slammed his jaw shut and forced him to masticate on his ruined flesh. He resisted pitifully, but lacked the strength to throw my hands off his face.

“Swallow, or you die right now, choking on your own fucking skin. SWALLOW IT!” I bellowed. “And if you puke it up, you’re gonna eat that, too. SWALLOW IT!! NOW!!”

The man did everything he could to avoid obeying me until I growled, “Do you want me to charm your mouth shut again?? Do you want to die with your eyelids in your throat?!”

He reluctantly complied. I could almost see his heart breaking.

What a delightfully vivid image. Maybe I’ll have to paint a picture of that later. Hmm...oil or acrylic? Ugh, can’t think about that now. I can’t get distracted.

After he finally swallowed his eyelids, I charmed the tip of my wand to become a scalpel, which I used to cut a sliver of skin off the man’s cheek. I thought he was already screaming as loudly as he could until I placed the bloody strip of flesh on top of his left eyeball, skin side down. At that point, he began shrieking so piercingly, I cast Langlock again just to reduce the volume. There would be hell to pay if this creature damaged my hearing.

He jerked his head this way and that, trying to remove the skin from his eye, but it was stuck. The flesh had created too much suction to be moved by head-shaking, but I pressed it hard against his pupil for good measure. Once that was done, I pointed my wand at the ropes binding the man’s wrists and slowly drew them forward, so his arms were pointing toward the ceiling on an incline. I needed him to see his arms for what I was about to do.

By this time, I supposed I should have felt some semblance of guilt or disgust at my behavior. I was robbing a young woman of her husband. I was forcing an unborn child to grow up with no father. I should have been ashamed of myself. I should have felt a bitter revulsion or sadness for having turned out in such a way that I craved this destruction, but all I felt was adrenaline and determination. I was in my element. This was not the result of some small, broken part of myself that needed fixing to meld with an otherwise acceptable personality—this was my personality. I’d hidden my true nature so well for so many years, letting it build up behind a wall of sickly-sweet politeness and near-perfect academics, and the dam had suddenly burst. It wouldn’t stop. I couldn’t stop. I was doing that which I’d only fantasized about doing since I was a little girl, thinking I could never even tell anyone about these violent urges, much less act on them with no fear of retribution.

I smirked at the hilarity of my situation while I lightly traced a line from the man’s left wrist to his shoulder with my index finger, before retracing that line with my sharpened wand. The man had no choice but to watch me peel strip after strip of flesh off his arm, which I draped across his forehead until there was no more room. I removed one more length of skin after that, which I held in between my thumb and index finger like a ribbon that I tapped in a macabre dance all over his face. Just to make him squirm some more.

I buried the dead skin in the man’s hair and made several gashes in his arm muscle with my wand. Blood began spraying all over me, but I didn’t care. I needed this. I needed more. I growled low in my throat while digging the blade of my wand into the man’s arm forcefully enough to detach muscle from bone. I reached into his arm with my left hand and yanked the severed bicep free, shivering in delight at the loud, suctioning resistance of the ropey tissue stretching and stretching to stay attached to its tendons before finally springing loose. I watched it jerk and shake in my hand with an almost childlike curiosity, and then rubbed the muscle all over the man’s intact arm. It made me giggle. When the novelty wore off, I threw the quivering bicep against the wall, where it splattered and finally lay still.

My victim had screamed himself hoarse by this time, and had no voice left. I felt the jerky vibrations of his body as it tried to go through the motions of screaming, but the only sound that emerged was a harsh rattle. I imagined a violently-aborted fetus getting its spine broken by a sadistic doctor. But this was not a fetus—this was a grown man who, until moments earlier, had the ability to shout whenever he wanted. But he couldn’t scream anymore.

And he never would scream again.

I pointed my wand at his jugular and watched him make one last feeble attempt at escaping my clutches.

“SECTUMSEMPRA!” I shouted, and threw my face forward to catch the jet of blood that fountained from the angry gash in the man’s throat. The warm liquid bathed my face and dripped down my neck and onto my breasts. When the red stream finally died down, I sat up and smoothed my soaked hands over my hair and down my throat. I threw my head back and sighed, almost erotically, savoring the feeling of my victim convulsing as he bled out.

After rubbing my eyes, I saw Tom strolling into my periphery. I ignored him. I kept my attention on the trembling mass of worthlessness in front of me until it stopped moving.

I stared down at my handiwork, grinning triumphantly, and then stood up to kick the corpse as hard as I could. The dead man landed on his side about three feet away. Just for good measure, I walked over and stomped on the side of his head. I heard a loud crack and grinned.

I’d done it.

I turned around to see Tom smirking and clapping slowly. “Well done,” he praised. “That was quite an enjoyable performance.”

“Thank you.” I smiled broadly and curtsied. “I’m glad you approve.”

“I more than approve, my little vixen,” he replied, and kissed me soundly.

“You’ll kiss me with a dead Muggle’s blood all over my face. Really?” I chided with a giggle. “Really?”

“Just this once,” he murmured before casting a Cleansing spell on me and pulling me close. “You will receive the Mark tomorrow night.”

Chapter Text

The next day, I awoke feeling Tom’s fingers on my cheek. I started a bit, but he massaged my arm and I relaxed.

“Today is the day,” he whispered.

I smiled as he brushed the hair off my shoulder and kissed my neck, before climbing on top of me and squeezing my breasts. I gasped as he wrapped my legs around his back and slid into me. As he thrust forcefully, I scratched my nails down his back. He growled in response and bit my neck.

“I can’t get enough of you,” he murmured.

Though I was enjoying him, as always, my mind was already far away, eagerly anticipating the day ahead.

*   *   *

After dinner that night, he led me to the front hall and faced me.

“You’re ready now,” he declared, eyes blazing.

“Yes.”

“All right then,” he said, tightly hooking an arm around my waist. “We’re leaving.”

As I felt the world start to spin, my stomach flipped like it had done two weeks prior—only this time, it was from nervous excitement, not fear and dizziness.

We landed in a dark hallway. Tom rested his hand on my back and led me toward a small door about thirty feet away. I followed him into the large, spacious room, where he turned to face me.

“I will now summon my Death Eaters,” he said. “When they arrive, they will form a circle around me. You will remain where you are until I call you forward.”

I nodded.

Tom walked to the center of the room and touched the tip of his wand to his left forearm. Within seconds, about fifty masked, hooded figures appeared in a circle around him. I took a slow, deep breath; I knew I needed to make a good first impression by remaining calm.

“You are here to witness an initiation,” he announced, regarding his followers. He then faced me and said, “Alex Halaway, step forward.”

I walked to the center of the room and faced Tom.

“You have passed your test,” he stated. “Are you fully ready to become a Death Eater?”

“Yes, my Lord.”

“Will you obey my every command without hesitation?”

“Yes, my Lord.”

“Kneel before me,” he commanded, while firmly gripping my left wrist.

I slowly dropped to my knees, refusing to break eye contact with him. I felt a searing pain as the Dark Mark formed on my forearm, but I (mostly) concealed my discomfort with a mask of indifference. When the burn subsided, Tom let go of my wrist and motioned for me to stand.

“Welcome,” he praised, with a hint of a smile. Everyone removed their masks.

Tom turned back to me and motioned for me to go and talk to the other Death Eaters. Taking a deep breath, I walked over to a group of four young women and said hello.

One of them stepped forward. “Hello, I’m Lulu,” she said, while shaking my hand. “I was initiated last year, right after I finished at Hogwarts. My parents are over there.” She gestured to a tall, very attractive middle-aged couple, who were deep in conversation with a few other Death Eaters. Lulu seemed proud to be following in her parents’ footsteps. “They work at the Ministry,” she continued. I’ve been doing an internship in the Department of Mysteries for a few months, and expect I’ll be hired soon.” I wished her luck.

The other three were Sheena, Margo, and Sofia. Margo was Lucius Malfoy’s second cousin who worked with him at the Ministry, and Sheena and Sofia had been her two best friends at school. They had also been plucked from the pack of fresh Hogwarts graduates over the past few years, so I figured I would interact more with them than the older Death Eaters. I liked that they were all former Slytherins and didn’t care that I was American. They asked me normal questions—such as how I liked Hogwarts, if the school had changed at all since they’d been there, and what my plans were after graduation. Deliberately omitting the thrills of my winter break thus far, I told them that I wanted to learn as much as I could about Dark magic and become highly skilled in the Dark Arts. We were all in the same boat, in that regard.

After a little while, Sheena randomly changed the subject to her four cats and started gushing about them. Sofia laughed at the look I gave Sheena; this woman was more of a chatterbox than some of my younger Housemates! Sheena seemed twisted enough to be a Death Eater, but she was definitely more off-kilter than anyone else in the room. I wondered what Tom thought of her personality, or if he even cared. I figured that if she served his cause well enough, her personality wouldn’t matter too much.

Margo nudged me and said, “You’ll get used to it. She’s always talking about her cats...or something feline-related.” We all laughed at that comment—even Sheena, who seemed to bask in her weirdness. It was oddly amusing. Margo then used that as a segue to discuss her pet falcon, aptly named Falcon, who apparently didn’t like Lucius too much and took great pleasure in swooping around dramatically whenever Margo let him out of his enclosure. I laughed heartily at her story of Falcon nipping Lucius on the shoulder one time when she and Tom were at Malfoy Manor to discuss their latest plans for the Ministry. This embarrassed Lucius to no end because there he was, distinguished Dark wizard in his fancy home, trying to appear regal and sophisticated after being bitten by a gigantic bird and yelping like a small child! I pictured the scene a lot more easily than Lucius would probably have preferred. And I resolved to never mention it in his presence.

I eventually got around to meeting some of the others, including Lucius. I had a very interesting conversation with him and Bellatrix Lestrange about Azkaban, and how Bellatrix had escaped. I was glad to hear that even though Lucius hadn’t escaped, he’d managed to sit through his sentence and had slowly begun rebuilding his reputation in the Wizarding community. He also mentioned that his son, Draco, had turned out to be a complete and utter disappointment. He had been initiated as a Death Eater several years ago, when he was my age, but then broke down under the pressure and ran away from home. He didn’t even finish his education. Lucius hadn’t heard from his disgraced son in over a decade, and had made no attempt to locate him. He informed me that everyone had begun hearing rumors recently about Draco taking what was dubbed “the Snape route”—joining the Order of the Phoenix for refuge from his obligations to the Dark Lord—but no one knew for sure if this was true. None of the Death Eaters felt threatened by this, as Draco clearly had no spine whatsoever, regardless of which side he took in Wizarding politics. Apparently, even Tom hadn’t really bothered trying to find him—after a few weeks of searching, he’d told Lucius that Draco wasn’t worth the energy. He figured that the poor kid would be tortured enough by living in terror, constantly looking over his shoulder to make sure he wasn’t being followed. Some might consider that a fate worse than death. I secretly wished to take a crack at him. He wouldn’t last ten minutes under my wand.

Bellatrix was a bit standoffish at first, and told me after Lucius walked away that she typically didn’t associate with the younger Death Eaters; yet I got the sense that she and I would be talking a lot more in the future—after she’d finished eyeing me up suspiciously and realized that we were actually on the same page. She said that I reminded her a lot of herself when she was younger. She reminisced about her antics as a Hogwarts student many years ago, including her initiation as a Death Eater while a fanatical, overly-enthusiastic seventeen-year-old. She appeared to have calmed down a bit since then, but I could tell that there was still some dangerous, unstable force boiling under the surface, ready to explode at any moment. She was definitely like me in that regard. I told her some stories of my own Hogwarts escapades, which highly amused her. I realized I liked her a lot. The feeling seemed to be mutual.

After we’d been talking for about ten minutes, she suddenly frowned, grabbed my wrist and pulled me aside.

“What’s going on?” I asked. My eyes narrowed.

She frowned again. “I just saw the Dark Lord looking at you.” Her lip twitched. “He was looking at you...the way he used to look at me.”

I blinked. “Are you sure he was looking at me?”

“Positive. When I caught him looking over here, he didn’t even take notice of me.”

Not knowing what to say, I simply cocked my head to the side.

“Oh, come now. Don’t pretend to be ignorant.”

“What are you talking about?” I found it difficult to not raise my voice.

If she was going to start something, I had to make sure I didn’t strike first and face backlash for being that confrontational new girl. I would duel her if I had to, but I wouldn’t start it; only finish it. (Well...more than likely, Tom would finish it. But I hoped it wouldn’t come to that. I didn’t want that kind of attention.) This was different from all the standoffs I’d gotten into at Hogwarts—this was my life’s work. First impressions mattered more than ego. I forced my face to soften as I regarded Bellatrix.

She sighed and leaned forward slightly. “The Dark Lord and I...had a fling of sorts, before he disappeared.” She smirked. “It lasted quite a while, actually, and then...he suddenly lost interest. I hoped he would still want me after he returned, but he didn’t. I don’t know if it was because he’d somehow regained his younger body, or something else, but that...that...was it....” She definitely sounded resentful. And she definitely wasn’t over him.

I didn’t know what to say. I opened my mouth to respond, and she waved me off. “I don’t expect you to understand, Alex. I just—well, I recognize the way he just looked at you. It was very possessive.” She paused, and then her eyes narrowed. “How did you meet him, anyway?”

Oh, fuck.

“I—”

She knew. God damn it, why didn’t I think of a cover story beforehand?

She glared at me and scoffed, “Oh, go on. You may as well go over and find out what he wants.” Before I could reply, she turned around with a huff and marched away.

Fuck. Fuck me and fuck me twice.

Suddenly, I heard a considerable amount of groaning from my left; I turned my head and noticed an unexpected abundance of pink glitter than had definitely not been there before. I hesitated, and then cautiously approached the scene, where I saw a grinning young Death Eater whose robes were coated in pink glitter. (I noted that she had also applied way too much to her face.) She didn’t seem to care that she’d also managed to cover about six surrounding Death Eaters with the glitter. In fact, it appeared that she had bewitched the glitter so that only she could remove it from their robes—and heads. My eyes bulged at the sight.

The glittery Death Eater looked over at me. “Hi, there!” she said enthusiastically. “You’re the new girl! Alex, right? I’m Chicky, but some people call me the Pink Glitter Demon. Nice to meet you!”

“Uh...hi?” I didn’t know how else to respond.

Chicky grinned. “I love when a new Death Eater is initiated, because then I have an excuse to do this!” She suddenly pointed her wand at me and excitedly shouted an incantation that would spew pink glitter all over me, but I drew my wand and yelled, “PROTEGO!”

The surge of glitter hit my invisible shield and slid onto the floor. I pointed my wand at it and muttered, “Evanesco.” The glitter disappeared.

Tapping the tip of my wand against my left palm, I smirked at Chicky and said, “Nice try.” She raised her eyebrows at me, but was still grinning.

Did she ever not smile?

All of the others had slowly gathered around the scene, whispering to each other. I whirled around, shocked to see them all watching from about five feet away. I was mortified.

I wasn’t trying to get attention; I just didn’t want to be covered in glitter! Merlin, I don’t even want to know what they’re all thinking right now. I hope I don’t look like a suck-up.

Sheena gave me a thumbs-up, and Bellatrix rolled her eyes. I felt virtual butterflies rapidly spawning in my stomach.

Suddenly, everyone fell silent. Tom walked briskly over to Chicky, looking quite angry. He roughly grabbed her arm. “This is the fifth time you have subjected a new Death Eater to your so-called ‘orientation,’ and I don’t believe that Alex appreciated it!” he snapped.

Chicky looked down at the floor, ashamed. “I—I’m sorry, my Lord,” she murmured.

He grabbed her chin, forced her head up, and sneered. “Apologize to her!” he commanded, pointing directly at me. Everyone’s eyes followed. I closed my eyes, feeling my face burn.

The world’s most evil and feared wizard had just defended me in front of all of his followers. I knew I should’ve been flattered, but I was too embarrassed to appreciate the compliment. I wanted to leave.

“I’m...sorry, Alex....” Chicky looked at me with terror in her eyes. “I wasn’t trying to—”

“Chicky, relax,” I said, cutting her off. “You were just having a good time and...got a bit out of control.” I covered my mouth and stifled a laugh. She heaved a huge sigh of relief, and Tom released her arm. A hush fell over the room.

He strode over to me about a minute later and said, “I believe we’ve had enough.”

I nodded.

Raising his voice so everyone could hear, he called out, “You are all dismissed.”

I briefly considered going back to school just as the last Death Eaters Disapparated. Tom grabbed my arm not two seconds later.

“And just where do you think you’re going?” he demanded.

I averted my eyes.

"Alex, I told you that you were staying with me for the duration of your winter break. You are not leaving early."

“I’m sorry, it was just—it was just a fleeting thought. I wasn’t actually going to—”

“I know. Because I wouldn’t have let you.”

Fuck. I’m in trouble.

He chuckled humorlessly. “Not this time. But do not do that again, or you will be.”

Merlin, I have to police my thoughts. This is insane.

“If you truly want to master Occlumency one day, and that wasn’t just a fleeting thought, you cannot slip. Learning to control your thoughts is the first step.”

“So...will you be teaching me Occlumency?”

He chuckled again. “Not right now. You’re nowhere near ready.”

“Oh—okay. I—”

“Occlumency lessons would do you no good at this stage. I will know when you’re ready.”

“How?”

“I will tell you. And no, I cannot give you a timeframe, so do not ask. The task cannot be rushed. It depends on how quickly you grasp other concepts I plan to teach you beforehand.”

I sighed, deflated. I didn’t want studying Occlumency to be some far-off event that would elude me for an unknown length of time; I wanted a goal. I wanted to be able to count down weeks or months, and all I had was a “someday” far off in the future. My eyes dropped to the floor.

“I may have developed a certain...fondness for you,” he continued, “but that does not mean I will pay you lip service. That would serve no purpose. I will not be lenient in anything I teach you—patient, yes, but not lenient. Though I am confident that you will grasp every skill I teach you, I will not go easy on you just because I find you attractive. Mastery never results from coddling.”

He stared me down for added emphasis. We then Apparated back to his estate.

Chapter Text

As soon as we landed, Tom pulled me close.

“Bellatrix told you, didn’t she.”

I looked down at my feet. Tom lifted my chin with a smirk. “She envies you, you know.”

“I figured as much. I mean, she definitely has her suspicions, but I didn’t tell her about—” How do I word this?

“About the fact that you’re mine?”

Well, all right...if you want to put it that way.... I nodded slightly.

Slipping behind me, he wound his arms around my waist. I sighed as he kissed the nape of my neck.

“Are you nervous?” he asked softly.

“A-about what?”

“Just like I told you when I brought you here: you are mine,” he hissed. “You belong to me. Does that make you nervous? Hearing me say it?”

“I—”

“Of course it does,” he chuckled.

I didn’t know what to say.

“Tell me you understand,” he commanded softly. “Tell me you’re mine.”

“I’m...I’m yours....” I felt like a mouse in the coils of a boa.

“You certainly are.” He tightened his grip on me. “And I don’t care if Bellatrix knows that. Her job is to serve me, not judge who I bed.”

I didn’t dare try to shift or escape from his hold. After holding me this way for a little while, nibbling on my neck, he led me over to the living room couch and motioned for me to sit.

“I saw the way Bellatrix pulled you aside,” he remarked, after sitting down next to me. “What made her do that?”

“She said that she saw you looking at me, and—it was the same way you used to look at her. I mean, I wouldn’t know, but—”

“She’s probably right; although, I was never terribly possessive of her. She thinks I was, but I wasn’t. I was attracted to her physically, but I didn’t really—” he trailed off, suddenly appearing unsure of how to verbalize his thoughts.

“You did care about her, didn’t you,” I filled in, looking at him searchingly. “At least a little bit. You must have felt something.”

He looked at me like he was about to hex me into insanity. I scooted away from him without thinking. He reached forward and gripped my chin, shaking his head slowly and pressing his lips together.

“I’m sorry,” I whispered.

His face remained very stern, more so when he suddenly reached out and roughly grabbed my robe to pull me back to him. Opening his legs to pull me closer, he pressed my back against his chest while snaking his arms around my waist to hold me still. He rested his chin on the top of my head.

After a long, awkward silence, I was still curious. “I hope you don’t mind me asking, but why did you stop seeing her?”

He gave a low chuckle, and squeezed my shoulder. “Why do you think?”

I’m not even going to try and figure that one out. “Okay, let me rephrase that. When did you stop seeing her?”

“About a year ago.”

“How come?”

I glanced up at him and saw that even as he toyed with my hair, all the mirth had left his face. “I saw you.”

My eyes widened. “How did you...find out that I existed?”

“Now is not the time nor the place for me to tell you,” he replied. The smirk had returned.

“Oh, come on.”

He shook his head. “Not yet. You will wait.”

I sighed loudly and looked back at my lap.

“Be patient,” he whispered, and kissed my ear.

I bit my lip as I remembered my lack of a cover story for how I was able to become a Death Eater.

“I felt really silly when Bellatrix asked me how I’d met you,” I confessed.

“Why?” Tom asked, sounding like my concerns were completely unfounded. “I just told you I don’t care if she knows. She can’t do anything about it. If she started telling the others to try and paint you in a bad light, or did anything else to attempt to put you in danger, she’d have to deal with me. I have no qualms about punishing her.”

“I know, and I appreciate that; I just felt careless for assuming that none of the Death Eaters would even consider whether you and I would—”

“You’re being paranoid again, sweetheart,” he scolded. “Stop it.” He tilted my chin back so my head would rest on his shoulder and he could look directly at me. I saw a hint of amusement in his eyes, but his expression was extremely firm. As no one had called me an affectionate name like sweetheart since I was a little kid, hearing it now felt strange, especially coming from Tom—he didn’t seem the type to ever use a word like that. But there was nothing soothing in his voice. He was disappointed in me and wanted me to know it.

He held my gaze for a moment to drive the point home. I dropped my eyes, once again feeling uncomfortable under his intense stare. When he lifted my head back up, his lips were turned slightly upward. “That was an interesting little altercation you had with Chicky,” he teased, and softly kissed me.

Realizing that he was no longer angry, I immediately relaxed. “Is she always like that?” I asked.

“Yes,” he chuckled. “To her credit, she did ask my permission before subjecting my new recruits to her glitter surges. She waited about a year, after I had sussed her out and realized that she could be trusted. She and Sheena have actually become great friends since then—she was the first new Death Eater to be showered in pink glitter, and she was absolutely delighted. It was quite a sight. I suppose their strangeness calls to one another.”

“I’m sure! Sheena with her cats, and Chicky with her glitter. I wonder if Sheena’s cats have ever...sparkled around Chicky.” The mental image of four glittery cats following Sheena around made me laugh.

“They probably have. She may or may not have noticed that whenever she pulls another stunt with the glitter, I simply stand back and watch,” Tom continued. “I find it highly amusing that some of my followers often act a lot more dignified than they really are, and it becomes even harder for them to continue posturing while covered in pink glitter that they are rendered incapable of removing. Especially since they know I’m watching. It’s been an interesting little social experiment.”

“So then why were you so furious with her for doing it to me? If she’s done it to others, and you don’t care—”

“Because you’re not the others. You’re special. And you must be treated as such,” he replied firmly. “I will not have you subjected to such treatment, no matter how much the others enjoy her eccentric behavior.”

I was stunned.

“Do you want them to know that we—”

“No. Not yet. But I don’t want them disrespecting you, either, even as a well-meaning joke. They may suspect that you are more to me than a follower, especially after your conversation with Bellatrix, but they won’t know for sure before I decide to tell them. They can whisper amongst themselves about you being Lord Voldemort's pet all they want, but trust me—they will never say anything of the sort around me. Until I do tell them that you belong to me, I will simply treat you a little differently in their presence. They will quickly realize that they cannot trifle with you—if they haven’t figured that out already, of course. You defend yourself just fine.”

“That’s why you scolded Chicky for trying to spray me with glitter, when you let her do it to other new Death Eaters.”

“Exactly. Although, as angry as I was with Chicky for targeting you, I found your reaction to her antics highly entertaining. No one has ever thwarted her before. I must say, your reflexes are quite good.”

I couldn’t help but feel proud.

While on the thread of recalling humorous events from my initiation, I muffled a giggle as I recalled my conversation with Margo. Tom raised his eyebrows.

“What did Margo Malfoy say that made you laugh so hard?” he asked.

“She told me about that time Falcon bit Lucius in front of you,” I replied.

“Ah, yes, her ornery pet,” he snickered, and finally relaxed his hold on me. “I never understood her desire for a bird of that size, but grandeur does seem to run in the Malfoy family. Especially when it comes to birds. Lucius and Narcissa have white peacocks strutting about on their front lawn.”

“That doesn’t surprise me. Just from talking to Margo and Lucius—”

“You should have seen his father. He was one of my first Death Eaters. I was at Hogwarts with him—”

“Oh my god, are you serious?” I laughed. “What was that like?”

Tom paused and his expression gradually hardened—he was clearly recalling a flood of intense memories. “Another time,” he finally answered.

I knew better than to argue. He would tell me when he was ready. 

*   *   *

That night, I sat cross-legged on the bed, brooding. Though Tom sat right behind me, massaging my shoulders, I remained still.

I was returning to school the next day, and neither of us were exactly thrilled about that.

“I don’t want to go back,” I said, after a long period of silence.

“I know, but you must. It is imperative that you finish your education.”

I turned to face him. “Maybe you could teach me,” I offered with a coy smile.

Tom chuckled and shook his head. “I certainly could—and I certainly will, once you’ve finished at Hogwarts—but that doesn’t matter. There is no need for us to arouse suspicion regarding your whereabouts when you haven’t even taken your last exams.”

I sighed.

“You’re almost done,” he encouraged. “Your formal schooling will be over before you know it, and I have much to teach you after you graduate.”

“I can’t wait.”

“Neither can I. From what I’ve already seen these past two weeks, you are an exemplary pupil and an absolute pleasure to teach.”

I blushed. Especially given his emphasis on the word pleasure.

He regarded me for a moment, smirking at impact of his words. “Either way,” he continued, “we still have one more night until you return to school. I will make sure neither of us will ever forget it.”

Before I could respond, he pushed me down onto the mattress and fiercely kissed me. He slid down my body and began to slowly remove my clothes. I silently willed him to pick up the pace, but he didn’t. After stripping me down to my underwear, he crawled back onto me and placed light kisses along my jaw line.

“Tom, faster....” I moaned.

“No,” he whispered. “We have all night. What’s the rush? Do you have somewhere to go?”

I moaned again as he bit my neck, reached around and unhooked my bra. He must have taken fifteen seconds to fully remove it, before tossing it on the floor. He then dipped his head down and began lapping at my nipples. I grasped the blanket in both fists, writhing as he moved lower and started biting my lower belly. Coaxing my legs apart, he hooked a finger under my panties and lightly traced the skin underneath. I was about to reach down when he suddenly ripped the fabric to tatters. Spreading my legs wider, he slid three fingers inside me and began pumping furiously. I found it increasingly difficult to breathe as he continued. He added a fourth finger, and I screamed.

A few minutes later, he removed his fingers from my body and licked them clean. He then got out of bed and slowly began to undress. I squeezed my legs together as I watched him, unable to tear my eyes away. The sight was absolutely breathtaking.

“Do you like what you see?” he asked, climbing back on top of me.

“I love what I see,” I whispered. I kissed his neck and held him tightly as he wrapped my legs around his back.

“I swear to you, I will never tire of this,” he said gruffly, before plunging into me.

*   *   *

It was one of those nights where it seemed as if I’d only blinked, and the sun was already up. My all-too-brief slumber was ended when I heard a distant voice saying, “Wake up, Alex.”

I groaned and turned over on my side, so that my face was almost inside the pillow.

“You’re going back to school today.”

Those were the words I had been dreading, but I knew they were inevitable.

The next eight hours went by way too quickly, seemingly in the time it would take to walk from the Slytherin common room to the Great Hall. I barely said a word all day.

Tom offered, but I didn’t want dinner that night. I just sat in the dining room as the sun set, looking down at my lap, until I felt Tom touch my shoulder. He took my hand as I stood up.

“You are not to tell anyone,” he ordered sternly, pulling up my left sleeve and gently squeezing my forearm.

“About this?” I asked, glancing down at my Dark Mark.

“About anything from the past two weeks,” he replied, rolling my sleeve back down. Snaking his arms around my waist, he leaned in and murmured, “This is between you and me.”

“I understand,” I replied, looking him squarely in the eyes while wrapping my arms around his neck.

There was a short pause where we just stood there like that, until he violently pulled me to him and kissed me as if he would never see me again.

When he finally released me, he let one hand rest on my shoulder as he said, “This is only the beginning.” I gave him a quizzical look, but he refused to explain.

“I have momentarily lifted the anti-Apparition wards for you," he continued. "I cannot keep you here any longer. Go.”

So he wasn’t lying about those. Interesting.

That was the last thing he said to me before I Apparated back to Hogsmeade, but what resonated in my mind was, “This is only the beginning...this is only the beginning....”

*   *   *

Not wanting to be late for the feast, I dashed back to the castle as fast as I could. I decided to freshen up in my dormitory before going to the Great Hall—also, I just needed a few minutes alone. As I entered the Slytherin common room, I bumped into one of my Housemates who was leaving they boys’ dormitory.

“Hey, Alex!” he said. “Why are you going to your dorm? The feast is—”

“I need to get something,” I lied, and hurried down the staircase, away from any more people and any more questions.

Thankfully, there was no one else in either the common room or the girls’ dormitory. I made a beeline for my bed and smiled. After drawing the curtains, I collapsed onto the mattress. I suddenly realized how much I’d missed this place. The sights, the smells, the sounds...everything. I smiled and relished the feeling of familiarity. I only intended to lie there for a minute or two, but that wasn’t what ended up happening.

I realized that I’d slept through the feast when I was startled awake by a sudden burst of chatter from familiar voices. I ignored the girls until I heard one of them say, “Hey, have you guys seen Alex? She wasn’t at the feast.”

I opened my mouth, about to say, “The Dark Lord kidnapped her,” but I figured that I’d be digging a very deep hole for myself. Instead, I settled with, “She’s being held hostage by the Gryffindorks.” This was received with plenty of laughter. I breathed a small sigh of relief.

I jumped as somebody jerked the curtains open and smirked at me.

“Amy, what the fuck?!” I groaned, covering my eyes with my hand.

“I want to know where you’ve been!” Amy demanded.

“What do you mean? During the feast? I was right h—”

“Well that’s pretty obvious,” Monica cut in. “She’s talking about winter break. You told us you were staying here. None of us saw you when we got back.”

I froze.

“Yeah, seems you just up and left,” remarked Ashlee. “You got a secret boyfriend or something that we don’t know about?”

I felt my face flush as if I had a high fever, and I tried to cover it by turning over and laughing. This is bad....

“Oooohhhh, who is it? Come on, you know you want to tell us!” Sarah teased.

Quickly pulling myself together, I sat up, took a deep breath, and said, “Guys, I don’t have a secret boyfriend. I was just—I was at my aunt’s house. There was a family emergency.”

Where the hell did THAT come from? And why didn’t I bother to think about explaining my absence before returning? As if I hadn’t been caught off-guard enough by Bellatrix yesterday. Clearly, my planning skills are not what they normally are....

“Really,” Jess drawled suspiciously.

“Yes, really!” I shot back, standing up.

“Well then, I’ll just owl your aunt right now and find out if you’re telling the truth,” Leah taunted, pulling out a piece of parchment.

“NO!!” I lunged at Leah and snatched the parchment away. “My aunt’s...really busy and she doesn’t like to get pointless owls like that!”

My Housemates looked at me as if I had suddenly grown five heads.

“What?” I demanded in a very irritated tone. “Did I just turn into a giant kneazle or something?! Stop looking at me like that!!”

Within a minute, they had all backed away, leaving me standing in the middle of the dorm room, holding a blank piece of parchment. Glancing down at it, I angrily ripped it into little pieces, which I simply let fall to the floor. I then retreated back to my bed and violently pulled the curtains closed.

After brooding for about ten minutes, I decided that this wasn’t getting me anywhere. I laid back down with a huff. I didn’t care that I was still fully dressed and hadn’t eaten dinner; I pulled the blankets over my body and allowed sleep to gradually take over once more. I was drained.

Chapter Text

For the next few weeks, I simply went through the motions; I studied, took exams, and completed my homework. However, my Housemates and I became very distant since the episode in the dormitory. I didn’t care if I lost touch with every single one of them; I was not going to allow them to find out that I was now a Death Eater, nor would they discover where I’d spent my winter break. I’d die before they figured that one out.

I also wondered if, maybe, my subconscious had urged me to overreact to the other girls. Maybe I had blown a fuse in front of them on purpose to intimidate them. Maybe I had needed to scare them and thus detach myself from them in order to avoid a litany of questions about my personal life, which I didn’t have the energy to fend off. I found that it was always easier to push people away than pull them in—not that I did the latter too much, anyway. Being a bitch came naturally to me. Politeness usually took an astronomical amount of effort. And I simply did not have the energy to perform right now.

I was normally a superb actress and quick on my feet—had I not been, I never would have made it this far. But since the start of my winter break, I’d noticed with alarm that my acting skills had taken quite a hit. Whether it was my awkward exchange with Bellatrix or my inability to convince my Housemates that I was still single, I had to acknowledge that the stress of Tom’s scrutiny and my new responsibilities was taking a toll on my normally rational brain. I wished I could just pause my life momentarily and catch my breath. I needed time to process everything.

Tom had given me a wonderful opportunity to jumpstart my success as a Dark witch, but he had also gleefully thrown a blindingly bright spotlight on my weaknesses. I had no defenses against him. And he wanted it that way. I knew exactly why he was doing it—both to challenge me to help me achieve my potential, and also to satisfy his sadistic urges, in and out of the bedroom—but it was still unnerving to realize that someone as brilliant and powerful as he could affect me so.

Though I couldn’t deny that it was insanely flattering (and yes, arousing) that Lord Voldemort had chosen me, of all people, to take under his wing. The whole concept felt beyond surreal, but in a good way. It put a spring in my step and pumped my body full of adrenaline. I suddenly found myself fighting the urge to start cackling loudly at random moments.

Late at night, I often lay in bed, staring up at the ceiling and thinking about how much I needed to improve to become the best possible version of myself. Tom was right; I did want to prove myself to him...as well as to my own ego, of course. I wanted to be proud of myself, more than I had been before I’d met Tom. And I knew I could do it if I worked hard enough. It was unnerving, yet oddly exhilarating and empowering. Though I had started my winter break feeling utterly helpless, I was now in the process of shedding an old skin that had been holding me back, when I hadn’t even known it was there in the first place. I was slowly morphing into something a thousand times more powerful than I ever thought I could be, and no one around me had the slightest clue. I was an invisible cat in a room full of mice. It was intoxicating.

As consuming as these thoughts were, I realized I couldn’t afford to spend too much time dwelling on self-analysis. I was back at Hogwarts. In public. N.E.W.T.s were fast-approaching, and I couldn’t let my studying lapse. I was grateful that my Housemates were avoiding my ten-foot radius whenever possible, as this meant I didn’t need to perform normal social behavior as much as I had in the past. I retreated into myself and settled back into the swing of things, desperate for a sense of normalcy after my life had been turned upside-down.

My seventeenth birthday was also around the corner. I never made much of a fuss over my birthday, but I sensed that this year would be different. Though I would officially be coming of age as an adult witch, I felt like that time period had already come and gone. How much more growing up did I reallly have to do, after everything I had endured over my winter break? Surely not much.

I was brooding over these thoughts on the morning of my birthday, as everyone traipsed into the Great Hall for breakfast. When all the owls flew in to deliver the daily mail, my eyes widened as an unfamiliar owl dropped a thick silver envelope in my lap. It appeared to contain something other than parchment. I turned it over to open it, and saw the words, “Open tonight. In your bed. Alone.” My heart fluttered, but I forced my face to remain expressionless.

“Is that a birthday card?” Ashlee asked tentatively.

“Yeah, from my grandmother,” I replied nonchalantly. “She told me to wait until later today to open it.”

“Why?”

“I don’t know. She’s a bit theatrical,” I chuckled and shrugged.

Ashlee looked like she was about to ask me another question when four more envelopes suddenly plopped into my lap. They were birthday cards from my parents and other relatives. I wisely chose not to open them at the table, assuming that one of them really was from my grandmother. Ashlee eyed me looking over my mail, and then returned to her breakfast. She had obviously decided against speaking to me further.

“Happy birthday, Alex!” exclaimed Mark, a Housemate who was sitting opposite me. I thanked him robotically and pocketed my four envelopes. I didn’t think anything of his birthday wish—I had more important things on my mind.

*   *   *

I decided to open all of my birthday cards in bed that night, not just the one in the silver envelope. The cards from my relatives came with the usual content, hoping I would have a great year, congratulating me on becoming an adult in the eyes of the Wizarding world, they were proud that I had remained at the top of the class, despite all the obstacles I had faced...yada yada yada. This was old news. I barely registered the words, and I grew more and more anxious as I opened one card after the next, saving the silver envelope for last.

When I finally opened it, trying to rein in my nervous excitement, I reached inside and pulled out a beautiful quill. It was just under a foot long, and the silky feather shimmered black, blood red, silver, and dark turquoise. I gaped at its beauty. I was about to put it in my cauldron with my schoolbooks, when I realized that a small piece of parchment had fallen onto my blanket as I had removed the quill from the envelope. I smiled at the elegant lettering. The note read:

 

If I had you in my bed tonight, I would give you a proper present. Sleep well, my little protégée.

The parchment was not signed, but I knew exactly who had sent it—especially considering that it disintegrated as soon as I’d finished reading it. He would think of adding that extra layer of protection. I bit my lip and smiled as my whole body suddenly warmed. I shot furtive glances all around me to make sure no one had seen anything, even though I had already closed my curtains, and then I quietly slipped the quill into my cauldron.

Sleep came with surprising ease that night. Happy birthday to me.

*   *   *

I received several compliments on my new quill from my grandmother; but otherwise, my classmates had resumed ignoring me. I was fine with that. Life had returned to normal.

As easy as it was to keep everything a secret from my now-distant Housemates, I nearly spilled everything to my best friend, Francesca. She was about the only person who still chose to speak with me regularly. We went to Hogsmeade together one weekend, and she asked me about the rumors.

“Alex, you know your Housemates are whispering about you, right?” she asked as we sat in the Three Broomsticks sipping butterbeer.

I sighed. “Still?”

Francesca nodded.

“What are they saying?”

Alex, you know perfectly well what they’re saying. Stop this nonsense.

“Um...they’re saying that you have a secret boyfriend and you were with him over winter break. They keep talking about how you lost your temper when they prodded you for details.”

I laughed humorlessly. “They can think whatever they want. I wonder how they would react if they answered someone’s questions and were then accused of lying. Hmm....”

Francesca pressed her lips together and looked at me. “Alex, you said you were staying here. If you don’t want to tell me where you went, that’s fine. But I can’t help being curious. Do you have a boyfriend?” She smirked.

I shook my head with a small smile, willing myself not to blush.

“All right. I won’t pry. I know that if you really want to, you’ll tell me whatever it is that you’re hiding.”

“And that’s your way of saying ‘I’m anxiously waiting for you to tell me,’ isn’t it.”

“Maybe....” She grinned.

“Wipe that self-satisfying smirk off your face before I hex you into next year!”

“If you hex me into next year, I’ll be terribly behind in my classes, don’t you think?”

“Pffff...you’d catch up.”

“You’re right. I’d have to spend a lot more time in the library, but I’d be fine.”

“Damn you Ravenclaws,” I muttered, playfully glaring at my friend.

“I know! I’m just too smart for my own good.” Her grin widened.

This banter lasted until we returned to the castle. I was itching to tell her all about my winter break, but I obviously couldn’t.

Keeping my secret became even more difficult a few weeks later, when Francesca and I were discussing Defense Against the Dark Arts in the library. She loved hearing me talk about my classes, even though she was three years younger than I. Ever the Ravenclaw, she was always looking for new opportunities to learn.

As I was explaining how to deflect some advanced curses I’d been learning about, Francesca quickly glanced around and then scooted a bit closer to me.

“Uh...Fran? Is everything okay?”

Her face bore a hint of a smile. “I just wanted to make sure no one was paying attention to us,” she whispered conspiratorially.

“Why?”

“Well, I’ve just been thinking....” She paused.

“Thinking what?” I was getting impatient.

She glanced around again, and lowered her voice further. “Alex, have you ever thought about becoming a Death Eater?”

I nearly burst into giggles at the irony of her question. Instead, I merely smirked. “You want to become one, don’t you.”

She nodded. “I haven’t told anyone else.”

“That’s probably a good idea,” I chuckled.

She sighed. “It can get frustrating at times, you know...secretly wanting to become a Death Eater and being friends with your sister at the same time.”

Frustrating. Yes. You’re in her House and her year. I, on the other hand, grew up with her. Bit of a difference there....

“Yeah, I definitely would refrain from telling Morgan. She’d probably run crying to our parents.”

Francesca giggled. “I don’t even want to know what she would do.”

“So then let’s keep it between us, hmm?”

“Definitely.”

She paused before speaking again. “If you don’t mind me saying, I think you would make a spectacular Death Eater.”

“Oh yeah?” I laughed quietly, fighting the urge to roll up my left sleeve and say, Hey, check this out!

She nodded. “From knowing you as long as I have, I think it’s safe to say that if you were, you would probably scare most of the other Death Eaters just by...being yourself.”

I turned my head away and snickered.

“You can’t tell me you’ve never even considered it!” she teased.

I shrugged in response, trying not to burst into hysterical laughter.

“You have, haven’t you,” she whispered excitedly.

“Oh, it may have passed through my mind once or twice,” I replied casually.

“I knew it!”

I hoped that after getting the answer she wanted, Francesca would change the subject. She didn’t.

“I have actually...read about him a bit.”

“About whom?”

I heard Bellatrix’s voice in my head. Oh, come now. Don’t pretend to be ignorant.

“The Dark Lord. Who else?” she chuckled.

“Well, I didn’t want to jump to conclusions,” I replied with a nervous laugh.

“This might sound a bit strange, but when I was reading about him, I kept thinking of you.”

“What do you mean?”

She cocked her head to the side and gave a small smile. “You remind me of him.”

I bit my lip and looked away as not-so-distant memories flashed through my mind.

I know where you could truly belong.

“Alex, are you okay?” She lightly touched my shoulder. “Should I not have said that?”

I want you to enjoy everything I do to you.

I looked back at my friend. “No, no, it’s fine. I promise.”

“Well, you definitely look uncomfortable.”

Let me hear you scream.

“I’m not. Trust me.” I forced a smile.

“All right. If you ever find a way into the Dark Lord’s ranks, which I’m sure you will, you have to let me know.”

Oh, I’ve made it into far more than his RANKS, thank you.

“I will,” I said with a grin.

*   *   *

The rumors softened a bit as the weeks went by; but everyone, other than Francesca, still avoided me at virtually all costs. I found it rather ironic that Francesca was the only one who stuck by me no matter what, and yet I was forbidden from confiding in her. I couldn’t tell anyone how drastically my life had changed in the past few months.

Sometime near the end of February, I was sitting on a couch in the common room finishing a Potions essay when I felt someone sit next to me.

Wow, someone actually came within my ten-foot radius of their own free will? That’s a first.

Looking up, I saw Mark, the boy who had wished me a happy birthday. We hadn’t talked much since then. I’d never thought of him as a friend, but I would speak to him if I deemed it necessary.

Mark didn’t say anything, so I turned back to my essay.

“Hey, Alex,” he said.

“Hi.” I didn’t look up.

“You’ve been really quiet since winter break ended—are you okay?” he asked.

I stopped writing momentarily before answering. “Yeah. Sure. I’m great.”

“Um, there’s...something I wanna talk to you about. You got a minute?”

“What’s going on?”

“You wanna, um...pack that up?” he offered uncomfortably.

“My essay?”

“Yeah.”

“Why? I’m not done with it.” I made it clear that I was agitated.

“Because I’d...rather not stay in the common room.”

I looked at him suspiciously as I packed up my things. “Where are we going?” I demanded.

“Out in the hall, I guess.” He shrugged. “The less people there are, the better.”

I rolled my eyes, and followed Mark up the spiral staircase and out into the hall.

When we entered the corridor, he remained completely silent.

“Okaaay, so what’s the big secret?” I asked.

Mark suddenly appeared very uncomfortable and refused to make eye contact. I scooted over so that I’d be in his direct line of sight. He laughed nervously.

“Alex, you make everybody laugh,” he said, rubbing the back of his neck.

“Not my mortal enemies,” I replied with a smirk.

There was a pause.

“So, we’ve been talking since, what—our fifth year?” he said.

“Yeah, something like that.”

“And I’d say we know each other pretty well—”

I looked directly up at him and scolded him, “You’re scooting around the issue. What are you trying to say?”

He took a deep breath and replied, “I like you. A lot.”

I couldn’t believe what I’d just heard. I wasn’t sure how to respond. Whether or not I’d ever considered dating him, I couldn’t possibly explain my situation.

My thoughts were interrupted when I felt Mark’s hand on my shoulder. I slinked out of his grip. He looked at me, extremely confused and undoubtedly heartbroken.

“What’s wrong?” he asked. “I’m not diseased—”

“No, no, I know; don’t take it personally. I just—”

“Don’t take it personally?! I just put my hand on your shoulder and you jumped back as if I were covered in unicorn blood!”

I sighed. “Sorry—”

“Who are you seeing?”

“Excuse me?”

“I can tell you’re seeing someone. Someone extremely possessive. Otherwise you wouldn’t have reacted like that.”

Shit.

I looked at him like he was delusional, trying to throw him off the scent.

“Can we just go talk for a bit?” he practically begged. “I don’t want you to be mad at me.”

Immediately after he finished speaking, I felt a burn on my left forearm.

He knew.

“I—I can’t,” I answered quickly, and started to walk briskly away from anywhere that I’d be noticed.

“Where are you going?” Mark called after me.

“I just need some time to think!” I shot back. Once out of his sight, I ducked into one of the secret passages out of the school, walked to Hogsmeade, and Disapparated. 

*   *   *

I landed in a small room lit only by a single candle on a shelf. Everything was quiet for a few seconds, until I heard a sound coming from my right. Grabbing my wand, I whirled around and loudly whispered, “Lumos!”

I was pushed back against the wall almost instantly. I tried to hold on to my wand, but it was snatched from my grasp as I heard a whispered “Nox!” After hearing my wand hit the floor, I attempted to pinpoint its exact location, thinking I could possibly roll it back with my foot. However, a strong hand gripped my chin and cheek, holding my head in place.

“Impressive reflexes, my dear,” a familiar voice hissed into my ear. I sighed in relief as a chill ran up my spine.

“I had to get you away from that pest of a boy,” he went on. “Even a squib could tell that he was bothering you.”

“Yeah,” I breathed.

Before I could utter another word, he picked me up and placed me on the floor. He quickly shrugged out of his robes and then violently tore my clothes off.

“You love ripping my clothes apart,” I sighed as he kissed my neck.

“More than you’ll ever know,” he declared, before dipping his head down to suck on my nipples. I moaned.

“I’ve missed feeling you writhe beneath me,” he murmured, wrapping my legs around his back. Gliding his hand in between my legs, he rubbed my clitoris while kissing me in a fire of passion. I could hardly breathe. He released my mouth and held my gaze as he continued stroking. Arching against his hand, I dug my nails into his back. That only fueled him to stroke me faster.

“Tom, please....” I gasped.

“Please what, my gorgeous girl?”

I bit into his shoulder. “FUCK ME!” I growled.

“It would be my pleasure.” 

*   *   *

Half an hour later, my clothes were repaired and back on my body. Tom backed me up against the wall and slowly licked the side of my face. I rubbed his back and pulled him closer.

“Your loyalty to me is exceptionally pleasing,” he praised. He ran his hand down my left arm, stopping to firmly take my hand.

I closed my eyes. “How long can I stay?”

“Not much longer. We wouldn’t want to give your classmates any reason to be suspicious, now would we?”

I sighed. “I know....”

“You will return to me before you know it,” he reassured me with a smile.

I was about to tell him goodbye and Disapparate, when I suddenly recalled my recent conversation with Francesca.

If you ever find a way into the Dark Lord’s ranks, which I’m sure you will, you have to let me know.

I opened my mouth to speak, but Tom saved me the trouble.

“Your friend is too young,” he said with a smirk. “Tell her to wait a while.”

“So—are you saying I can tell her, then?”

His smirk vanished. “Absolutely not. Ask me again in a few years, if you wish. But I will not place any trust in a fourteen-year-old girl.”

I nodded slowly.

He suddenly pressed his body as close to mine as possible. “I told you before,” he whispered, “What happens between us stays between us.” His lips tickled my ear as he spoke, and I shivered.

“I know,” I replied softly, just before he bit into my neck and began sucking. I moaned as he slowly licked my throat.

“I think you should go now,” he murmured, “before I decide to keep you here forever.”

I chuckled.

“It won’t be long, now,” he assured me, while playing with my hair. “And I’d advise wearing your hair down for about a week.” I smiled as he traced the spot on my neck where he’d bitten me.

“Oh, and thank you for the quill,” I said, smiling coyly.

“You’re quite welcome,” Tom answered with a mischievous grin. “I hope you think of me, and my note, every time you use it.”

I nodded and blushed.

“Mission accomplished,” he bragged.

After Apparating back to Hogsmeade, I walked briskly back to Hogwarts and returned to the Slytherin dungeons. I didn’t even look at my Housemates as I crossed the common room and descended the stairs to my dormitory—they all looked up as soon as I entered the common room, and immediately averted their eyes when they saw that it was me. I wasn’t sure how much longer I could take this; it seemed as if one moment it was safe to be myself, and the next moment it could get me arrested.

 *   *   *

Somehow, I made it to the end of my schooling. Everyone had quieted down by around mid-April, as the N.E.W.T. exams were stressing out all the seventh-years. Although I, too, was stressed, I also saw this time as a perfect opportunity to be alone as often as possible.

My studying paid off. I was thrilled upon receiving my test scores the day before the graduation ceremony—I had earned an “O” on all of my exams, and retained my position at the top of the class. I felt like walking on air. The following day, I would be leaving Hogwarts for good. I planned on taking many actions to start a new life, which would begin as soon as I stepped off of Platform 9¾ for the last time.

I was so happy that night, I even wrote home to tell my parents about my test scores. (My parents would not be attending the graduation ceremony, as my dad had been called away on a business trip, and my paranoid mom was too scared to come to the ceremony alone. I didn’t care, though. I had more important things to think about.) At 2:30 in the morning, I collapsed onto my bed and fell asleep with a huge grin on my face. It appeared that nothing could bring me down.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

I had barely been asleep for an hour when I awoke to a tickle on my left arm. I jumped a bit and swatted at the area as I slowly regained consciousness. When I opened my eyes, I saw Erica, a mousy fourth-year girl who had few friends and was known for often tagging after others.

She had opened my curtains and pulled up my left sleeve.

Countless thoughts raced through my head.

How did she get in here? What the fuck is she doing? What ever possessed her to sneak into the seventh-year dorm in the first place—in the middle of the night? What makes her think she can just barge in here and invade my privacy? Why does she look like she just got Petrified? Why is she staring at me like that? Why is she gaping at my left ar—OH. SHIT.

The little brat almost started crying as I sprang out of bed.

“Why the hell did you come in here?” I demanded, keeping my voice low.

“I—I ju—I just wanted someone to talk to...and everyone else shooed me away—”

“Well gee, I wonder why!” I snapped, with more anger than sarcasm.

“I’m sorry, okay? I only opened your curtains to see if you were awake, and then I—”

“And then you what?” I challenged through gritted teeth.

“I thought I saw th—the Dark Mark on your arm, and I got scared! So I—I just—I just lifted up your sleeve to check! That’s all! I didn’t come in here to go poking around to see if anyone in here was a D—”

“Shut up, bitch!” I spat. I quickly grabbed my wand from my end table, and pointed it at her heart.

“Don’t make me do it,” I warned, shaking my head slowly.

She started crying. “D-do what? Don’t hurt me, please!” she begged. She gripped the sides of her nightgown as if doing so would provide some comfort, but all it did was blanche her knuckles. I sneered at the pathetic sight in front of me.

“If you keep your mouth shut, I won’t do a thing,” I threatened, almost sounding gentle. I refused to lower my wand, even though Erica appeared to be weighing her options.

However, the girl’s stupidity reigned. Through her tears, she cried, “ALEX HALAWAY IS A DEATH EATER!!”

“OBLIVIATE!” I shouted over her, trying to drown out her damning words. She staggered backward and clumsily dropped to the floor.

“Alex?!” Amy poked her head through her curtains and groped around her nightstand for her wand. “Are you a—WHAT??”

I whipped around and pointed my wand at Amy. “Obliviate!” I whispered. Amy’s head lolled to the side, and she collapsed back onto her bed. Her wand clattered to the floor.

The other girls had begun stirring. Some groggily asked what all the fuss was about, or if they were in danger, but I quickly cast a spell to put them all back to sleep, including Amy. Looking around the eerily silent dorm, I sighed and took a moment to make sense of my predicament. How do I get out of this? I thought. What if somebody heard something? How do I cover my tracks?

I suddenly knew what I had to do.

I sidled over to Amy and plucked her wand off her nightstand. Pointing it at Erica, who was mumbling incoherently on the floor, I growled, “Avada Kedavra!” My face twisted into a knot of red rage. I didn’t hesitate in the slightest. If anything, I was immensely proud of myself, even though I was shaking with anger over being discovered as a Death Eater. My adrenaline was pumping so hard, my vision pulsed.

I took in a deep, shaky breath to calm myself, and positioned Amy’s wand in her right hand to make it look like she was the one who had just cast the Killing Curse. I knew that the teachers would put everyone’s wand under Priori Incantatem in a few hours—this meant that I would most likely be in the clear. Not for sure, but most likely.

Though it would have been amusing to see how the morning would unfold, I knew I couldn’t stick around to find out what would happen. I had to get out. Still tightly holding my wand, I grabbed my invisibility cloak from underneath my bed, made sure I was completely covered, and slipped out of the Slytherin dungeons as quickly and quietly as I could. I crept out of the castle through one of the secret passageways and broke into a run.

Chapter Text

I stopped by the lake to catch my breath, and then walked quickly to Hogsmeade so that I could Disapparate if I needed. The village was, thankfully, deserted. There were no lights on in any of the shops or flats—not that I expected there to be anyone awake at four in the morning.

After walking for a few minutes, I realized that I needed to get my bearings. I needed to figure out what to do. I hadn’t planned for this. All of my belongings were at Hogwarts, but I could never go back there. It was too risky. I also couldn’t Apparate to my grandmother’s. As convincing as I’m sure I could be in finding an excuse to be there, the cold hard truth was that it would look extremely suspicious for me to randomly show up at a relative’s house in the dead of night, fifteen minutes after a Hogwarts student was murdered in my dorm. I had enough of a reputation at school, anyway. Invisible or not, going to a familiar place for shelter would only make matters worse. In my fucking pajamas, no less.

I had nowhere to go.

I folded my invisibility cloak over my left arm and slumped onto a bench outside Zonko’s Joke Shop. After brooding there for a while, I stood up and decided to keep walking—I figured the physical activity could help me clear my head and formulate a plan.

I had nothing but my wand, my pajamas, and my invisibility cloak. Fixing this problem was my first order of business. I took stock of my surroundings to note the location of all the food and clothing stores, and their hours of operation. Knowing their busiest hours would allow me to move undetected while collecting supplies. I didn't want to live like a homeless refugee, but Apparating to a residential property and getting caught could prove disastrous. When and what would I be able to eat and drink? I thought. Where would I sleep? In the attic of a store? Should I start sneaking bits of money out of cash registers, just in case? Should I risk trying to use a stranger’s owl to send a message? Who could I even trust with a message? These were unpleasant questions, but I needed to answer them if I had any hope of surviving undetected.

Without warning, a hand appeared from out of nowhere and covered my mouth. I protested noiselessly as I was pulled backward into a tight embrace.

“I’m so proud of you,” Tom praised, breathing into my hair.

I should be used to these ‘greetings’ by now....

Facing him, I threw my arms around his neck and fell against him with a heavy sigh of relief. He held me like a long-lost relative.

“I was only trying to protect myself,” I whispered.

“I know.” He pressed two fingers to my lips. “Listen to me: there is no time to spare. We cannot stay here. I’m taking you with me right now.”

My face lit up as he kissed my temple. “For how long?” I asked.

“There is no turning back.”

“What? What do you mean?”

“Not now,” he replied gravely. “Not here.”

I took one last look around just before he, in mere seconds, carried me away from my quickly-crumbling mask of seventeen years.

*   *   *

We landed in his bedroom—of course—and my invisibility cloak fell to the floor. I was about to pick it up and drape it over the desk chair when he pulled me to him and attacked my mouth with a bruising kiss. When he finally released my lips, I could hardly breathe.

“I’ve missed you,” he murmured, treating my neck to a long, velvety lick.

“I’ve missed you, too,” I breathed, before he began forcefully kissing me again.

After casting a quick disrobing spell on both of us, he picked me up and threw me on the bed before climbing on top of me.

“This brings back memories,” I said with a smile.

“Doesn’t it just.”

Without another word, he pried my legs apart and quickly slid into me. I gasped and pulled him close. It had been too long.

*   *   *

After an hour, I was surprised that the bedsprings hadn’t completely given out. Tom pressed his chest against my back and slowly ran his right hand up and down the front of my body. His left hand idly played with my hair. In this state, I hoped he might not be as secretive as before.

“What’d you mean before when you—”

“Shhhh,” he whispered.

“I just want to know what you meant by—”

“Later. You need to sleep.”

I sighed as he locked his fingers in mine. I closed my eyes and lost consciousness in a matter of minutes. 

*   *   *

I woke up in a daze, confused as to why it was dark out. I looked to my right and then sat up, only to become more confused. The other side of the bed was unoccupied, and all of my possessions—from both school and home—were arranged neatly on the floor.

The door opened after a minute or so. I smiled as Tom walked around my things and stood in front of me.

“Good evening, sleepy girl,” he teased, running his hand down my cheek.

“Evening?!” I asked incredulously. “What...day is it?”

He chuckled. “The same as when I brought you here.”

“Damn. I didn’t realize I needed that much sleep.”

“Alex, you were running on pure adrenaline last night, after keeping our relationship a secret while studying exceptionally hard for months, and then taking difficult exams. Of course you needed extra sleep.”

I paused.

Relationship. I was in a relationship with Lord Voldemort. I still could hardly wrap my brain around that.

I shook my head in amused disbelief. “Yeah...life has been pretty crazy lately.”

“That it has. Meanwhile, I was busy while you were asleep,” he replied, while gesturing to all of my belongings.

I surveyed everything, and then looked back up at him. “Did you do all this?”

He sat down next to me and nodded. “A series of complex Summoning charms. Difficult to execute for objects as far away as America, but not impossible.”

I exhaled slowly as I thanked him. It suddenly hit me that, given that everything I owned was now inside Tom’s estate, I would likely never return to my family’s home. I probably wouldn’t even see any of my relatives again. I suppose I should have felt torn. I should have felt a sense of crushing loss, or at least some sadness, but there was only relief. Like a weight had just rolled off my back. I felt lighter, though simultaneously overwhelmed because I had no idea what my life would be like from this day forward. I’d imagined myself going through the Hogwarts graduation ceremony, and then returning home briefly and getting a job at a shop, or maybe even at the American Ministry. I had also toyed with the idea of moving in with my grandmother just to stay in England—I’d considered finding a job there and then saving up enough Galleons to rent a flat, after which I would slowly distance myself from my relatives while become more active as a Death Eater, and seeing where life took me from there.

But I had never imagined being in my current situation. Nothing like this. Murdering a classmate and then becoming a fugitive? Please. I hadn’t even remotely considered something so ludicrous, even after the rollercoaster of my winter break. This had not been on my to-do list.

Tom smirked, as he understood that I lacked the words to express myself. And for once, I was relieved that he was a Legilimens; I knew I didn’t have to expend any energy trying to put my whirring barrage of thoughts into words.

I also realized that Tom had to be deadly serious about keeping me with him, in order to have Summoned everything I owned into his bedroom. I was clearly living with him now. Would I be kept here for the rest of my life, hidden from the outside world? Would I enjoy it? What would he have me do, other than learn more advanced magic? Would I be sent out on assignments with other Death Eaters, or would Tom always keep me close? I wondered what his exact intentions were—he had never discussed the subject outright. I was about to ask him what his plans were for me, and then I remembered the cryptic words he’d spoken before whisking me away from Hogsmeade: There is no turning back.

“So, um, what did you mean this morning?” I asked, being careful not to sound like a nag.

“What are you talking about?”

I shot him a playful glare. “You’re the most skilled Legilimens in the world; I don’t need to tell you what.”

“So you’re saying you want me to constantly read your mind?” he teased.

Facing the wall, I folded my arms over my chest and let out an aggravated sigh.

He snaked his arms around my waist and pulled me onto his lap. I bit my lip, trying not to laugh.

“Don’t you turn away from me,” he hissed. I suppressed a tiny chuckle.

“Patience,” he breathed, while stroking my inner thigh.

“What about it?” I asked softly, leaning back and resting my head on his shoulder.

“You wanted to know what I meant, didn’t you?”

“Yeah....” I sighed.

“You must be patient. I will tell you when the time is right.”

I opened my mouth to protest, but he suddenly slid two fingers inside me. All my frustration melted.

Chapter Text

Tom definitely wanted to test my patience; either that, or there was a specific reason why he refused to tell me the meaning of his cryptic words. Since I had finished school and clearly didn’t have to look for a job, I realized that I needed a few ways to entertain myself. In addition to filling up journals at lightning speed, I dug into my old art supplies and began drawing and painting up a storm. There were suddenly paintings of spooky nature scenes, Dark Marks, torture scenes, snakes, and Slytherin crests popping up all over the estate. Tom pretended not to notice. I think he was secretly pleased with the new décor, as he never removed any of the canvasses, though I could have sworn that he kept moving the location of certain paintings to suit his tastes. (Or maybe it was just to annoy me.) He didn’t say anything to me about it—even after I had mentioned my hobby to some of the other Death Eaters, who expressed interest in purchasing my work. I shrank the canvasses and passed them on to my new customers during meetings. They were highly impressed. (So I guess I ended up getting a job afterall.)

Tom wasn’t teaching me at the time; however, if he was going to try and tease me with all this ‘patience’ bullshit, then I would simply torment him by seizing every opportunity to be alone, whether for the fine arts or the Dark Arts. I didn’t care whether or not he was watching me—if I caught him spying, I simply acted like I hadn’t seen him.

This time turned out to be quite advantageous; more so than I’d anticipated. Though Tom had wanted me to take a breather from academics, I decided to practice some new spells and enchatments on my own anyway. My skills were improving dramatically. I was thrilled that I was able to learn so much without any assistance.

One afternoon, I was sitting on the fluffy black rug, reading another book, when I heard a scratching noise on the floor. I turned to my left and saw a big ugly rat about five feet away. I sneered and stood up. Pointing my wand at it, I growled, “Sectumsempra!”

I chuckled as a deep cut appeared on the rodent’s back, causing the creature to bleed profusely. It panicked, and started racing around the room as fast as its wounded body would allow it.

As amusing as this was to watch, it irritated me that the rat was leaving a long trail of blood behind it. I jumped in front of the animal and yelled, “CRUCIO! That’s what you get for making a mess.”

I waited until the still-bleeding rat was almost dead before I finally lifted the curse. “Imperio!” I called out. “Clean up your mess.” I got such a kick out of watching this pathetic rat being forced to lick its own blood off the floor.

Without warning, the connection broke. The rat stopped moving and I couldn’t understand why I was suddenly unable to control it any longer.

And then it occurred to me: the piece of vermin must have stopped breathing.

“Damn it,” I sighed. I wanted to finish it off properly.

Oh well.

I couldn’t decide what to do with the animal. I thought of stabbing it with my wand, but I quickly realized that that would have been an unusually barbaric action that my wand did not deserve.

“Ha!” I snapped my fingers. Even if I don’t use my wand, that doesn’t mean there aren’t any other objects around that can be used for stabbing purposes.

A demonic grin appeared on my face as I called out, “Accio steak knife!”

A glint of shiny metal caught my eye as the knife flew into my outstretched hand.

I sat down on my knees about a foot away from the rodent, and plunged the knife into its body. Blood spurted from the new wound in a scarlet fountain. I twirled the knife in circles, watching with glee as the dead animal quickly became drenched in red. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d been this amused. Pretty soon, I was laughing as much as a Cornish pixie that had been given a cheering charm.

I became so lost in my crazed euphoria that I was actually startled when I heard another voice.

“Having fun, I see.”

I nearly dropped the knife. Embarrassed at being caught off-guard, I looked at the floor and allowed my hair to fall over my face; this prevented Tom from seeing my cheeks burn.

“This is a very interesting little display you have here.” He looked amusedly at the rat, then at me.

“What? I’m just giving him a bath,” I replied, trying futilely to look and sound serious. He chuckled at this lame attempt, and continued looking at me like he was waiting for me to speak. Realizing that I was remaining silent, he bent down and hoisted me to my feet.

“Why have you been so distant?” he asked. His face was humorless now.

I looked up at him innocently, pretending I had no idea what he was talking about. “You already know,” I teased. “Why are you asking me?”

He frowned. “Because I want to hear it from you. And you will tell me.”

When I still refused to speak, he pulled me close and held me so tightly that he restricted my air flow.

Okaaaayy...maybe I took this a BIT too far....

“Just because I have become partial to you does NOT give you the right to play games with me,” he scolded.

I hung my head.

“Look at me,” he ordered, while raising my chin.

I opened my mouth to speak, but no words formed.

“Go on,” he urged.

I realized that there was no way out of this. “Um—”

“Yes?” He loosened his grip on me.

“You—you said you don’t want me to play any games....”

“Are you trying to tell me that this was a game?”

“Well, I don’t know what you exactly consider a game....” I was just being a brat by this point. I felt he’d earned it.

He sighed loudly in exasperation and released me. “Alex, tell me what it is you were doing.”

I told him everything. I told him that I’d been extremely frustrated when he wouldn’t answer my questions about his plans for me. I revealed my strategy of keeping to myself at every opportune moment, hoping to minimize the time I’d have to think about waiting for answers.

He didn’t say a word until I had finished. The expression on his face was unreadable—I couldn’t tell whether he was trying to stop himself from hurting me or simply thinking of something to say.

When he finally did speak, he prefaced it with a grin.

I closed my eyes for a moment. Thank goodness.

“You know, you remind me of an eagle.”

“How?”

“Well, just look at that creature on the floor.”

“How does that make me anything like an eagle?” I laughed nervously.

“I saw everything. I watched you curse it, I watched you chase it around the room, and I of course watched you kill it—or as you put it, give it a bath.”

“I still don’t get it.”

“An eagle is a god among birds. It is proud, graceful, and strong, and always commands respect. An eagle’s prey never knows that it is in mortal peril—obviously that rat wouldn’t have gone anywhere near you had it known you would subject it to such a slow and painful death.”

He paused to make sure I understood.

“When an eagle spots its unsuspecting prey, it kills it in quite a brutal fashion.” I glanced at the dead rat and chuckled.

Moving closer, he cupped my face in his hands. “The eagle has a unique beauty to it, yet should never be provoked, for obvious reasons,” he continued.

“All right, all right! I get it.” I started laughing again; it seemed that I would just look at that stupid rat, and another fit of giggles would take over. Tom looked at me like he was thinking, You can stop anytime, you know... but he was also clearly amused by my shenanigans. When I finally calmed down, I Vanished the rodent and its mess, and we exited the library.

Chapter Text

I felt as if a cinderblock had fallen off of my shoulders. Somehow, the fact that Tom had kept me in the dark for the past two months didn’t bother me so much anymore, as I’d gotten everything off my chest and he had responded favorably. Though he still hadn’t appeased my curiosity, he did resume teaching me Dark magic and we were both heartily enjoying my lessons. I realized that I was suddenly happier than I’d been in quite a while—maybe even more than I’d ever been.

One afternoon in early August, I was sitting on the living room couch, resting my eyes after a long practice session. I drifted in and out of consciousness until a tickle under my chin jolted me awake.

Tom smirked and began stroking my hair. “Jumpy, much?”

I bit my lip.

“I barely touched you and you were startled.”

“I was half asleep,” I chuckled. “I wasn’t expecting to be woken up.”

He smirked mischievously and made a show of looking me up and down. After about a minute, he spoke again.

“I must say, you have been very patient over the past few months. I’m quite proud of you,” he praised.

My eyes widened. “Wow...thanks.” I didn’t know what else to say; all I’d ever been told on this subject was that I was too impatient.

And then it occurred to me.

“I think I—” I trailed off.

“You what?” he asked, narrowing his eyes.

“I think I learned that from you,” I replied quietly.

He stroked my cheek and then stood up. “You never thought you would learn such a virtue from me, did you,” he purred with a grin. His eyes never left mine.

I returned the grin. “No—”

“And I highly doubt it crossed your mind that you would leave the oppressive atmosphere of your family as soon as you graduated,” he continued. He had slowly begun walking around the room, occasionally glancing at me.

“Definitely not. I actually feel like I can breathe now, with—”

“I believe it’s safe to say that you never thought I would go as far as I did to bring you here, purely out of fascination—and attraction.” He slowly made his way back to me.

“I can’t say that I did,” I replied with a nervous smile. I had no idea where he was going with this, and I was clearly blushing again—it felt like a torch was being held in front of my face.

After sitting down beside me again, he gently squeezed my shoulders and slid his fingers down my arms. I looked up at him anxiously as he placed his hands over mine. He grinned and moved closer to me.

“Something tells me...that this time last year, you wouldn’t even dare to think....” He paused to watch my reaction.

“Think what?” My heart was racing in anticipation.

“That I would want you to rule by my side.”

“Wh-what?” I whispered. I suddenly forgot to breathe.

He gripped my face in his hands and kissed me hard. I was rendered speechless as he reached into a pocket of his robes and produced a tiny black velvet box.

Inside was a white gold ring. It had a large square-cut emerald in the center, flanked by a smaller diamond and three tiny ones on either side. The gems sparkled so brilliantly, they almost made me squint. I inhaled shakily as Tom placed the ring on my finger; the cool metal sent shivers up my arm.

“You will, won’t you?” he asked, edging closer still. His eyes were wide, pupils dilated. He wasn’t even blinking.

Barely above a whisper, I responded, “Yes....”

Immediately after I’d spoken, my ring finger and left forearm began to burn simultaneously. It didn’t hurt too much, but it was enough for me to notice, and for my face to show it.

Tom chuckled, tapped the ring with his finger, and gestured for me to remove it. I did, and a huge grin spread across my face. A tiny Dark Mark had etched itself into the underside of the ring, shimmering silver.

No sooner had I placed the ring back on my finger, I was locked in a spine-crushing embrace, barely able to move.

Tom lightly kissed my ear and whispered, “Marry me?”

I took a deep breath. Please tell me I’m not asleep.... “Yes—AHHH!!” I screamed.

It suddenly felt like my ring finger and Dark Mark were being traced over with sharp knives. I tried to remove the ring, but Tom grabbed my right hand to prevent me from doing so. He wrapped my wrists around his neck as the pain increased, and then snaked his arms around my back.

“You belong to me,” he declared, talking over my moans of agony. “Forever.”

“I...know....” I whimpered breathlessly.

And then the pain stopped.

I collapsed in Tom’s arms, panting. The pain had sucked all of the energy from my body and left me light-headed. I nearly passed out.

Lifting up my limp head, he said, “Stay conscious, love. I assure you this will not happen again.”

I inhaled slowly a few times to regain my composure. Tom kept my head firmly in his hands until I opened my eyes. When I looked up at him, I noted with mild amusement that this was the closest I’d ever come to seeing him express concern. I might have laughed if I’d had the energy.

I was about to speak, but I thought my ring had fallen off; I didn’t feel it on my finger. I quickly brought my left arm in front of my face, only to see that my worrying had been for nothing. The ring hadn’t moved a millimeter.

I sighed loudly, shaking my head. “I’m a mess,” I thought aloud.

Tom smiled and ran his fingers through my hair to massage my scalp. “No, you’re not.”

“Then how do I explain what just—”

“You will rarely feel the ring. It cannot be removed.”

I gazed at the ring in fascination, then shot a mischievous grin at Tom.

“I believe you,” I replied, “but I have to try this.” I started shaking my left hand around as if I had just painted my nails, grinning when the ring really didn’t come off.

I let myself fall back onto the couch, still smiling. “That’s amazing,” I chuckled.

I felt him smile against my neck as he laced his arms around my stomach to pull me against his chest.

“I have placed a charm on the ring so that no one else will be able to see it until I announce our union,” he said. “This means that you won’t have to hide your left hand, or engage in any other awkward behavior during Death Eater meetings. Only you and I will see it.”

“That’s a good idea.”

“Yes, it is. Now, you understand that you permanently bound yourself to me when you agreed to marry me,” he continued, slowly running his hand down my left arm, “which is why the ring cannot be removed. The discomfort you just felt was the final test of your loyalty to me, and it attached the ring to your finger permanently.”

Um. Yeah. That was discomfort just like being naked in a snow storm is only a wee bit nippy. Lovely word choice, Tom.

“Is that why you didn’t let me touch it after I started shrieking?”

“Yes.”

“What would have happened if I’d been able to take off the ring? Would it have...ripped off my finger or something?”

“You would have died.”

“Charming.”

“Alex, you know I wouldn’t have let you take the ring off, had you fought against me. I simply needed you to tell me you understood that you were mine permanently, even with pain raging through your body.”

“How romantic.”

Oh, god. There’s my big mouth again. Please don’t Crucio me for saying that.

He didn’t. He merely chuckled and tightly gripped my left hand while pressing his cheek against mine. “There is no turning back,” he whispered against my neck.

My jaw dropped and I whirled around, eyes wide. “You had this planned all along....” I trailed off at the end of the sentence, shocked into silence.

He pulled me back to him and replied, “Patience is a virtue, you know.”

I playfully glared at him just before he enveloped me in a deep kiss, gripping my hair tightly in one hand while rubbing the back of my neck with the other. When he finally withdrew, I was flushed and breathless. He didn’t react to this; he simply cupped my face in his hands and looked into my eyes searchingly for a while. I had to will myself not to start fidgeting. My heart was pounding wildly.

Why am I still so unnerved whenever he stares at me like that? I thought. Is it the Legilimency? Is it something about his presence? How powerful he is? Who he is? Is it that he knows me inside and out and can use it against me any time he wants?

I had no answers. And I didn’t know what to say to him, so I simply sat there and returned his gaze, trying not to display my unease.

“I never thought I’d find myself the slightest bit attached to anyone,” he murmured after a while, “much less consider marrying. I never thought I’d meet anyone worthy of standing by my side. But then again, I also never thought I’d ever see so much of myself in another person. I never imagined that there would be a girl worthy of my admiration. You really are quite captivating, you know.”

“Thank you,” I whispered, feeling my cheeks heat up once again.

“And I do like your art, by the way,” he drawled with a smirk, his lips touching mine as he spoke. I laughed at this unexpected compliment and dragged him down on top of me. 

*   *   *

An important issue came up the next morning. “You know you must change your name before the wedding,” Tom said.

“How come?” I asked.

“Every marriage in the Wizarding world is automatically recorded as soon as it becomes official,” he continued.

“So...the chance of everyone finding me would increase after the wedding, if I kept my name.”

“Exactly. Now, I believe there are a few books in my library information on names. Go have a look.”

I nodded and headed off to the library.

There were only two books containing names and information on this subject, yet they were thick books that kept me busy for a few hours.

I searched through seemingly endless chapters on name meanings, histories, and associations, trying to find something that both sounded right and fit my personality.

I was beginning to lose patience while running down yet another alphabetical list of names with their meanings beside them. Suddenly, one name—plus its meaning—jumped out at me from the middle of the right-most column:

 

Alera

I knew it as soon as I saw it.

That’s the one.

Beaming, I put the books back on the shelf. I couldn’t wait to tell Tom.

Intending on quickly leaving the library to find him, I whirled around—and smashed right into him. I started to move back, but he pulled me close, grinning deviously. “I thought I’d surprise you,” he said silkily.

I blushed. “I thought I wasn’t going to look like a klutz!”

“You’re not,” he assured me, stroking my cheek. “I take it you found a name?”

I nodded as my grin immediately returned. “Alera.”

“Very pretty,” he complimented. “What made you choose it?”

I grinned wider and placed my arms around his neck. “It’s quite simple,” I replied, before softly whispering in his ear, “It means eagle.”

“Mmm...pretty and suitable.”

I smiled.

He took my hand and led me to a far wall of the library, one that I’d never seen. I was about to ask why we were over there, when he performed a complex wand movement. A tiny crack immediately began to run down part of the wall. I raised my eyebrows as Tom held out his left hand and pulled it back, separating the wall in two.

Before us was a black abyss. When I looked uncertainly up at Tom, he merely grinned and said, “After you, my dear.”

I took a deep breath and walked slowly into the chasm. Holding out my wand, I opened my mouth to say “Lumos” when the darkness suddenly turned to a neon green light. I had to cover my eyes immediately, as the light’s intensity almost blinded me. I was about to conjure a visor-like shield over my eyes, but I felt Tom take my wrists and place my arms by my sides before I could do so.

“Nothing will work,” he said. “These walls know only of my presence, and have been charmed to repel others.”

“But how do you withstand the light—or do you not see it?”

“Very good,” he replied. “As opposed to a blinding neon green, I see merely a dim light blue.”

“Oh, that’s—” I wasn’t exactly sure how to finish that sentence.

“Nice, yes. But you must have access also.”

“How do I do that?”

“I will guide you,” he said. “Just keep your eyes closed.” He placed his his hand on my back and steered me along the passageway. Judging by the slight steepness of the floor, I figured we were headed underground. After we’d been walking for a few moments, I felt him take my left hand and position it on the wall, directly over his. An unusual calming warmth breezed through my hand. I didn’t have much time to revel in this unfamiliar feeling, though, as a supersonic force of energy suddenly surged through me and rooted me to the spot.

Tom firmly pressed his right hand over my left, though I hardly noticed because the anomalous energy was still raging through me like a lightning storm. It would have been excruciatingly painful had there not been so many other potent sensations simultaneously shooting through me. It was fire. It was thunder. It was electricity. It was immense suction. It was a wind tunnel.

It was too much.

After about three minutes, all the energy just oozed out of me. I was pushed off the wall and into Tom’s arms. I suspect that if he hadn’t caught me in time, I would’ve lost my balance and fallen to the ground. This was slightly embarrassing—okay, very embarrassing.

“It’s nothing to feel self-conscious about,” he chuckled, clearly having read my thoughts again. “They need to get used to you.”

“They?”

“The walls,” he replied. “You are very lucky that they have accepted you; I created this place as an added layer of precaution before I was able to render my entire estate undetectable. It took months. I have never granted anyone entrance until now.”

I didn’t know what to say.

“Don’t you notice a difference?” he asked with a smirk.

“Whoa! I don’t need to squint,” I remarked as I took stock of my surroundings.

He smiled. “Of course you don’t. This is the first sign of their approval.”

I thought for a moment. “Before...I noticed you had to hold my hand to the wall to keep me from being thrown back. I felt this...energy, sort of. It was really awkward. It felt like a tidal wave and a fire merged in one. I don’t know how else to describe it; it was so—”

He placed a finger on my lips. “I understand,” he said silkily. “I expected that to happen.”

He hooked his arm under mine and led me down the tunnel.

“Where are we going?” I asked apprehensively.

“Another surprise,” he replied with a grin.

Chapter Text

Though my mind was racing with fascination, I kept quiet. Tom and I walked until we approached a dead end. I stopped walking, but he didn’t; he wasn’t even slowing his pace. I wasn’t sure what was going on, but I was definitely sure that I wouldn’t smash my face into a stone wall any time soon. I had to say something.

“Um...”

He shot back a devious grin. “You aren’t going to crash into the wall,” he teased.

I covered my face with my hand and shook my head. This man and his fucking Legilimency...I swear to god....

“Come,” he said, motioning with his index finger. I sighed and walked over to him.

He touched part of the wall with the tip of his wand, and the area began to glow neon green. The green slowly spread over the rest of the wall, causing the stones to disintegrate one by one after they’d been glowing for a few seconds.

In place of the wall was a vast empty space. Tom pointed his wand into the abyss and called out, “Incendio!"

What the hell?

The fire from the spell went straight to a curved, narrow duct I had not seen. I watched in amazement as the fire spread upward through more branched-out conduits, which ran up to the ceiling and zigzagged across. This network of fiery pipes provided light to a gigantic hall.

I stood, mesmerized, scanning the multitude of tables piled high with papers, bookcases, and potions of numerous colors which filled the countless cauldrons.

“What is this place?” I thought aloud.

“A place where you will be quite often,” Tom replied.

“Why?” I asked, as he led me down the steps into the enormous room.

After pointing his wand at the top of the stairs, the wall slowly moved back to its original position.

“For many reasons,” he said. “First, you need to change your name.”

“How?”

“We will create a new birth certificate for you.”

“We can do that?” I laughed incredulously. “Wow. But—how come we need to?”

“Name changes are automatically recorded on magical birth certificates, just as marriages are.”

“Oh.”

“There’s no need to worry. Those fools will be running in circles if we take the necessary precautions.”

“What precautions?”

“Your birth certificate. We can’t make a new one without the original in front of us.”

“How—?”

No. He’s insane. There is no way this could work. Magical birth certificates simply cannot be tampered with.

Placing his hand on my shoulder, he began leading me further into the hall. “It’s quite simple,” he said. “Don’t fret.”

“I’m not. I’m just—” I tried to look away, but he had a firm grip on my chin before I could move an inch.

“You’re blushing,” he teased, slipping his other arm around my waist and pulling me close.

I bit my lip.

Leaning in, he whispered, “You always do that when you’re uncomfortable or uncertain.” He loosened his hold on my chin, but didn’t let go.

I fought a sudden urge to bite my lip again.

“Go on,” he chided, running his thumb over my bottom lip. “The impulse is almost overpowering, isn’t it?”

I clenched my teeth, the only thing I could do to prevent myself from once again biting my lip.

“Do you honestly think you can hide anything from me?” he chuckled.

I said nothing. He knew he had me cornered.

“I’d like to think you would have remembered everything I told you on your first day here.”

How could I possibly forget?!

“Exactly.”

Growling in frustration, I clutched my forehead, but not for long. He slowly moved my hands off my face and replaced them with his own.

“Listen to me, love,” he said firmly, bringing my face close to his. “There is no use trying to keep anything from me. I know all of your nervous habits, your pet peeves, the remarkably few things that genuinely scare you, those little secrets you’ve tucked away in the back of your mind, hoping to take them to the grave...everything.”

I closed my eyes and exhaled slowly before looking up at him again.

“The sooner you simply relax and begin to accept all of this, the sooner you will feel comfortable,” he insisted. “You’ve been putting up a transparent guard, and it’s only wasting your energy.”

I hung my head. He was right.

He smirked as he coaxed my chin up. “Are you ready to change your name, then?”

I nodded.

He led me to a black obsidian table, which shone so brilliantly that I could almost make out my reflection. I wanted to touch the surface, but held back for fear of marring the shiny surface with my fingerprints!

“What’s this for?” I asked.

“Watch.”

I looked up from the table as the most unusual sight began to unfold before me.

Pieces of what looked like solidified unicorn blood began sprouting out of thin air. They grew larger and larger, finally joining together to form a large sphere that hovered just above the obsidian table. I suppressed an unexpected giggle as Professor Trelawney’s crystal ball suddenly came to mind, though the object in front of me was at least eight times larger. I reached out to touch it, but hesitated.

“May I?” I asked.

“Am I making any attempt to stop you?” he responded.

As soon as my finger made contact with the surface of the strange sphere, the area I touched became transparent. I took my finger off the surface, and that one spot remained clear. It stuck out like a dot of cleanliness on a surface covered with glossy dust.

A few seconds later, I noticed a large portion on the other side of the sphere turning transparent. I sidled over to where Tom was standing and saw that he’d placed his whole left hand flat on the sphere, and the transparency was spreading. I watched in fascination as the remaining opaqueness disappeared. I figured that he would then remove his hand from the surface, but he didn’t. Instead, he smirked at me, looked back at the sphere and said, “The British Ministry of Magic.”

A bird’s eye view of the Ministry instantly became visible inside the sphere.

Suddenly, something clicked in the back of my mind and my breath caught in my throat.

This—no. No way. I must be wrong.

I didn’t want to be right about this.

“Can—can you see anything inside that sphere?” I asked apprehensively.

He nodded slowly.

And then it hit me.

No. No. I don’t believe it—it was THIS EASY?!

I tried, futilely at first, to speak.

“Go on,” he urged, his smile widening.

“So, this—this globe is...this is what you...is this how you found me? Is this how you watched me...for...I don’t even know how long....” My voice faded. My heart was pounding.

“You must understand that I did intend to tell you in the near future, had you not figured it out today,” he answered, resting his hands on my shoulders. He regarded me for a moment, his face devoid of emotion, and slowly slid his hands down my arms. I didn’t know what to say, so I simply nodded. Nothing I said would have made any difference. What was done was done.

But I still needed answers. Something inside me was screaming frantically, begging me not to ask him any more questions because I knew the truth would terrify me, but my curiosity took over.

“But how?” I asked. “How did you find me? How did you—”

“I had recently begun watching various areas of Hogwarts to scout out new recruits. I was surveying the Slytherin common room one evening during your sixth year, and I noticed you immediately. You made quite an impression.” He stroked my cheek with a grin.

“How? What was I doing that made me stand out to you?”

“You were studying, as were some of your Housemates, but it was clear that no one wanted to be near you. You had an entire couch to yourself,” he chuckled. “I found your behavior intriguing. You kept glancing around like you were waiting for someone to dare to enter your territory, just so you could pounce on them. You simply radiated darkness. It called to me.” He gave me a sly grin and caressed the back of my neck. “I also thought you were absolutely gorgeous. That hasn’t changed.”

Okay, that wasn’t so bad. And that actually sounded pretty sexy. But why do I feel like any more questions will open up Pandora’s Box? I should probably change the subject, but maybe....ugh, fuck it. I’m too curious.

I smiled awkwardly, even as I felt my heart drop. “That happened a lot. Even when I went to the library, people would often stop speaking when they saw me coming—or they’d suddenly have to be somewhere else if I needed a book by their table.”

“I know. I saw.”

My eyes widened once again. “Wh—how much did you see? How often did you watch me?”

“It didn’t become a routine event for a few months, but you made enough of an impression that I realized I needed to watch you more closely. And I saw quite a lot.” He grinned wickedly.

I blushed. “What—what do you mean by a lot?”

“How do you think I knew what makeup you wore before I brought you here?” he taunted. “How do you think I knew what shower products you preferred?”

“What?? No. NO!! You—”

“How do you think I knew exactly when you were planning to sneak into Knockturn Alley?”

“How? I don’t know!” I cried. “I never told anyone I was doing that!!”

“I saw you write about it in your journal, of course.”

He may as well have ripped my clothes off and forced me to stand naked in a public place. But even that would make me feel less exposed than I did now. I quickly stepped away from him and walked to the opposite side of the globe. I needed that distance between us. I didn’t want to be within his reach.

“Did—did you make a habit of doing that?” I asked shakily. I wasn’t sure that I really wanted the answer, but I couldn’t go back now.

“More so as time went on. I wasn’t sure if you truly were as malicious as I now know you are, since so many people put on airs to impress others. Especially Slytherins. As proud as I am to be descended from Salazar Slytherin, I have always noticed that many Slytherins try to use their Sorting as a badge of honor when they haven’t actually done anything of value with their lives. They don’t understand that they don’t automatically earn a position of authority in life just because the potential for greatness is there.”

I chuckled humorlessly, having made similar observations myself, but I felt not the least bit amused. Though I found myself relaxing as he talked further.

“I know that no one really is as formidable as I am, so I was cautious at first; but when I saw what you were writing, I realized that you were genuine,” he praised. “Reading your most private thoughts piqued my curiosity in a way that nothing else has for a very long time.”

“Did you plan on bringing me here, back then?”

“Not to my home, specifically—my initial plan was simply to seek out Hogwarts students who showed potential in serving my cause, and find ways to communicate my interest in them through my current followers. But the more I learned about you, the more I realized that you were a cut above the rest and I needed to pay more attention to you. I wanted more from you. I knew I needed to change my orginal plan.”

“What made you decide to bring me here? When did you know it was the right time?”

He smirked and walked over to me to take my hands in his. “When I saw you slip under your invisibility cloak and sneak into the Hogwarts library in the middle of the night. I saw what books you stole when you returned to your dorm. I saw you looking through Most Potente Potions in bed, by wand light.”

He stepped in closer still, his face an inch from mine, basking in my sudden anxiety before delivering the final punch.

“And then, you whispered something while you ran your finger down my yearbook photo with a secretive grin on your face. And I could’ve sworn I saw you blush.”

“Oh my FUCKING god!” I growled, while breaking out of his hold. I began backing away from him, shaking my head and glaring bitterly.

“EXCUSE ME?!”

“I’m sorry, I just—that was supposed to be private!! I never told anyone about that night!! How could you?? I’m still my own person!! I’m not a piece of fucking property to be poked and prodded and turned inside out and gawked at!!! I don’t deserve to be treated like that; I don’t care WHO is doing it!! This is RIDICULOUS!!!”

My face was hot and my adrenaline was surging. My hands were twitching. I had just screamed my head off at Lord Voldemort and I didn’t even care. I felt so betrayed. I was outraged that he had intruded on one of the most private moments of my life, which I’d never planned on revealing to anyone; not even him—well, especially not him. But that obviously didn’t matter now.

Tom cackled as he slowly started to follow me. His eyes flashed in a savage ferocity as his temper flared. “My dear girl, you are splendidly brilliant, but when will you ever learn? Nothing about you is private anymore. Not to me! Stop this posturing. Stop this strutting around like you can actually close yourself off to me like you do everyone else! I am NOT everyone else!! And I will NOT have you treat me as if I am!! I am more than they are!!”

I looked at him incredulously as he closed the distance between us. “Tom, I’m not pos—”

“SILENCE!” He clamped his right hand over my mouth and nose. Hooking his left index finger under my robe at the back of my neck, he dragged me backward, with his other hand still on my face, and shoved me against the stone wall. He grabbed a fistful of my hair and jerked my head back, so I would be forced to look into his fiery eyes.

There. You did it. Pandora’s Box is open. Are you happy now, you idiot?

He clutched my shoulders firmly as he leaned in and pressed his cheek to mine. “Do. Not. Talk back to me. Ever. Again,” he fumed, enunciating each word slowly. “One more outburst like that, and I will have you naked and chained to this wall for a week. And trust me: those chains will be the least of your concerns.”

I could feel his heart pounding with rage against my chest as his fingers dug into my shoulders. Time stood still. My entire world had suddenly shrunk to Tom’s warm body pressed against mine, his hot breath heavy on my ear, and the cold stones chilling my back. I could feel his fury radiating off of him and ghosting over my skin in ominous whispers. All I could hear was our staggered breathing. His scent filled my nostrils and I struggled to fight down a mixture of terror and arousal.

“Do you understand?” he asked quietly, pressing his lips to my ear as he spoke.

“Yes, Tom.”

He gripped my hair even tighter and slammed my head back against the stones. I winced.

“Yes, my Lord.”

“That’s right.” A smirk crept across his harsh visage. My shoulders slumped and I exhaled slowly as he turned his back to me and walked forward a few paces. I thought that was the end of it. And then he suddenly whirled around, wand extended.

“IMPERIO!”

A cool haze enveloped my body and I swayed on my feet. My eyes closed. I was vaguely aware of my breathing, which had slowed dramatically. It was almost too slow to keep me alive. This should have scared me; however, I found myself more interested in the sudden hypnotic buzz in my head. My thoughts were moving through molasses. The sensation was oddly pleasant, like falling asleep after a long day. I relaxed, but not enough to feel fully comfortable—something was off. Something was very, very wrong. Giving in and allowing this pleasurable fog to control me would be so easy, but the thought of taking that plunge turned my stomach. Somewhere off in the distance, I heard Tom’s voice ordering me to unfasten my robe and rake my fingernails over my chest until I reached bone.

He was trying to make me claw my skin off. I couldn’t. I wouldn’t.

“NO-O!” I shouted, though my tongue felt like heavy cotton. “I...I c-can’t—”

“Yes, you will,” his voice echoed. “You’re out of warnings, my little spitfire.”

No...resist...resist. You’re...strong enough...to beat this curse. Don’t...let him...do this. Don’t let...him get...away with this....

“No, silly girl. You’re not strong enough to fight me off. And you never will be. I’ve already warned you not to resist me. You are either an asset to my cause, or a detriment; and you are smart enough to know that I do not allow detriments to exist. Keep this up and I will kill you without a backward glance.”

The curse was too powerful. And I didn’t want to die. I robotically opened my robe and dug my nails into my chest until porcelain skin and sticky scarlet caught under my nails. I shrieked and tried to stop the motion of my hands, but I had no control over them. Something was moving my limbs for me—no way this was my doing. I would never act like this. I was swimming against a current that was determined to pull me under and suffocate me under its frigid depths. And as strong as I was, the current was mightier. The more I struggled, the more my resolve weakened. My arms were tiring. My brain was tiring.

Tom’s voice still resounded in my head, ten times louder than my screams. I thought my eardrums were about to burst.

“Do you actually think you can match my power?” he demanded. “You think you can scream at me like a petulant child just because you’re accustomed to always having the last word? Not here, love. Not with me!”

I screamed louder as my fingernails dug in deeper.

“Do you feel special now? Do you feel confident now?” he jeered. “You have no power against me. You have no authority! Your insubordination is completely unacceptable! I will not tolerate this. You either work with me, and behave to my satisfaction, or you die. I will not permit you to live if you disrupt my plans in any way. No more chances.”

I tried to hold my hands still, but felt them rise up and close around my throat. My vision blurred and my ears popped as I gasped for air. This was it.

The ring meant nothing. Tom’s fondness for me meant nothing. I flashed back to all the conflicts I’d encountered as a confrontational child because I had just wanted what I’d wanted, consequences be damned. I hated rules. I hated giving up control, and I wanted the final say on everything. I was too headstrong. Many other people had deferred to me after I exerted myself, but I wasn’t dealing with regular people anymore. My temper had finally done me in. I had finally angered the wrong person. After everything I had achieved thus far, it was all a waste. I was going to die here.

This isn’t right...this can’t be the...end...I have...too much...to do...I’m so...much more than...this....

Seconds before I would have collapsed, the fog lifted. I sputtered and coughed as my shaking hands dropped to my sides. I stared at them in horror before clutching my stomach, feeling more stunned and embarrassed than anything. Tears prickled the corners of my eyes as I saw and felt the damage to my chest. I shuddered as I hesitantly touched the carmine streaks.

I wasn’t sure of what to do next, but I knew I couldn’t remain hunched over like this forever. I bit my lip and anxiously looked up at Tom. He was twirling his wand in his hand, looking at me like he expected me to throw myself at his feet and beg forgiveness. That I would never do. But I couldn’t remain silent, either. I had to make amends somehow. He needed me to admit that I had brought this on myself.

“Tom...I’m...I’m sor—” I croaked.

“Not yet, you’re not," he snapped, talking over me.

“What do you m—”

“CRUCIO!!”

I fell to the floor, screaming wildly in both anguish and indignant rage. As I thrashed and writhed, I berated myself for my inability to tame my explosive anger over Tom’s actions. It was dangerous, as was the naïve belief that I could actually stand up to Tom and get away with it simply because he’d put a ring on my finger.

I was not his equal. He had no equals. Okay, cool, so I was on a first-name basis with him. I knew for a fact that no one else was. And his declaration that I was “a cut above the rest” and that my darkness had “called to him” was gratifying, but it meant absolutely nothing at this moment. Despite his desire to have me one day rule the Wizarding world beside him, he was still my superior and there was not a damn thing I could do about it. I was powerless against him in every sense of the word.

Under the Cruciatus curse, it felt like my bones were being crushed and my muscles were twisting and tightening around themselves. I screamed at these nightmarish sensations. And I was enraged at Tom’s intrusive spying. I was enraged that he had reduced me to this howling mass of agony and humiliation, stripping me of the pride I’d always held so dear. All of that was gone now. My privacy—and with it, any semblance of dignity—had been torn away before I’d even realized what had happened, and I’d had absolutely no say in the matter. I screamed about that, too.

I wasn’t sure which pain hurt more.

When Tom finally lifted the curse, I saw him kneeling on the floor next to me. His face was blank. He glided the tip of his wand over my hip, and the fabric of my robes split apart. He absentmindedly ran his fingers over the exposed flesh before tracing a line with his wand over the bone to open the skin. My breath hitched as blood began to drip from the cut. Tom sank to the floor and repeatedly pressed his lips to the wound while snaking his right arm across my waist to hold me still. My brow furrowed as I saw him slowly raise his left arm and point his wand at my heart. His eyes were blazing.

“Tom, what—”

“Crucio,” he whispered against my torn skin. I began screaming again as the hot waves of exquisite agony roiled inside me once more, amplified further by Tom’s teeth repeatedly sinking into my injured flesh, and his fingers digging into my waist while he gripped my keening, convulsing form. He kept this up for at least five minutes before he finally lifted the curse and gently placed his wand on the floor. My head swam as he began rubbing my right shoulder and uninjured hip while placing slow, passionate kisses all over my bleeding one. I would’ve given anything to have known what he was thinking in that moment.

“I’m sorry...I’m sorry....” I whimpered, still trembling from the effects of the curses.

“Oh, I know,” he chuckled as his fingers danced over my torso. “As you should be. No one speaks to Lord Voldemort that way. No one. Not even his breathtakingly beautiful wife.” He licked his bloody lips and smirked at my feeble attempt to hide the anguish and fear written all over me. After staring me down for a moment, he leaned over me to stroke my hair and kiss the deep lacerations on my chest. I wanted to scream at the sharp pain, but held my breath and bit my tongue instead, unnerved by the sudden gentleness of Tom's touch. I didn’t dare move an inch until he let go of me and stood up.

His face was icy as I staggered to my feet. After regarding him briefly, I cautiously drew my wand and pointed it at my right hip. He touched my wrist just before I opened my mouth to cast a spell.

“Only your robe,” he commanded softly. “Not your skin. If you so much as attempt to heal your skin, we shall repeat the activities of the past ten minutes. Perhaps more than once.”

I sighed and nodded. Holding out the side of my robe away from my skin, I pointed my wand at the fabric and whispered, “Reparo.” I then cast a Cleansing spell on my body to remove the blood.

As soon as I had pocketed my wand and re-fastened my robe, Tom forcefully grabbed my chin and jerked my head up so I would look into his eyes. He shook his head slowly, tightening his grip on my jaw.

“Never again, my girl. Never again,” he warned darkly.

“No,” I breathed, and hung my head. He cupped my face in his hands and placed a light kiss on my lips. I gingerly looked up at him, trying to figure out what he was thinking. He simply held my gaze and stroked my cheeks, smugly taking in the effect of his power over me. I wisely kept my mouth shut. My jaw throbbed where his fingers had been.

“Enough of that,” he murmured after a long, awkward silence. “We have a job to do.”

He took my hand and led me back to the globe. The mini-Ministry was still clearly visible inside, and I was curious about what Tom was planning. “What happens now?” I asked him tentatively, making sure to sound as docile and respectful as possible.

“Well, obviously, your birth certificate is somewhere in this house of fools,” he replied flatly. He didn’t look at me or acknowledge my efforts at behaving to his satisfaction. It was as if the previous events hadn’t even happened. Instead, he put his hand back on the sphere, looked at the mini-Ministry with contempt, and asked, “Where is Alexandra Selina Halaway’s birth certificate?”

What happened next amazed me.

Since it had appeared in the globe, we’d been looking at the Ministry of Magic from a bird’s eye view. Now, we saw it as if we had just entered the building. I then saw the halls on the Ministry’s first floor passing by as if I were walking through them.

“Is it...giving us directions?”

“In a manner of speaking, yes. We are being virtually led to the location of your birth certificate.”

I thought for a moment. “Why can’t I just summon it?” I asked, watching the globe lead us to the third floor.

“Why can’t we just remove all of their protective enchantments?” he scoffed. Looking back at the sphere, he snarled as our ‘tour’ showed Draco Malfoy walking down the hall with two Aurors—clearly, they were friendly with one another. I fought the urge to spit at the image of Draco.

It was true, then. Malfoy Junior had joined the Order of the Phoenix—or, at least, he had joined the opposing side. I don’t think any of the Death Eaters had ever trusted Draco—a choice I would’ve backed 100 percent, had I been there. The Ministry is probably the only authoritative power that welcomes chickens such as Draco with open arms; but then again, it is also run by one. For now, at least. I wondered if Tom was currently planning anything for Draco, or if he was too preoccupied with this birth certificate business.

“Bastard,” I mumbled under my breath, even though the view of Draco had long since gone.

I felt a squeeze on my right shoulder. I looked up, only to be greeted with a gesture to look back at the globe.

Inside was a view of an office that looked like a long hallway. The room contained endless rows of cabinets, desks, and drawers of all sizes. There were a few quills and rolls of parchment scattered around the desks, but my focus was instantly drawn to the far wall—in particular, a drawer just off-center. This drawer was glowing green.

“That’s it,” I said, just above a whisper. “It’s in that drawer.”

“Yes,” Tom replied. “And you’re lucky you have dual citizenship, or this wouldn’t work. You couldn’t Apparate to the American Ministry from here.”

“But what does dual citizenship have to do with anything?”

“Magical birth certificates are created as soon as a witch or wizard is born. Since your parents are from two different countries, you have two identical birth certificates: one in America, and one in England. They are linked. This means that when we alter one, the other will automatically change as well.”

“Wow! Okay, so what exactly do I have to do?”

“You’ll need to Apparate in front of the visitor's entrance to the Ministry. Wait for someone to enter and go into the Ministry with them, since you can’t exactly announce your arrival. Though you'll undoubtedly be wearing your cloak, you can't go in alone. Anyone entering the telephone booth must state their name and the purpose of their visit.”

"Okay."

“Now, obviously you will take the same path that the globe has shown you. Do you remember it?”

Closing my eyes, I went over the directions to make sure I knew where to go.

“Yes,” I answered, and drew my wand. “Accio invisibility cloak!”

“I will be watching you in the globe while you’re there,” Tom added. “I don’t anticipate you running into any trouble, but I'll want to know exactly where you are throughout this process, just in case.”

“All right. Am I leaving from here?” I asked as I felt the soft fabric fall onto my arm.

“Yes. As soon as you have possession of the certificate, I will summon you back. Now go. And be careful.”

I nodded and draped the invisibility cloak over my body. After reviewing the directions in my head once more, I Apparated outside the visitor's entrance to the Ministry of Magic.

Chapter Text

I quietly slipped inside the telephone booth to await the next Ministry vistitor. I must have stood there for twenty minutes before someone entered. It was a balding middle-aged man who I imagined could blend in anywhere. A safe bet. He dialed in, and the welcome witch’s voice resounded inside the elevator, “Please state your name and your business.” The man’s name was Daniel Sebastian, and he had a meeting scheduled with a Stephanie Thompson in the Goblin Liaison Office. Nothing at all to do with sneaking a Death Eater inside.

I held my breath and pressed my back against the wall as we descended into the Ministry, and only relaxed when we had both left the telephone booth. He hadn’t the slightest clue of what had just happened.

I scanned the premises once I had some breathing room. Luckily for me, no one appeared to have noticed that Old Danny had just inadvertently let a fugitive into a government building.

The Atrium was gigantic—larger than the Great Hall at Hogwarts. Its dark, swooping ceilings were easily fifty feet high, and the space above everyone’s heads was dotted with flying inter-departmental memos. I giggled at my sudden urge to start swatting at them, just to see what would happen. (I was still a child, apparently.)

As the globe’s perspective hadn’t done the mammoth edifice justice, my task suddenly seemed more daunting; though I felt a bit calmer as I slinked through the Atrium. I realized that as long as I kept silent—an art I had mastered long ago—the chance that I’d run into trouble would be very slim.

I stopped to admire a colossal fountain and a set of golden statues depicting several magical beings, human and non-human. It was beautiful. It occurred to me that if were to ever return to the Ministry without having to hide myself, I would love to simply walk around and admire the architecture.

While weaving in and out of the crowd on my way to the elevators, I did a double-take as I saw a man who appeared to be Lucius Malfoy. On second glance, I saw that it wasn’t him; but he did look familiar. I just couldn’t place where I’d seen him before. And it was surprising to see a different wizard with long platinum-blonde hair. I wondered if I could find out who he was, but there was no time for introductions.

Some areas were more crowded than others. The Atrium was easy to navigate, as there was always space to move around the other people. However, I was nearly discovered on my way down to the administrative offices. As I couldn’t get into an elevator alone, I had to wait for someone going down to Level 1. This had me hovering around the elevators and awkwardly dodging foot traffic in the area. After ten minutes had passed, I began to wonder how long I’d have to keep up such ridiculousness. And then someone finally approached an elevator to descend to Level 1.

It was Cornelius Fudge. The Minister of Magic.

You have got to be shitting me, I thought. I held my breath once again and silently slipped into the elevator beside the Minister, shaking my head in disbelief.

All went well until the elevator stopped at Level 6 for an inter-departmental memo. It zoomed into the elevator, zipped around for a moment, and hit me in the face. Fudge noticed that the parchment was momentarily thrown off-course and glanced suspiciously in my direction. At the exact moment I crouched down to avoid being hit again, Fudge reached out and grabbed the air where my cloak-covered head had been. My heart was in my throat as the Minister looked around suspiciously before shaking his head and turning back around. I didn’t dare move a muscle until the elevator finally stopped on Level 1.

What a place to be discovered. I didn’t even want to think about what would have happened, had Fudge seen me. I considered myself extremely lucky.

Tom is either laughing hysterically or planning another punishment for me, I thought. Or maybe I got lucky and he actually didn’t see that. But probably not, knowing him. Nothing escapes this man’s scrutiny. I’d better brace myself for an earful when I get home.

I gave a sigh of relief after exiting the elevator behind the Minister, who gave one last cautious look around before shrugging and walking away from me. I stood for a moment and looked around to make sure no alarms were going off before heading to my destination.

This is it, I told myself as the Room of Records came into view. The door was closed. I slowly turned the knob, but it barely moved.

Ugh. Of course.

After glancing in both directions to make sure the coast was clear, I quickly drew my wand, pointed it at the doorknob and whispered, “Alohomora!”

I would’ve been elated, had the door not creaked as it opened. I cringed as I spun into the office and hurriedly shut the door. Come on, you can do this! I told myself.

Luck must’ve been on my side, seeing as no one was in the room upon my entry. I cast a Silencing spell around the office, pointed my wand at the drawers along the back wall and called out, “Accio birth certificate!”

The drawer that had glowed in the sphere opened, and a piece of parchment zoomed into my awaiting hands. I paid no mind to the fact that my cloak had just slipped off my head and onto my shoulders.

I glanced at the parchment to make sure it was indeed my birth certificate, and then carefully rolled it up and placed it in one of my robe pockets. And then the door flew open. I pulled my cloak back over my head, but it was too late.

“I saw your head! I know you’re in here! Reveal yourself, intruder!” the man barked. He had his wand at the ready.

I silently moved to his left while drawing my wand. I waved it at the door and it closed instantly. The man jumped back.

“Whether or not you reveal your identity, I will report your presence to the Minister! There’s no way out of this!” he continued, although I detected a quiver in his voice.

I waved my wand at the door once again to lock it. The man jumped again, this time whirling around toward the door. I caught a full view of his face as he did this, and my heart skipped a beat. I hadn’t seen those dark eyes and curly brown hair in three years, and thought I never would again. But here they were. And I knew just how to finish the job.

It looks like I have some extra business to take care of today.

“There’s no way out of this for you, Matthew,” I said, pointing my wand at him. “Silencio!” It was hard not to smirk at his bulging eyes after I let my cloak fall to the floor. I stared him down for a moment, expressionless, just to spook him further.

“Well, hello there, my old friend,” I sneered after a moment. “Petrificus totalus!” He fell backward and hit the floor with a loud fwump. His wand tittered as it hit the ground near his arm.

I then cast a Silencing spell around the room, folded my cloak, and tucked it under my left arm as I walked over to the stunned figure of someone who I thought—and hoped—I would never see again: a once-close school friend, and almost boyfriend, who later became my nemesis.

“Funny we should meet this way, after all this time,” I continued. I fought the urge to stomp on his stomach; I had a lot to say.

“You: the one who promised me so much, and gave me so little. You pulled me in and pushed me away for far too long. One minute, you loved me; the next minute, you couldn’t get away fast enough. You never gave me a straight answer about anything. You made me wonder if I’d been the one with the problem, just like everyone else did, but it was you the whole time. YOU were the problem. YOU were the poison. YOU were the broken soul who could never have a healthy relationship, or even friendship, because you’re too fucking scared. You’re too much of a coward to let anyone in. You’d rather put on a face and pretend to be a thousand times tougher than you really are! You’d rather fool all those blind, naïve little girls into thinking you’re a fucking GOD, rather than be real and actually have a meaningful connection with someone who cares about you for the person you really are. You couldn’t handle that, could you? You fucking phony! Putting on airs and strutting around like your delusions of grandeur can actually heal your pain. You are sick!

“I had no one, don’t you remember? My own family couldn’t stand me! You actually made me feel like I belonged somewhere. I felt safe with you! I felt excited with you! I thought I could actually be myself with you, at least to some extent, but you couldn’t give that back. You made me think that everyone would eventually stab me in the back just as brutally as you did! And you couldn’t even own your shit! You couldn’t at least apologize! You couldn’t handle anything authentic because you’re too sick inside. I let my fucking guard down for the first time in my life, and you threw it back in my face! You taught me to trust no one...to never get my hopes up...to expect everyone to turn their backs on me the way you did. You were the one person I actually WANTED to care about me. How the fuck did you get to me like that? How did you twist and contort me to make me act so WEAK? So out of character? I hated myself with you, once I got over you. I can't believe I allowed you to humiliate me like that...but you made me a hell of a lot stronger after the fact. I never thanked you properly.” I kicked him in the side. Since he was still under the Silencing spell and Body-Binding Curse, he didn’t react. I contemplated lifting the spells just to see some genuine reaction to my tirade, but that would have been way too dicey. I couldn’t risk him fighting back. I wished I could at least use Legilimency, but that was apparently too advanced for the moment. Oh well. You win some, you lose some.

“You made me think that everyone would eventually stab me in the back just as brutally as you did!” I admonished.

I lifted the Body-Binding Curse, but kicked him again so he couldn’t get up. A tear rolled down his cheek and I cackled while digging the heel of my shoe into the side of his face. I felt a pop.

“It’s too late to apologize, sweetie,” I taunted with mock-gentleness. Stomping on his stomach, I unfolded my invisibility cloak and prepared to drape it over myself. I then grabbed his wand from the floor and pointed it at his heart.

“You have no idea how long I have waited to do this,” I growled, with even more menace than I thought I possessed.

I paused, savoring the moment before I shouted at the top of my lungs, “AVADA KEDAVRA!”

My former flame had just perished by my hand.

There was no time to stay and admire my handiwork, however, because I felt my left forearm burn not two seconds later. After placing Matthew’s wand back on the floor near his body, I took one last look around the room before removing the charms I'd cast and quietly slipping out the door. I cast a locking spell on the outside of the door before slinking back to the elevators.

After quickly retracing my steps, I exited the Ministry through one of the floo grates. I landed in an empty shop inside Knockturn Alley, of all places. I giggled to myself and Disapparated.

Chapter Text

I landed outside the library and immediately felt a tug on my arm. I turned around to see Tom chuckling.

“No opportunity for revenge escapes you, does it,” he teased, folding his arms.

“Not a chance,” I replied with a smirk.

He kissed my temple and led me back into the giant hall behind the library.

“That was quite a close call with Fudge,” he drawled as we approached the globe.

“You saw that, huh,” I sighed.

“Of course I saw it. You know I did. But you handled the situation well. I was pleased.”

“Thank you.”

“Now let’s see that birth certificate.” He gestured with his index finger for me to hand it over.

“Fantastic,” he praised, upon examining the document. Rolling it back up, he turned and walked toward yet another completely dark room. I followed. The fires lighting the main hall couldn’t offer so much as a spark this far back.

He turned to the right and pointed his wand downward. A brilliant silver glow began to creep up the wall. As it turned to line the tops of the other walls, I realized that this wasn’t just a pretty light—it was taking on the shape of a giant silver snake, illuminating the room with a fluorescent radiance unlike anything I’d ever seen.

I followed him over to a long table in the middle of the room. The table was long enough to leave about two feet of space in between each wall, and reminded me of the House tables in the Great Hall at Hogwarts.

After placing my birth certificate on the table, he pointed his wand at the document and performed a series of complex wand movements, while uttering several incantations I had never heard before. He was carefully timing each flourish of his wand with each particular spell, appearing so deep in concentration that I probably could have slipped out of the room and he wouldn’t have even noticed. When he finally lowered his wand, the space to the left of my birth certificate was glowing a dull neon green. And then an exact replica appeared in its place. After reciting a few other incantations over my authentic certificate, Tom pressed the tip of his wand against the parchment, which began shaking as if in an the midst of an earthquake. Tom slowly raised his wand off the table and the certificate followed, quivering in the air for a moment before dropping back down.

“What—what was that about?” I asked.

“You have dual citizenship.”

“What about it?”

“Like I said earlier: having dual citizenship means that you have two birth certificates, which are linked. I just severed the connection between the two documents, so there will be no record of your name change at the American Ministry. By breaking that connection, I have just rendered your American birth certificate useless.”

“Oh, wow!” I exclaimed. “Will I have to go back to the Ministry and replace the certificate?” I’ll go if I absolutely have to, but I hope there’s a way around that.

“There is.”

I sighed loudly.

He chuckled. “What are you groaning about? You don’t have to go back to the Ministry, so I don’t see any reason for you to complain.”

He knew just how to get to me.

“My globe doesn’t only show me what I want to see; I can also use it to transport objects to particular locations. I used it to help bring all of your belongings here after you fled Hogwarts.”

“That’s amazing!”

“It is. And quite useful, too. There are limitations—for example, I can’t Summon anything from a place like the Ministry, which has too many protective enchantments; but I can send small items, like your birth certificate, where I want them to go. We will be doing this shortly.”

I opened my mouth to respond, and then suddenly felt something moving against my leg. I looked down to see a large snake slowly slithering around the room, weaving in between the table legs.

“Is that—”

He smiled. “My pet snake, Nagini. She lives back here most of the time. She’d likely get lost if she had the run of the house.”

I giggled at the mental image. I then heard some hissing noises, but wasn’t sure whether or not they were coming from Nagini. It didn’t matter though, because she came over to us anyway.

I looked up at Tom and said, “Parseltongue?”

“Very good,” he replied, glancing at the snake, who was now circling us. She hissed and he responded, but obviously I didn’t understand a ‘word’ of it.

“I believe she’s taking a liking to you,” he said to me.

“Really. Has she been...watching me?” I raised my eyebrows at him; he knew exactly what I meant.

He shook his head and smirked.

There was a pause.

“Heh...I wish I could speak Parseltongue,” I mused.

“Do you really.”

“I don’t know, I guess—I guess it would be fun.” I shrugged.

“There might be a way, you know.”

“What?” I looked at him incredulously. I wasn’t being THAT serious.

“Later. We need to work with your birth certificate now.”

I watched as Nagini slithered out of the room. How could he possibly—

“Alera, I said later.”

As annoyed as I was with Tom for reading my mind again, I also felt a warm glow inside me as he called me by my new name. I reveled in that feeling for a moment before asking Tom how we would send the copy of my birth certificate to the Ministry.

“This is where it starts to get interesting,” he replied with a hint of mischief, as he pointed his wand at the copy of my birth certificate and began moving the tip across the parchment. I inched closer to get a better view. My eyes widened when I saw exactly what was going on: Tom was slowly dragging the tip of his wand over the area of parchment that bore my identification; as he did so, the ink disappeared.

When the job was completed, he looked over at me and smirked at my shocked expression.

“Impressed?” he asked.

“Yeah! So, now what?”

“You will need a new middle and last name. I’m not going to choose that for you.”

I nodded.

“Anything that particularly strikes your fancy?”

I thought for a moment, and then I had a brilliant idea. Which had nothing to do with names.

“LOCK THE DOOR!” I exclaimed.

“What??”

“The Room of Records—can we put a more powerful locking charm on it? Right now? From here? I have an idea!”

“Are you certain it will—”

“YES! But we need to act quickly. You’ve got to trust me on this, please. We have to charm that door now!”

Tom looked at me for a few moments, and then his face broke into an enormous grin.

He knew what my idea was.

We would first need to put the strongest possible lock charm on that door so that no one, under any circumstances, could get into the Room of Records until the job was completed. Our task, my idea that sprang from nowhere, was to add a finishing touch to framing my kill as a suicide. To make this absolutely believable, we would have to create a suicide note supposedly written by Matthew Fletcher, the former friend I’d killed. This wouldn’t be just any suicide note, though; Matthew would be professing his undying, unrequited love for me, the weight of which he could no longer bear. The note would be written on the back of the copy of my birth certificate and placed next to his corpse. Since it was unheard of for magical birth certificates to be altered, anyone seeing the forged document would believe it to be authentic.

Thank goodness for Legilimency...just this once!

“You are brilliant,” Tom praised. “Now come with me.”

I nodded and followed him back to the giant globe. The Room of Records was still visible. My kill had yet to be discovered, as I’d cast a Silencing spell around the room before launching into my tirade; we just needed to put a more powerful locking charm on said door so that no one could get in until we were ready.

After retrieving his wand from his robes, Tom positioned his left hand so that it faced the image of the door in the globe. He pointed his wand in the same direction, and appeared to be focusing all of his energy toward the door. The tip of his wand glowed an eerie silver. He slowly moved his wand and free hand closer and closer to the globe, but the surfaces never actually touched. It almost looked like someone trying to force two heavy magnets of the same polarity to stick together. It was bizarre.

About a minute later, he pulled his wand back and re-pocketed it with a smile. “It’s locked,” he said.

I breathed a sigh of relief.

Tom quickly grew serious; we had a job to do and not much time to do it. “I want you to think very carefully,” he instructed. “Do you have something with Matthew’s handwriting in your possession?”

I racked my brain, trying to remember.

And then I knew. My jaw dropped. “Yes! He—” I trailed off, trying to stem my racing thoughts into a flow I could actually follow.

“He what?”

“We’d been friends for about a year...and he owled me over the summer, asking me...if I wanted to visit him...I think I....” My voice trailed off. I wasn’t sure if I still had that letter; but I remember being ecstatic when I received it, and stashing it somewhere in my room.

“If you still had the letter, where do you think it would be?” He slowly rubbed the sides of my head. “Think, Alera, think. Remember....”

It was a fleeting memory—if I tried to describe the location, I’d risk forgetting it—but I remembered it well enough to be able to Summon the parchment. I grabbed my wand and called out, “Accio Matthew’s letter!”

The letter and its envelope came whizzing into my hands within minutes.

Tom clapped slowly. “Excellent. Excellent!”

I beamed with pride as Tom motioned for me to follow him back into the other room.

“All right, now hand me that letter,” he said, once we were back at the long table.

I obeyed, unable to shake off my grin.

He carefully removed the letter from its envelope and smoothed it out on the table. Just as he had done with my birth certificate, he performed a complex series of wand movements and spells to create a duplicate.

This is curious. “Why a copy of this?” I asked.

“You can keep the original,” Tom replied, “or do whatever you want with it. It doesn’t matter. But I need the copy to change the words. When the Ministry workers discover this young man’s body, they may suspect foul play.”

I frowned.

“They will perform all sorts of tests to make sure that he was the true writer of the suicide note. With the charm I’m about to perform, not only will all tests point to him as the writer, but also that the note was written today—and, in essence, it was written today. That’s the information the Ministry will be after.”

“Wow. That’s—it’s amazing that we can do that!”

“Exactly. Now, let’s get to work. What do you want this note to say? Write it in the air with your wand.”

After thinking about what would sound believable, I pointed my wand into the air and began to write.

- + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + -

Dear Alex,

I know this letter will never make up for my past mistakes. I am not looking for sympathy—Merlin knows I don’t deserve it. Be that as it may, I must confess that I am constantly tormented by how badly I hurt you. Even though we were just friends back at Hogwarts, I always knew that you loved me and you understood me better than anyone. That scared me. I didn’t know how to deal with it, so I reacted horribly. I couldn’t comprehend my emotions and I therefore feared them.

You were correct when you accused me of cowardice. I did find you attractive, as I’m sure you knew, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted a relationship—with you, or anyone. I wasn’t ready for a relationship as intense as ours likely would have been. I was extremely insecure did not know how to handle such issues properly.

I want more than anything to turn back time, feeling the way I do now. The truth is, Alex, I have been in love with you for two years and the feeling has only grown stronger. I realized what I lost after we ceased speaking to one another and it hit me that I couldn’t relate to anyone the way I had related to you. I knew that I couldn’t tell you, though, because by that time, you despised me—and rightfully so—for all the pain I’d caused you. I stayed away to avoid hurting you again.

I have felt sick since hearing of your disappearance. I’ve been so worried about you. I now understand that I threw away what could potentially have been the only healthy relationship I ever had, in favor of meaningless encounters to avoid working on myself like you’d wanted me to do in school. I have nothing now. Though I go through the motions, I have no one I truly care about. I pushed everyone away, but I miss you most of all. I cannot handle this loss. I know I can never make up for all the agony I caused you, and even this letter probably seems so petty in comparison. Therefore, ending my life is the least I could do to make up for all the damage and free myself of a goal that I will never reach. And if my death offers you even a modicum of comfort, all the more reason for me to go.

I hope you live a happy life and find someone who cares for you and respects you the way I was too afraid to do. I will always love you and watch over you.

In love and death,

Matthew J. Fletcher

- + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + -

I heard Tom snicker as I finished writing. “You could make a career out of writing fake suicide notes,” he chuckled. “It’s not too gushy or too rigid. It’s perfect. Don’t change a word.”

I giggled and mentally patted myself on the back for my ingenuity and warped sense of humor.

“What happens now?” I asked. I looked at the words I’d just written in the air, and then at the copy of Matthew’s letter.

“Now, you watch the results of our handiwork.”

I smirked, more to myself than to him, feeling a sense of accomplishment.

I watched as Tom pointed his wand at the words I’d just written in the air. With a flick of his wrist, the words appeared to be sucked into his wand. He muttered a few incantations while stretching out his left hand across the copy of Matthew’s letter. He then moved his wand diagonally over the parchment, from the top left corner to the bottom right. I watched in awe as the words my ex-friend had written to me transformed into the words I had written in the air.

Tom turned to me with a grin. “Now,” he said, “anyone attempting to find out who wrote that letter will believe it to be your little friend at the Ministry.”

I grinned back at him, and then my eyes traveled across the table to the other papers. “What about my real birth certificate?” I asked.

“As I said before, you need to choose a new middle name, last name and birthday. Also, pick new names for your parents, so they don’t match your parents’ real names. The Ministry will likely want to contact your parents after our marriage, but they won’t be able to find a Mr. or Mrs. Vega because those people do not exist.”

“Wouldn’t I get caught because of that? Surely, the Ministry would realize that the birth certificate has been altered.”

“No. As you were thinking before we began this process, magical birth certificates have never been tampered with before. I only figured out how to do it a few months before I first brought you here. The Ministry will likely assume that Alera’s parents have gone missing and someone—say, a rogue Ministry worker—stole their birth certificates for good measure. As a result, Fudge won’t be able to employ any tactics to track your family down. He can send as many owls as he wants, but they will always return empty-handed.”

“Wait...you—oh. Ohh. Wow. You really did arrange everything ahead of time,” I breathed.

Merlin’s beard. Just when I thought this man couldn’t shock me anymore—now he tells me he’d already decided to marry me before I’d even met him? Goodness.

“I always do. I don’t rush my plans anymore. Not since I narrowly escaped death in my first attempt at killing Harry Potter.”

“I can’t imagine what that must have been like.”

“Don’t. I will not speak of it further. Not right now, anyway. We have more important tasks to complete.”

My mind raced with the possibilities of how that conversation could play out. Though I had learned a lot about Tom’s tumultuous history in my schooling, I was dying to know more about his past from his perspective. I found myself growing excited at the prospect.

“Names, dear,” he reminded me with a smirk, interrupting my thoughts. “I shall appease your curiosity at a later date.”

I averted my eyes as I thought for a moment, but I couldn’t think of any names I liked. I’d never even imagined changing my name before now.

“Whatever you desire,” he encouraged.

And then it clicked. “My middle name will be Desiree,” I said with a smirk. “Desire.”

“You’ve certainly got plenty of that, love,” he chuckled. I slowly licked my bottom lip while holding his gaze.

Taking a single stride toward me, he crushed his body to mine and gripped my chin. “Later,” he whispered, making sure his lips lightly brushed mine as he spoke.

Right now would work just fine, too....

I closed my eyes and sighed as he released me.

“You still need to choose a last name,” he reminded me. There was a hint of mischief in his eyes.

At least he’s in a better mood now.

“Uhhh....Vega?” It was the most random name I could come up with. Plus, I liked that it started with V. (I knew my new last name wouldn’t technically start with V, but I figured Tom would appreciate the gesture.)

“I caught that,” he laughed, looking at me out the corner of his eye. “And a birthday.”

“April 12.”

“All right. Although, I would advise against using your real birth year. The chance of this is very slim, but the Ministry might grow suspicious if the change occurs in the 1988 drawer.”

“Okay, then how about 1985?”

“That will work, as long as you can remember it.”

“I will.”

“Parents’ names?”

“Um...Jason Max and Katherine Samara.”

He slid his wand across my birth certificate and the new information appeared, blending in perfectly with the rest of the document as the original words had. It was impossible to tell that the certificate had been altered. My eyes widened.

“It’s official now,” he said. “You’re not Alex Halaway anymore.”

“Wow. Just...wow.”

“When we are married, the only change to your birth certificate will be your last name, obviously. Ministry officials will undoubtedly find no Alera Desiree Vega anywhere; not now, and not ever because of the infamy that will soon be attached to it.”

“Yes, obviously. But—how will the Ministry not realize that we’ve tampered with the certificate once we’re married? Wouldn’t they want to contact my parents to see if they know of my whereabouts? They’d likely realize that no Jason and Katherine Vega exist.”

“For two reasons: one, no one has ever tampered with a magical birth certificate before. It’s unheard of. The concept wouldn’t even be in anyone’s frame of mind because they think it’s impossible to do. Two, the Ministry will likely assume that someone stole Jason and Katherine’s birth certificates from the Room of Records; they wouldn’t assume that the couple simply doesn’t exist. They will also speculate that the couple is missing—they’ll probably assume that I kidnapped them or imprisoned them somewhere so as to avoid being found and turned in to the Ministry.”

I paused, and then something else occurred to me. And I knew I had to speak very carefully, as I was likely touching a sore spot.

“Did you ever think about changing your name?” I asked quietly. “Would you ever have sent anyone to retrieve your birth certificate and do what you just did to mine?”

“No. Not worth the effort,” he replied curtly. “My followers know how to address me. My legal name is irrelevant.”

I suddenly had so many questions, I wasn’t sure where to start.

“So...my last name will—”

“It will be Riddle, yes. Technically. But if someone is speaking to you or about you in a way that requires a last name, and they actually have the courage to speak it, they will know to use Voldemort; no one is ever going to call you Mrs. Riddle. That’s not formal enough for my taste. And anyone who requires an explanation on the matter is too dense to deserve air space.”

“All right. Whatever works for you.” Oh god, am I groveling? I hope not. This is so awkward.

“I know.” He touched my cheek and smirked.

“What happens now?” I asked, urgently needing to change the subject.

“Now, we send this,” he said, pointing to my birth certificate, “to the Room of Records. I will then force the 1985 drawer open, and the document will land exactly where it belongs.”

“What about the copy?”

“The copy will now undergo some changes to ensure the safety of your identity.”

I raised my eyebrows.

He muttered a few incantations that caused the fake birth certificate and Matthew’s modified letter to float into the air about a foot above the table. After one more incantation, the two pieces of parchment began to spin. The movement was slow at first, but quickly sped up until it was impossible to distinguish one document from the other. Apparently, that was the idea, as only one piece of parchment fell back onto the table. Tom motioned for me to pick it up.

On one side was the copy of my birth certificate, and on the other side was Matthew’s ‘suicide note,’ in his handwriting. My jaw dropped.

“This will be placed near his body,” Tom said, “so now it will look as if he wrote a suicide note on the back of your birth certificate. Your real birth certificate, which shows that your legal name is now Alera Desiree Vega, will go into the drawer containing all the birth certificates from 1985.”

“Can all of this be done before the door unlocks?”

“If we work quickly. The spell I’ve cast on the door can only last another couple of minutes.”

Picking up the birth certificates, he walked briskly to the obsidian table. I followed.

“Stand back,” he commanded.

I obeyed.

In a flurry of wand movements, incantations and swirls of light, Tom sent both documents back to the Room of Records. I watched as the globe showed the copy of my birth certificate floating down to the floor near Matthew’s body, and the authentic one hovering over the drawer containing the 1985 birth certificates. The drawer jolted open, the parchment slid inside, and the drawer closed.

Tom reversed the locking spell and placed his hand on the globe to close it. I saw the door to the Room of Records burst open just as the view faded out.

Chapter Text

“No! No!” I shouted. “I need to see what happens!”

Tom sighed in mild annoyance, but brought the previous scene into focus. It didn’t look like anything had really happened yet—two people were just standing in the doorway, gaping at the dead body of Matthew Fletcher.

 ~ * ~ * ~

“Oh, sweet Merlin!” the man exclaimed. “He’s—”

The woman was speechless as she stared at the lifeless body.

“It can’t—how—”

Her shocked voice was like honey to the swarm of Ministry officials quickly gathering on the first floor.

After about a minute, the Minister of Magic finally stepped into the room. He cautiously approached the corpse as if it were diseased.

“We must find the culprit,” stammered Fudge, trying unsuccessfully to hide the tremor in his voice. “Did anyone see an intruder?”

Everyone shook their heads. The Minister’s eyes suddenly narrowed—he locked eyes with each of his subordinates, searching for a guilty face. He found nothing but fear.

“What’s that by his hand?” another employee asked cautiously. She pointed to the parchment that appeared to have fallen as Matthew’s body had struck the ground.

No one wanted to approach the corpse, but Fudge finally took a few brave strides toward the fallen man. He reached out and gingerly picked up the parchment with his fingertips. The more he read, the more deeply his brow furrowed.

“What is it, Minister?”

“Not possible...Mr. Fletcher wouldn’t do this....” Fudge was breathing heavily now, suddenly unsteady on his feet. He clutched the parchment and faced his co-workers.

 ~ * ~ * ~

I giggled, covering my mouth so I could still hear the conversation.

 ~ * ~ * ~

“According to this letter,” the Minister said shakily, “Matthew John Fletcher committed suicide.”

“WHAT?!”

“He was happy...”

“What in Merlin’s name...”

“How could he possibly...”

No one believed it to be true until the Minister turned over the letter.

“This is Alexandra Halaway’s birth certificate. No one else could have done this,” he said.

“Unless he was framed.”

“Who would even want to—”

“He wouldn’t have hurt a fly! Who on Earth wanted him dead?!”

“Who else has been in this room?” the Minister demanded.

“Just Matthew and Tamara Rogan. They’re responsible for reporting any changes to the birth certificates, such as a marriage or death.”

“Where is Ms. Rogan?”

“She and Matthew alternate days in this room for maintenance duties. Tamara was here yesterday, and I recently spoke with her. She’s been tied up with problems in the Wizengamot Administration Services office all day—she’s been up there with several other people, with no opportunities to be alone. Someone would have seen her if she’d tried to sneak out. There is no way she could have gotten in here, killed Matthew, and then snuck out unnoticed. Unless someone followed Matthew into this room, there is no explanation other than a suicide.”

Fudge nodded slowly before picking up Matthew’s wand and using Priori Incantatem to see his spell-casting history. Everyone gasped as they saw the Killing Curse resulting in his death.

“He killed himself,” one of the workers sighed. “The poor man really killed himself.”

“Something about this doesn’t sit right with me,” said Fudge.

Silence.

“This girl, Alexandra Halaway. She went missing a few months ago—”

“Oh, I remember!” another worker butted in. “The American girl! She went missing as soon as she finished at Hogwarts, right after little Erica Hornby was found murdered in the girls’ dormitory. Yes, it was all over the Prophet!”

“You are correct,” Fudge replied gravely. “Her classmate, Amy Martin, nearly went to Azkaban for the murder, as the Killing Curse had come from her wand; but we also questioned the other students and there was speculation over whether Miss Halaway had fled because she had been involved. Unfortunately, none of the girls could give us any concrete evidence.”

“Was this recently?” someone else inquired.

“Yes. Miss Martin’s trial was the day after her Hogwarts graduation. No one knew why Miss Halaway, and all her belongings, suddenly went missing that morning. Some of the girls thought she’d had an altercation with Miss Martin and Miss Hornby had gotten caught in the crosshairs, and some thought that she had fled for safety because someone had threatened her. She had enemies. We still don’t know if Miss Martin or Miss Halaway started the altercation the other girls may have heard in that dormitory—all we had was an adamant Miss Martin insisting that she never killed anyone, and their Housemates who couldn’t get their stories straight because they’d been half asleep at the time. And no one knew of any conflict between Miss Hornby and either of the girls in question. It wasn’t enough to convict Miss Martin—the Wizengamot was split evenly. We had no choice but to let her go.”

“Do you think Mr. Fletcher may have had something to do with Miss Halaway’s disappearance, and this letter is an attempt to feign innocence?”

“I’d prefer to think not, but this is the only available evidence, if we can even call it that. Yaxley, search Mr. Fletcher’s house and report anything even remotely suspicious. In the meantime, I will owl Miss Halaway’s family and inform them of what has just happened.”

“I’ll go there right now,” Yaxley replied.

“What about Mr. Fletcher’s parents?” an employee asked. “This is their son. Don’t you think they should—”

“Not yet, Miss Bones. Not yet. I am not ready to call this a suicide. Before we contact his parents, we must be certain about the cause of death. That could take time.”

 ~ * ~ * ~

“I saw him on my way to the Room of Records!” I exclaimed, pointing at Yaxley. “He’s a Death Eater, isn’t he.”

“Yes. You likely saw him at your initiation.”

“Oh, so that’s why he looked familiar. I thought he was Lucius Malfoy at first.”

Tom nodded. “Yaxley runs the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. He’s quite useful. As you can see, he showed no indication of knowing your whereabouts or your status as a Death Eater."

I was silent for a moment—I knew I had to find out what the Minister would tell my parents, and there was only one reasonable way for me to get my wish. I turned to Tom, looked him straight in the eye and said, “Let me watch my parents’ house tomorrow morning. Please.”

“Alera—”

"I have to see this, Tom. You know I do.”

Tom looked away for a moment. “Fine,” he sighed. He returned to the globe and directed the enchantments inside to show my parents’ kitchen, where the owl post always came through. He promised to leave the view in place overnight.

Though recent Magical developments did make inter-continental owl post possible, a letter from across the Atlantic would likely not reach its destination within a day; so there was no point in me idling in front of the globe for the next twenty-four hours.

*   *   *

That night, I sat up in bed with a towel wrapped around my body, attempting to read a book while Tom showered. It didn’t work. My mind kept wandering. The day had been a whirlwind—finding out about the globe, getting tortured for expressing my outrage at being blatantly spied upon for months, sneaking into the Ministry of Magic, killing a person who had caused me some of the worst pain of my life, and then framing the murder as a suicide just before changing my name in preparation for my upcoming marriage to the most infamous man on Earth. All in one day. How the fuck was I supposed to fall asleep?

I heard Tom’s voice in my head. You’re not Alex Halaway anymore.

Just like that, with a few quick wand movements, my birth name was a thing of the past. How quickly could I acclimate myself to this change? When would it begin to feel normal?

Alera Riddle.

I spoke the words aloud a few times, trying to make the name sound natural. It didn’t work. Instead, my heart raced as heat enveloped my body.

I am marrying the Dark Lord and taking his name. Holy shit. This is actually happening.

Tom’s voice was back in my mind. No one is ever going to call you Mrs. Riddle. That’s not formal enough for my taste.

Of course it wasn’t. Not that that mattered, as I doubt anyone would ever address me as such, but still. It had been a supremely awkward conversation.

I returned to my book, absorbing maybe half of the text until new words surfaced in my mind.

Alera Voldemort. The Dark Lady.

“Wow,” I chuckled to myself. “Can’t say I ever saw that one coming.” All I’d wanted previously was to be a respected, high-ranking Death Eater; I never imagined I’d have this much power. But I couldn’t deny that the concept was exciting. And the moniker had a certain ring to it.

Alera Voldemort. Alera Voldemort. Yeah, I like that better. Legal last name or not.

I suddenly realized that I had read the same page three times and hadn’t processed any of it. My brain was saturated to capacity. I couldn’t focus on anything except my new name and what it represented.

I huffed and slammed the book down on my nightstand. Hunching over, I hugged my legs to my chest to rest my chin on my knees, noticing with annoyance that my chest and badly-bruised right hip still prickled with pain whenever I moved. I clenched my jaw and did my best not to think about how they had gotten that way—I would have to seriously rein in my temper if I didn’t want to endure an even worse punishment later on. I had to remember that even though I’d gotten a lot more comfortable around Tom, he was still the most accomplished and sadistic Dark wizard alive, and he would stop at nothing to make sure everyone around him knew that. I was not an exception. He may get a kick out of my ability to stand up to others and demand respect; but I couldn’t do that with him, no matter how much I thought he deserved it. My rage had almost gotten me killed.

Are you quite certain that you know who you’re dealing with? Tom had asked me on my first night with him, after ramming me up against a bookcase because I had so much as thought that his behavior had been wrong. Occlumency lessons were a must, but I certainly couldn’t broach the subject now. He would know exactly why I wanted them, and surely deny me. He might even torture me again for the brazenness of my request. I couldn’t risk angering him further.

I needed to remember who I was dealing with.

Sure, it was flattering that he’d chosen me as his bride, but ours was no ordinary union. And he was no ordinary man. No matter how equal we would someday appear on a piece of parchment, I was still in his territory and he had the final say on everything. It was imperative that I adapt. And quickly.

What a day. What a fucking day.

He entered the bedroom after I’d been stewing for several minutes. In one fluid motion, I sat up straight and slowly crossed my legs while softening my facial expression to meet his gaze—I didn’t even look down when he dropped his towel to the floor. One side of his mouth turned up slightly just before he sat down behind me on the bed. He didn’t touch me; he simply sat there and watched. I could feel his eyes on my naked shoulders and hear his steady breathing like a hauntingly slow metronome. I wanted to turn around and ask him what he was doing, but I knew I shouldn’t—he was either waiting for a reaction or just putting on a silent display of power. This was a test. I remained perfectly still.

I shivered as he gently draped my hair over my left shoulder and placed a soft kiss on the nape of my neck. As he sidled over to sit next to me, I reached up and began nervously twisting the ends of my hair around my fingers, unsure of what he was planning and desperately wishing I knew Legilimency. Reading his thoughts would probably make my life a lot easier.

“Look at me,” he said softly.

I shifted a bit to the right so that we were facing each other. After lifting my towel, he lightly traced the wound he’d inflicted on my hip just hours earlier. I gasped as the skin stung where he touched it. A smirk of satisfaction ghosted across his face before he looked back up at me.

“We won’t be doing that again, now will we?” he chided, eyeing me sternly.

“No,” I sighed. My eyes dropped to my lap. “I’m sorry, Tom.”

He continued running his fingers along my hip, knowing full well how much discomfort it caused me. I was determined not to show it. I closed my eyes and slowly breathed in and out, trying to relax my muscles and focus my attention elsewhere.

What does he want me to do? How am I supposed to react? He clearly wants me in pain right now....

“Alera, I did not bring you to me to strip you of your individuality. I am not weak and easily intimidated like everyone else—I don’t want you to water down your personality like they do,” he said softly. “You’re not too much for me to handle. I don’t want you to stand silently in the corner, ‘yes’ me to death, and keep all your opinions to yourself. I am not trying to break you down and turn you into something of my own invention. I love your intelligence. I love your energy and your confidence. I love it when you assert yourself and put inferior people in their place; you simply cannot do that with me. You crossed a line this afternoon, and not for the first time. And I needed to put a stop to it. I must know that you will not cross that line again. You will not survive if you do.”

“I won’t. I promise,” I replied, keeping my head lowered, as if I were bowing to him. “I’ll—I’ll tone it down.”

“No. Keep your spunk. Keep your vitality. Keep your utter viciousness—toward those who deserve it, of course. But with me, lose the attitude. You must behave respectfully. I will not stand for your impertinence a moment longer. You obey me in and out of the bedroom.”

“I know. I’m sorry. I will do what you ask of me.” My face burned; I never thought I would speak this way to anyone, but I was clearly out of options.

“I would not have chosen you as my bride if you lacked the substance to think for yourself,” he continued. “If I wanted a wife who idolized me blindly, I would have married Bellatrix. She would do absolutely anything for my approval. I find it a bit annoying, actually.”

I chuckled in spite of my anxiety.

“What did you whisper, by the way?” he asked, rubbing my hip a little harder. “I’ve always wanted to know.”

“What do you mean?” I replied, opening my eyes hesitantly and attempting to appear unfazed by the pain.

He smirked at the unease that was now clearly visible on my face, and kept rubbing. “When you snuck that Hogwarts yearbook back to your dorm, you whispered something to my photo. What did you say?”

I bit my lip and looked back at my lap. “I said, ‘I’m going to make you proud,’” I told him. My voice was so quiet, I hardly recognized it as my own. I cringed at how fragile it sounded. But I supposed he wanted it that way.

I’d never wanted to tell him that. That was supposed to have been my own private moment. I felt even more exposed now—I couldn’t even keep one small detail of that night to myself.

“You certainly have made me proud. Hence that beautiful ring on your finger.”

“Thank you,” I sighed as he reached out and brought my left hand to his lips.

“Apart from that little episode this afternoon, of course,” he scolded, the tone in his voice hardening instantly.

Oh, Merlin, can you just drop it already?

His fingers were suddenly kneading my hip with a lot more pressure. I flinched and bit back a small squeal.

That was probably a response to my thoughts. Fuck.

I resumed toying with the ends of my hair and staring down at my legs, trying not to look at what Tom was doing. My shoulders were tight and hunched forward, and my arms close to my chest as I anxiously fumbled with my hair. I realized that I was going through the physical motions of trying to protect myself from a menace that I knew I was incapable of fighting off, but my body had gone into that defensive posture anyway to avoid acknowledging the severity of the threat. The response was automatic.

“I’m sorry,” I whispered through the pain. “I was wrong. I promise it won’t happen again.”

After forcefully rubbing my hip in silence for a few more minutes, Tom cupped my cheek in his free hand and lifted my head. I looked up at him, doe-eyed and expectant. His eyes were smoldering again.

“This is what I want, Alera,” he breathed. “This is how I want you.” He tucked my hair behind my ear and kissed my cheek. “Polite, obedient...” He kissed my cheek again. “...and fully aware that I am always in charge. Always.”

I was reduced to a jumble of sighs and moans as he commenced kissing and biting my neck, tightly gripping my injured hip in one hand and pulling me close with the other. My head fell back and I went limp in his arms, surprised at how much his words had aroused me. Electricity shot through me every time his lips touched my flesh, and my core throbbed so deeply I thought my body might split down the middle. I was melting into him.

“This is excellent. This is perfection. This is exactly what I want,” he growled softly against my neck, in between kisses. “I will reward you now.”

He pointed his wand at the hideous red gashes on my chest, and they healed instantly.

“Thank you,” I gasped.

He allowed me a moment to touch the renewed skin, and then ripped off my towel and threw it to the floor before pinning me beneath him. I wrapped my legs around his back while he kissed me hard and laced his fingers through mine to pull my arms over my head. When he withdrew, he gently nipped at my ear and then stared me down. His gaze was so intense that I could barely stand to look back at him. Filled with apprehension and desire, I blinked slowly to try and ground myself. I felt him shudder as he bit his lip hard and squeezed my hands.

“Those eyes...” he whispered. “Those eyes will tear me apart.” He bit into my neck once more and gripped my head tightly. The pressure was too intense—I worried that he might fracture my skull. I thrashed and squealed, trying to break free of his hold.

“Tom...Tom, please....” I cried.

“I can’t hold back with you. You know that,” he panted. He kept my head trapped in his hands another moment longer while kissing my neck firmly, and then slowly slid his fingertips down my cheeks. I moaned in sheer relief and began rubbing my head to try and soothe the pulsing ache. He grabbed my hands and forced them back down onto the mattress.

“No,” he barked. “You have no power here. Don’t force me to change my mind about rewarding you. You would not like the alternative.”

“I’m sorry,” I breathed. “I won’t—”

He silenced me with a deep kiss.

How is this so arousing? I thought as his tongue slid up and down my breasts and his hands firmly pressed my arms down on the bed. How is he everything I’ve ever wanted, and yet I’m so often scared and overwhelmed when he touches me? How does he do this to me? How is it that he traps me in this vise grip and injures my body repeatedly, and yet I can’t tear myself away from him? Not that I would succeed if I tried to escape, but I don’t even want to. Is he wielding some rare form of Dark magic? Or am I just terrified of completely giving in to him because I’m not ready to admit that deep down, some secret part of me wants to be treated this way?

I cried out in confusion as he grasped my hips and left a trail of hot kisses down my stomach.

Unsure of what I was supposed to do with my arms, I tentatively reached down and began stroking his hair. He allowed this for a moment, and then plied my hands off of him.

“Arms over your head,” he ordered.

I obeyed without a second thought.

“If you move them at all, you will not come tonight,” he continued. “I will build you up, over and over, but never allow you release. And if you attempt to remedy this yourself, we go back behind the library and the chains come out. Keep your arms still until I tell you otherwise. Do I make myself clear?”

I nodded quickly.

“Do I make myself clear?” he asked again, more forcefully.

“Yes,” I whispered.

“Yes what?”

“Yes, my Lord.”

“That’s my girl.”

He hooked his arms around my thighs to pull them apart, and began licking my clitoris up and down.

“Ohh,” I cried out, and spread my legs wider while grinding into his face. I couldn’t think anymore. My whole body bowed, with my breasts pointed toward the ceiling and the top of my head pressed into the mattress as I tried desperately to find relief. Tom wouldn’t allow it. He grabbed my hips and forced me back down onto the mattress.

“Watch me,” he commanded. “Watch what I’m doing to you. Watch every flick of my tongue. And don’t you dare look away for an instant.”

I whimpered and did as he asked. He worked me with his tongue until I was moments away from coming, refusing to break eye contact with me.

And then he stopped abruptly.

I groaned and squeezed my eyes shut to hold back the tears of frustration.

“Do you understand that you belong to me? That your body belongs to me?” he demanded.

“Yes, my Lord....” I gasped.

“Do you promise to obey my every command from this day forward? Do you swear to never, EVER defy me again?”

“Yes, my Lord...I swear, I swear...please...ple-ease....”

He built me up a second time, and again stopped just before I peaked. I growled and arched my back in exasperation before looking back down at him.

“Do you understand that I am completely in charge of your pleasure? Do you trust me to know what’s best for you and treat you accordingly? Do you trust me to take care of you?”

Total control. He is asking for total control. He wants to own me. Have I really been after something this extreme? Was it just a fun little fantasy in my head when I was younger, or have I actually yearned to be desired and possessed like this my whole life?

“I am not asking; I am demanding. I do not ask for anything. You belong to me in mind, body, and soul. Do you understand that, Alera? Do you accept this?”

I told him yes after a short pause, but I really wasn’t sure. My thoughts raced with dizzying speed. I was perched precariously atop a steep cliff, and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to fall back to safety or allow myself to take a risk and plunge into the unknown below.

Tom was clearly not convinced by my answer. Raising his eyebrows, he cocked his head to the side with a sneer and regarded me quizically. He began stimulating me once more, moving his tongue with deliberate sluggishness to keep me just shy of peaking.

Trust him, I told myself as my body quaked with need. He really does know you better than you know yourself. Trust him.

“Say it aloud, Alera,” he urged. “Thinking it is not enough. You know this!”

“Yes, my Lord. I accept this,” I whispered.

“Do you trust me?” he asked, though it sounded more like a challenge he was daring me to refuse.

“I trust you,” I breathed, and my head fell back onto the pillow.

Smiling triumphantly, he mercifully picked up the pace, gripping my thighs tighter and tighter.

And then I screamed my way through the most intense orgasm of my life. All of my nerve endings were on fire and convulsing madly—I had no power over my movements. Tom was completely in control.

My body was still quivering when he hoisted my legs onto his shoulders and brutally fucked all the remaining energy out of me. And then I fell asleep in his arms, with him cradling my head against his chest.

I was home. I was exactly where I belonged. 

*   *   *

I woke up in a daze. Tom was massaging my back and kissing my ear, inhaling deeply.

A barely audible “Hi...” was all I could muster.

“Well, hello!” he chuckled. “Tired?”

“Mmm,” I breathed. My eyes were still closed.

He began nibbling on my neck and my eyes flew open. He only withdrew when I moaned loudly.

“That’ll wake you up,” he said cheerfully.

I snickered as I stretched langourously before dragging myself up to a sitting position. Rubbing my eyes, I forced my mind into focus. The previous day had been monumental in more ways than one, but I couldn’t afford to lay around and process everything. I didn’t want to miss any crucial updates from yesterday’s circus.

After a hurried breakfast, Tom and I entered the lair behind the library and walked back to the globe. As I peered into the sphere, Tom moved behind me and rested his hands on my shoulders. “Do what you must,” he said, and quickly swept out of the room.

I decided to bring a chair over to the globe so I could watch more comfortably.

I wonder if Tom ever did this when he watched me?

I shrugged, not really caring about what Tom had done before I’d come into his life. I was more concerned with my parents for the moment. I was glued to the image in the globe, determined to not miss a thing. After about twenty minutes, my patience was finally rewarded.

 ~ * ~ * ~

The owl flew through the kitchen window, making quite a ruckus until my mother walked into the room and saw the bird flitting around. Raising her eyebrows, she untied the letter from the owl’s right foot and carefully opened the envelope.

“Why aren’t you leaving?” she asked the owl. In response, he merely perched on the back of a chair and patiently waited for my mother to read the letter. 

 

- + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + -

Mr and Mrs Halaway,

I hope this letter finds you well. I am writing to inform you of some recent unpleasant events. Earlier today, a Ministry employee by the name of Matthew Fletcher was found dead in our Room of Records. Your daughter Alexandra’s birth certificate was lying near his body, and on the back was a handwritten note to Alexandra. In this letter, Matthew appears to be pledging undying love for your daughter, proclaiming that he can no longer live with the pain he caused her. We suspect that he may have played a role in her disappearance. I know nothing of the relationship between Matthew and your daughter, nor am I certain that Matthew did commit suicide, but any information which may help us solve this case will be of utmost importance.

From examining Alexandra’s birth certificate, it is clear that she is still alive. No word on her whereabouts has surfaced, but you will be the first to know if we learn anything.

Sincerely,
Cornelius Oswald Fudge
The British Minister of Magic

- + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + -

“No...oh my god...” My mother gripped the letter until her hands quivered. “Alexandra...my baby...where are you??” she cried out.

She scrawled a reply to Fudge, stating her cluelessness and desire to find me as soon as possible. As the owl flew off with her letter, she slumped into a chair and went rigid, trying to remain calm. She couldn’t. Her face dropped into her hands and she began to sob loudly. When her crying fit subsided, she stared desolately out the window for a while.

 ~ * ~ * ~

“I’m fine, Mum,” I whispered. “I’m better off where I am now. Don’t worry.” I knew she couldn’t hear me, but I suddenly wanted to tell her I was all right.

Obviously, I couldn’t just go back. I had never been close with my mother—sometimes I doubted that she even loved me—but I never imagined that she would be this distraught over my disappearance. I figured she would be sad, but also secretly relieved to have her insubordinate older daughter off her hands.

I was taken aback by her grief. Before I could even register my surprise, I felt tears prickling at the corners of my eyes. I hastily wiped them away—I knew they would serve me no purpose, and I certainly didn’t want Tom to see. However, I knew that I had to stay here and watch until I could see how my parents would deal with the situation together.

 ~ * ~ * ~

A few monutes later, my father walked in with a bag of groceries and found my mother looking quite distressed. She was still sitting at the kitchen table—she had barely moved since the owl had delivered the Minister’s letter.

“Renee?”

No reply.

My father took a deep breath. “What’s wrong, honey?” he asked.

She simply handed him the Minister’s letter and continued looking out the window. She didn’t even look at him. Tears were silently streaming down her face.

“Oh my god.” My father slumped into the chair next to my mother. She reached over and grabbed his hand.

“What do we do??” she asked.

“I don’t know, honey. I want the answers as badly as you do.”

“I don’t understand how...someone can just...disappear like that. One minute I’m reading her letter where she’s all excited about getting wonderful grades...and the next minute she just...vanished....”

My father sighed and squeezed my mother’s hand. “We’re just going to have to wait and see. I don’t know what else we could possibly do.”

She turned to look at him. “We know she’s not dead; the Ministry checked her birth certificate. The only explanation I can think of is that she got kidnapped, but why? Who would want to kidnap her?? We know her temper. Did she finally cross a line with someone? Was she really not done being all tangled up with that Matthew and then she somehow pushed him over the edge? Did he kidnap her?”

“I don’t know, Renee...I don’t know.”

They stood up and held each other silently for the next few minutes.

“Shawn, I don’t know how much longer I can take this,” she said quietly. “Since the day she was born, it’s just...it’s just been one catastrophe after the next...it never stops....” She burst into tears again. “I tried so hard...I did everything I could to—to p-provide for her, and she—she threw it all b-back in my f-face....WHY? What did I do?! Where did I go wrong?!”

“You did everything you could, Renee. We both did. Maybe she’s just a lost cause. Maybe she was always beyond help.”

“I can’t bear to think like that....”

My father rubbed her back in response, not knowing what else to do.

 ~ * ~ * ~

I didn’t know what else to do, either, so I decided to abandon the sphere for the time being.

 

*   *   *

Tom and I returned to the globe the following afternoon. Like me, he was curious to see the Ministry’s next move. I felt better about having him with me, as I knew he was just as interested in this situation as I was.

After Tom found Fudge’s office in the globe, he pulled up a chair next to mine and sat down. The letter arrived at the Ministry after about thirty minutes.

 ~ * ~ * ~

Fudge frowned after reading my mother’s letter. By now, the entire Ministry was on alert, determined to solve the mystery of my disappearance.

“The Halaways know nothing. Renee made this clear,” Fudge told his colleagues. “The only other option I can think of is to contact the Fletchers. They may not know anything, either, but it won’t hurt to ask.”

Fudge drafted a letter to Matthew’s parents, and sent it off with one of his owls.

“This doesn’t make any sense,” he murmured as he watched the owl take off.

 ~ * ~ * ~

“Do you want to see how Matthew’s parents respond?” Tom asked me.

“No, I just want to see what Fudge does after he hears from them.”

“Fair enough. Why don’t I show you around the rest of this area? I’ll show you the spells and enchantments I have placed in each room, and teach you how to access everything here. There are a few potions you’ll need to learn to brew as well.”

“Okay,” I replied eagerly. We stood up, and Tom began introducing me to the many facets of his underground chamber. His tour proved quite interesting, and a fabulous distraction from the events that had just transpired.

After about two hours, Tom and I returned to the globe and found the image of Fudge sitting in his office.

 ~ * ~ * ~

Fudge received a reply from Matthew’s distraught mother within ten minutes of our summoning the view of his office. By zooming in on her letter, we saw that she’d known that her son had once been close to me, but we had lost touch after a bitter falling out. Matthew apparently had never revealed all the details of our friendship to his mother, so she had no information for the Ministry. This frustrated Fudge to no end.

“Why can’t anyone provide answers? We have nothing to go on, other than a broken friendship between Mr. Fletcher and Miss Halaway.”

“Minster,” an employee said timidly, “If this is the only evidence we have, then...it must have been a suicide. There’s no other explanation, and his own wand confirms it. Nothing else explains Mr. Fletcher’s death.”

“I know, but it just...it doesn’t make sense!” Fudge fumed. “He seemed content with his life!”

“Everyone has their secrets, Minister. Perhaps this was something Mr. Fletcher just didn’t want anyone to know about. Maybe he kidnapped the girl and begged her forgiveness, and maybe he didn’t. There’s no way to tell.”

Fudge sighed. “This is true. I guess we have no choice other than to rule this death a suicide.”

An awkward silence hung in the air.

“Well, go on then,” Fudge muttered. “Prepare a statement for tomorrow’s Prophet.”

“Yes, Minister,” the man replied, and quietly left the room.

 ~ * ~ * ~

We had done it. I was safe.

Chapter Text

Not much changed for a few weeks after the fiasco in the Room of Records, until one morning when Tom strode into the dining room, looking very smug. He walked over to me and placed The Daily Prophet next to my plate of food.

“Congratulations,” he praised.

I picked up the paper and examined the contents, smiling when I saw the headline for the fifth page. It read: Disappearance Investigation Postponed Until Further Notice. According to the article, the Ministry of Magic had conducted several unsuccessful searches in an attempt to locate me. Therefore, I took postponed until further notice to mean We are clueless and have therefore given up. How sad.

When I finished reading the article, I put the paper on the table and danced in place for a moment.

“Very nice,” Tom murmured, and slid in next to me on the chair.

“There isn’t room for both of us,” I giggled. I made to stand up so I wouldn’t fall over, but Tom grabbed my waist and pulled me onto his lap.

“Nonsense,” he purred, kissing my neck and pulling me closer. I tried to adjust my position, as my thighs were starting to cramp, and Tom held me tighter. “You’re not going anywhere,” he declared.

“This isn’t terribly comfortable—”

“So turn around.” He kissed my neck again. “Straddle me.”

I smirked and did as he asked, before he grabbed my face and pulled me into a ferocious kiss. I moaned in his mouth as I felt him stiffen against my thigh. While he rubbed my back, I reached down and began stroking him over his pants. He growled and hiked up my skirt before tearing off my panties.

I hastily unzipped his pants and kissed his cheek. As soon as his cock sprang free, I dropped to my knees and took him into my mouth. He hissed and grabbed the back of my head to pull me closer. I bobbed my head up and down for a few minutes, loving the sight of pure lust in his eyes as he watched me, until he slid his hands under my arms and hoisted me back up onto his lap. After gliding his hands over my waist, he lifted my hips and united our bodies with one clean thrust.

“My beautiful bride...” he whispered, and bit my shoulder. He rubbed my clitoris in time with his thrusts, and I threw my head back and arched into his hand. As his thrusts became harder and faster, I rode him with such force that I nearly knocked the chair over backwards. He chuckled and grasped my hips, forcing me to move at a slower pace. I cried out and collapsed onto him as pleasure overtook me.

I rested my forehead against his as he shuddered, rubbing his shoulders as I felt the warm liquid burst inside me.

“You know, sometimes I almost wish you weren’t so alluring,” he remarked while massaging my thighs. “You can be a bit of a distraction at times.”

“Well,” I replied with a smirk, “I could always...leave you alone for a little while.” I stopped massaging him and attempted to climb out of his lap. Suddenly, I felt the tip of his wand pressing into my neck. I froze.

“I strongly advise against that,” he warned loudly. “You would sorely regret it.”

Before I could even open my mouth to respond, he picked me up and slammed me onto the table..

“In fact,” he said softly, bending over to press his body against mine, “I’m going to make you wish you hadn’t even thought of walking away just now.” Though his voice was soft, he still sounded threatening.

“You won’t be able to move by the time I’m finished with you,” he declared, and fingered me aggressively before forcefully plunging into me once more.

Fifteen minutes later, I knew he’d been right. I was so exhausted that I couldn’t even reach up to touch him. He gripped my shoulders and Apparated us onto the bed. He quickly undressed and pulled my remaining clothes off before sitting down next to me. I jumped as he began lightly tracing my chest with the tip of his wand.

“Do not move until I tell you to move,” he instructed slowly. “If you so much as twitch, I will curse you until you weep and beg me for mercy. Do you understand, my love?”

“Yes,” I whispered.

“Yes what?” he prodded.

“Yes, my Lord,” I breathed.

“Good girl.”

He placed his wand on the nightstand and climbed on top of me. After slowly licking my throat, he slid lower and began kissing my breasts. I tried to focus on something else, but it was impossible. His kisses were so firm and passionate, I felt like my whole body was on fire.

I wanted to run my fingers through his hair and pull him closer. I wanted to stretch out and lose myself in the erotic sensations as he touched me, but I kept flashing back to the incident behind the library, after I had screamed at him for spying on me. I was equal parts aroused and terrified, which he probably wanted. Did he want me to focus on what he was doing? Did he want me to think of something else to try and avoid moving my body? I couldn’t be sure. I held my breath for as long as I could, as many times as I could, determined to obey him no matter what. I wanted to escape punishment, but I also wanted to please him. And I worried that I would fail at both of those ventures. I thought I would burst from the tension.

He took his time stimulating every inch of skin on my chest before flicking his tongue around my nipples, never quite touching them. I squeezed the blanket and began moaning softly. As turned on as I was, I didn’t even want to breathe too deeply for fear that he would count that as disobedience. He chuckled against my skin—probably from reading my thoughts—and slid lower still, placing feathery kisses all over my belly.

“I can already smell you,” he murmured, spreading my legs as wide as possible. His index finger slowly traced the skin where my legs met my pubic area, deliberately avoiding the spot where I wanted him the most.

I moaned as he began kissing my inner thighs. He then spread my labia and began circling the area around my clitoris with his tongue. A flicker of fear coursed through me, as I had to pour all of my energy into keeping my legs from shaking. I felt him inhale deeply and rub my clitoris with his nose a few times. I growled loudly as he began sucking it forcefully, not stopping until I was screaming for relief.

After a few minutes of this, he lifted his head and looked into my eyes. “I believe my message is clear,” he said with a smirk. “Feel free to move all you want.”

He began licking and biting my labia, rubbing my hips as he did so. I moaned loudly as he shoved his tongue inside me and began circling my inner walls before licking my clitoris forcefully. Wave after wave of pleasure rippled through me. I spread my legs as wide as possible and began grinding into him. He grabbed my hips to pull me closer, licking the swollen nub without surcease until I’d lost track of how many times I’d come.

“Tom, please....” I begged as he drove his tongue into me again and practically drank the fluid leaking out of me.

He withdrew his tongue from my body after a while and kissed my lower belly. “Yes, sweetheart?”

“Please...don’t stop....”

“Oh, my dear girl, I never intended to.” He began roughly pinching my clitoris and biting my lower belly until my hips were bucking so violently he could hardly hold onto them. My clitoris was numb by the time he stopped pinching, and I winced as he crawled back on top of me. He hoisted my legs over his shoulders and smiled down at me.

“You are truly too beautiful for words,” he breathed, and plunged into me once more.  

*   *   *

I wasn’t sure how we were going to announce the wedding. We hadn’t even told the Death Eaters that we were together, so I was curious as to how Tom planned to go about this. I broached the subject one afternoon at the end of August.

“Have you told any of the Death Eaters about us yet?” I asked.

“No. I’m sure everyone has their suspicions, assuming Bellatrix has not kept her mouth shut since your initiation, but no one knows for sure.”

“Do you plan on telling them?”

Tom thought for a moment, and then a smirk crept onto his face. “I have an idea,” he said mischievously.

“What’s that?”

“Lucius and Narcissa throw a party at Malfoy Manor at the end of every year. It’s to celebrate Christmas, New Year’s, and my birthday all together.”

“Oh, how cool!”

“It’s quite a spectacle. I didn’t go last year, obviously, as I had just brought you here and that was more important. But either way, I think we should show up arm in arm, a little bit late so that everyone will already be there. They’ll get the message.”

“That’s brilliant,” I giggled. “What do you think they’ll say?”

“It will be very interesting to see how they react. They’ll probably be torn between apprehension and trying not to appear overly enthusiastic, hoping to curry extra favor from me. I’ve never actually been serious about a girl, much less expressed interest in marriage. And, truth be told, I never did consider it until I started watching you.”

I flushed.

“You should feel honored,” he whispered, running his thumb across my lips.

“I do,” I said quietly.

“You’ll be saying that again in a few months,” he teased.

I fell back onto the couch, laughing. “That was clever!”

“Indeed,” he replied smugly. “We’ll wait until the end of the party, and that’s when I will announce that we’re getting married. And attendance will be compulsory, of course.”

“Of course.”

“It will be very interesting to see how they react to such surprising news. I’m sure you and I will be snickering about it after the fact.”

“I’m sure,” I chuckled. “When do you want to have the ceremony?”

“Well, since my birthday is on New Year’s Eve and yours is at the end of January, how about we marry in the middle of January? Say...the fifteenth.”

“Okay, that sounds good.”

And so the plan was set.

I still couldn’t believe this was actually happening. At least I could never say that my life has been uneventful.  

*   *   *

The invitations to the Malfoys’ party arrived at the end of October. Since no one knew that Tom and I were living together, we each received a separate invitation. We found this amusing. I pretended to be hurt because Tom’s invitation looked fancier than mine, but I didn’t actually care. The joke would be on the hosts.

“What am I going to wear?” I thought aloud one morning about a week before the party. I was going through my closet, looking through my formal attire and trying to find the perfect outfit.

“Nothing you have there, love,” Tom said from a few inches behind me. “Your wardrobe needs an upgrade.”

“Um...okay?” I thought my sense of style had always been rather impressive, but apparently not.

“Alera, you are marrying the greatest, most powerful Dark wizard in the world. You must present yourself accordingly. Your clothes are quite nice, but we need to take it up a notch.”

“How so?” I couldn’t help but smile at his words.

“Well, you’re certainly not going to Diagon Alley, as you’re still considered missing. You can’t just strut into Madame Malkin’s robe shop. I will send Lulu and Margo to fetch you some dressrobes—they both have impeccable style. I trust their judgment.”

“Okay, that sounds good. As long as—”

“Don’t worry, I won’t send Chicky or Sheena with them. The last thing I need is for you to walk into Malfoy Manor covered in pink glitter.”

I giggled at the mental image. “Yeah, because you know Sheena would be in on it.”

“Exactly,” Tom drawled, trying to hide his amusement.

“How are you going to ask them? Are you going to tell them the robes are for me, or—”

“No, I’ll simply tell them that they’re shopping for the lady I’m bringing to the party, who just so happens to have your exact measurements! They’ll know better than to ask for more details. They’ll know who my date is in short order anyway.”

“True. Have you ever brought a date to one of these parties before?”

“No,” he answered quietly.

“Oh, wow! So they’ll probably be bursting with questions,” I laughed.

“They can burst all they want. No one will know you’re my date until they see us together that night.”

“That will certainly be interesting. They’ll probably be debating over who your date is the entire time they’re out shopping.”

“More than likely.”

“I can’t wait to see what they come up with!” I exclaimed. I loved any excuse to dress up, so this occasion was particularly special.

“Only the best will suffice,” Tom said sternly. He wasn’t even smiling.

I realized that he didn’t just want me to be happy in a fancy dress—he also wanted to show me off. And I was totally fine with that. I resolved to milk the attention for all it was worth. I had earned it.  

*   *   *

At the end of the next Death Eater meeting, Margo slipped Tom a shrunk package wrapped in fancy paper. I tried not to appear excited, as no one was supposed to know that the contents were for me until the party. Tom didn’t even look at me when he accepted the parcel and slipped it into his robes. I just continued my conversation with Sofia until the meeting was over.

 *   *   *

“Let’s see these dresses,” Tom said once we’d Apparated home after the meeting. He set the parcel on the bed and waved his wand to restore the box to its original size, and then stepped back as I gleefully tore off the wrappings. Inside were two evening gowns, some fancy necklaces and bracelets, and three sets of dress robes. I gasped.

“You didn’t tell me there would be jewelry as well!” I exclaimed, picking up a white gold necklace encrusted with diamonds, emeralds, and rubies.

“As I told you earlier: only the best,” Tom replied proudly.

I carefully set the necklace back in the box and picked up each dress. One was a tight little single-sleeved silk number in shimmering forest green, with silver accents scattered over the fabric. It was clearly meant to hug a woman’s body in all the right places. The other was a strapless black satin gown with some blood-red streaks along the bodice, and a layered tulle and lace skirt that would easily touch the floor. The dressrobes were also quite elegant, but seemed a bit too heavy to wear in an environment like a crowded party. I returned to the black dress and smiled as I held it up in front of me.

Tom crept up behind me and unfastened my robe. “Put it on for me,” he murmured in my ear. I bit my lip in anticipation as he slipped my robe off my shoulders and let it fall to the floor. He kissed my neck and glided his hands over my hips before stepping back to allow me room to don the dress. I sighed at the pleasant sensation of stepping into the smooth material, and Tom zipped it up for me just before I turned to face him.

His eyes widened. His lips parted as he slowly began to circle me, his eyes roving over my body. My skin prickled as he breathed my name quietly before walking behind me and snaking his arms around my waist.

“You are absolutely breathtaking,” he whispered into my neck. “And you will wear that dress to the party.” He kissed my nape a few times as he unzipped the dress and pulled it down to the floor, and lightly traced the outside of my legs as he stood back up. Reaching back around me, he began squeezing my breasts while sucking on my neck. I arched into his hands and slipped my arms up around his neck, moaning softly. He held me this way for a moment before turning me around, grabbing my hips and hoisting me over his shoulder. I squealed in delight.

And then he slammed me onto the bed, ripped off my panties, and took me right there on top of all my new dresses. That was one juicy tidbit the ranks would never know about.    

*   *   *

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little bit nervous about the party. What would everyone do? What would they say? How would they behave around me? And what was I expected to do in response? Tom had already told me what I was and wasn’t allowed to reveal to anyone who asked me questions about our relationship, so there wasn’t really a reason to worry; I was simply unsure of what to expect. I liked always having a plan, and I now had none.

Tom and I Apparated to the front gate of Malfoy Manor at six o’clock that evening, an hour after the party had started. My eyes widened as I took in my surroundings: dark hedges, huge trees—oh, and there were those white peacocks Tom had told me about. They were massive up close. I had a brief staring contest with one of them as it stopped by the gate to examine its new visitor.

As Tom had been here many times and had been granted access long ago, he easily slipped us through the gate without any problems.

We walked through the front door and Tom slipped his arm through mine as we ascended the stairs to the second floor. I felt a nervous flutter in my stomach as the sounds of revelry grew louder—though I did feel very regal as I held up my elegant dress with one hand and the inside of Tom’s elbow with the other. I tried not to let my excitement show too much. Thankfully, I got all the triumphant smirks out of my system by the time we cleared the stairs.

“Ready?” he asked me with a grin, his free hand on the door.

“Ready,” I replied eagerly.

Let’s do this.

I took a deep breath as Tom pushed the door open. A hush fell over the crowd as we walked into an enormous hall that was packed to capacity. I didn’t smile or make eye contact with anyone; I simply allowed Tom to lead me through the room to greet our hosts. I pretended not to notice the sensation of countless eyes upon me. No one could do anything about it, anyway.

Lucius and Narcissa, radiating nobility as always, looked positively stunned to see us together. And they were determined not to show it. This was their home—they couldn’t appear caught off-guard or uncomfortable in any way. They greeted us with an air of forced formality, in an effort to appear in control of a situation they never imagined they would encounter.

Lucius stepped forward and bowed slightly. “My Lord. M—Miss Halaway,” he murmured curtly. I nodded in response.

It’s Miss Vega to you, actually, but just wait until you hear my new name in two weeks. Let’s see how much you’re stuttering then. Hah.

“Evening, Lucius,” Tom replied quietly. “Lovely party you have here. I would expect nothing less.”

“Of course, my Lord. And happy birthday.”

“Thank you. Your parties are always outstanding.”

“That’s a beautiful gown, Miss Halaway,” Narcissa cut in.

“Thank you! Margo and Lulu got it for me.”

“Oh, how wonderful!” she exclaimed in surprise.

I read her facial expression perfectly: a respectable, wealthy older witch who did not mingle with young blood, especially those from families that were not as well off as hers and were therefore outside her aristocratic social circle—but suddenly, I was associated with the most powerful wizard in the world and wearing a dress as fancy as hers. She deemed it acceptable to interact with me now. I almost laughed at how easy she was to read, and how clueless she must be at my ability to size her up.

“Oh, Bella, come here and look at this dress!” Narcissa gushed to her wayward sister about ten feet away. “It’s absolutely gorgeous!”

Bellatrix was none too pleased to see me on Tom’s arm. A look of animalistic jealousy flashed through her eyes—even as she stood next to her clueless husband, Rodolphus—before she blinked it away and flounced over to us. “Yes, lovely,” she drawled. I could almost hear her thinking, “God damn it, I KNEW they were together!! That BITCH!” in a hissy voice. But I didn’t say a word or try to rub it in; I just politely nodded my “appreciation” as Tom led me away from the Malfoys.

I met the remaining Death Eaters with whom I had yet to become acquainted before then—our numbers were growing steadily, and I hadn’t been able to keep up with everyone. Yaxley, Rowle, and Thicknesse were comrades of the Malfoys. They all held high offices at the Ministry and didn’t speak to the younger recruits too much; but they certainly paid attention to me upon discovering that I was with their master. (And I obviously couldn’t tell Yaxley that I had seen him at work.) They spoke to me with a hint of reverence, looking back and forth between Tom and me to make sure they were conducting themselves appropriately. I found this side-splittingly funny, but didn’t show it.

A few others around my age introduced themselves after the party had been going on for a while. Mimevas and Patrick were both werewolves who had been initiated around the same time and immediately bonded over their shared affliction—though, considering their usefulness in tearing up our opponents, they told me that they didn’t see their condition as a hindrance. Sinjin and Snappette were a married couple who worked with Yaxley in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. Their role was especially useful, as they were slowly influencing the Ministry to adopt regulations more in line with our cause. Then there was Zach, the vampire who was apparently a bit of a flirt, and his human best friend, Lauri, who tried to keep him in check around the ladies. Despite what legend told us, Zach didn’t actually mind being around the lycans; they were all working for the same cause, so there was no sense in making enemies. We had enough of those, and our forces needed to be as strong as possible.

I had an interesting chat with the older werewolf Fenrir Greyback. He seemed to be one of the few Death Eaters who had joined simply for an excuse to indulge his inner beast, literally and figuratively. He was surprised and thrilled that I wasn’t the least bit put off by his character, and began to regale me with stories of his adventures since becoming a werewolf and ravaging Tom’s opponents. His boastfulness over these accomplishments amused me greatly, and I did enjoy his stories. His descriptions of how he mauled his victims were delightfully graphic. (And he obviously loved my anecdote about decimating the rat in the library a few months back. He couldn’t believe that I actually had a story of my own on par with his.)

“Entertaining my lovely girl with our bloody escapades, are we, Greyback?” Tom had suddenly appeared behind me and placed his hands on my waist.

“Yes, my Lord!” Greyback replied proudly. “She loves my tales! She’s not even slightly grossed out!”

“I’m sure,” Tom chuckled, and coaxed me away from the werewolf. “He gets a bit chatty when he’s drunk,” he explained when we were out of Greyback’s earshot. “And he obviously liked that you were interested in listening to his bragging. He would have chewed your ear off all night if I’d let him—figuratively speaking, of course.”

I laughed at his play on words. “Well, like you said, I’m just as twisted as you are. I guess he sensed that and realized he was in good company. I do like his morbid sense of humor.”

“And he clearly noticed that. Most of my followers don’t. They’re a bit uneasy around him.”

“I can’t imagine why,” I snickered.

Hearing a sudden commotion by the refreshments, Tom and I walked over to the area and saw a very pale, tall young man dressed in solid white robes. He was a sharp contrast to the mostly black-clad revelers, with his curly bleach-blonde hair and lanky build. He was holding two obnoxiously large handfuls of tortilla chips.

“FALCON!” Margo shouted. “Stop hogging all the snacks!”

“Wait—what?” I asked, touching Tom’s shoulder. “I thought Falcon was a...falcon. I thought he was just a bird.”

Tom chuckled. “Well, he’s—sort of. He’s a shape-shifter. If I recall, his true form is that of a falcon, but something in his genetics allows him to change into a man. He’s under Margo’s control, though, so he can only transform with her permission. She always brings him to these parties as a human. And I’m pretty sure she’s only allowed to bring him, in any form, because Lucius doesn’t want to risk another episode like the one Margo told you about.”

“He thinks Falcon would bite him again?”

“Lucius tried to ban Falcon from Malfoy Manor a few years ago because of his theatrics. That was why Falcon bit him, out of spite. He later told Margo that he would never stop antagonizing her cousin if he were excluded from future gatherings. Not that he cares about Death Eater meetings, of course, but he wants to be at all the parties. So Lucius tolerates him to avoid further discomfiture. He tiptoes around Falcon, though he’ll never admit it.”

“Does Falcon bother you? I figured you would subdue him if he got to be too much.”

“Not at all. I find him hilarious.”

“Oh!” I laughed. “Well...then I guess it all worked out.”

“Indeed. And he keeps Margo on her toes, as she is constantly flexing her ability to defend herself. Her magical prowess has actually improved quite a bit since she’s acquired Falcon, because of all the enchantments she’s had to learn to keep him under control.”

“But does she even like him? It sounds like he causes her nothing but a headache.”

“They have a, shall we say, complicated relationship. When he’s in his human form, he and Margo actually have some chemistry. Falcon does give Margo a lot of grief about not allowing him to control his transformations, and he would wreak havoc if Margo left him at home during a party.”

I was about to respond, but found myself more interested in the altercation between Margo and her now-human pet.

“Falcon, you can’t keep doing this every time I take you out of the house,” Margo admonished. “I know you like junk food, but—”

“You’re just jealous because my metabolism is faster than yours!” Falcon chided with a haughty smirk. “You don’t keep goodies like this around the house because you like to be healthy and all that stuff, but I need to enjoy myself once in a while, you know? And flying takes a lot of energy. I need my strength! And—”

“Falcon—!”

“—and I can eat as much of this stuff as I want because I need soooo much more energy than you. I need so much fuel for when I fly. And you never give me any treats at home! It’s just mice and rats when you keep me in bird form. It’s boring! Chips are So. Much. Better. There’s no fur. And I gotta tell ya, Margo, this salsa is just FABULOUS. Have you tried it?”

“Yes, I have tried it, but not while shovelling ungodly quantities of chips into my mouth at the same time! You need to leave some for everyone else! You’ve already eaten half the bowl!”

“Do you not see how much food is here still? There’s more than this dinky little bowl of chips! There’s chicken and steak and fish and vegetables and cake and custard and—”

“Falcon—”

“—and where was that pitcher of chocolate hell? It is deee-light-ful after these salty chips! I only had two glasses, and then—”

“Yeah, I took that away from you, buddy,” Zach cut in. “You’ve had a bit too much.”

“You’re one to talk, vamp! How much have you had tonight?”

Vampires can drink alcohol?! Seriously?! Good grief....

“I hold it better than you. Stop it,” Zach scolded. “You’re plastered. And you’re embarrassing Margo.”

“Ornery pet, indeed,” I muttered to Tom. He concurred with a chuckle.

“It’s like Chicky’s hijinks with the glitter,” he said. “I just stand back and watch it happen. Dinner and a show.”

Margo finally managed to pacify Falcon enough that he wouldn’t further disturb the festivities. I saw her grab his arm and lead him away from the food, glaring at the floor and muttering to himself.

As Margo and Falcon disappeared into the crowd, I heard laughter and shrill screaming coming from the entrance to the main hall. I turned around and saw Bellatrix and Fenrir strolling in, wands pointed at a large, levitating cage containing a shrieking teenage boy.

“WE FINALLY CAUGHT THE SQUIB!!” Bellatrix shouted, to a few claps and hoots from the partygoers. She and Fenrir dropped their wands and the cage loudly clattered to the floor. The boy yelped as his shoulder made contact with the wood.

“What Squib?” I asked Tom.

He laughed. “The two of them have this game where they seek out people suspected of being Squibs and then torture them for fun. They’ve been searching for this one for some time.”

“Who is he?”

“His name is Colt. His parents are Purebloods, and they were dismayed when they realized their son had no magical abilities. Yaxley told me many years ago—he was the Ministry worker sent to Colt’s home to talk to his parents about his handicap when he was nine or ten. Apparently, the boy was strutting around the house in his underwear, brandishing his father’s wand, pretending to cast spells and demanding that his parents praise him for his magical prowess, but he couldn’t even perform any magic by accident. It was all grandeur. He’s useless. His parents tried to keep him hidden from us by relocating to the Muggle world, as our killing of Squibs is common knowledge, but Fenrir discovered their hiding place a few months ago.

“How did Greyback find him?”

“We heard that Colt had made a scene at school when he threw a textbook at the wall and started screaming about the pointlessness of the curriculum. He insisted that the school was beneath him because he was supposed to be learning magic instead.”

“How do you know all this? Was Greyback spying on him?”

“He lingered around the school once he and Bellatrix located it and realized that that was where Colt was studying. One afternoon when school let out, all the students were gossiping about his crazed temper tantrum—for all his talk about magic, they assumed he was mentally ill. And considering his behavior, he probably is.”

“Hanging out around a high school? He must have looked like a pedophile! How did he get away with that?”

Tom cackled. “Disillusionment charms. As a werewolf, he has exceptional hearing; so he could listen to students’ conversations from a distance and not worry about someone bumping into him.”

I shook my head and sighed. “That’s quite an adventure. How come you never told me any of this before?”

“It didn’t seem relevant to anything we talked about. It wasn’t important to me. Your Dark Arts lessons and our wedding arrangements have been at the forefront of my mind for several months.”

I smiled. I couldn’t argue with that.

Meanwhile, Bellatrix and Fenrir were gleefully casting curse after curse on the pathetic Squib. I craned my neck to see as the werewolf cast Engorgio on his bleeding head, which was now trying to burst out of the cage from all sides. He grunted, but the noise sounded more animal than human. I laughed a bit too loudly at the spectacle.

“Sorry,” I giggled, and covered my mouth.

“That’s quite all right, love. We’re at a party. Enjoy yourself.” He placed his hand on my back and led us closer to the action.

“Thank you!” I said cheerfully. “You know, that spell seems oddly fitting, given what you’ve told me about this kid—because now he’s literally big-headed, and look where it’s gotten him.”

Now Tom laughed loudly. “Very observant!” he replied, squeezing my waist playfully.

Fenrir pointed his wand at Colt’s mouth and said, “Densaugeo!” The boy’s front teeth began growing rapidly, until they touched the floor and forced his head backward to accommodate their size. He screamed as Fenrir cast Sectumsempra on his mouth, causing his grotesquely large teeth to dislodge from his profusely-bleeding gums and roll over onto the floor. His shrill screams pierced the air as he convulsed violently inside the cage.

After casting a curse to strip Colt to his boxers and leave bloody slashmarks all over his body, Fenrir turned to Tom and asked, “My Lord, would you like to do the honors?”

“Certainly!” he replied. He strode over to the cage, pointed his wand at the pathetic mass inside it, and said, “Avada Kedavra!” Everyone clapped as the Squib finally lay still. Bellatrix cast several Cleansing spells on the area, and then charmed the cage to keep it still. As amusing as Colt’s death had been, no one wanted a bloody Squib rolling around and dirtying their party clothes.

“Who’s going to get rid of it?” Thicknesse asked.

“Dobby will remove it from the premises,” Lucius responded, “but not right now. I don’t need the elf interrupting my party.”

“Let’s leave it here all night!” Margo chimed in. “We can get rid of it when it starts to smell.”

Everyone murmured their agreement.

By this time, most of the revelers were traipsing into the ballroom. Tom laced his arm around my shoulders and led me out of the main hall to follow the others.

“Come on,” he said as he clasped my right hand. “Let’s dance.”

I smiled and placed my left hand on his shoulder as he slipped his left arm around my lower back.

“I’ve never pictured you dancing,” I remarked as he began effortlessly twirling me around the ballroom. “I take it you enjoy it?”

“I enjoy dancing with you,” he replied, and pulled me closer with a grin. I returned the gesture. I had never danced much at school—given my reputation, I spent more time as a wallflower than a dance partner—so it was especially nice to have that experience now. And I was surprised at how easily it came to me.

“I wasn’t sure if I’d be good at this!” I remarked after a few minutes. “I barely danced at Hogwarts.”

“Well, you’re very graceful, so of course you’re good at it. I’m not surprised.”

I beamed.

Tom also liked that I didn’t drink. The activity had never appealed to me for several reasons, all of which Tom supported: remaining alert and in control of my body, valuing my health, and a distaste for the way alcohol changed people’s behavior. I never wanted to do something ridiculous that I couldn’t take back. I never wanted to black out and forget what I had done the night before. The mere thought terrified me.

Zach, on the other hand, must have been feeling a bit bold after imbibing several flagons of firewhisky and chocolate hell—he possessed an enchanted flask that could dance on a tabletop or the palm of his hand when he so ordered it, and could also fill itself up with whatever alcoholic beverage the vampire desired. I had already observed him doing this several times over the course of the evening, to the delight of the surrounding Death Eaters. He was a one-man show.

In the middle of a dance, Zach strutted over to Tom and me and asked, “May I cut in?”

“No,” Tom snapped, pulling me closer and glaring at the vampire. “Off with you.”

Zach looked annoyed for the moment—blast that liquid courage—but he reluctantly slinked away, cape fluttering behind him. A moment later, he was happily whisking Mimevas around the dance floor. Her flowing blonde hair shimmered as the vampire spun her around. I giggled.

“It’s not funny,” Tom scolded. “No one else lays a finger on you. Even for one dance at a party. You are mine.”

“I’m sorry—I didn’t mean to—”

“It’s all right. Come here.” He pulled me closer still, so there was no space between us. He kissed my temple and swayed us back and forth in time with the music, but didn’t speak for a while.

I looked around to see who else was dancing with whom. Lucius and Narcissa obviously stuck together, as did Rodolphus and Bellatrix, but others weren’t so rigid in their dance partners. I noticed that the werewolf Patrick was quite the ladies’ man, and entertained several young women on the dance floor. Lulu was also very popular; as a wealthy young witch who was strikingly beautiful and glamorous, many men were eager to have her in their arms, even just for a little while. She definitely enjoyed the attention.

Tom later excused himself to go discuss a private matter with Narcissa—I suspect it had something to do with her jealous sister, but I did not pry. As soon as he walked away, Margo marched over to me with a shit-eating grin on her face, dragging Lulu and Sheena behind her. Falcon begrudgingly followed.

“That dress looks awfully familiar!” she exclaimed, putting her hands on her hips.

“Really? What a coincidence!” I drawled sarcastically.

The other girls laughed.

“Oh, and this is Falcon,” Margo added, gesturing to the rambunctious man in white.

“Hi, Falcon,” I said, shaking his hand. “I’m Alex. Nice to meet you.”

“You, too!” Falcon replied with a bit too much enthusiasm to sound genuine. “How interesting this is. For once, I’m not the only pet in the room! I’m Margo’s pet, and you’re the Dark Lord’s pet! In more ways than one, you know what I mean?” He nudged Margo impishly.

“Excuse me?!” I stepped close to him, so our faces were inches apart. I didn’t care that he was a foot taller than I was. “What did you just call me?”

“Falcon, stop it!” Margo reprimanded, stepping in between us as I was reaching for my wand. “Alex is an extremely accomplished witch. You need to respect her. Do you really want to make the Dark Lord angry? Are you truly that dense?!”

“Aww, it was just a joke,” he drawled. “This is a paaarrty. We’re supposed to have fu-uun. You know what fun is, right? Jokes and laughing and—”

“Falcon, you need to leave us alone for a while,” Margo rebuked.

“Aww, Marg, don’t abandon me like that!” he whined.

“I’m not abandoning you and you know it,” she scolded. “Enough of your histrionics. Go talk to some of the others for a while. You don’t want me to Summon your cage and make you spend the rest of the party in there, do you?”

Falcon rolled his eyes dramatically before grabbing Margo’s face and planting a sickeningly loud kiss on her cheek.

“I’ll behave,” he purred in her ear. Margo blushed and rubbed the spit off her face as he strutted away.

“What is up with him?!” I asked Margo. “How—what in the world is he? You made it sound like he was just your pet bird!”

“He’s an arrogant prat,” Sheena answered for her.

Margo sighed. “Look, I know he’s a little...strange...but he is pretty special. He’s really—he’s different when we’re at home and it’s just the two of us. Even though I usually keep him in bird form. It’s just a bit harder when he’s in human form because—”

“Because you want him to stay in human form, don’t you!” I teased. “Oh, and I have a question about that. When he transforms from bird to man, does he have clothes on? Or do you have to bring him robes—”

“HEY!”

“—after engaging in an activity that requires no clothes—”

“ALEX!!!”

Lulu doubled over laughing.

“You totally have a crush on him!” I exclaimed. “Look, I don’t know what in the world you see in him; but if the spark is there, then—”

“He’s my pet, Alex! He’s a bird with...special abilities. He’s not really a man. It’s not the same.”

“We’ve been having this conversation for years, Alex,” Sheena laughed. “Margo’s still not ready to admit that she wants to shag him senseless.”

“Oh, stop it!” Margo shot back, attempting to sound angry instead of flustered.

“Is he always such an asshole?” I asked Margo. “Or is he just full of bravado because you’re in public with him and he’s trying to make an impression? And why haven’t you told me more about him? You mentioned him after my initiation, but you talked about him like he was just a rowdy bird. And you haven’t brought him up in conversation since.”

“I, well—it’s complicated. I found him in a huge cage inside Eeylops Owl Emporium. After I brought him home, he transformed and became quite the chatterbox. He told me that he used to fly around Azkaban prison because he found the environment fascinating, but Aurors captured him and brought him to Diagon Alley to sell with the owls. They thought they were doing him a favor because they figured that no sane creature would ever gravitate toward Azkaban on their own free will.”

“How did you find him?”

“I went to Diagon Alley to purchase some new robes, and then I just strolled around for awhile because it was a beautiful day. I wandered into the owl emporium and noticed Falcon immediately. I bought him as soon as I saw him! It wasn’t even a question. There was just—there was something about him. And then when I brough him home, he transformed into a man and told me his tale. I was quite taken aback, but it just felt...right, you know? Keeping him.”

“I hear that he’s completely under your control now. How did you manage that?”

“A lot of trial and error!” Lulu hissed. Margo gave her a withering look.

“I can only imagine,” I said. “The dynamic you must have with him at home—honestly, I’d love to see that. You two are hysterical together. And you’d make quite the adorable odd couple!”

“They practically are a couple, don’t you see?” Sheena chimed in. Margo’s face reddened again.

“She’s the only one who doesn’t know it,” Lulu snickered.

“And speaking of odd couples,” Margo said loudly, while staring me down, “You have some explaining to do yourself, Missy! You and the Dark Lord, hmm?”

It was my turn to blush.

“You know, I’ve always suspected,” Sheena remarked. “He looks at you a little bit longer than necessary when he talks to you in meetings, and I think I’ve caught him staring at you a few times. And that spectacle with Chicky after your initiation? Merlin’s beard! He’d never defended anyone before. That was—that was shocking. Quite funny, too, I might add, given the circumstances!”

“And you’re always the last to leave every meeting!” Margo added. “Have you been coming and going from meetings with him this whole time?”

“Yes, you must tell us everything!” Lulu exclaimed, while wrapping her arm around my shoulders. “Are you...with him? Why didn’t he tell us that we were shopping for you? How did you get together with him?”

“Lulu, calm down!” I chuckled, and patted her on the back. I led my friends over to a group of empty chairs along the far wall. We rearranged the chairs so we could all face each other when we sat down, and they listened with rapt attention as I told them all that I was allowed to reveal. They were enthralled with the tale and ecstatic for me.

As I was telling the girls about how Tom had planned to “announce” our relationship via our entrance at the party, his voice loudly interrupted mine—he had cast the Sonorous charm to amplify his voice for all to hear.

“Good evening, my friends,” he said, “and a Happy New Year to us all. As always, it has been a pleasure to spend my birthday amongst the elite of the Wizarding world. I’m sure you all have enjoyed the revelry as much as I have.” He paused as everyone clapped.

“That’s your man! You should go stand next to him!” Margo teased. I shushed her with a giggle.

“Thank you to the Malfoys for once again hosting such a splendid party,” Tom continued. He gestured to a proud Lucius and Narcissa, and everyone applauded again.

I nudged Margo and said, “That’s your cousin. You should go stand next to him!”

“Oh, shut up!” Margo chuckled. Sheena smirked and rolled her eyes.

“As you all are undoubtedly aware,” Tom’s booming voice went on, “I arrived here tonight with a very special young lady. Alex Halaway, if you would join me, please.”

Lulu and Margo both chuckled and affectionately shoved me forward as I slowly got up to walk toward Tom, ignoring the flutter in my chest as the crowd parted. Once I was by his side, he snaked his arm aroud my waist and looked out across his followers. “This lovely little bombshell is not just my date for the night,” he announced, smirking at the rush of heat that burst across my cheeks, and the trepidation that suddenly filled the room. “In two weeks, she and I will be married!”

The crowd erupted. There was clapping, gasping, cheering, a surge of pink glitter—yeah, I knew who that was. I stifled a laugh. Tom kissed my forehead and waited until the racket had died down before finishing his speech.

“Yes, yes, thank you all. Thank you all very much. We more than appreciate your continued support. And I will remind you that, as my future wife, she is now your superior. You all will respect her and mind her as much as you do me. I’m sure this won’t be a problem.” He paused to make sure everyone followed—and, presumably, to see if anyone dared protest. “However,” he continued, his voice growing serious, “you all know that Miss Halaway has been listed as missing for the past several months—she has been living with me since completing her education at Hogwarts.” (A few more gasps.) “Now, we have taken the necessary precautions to ensure that no one discovers her true identity after our marriage, which included changing her name from Alex to Alera, but I must know for sure that you all will keep this information to yourselves. Before you leave Malfoy Manor tonight, you will each make an Unbreakable Vow with us to ensure that no one is tempted to reveal anything to anyone outside of our cause. Is that understood?”

Everyone nodded their ascent. Some of the Death Eaters looked visibly rattled at having to make the Unbreakable Vow, but Tom was not giving them options. This was an order. They knew they must obey or die.

We split everyone into two groups: those who had made the Vow and those who had not yet done so. Once the task was completed, the festivities resumed briefly, albeit with a hush over the room. As I resumed talking to Lulu, Sheena, and Margo, Chicky gamboled over to us.

“Congratulations!” she gushed. “I’m so happy for you two! And I promise I’ll never attempt to spray you with glitter again!”

“Oh, gee, thanks!” I laughed as she enveloped me in a big hug.

“...Because your soon-to-be husband would have my head if I did!” she whispered in my ear, before kissing me on the cheek.

I chuckled and nodded my agreement.

We sat down and resumed our conversation—and, of course, everyone had to grab my left hand and gawk over my now-visible ring. I laughed when Chicky tried to take it off to examine it and realized that she couldn’t.

“It can’t be removed,” I told a confused and disappointed Chicky. “It’s permanent.”

“What? How? I’ve never heard of such a thing!” she exclaimed. “And how come I didn’t see it on you earlier tonight?”

“Did he propose recently?” Sheena interjected.

“No, it was actually over the summer,” I answered Sheena. I then looked back at Chicky and said, “He charmed the ring so that no one could see it until he announced our wedding to you all. I’ve been wearing it all night.”

They all gaped.

“Wow,” Lulu breathed. “He really does think of everything.”

Oh, Lulu, you have no idea.

“So...what do we call you now?” Margo asked apprehensively. “Is it Alex or Alera or—”

“It’s My Lady in public; but I think when we’re talking amongst ourselves like this, Alera will do just fine.”

“Oh, so does that mean we can continue calling each other Girlie?” Lulu asked with a grin.

“Yes, I suppose so!” I chuckled, remembering how she randomly called me that when we were talking after a meeting not too long ago, and the nickname had stuck. We had already become close friends by this time, so I had permitted the affectionate term. “As long as it’s just us, I don’t see the problem. Just don’t do that in meetings; he wouldn’t like that too much.”

“You have so many different names now!” Sheena chided.

I laughed once more and continued chatting with my friends until the party was over.

What a way to ring in the new year. 

*   *   *

We decided not to make a huge fuss over the wedding because our union was also a very serious matter. Word of our marriage would quickly spread through the Ministry reports. I was prepared to rise to the top of the “Wizarding World’s Most Wanted” list right next to Tom, especially since I knew that my true identity would remain anonymous; no one knew the truth about She Who Must Not Be Named except the Death Eaters. Be that as it may, a small part of me still wanted loads of people in attendance, just so I could show off my gorgeous black dress, but safety and convenience were more important. (I also knew that Tom didn’t want to encourage other men to start eyeing me up at the wedding.)

Though the January 15th ceremony was small and brief, we threw another party at Malfoy Manor that evening. Tom and I enjoyed ourselves immensely, especially when everyone in the ranks gave us wedding presents. Most of our gifts were rare books and Dark artifacts. We could never have too many of those. I knew we would spend a lot of time the next day going through all of our presents the following day.

After the party had been going on for about two hours, I excused myself to fix my hair in the bathroom, and was startled to discover Bellatrix standing in front of the mirror, looking like she had been crying for hours.

“Um, Bellatrix?” I asked awkwardly. “Are you...all right?” It felt weird to be asking such a question, especially of someone with whom I frequently butted heads.

She immediately straightened up and faced me. “Yes, my Lady,” she said curtly. “I was just—”

“You don’t seem okay. You look like you’ve been bawling your eyes out.”

Bellatrix hung her head. “I just—well, I hope you won’t curse me for saying this, but...I envy you. I think you know why.”

I nodded.

“I won’t lie to you; I liked you a lot when we first talked after your initiation. And I don’t like a lot of people.”

“Neither do I.”

We both chuckled at that unexpected connection. “You remind me so much of myself when I was younger,” she continued. “I found myself actually wanting to talk with you more. I was surprised. When we were exchanging Hogwarts stories that day, it felt—I’m not sure what it was, but I liked it. It was strange. I almost thought I could consider you a friend until I saw—until I saw the Dark Lord looking at you the way he did. I hated you in that moment. I wanted to kill you. I wasn’t positive that there was anything between you two, but I think I could always tell, even that far back. There was something about the way he looked at you...the way he touched you...I—I just didn’t want to admit it to myself.”

I pressed my lips together and nodded. “I don’t know what to tell you.”

Since when does she give a shit about anyone, outside of obsessing over Tom? This has got to be a joke. And I will not fall for it.

“I know,” she sighed. “I guess it wouldn’t be appropriate for us to ever talk casually, seeing as you’re now my superior.”

I almost laughed, as I never thought she’d say something like that to me—or anyone, for that matter. She seemed too vindictive to even think that way, especially toward me. I had to make sure I wasn’t walking into a trap.

I asked her, point blank, “Are you being serious, or trying to make me look stupid?”

She looked completely taken aback. There was no way to fake that much mortification. “No—I...I’m sorry, my Lady. I shouldn’t have said anything.” She suddenly found her fingernails fascinating.

Well, shit. This is awkward.

“Bella, we can be—civil with one another. In fact, I’d recommend it. It would make our interactions less tense. Will that ever become friendship? I have no idea. And yes, I am your superior, but if I say we can be friends, then we can be friends.” I granted her a small smile. She returned it.

“I know things have always been a bit...strained...between us, but we are on the same side. Yes, our numbers are growing, but infighting doesn’t help any of us. It may feel good to blow off steam in the moment, but it ends up being a waste of energy in the long run. Civility obviously isn’t a requirement, but it certainly can help.”

“I suppose you’re right.” The older woman stared at nothing on the bathroom wall behind me for a moment, before looking back at me. I extended my hand and she shook it.

Bellatrix and I returned to the party together, which raised a few eyebrows. The tension between us had been no secret amongst the ranks, and some of the Death Eaters looked at us as if we’d exited the bathroom doing cartwheels. There was some murmuring in the crowd before the revelry resumed, and it was well into the night by the time everyone left.

Tom and I Apparated back to our bedroom after the party, and I assumed that he would once again throw me on the bed and tear off my clothes. Instead, he took my hand and led me over to the mirror.

“Tell me what you see,” he said. I shivered as his lips tickled my ear.

“I, um...I see myself in a beautiful dress?” I offered. He chuckled and ran his hands up and down my arms, and I smiled as I caught the reflection of his wedding ring in the mirror.

“This is true, but I see much more.”

“What do you mean?”

“I see the most skilled Dark witch in the world. I see the powerful, beautiful woman who belongs by my side.” He lowered his voice to a whisper. “I see Lady Voldemort.” My face broke into an enormous grin as he took my chin in his hand and coaxed my head back onto his shoulder.

“You love the way that sounds, don’t you,” he whispered.

I nodded.

“Mine forever,” he murmured against my skin while unzipping my dress. “All. Mine.” He slipped his arms around my waist, under the fabric, and pressed his lips to my neck. Goosebumps blanketed my body as he began kissing my neck faster and harder until I couldn’t take the tension anymore. After peeling off my dress, I turned around and pulled him close as our mouths collided. He glided his hands down my spine and grabbed my thighs to hoist me up and carry me over to the bed.

“My wife,” he declared proudly, and fell with me onto the mattress.

I knew I wouldn’t forget this night any time soon.

Chapter Text

The day after our wedding, Tom and I were in bed until past noon. After we’d been dozing for a while, he kissed me awake and whispered, “I have your wedding present ready.”

“Hmm?” I was still half-asleep and barely registered what he had said.

He sat up and began stroking my hair. I must have drifted off again because I suddenly jolted awake when I felt Tom sucking my nipples. I sighed and pulled his head closer.

“More....” I breathed.

He licked my collarbone and crawled on top of me, wrapping my legs around his back. I gripped his shoulders as he sat up and took me with him. Holding my hips, he easily slid into me. I gasped and held him tighter as he began rocking me up and down. I found it funny how, even in my semi-conscious state, being with him just felt natural on a purely physical level. I didn’t have to think about anything; my body simply reacted. 

“And now she awakens,” he chuckled into my neck, nibbling on the skin. His thrusts intensified and he pulled me closer, not stopping until I cried out my release and felt his warmth burst inside me. He pulled me down on top of him, then rolled over so I was on my back.

“Always the best way to wake up, isn’t it,” he murmured, before slowly licking my cheek.

“Mmm,” I sighed, still not fully awake. We lay there for a few minutes, and then I remembered his words as he had woken me up.

“Did you say something about a present before?” I asked.

“Wow,” he laughed. “You must have been quite groggy if you barely remember me mentioning your wedding present.”

My face lit up. “What is it?”

He sat up and got out of bed. “To see it, you have to fully wake up and come with me.”

“I did just wake up and...come with you.” I smirked.

“Very funny,” he chuckled, playfully shoving me. I watched him dress, almost hoping that he would come back to bed for a little while, though I knew he wouldn’t. After stretching languidly, I slowly dragged myself out of bed and got dressed, yawning a few times.

Tom smiled and took my hand. “Come on, my little night owl,” he teased.

He led me to a far corner of the library, where he tapped a high bookshelf with his wand. A thick book floated down into his outstretched hand, which he passed to me. My eyes narrowed when I read the title: Animagi: A Comprehensive Guide to Becoming a Shape-Shifter.

“Um—” I wasn’t sure how to respond.

“Do you remember when you first met Nagini?”

“Yes....” 

“Do you remember me saying that there may be a way for you to speak Parseltongue?” 

“Yes, but I don’t understand how this book—oh!” I grinned. “Are you saying that I could learn to transform into a snake?”

“I’m not positive, as no one knows what form their Animagus will take until they first transform; but I do suspect that your Animagus would be a snake.”

“Oh, wow.”

“I trust you would enjoy that." 

“I would!"

“Becoming an Animagus would make you an even more valuable asset to our cause than you already are.”

“I’m glad. I don’t know how long it will take for me to become skilled enough to attempt the transformation, but I’ll definitely try my hardest.”

“As with everything you do,” Tom replied, running his hand down my cheek. “Do not rush this task, as the outcome could be disastrous if you attempt the transformation before you are perfectly confident and have gained enough practice.”

“Okay. I’ll definitely start reading this today, but I want to look at our presents first.”

“How could we not?”

*   *   *

It was even more fun looking at our gifts the second time. Obviously, Tom and I had a rather exhaustive supply of books on Dark magic, so it was amusing to see how many duplicates our followers had gotten for us. Fortunately, there were a few new tomes for our collection. 

We also received numerous Dark artifacts, both for practical use and for decorating the house. There were a wide variety of skulls, elaborately designed cauldrons and potion ingredients that would normally be quite difficult to locate.

After admiring all our presents and deciding where to put them, I grinned at Tom and said, “You haven’t received all your gifts yet.”

“Is that so?”

I nodded. “Close your eyes.”

He shook his head, smirking.

“Oh, come on.”

“Nope.” He held out his hand and motioned for me to hand over my gift to him.

“You’re no fun,” I sighed, and looked away.

He rolled his eyes and smirked at me. “Oh, all right....”

I smiled as he closed his eyes, and reached into a small pocket of my robes. I placed the platinum necklace around his neck, chuckling when he jumped slightly at the feel of the cool metal.

“Open,” I whispered.

He looked down and smiled at the silver snake charm with emerald eyes.

“It’s an alarm,” I told him. “It burns whenever an enemy is near.”

“How convenient,” he remarked, “seeing as we have so many of those. How did you acquire this?”

“I made it.”

“What?”

“Well—I didn’t craft the necklace. I gave Lulu a few Galleons and told her to buy you a necklace from her favorite jewelry shop, and then I put a protective charm on it. It took some experimentation, but the charm works.”

Tom raised his eyebrows and nodded slowly. “How thoughtful.”

“Do you like it?” 

“I do indeed. Thank you.” He reached forward and pulled me in for a kiss.

*   *   * 

Since Tom first introduced me to his hidden lair, I had become oddly fascinated with the globe and found myself watching the Ministry of Magic often. I learned that at the beginning of each week, two Ministry workers were assigned to the Room of Records to record all the new Wizarding births, deaths, and marriages in Great Britain. (My old friend Matthew must have been a part of this routine, but he clearly couldn’t contribute to the cause anymore!) A week after the wedding, I smirked as I watched the employee assigned to record changes in letters N-Z stumble upon the most shocking marriage notification in years: a twenty-year-old Alera Desiree Vega, now Riddle, had just married the most dangerous Dark wizard alive.

I chuckled as I watched the horror register on his face.

  ~ * ~ * ~

‘Oh, Merlin help us!” he exclaimed, unable to tear his eyes away from the birth certificate in his trembling hands. The other employees in the room immediately stopped what they were doing.

“David, what’s wrong?” one of them asked.

She received no answer.

The shaken man hastily departed the Room of Records, clutching the soon-to-be-infamous birth certificate. He would speak to no one but the Minister, who ended up even more traumatized than his employee.

“Minister, what will we do? I don’t think we should let the people know. Everyone knows the Death Eaters are getting stronger, so why pour salt in the wound? This is unheard of. It’s—”

Fudge violently shook his head. “David, don’t you realize that keeping the Wizarding world in the dark will only make people more vulnerable? You don’t seem to realize that the danger of our being taken over by the Death Eaters has just doubled. Obviously no one would ever expect You-Know-Who to marry, but this woman must be a formidable force if he sees her as his equal.”

“Damn right, I am,” I mumbled under my breath. 

“With all due respect, Minister, I’m not sure that he would marry for love. How can someone like him be capable of falling in love? He is in love with himself, and with the thought of immeasurable power! Nothing else! For all we know, this Alera may have been forced to marry You-Know-Who against her will. I think I may almost pity her—”

“And with all due respect, David, I’m not willing to take that kind of chance. Have you heard a word I’ve just said?!”

David hung his head. “I’m so sorry, Minister. I just—I’m not sure how to handle this. Does anyone really know how we should handle this? This is not something any of us are prepared to deal with.”

“I’m very well aware of this, but we cannot simply ignore the situation. The people must know. I will inform the Muggle Prime Minister as well.”

David nodded, pressing his lips together. “Should I assume that the—that the news of this...union will make the front page of tomorrow’s Prophet?” 

“Yes. Inform one of our writers of everything that has happened this morning, and have them compose a brief article. And I want to read it before it is published.”

“Yes, Minister.”

 ~ * ~ * ~

The following morning brought the announcement that Tom and I had been expecting: a front-page headline alerting the Wizarding world to our marriage. I couldn’t help but chuckle as I read through the article; the Ministry really was clueless.

 ~ * ~ * ~

Breaking News: He Who Must Not Be Named Marries

A recent discovery in the records of all magical individuals has shaken the Ministry of Magic. He Who Must Not Be Named, whose whereabouts are unknown, but whose forces have been growing stronger, has taken a wife as of Janary 15, 2006. Twenty-year-old Alera Vega’s mere existence has baffled the Ministry as she and her family impossible to locate. There is speculation that her parents are either in hiding or have been kidnapped.

The Ministry urges anyone who has the slightest bit of information on He Who Must Not Be Named or his new wife to come forward for the sake of the Wizarding world’s survival.

Ministry officials are searching more thoroughly than ever for the infamous couple and their followers. Any Death Eaters found will serve a life sentence in Azkaban. 

 ~ * ~ * ~

After the thrill of our marriage wore off, I began studying from the book Tom had given me every day. I never had considered trying to become an Animagus before; but now it seemed convenient, especially as the Dark Lord’s right hand. I kept the book on my desk, along with several rolls of parchment and quills so I could take notes. 

Outside of a few specific rituals, becoming an Animagus was basically just a more advanced form of Transfiguration. Though I had excelled at the subject in school, I had a lot more to learn before attempting to transform into an animal. Fortunately, there were a fair amount of books in the library on advanced Transfiguration, which I studied almost every day for the next few months, in addition to continuing my Dark Arts lessons with Tom. I felt like I was back in school, but without the pressure of exams and social protocol. The work was still tiring, but oddly satisfying.

One evening, I had gone through three very lengthy chapters in one of the Transfiguration books when I felt a headache coming on. I rested my head on my desk and took a few deep breaths before I felt Tom stroking my hair.

“Tired?”

“Yeah,” I sighed.

“I’ve been watching you for the past few minutes,” he replied. “Your concentration and eagerness to learn are written all over your face when you go through these books. I find it overwhelmingly attractive.”

I blushed. “Thanks.”

He pulled up a chair and sat next to me. “I don’t think you realize how much I love it when you blush,” he murmured. “It reminds me of the way you look when you achieve orgasm.”

But I still wish you didn’t make me blush so often. No one else ever has....

“But I do,” he said quietly, dragging out the words while stroking the back of my head. “And I love it.”

Merlin, this fucking mind-reading has got to stop.

He leaned over and kissed my throat. “Never,” he drawled against my skin.

I growled and looked at the ceiling.

Why am I so weak?!

“Alera, you are not weak. I do not tolerate weakness in my ranks, nor in my home. Yes, you are human and therefore imperfect, but you are also the most formidable woman I know. And I wouldn’t even have considered bringing you here in the first place, much less keeping you all to myself, if you were not.”

He either has tremendous respect for me, or he’s just telling me what he thinks I want to hear so I’ll do what he wants....

He reached forward, gripped my chin in his hand and forced me to look at him. 

“That was rubbish, and you know it,” he scolded. “Firstly, I told you early on that I admire you. Secondly, I never tell people what they want to hear just to placate them, unless they are useful to me in that emotional state. I praise those who have proven themselves worthy, which you have done time and time again.” 

I know I should be flattered, but I can’t find it in me right now....

“So don’t.”

I growled again and tried to look away from him, but he grasped the back of my skull so it was impossible for me to move my head.

“I know you don’t want me probing into your mind,” he said while massaging my scalp. “I just cannot help myself. Your mind fascinates me. How could I possibly resist?” He smirked.

“And I understand that you’re my husband and you know me better than anyone, but I’d just like a bit of privacy sometimes. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.” 

“Hmm.” He began stroking my hair with both hands. “I do remember telling you I was sure you would master Occlumency at some point—” 

“Would you teach me??” I blurted out. FINALLY???

“I will; however, I must warn you. As I am most skilled Legilimens in the world, you will never be able to shut me out of your mind completely. Learning Occlumency will strengthen your mental barriers enough to keep most others out of your mind; but I will always be there, even if only a little bit.”

He leaned forward until our faces were almost touching. “You are ready now. Consider this my gift to you,” he whispered, before kissing my temple.

*   *   *

We started my Occlumency lessons about a week later. I was nervous; but figured Tom had already discovered everything there was to know about me, so I wouldn’t have to worry about trying to hide anything in particular. Small comfort....           

“All right,” he said as we stood in the library a few feet away from my desk. “I will now attempt to look into your mind. You will try to prevent me from doing so.” 

“How?”

“When I first enter your mind, you will feel certain memories rise to the surface, and will be unable to control the stream of consciousness that begins. To block me from seeing this, you must put up a mental shield to force your mind to go completely blank. When you have mastered this, I will then have you try and block me by breaking the stream of consciousness and thinking of something entirely different.”

“Okay. I realize I’m nowhere near that point yet, but how will I know the difference between the memories you’re bringing to the surface and a normal stream of consciousness? Random memories can pop up any time, and, well, you know how abnormally sharp my memory is.”

“You will feel like you’re being dragged along, forced to view these memories.”

I suddenly couldn’t meet his eyes. “That happens to me anyway,” I said in a small voice.

He lifted my chin and rested a hand on my shoulder. “I know,” he replied softly. “I’m aware of how often you battle with your mind. I know how hard it is for you to control your thoughts. This will not be easy, but you are learning from the best. Eventually, you will not only grow more skilled at controlling your thoughts on your own, but you will also be able to block pretty much anyone from entering your mind.”

I sighed. “Well, let’s get started then.”

“Yes, let’s.”

“Wait,” I added. “One more thing.”

“Yes?”

“You said that your probing into my mind will force a new stream of consciousness, but you’re constantly reading my thoughts without me noticing. How?”

“That is a much more advanced stage of Legilimency that most cannot grasp. During your lessons, I will only do that after you have mastered the first two techniques I just mentioned.”

“Wow,” I whispered, nodding slowly. “Not to get ahead of myself, but I definitely want to learn Legilimency as well.”

“It is a bit early to be talking about that, but I don’t see why not. It will be a long time before that happens, though. Possibly years. I may need to temporarily halt your Dark Arts lessons—learning either Legilimency or Occlumency takes quite a physical toll as well as an emotional one, which is another reason why this process must not be rushed. You will feel quite tired after your lessons for the next few months.” He gestured to the large pitcher of water and empty glass he had set on my desk.

Months. Great.

I exhaled slowly. “How did you learn Legilimency? Who taught you?”

“I taught myself,” he replied with a smirk. 

My eyes widened. “But...you just said it exhausts people physically and emotionally. How did you...I...I can’t even imagine how you did it. That seems almost impossible. You defy logic.” I looked at him in awe, feeling slightly disturbed.

“I am also the most capable sorcerer in the world,” he bragged.

“I—I have no trouble believing that.”

“Good. You shouldn’t. Now, let’s begin. As you are only now starting these lessons, I will make sure you’re aware of every time I enter your mind.”

“How?”

“Like this.” He pointed his wand at my head and said, “Legilimens!”

I gasped as I was suddenly taken back to my N.E.W.T. exams, then killing Erica and fleeing the scene, then killing Matthew, then the day I met him.

I don’t want to think about this!

It didn’t matter.

I was in my fourth year, lying in my bed at Hogwarts and daydreaming about him...  

I was both exhilarated and unnerved because I couldn’t believe that a boy had gotten under my skin the way he had, but it was also fun during particular moments, as I could use thoughts of him to drown out most of the misery in my life...

I remembered the time we nearly kissed outside the Great Hall...

How heartbroken and enraged I was when I finally realized that he’d been toying with my emotions to feel in control because he was a coward and lacked the maturity to communicate his feelings openly—

“NO!!” I shouted.

Tom finally withdrew from my mind, and I crumpled to the floor.

“No, no, no....” I clutched my head and groaned. “Oh my god....”

Tom knelt in front of me and lifted my head up. “Open your eyes,” he ordered.

I didn’t.

“Look at me,” he commanded. I slowly looked up at him with a sigh of defeat.

“If someone else wanted to completely probe into your thoughts, they would not have stopped there,” he continued. “And next time, neither will I.”

I shook my head. “But—”

“No buts. We will wait a few minutes while you regain your strength, and then begin again. For now, drink some water.”

I shakily got to my feet, and then downed two glasses of water in less than five minutes. After I was satisfied, Tom took my waist and coaxed me away from my desk.

“Alera, you must understand that during these lessons, I will not be lenient,” he said sternly. “I will push you to the brink of insanity and back again, over and over, until you can force your mind to go blank. That first time was merely an introduction.”

I bit my lip and nodded.

“And now, once again, Legilimens!”

I was at home, locking myself in my bedroom to get away from my family, after having a huge fight with my parents...

My father was banging on the door, shouting and demanding that I unlock it or he would punish me for the fifth time that week...

I was in my first year of Hogwarts, being bullied mercilessly for my nationality and lack of interest in social activity...

I realized I had no true friends and couldn’t rely on anyone...

It was third year, around the time I discovered that it wasn’t friends I’d wanted; it was safety...

I was lashing out at my Housemates after they prodded me for details about my winter break because I realized that I finally had a way out, so I didn’t need them to like me anymore...

I was sneaking around the library at night, under my invisibility cloak...

I had just stolen the cloak from a careless first-year boy who was sneaking around under it, but had forgotten to cover his feet...

Professor Sprout found him crying and desperately searching for the cloak, and she took pity on him while I shook with silent laughter ten feet away...

I was six years old, in time-out after having thrown a massive temper tantrum that involved trashing my parents’ bedroom...

I was seven, furious and raging around the house, throwing things down the stairs and screaming at the top of my lungs, and Morgan was hiding from me because she thought I was going to kill her....

My thoughts began to jumble together and I thought I was going to be sick. I imagined a solid gray wall and tried to hold onto that image, but it faded quickly.

Anger...pain...frustration...insecurity...hopelessness...resentment....

When Tom finally stopped forcing his way through my thoughts, I realized that I was crying. I hastily wiped my tears away and looked up at him; his eyes were cold and his lips were pressed together.

“You must try harder next time,” he admonished softly. “That gray wall was a start, but it clearly wasn’t powerful enough to keep me out of your mind. You must focus harder on that wall, and let all your thoughts slip away. It doesn’t matter how painful your memories are; someone wanting to read your mind will not care. They will only use that to their advantage.”

As you have done time and time again. 

I sighed. “You’re an Occlumens too, right?”

“Yes. I, too, had quite a difficult childhood, but that did not stop me from mastering Occlumency. You must learn to do the same.”

“I know,” I whispered. 

He approached me and began stroking my cheek with the back of his hand. His expression was still stern, and he refused to take his eyes off mine.

“I knew this would be extremely difficult for you,” he said, tracing my neck and collarbone with his index finger. “Do not give up. In these lessons, you will be facing all of your worst memories, your fears...” He began stroking my cheek again. “...everything from your past that you wanted to bury forever. And until you learn to block me from seeing this, you will not be able to bury any of it.” He planted a cold, hard kiss on my lips. “Now, let’s try again.”       

*   *   * 

The next few months were some of the most tiring of my life. Tom gave me Occlumency lessons every day and was absolutely relentless. No support, no encouragement, and no leniency. Just exhaustive repetition. And he seemed to get a kick out of my suffering. During these sessions, he did not simply probe into my thoughts; he controlled them. He twisted them. He forced me to remember not only traumatic events witnessed by others, but thoughts I had been too afraid to share or even write in my journals, because I feared them being discovered—

My fear of being seen for who I really am instead of the watered-down image I projected to shield myself from punishment and scorn.

My need to be the best at every task that mattered to me, because I’d spent the first ten years of life feeling like the worst at everything and I overcompensated. I wanted to be as close to perfect as possible. As a child led to believe that I couldn’t do anything right because “right” only meant “what others deem acceptable,” I was often enraged that I couldn’t be flawless. I needed to be. As the power over my life had been stripped away so many times, I’d found myself wanting to be a god in order to wield power over others more than they would ever be able to wield power over me. I wanted to always get my way, and never lose my agency again.

The desire to be respected and admired somewhere that I truly belonged. Love wasn’t terribly important to me, but I’d always wanted to be valued, and even feared, if it would get me what I wanted. I wanted to be treated as significant and important as I felt.

Fear of being forever trapped in a world where I could never relax or feel safe, because I would never find anyone like me—be it partner or friend. Fear of always having to police my behavior and look over my shoulder to make sure I wasn’t offending an authority figure who held sway over my life. 

I’d never told anyone about these deep, dark crevices in my character. I didn’t want anyone to know. I hated appearing vulnerable in any capacity because it reminded me that, as brilliant and powerful as I was, I was still human. I wasn’t a god. I wasn’t perfect. I was fallible. I could still teeter on the edge of insanity and break down like the best of them, in the right circumstances.

Tom knew all of this. I’d never doubted that—I’d just hoped that he wouldn’t ever mention the subject. And so far, he hadn’t. I’d begun to wonder if he ever would, since he’d been so focused on tutoring me in the Dark Arts and other complex skills and had been exceedingly pleased with my progress thus far.

He had obviously delayed my Occlumency lessons until I’d developed a solid foundation of more advanced magic. I may have sailed through Hogwarts academically, but there was more to magical mastery than receiving high marks as a child. In a controlled environment. Though Defense Against the Dark Arts classes may have laid the foundation for my future training with Tom, I always knew that, given the complex trauma of my childhood and my abnormally powerful memory, lack of control over my thoughts was my absolute biggest weakness. Tom had repeatedly exploited this flaw for his own amusement, and also as a not-so-gentle nudge. He was cracking the whip. He was ordering me to shape up and hone this ability until my level of skill in the discipline was finally to his satisfaction.

And I had no fucking idea how long that would take.

I felt an inordinate amount of pressure to perform—not only to learn yet another complex task under Tom’s tutelage, but to master it quickly so as not to appear incompetent and scared of facing my weaknesses. I couldn’t look or act that way in front of him. He wanted me as strong as possible. I knew he enjoyed teaching me, regardless of the subject matter; but I suspected that this task, specifically, was something he considered a test of his ability to pass on his vast knowledge and mold someone else in his image.

He tutored the other Death Eaters in the Dark Arts, but this was a level up. This wasn’t business as usual, training his army to do his work. This was personal. 

I began resenting Tom intensely during this time—he was forcing me to relive all of my worst memories and hidden fears every day without a break. It put me in a very foul mood, and I had no desire to even kiss him. He was determined to change that; as frustrated as he was with my barely noticeable progress, he still wanted me frequently. I wasn’t sure how, but I didn’t have much say in the matter.

The night after my first Occlumency lesson, he tried to seduce me as I lay on my side with my back to him. He stroked my hair, kissed my shoulder and the back of my neck, and lightly glided his hand over my body. When I didn’t respond, he reached in between my legs and slowly rubbed back and forth, expecting me to simply melt into him. But I was determined not to give in. I remained rigidly still, barely even breathing. He growled and pulled me against his chest. I tried to wriggle away, but my aversion to his ministrations only fueled him to do more. It reminded me of my first night with him, back when I was sixteen. He saw this in my mind, of course, and didn’t let me forget it. 

“Nothing in that regard has changed, my love,” he whispered. “Right now, just like that night, I want you. Badly. And I don’t care if you’re not in the mood, because I’m just going to take you.”

He rolled me onto my back and straddled me, clamping his legs around me so tightly that I couldn’t even squirm, and grinned down at me as I moaned and struggled futilely. After pinning my arms above my head, he waved his wand and a rope sprang from the headboard to bind my wrists. I whimpered as he grabbed my hair and yanked my head to the side. Breathing suddenly became difficult, as my nose was pressed so firmly into the pillow. Tom growled and sank his teeth into my neck, sucking hard. His growl soon turned to a gruff cackle.

My whole body tensed as rage swelled inside me. 

I thought we were done with this behavior! I thought you just needed to get this shit out of your system at first because you’d been holding back for so long, but you have me now! I am here by choice! I’m your fucking wife! Isn’t that enough?      

It wasn’t enough. Sure, I bore his ring and his Mark. I was bound to him forever. The never-ending supply of marks his teeth left on my skin were a constant reminder of this. And as much as I enjoyed his possessiveness, I still hoped to retain some semblance of authority over my life, especially in the bedroom. But I apparently couldn’t. 

Are you quite certain that you know who you’re dealing with?  Yes, I know who I’m fucking dealing with. Thanks.

His right hand slithered down my belly and he shoved two fingers inside me, pumping hard and fast while biting into my neck with more force. I considered just giving in, and hated myself for it. I didn’t want him to get any satisfaction from me after making me relive some of my worst memories, but I was powerless to stop him from taking what he wanted. He continued fingering me and rubbing my clitoris with his thumb until my release covered his hand.

“You can never truly resist me, no matter how hard you try,” he declared. “I can do whatever I want with you. You have authority over our followers, but you have no authority over me. I need to make sure you understand this.”

How the fuck could I respond to that? I blankly stared back at him, then up at the ceiling. His smirk was unnerving and I found myself unable to meet his gaze.

After licking his fingers clean, he threw my legs over his shoulders and began thrusting with impossible force. I screamed and moaned, knowing there was nothing else I could do. Part of me wanted to give in again just to make my situation easier—I knew that if I relaxed my body and enjoyed the feel of him, I wouldn’t suffer. Not physically, anyway. Only my pride would take (yet another) hit. But if I stayed rigid and locked in a knot of tension, continually reminding myself of how much he was violating me, just to keep my pride intact, what would actually change? What was the point of resisting, anyway? He would take what he wanted regardless of my stance on the matter.

“You’re mine,” he growled, interrupting my mental tug of war, “whenever I want you. Don’t you ever forget it.” He pressed a hard kiss to my lips and squeezed my breasts.

“Tom—”

“Stop talking, Alera,” he scolded, pressing his hand against my throat to stop the airflow. I gaped and thrashed like a fish out of water until he lifted his hand—just enough for me to inhale slowly, but not enough to allow me a full breath. It was like I was breathing through a straw. I felt him twitch inside me as panic swelled in my chest.

This turns him on. Holy shit. But am I really surprised by that?

He stroked my throat with his thumb, lingering on my quickening pulse.

“Beautiful girl,” he whispered against my neck before slamming his hand against my windpipe once again. “My pretty little damsel in distress.”

I wanted to punch him in the face. He knew that using a condescending epithet like that would enrage me, especially given the current circumstances. He knew I wanted to be as powerful as he was. And though I was well on my way, I was clearly nowhere near the finish line. Especially while tied down and suffocated. 

He continued the motion of restricting my airflow and then briefly allowing me respite as he pumped in and out of me. His eyes were on fire as he watched me struggle. This went on for at least ten minutes before he was, at long last, satisfied.

As soon as he released my wrists and laid down next to me, I turned away from him and exhaled loudly. 

He just raped me. There was nothing ambiguous about it this time—my husband just fucking raped me. Merlin, I can’t even look at him right now.

I clenched my teeth and balled my hands into fists against my chest.

He sighed and clicked his tongue. Edging closer, he snaked his left arm underneath my neck and closed his hand around my throat again and began rubbing my torso with his right hand.

“Already itching to turn away, are we?” he drawled, barely allowing me any space to breathe. “Continue showing me how much you want me to stop, and I will only prolong this for you. Keep this up, and you might not even sleep tonight.” He pinched my right nipple hard. I squealed. After pulling me even closer, he brushed the hair off my face and slid his fingers down my arm. “Don’t make this more difficult than it needs to be,” he warned.

I began to relax as he released his grip on my throat and left a trail of soft kisses down the side of my neck, until he pushed my shoulder down and bit into my neck again.

“No...” I groaned.

Yesss,” he hissed. “Don’t even think about fighting me. All that does is increase my desire for you—not that I mind terribly.” He chuckled wickedly and sat up. Grabbing my hips, he brought me to a sitting position and pulled me onto his lap. “Lovely,” he whispered, tracing the newest wound on my neck. “Not enough, though.”

“What??”

“You heard me, beautiful.” He cupped my chin and forced my head back onto his shoulders. Leaning down, he began sucking on my throat while winding his right arm around my shoulders and pulling me even closer. He bit down hard and licked his way around my neck and shoulders. 

“I must confess,” he murmured, “I think I’m addicted to your body. I don’t think I could ever have enough of you.”

I whimpered softly in response, not knowing what to say. I normally loved it when he talked like that, but I was in no mood for it. Not that it mattered. I was powerless. 

“And you are here for me, whenever I desire you,” he taunted. “I must be the luckiest man on Earth.” He chuckled darkly and began massaging my breasts. I remained silent, save a few soft moans. I had no strength left.

I felt him stiffen once again as he circled his thumbs around my nipples and gently chewed on my earlobe. You can’t fucking be serious, I thought. Can you just decide you’re too tired and go to sleep, instead of assaulting me all night long?

He untangled himself from me and grabbed my hair so violently that I yelped.

“I bet you wish you were a skilled Occlumens now, don’t you?” he jeered. “And no, darling, I’m not quite ready to go to sleep yet.”

He released my hair and laid on his back before gripping my waist and pulling me back down onto the mattress. Rolling me over to face him, he ran his hand down my face and neck. I closed my eyes, just to avoid looking at him, and somehow found myself calming down as he reached into my hair and massaged my head.

The soothing feeling didn’t last long, though. I hissed as he grabbed my hair again and forced my head down toward his groin.

No. NO. That is the LAST thing I want to do right now.

“Whether you want to or not is irrelevant,” he snapped. “You know you cannot disobey me. And anyway, why would I want to skip this part when you’re so good at it?”

“Tom, I—”

“Do it. Pleasure me.” He gripped my hair tighter and I sighed in resignation.

Let’s get this over with.

I straddled his legs and took him into my mouth, and he slammed my head down so hard that I gagged.

“One more thought like that, and you may as well choke on it. Behave!” he scolded while lifting my head back up, pulling my hair so taut I worried he was going to rip it out. 

“I’m sorry,” I said as calmly and politely as I could, holding back tears from the sharp pain in my scalp. “I’ll do it. Could you—could you please let go of my hair.”

He thought for a moment and then slowly released his grip. He twisted the strands around his wrist, but didn’t hold on as tightly as he’d done before. 

“Consider yourself lucky I gave you that,” he scoffed. “This is for my enjoyment, not yours.”

“I understand, my Lord,” I replied softly, willing my lips not to twitch in fury.

He smirked at my powerlessness as I lowered my head and opened my mouth once again. I normally enjoyed pleasing him, and hearing him praise my skill in that department, but I wasn’t enjoying much of anything at the moment. I tried to relax as I glided my mouth up and down the hard, smooth flesh I knew so well. My movements felt robotic—like it wasn’t even me performing the act, and I was observing someone else in my place. The sensation was unnerving. I went through the motions, doing what I knew he liked, hoping the time would pass quickly and end this humiliation sooner. I felt the usual twitches and shivers underneath me as I gently glided my teeth up his shaft and began sucking on the tip while jerking my fist up and down the length. He sucked in a shaky breath as I continued working him with my mouth and massaging his testicles.

“Ohh, yes. That’s it. That’s my girl,” he groaned, caressing the back of my head. My body normally hummed at his praise, but now the words felt like a mocking stab of betrayal. I felt dirty and used. I wanted to curl up on the floor of the shower stall and scrub until I finally felt clean again, however long that would take. And I knew he wouldn’t allow me to do that. I was stuck here, feeling like a filthy whore.

I tried not to enjoy the feeling of him stroking my hair and rubbing my arms, and instead focused on clearing my mind so that I could complete the job with minimal awkwardness. He began moaning loudly as I moved my mouth over him, building him up the way I always did.

Who has the power now?  I thought, suddenly wanting to control him in some capacity as retaliation for everything he’d done to me since the beginning. Yes, I was incredibly attracted to him. Yes, I knew exactly who he was and what he was capable of. Yes, I realized that he was sometimes downright abusive; but given how I likely would have fared in life without him, I figured I should consider myself lucky. However, that didn’t mean I couldn’t have a little fun of my own at his expense—just this once. He couldn’t attain this level of pleasure without me. No one else could reduce the world’s most brilliant, elegant, powerful Dark wizard to such a primal beast who wanted nothing but this frenetic tangle of mouths and hands and pulsing organs like I could. And I wasn’t going to let him forget it.

Without warning, I began jerking him harder than I normally did, while slowly moving his testicles around in my mouth like fleshy marbles. He gasped at my unexpected shift in behavior, and his eyes widened as he saw the fire in mine. I glared up at him, holding his gaze while sucking hard on the tip of his cock and tracing my fingers in random patterns around the shaft.

“MERLIN, Alera!” he growled. “Stop that! You know I—uunnhhh. You little bitch!”

I chuckled evilly, with my mouth full of throbbing flesh, and scratched my nails down his torso. I wondered if his loud snarl was more a response to the pain, or shock over my sudden boldness. He found himself unable to react further. I worked him deeper into a tizzy before I gripped his hips and began furiously bobbing my head up and down, not stopping until I felt the familiar jet of hot, salty liquid shoot down my throat. He growled and shuddered and squeezed the back of my neck as he arched up off the bed. I continued sucking him, even after I felt the muscle go limp in between my lips. He shuddered again, gritting his teeth and clutching my hair like his life depended on it. I regarded him with a mixture of arousal and fury. He looked back at me like he wanted to murder me, but he certainly couldn’t threaten me while his cock was in my mouth. He begrudgingly allowed me to suck some more, watching me drag out the delicious blend of pleasure and pain before I finally pulled my head back with agonizing slowness. We stared at each other that way in silence, neither of us moving, until he reached down and ran his thumb over my lips to catch a stray drop of white fluid. He pushed the pad of his thumb against my lips, and I opened my mouth to suck it dry. After he gently tucked my hair behind my ear, I climbed off of him and laid on my back. He propped himself up on his elbow and regarded me with a trumphant grin.

“You enjoyed that. I know you did,” he teased.

I futilely attempted to smother the stubborn smirk that crept onto my face.

What is this?  I thought as he grabbed my chin and turned my head toward him for a kiss. What is this dynamic that we have? Does this type of relationship have a name? How do I describe this bond? This connection? This union of two perverse, obstinate, destructive individuals digging into each other like this, fully aware of the amorality of it all but not giving a shit and doing it anyway?

“Complicated,” he murmured when he finally released my lips, yet again answering my thoughts as if I’d spoken them aloud. He turned me over onto my side and pulled me against his chest. “Complicated, yet beautiful,” he whispered into my hair. “Just like we are.”

Goosebumps shot down my arm as he began kissing my ear. My lips parted to form a response, but I didn’t know what to say. He was right. What more could I add? 

I slowly closed my eyes as all the tension oozed out of me. Consciousness mercifully slipped away within seconds.

*   *   * 

As oddly amusing as the end of the night had been, I still woke up more livid than I had ever felt before; even since the episode after Tom had first shown me his globe. Not only was I expected to bite my tongue through my husband gleefully twisting and warping and accentuating all of my flaws, while forcing me to relive—and discuss in excruciating detail—all of the worst experiences of my life, but I was also supposed to just lie there and take it at night. Half of me was incensed and wanted to scream and lash out at Tom until I was too tired to be angry anymore; and the other half of me knew that, despite my protestations, I had signed up for this. As I had reminded myself the previous night, I knew exactly who Tom was. I knew exactly what he was capable of. I knew what I was getting into when I agreed to marry him. Not that he would have allowed me to refuse his proposal, but I knew that I would never have found another man more well-suited to my personality, either way. And the brutal truth was that I had been through much worse. 

I had been equal parts flattered and terrified when Tom had first brought me to him—that I was the one Lord Voldemort had chosen to call his. If I were being really honest with myself, that feeling still surfaced every so often, depending on his mood. This was the man I had practically idolized as a teenager. I had known full well what was in his heart and the atrocities he had committed, and yet I’d still wanted to be near him. I still felt smug about his intense desire for me. Be that as it may, my demonic ego trip came with consequences. I was hisHe fucking owned me. As powerful and independent as I’d always felt, I couldn’t assert myself against Tom. I answered to him. I had vowed to stand by his side and obey his every command, and I would perish if I went back on my word. This was the price I had to pay for being with someone so similar to me...but with more power. 

I accepted it.

I knew my place; and for the most part, I was happy with it. I just needed to bitch about the rough patches sometimes. (But only in my head, of course.) I belonged here. And besides...the more I endured, the more resilient I grew. I needed to be strong.

Tom orchestrated my Occlumency lessons in two half-hour stints each day, one after breakfast and one after lunch. I wasn’t sure what was more unnerving—what he was actually doing inside my head, or the spectacularly awkward conversations he insisted on having after the fact. He made me talk about everything he’d seen inside my mind, how it made me feel, and why. Though he never explicitly stated it, I knew exactly what he was doing: trying to shake all the pain and humiliation out of me to the point that no subject would feel too raw or embarrassing to discuss, thus strengthening my mental fortitude and subsequent ability to fend off a Legilimens. Be that as it may, the intensity of these sessions was absolutely ridiculous. I felt like I was receiving trauma therapy from a drill sergeant.

I almost felt like a child again, being forced to listen while my parents screamed at me about everything I was doing wrong, without any concern for what had made me act out in the first place. They’d seemed to enjoy laying into me during these moments. Whether it was punishing me for yet again upsetting the order of things, or dragging me to another psychological evaluation with the goal of trying to “fix” me instead of getting to the root of the problem, the real issue was that they were terrified and ill-equipped to raise a child who didn’t mirror their values. When they brought me to the mental hospital and scolded me left and right just to assert their authority, they weren’t solving anything; they were floundering out of desperation. They needed to be right and make me wrong. They were flexing their Good Parent muscles to pat themselves on the back for at least attempting to mend their failure of an older daughter. Little did they know that their tactics only made me worse—and that they were the main reason for my despicable behavior in the first place.

But I was not with my parents anymore. I was not with petty, insecure people who were trying to change me to make themselves comfortable in their judgment of my character. I was with someone who wanted me to become the best possible version of myself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else. I was with the only person on Earth who knew every inch of me, inside and out, and wanted to see me achieve my highest level of potential. Obviously, Tom’s motivations were not entirely pure—were I not at my strongest and most powerful, I would be less of an asset to his cause and make him appear less powerful. I was his wife. His right hand. I had to fulfill my role. If I ever appeared fragile, it would reflect badly on him. He told me many times that he knew I wasn’t weak, but that didn’t mean he would slack off on making sure I was always at peak performance. He certainly felt a sense of personal accomplishment at being the driving force behind my rise from the ashes. And, of course, he also got a sick thrill from breaking me down first, more than anyone else ever could, before putting me back together.

I definitely felt myself growing mentally tougher as my Occlumency lessons progressed. I realized that the foundation for mastering the art wasn’t so much about being able to block a Legilimens; it was the ability to wring all emotion from one’s thoughts in order to robotically bury them and render one’s mind completely blank. This skill was the solid foundation of a mental shield. Tom told me to control my thoughts instead of letting them control me. Hence all the conversations on gut-wrenching subject matter.

However, the whole point of Occlumency was to block a mental invasion. And I was terrible at it. Given my immense difficulty in controlling my thoughts, in or out of Occlumency lessons, it took me many months to realize that the gray wall I pictured was like tissue paper to Tom’s probing. I eventually began picturing a brick wall instead. At first, the structure materialized in my mind for a few seconds and became the center of my focus, but then Tom would always force himself further into my psyche and the bricks would crumble. Only after I’d been imagining the brick wall for about three months did I finally see some results. I managed to hold the barrier in place for about a minute, and then five minutes, and then ten. This breakthrough gave my confidence a noticeable boost, which spurred me to try even harder. After I’d held the brick wall in place for twenty minutes, Tom slowly withdrew from my mind. I stood still for a long moment, keeping my eyes closed and barely daring to even breathe. And then I felt Tom’s lips on mine. He quickly moved to my neck and began sucking hard. I moaned.

“Congratulations,” he murmured against my skin. “I’m proud of you.”

“Thank you,” I breathed, sagging against him.

“I take it you’re finally admitting that you’ve still wanted my touch these past few months?” he continued, nibbling on my ear.

“Yes,” I sighed reluctantly. Don’t you dare argue with him. Don’t you fucking dare.

“I’m glad,” he replied, before roughly pushing me to the floor. He crawled on top of me and planted his legs on either side of mine. “You resented me so much for bringing your troubled past to the surface, but I knew you’d come around eventually; but now, we must make up for lost time,” he whispered, before biting my neck again. I dug my nails into his back and tilted my head to the side to allow him better access.

“What...what do you...what lost time?” I gasped. My thoughts were overlapping and whirling past one another, too fast for me to think clearly. Damn it, how does he affect me like this? How can he still impact me so profoundly, even after everything he’s done?

“Lost time meaning all the nights I’ve taken you since we began these lessons; but you still resisted in your mind, even though you gave me your body. I knew you didn’t really want to, as much as you tried to act otherwise in order to obey me properly.” 

I cringed. “Tom, I—”

“Occlumency lessons be damned—I always know what you’re thinking, Alera. Especially when I’m inside you. Your mind is never more vulnerable than when you’re aroused.” He firmly kissed my neck several times. “That’s part of why I find you so attractive. It may be a weakness of yours, but I’m not hell-bent on fixing it. I quite enjoy it, in fact.” Cupping my cheeks, he smirked down at me and once more pressed his lips to mine. 

Though I could think of a million replies, all I could muster was a shaky sigh when he released my mouth. Nothing I could say would change the situation.

“I’m going to take you right here,” he announced gruffly. “Right now.” 

After casting a disrobing spell on both of us, he pried my legs apart, grabbed my hips, and forcefully thrust into me. 

“I promise you,” he proclaimed, pushing even further inside me, “I’m about to fuck you harder than I ever have before.”

I whimpered. Could I at least try to block him out to a degree? I’ve clearly mastered Occlumency to some extent....

“Don’t bother,” he murmured against my ear, sending chills racing down my body. “Let me take you over completely. Let me inside your mind and your body. Just give in, like you always do so beautifully.”

I complied. And he kept his promise for the next hour.

Chapter Text

Months passed, and it was clear that the Ministry of Magic had made no progress in locating the mysterious Alera Vega. I watched the globe carefully and read The Daily Prophet every day, so I knew that no documents pertaining to the mystery woman’s existence could be found, apart from her birth certificate. Not only did the Ministry fail to locate Alera, but her parents were just as elusive. I watched as owls were sent to the people listed as Alera’s parents, requesting any information on their daughter, but the owls came back empty-handed.

 ~ * ~ * ~

“Do you think something is wrong with that birth certificate?” a Ministry employee suggested.

Fudge’s eyes narrowed. “How could something be wrong with it?!” he demanded. “These birth certificates are automatically created as each magical baby is born. You know this! There is no way that something could have gone wrong. There is no possible way to tamper with magical birth certificates!”

The other man sighed. “I know, Minister, but something just doesn’t seem right. There is no record of a Vega family, despite Alera’s parents’ names on her birth certificate. How could a family just be wiped from the face of the Earth? Did someone...steal her parents’ birth certificates? There is no record of her parents dying, so they’re obviously alive somewhere.”

“I don’t know what to tell you,” Fudge replied. “I know this whole situation makes no sense, but we have done everything imaginable to solve this. As awful as it sounds...I think we need to simply close this case and move on.”

“Should I alert the others who have been working on the case?”

“Yes. They are to immediately cease their attempts to solve this mystery, since it’s clear that we’ve been doing nothing but running in circles. Our resources would be put to better use elsewhere.”

The employee nodded and left the Minister’s office.

 ~ * ~ * ~ 

I breathed a sigh of relief.

*   *   *

After about eight months of studying and practicing advanced Transfiguration, I was beginning to wonder when this whole process would be completed. My skills had improved markedly, and yet I still felt unsure of my ability to transform into an animal. I told Tom how frustrated I was after one of my practice sessions, even though I had a feeling he already knew.

“I feel like I’ve been doing this forever,” I complained. “I’m not sure if I’m ready, and I have no idea when I will be.”

He smiled. “I believe you’re ready now.”

“You think so?” 

“Oh, yes. Now come with me.”

I followed him out of the library and into the circular room where he’d first brought me.

“Wait a minute,” he said, before speaking what was undoubtedly Parseltongue.

“I want Nagini to witness this,” he continued, turning back to me. I bit my lip as the snake slithered into the room about a minute later. Tom said something else to her, after which she slowly raised her head and looked to be almost nodding at me.

Tom looked back at me and smiled broadly. “Do it.”

Closing my eyes, I ran through everything I had learned in the past year: the spells, the knowledge, the history, the formulas, the processes. Before I knew what was happening, I could feel the cold stone under my belly. I was at eye-level with Nagini.

“You look lovely,” she said. I gasped, but it came out as a strangled hiss. I turned my head to look behind me and saw a long, thin body with black and silver markings. Craning my neck to get a better view, I saw the tail twitch.

If I could have smiled, I would have.

Moving around in a snake’s body took some getting used to—and considering Tom’s laughter, I wasn’t exactly a natural—but I got the hang of it after a few minutes.

When the novelty had worn off, I heard Tom hiss, “Change back.” I concentrated on regaining my human form, and was soon standing in my original position. I was so stunned that I couldn’t speak.

“I am once again exceedingly proud of you,” Tom said with a smile.

I was about to respond when I heard another voice say, “Do that again, soon. I’ll show you the house from my perspective.”

My eyes bulged.

“Well, aren’t you going to answer her?” Tom grinned.

I looked at Nagini and said, “Later today.”

Tom chuckled. “I was right.”

“Did I just—”

“Yes, Alera. You just spoke Parseltongue. Congratulations.”

I blinked, and my face broke into an enormous grin. “Oh my god!!!” I shouted.

“Convenient, isn’t it?”

“Wow...yeah, it is.”

*   *   *

I went into the next Death Eater meeting feeling quite smug. Is anyone else in the room an Animagus? I thought as Tom and I entered Malfoy Manor and headed for the meeting room. Has anyone else here attempted to become one? I obviously couldn’t ask, so I spent the first few minutes of the meeting looking at my comrades as they filed into the room, trying to figure out if any of them made a habit of sprouting fur when I wasn’t looking. 

Speaking of fur, the werewolf Patrick was missing from the gathering. He’d owled us the day before to say that he’d be about ten minutes late—it was something to do with his condition. I wasn’t sure if he was telling the truth, but it didn’t matter because Tom allowed it. We began the meeting as usual without any problems. Tom had just finished making his announcements when the door burst open to reveal a dramatic sight. 

There was Patrick in wolf form, wrestling with a girl who was bleeding all over and screaming her head off.

“YOU FILTHY BEAST!” she shrieked. “You tricked me! I keep telling you to leave me the fuck alone over this and you keep harassing me anyway! What is your bloody problem?!”

Patrick growled in response. He and the girl resumed rolling around on the floor, vying for control. Everyone’s eyes were glued to the spectacle until Tom pointed his wand at the pair and shouted, “PETRIFICUS TOTALUS!”

They fell to the floor in a rigid bundle of teeth and claws.

Tom stood up abruptly and began laying into Patrick. “This is your reason for being late, young man?! This is your excuse? You think it acceptable to drag one of your...playthings into our gathering, like a rabid dog? Have you no self-respect?!”

He paused, as if waiting for a response, even though he knew he would not actually receive words from the werewolf. All he got was a strangled whimper from the lycan’s constricted throat.

“I believe I need to teach you a lesson in manners,” Tom continued. “If I kill your precious little toy, will you learn to behave?” He raised his wand to cast the Killing Curse, and then I shot out of my seat. I recognized Patrick’s victim.

“Ashlee?!” I exclaimed. “Is that you?”

Tom whipped his head around to look at me. “You know this girl?” he asked incredulously. 

“Yes, she was one of my Housemates at Hogwarts! I thought you—” I slammed my mouth shut mid-sentence, realizing I couldn’t say what I was thinking in front of the others: I thought you would have seen her sometime when you watched me in my dorm!

Tom gave me a look that told me, You’re lucky you caught yourself or you’d be in a world of trouble.

I bowed my head slightly to acknowledge my mistake. He relaxed. 

I tentatively approached the frozen pair of bodies to look at them more closely. “Yup, that’s Ashlee,” I said.

“Excuse us,” Tom told the others, and grabbed the inside of my elbow to pull me out into the hallway. He closed the door and leaned against it, folding his arms. 

“What are you playing it?” he asked crossly. 

“What do you mean?”

“Alera, I don’t care if Patrick got into a fight with one of your old Housemates. And since when do you care? You were never truly friends with any of your Housemates anyway.” 

“I don’t know. Something—something just told me that we shouldn’t kill her.”

“And did that something give you a reason, dear?” he snapped. “Unless you think she could somehow help our cause—” 

He stopped speaking when he saw my smirk.

“You’re serious.”

“I think so. She is certainly twisted in her own right. I never thought she was dark enough to become a Death Eater, but maybe she is. Or maybe she could help us some other way. I’m not sure. And—I’m not going to lie—I’m dying to know what Patrick has been harassing her about. Would you allow me to speak with her about it?” 

“Only if she makes the Unbreakable Vow first, like all the others. Death Eater or not, I will not allow anyone to be a liability to us.”

“I was already thinking that.” 

Tom’s face relaxed. “All right, then. I will lift the curse and allow you to speak with her.”

“Do you want me to bring her out here, or are you okay with us talking in front of everyone?” 

“If she can’t handle seeing all of us in a meeting, then she can’t handle being a Death Eater, now can she.”

“True.”

Tom opened the door and I followed him back inside. I stood next to him as he lifted the Body-Binding Curse.

“ALEX!” Ashlee exclaimed, climbing to her feet and arranging her bloody robes as best she could. “What—just...WHAT?!”

I snickered. “First of all, it’s Alera; and second—”

“WHAT?? WAIT. HOLD ON. YOU’RE—WHAT?!”  She gestured back and forth between Tom and me.

Oh, this’ll be good.

“Ashlee, pipe down. You’re making a scene.”

“I’m making a scene?!” she shrieked. “I’m supposed to be all calm and polite knowing that you’re married to the D—”

“Silencio.”

Ashlee continued screaming at me, but no sound emerged. After pocketing my wand, I put my hands on my hips and stared at Ashlee like a parent waiting for their child to finish throwing a temper tantrum. Her eyes widened and she stepped back.

“Shut the fuck up,” I ordered, ignoring the chuckling Death Eaters who were watching me lay into my former Housemate. “You’re on my terf now. So here’s what’s going to happen: you either become a Death Eater and behave properly; or, yes, I will let my husband do what ever he wants to you. And if that makes you angry, blame Patrick. He brought you in here. And you allowed it! Where’s your magic to fend him off, huh? Where’s your self-respect? Rolling around on the floor with a werewolf? Seriously, Ash?”

Ashlee hung her head and pressed her lips together in annoyance, even after I lifted the Silencing spell. She didn’t speak for a moment. “You know...I was actually considering it,” she finally muttered. “That’s how I got tangled up with Patrick.”

“Literally.”

More giggling and murmuring from the Death Eaters.

“Well—yes. I’d been thinking about it for a while and I wasn’t sure if I was really going to do it, but then I met Patrick at a pub and we started to get friendly.” 

That’s code for “we started to fuck each other’s brain’s out,” but whatever. Say what you want.

“He told me that he was a Death Eater and he would love to bring me to meet the Dark Lord and Lady, if I were up for it. I kept telling him I wasn’t ready, but...” She paused and sighed loudly. “It appears he decided for me.”

I heard Tom chuckle, though he tried to hide it by clearing his throat.

“He did decide for you. You’re here now. So, what is your choice? Join us and live, or defy us and risk your life?”

“I’ll—I’ll join you. I just—”

“Good,” Tom cut in. “Go sit in the corner over there until we’re done. You’re not a Death Eater yet, so you will not sit at the table with us. Keep quiet—and for Merlin’s sake, keep away from Patrick—until we’re done.”

The werewolf growled in protest.

“Patrick, resume your human form,” Tom scolded. “I am not amused. Enough with your theatrics.”

The lycan obeyed and slumped into the remaining empty seat at the table. Ashlee slinked over to the corner of the room closest to me, and sank to the floor with a loud huff. She made no further noise until the meeting was over. 

As everyone began filing out of the room, Patrick sauntered over to my end of the table and hovered awkwardly, sneaking glances at the annoyed Ashlee on the floor.

“Explain yourselves! Both of you!” I snapped. Tom strolled over to stand beside me.

“Yes, my Lady. What happened was,” Patrick began, “I went to a pub a few weeks ago and sat down next to a pretty girl.” He gestured to Ashlee, who was slowly rising to her feet and trying not to look like she enjoyed the compliment. “We started talking, and soon we were bonding over really...well, really dark subject matter. She asked me if I would ever become a Death Eater, so I showed her my Dark Mark under the table. Her face lit up. I wasn’t sure if she wanted to join just to impress me, or—”

“HEY!!” Ashlee shouted.

“—or if she truly was interested in the organization. We began meeting up at the pub and discussing the subject a few times a week. I got really angry because I kept thinking she was getting serious about joining, but then she’d recant and start hesitating and—”

“THIS IS NOT A DECISION THAT CAN BE RUSHED, YOU FILTHY LITTLE PUPPY DOG!”

“ASHLEE!” I scolded. “Stop interrupting him, or I’ll fucking gag you! You’ll get your turn!”

“I think she’d like that,” Patrick mumbled under his breath.

“That applies to you, too!” Tom scolded the lycan.

Patrick laughed smugly. “See, this is why I made the decision for you!” he snapped at Ashlee. “I knew what you wanted better than you did! You didn’t want to admit it because you were too nervous and indecisive! I got fed up with waiting. The anticipation was killing me!” 

Gee, where have I heard THAT before? I deliberately avoided looking at Tom, figuring that he was recalling fond memories—which had not been so fond for me—and holding in a laugh over the irony of our current situation.

“How did you manage this, Patrick?” Tom asked. “How were you able to bring her here?”

“I told her to meet me in the forest because I was going to show her something special. I transformed and she went ballistic. She loved it, but she was livid that I hadn’t told her sooner. We ended up, uh—” 

“SERIOUSLY?!” I shot back. “In wolf form?! Tell me you’re not really that disgusting!”

From the corner of my eye, I saw Tom rubbing the bridge of his nose and shaking his head.

“No, no! Not that!  We just...before I transformed, I told her that she needed to make a decision about becoming a Death Eater, right then and there. I was sick of waiting for an answer. I transformed to, well...try and impress her and intimidate her into making a decision. It didn’t work—she slapped me in the face, I tackled her, and then we started wrestling. I had to drag her here kicking and screaming—”

“—and bleeding, you vile, rabid little—”

“—because she wouldn’t admit that she really wanted to do this.”

“Hey, if we had just talked about it like sophisticated adults—”

“We’d been talking about it for weeks! What more was there to discuss?”

“I will torture and kill both of you if you continue squabbling like children!” Tom warned. “You either discuss this matter in a civilized tone, or you face the consequences. Do I make myself clear?”

“Yes, my Lord,” they both mumbled, looking at their feet.

Another awkward silence followed before Ashlee spoke again, more calmly this time.

“He’s right; we had been discussing it. And he did tell me to meet him in the forest to show me something. I thought that was a euphemism for, well, you know, hooking up, but apparently it was a euphemism for ‘Make up your mind right now because I’m tired of waiting.’ And then, like he said, he dragged me here—with his teeth, I’ll have you know!—because he thought I wasn’t making a decision fast enough.”

“Well, you are going to join us, aren’t you,” I replied.

“Yes. What do I have to do?”

Tom explained the initiation process, and summoned Margo to facilitate the Unbreakable Vow that the others had taken regarding our marriage. He then brusquely dismissed everyone. We were left alone in the meeting room.

“Well, that was eventful,” he remarked.

“Quite.” 

“Sit down,” he ordered after a brief silence, and pulled up a chair opposite mine.

I obeyed.

“How did you know Ashlee would want to join us?” he demanded. “I haven’t taught you Legilimency yet. And I know you haven’t spoken with your Housemates since you fled.” 

“Intuition.”

“You can’t be serious.”

“It was just a sudden gut feeling. I don’t know how else to describe it. I just...knew.”

He regarded me with a hard stare, searching for a lie. He found none. 

“Tom, I promise I’m telling the truth.” I suddenly worried that he was about to punish me, even though I done nothing wrong.

“Oh, I know. You couldn’t lie to me if you tried.”

My eyes dropped to my lap. “I wouldn’t try.”

“I know that as well. This pleases me. I’m simply baffled at how you were able to figure out why Patrick brought Ashlee here with no prior knowledge of their activities. Especially given the circumstance.” 

“I’ve always been able to read people well. Their personalities, their intentions in various situations—I don’t have a logical explanation for it; it’s just something I’ve always been able to do. I—” I hesitated. Do I really want to talk about this?

“You what?”

“I took Diviniation in third year because I’d begun to wonder if I was psychic.”

“You are.”

I looked back up at him in surprise. 

“I’ve always suspected that. When I used to watch you, I was struck by certain observations you wrote in your journal because most people wouldn’t be able to see such things. I initially thought you were simply more able to predict normal human behavior because you observed it from a detached perspective, like I do, but some of your predictions were uncanny. You’re not always completely accurate when you get a hunch about possible occurances, but you do seem to get a general idea of what the future may hold. I assume you took Diviniation because you realized that raw talent wasn’t enough and you hoped to hone your skills?”

“Yes. I’m obviously no Cassandra.” 

“No, you’re not. Be that as it may, your intuition is still highly attuned.”

“It is. I get gut feelings and premonitions that make no sense. I ignore them sometimes, but they always end up being right. I’m glad I listened this time. I think I—well, my parents used to scold me for thinking too highly of myself, and I think they got it into my head that thinking I actually was psychic was just a symptom of an inflated ego. So...I guess I repressed it to try and appear more humble. I thought that looking humble would make me look better to others and therefore shield me from further scorn. I just wanted to protect myself. But it was different this time. I obviously don’t have to look modest to keep people comfortable anymore.”

He was silent for a while, stroking his chin and looking at the floor. “That’s—that’s impressive,” he complimented with a ghost of a smile. “I’ll give you that.”

“Thank you,” I replied quietly. “It’s not something I’m terribly comfortable discussing because, well—it is a bit weird.”

“It’s not weird; just different. And you do think highly of yourself, because you should. You have every right to do that. You are incredibly powerful. Unfortunately, your faith in your intuition has clearly suffered, and you need to reconnect with it. This is a formidable skill that I want you to harness properly. Stop second-guessing yourself over it.”

“I’ll do my best.” 

“Good. Let’s go home.”

*   *   * 

Ashlee’s initiation wasn’t quite as straightforward as mine had been; we assigned her to eliminate an Auror whom we had long suspected of trying to locate Death Eaters in the Ministry and turn them in to Fudge. Rowle and Thicknesse were already onto her—they had begun keeping tabs on her at work to monitor her activities, and heard about her attempt to implicate Sinjin and Snappette. Ashlee’s job was to work with Rowle and Thicknesse to find the Auror, capture her, and interrogate her at Malfoy Manor. Veritaserum was not allowed—Ashlee had to torture the truth out of her. The true test of her ferocity would be in her ability to extract information with no assistance.

We did not instruct Ashlee on how she should conduct her search; she had to prove her ingenuity and figure it out for herself. The only support we allowed her would be signaling the successful capture to Lucius Malfoy, who would take her and her charge to Malfoy Manor and then call Tom and me to watch her performance. She had two weeks to plan and execute this task.

I wanted to ask Ashlee what she was thinking of doing, but I knew I had to steer clear. I couldn’t influence her in any way. Though I was excited to see what she would do, I was also annoyed because no one had any idea when her initiation would actually take place. It could have been in ten days or ten minutes.

It ended up being ten days. Tom and I were in the middle of a Dark Arts lesson when we both stopped short upon feeling the familiar burn.

“This is it,” I said.

Tom nodded and laced his arm around my shoulders as we Apparated to Malfoy Manor. Ashlee and the others were already there. I nodded to my former Housemate, trying not to appear too excited. Ashlee levitated her victim as we walked into the front hall.

“Where am I doing it?” she asked us, keeping her wand extended and eyes on the Auror.

“Right here,” Tom replied. 

Lucius looked like he was ready to protest, but pressed his lips together and turned away for a moment. Oh, but my beautiful house! he must have been thinking. Don’t get blood all over my precious antiques!

Too bad, blondie, I imagined answering him. Your elf can clean up the mess for you. Go cry in a corner if you don’t like it.

Ashlee lowered her wand and the Auror fell to the floor.

“How important do you feel now?!” she shouted after lifting the Body-Binding Curse. “You really think you could get away with your little project? You think you could come out unscathed?! Do you not understand how powerful we are?”

“W-what are you talking about? Who are you? Where am I? What are you—”

“Crucio!” Ashlee yelled.

The Auror shrieked.

“Why were you paying such close attention to Sinjin and Snappette? Why were you reporting their activities to the Auror Office?”

“I THOUGHT THEY WERE DEATH EATERS!” the woman howled through the pain.

Ashlee lifted the curse.

“And you found this acceptable?! Spying on your comrades like—”

“That’s my JOB! Don’t you know what an Auror is?!” The woman reached for her wand. Before she was able to grab it, Ashlee said, “Incarcerous.” The Auror twisted and turned on the floor, rolling around like a overly-bundled child playing in the snow, before coming to rest on her back, on top of her wand, and bursting into tears of exhaustion and terror.

Ashlee strode over to her victim and bent over her. “Why do you suspect your coworkers of being Death Eaters?” she asked softly.

“Why should I tell you?” the Auror spat. “Who even are you, anyway?”

“I think you should care less about who I am and more about what I plan on doing to you if you refuse to cooperate. Answer my questions.”

“Why should I care who you are?! You just kidnapped me! You committed a crime! You kidnapped an Auror. You really think you can get away with this?!”

“Yes. Yes, I do.” 

“Why?! How?!”

“Because I will kill you if you don’t answer my questions. Remember, you are tied up and surrounded by Death Eaters. You are not in a position to negotiate. I have no qualms about killing you to protect my clan.”

The Auror blanched.

“So, now that you seem to understand your situation, let’s try this again. Why were you trailing Sinjin and Snappette? Why were you trying to have them arrested?”

“I—I just—they seemed—” 

“Sectumsempra.”

The Auror screamed as a huge gash appeared on her left shoulder.

“ANSWER THE QUESTION! What evidence do you have on Sinjin and Snappette?”

The woman howled in response. Ashlee cast Sectumsempra on her left shoulder again.

“What do you look for when you suspect that a Ministry worker is a Death Eater? Who do you contact?”

“YOU WON’T GET AWAY WITH THIS!” The Auror bellowed. “I’M NOT THE ONLY AUROR IN THE MINISTRY! THEY’LL COME LOOKING FOR ME! THEY’LL—AAAAHHHHH!!”

Ashlee had cast the curse a third time, and then a fourth. And then a fifth. And that’s when I realized what she was doing: cutting into the woman’s arm so deeply that it would separate from her shoulder.

It took seven rounds of Sectumsempra before the Auror’s arm detached with a dull thwack and twitched against the ropes. Her shrieks reverberated off the walls.

“Are you going to answer my questions now?” Ashlee jeered, pulling the appendage loose and dangling it over her victim’s face. “Or am I going to have to amputate your other arm as well?”

“You’re a COWARD!” the proud Auror screeched. “You’re a coward because you know you can’t get the information you want just by ASKING, like a decent human being, so you have to resort to violence instead! You’ll pay for this! There’s a cell in Azkaban with your name on it, you twisted, sadistic—”

“Sectumsempra!” Ashlee called out, another five or six times. 

Here we go again. Damn, this bitch is tough. I wonder how many limbs she’ll have to lose before her tongue loosens up?  Tom and I glanced at each other and chuckled silently, clearly thinking the same thing.

“OKAY, OKAAYYYY!” the Auror howled as Ashlee finished severing her right arm.

“Yes?” Ashlee demanded. She pulled the left arm loose and tossed it next to its twin.

“Look, I...I don’t make a habit of...assuming that Ministry officials are...Death Eaters!” she stammered, struggling to speak through the shock of losing her arms. “I don’t a-assume the—the worst in everyone! You have...to understand that d-during these t-trying t-times, everyone is...on h-high alert! If someone s-seems off, then I...I...I pay more at-t-t-ttention to them.”

“Off how?”

“If th-they seem unfazed by the c-capture or—or t-torture of a civilian, or like they’re t-trying to f-f-fake sadness but they d-don’t really f-f-feel it.”

“And you thought Sinjin and Snappette were acting that way?” 

“I—I f-felt uneasy around them! They seemed so c-cold and detached! They—” Her head lolled as her eyes rolled back into her head. 

“STAY AWAKE!” Ashlee bellowed. She knelt down, picked up a severed arm, and slapped the Auror in the face with it.

The broken women yowled. I held in a laugh. 

“FINISH THE SENTENCE!”

“I don’t—Merlin, I c-can’t think...I—”

Ashlee grabbed the arm again and pressed two of its fingers into the Auror’s eyes. “I will blind you if you stop speaking! Now, tell me: you felt uneasy around Sinjin and Snappette. You said they seemed detached. What else? WHAT! ELSE!”

“They...they kepttothemselves...morethanwas...necessary! And even...when...theydid, theymade...meuncomfortable!” 

She was now slurring her words and jumbling them together, trying desperately to finish her thoughts as quickly as her traumatized brain would allow her. 

“So, becayse you’re uncomfortable around someone, that means they deserve to go to prison?!” She dug the fingers deeper into the woman’s eyes.

“I...thought they were...trying to in-influence...the Minister! I heard a r-rumor that...thattheywere...the driving force behind that...new rule—”

“WHAT new rule?!”

There was a thot as the Auror’s left eye burst open. She screamed so loudly, Ashlee flinched.

“WHAT! RULE!” 

“Finding missing Muggleborns was no longer a priority, because we had to focus on missing Purebloods and Half-Bloods first! The rule seemed so prejudicial to me, and the two of them—they seemed smug about it!”

“What else? That can’t be the only reason you suspected them! That’s not nearly enough evidence to bring them to trial!” 

“That’s all I know! I s-swear!” 

“I don’t believe you. Not liking Mudbloods doesn’t automatically make someone a Death Eater. Keep talking!”

Ashlee used the severed fingers to scratch lines into the Auror’s forehead and neck. More shrieks. She stood up and circled the Auror a few times, watching her lurch violently as she tried her hardest to escape the blood-soaked ropes.

“Okay, okay!” the woman shrieked. She squeezed her remaining eye shut and willed herself to focus and speak normally. “I found Snappette slinking through the Department of Mysteries when she was supposed to be in a meeting with the rest of her department! I knew her schedule! I asked her why she was in there, and she said she was headed to the Hall of Prophecy. I asked her why, and she said she wanted to see if she could find a prophecy about a sick relative, but that didn’t sound plausible! She never mentioned a sick relative to anyone! And anyway, a task like that wasn’t part of her job! She works in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement; she’s not an Unspeakable! She didn’t belong in there! Even if she did have a sick relative and wanted to see if a relevant prophecy existed about them, Snappette was not qualified to look into that!”

“Why were YOU in the Deparment of Mysteries? You’re not an Unspeakable, either!”

“I was following her because I was suspicious of her actions!”

“Again: not enough to convict someone. Curiosity about subjects outside one’s job description is not criminal. And stalking a coworker is just creepy.

“I’M CREEPY?! THEN WHAT ON EARTH ARE YOU?” 

“What else do you know? Something concrete must have happened for you to have been dead-set on turning them in!”

“I swear on my mother’s grave, that’s all I know!” 

“Then your mother’s ghost must be awfully disappointed in you,” Ashlee drawled, before severing the Auror’s right leg with a handful of curses.

“I DON’T KNOW ANYTHING MORE! LEAVE ME ALONE, YOU VILE BITCH!”

More Sectumsempra from AshleeMore screaming from the Auror. This time, it was the left leg. 

“Okayyyy,” she croaked. “I caught Sinjin trying to bribe the Wizengamot to rule in his favor if he were ever brought to trial as a Death Eater, because he knew I was onto him!! I was en route to Fudge’s office when he suddenly stepped into my path and tried to scare me off. He told me that if I tried to accuse him of this crime and implicate him, he would torture me and have my family killed! I just backed off that day because I wanted to make him think I wasn’t serious!”

Ashlee picked up the Auror’s left leg and held it over her chest while she separated the foot. The Auror shrieked as the foot hit her breasts and bounced onto the floor. Ashlee grabbed it and firmly pressed the heel into the Auror’s neck.

“Thank you, you’ve been most helpful,” she purred as she watched the life ebb from the smothered woman’s body.

Ashlee stood over the dead woman, keeping the severed foot in place until she was sure that her victim had stopped breathing. She looked like she wasn’t sure what to do next. No one made a sound until she finally turned around and bowed slightly.

“I didn’t know you could do that,” I muttered. “Nice job.”

“Well done,” Tom said quietly. “You have proven yourself worthy. You will receive the Mark on Friday evening. I will send one of our Death Eaters to fetch you at work, and bring you here.”

“Thank you, my Lord. My Lady,” Ashlee replied. She glanced at me with a repressed smile, attempting to hide her enthusiasm as I congratulated her.

*   *   *

Ashlee’s initiation went smoothly. Like mine, everyone was summoned as Tom made her swear unquestioning loyalty to us and then bestowed the Dark Mark on her arm. She immediately walked over to me upon realizing that everyone was meant to mingle after the fact, and I introduced her to my friends. She got along best with Sheena and Margo—though she thought less of Sheena as a surge of pink glitter hit her in the back, and Sheena signalled her approval to the giggling Death Eater a few feet behind her. I turned away and doubled over laughing.

“Okay, it’s legitimate now,” Margo chuckled. “These days, no one officially becomes a Death Eater until they’ve been showered in pink glitter.”

Ashlee whipped around to face a snickering Chicky. “Did you just fucking haze me?!” she spat.

“Not bloody likely,” Chicky replied. “Hazing requires violence. If you’re interested in that, I could certainly—”

“It’s her special orientation,” I cut in, unable to keep the smirk off my face.

“Should I assume you also endured this...this—UGH!” Ashlee growled as she angrily swiped at the glitter on her arms, realizing she couldn’t remove it.

“Nope. I blocked her spell.” I bragged.

“Ugh. Of course you did,” Ashlee groaned. She cast spell after spell on herself to try and remove the glitter, but nothing worked. We all stood there chuckling, waiting for her to realize that she could never get rid of it without Chicky’s help.

The offending witch strutted over to us with a huge grin on her face.

“And who might you be, you annoying little sparkle fairy?” Ashlee demanded.

“I’m Chicky, also known as the Pink Glitter Demon.”

“Gee, I can only imagine why.”

“If you’re nice to me, I’ll get rid of the glitter right now. Otherwise, you’ll have to wait until the meeting’s over.”

Ashlee looked daggers at Chicky, and then glanced at me. I turned away to laugh, again. After weighing her options, my Housemate brusquely extended her arm. “Ashlee,” she said gruffly, while shaking hands with Chicky. “And I don’t have a nickname.” 

“That’s quite all right. You’re officially a Death Eater now. Congratulations!” Chicky praised excitedly, and promptly rendered Ashlee glitter-free.

“Thank you. You’re too kind!” Ashlee replied sarcastically. She shook her head and watched the flamboyant witch flounce away. The rest of us smirked at the sight.

“But—seriously?  You’ve all been subjected to that?” Ashlee asked incredulously.

“Yup,” said Sheena. She and Lulu managed to diffuse Ashlee’s indignant rage over Chicky’s antics, and we ended up having a relatively normal conversation until Tom dismissed everyone.

 *   *   * 

Surprisingly, Ashlee opted to sit by me during Death Eater meetings when the space was available. I thought she would be wary of me, considering our interactions at Hogwarts and the way I’d treated her when Patrick had dragged her into Malfoy Manor, but she seemed more curious than intimidated. I found myself warming up to her more than I’d ever done at school. It turned out that she’d been hiding her inner darkness as well, though not the same way I had done: while I’d always been aware of what was boiling under the surface, she hadn’t come to know it fully because she’d repressed it. That’s what had drawn her to Patrick: he had seen in her that which she’d refused to see, and found himself determined to bring it out of her. It worked.   

She invited me over for dinner one night—after asking Tom’s permission, of course. She quickly noticed how possessive he was of me, and didn’t want to overstep her bounds. Thought quite a reclusive creature, like my husband, I accepted Ashlee’s invitation.

She lived alone in a little flat a few miles outside Diagon Alley, where she worked in Madame Malkin’s robe shop. We Apparated there together after a meeting. And that’s when I realized that this was the first time I had been anywhere near society—outside of visiting fellow Death Eaters—since I’d disappeared from Hogwarts. It felt strange. As Ashlee boiled a pot of tea, I found myself looking around and making sure I couldn’t be seen through any windows.

“No one looks in other people’s flats here,” she said, though she did close the curtains to appease my paranoia.

I followed her to her living room couch and sat down next to her. “What the hell just happened, Ash?” I asked as she set the tray down on the coffee table. “All of this—just...what in the world is going on? First you’re scared of me for years, and then you get involved with a fucking werewolf and opt to become a Death Eater? How? How did this happen? How did we get here?”

Ashlee looked at me incredulously. “You married the Dark Lord and you’re asking me what the hell happened?!” 

I giggled. “It looks like we both have some stories to tell.”

“Uh, yeah, you could say that!”

“You first.”

“Ugh, fine. First, I should say that I was pretty scared of you when we were at school. Everyone else was trying so hard to fit in somewhere, and you were...over there in a corner by yourself, not even trying to integrate. None of us could ever figure you out.”

“Yeah. Blending in never worked. I can’t relate to most people; and I eventually realized that trying to do so was a waste of energy with no reward, so I stopped.” 

“Everyone saw that. I think I looked up to you without realizing it because I saw something in you that I didn’t realize we had in common. I guess I wasn’t ready to truly get to know myself yet.”

“And I’m assuming Patrick saw that in you as well?”

“Exactly. I just went to the pub to relax after work one evening, and then there was this bloke sitting next to me and asking to buy me a drink. We hit it off immediately.” 

“What did you talk about?” 

“We made small talk until he started cracking jokes that most people would find highly offensive, but I laughed at them all. He suddenly became a lot more interested in me. We left the bar area and sat at a table for a few hours—I didn’t even realize how much time had gone by until I got home. It was after midnight.”

“Sounds like quite a connection.”

“It’s...interesting.”

“Are you dating him exclusively?”

Ashlee laughed loudly. “I don’t think he’s the type to date anyone exclusively. Between you and me, I think he’s afraid of commitment, but he needs female companionship. He does want some type of connection with someone, so he just—”

“He takes you home a lot.”

“Yup. We take out our sexual frustrations on each other.”

“How’s that working out for you?”

“Better now than when we first started hooking up. As a werewolf, he, um....” She scoffed. “He’s got some problems with impulse control.”

“So it was over a little too soon?” I teased. “What a shame.” 

“Yeah...the first time we ever hooked up, I just touched him and he—”

“No way.”

“Unfortunately, yes, but he’s made it up to me since then. And I love how perverted he is.”

“Just tell me he doesn’t fuck you in wolf form and I’m happy.”

Ashlee laughed so hard, she nearly fell off the couch. “Merlin, he’s not that twisted!”

“But you might be. For all your talk of repression—”

“Not like that!” 

“If you say so.”

We ended up giggling over this for the next couple of minutes.

She nudged me once we’d calmed down. “And you?” she demanded.

“What about me?”

“You certainly must have a story of your own, Lady V!”

“WHAT did you just call me?” I started cracking up all over again. I probably should have laid down the law for her, but I was too busy laughing. And besides, this was someone I’d known since I was eleven, who just admitted to looking up to me for years. I let it slide.

“How did you end up marrying the Dark Lord?” she prodded. “That can’t have happened by chance.”

“Oh, no. It was a much faster process than I expected, but the arrangement works.”

“How? What happened? How did you even get involved with him in the first place?”

“You realize that everything I’m about to tell you falls under the Unbreakable Vow you made.”

“Yes, of course.” She paused, and gave me a coy smile. “My Lady.”

“Good.” I took my time sipping my tea before beginning my tale, just to annoy my friend.

“Oh, come on, Alera! I’m on the edge of my seat here!” she complained.

“So scoot your butt back a bit.”

“Good grief, you’re still just as sarcastic as you were at Hogwarts.”

“And you are surprised by this why?”

Ashlee rolled her eyes and gestured for me to get on with it.

“Do you remember the escapade on our dorm when everyone got back from winter break?” I asked quietly.

“How could I not? I’d never seen you act like that before.”

I smirked in response.

“Oh, Merlin. You were with him, weren’t you.”

I nodded, unable to keep the grin off my face.

“How? How on Earth—were you communicating with him by owl and then—”

“Oh god, no. I didn’t even know that he was aware of my existence. I had already made up my mind to become a Death Eater after I finished at Hogwarts, but I did intend to stay for winter break. I just...went on a field trip first.”

“Where?”

“Knockturn Alley." 

“WHAT?”

“I wanted to see if I could meet anyone involved in Dark magic and do further research on the subject, other than what I’d already been doing secretly at school.” 

“You were researching Dark magic at Hogwarts?!” she blurted. “Since when?” 

“Fourth year. I never told anyone.”

“Wow! That’s so cool. Okay, so you went to Knockturn Alley and, what, saw him strolling around, so you went up to him and started a conversation? That sounds like something you would do.”

I nearly spat out my tea. “Honey, he was waiting for me.”

“You’re joking.”

“I’m dead serious. I’m not allowed to tell you how he came to know of my existence, but I can tell you that he was waiting for me and, um...took me home with him.”

“How did he convince you to go with him?” 

“Well...he was under a Disillusionment charm, so I couldn’t see him at first—”

“He kidnapped you,” she whispered with a look of horror. “Are you—are you all right? Did he hurt you? Did he—”

“I’m fine. It was—it was a lot of fun.” Mostly.

“Are you sure? If he’s done something to you—”

He’s done many, many things to me, but you’ll never know about any of them.

I smiled to appease her. “Ash, I’m fine. I appreciate your concern, but I promise I’m okay. I’m happy. I’m healthy. I’m not in any danger. He began training me in the Dark Arts and initiated me as a Death Eater the day before winter break ended.” 

Ashlee sputtered for a moment and gawked at me before continuing her seemingly endless barrage of questions. Yes, I’m sure I’m happy. No, he’s not breaking me down and controlling my every move. Yes, we’re a wonderful match. No, he doesn’t love me, but he’s as attached as he possibly could be. Yes, I’m perfectly fine with that. No, I’m not terrified of him killing me every five minutes if I look at him the wrong way. Yes, he’s amazing in bed. No, I don’t secretly want out. Yes, no, yes, no...it went on for a while. It was minorly irritating, not to mention unnerving to be revealing such intimite details to my life to someone other than Tom, but I knew that Ashlee would keep our conversation private—like me, she was a fiery lady who would never do anything to put herself in mortal danger. She didn’t want to die any time soon; and, if it came down to it, she wouldn’t go down without a fight.

We sipped our tea in silence while Ashlee processed everything I’d told her.

“Let’s go make dinner,” she said after we finished our tea. “Are you good with salmon and steamed vegetables?”

“That’s fine.”

“Are you...allowed to help me, or—”

“Ashlee, he’s not going to get mad at me for chopping up a carrot,” I laughed. “I may be the Dark Lady, but I’m not a helpless princess. And plus, wands exist for a reason.” 

My friend chuckled in response. “All right, just making sure. Do you—cook at home?”

“No, we have house elves.” 

“Oh, wow. That’s intense. Though I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. I don’t think I know of anyone else with a house elf except the Malfoys. But anyway...Accio chopping board!”

*   *   *

The food was delicious. I hadn’t realized that Ashlee was such a good cook—but then again, how could I have known? I’d never actually visited any of my Housemates during the summers. We were never friendly enough, and no one felt comfortable bringing me into their homes anyway.

As we tucked in to our meal, Ashlee told me about her process of finding the Auror she’d killed for her initiation. Apparently, she knew some people who worked at the Ministry and was able to strike up “casual” conversations with them to gather intel on the woman in question. That led her to gradually piece together the Auror’s schedule and thus figure out when she would be at the Ministry. Once she’d had a clear time frame in which to work, she contacted Rowle, who had instructed her on how to enter the Ministry through the employee entrance. He’d met her as soon as she’d arrived, and she fell into step beside him like they were simply coworkers chatting. She hid in plain sight. Rowle had located Malfoy and the two of them followed Ashlee at a distance as she closed in on the Auror and incapacitated her when she was alone. She had done this by bursting into crocodile tears in front of the Auror to gain sympathy—the woman stopped suddenly as she saw the “distressed” Ashlee stumbling past her. The Auror had immediately stopped walking and attempted to comfort Ashlee, who said that she’d just found out that her little sister had died of Dragon Pox. As the Auror put her arm around Ashlee, the latter had stealthily drawn her wand and cast the Body-Binding Curse. As her other arm had been around the Auror, she was able to stop her from toppling over backward. Nobody saw anything out of the ordinary. Ashlee cast a Disillusionment Charm on her victim and transported her to the floo grates in the Atrium, with help from Malfoy and Rowle. They arrived at Malfoy Manor moments later.

I was highly impressed.

We ate in silence for a short time after Ashlee finished telling her story, and then another barrage of questions hit.

“Alera, you know I have to ask,” she said quietly. “What the bloody hell happened with Erica?”

I giggled. 

“You don’t have to say it. I know this falls under the Unbreakable Vow.” 

“You’re a fast learner.”

She rolled her eyes. “Seriously, Alera. What happened in there?”

My face went blank as I replied, “I killed her.” 

“Wh—what? I mean, there were rumors that you had done it, but Amy—”

“Amy woke up when Erica screamed that I was a Death Eater, and I Obliviated both of them so they wouldn’t remember. And then I grabbed Amy’s wand—”

Ashlee slammed her fork down onto the table and held up her hands. “Wait, wait, wait. Hold on. Start from the beginning.”

I told her exactly what had happened that night. Ashlee had all but forgotten about her dinner, which was rapidly cooling as I explained the harrowing events of our last night at Hogwarts. She was absolutely dumbfounded. I hadn’t seen her stare like that since the spectacle in our dorm after winter break had ended.

When she finally looked away, she awkwardly poked at her food before finishing it slowly. “I don’t know if I should be awestruck or terrified.”

“Both are acceptable,” I gloated. “I didn’t become the Dark Lady for no reason.”

She chuckled and shook her head in bewilderment. “Obviously not.”

We talked for another hour or so after dinner, until I told her I should be getting home.

“Does he give you a curfew?” she asked.

“Not at all!” I laughed. “I’m just as introverted as he is. This is the first time I’ve even left the fucking house in weeks, outside of Death Eater meetings.”

“And you’re okay with that?”

“Totally. I hate most people. I have become friendly with a few Death Eaters close to my age, and I visit them sometimes, but social activity is not high on my priority list. I prefer being alone.”

“Really! I couldn’t tell from your I-hate-you-all vibe at Hogwarts!” she giggled.

“Hey, can you blame me? Most people are worthless. And anyway, I can always find something to do at home. I have endless knowledge at my fingertips.”

“Well, yeah, you’re living with a Dark magic encyclopedia.”

“Basically,” I chuckled. “He has an enormous library, and I can read all the books I want. He doesn’t keep anything from me. It’s exhilarating.”

“Wow!” Ashlee breathed. “That sounds like a lot of fun.” 

“It is. It’s so refreshing to not have to hide my interests to protect myself anymore.”

“I can imagine!”

When we finished eating, I told her about some of the books I’d read since moving in with Tom. She was intrigued.

“Let’s do this again sometime, okay?” she said as I stood up to leave.

“Sure! This was fun. And thank you for dinner.” 

She gave me a big hug before I Disapparated.

*   *   * 

I landed in the front hall, and found Tom in the library a few minutes later. “How was your little get-together?” he asked, placing a book back on its shelf.

“It was fun. Strange to be out in the open, so to speak, and also to talk about everything that’s happened since, well—I’m sure you know all of this?” 

“I didn’t watch you, Alera,” he said quietly. “I trust your judgment. I’ve been in the library all evening.”

I gave him a small smile, surprised at how proud I was that he hadn’t felt the need to spy on me in that pesky globe. I suppose I’d become so accustomed to him scrutinizing my behavior that I simply expected it now. I was glad that he was finally allowing me some breathing room.

“What’s the deal with Ashlee and Patrick?” he asked as we got into bed.

“Not anything we need to worry about. They’re just young and horny.”

“Nothing wrong with that,” he chuckled, and climbed on top of me.

*   *   *

“The deal” with Ashlee and Patrick was that they were both highly competent Death Eaters, but they couldn’t keep their paws off each other. They had begun sitting next to each other at every meeting. This didn’t cause too much of an issue at first, but there was the occasional spat that interrupted the flow of conversation: Patrick rubbing Ashlee’s leg and a nearby Death Eater noticing, Ashlee digging the heel of her boot into Patrick’s foot and causing him to yelp—it was like dealing with two sadistic teenagers entering their first sexual relationship. But there was no place for such juvenile behavior in Death Eater meetings. Tom stamped it out after Ashlee’s third week as a Death Eater.

“All right, that’s it,” Tom scolded. “The two of you are forbidden from sitting anywhere near each other in meetings ever again. Ashlee, over there by Alera. Patrick, switch seats with Lucius. One more disruption, and I feed you both to Nagini. No exceptions.” 

He relayed the message in Parseltongue and the snake looked up in anticipation. I suppressed a laugh.

“Yes, my Lord,” they mumbled while following their orders. I didn’t even look at Ashlee when she quietly took her seat by me. Though I secretly found her actions hilarious, Tom would likely torture me if I gave away any hint of my amusement. I remained the perfect picture of authoritative stoicism at the head of the table opposite Tom, like always. Meetings quickly began running smoothly again.

*   *   *

As the next few months went by, I ended up falling into a routine of Dark Arts lessons with Tom, reading and doing research in the library, art, writing in my journal, and dinner visits with Ashlee every other week after Death Eater meetings. I had a schedule. I has already been visiting with some of the other younger Death Eaters on occasion, but it was never a routine event like spending time with Ashlee.

My new bond with her almost reminded me of my friendship with Francesca. I briefly wondered what the Ravenclaw was up to, but reminded myself that such thoughts were pointless. I couldn’t contact her. If she really were serious about becoming a Death Eater, she would have to initiate that contact on her own. Pondering different scenarios in my head would change nothing. My days were busy enough anyway; I couldn’t afford to waste any time.

It suddenly occurred to me that I was no longer on tenterhooks, imagining various ways my life could pan out, what could go wrong, and what types of situations I should plan for because so much was up in the air and Tom was keeping certain details from me. Everything was out in the open now and I felt more in control of my life than I ever had before. For the first time ever, I was actually comfortable. I could breathe. I could relax. I could just be.

And I loved it.

Chapter Text

Two Years Later

 

I woke up with a dramatic start, virtually jumping out of my skin. It felt like waking from a nightmare of falling from a high place. Noticing a damp envelope on my stomach, I turned to see an unfamiliar owl flying out the bedroom window into a swath of snow flurries.

I cautiously picked up the envelope and immediately went rigid. Two words were written on the envelope—two words that I hadn’t seen in ages.

Alex Halaway 

I looked to my right. Tom was still sleeping, or at least appeared to be. As quietly as I could, I slipped out of bed and got dressed while tightly grasping the envelope. I threw on my invisibility cloak and quickly tiptoed into the next room.

Had someone found me? Was I getting an anonymous heads-up before being carted off to Azkaban or given the Dementor’s Kiss? Was someone from my past stalking me? Was a relative terminally ill and requesting my presence? Had someone died?

Opening the letter with barely a sound, I took a deep breath and braced myself for the worst. My breath caught at the shock of realizing that all my worries had been for nothing. 

Alex,

            Where are you? I don’t even know if you’re still alive, but I can’t even begin to imagine something so horrible. It seemed like you could survive anything. I never had the courage to say this before, but the only reason I didn’t try to get close to you was because you scared me when we were kids. But that was before; we were only little girls then. And now I’m really sorry I wasn’t there for you. You’re my only sister, and you deserve to be treated that way.

            I don’t know if this is the truth, and I really hope it isn’t, but right after you vanished, we heard rumors that you may have killed that girl Erica who came into your dorm, and that was why you had disappeared. They almost charged Amy Martin with the murder, but no one could prove anything. They had to drop the case. I wanted so much to hear the real story, but I wasn’t about to ask your Housemates if they knew anything. They never liked me anyway. Like you, they were Slytherins, and I was just an annoying little Ravenclaw.

            I want to hear the truth from YOU. Even if those rumors are true, I promise I won’t turn you in. If you don’t believe me, I’m willing to make an Unbreakable Vow with you.

            Again, I am so truly sorry that I haven’t been here for you all these years. I know how alone you felt as a kid. Though I know nothing can take that back, I hope it’s not too late to start again. I also hope that you can still read this, since I can’t stop crying and it’s getting the parchment all wet.

            I love you, Alex, and I really hope you’ll write back to me—in your own time, of course. I just started a short internship at the Ministry, so I’m staying with Grandma over winter break. She told me that if I found you and you did want to see me, you could come and stay with us and we wouldn’t tell anyone you were here—even Mum and Dad. Also, if the internship goes well and the Ministry decides to hire me, they’ll excuse me from Hogwarts for the first week of April and have me come back for my first round of formal training...so if you need some time to think about it, you could come then as well. Please let me know if you want to do that. And, in case you forgot, this is my last year at Hogwarts. I would love for you to be at the graduation ceremony.

            I hope you’re okay, wherever you are.  I love you, sis.

            Love,

          Morgan

I blinked. I had no idea that my little sister gave a damn about me at all. This was so unreal....

Then I stopped.

Wait, I thought. This could be a hoax. I will not let myself get emotional over a trap.

Drawing my wand, I performed a few charms to identify the author of the letter. Silver letters spelling Morgan Taylor Halaway scrawled themselves in the air after about a minute. I slid my right hand through the words to signify that I understood, and the letters quickly faded.

Suddenly, I heard a creeeaak as the door slowly opened.

“I know you’re in here, Alera. You can’t hide from me.”

I sighed.

“Do you really think an invisibility cloak will stop me from finding you?”

I didn’t know how to respond. Tom walked directly toward me as if my cloak didn’t even exist. Thinking he would just stand in front of me until I removed my cloak, I stayed still. However, I was quite wrong.

He knelt before me and slowly lowered the part of the cloak that was draped over my front. When my head was uncovered, he yanked the fabric off of me and bunched it up under his arm. I inhaled quickly at the friction. He ran his index finger down my cheek and under my chin, and coaxed me to look up at him.

My face was blank as I lifted my eyes to meet his. He was almost smirking.

“You slinked out of our bedroom, and now I find you up against the wall in a dark room, futilely attempting to conceal yourself. Why?”

I swallowed hard and attempted to stand up. I couldn’t; he was firmly holding me in place. 

I had to tell him. I didn’t know whether he was reading my mind or not, but he obviously wanted to hear me say the words.

“My sister wrote to me. I have no idea what prompted it, but...she wants to see me. I’m not sure what to do. She—”

“Let me see the letter.” 

Sighing, I handed him the parchment. I knew there was no way I could hide it.

We both stood and I watched his expression carefully as he read my sister’s letter. He handed it back to me when he’d finished.

“You have a decision to make,” he said. “Your sister has claimed that she would protect your identity through an Unbreakable Vow; however, I still would not put that past her. She may favor death over living with the truth.”

I nodded. “She fits in very well with the rest of my family and clearly can’t stand the thought of me being a Death Eater, much less being married to you.” 

“Which is why I believe you should either ignore her; or, if you desperately feel the need to see her, you will need to concoct another story about what happened the day you left Hogwarts. I know you’re an excellent liar, Alera—at least when you’re speaking to someone other than me—”

I fought the urge to roll my eyes.

“—but there is not much room for lies in a situation such as this.”

The gears in my head were turning. Morgan could help us. I had to see her. 

“Alera, your thoughts are making no sense. I can’t even decipher....” He stood in front of me, looking baffled.

I smiled slyly. “Neither are yours.”

“Very funny. Now I almost regret teaching you Legilimency.”

“Oh, you don’t mean that,” I chuckled. “Either way, I think Morgan can help us take over Hogwarts, and she won’t even know about it until it’s too late,” I said.

“How?” Tom demanded. He looked like he wanted to Petrify me.

“Do you remember our little discussion about my friend Francesca a few years ago?”

Tom nodded slowly.

“She is about to graduate alongside Morgan. As of the last time I spoke to Francesca, she wants to become a Death Eater. Morgan, obviously, does not.”

“And?”

“I think if Francesca joined us before graduating, she could help us infiltrate the school. We have quite an impressive force behind us, as you know.” 

“We certainly do. Now, are you positive that your friend wants to join us? If she does, that’s excellent. If she doesn’t, she could be a liability by simply staying in touch with you.”

“I haven’t spoken to her since I graduated.” 

“I’m glad. Now, you should owl her and tell her you wish to meet somewhere to talk. I will be watching you in the globe as an added precaution.”

“All right. I’m not sure where to meet her, though. I’ve been missing since I graduated, so I can’t just show up anywhere. And if I’m wearing my cloak—oh, duh.” I snickered.

Tom grinned. “Exactly. Tell her to wait a few blocks from her house. You will Apparate there, then take her to the valley a few kilometers from here by Side-Along Apparition. No matter where she is, it will appear that she is simply Apparating. Obviously, you will need to inform her of this.”

“All right. I’ll owl her later today.”

“Good. But before you do, think about what she may be expecting from you.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, you said she may want to join us, but that was three years ago. It might have been just a silly teenage fantasy fuelled by bravado. She could very well have changed her mind, and she may want to see you just to see you.”

“True.”

“I want you to see her. You won’t be able to suss her out otherwise. If she no longer wishes to become a Death Eater, then modify her memory so she will forget having heard from you. If she still wishes to join us, then bring her home. I’ll need to meet her and see if she has what it takes to join our ranks.”

“Okay. If she still wants to join us, can I tell her about everything that’s happened since I was initiated?”

Tom frowned and rubbed his chin briefly. “If she is serious about becoming a Death Eater, then I suppose you should. But she will need to make the Unbreakable Vow to keep it secret. I will facilitate this.” 

I sighed and stared at nothing.

“Don’t worry,” Tom said, running his hand down my cheek. “The worst that could happen is we end up back where we are now. She will have no recollection of meeting with you, and it will be as if nothing changed otherwise.”

I nodded as he moved closer. “Perhaps I could ease some of your tension?” he murmured, and kissed my neck.

“Yeah, that would be nice,” I whispered, closing my eyes as his arms encircled my waist and pulled me close. 

*   *   *

I knew I had to be discreet in my letter to Francesca, in case the Ministry intercepted the owl. I got straight to the point and left no clues as to my location or identity. I hoped my friend would understand.

 Francesca, 

            We need to meet face-to-face. Be at the end of your street at 3:00 tomorrow afternoon, and make sure you’re alone. You won’t see me, but I will take you to a more secure location as soon as I see you.

- Your best friend

I sighed as I sent the letter off with my owl, Sonia. There was nothing left to do now except wait.

*   *   * 

At 3:00 p.m. the next day, I Apparated to the corner of Francesca’s street under my invisibility cloak. She was already there. After checking to make sure there was no one within our line of sight, I crept up to her, grabbed her left arm and Apparated to the valley about five miles from home.

When we landed, I immediately released her and took a few steps back.

“Alex?” she whispered. “Where are you?”

I took a deep breath and removed my cloak. “Right here,” I said with a smile.

“ALEX!!!” she shouted, hugging me so tightly that I nearly fell over backwards. “How are you?” she cried, rocking fom side to side. “Where have you been?! How—”

“Breathe, honey,” I chuckled. “Everything is okay. I’m fine.”

“Well, that’s great news; but how did you just...disappear?! It’s as if you dropped off the face of the Earth!” She was gripping my shoulders and looking at me like she couldn’t believe I was real.

“Let’s sit down, shall we?” I suggested as I sat down in the grass. “We have a lot to talk about.”

“Well, of course we do! You have to tell me everything.”

“I will if you swear you will never tell anyone.”

“Alex, you know I have never betrayed you. Why would I do something like that?”

Looking into her mind, I could see that she was sincere, but I wasn’t willing to risk anything.

“I understand that, and I believe you. I will need you to make an Unbreakable Vow, though.”

“That’s fine. But we need someone to—”

“I know,” I replied. “We’ll do it later today. It will include everything I’m about to tell you.”

She nodded. “Also...have you been completely shut out from the world or do you know what’s been happening lately?”

I giggled.

“Alex, I’m being serious. Have you been all right? I’ve always known you were alive, but I’ve worried that you were living in less-than-desirable conditions.”

“Fran, I’m enjoying my life now more than I ever have. What about you?”

“Well, the past few years have been very trying,” she replied morosely. “It’s obvious that the Death Eaters are getting stronger, but no one knows what they’re planning. A lot of people don’t know who to trust, and people have been even more fearful since the—the Dark Lord got married. It doesn’t make sense. We never thought he’d be interested in getting married, and no one even knows who this Alera woman is. It just—nothing seems to make sense anymore.” She looked at the ground.

I tried my hardest not to giggle. “I remember you telling me you wanted to join the Death Eaters. Is that still true?”

She looked up with a small smile.

“I can help you with that.”

Her face lit up. “Are you...?”

I pulled up my left sleeve with a smirk.

“ALEX!!!” she exclaimed. “When?? How??”

“In my seventh year.” 

She was silent for a moment, and then the realization hit her. “Hold on. Was this why you were gone that winter break? Is that when you were initiated?”

“How astute of you.” 

“Why didn’t you tell me??” 

“I couldn’t. I couldn’t tell anyone. He would have known.”

“So...you did kill that girl, didn’t you.”

“Yes. She snuck into the seventh-year dorm because she wanted someone to talk to, and she rolled up my left sleeve because she thought she’d seen the Dark Mark and she wanted to know for sure. I jumped out of bed and threatened her, and she screamed to the rooftops that I was a Death Eater. I couldn’t let her live.” 

She sighed and looked at me with admiration. “I knew it. I always knew it....”

I chuckled. “There’s a reason why you’re my best friend.”

Her cheery expression faded. “And yet you haven’t contacted me for three years.”

“I had to disappear, or I would be in Azkaban for life. I will not let that happen.”

“I can understand your concern, but...where did you go? There were all sorts of investigations, but the Ministry found nothing. How did you manage that?”

“I had, shall we say, some assistance.”

“Who helped you? And how? Alex, things like this just...don’t happen.”

I lowered my voice. “That’s not my name anymore.”

She stared at me with apprehension before speaking again. “What is it?”

I smiled and bit my lip, knowing that my answer would reveal everything. “It’s Alera.”

She gaped. She attempted to speak several times, but no words formed. Her jaw dropped even more when I held up my left hand to show her my rings. She stood up and began pacing—well, more like stomping around and huffing in bewilderment. I started cracking up.

“I’m not going to hurt you,” I laughed. “You’re still my friend. That will never change.”

“How?? What?! I—I just....” She inhaled slowly before sitting down again. Her shoulders slumped. “You have to tell me everything.”

I chuckled, more with relief than amusement. I had wanted to tell Francesca everything for the past three years, and now I was finally able to do so.

“Oh, come on, don’t just sit there giggling! How did you become a Death Eater so soon? And...how did you hook up with him? Did you...stalk him or something?”

I laughed loudly. “Ummmm...the other way around, actually.”

What??  How did he even know who you were?”

“Well, first off, I did intend to stay at school over that winter break; but first, I went to Knockturn Alley to see if I could learn anything else about Dark magic.” 

“And did you?” I loved how she wasn’t even slightly surprised that I’d done something like that.

“I was leafing through this book called Magick Most Evile,but then I left because the clerk started bothering me.” I imitated her voice. “You’re too young to be looking at books like that...and blah blah fuckity blah.

Francesca chortled.

“Yeah, so, after I walked out of the store, I felt someonegrab me and I was taken to, well, what is now my home. He kept me there with him until winter break ended.”

“Oh my god! So he was following you around Knockturn Alley?!”

“Yes. He didn’t tell me how until a few months after I graduated—and he’d taken me back home with him for good—but it still shocked me that he was able to do that.” 

“How did he do it? And how did he find out you even existed?”

“I’m not allowed to tell you that.”

“Damn.”

“Sorry, Fran,” I chuckled. “I’m not allowed to tell anyone. It’s our secret. But if it makes you feel any better, no one else knows the truth about all of this. The other Death Eaters know who I am, obviously, but they have all taken Unbreakable Vows not to reveal our secrets to anyone.”

“Wow....”

“Yeah. It seemed pretty surreal for a while; but it’s been three years now, so I’ve had some time to get used to it.”

Francesca’s face broke into a mischievous grin. “So...when did he propose?”

“A few months after I graduated.” I held up my left hand once more so she could see my rings up close.

“Oh, Merlin!  They’re beautiful!” She grabbed my hand to get a closer look. After admiring the jewelry for a while, she playfully knocked my hand aside.

“You are BEYOND crazy!! Do you realize that?” she exclaimed.

“Yeahhh, I know,” I drawled.

Before I could say another word, she grabbed my arm and pulled me into a tight embrace. “I’m so glad you’re all right,” she breathed.

I patted her back and smiled. “I’m more than all right. I’m happier than I’ve ever been in my life.”

“That’s really wonderful,” she sighed, and let go of me. 

“Yeah, it is.”

I paused.

“So, are you definitely serious about joining the Death Eaters?”

“Yes. I’ve been serious about it since I was fourteen. You know that.”

“Well, as I said before, I can help you there.” 

“I’d be worried if you couldn’t!”

I chuckled. “Well then, let’s get started. Come home with me.”

“Really??”

“Um, yes....”

“Oh, wow. So—” 

“Yes, you’re going to meet him. But please keep your enthusiasm to a minimum.”

Yeah, like her enthusiasm could possibly be contained. Here goes nothing. I hooked my arm through hers and we Disapparated.

Chapter Text

When Francesca and I landed in the front hall, Tom was already waiting.

“Hi,” I said as he approached us. “This is my best friend, Francesca.” 

“Ah, the famous Francesca,” he remarked.

She turned to me, wide-eyed. “F-famous?”

Tom chuckled. “Alera has spoken very highly of you.”

Francesca beamed at that statement.

“So, Francesca, tell me why you are here.”

“I want to join the Death Eaters, my Lord.”

“So I’ve heard. You realize that if you are to become a Death Eater, I will expect unquestioning loyalty from you for the rest of your life. Any hesitation, for any reason, and you will die. Is that understood?”

“Yes, my Lord.” 

“Good. Now, before you can officially become a Death Eater, you must pass a test. There is no way around it, and there are no second chances. Failure to complete the task would prove disastrous for you.”

Francesca nodded. “I understand. What do I have to do?”

“You must prove that you possess the strength, determination and brutality that is required to join our ranks. Now, I understand that you are halfway through your seventh year at Hogwarts. Have you learned Side-Along Apparition yet?”

“Not yet. I—”

“No matter. You will return here in a week, where you will torture and kill a Muggle. I will pick someone and bring them back here, and you will show Alera and me if you have what it takes.”

“All right. Should I assume that I can Apparate here?”

“Absolutely not. Alera will meet you and take you back here. She and I are the only ones who can get past the wards I have placed around the property, unassisted.”

“Let’s meet at the same place,” I said. “Two o’clock sharp at the end of your street, and I’ll bring you back here.”

Francesca smiled at me, then turned back to Tom. “Is there anything else I should do?” she asked. “Anything else I need to know?”

“Before you leave, you must make the Unbreakable Vow. You are not to disclose anything from this afternoon to anyone.”

Francesca nodded. “I would never do that, my Lord.”

“That’s good to hear, but we must take this added precaution.” He motioned for Francesca and I to grasp each other’s right wrists, after which he flicked his wand over the area. The familiar shiny red band of light encircled them.

“Will you, Francesca Giovanni, keep secret everything Alera Voldemort has told you, and will ever tell you, about her life?”

“I will.” 

“And will you keep secret anything that I tell you about my life with Alera?”

“I will.”

“If you are initiated as a Death Eater, will you keep that information secret, as well as the organization’s activities?”

“I will.”

Tom lowered his wand and the band of light disappeared. “You are free to go,” he said to Francesca. “We will see you this time next week for your test.”

“Yes, my Lord,” Francesca replied. 

I led her outside so that she could Disapparate, but she didn’t want to leave just yet.

“Your house is enormous,” she gushed as soon as I closed the front door. “I could tell even from standing in the foyer. I’ve never seen a house that big!”

“He wants the best of everything,” I chuckled.

“Including his choice of a wife!”

We both giggled as I walked her to the edge of the property. And then she stopped and turned slowly, taking in her vast surroundings.

“This is so unreal,” she murmured. “You grew up this...this lonely outcast, and then you end up married to the most powerful wizard in the world, living in this gorgeous mansion. It’s really incredible.”

“Yeah, it’s pretty wild. I can’t say I ever expected this as a kid." 

“Of course not. You...you are happy, right? You’re okay?”

“Yes. I’m great.”

“And you would tell me if you weren’t?”

“Of course! Don’t worry. Seriously.”

“All right. Just—make sure you take care of yourself. I just spent the last three years worrying that you were being tortured or killed. Can you blame me for being wary?”

“I guess not,” I laughed, “but everything’s fine. He’d sooner kill someone else for trying to harm me than actually harm me himself.” Unless I disobeyed him. But I’ve gotten much better about that lately. We’re all good.

“Does he—does he really love you?” she asked quietly.

“Between you and me, I don’t think he’s capable of love—” Her eyes widened in concern. “—but he definitely cares in some capacity. He’s attached to me in his own way. He wants me to be happy and healthy, which I am.”

Francesca released a heavy sigh. “Okay. I can live with that,” she breathed. She gave me a gigantic hug and kissed my cheek before Disapparating. 

*   *   *

The next week passed with an agonizing sluggishness. I couldn’t wait to see Francesca again, and I was excited to see how she would perform her test. 

After once again meeting Francesca at the edge of her street, I took her back home with me and walked her to the circular room. Tom was waiting for us, twirling his wand between his fingers. He smirked when he saw us.

“Perfect timing,” he praised. “Now, both of you wait here and I’ll be back shortly.” He Disapparated without waiting for a response. 

“I’m a little nervous,” Francesca confessed. “What happens if I don’t pass the test? I’m sure he’s told you—”

“Fran, you’re going to pass,” I chuckled. “All you have to do is torture and kill a Muggle, and get creative with it. No one’s going to find out, so just...let loose.” 

“The Trace doesn’t work in here?”

“Nope. How do you think he began training me in the Dark Arts during that winter break?”

“He WHAT?!”

“You heard me.”

“MERLIN, that’s crazy! So...you had to do what I’m about to do?”

“Correct.”

“What did you do?”

“Not telling. I don’t want you copying me.”

“Alera! That’s obnoxious!”

I smirked. “I prefer to think of it as tough love.”

She sighed loudly. “All right, my Lady...let’s see what I can come up with in the next five min—”

Pop.

Tom appeared, gripping a tall, stick-thin, scantily-clad young woman by her long, stringy black hair. She glanced around the room and immediately burst into tears.

“Wh-where am I?” she stammered.

“Your final resting place,” Tom replied cheerfully. I suppressed a giggle.

Tom looked at Francesca as if he could see right through her. “Do it,” he commanded, and threw the woman to the floor.

Taking a deep breath, Francesca approached her victim. The woman tried to stand up to defend herself, but Francesca was too quick.

“Petrificus totalus!”

The woman’s eyes bulged right before she fell to the floor. Francesca strolled around her, twirling her wand and thinking of what to do next. Suddenly, a wicked grin like I’d never seen from her spread across her features, as she pointed her wand at the woman again.

“Incarcerous!” she shouted, after lifting her first spell.

“WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?” the woman shrieked, struggling as hard as she could to break the ropes that bound her. “WHO ARE ALL OF YOU? WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME? HOW—” 

“Shut up!” Francesca shouted. “If you start whining again, it’ll be the last thing you ever do!”

“Is it because I don’t work at a corporate office? You think because I sleep with men for money that I don’t deserve respect? I bet you’re just jealous ‘cause YOUR body isn’t as hot as MINE!!”

Come on, Fran...kill this stupid fucking whore before I do.

Francesca straddled her victim and glided her wand down the woman’s stomach to split open her clothes and her skin. She shrieked and tried her best to throw off her tormentor until Francesca dug her nails inside the wound to tear the skin apart and expose her organs. She reached inside and snapped the whore’s ribs, one by one. It sounded like the cracking of a whip, especially with each scream that followed. Once the job was done, Francesca tore one of the ribs from its cage and began slapping her victim across the face with it.

She soon tired of this activity, however. After standing and rearranging her robes, she pointed her wand at the broken body and yelled, “INCENDIO!!”

A piercing scream filled the room as flames erupted all over the woman’s body. Fran stepped back and we shared a knowing smile as the flames grew.

I watched, transfixed, as the slut’s body crackled and burned, leaving only ash and charred bone behind. I was so enthralled by the sight, that I didn’t notice Tom slip behind me and rest his hands on my shoulders. I only became aware of his presence when he squeezed my shoulders and said, “This is better than sitting in front of the fireplace, isn’t it.”

“Oh, yeah,” I chuckled. “This is quite nice to watch, but it would be better without the screaming. My ears aren’t liking that too much.”

I called Francesca’s name, and placed my hands over my ears when she looked up. She understood what I meant.

She pointed her wand at the burning woman and shouted, “Silencio!”

“Much better!” I drawled. 

The skank was still alive after five minutes, somehow, and Francesca clearly was getting impatient. She suddenly doused the flames, removed the Silencing charm, and knelt beside her victim’s head. 

“Open your mouth,” she ordered. “And keep it open.”

The woman squeezed her eyes shut and violently shook her head. 

“Fine. Have it your way.”

Francesca shot streams of water from her wand onto the woman’s face until she finally opened her mouth to gasp for breath. She didn’t get much air, though, because Francesca continued spraying water on her face. The bitch sputtered and gasped as her remaining energy fizzled out. Francesca shot a steady stream of water into her victim’s mouth, only stopping when the liquid spilled out and down her face. The bitch finally lay still. 

I clapped slowly as Francesca stood up, looking quite proud of herself. The look in her eyes told me that she’d wanted to act that way for quite a long time.

“Congratulations, Francesca,” Tom said. “You have passed your test. You’re ready to join our ranks.”

“Thank you, my Lord,” Francesca replied. She was positively glowing.

“Your initiation will take place tomorrow night at nine o’clock,” he continued. “Alera will pick you up at a quarter of nine, bring you here, and then we’ll all leave together.”

“All right. So, am I done for now, or do you need me for anything else?”

Tom thought for a moment before responding. “Actually, Alera and I have a few matters to discuss with you, regarding your role in our mission this spring. You may stay for dinner.”

Francesca tried to stop a huge grin from creeping onto her face, but it didn’t work too well. I chuckled. Tom pretended not to see.

“Is there a specific type of person you look for when picking someone out for a test?” she asked, glancing back over at the dead slut.

“We typically don’t bother with people who look like they’re older than fifty,” I told her. “The young ones are stronger, so they take longer to go down. It makes the process that much more fun, and forces the new Death Eaters to prove their ingenuity.” 

Tom laughed. “I couldn’t have said it better myself.”

*   *   *

Tom and I gave Francesca a brief overview of our plan as we ate dinner. We told her that our immediate goal was to increase our following even more, which would later expand into our taking over Hogwarts. Francesca was quiet at first, nodding occasionally and turning things over in her mind.

“And here’s where you come in,” I said, after Tom had been talking to her for about ten minutes.

“What do I need to do?” she asked.

I smiled. “Are you still friendly with Morgan?”

“Your sister? Of course.”

“Excellent.” 

“How come?”

“This is why your role is so important,” I said, leaning toward her. “You are going to help us infiltrate the school...and so will Morgan, though she won’t know it until it’s too late.”

Her eyes bulged. “How?” she asked incredulously.

“She just wrote to me,” I replied quietly. 

“WHAT? When? What did she say?”

I summarized Morgan’s letter, and explained that Francesca should use her friendship with Morgan as a way of passing information to Tom and me.

“When do you plan on infiltrating the school?” she asked. “Is it going to be a surprise attack or a series of small ones to shake the foundation?”

“Sneak attack,” I responded with a smirk. “At your graduation.”

My graduation?”

“Yes.”

“How is this going to pan out?”

“You will need to find out as much about that day as possible. The date, time, and where everyone and everything will be during the ceremony. That way, the takeover will happen so fast that no one will realize what’s happening until it’s too late.” 

“Wow,” she breathed. “That sounds intense.”

“It certainly will be.” 

We continued discussing our plans for the next hour before sending Francesca home.

*   *   *

“I like your choice in friends,” Tom remarked as we sat down on the living room couch.

“Well, our friends are a reflection of ourselves. And you seem to like me well enough.”

“Like?” He draped his arm around my shoulders and looked at me incredulously.

“It was just a joke, I—”

“Like.”

“What?” I laughed nervously, seeing that he almost looked offended.

Like is quite the understatement. Perhaps I need to reinforce this....” He kissed my cheek a few times and moved to my neck, inhaling slowly as I sank back onto the cushions. 

“I like your reinforcement,” I giggled.

He buried his face in my neck and began stroking my breasts with his free hand. “Do you have any idea what your scent does to me?” he asked gruffly.

“I can venture a guess, considering where your hands are.”

He chuckled at my snark. “A guess is not enough. Let me show you.” A jolt of anticipation shot through me as he pushed me down and pinned me beneath him. He ripped open my robe and kissed my shoulders while slowly sliding my bra straps down. I slid my arms out of the fabric and stretched them out over my head.

“Good girl,” he breathed while pulling the cups down. “Stay there. Just like that. Yes.” 

Blood pounded in between my legs when I saw the way his eyes roved over my body, his expression growing hungrier as he stared at my exposed breasts.

“No amount of Dark magic could stop me from wanting this.”

“What do you—ohh,” I sighed as his mouth closed over a nipple. I grabbed onto the arm of the couch behind my head, trying to slow my panting. Part of me hated that I couldn’t think straight when he touched me like this, but I also couldn’t deny how much I enjoyed it. He played my body like a freshly-tuned instrument. During these moments, I struggled with my need to keep as much control over myself as possible, while also wanting to—

“Give in. Yes. Exactly what you’re supposed to do,” Tom growled, his voice heavy with desire. “Don’t hold back, Alera. That’s an order.” 

My face heated up, and I wasn’t sure if it was from arousal or embarrassment that Tom was reading my most intimate thoughts yet again. I gasped and moaned, unable to maintain even a shred of control as he devoured my breasts with his hands and mouth. He didn’t stop until my body quaked.

“Have I made this clear enough, or do I need to convince you further?” he drawled. It took all my self-control not to look away as his stare scorched my face.

“It’s up to you,” I replied coyly.

“Oh, yes. I know. I never planned on giving you a choice.”

I bit my lip as he fumbled with our robes and wrapped my legs around his back.

“Don’t ever make a joke about my desire for you again,” he warned, and forcefully thrust into me.

“I wasn’t,” I gasped. “I didn’t mean—”

My words were lost in his kiss. When he dragged his lips down to my neck to suck on the flesh, I made to cry out but found my voice muffled by Tom’s hand. He continued gnawing on my neck and thrusting hard without missing a beat. He released my lips for a moment to brush the hair off my face, and then slammed his hand back onto my mouth. I moaned against his fingers. The scent of his skin overwhelmed me and my heart thumped wildly. He wasn’t covering my nose, but his hand was close enough to my nostrils to partially restrict my breathing—alarming, yes, though some part of me was highly aroused from the knowledge that Tom physically craved this much control over me. An entire life of feeling unwanted had left a mark, even after being with Tom for years. Being desired this intensely soothed that wound. I could live with a little dose of fear on the side if it meant all my other needs would be met. And I loved being with a man as powerful as Tom.

He gripped my hair in his other hand and held my gaze, almost as if he were daring me to look away. His hold on me tightened more and more until he spasmed inside me. I quickly followed suit, and we both went limp. 

“May I lower my arms?” I whispered after a long silence.

“Yes.”

I slowly glided my arms down over the couch, wincing at their stiffness before snaking them around Tom’s back and rubbing the taut muscles until they loosened. Cupping my cheeks in his hands, he rested his head on my breasts and slowly exhaled. I closed my eyes and lost myself in the afterglow.

I was half asleep by the time he untangled himself from me and stood up to arrange his robes. I followed suit, but remained seated. He sat back down and regarded me silently. 

“Did I offend you?” I asked apprehensively. “I wasn’t trying to...make our relationship sound like a joke with the ‘like’ comment.”

He was silent for a long moment, staring at nothing while deep in thought. Seeing as I knew Legilimency now, I could decipher bits and pieces of the images speeding through his mind—watching me in his globe, some of our first interactions together, our wedding—but it wasn’t enough to string together meaningful sentences. My head was spinning as much as his. I pulled out of his mind and waited patiently for him to speak.

“Alera, I desired you to the point of distraction for almost a year before I first brought you to me. I had to convince you that staying would be worth it to you, employing more restraint in those first twenty-four hours than I have perhaps ever used in my life. Before I took you from Knockturn Alley, there were moments where you aroused me so intensely that I wanted to destroy you.”

“You wanted to murder me?” 

"Sometimes, I was so incensed by your effect on me that, yes, I wanted to kill you. I entertained the thought of brutally raping the very life out of you as punishment for impacting me so profoundly—and without even realizing it, of course. The fact that you were completely oblivious to my attention was maddening. And for so long. All I could do was watch you in the globe and make plans for the day when I could finally bring you here. I recall a handful of nights when my desire for you was so overwhelming, I wanted to rip my own skin off.”

I suddenly flashed back to something he had said the night he’d taken my virginity: I will not let anyone else harm you, but you’re trying my patience. I enjoyed your little struggle last night, but I don’t want to deal with that anymore. Keep trying to fight me off, and I will rape you. I will tear your beautiful little body to shreds. You might not even live through it.

Those words held so much more meaning now.

“Do you still?” I asked quietly.

“Once in a while. The urge lessened the more you grew attached to me over the first year we spent together, since it finally felt like all my effort was paying off. As you’re with me every day, I have definitely become more relaxed around you; but I do, every so often, feel a flash of that rage when I think about how you affected me back then.”

“I’m sorry that I—drove you crazy.”

“Thank you. It was quite an ordeal. No girl has ever impacted me as much as you—and I’ve lived a lot longer than you have. Knowing that should put this into perspective for you.”

I nodded. 

“Deciding to bring you to me and make you my wife was not an easy decision. I never even thought I’d want to marry; I thought maybe I’d feel possessive of a girl once in a while, but have no problem killing her if she stepped out of line. You’re different. You’re too much like me. And that’s what still infuriates me occasionally—that I think I might be worse off without you. You are a tremendous asset to me—as a Death Eater and as my wife.”

I was dumbstruck.

“You see now, why this is not a laughing matter,” he added, moving closer.

“Yes. I understand.”

“Good. Do not make light of it again.”

“I won’t. I, um—” My thoughts were whirring too fast for me to speak without pause. “I wish there were a way for me to—I don’t know, maybe tell you in the past that I would one day—”

“We can’t change the past, so don’t even bother considering it. I don’t want to risk changing the present. I don’t meddle with timeturners, and you shouldn’t, either. And anyway, what happened back then doesn’t matter because I got what I wanted. You’re here now. And you enjoy being with me. You’re not a miserable little weakling I have to keep as a prisoner just to make you stay here—though, don’t get me wrong, I would still keep you here if you betrayed me; you simply wouldn’t enjoy it. Whether you behave yourself or not, I am never letting you go.” 

“I know. Is there anything you want me to do to, um...make it up to you?”

“You’ve been doing that since I brought you to me, but thank you for asking. I appreciate it, given the frenzy you worked me into while you were still at Hogwarts. Keep being yourself and working your hardest at everything I teach you. Obey me and be here for me, and everything will be perfect.”

“I will.” 

“I know. You’re a smart girl.” He smiled for the first time since this conversation had started, and tucked my hair behind my ear. “And what was it I said about the fireplace, earlier today?” he murmured in my ear, before pointing his wand at said fireplace and casting it alight. Wrapping his arm around my shoulders, he kissed the top of my head and pulled me close. I rested my cheek on his shoulder and slowly dozed off. 

*   *   *

A few weeks after her initiation, Francesca began meeting with Tom and me every third Saturday—I picked her up at Hogsmeade under my invisibility cloak and brought her home for a few hours. During this time, the three of us worked on our plans for a while, after which Tom would then leave Francesca and me to simply enjoy each other’s company. 

On one of these visits, Francesca and I were in the living room, talking about whatever came to mind. The conversation eventually drifted to Francesca’s love life. When I asked her if she had a boyfriend, she averted her eyes and shifted uncomfortably.

“What?” I asked.

She sighed and began chewing on her bottom lip. “I think I’m, well—” 

“Fran, just say it. What’s going on?”

“I, um...I think I fancy one of the older Death Eaters. It may seem a bit strange, but I can’t help it.” She blushed furiously and looked away once more.

“Who is it?” I asked, my face breaking into a grin.

“Ah....” She cleared her throat.

“Who. Is. It.”

“Um...Fenrir Greyback.” 

I laughed so hard that I doubled over. I probably would have fallen to the floor had another voice not caught my attention. 

“Ahem.”

Francesca and I looked up to see Tom standing in the doorway. He looked half amused, half disgusted.

“Alera, I don’t think I have ever seen you laugh that hard. And,” he added, staring pointedly at Francesca, “I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear that.”

Francesca blanched. I pretended not to notice, and looked at Tom instead. 

“Do you need to talk to me about something?” I asked, trying unsuccessfully to control my laughter. 

“It can wait,” he replied with a smirk. He glanced at Francesca one more time, shook his head and left the room with a sigh. After his footfalls died away, I collapsed onto the floor as another fit of giggles overtook me.

“You are unbelievable!” Francesca squealed, while whacking me on the shoulder. That only caused me to laugh harder.

“Fran...that’s just...oh my god. That’s so wrong, but so hilarious! I can’t stop laughing!”

“I figured that out for myself, funny enough!” she snorted.

*   *   *

After our giggle fit had subsided, we went back to discussing how my sister would inadvertently help us take over Hogwarts. Francesca and Morgan’s graduation was now only a few months away, and Francesca had managed to acquire a fair amount of information about the ceremony. She’d also gotten Morgan to confess writing to me and wishing I could be there to watch her graduate.

“I asked her what she would do if you came to the ceremony,” Francesca told me. 

“What did she say?”

“She said she’d want you to sit with your parents so your family would be together again. She’s desperate to know where you’ve been and what you’re doing, but I played stupid and told her I missed you just as much as she did.” 

I chuckled. “Was it hard to keep a straight face?”

“A bit, but I knew I could either make or break this, and that kept me from giving my position away.”

“That’s good,” I said. “You know, I think I should meet with her soon.”

“Really??” 

“Yes. Assuming that winter internship went well, she’ll be out of school for a week starting next month. That’ll make it easier for her to travel during her free time without having to explain herself to an authority figure.”

Francesca stared at me, wide-eyed, and then nodded slowly. 

“I’m not sure how much I’m going to tell her,” I continued, “but it will be good to hear how she relays the meeting to you. It’ll give us an even better perspective on how she’ll behave at graduation.”

“True. What would you tell her, if anything?”

“I’m not sure. I’m toying with the idea of telling her everything and making her vow to keep silent.”

“You mean...you would make her take an Unbreakable Vow?”

“Yes. I know she suggested it in her letter, but I don’t think she has any idea of what’s really been happening. I think she would be in such shock over the news that she would be too scared to tell anyone anyway, mainly because of how it would implicate my family. The Ministry would hound them for a long time, if you think about it. The Vow would obviously get her to stop wondering what happened to me, but it would also ensure that she wouldn’t tell anyone, even if she wanted to. She doesn’t want to die.”

“Definitely not.”

“I’m going to talk to Tom about this tonight; I’m not sure he’ll agree with me, but you never know.”

“Good idea. Tell me what happens, okay?”

“Of course. I mean, unless he doesn’t want you to know.”

“Well, yes. But I hope that won’t be the case.”

“Me too,” I replied quietly.

*   *   *

Tom and I talked that night about the possibility of me meeting up with my sister. I told him what I had said to Francesca, and he was silent for a little while. He was clearly thinking hard about this, and I knew better than to interrupt him.

After about ten minutes of silence, he regarded me thoughtfully. 

“I like your idea,” he praised. “There are obviously more risks with revealing the truth to Morgan than involving Francesca, since Francesca has always wanted to join us. I think that if you want to tell her everything, you should bring her back here first. Before you leave to go collect her, I will place a ward around our property so that no one, other than you and I, can Apparate out. I will only remove the ward once she’s taken the Unbreakable Vow and she’s had enough time to absorb everything. That way, she won’t be able to leave before swearing to keep our information secret—though, depending on how she takes the news, she may want to escape anyway. On second thought, in case she wants to stay here, I’ll just leave the ward up until she leaves.”

“That makes sense. Are you going to facilitate the vow?”

“Absolutely not,” Tom laughed. “I don’t need your sister to have a heart attack just from seeing me in person.”

I giggled. “Then who’s going to do it?”

“I’d go with Bellatrix. I realize you’d probably prefer Ashlee, but I don’t think she’s ever facilitated an Unbreakable Vow before. We need someone with experience. And Bellatrix seems to like you enough now, anyway.”

“Keyword being ‘enough’....”

Tom scoffed.

“Look, I know she does like me in some capacity and we get along much better now; I just—I worry that she might deliberately fuck up the Vow because she’s still jealous of me. There will never not be tension between us. There just won’t. And I don’t want her putting me in danger.” 

“She wouldn’t do that. True, neither of you will ever be truly comfortable around each other, but she sees any order I give her as another means to my approval. Her blind adoration for me is her weakness, and I have no problem exploiting that when necessary. Obviously, I could have anyone else facilitate the Vow, but she is one of our most trustworthy followers because of her determination to prove herself to me. She’s the safest bet. But do modify her memory of our home before she leaves here. Just because I trust her to follow orders properly doesn’t mean she might not try to come back here without an invitation.”

“Okay. I’m not entirely sure of how much I should tell Morgan, though. I know she doesn’t want to die, but I’m worried that she may favor death over keeping all of this a secret.” 

“You can always look into her mind beforehand, you know.” 

“True; I also could modify her memory if I have any doubts about her ability to keep her word.” 

“You should do that anyway, so she forgets everything about our estate. Why don’t you owl her tomorrow?” 

“Okay.” 

“I will caution you to not reveal too much in your letter,” he continued. “Also, Morgan is not to tell your family about any of this. We don’t need to make this more complicated than necessary.”

Like this situation wasn’t already complicated enough. 

*   *   *

I wrote to Morgan the next day, trying to be as brief and vague as possible. Tom made me rewrite the letter a few times. I settled with simply asking her to meet me outside a small cave a few miles from our grandmother’s house the Saturday before her internship would begin—which was only a week away—since she’d likely have already left school. I instructed her to tell our grandmother that she would be going shopping for the day, as an excuse to be out of the house for several hours. I said that there was a reason why I didn’t want anyone to know where I was, and it would be better for our whole family if they didn’t know. Tom approved of the fourth draft, and I sent it off with his owl. I didn’t want anyone in public to see Sonia and possibly recognize her, thus discovering who was communicating with Morgan. 

I was mostly silent for the rest of the day.