Title: I Won't Let Your Title Speak to Mine
Pairing: Lucius Malfoy/Castanea Black
Lucius Malfoy was walking toward the library when a small, smooth hand grabbed his. Shocked, he turned to see who would dare touch him without his permission. His family was one of the Sacred Twenty-Eight, and he relished in every privilege, honor, and accolade that came with it. Even the seventh-year Slytherins bowed to him as he ruled the Slytherin Court from the king's chair.
"Yes?" Lucius asked. He raised an eyebrow when he recognized the witch. Unfortunately, her family was also one of the Sacred Twenty-Eight, so he couldn't hex her for touching him so familiarly.
Castanea Black's hair was French-braided down her back, which met the minimum requirements of propriety. It just counted as being 'up'. He was surprised that Lady Black let her style her hair like that. Her cousins' styles were complicated and always piled atop their heads. Castanea was wearing open-front school robes, and she had used her red and gold Gryffindor tie to make a lopsided bow at her throat instead of wearing it like others did.
"I don't get it," Castanea said. She tilted her head and squinted her gray eyes, perusing him from the top of his head to his shining shoes. Unlike her, his uniform was immaculate.
Lucius gave a put-upon sigh. He had an essay to write for McGonagall, and that was a chore. Though the Gryffindor Head of House claimed she wasn't prejudiced, he had to work much harder to get the O's his essays deserved, while some of her lions got them with rubbish, poor grammar, and incomplete explanations. "You don't get what, Heiress Black?"
Castanea wrinkled her nose and glared at him. "Don't call me that!" she snapped.
Lucius twitched in surprise at the vehement response. He wasn't used to anyone speaking to him in that tone of voice; not even his parents ordered him around thusly. "It's your name," Lucius drawled, as if he were explaining himself to an infant.
She stamped her foot. "No, it's not!" Her cheeks turned red, with what he assumed was anger. "It's my stupid title," she spat. She squeezed his hand, but it didn't hurt much. "My name is 'Castanea'. Can you remember that?" Castanea asked, turning his condescending tone back on him.
A smirk curled his lips at her childish indignation. She was amusing; very little amused him at Hogwarts. Lucius was always looking for new sources of entertainment. Chuckling, Lucius decided to appease her. "You don't get what, Castanea?"
Castanea pursed her lips, and then heaved a big sigh, as if she had generously decided to forgive him. "Adelaide Brown keeps gushing about how 'cute' you are." She stared at Lucius intently, before snorting and shaking her head. "I don't get it."
Lucius glared and resisted the urge to stamp his foot, as she had done earlier. He was thirteen years old, and he wouldn't act like a toddler. "I most certainly am not cute." Lucius spat the last word like a swear. He was handsome, maturing, appealing, fanciable, and more. However, he wasn't cute. Crup puppies and Kneazle kittens were cute. He was the Heir of the Vigilant and Most Ancient House of Malfoy. If anything, he was desirable.
"Good, you agree with me." Castanea smiled at him; her teeth were straight and very white. It was a nice smile. "Because I don't think you're cute at all, Lucius."
He considered ordering her to call him by his title, but the challenge in her eyes told him that it would be a waste of his breath. He had a feeling it would be easier to get the half-breed groundskeeper to learn proper manners than it would to change Castanea's mind once she made it up. "Good," he retorted. "I don't want anyone thinking I'm cute." He grimaced when the word passed his lips.
"Well, that's settled then," Castanea said. "I'm glad I figured out which one of my new roommates is the crazy one so quickly. I'll have to keep an eye on her."
"Castanea?" Lucius spoke before he realized he had a request.
"Hmm? What Lucius?" Castanea asked.
He had never asked anyone for a favor before, but he remembered reading a chapter that covered it in Moste Proper Pureblood Etiquette. He just hoped she would accept. "If she continues insisting on such vicious lies, I would appreciate it if you would attempt to stop them." The next word was almost impossible to voice. "Please."
Castanea nodded and grinned at him. "No problem, Lucius! Any time that Adelaide tells someone you're cute when I'm around, I promise I'll correct her."
That was a relief. He couldn't have his reputation ruined by a little girl with a crush. If the Slytherins heard such rumors about him, they would laugh at him behind his back! Lucius loathed it when people laughed at him. No one should ever mock a member of the Sacred Twenty-Eight. It was unthinkable. More than that, it was unforgivable!
"Thank you," he said, before bowing to her. It was kind of awkward, since she still held his hand, but he thought he managed to make it look smooth and elegant.
Her expression was thunderous when he righted himself. "Don't ever do that again!" she commanded. Her cheeks were red, her eyes flashed, and her shoulders shook. "I am not a title, Lucius," Castanea hissed. "I'm a witch. I have magic, just like you do. I can duel. I can curse. I can hex." She dug her fingernails into his palm so fiercely that he bled. "Only weak witches hide behind a title! Don't ever give me false courtesies. You don't know anything about me; you can't respect me enough to offer me your unprotected neck."
Lucius's eyes widened with each word she spoke. He had never thought of it like that before, even though it was the truth. Each time he bowed to a lady, he left himself open for an attack. It was a disconcerting realization.
"I made you a promise, Lucius. Now make me one. Promise to never treat me like a brainless, pureblood title!" Her nails cut deeper as she yanked on his hand.
"And if I don't?" Lucius asked, curious about what her reaction would be. She certainly hadn't been lying about having magic; it hung down her back like a cloak as her temper raged.
Castanea's pink lips twisted in a smirk that looked entirely wrong on her delicate features. The wrongness displeased him. "Then I'll tell Adelaide that you think she's 'cute', too."
Lucius shuddered. "You're a cruel creature, Castanea," he said. He knew that she would follow through on her threat; she didn't strike him as a witch who threw out idle words. It was refreshing to speak with someone who said what she meant. Girls were difficult enough to understand without having to decode their sentences; sometimes he wondered if they spoke a different language on purpose.
Her face was all innocence, except for the wicked smile. "I have some idea of what you speak."
He wanted to ask how she had convinced the Sorting Hat to put her in Gryffindor. He wanted to know how in the world she wasn't in Slytherin. But he didn't think she would answer him—not yet. Maybe someday he could find out. "I believe we've reached an accord."
"I'm sorry, what was that?" Castanea asked, dimples flashing. "It sounded like your title was attempting to speak to mine."
Lucius surrendered to her dimples and said, "You have a deal."
Lucius reminded himself that he shouldn't be surprised when Castanea flounced into the empty chair beside him. She swung her legs up on the library table, but seemed to have enough presence of mind to make sure she trapped the hem of her robe beneath her ankles, so she wasn't flashing the room. Her feet ground into the cover of a history book on the goblin wars.
He sighed and returned his peregrine quill to the ink well. Attempting to finish his History of Magic essay when she was around would prove fruitless. The last time he had tried to ignore her she had kicked the ink well onto his essay, ruining two hours' work. She hadn't apologized, and Lucius knew she never would.
"Good afternoon, Castanea," Lucius said. She had left him alone for the past three days, which had been oddly disturbing. He had become accustomed to her daily appearances in his life. He never knew where she would show up or what ridiculous thing she would say next.
Castanea beamed at him. "It is! It's the best afternoon ever!"
Her voice was obscenely loud, but he didn't bother to shush her. Somehow, and he really, really wished he knew how, she had the hard-nosed Madam Pince wrapped around her little finger. The strict librarian didn't even reprimand Castanea when she ate over the books and got crumbs in them.
She stared at him expectantly, fingers tapping an obnoxious rhythm against the table. The nearby Ravenclaws glared at her, but no one said anything. His presence often resulted in people clamming up, regardless of their opinion.
"All right, I'll bite. Why is it the best afternoon ever?" Lucius asked. It had to be the dimples that made him cave time after time. As soon as she flashed them in his direction, he ended up giving her his full attention.
"You're looking at the newest Chaser on the Gryffindor Quidditch team!" Castanea declared. She spread her arms in a grand gesture. "I did it!"
Castanea had been excited about tryouts since the start of the year. She had even bullied him into teaching her the sloth-grip roll. He felt personal pride at her accomplishment, which startled him. Lucius didn't tend to care about or acknowledge others' accomplishments. He was preoccupied with bettering himself and reaching higher than anyone thought he could go.
"Many felicitations on—" Lucius almost yelped as Castanea shoved him. His chair wobbled, but he, thankfully, didn't fall to the floor. He glared at the affront on his dignity; those Ravenclaws were laughing at him! How dare she—?
"I'm sorry, what was that?" Castanea demanded, hands held out as if she would push him again, only much harder this time around. "It sounded like your title was attempting to speak to mine."
Lucius gritted his teeth and acknowledged his error. Such occasions were rarer now, but he still slipped up. Castanea never let it pass. He took a deep breath, to calm his temper, and then exhaled. "Congratulations, Castanea!"
She laughed with delight and began tapping her fingers on the table again. "Thanks, Lucius." Her face grew somber, and Lucius didn't like it; she was always smiling and happy—except when she was cursing Severus Snape or yelling at him, of course. Her hands balled into fists. "I know Mum and Dad will just say 'As expected of a Black' in their letter, once I tell them." Castanea blinked rapidly, as if she were fighting back tears.
Lucius shifted in the seat of his chair, not sure what to say. His parents had always praised him and his sisters for their accomplishments. Knowing what he did now, that she sought his company because he didn't brush her off, made him feel guilty for the times he had ignored her. How hard would it be to live if everyone dismissed his hard work and successes as a byproduct of being a Malfoy? Lucius gritted his teeth; he would hate it.
"I'm proud of you," Lucius said. She froze, as if no one had ever told her that before. If that were true, her parents were failures.
Castanea swallowed and removed her legs from the table. She grabbed his nearest hand and squeezed it once, the wounds she had once left there had long since been healed. "Thank you, Lucius." She released his hand and stood up. "I'm sorry for interrupting your studying."
He didn't even have to think about the words, and all of the ramifications they would inspire, before he spoke them. "Any time, Castanea."
She glanced over her shoulder, dimples deepening as she stared at him. "You know, I think you really mean that."
Lucius didn't smirk, sneer, or frown, as he was accustomed to doing. Instead, he returned her smile with a tentative one of his own. It didn't often see the light of day at school. But he wasn't just humoring her, and he wanted her to know that. So Lucius stared right into Castanea's gray eyes and said, "I do."
Lucius kept stopping and turning around as he patrolled the corridors. He had been a prefect for the past two months, but something felt different tonight. He was jittery, and even his magic was alert—as if he were about to be attacked at any moment. He swore he heard footsteps behind him, but no one was ever there when he turned around. Even the strongest revealing charm he cast didn't help. If he didn't have a Disillusioned stalker, what was bothering him?
"Who's there?" he demanded, feeling like an idiot for talking to air. It wasn't the first time he asked the question. However, he was rewarded this time by the sound of a muffled snort. It was one he had heard countless times over the past two years.
Groaning, Lucius leaned against the wall and ran a hand down his face. His shoulders relaxed as his muscles eased. The tension that had forced him to be alert for the past half an hour disappeared, leaving him drained.
"That's not nice, Castanea," Lucius grumbled. He spared a thought for how she had successfully tailed him and deceived his charms, but it slipped away. He was too distracted now to worry about it.
"I don't remember telling you I'm nice," Castanea said.
Lucius yelped, wincing as his voice cracked, when the words came from right beside him. Her laughter was loud and long and full of mirth. His cheeks heated with embarrassment as he swung an arm in the direction of her voice. His fingers touched smooth cloth, so he grabbed it and pulled. It was her turn to yelp as she became visible.
"Hey, that's not nice!" Castanea snapped. Strands of her hair were floating in the air, forced upward by the static released when he yanked off the cloak.
He snickered at her. "I don't remember telling you I'm nice," Lucius repeated, throwing her own words back at her. It was something he did fairly often—part of the game they played. Sometimes she just made it too easy.
"Copycat," she muttered under her breath.
Lucius focused on the shimmering fabric he held in hands. An invisibility cloak, he realized. It was very well made. He had never seen one so strong before. It didn't have any imperfections that he could see. Most invisibility cloaks had small patches where the weaving wasn't as uniform, which allowed for small bits of the person hiding beneath it to be seen. That was why he hadn't even considered the thought that someone under an invisibility cloak might be tailing him. "Where did you buy this?"
Castanea's eyes widened. "I didn't." She coughed into her hand. "Buy it, that is."
Lucius stared at her in disbelief. She hadn't bought it? "You're telling me someone gave you a cloak of invisibility of this quality as a present?" He was skeptical on that front. In general, people were selfish. If he had ever had an urge to buy someone an invisibility cloak as a present and received this one, he would have kept it for himself and let the weaver make another, which would assuredly be less perfect, and, therefore, less useful.
A blush covered her cheeks. "Not exactly."
It didn't take Lucius long to fill in the blank. He chuckled and shook his head. She was trouble, and a little trickster at that. "So, who did you steal it from?" he asked, genuinely curious. He wanted to ask the owner where it had been purchased, so that he could order one.
"Borrowed!" Castanea declared, as she pointed quite rudely at him. "I borrowed it, Lucius. I'm not a thief." She turned her head to the side and sniffed disdainfully.
Lucius smirked; he loved it when she acted all haughty, because it was so rare. "And did this borrowing occur with or without permission?" he inquired, hoping to keep her dander up.
She spluttered for a full minute before ripping the cloak out of his hands and saying, "That's beside the point." Castanea balled it up against herself and then winced.
"What's wrong?" asked Lucius. He felt the humor drain out of the situation. In all the time he had known her, he had never seen her react like that. Had someone cursed or hexed her, and she was too proud to go to the hospital wing to have it removed?
"You don't want to know," Castanea said as she walked around him and headed down the corridor.
Lucius swore under his breath and followed after her. Why did people even say that? All it did was make someone more curious! Now he was even more worried, because she never bothered to care if he wanted to hear what she had to say or not; she just yammered away at him day after day.
He caught her hand and pulled her to a stop, only to regret his actions when she sucked in a pained breath. "Sorry. I didn't mean to hurt you," Lucius said. He wanted to make Castanea's pain go away, not cause her more. Why did her sudden lack of trust hurt so much?
"It's not your fault," she gritted out, shoulders hunched.
Lucius walked around her, so that he could see her face. Her eyes were scrunched shut with pain, and her lips were tugged down in a frown. Her skin was paler than normal. He didn't like it—not one bit. "What's wrong?" he asked again.
Castanea peered at him through her eyelashes, as if the torchlight in the hallway only caused her pain when it pierced her eyes. "Do you really want to know?"
"Obviously," Lucius snapped, losing his temper. "I wouldn't have asked otherwise." Sometimes, just sometimes, he hated how difficult she was. Did everything have to be a battle with her? He only wanted to help! What was wrong with that? Why did Castanea have to be so close-mouthed all of a sudden? Lucius couldn't stand not knowing when it came to her. She had trained the indifference out of him.
"I finally started my menses," Castanea admitted, cheeks fiery, "and it hurts! It hurts all the time!"
Lucius made the foolish mistake of speaking before thinking. "It's highly inappropriate to discuss—"
"Highly inappropriate?" Castanea hissed like a tigress. "Highly inappropriate? I'll show you 'highly inappropriate', Lucius!" She cast a tripping jinx at him, glaring as he tumbled backward into an open broom closet, bound him while he was still in shock, and then slammed the door in his face.
Was it wrong that Lucius felt his greatest blunder was misspeaking to Castanea and not being ambushed and overpowered by a thirteen-year-old witch? He never meant to upset her; he didn't want to remind her of her family. Lucius knew how much she hated going home. However, her words had completely stunned him. Before tonight, she had always been a little girl that he deigned to amuse. In five words, she had transformed into a young lady he bantered with on a regular basis. The abrupt change in their relationship had been jarring and unexpected.
"I'm sorry, what was that?" Castanea asked, voice pained and shaking as it came through the door. "It sounded like your title was attempting to speak to mine."
Lucius grumbled a few swears at her tone. She sounded like her world was crumbling down around her. It was his fault. "Sorry, Cas," Lucius said as he stared up at the cobwebbed ceiling. The house-elves needed to stop being so lazy; cobwebs were utterly unacceptable. "If you want, I can help with the pain." He wondered if her mother had even bothered to explain anything to her; he doubted it, seeing as she and her mother had a blatantly distant relationship.
It seemed like forever before the door opened, but open it did. There were traces of tears on her cheeks. The sight of them was as painful as when he had fallen off his broom the one and only time as a child. Her "Finite" was almost inaudible.
A short hug completed his apology, and Lucius tried not to notice that her body had changed. He didn't succeed. He would have time later to sort out his conflicting emotions; right now, he needed to help her. Lucius cast the pain relieving charm he had seen his mother use, and breathed a sigh of relief when she relaxed against him.
"Thank you, Lucius," Castanea whispered. "It's much better already."
"You're welcome," he said, before clearing his throat and stepping away from her. "I have to finish my rounds."
"And I think I'll finally be able to sleep," Castanea said. She patted his shoulder as she walked past him, and then swirled the cloak over herself once more. "Have fun!"
Lucius waited until he knew she was gone before mumbling, "How am I supposed to do that without you?"
Lucius was attempting to meditate by the Black Lake, but he wasn't having much success. If he hadn't been distracted, then he was sure that he would have been able to figure out his Animagus form by now. Unfortunately, every time he started sinking toward his magical core her laughter jolted him back to the outside world.
Castanea and a few other witches were splashing about in the shallows. Occasionally, one of them would jump off the long dock. He couldn't make out their words from this distance, but the sound of their laughter carried. If it had been just her laughter, he might have been able to tune it out. However, he couldn't stop the blasted memory of her walking past him in a swimsuit from popping front and center in his mind.
The sight of her body outside of robes set his blood on fire, and with how many wizards were 'playing football' along the shore of the Black Lake, he knew he wasn't the only one affected.
True, there were other girls in the group—over ten in all—but none of them compared to her. Castanea's skin was porcelain and unblemished. Her waist was impossibly tiny. Her legs seemed to go on forever. And the miniscule emerald green swimsuit barely covered the rest of her curves, which had developed a great deal in the past few months.
The thought of anyone else looking at her body and thinking what he did made him want to march down the dock and order her to cover herself up. But he didn't have any right to do that, and he didn't believe for a second that Castanea would obey him.
Lucius closed his eyes and attempted to sink into his magical core, only to be met with failure again. "It's useless," he spat, disgusted with his lack of self-control.
He tumbled backward and threw an arm over his eyes. It didn't help. The sight of Castanea in the swimsuit only sharpened. If Lucius were a Gryffindor, he might've bashed his head against the ground in an attempt to jar it loose. His magic writhed and fought the iron grip he had on it. Lucius couldn't let go, though. He feared if he did he would be sentenced to Azkaban for mass murder.
"She's perky, eh?"
"Oh, the legs on that one!"
"She'll be the new star of my fantasies for sure!"
They could've been talking about any of the girls, but each comment only made him think of Castanea. Which, in turn, really angered him. Lucius was attempting to justify a defense for mass murder when someone stopped beside him and blocked the sun.
"Feeling all right, Lucius?" asked Castanea.
Lucius whipped his arm away from his face and opened his eyes. She was standing beside him, arms wrapped around her waist as she shivered. The swimsuit was plastered against her skin. He watched in a daze as droplets of water escaped her hair, trailed down her face, and then slid down her neck and into the top of her swimsuit. He wanted to follow them with his tongue.
"Lucius?" Castanea asked, sounding worried now.
It jolted him back to awareness. With a scowl on his face, Lucius rose with alacrity. He spared a passing thought of gratitude that he had worn open-front robes, before tearing them off and throwing them around her shoulders. "Cover up. Your manner of dress at present is most unseemly," he snapped. His tone of voice was harsh and cruel, even to his own ears. But he didn't care. She deserved to be thought of as more than a fit body.
Tears welled in Castanea's eyes. Before he could speak again, and attempt to preserve her modesty, she Levitated him over the Black Lake and dropped him in.
Lucius struggled to reach the surface, his clothes and shoes weighing him down. He spat the filthy water out of his mouth and swam to shore. His magic lashed out, causing a wide series of ripples to mar the lake. He bottled his magic back up as his feet finally touched the silt, and stormed out of the water. Lucius was soaking wet, and people were pointing and laughing at him.
Yet somehow, despite all that, he felt more betrayed than angry. Oh, he was enraged, there was no doubt about that, but the betrayal hurt more.
He stalked past Castanea without even looking at her. If she wanted to parade around like a bloody trollop, he wasn't going to stop her. She had made it perfectly clear that she didn't mind being ogled by hormonal teenage boys.
So when she spoke behind him, it was only the tears he could hear in her voice that made him stop long enough to reply. "I'm sorry, what was that?" Castanea asked, voice thick. "It sounded like your title was attempting to speak to mine."
Lucius fisted his hands and bit the inside of his cheek until it bled. Why couldn't she ever understand? She couldn't be that thick! Not everything was about their blasted heritage! Some things were a lot more human than that. "No," he said, tired and defeated. "That was Lucius warning Castanea that she's about to be Hogwarts' fantasy material."
"W-what?" She stumbled against his back and wrapped her arms around his waist. Her face rested between his shoulder blades. "Would t-they r-really . . . ?"
"Still so innocent," he whispered. Lucius rubbed her white-knuckled hands and told her a truth she didn't want to hear. It was a truth that he didn't want to hear either. "Yes, they would."
Her breath hitched in her throat and she tightened her hold on him. "Lucius," she whispered, meek and shaky, "can we make another promise?" She let go of her hands and twined her fingers with his. "I promise to never wear anything 'unseemly' in public, and you'll promise to Obliviate them." She sobbed, and his chest ached. "Please," she begged.
"It's a deal," Lucius replied. He spun around in time to catch her, as her knees gave out. Then his magic shot outward and skillfully fulfilled his end of the bargain. It didn't go unnoticed that she didn't ask him to remove his own memory of the afternoon.
Lucius sat in the chair with the highest back in the Slytherin common room. It was ten feet tall, and even he thought it was gaudy. But thrones usually were, and this chair had been his since he was a third year. Heir Bulstrode, who was also from a family of the Sacred Twenty-Eight, had been king when Lucius was a first and second year. But Lucius had ascended the throne upon his graduation.
There was a great deal of chatter, seeing as it was the first day of the school year. Everyone was doing their best to catch up on all the summer news and gossip.
Lucius did his best to tune it out as he stared at the crackling fire. Something was wrong with Castanea; he had noticed it during the Sorting, but hadn't had the chance to speak with her. He didn't even remember seeing her on the Hogwarts Express at all. The Head Boy duties were at least twice as involved as being a normal prefect. And how in the world had Lily Evans been made the Gryffindor fifth-year prefect? She was a Mudblood!
He had always doubted McGonagall's sanity, but now it was confirmed.
A laugh that sounded like a dog barking drew his attention. Ah, perhaps he would be able to find out the problem tonight, after all. "Heir Black!"
Regulus Black looked up from his group of friends in surprise. It wasn't often that Lucius showed interest in third years. "Yes, Heir Malfoy?"
"How's your sister?" asked Lucius, already anticipating the silence that would consume the room. He knew there were countless wagers involving him and Castanea; not even the Slytherins could figure out why he spent time with her or what their relationship was based on.
"I'm unsure. I haven't spoken with her since Mother banished her," Regulus said, brow furrowed.
Lucius felt every muscle in his body go rigid. He couldn't possibly have heard that right. Lady Black and her daughter didn't get along, obviously, but no pureblood lady would ever banish her only daughter! It was beyond unthinkable. "I beg your pardon?" Lucius asked.
Realizing he was the center of attention, Regulus straightened his shoulders. He folded his hands behind him, as if he were reporting to a superior officer. "Mother banished Castanea the third week of the summer holiday. She has also been blasted off the family tapestry. Mother has forbidden her access to all the Black family properties until she repents of her rebelliousness and acquiesces to Mother's order."
Castanea had been forbidden access to all of the Black family properties? Where in the world had she been living the past few months? His heart thundered in his chest, and Lucius considered the wisdom of declaring a blood feud with Walburga Black. What was wrong with that woman? Had bonding with her second cousin made her even more insane?
The stunned silence that had swallowed the room was interrupted by a sharp knocking sound at the common room entrance. "See who it is," Lucius commanded, thoughts subsumed in what Regulus had just revealed. What could Castanea have possibly done to inspire such a harsh punishment?
"Ah, Castanea, your brother was just regaling us with your wonderful turn of fortune," Snape sneered. He sounded entirely amused, and Lucius wasn't amused in the least.
"Feeling suicidal, Severus?" Lucius asked, voice cutting. An image of Castanea sleeping on the streets made Severus's attitude toward her less tolerable than ever.
Castanea shoved past Severus and into the Slytherin common room. She gave him the cut direct, and Lucius smirked as every pureblood in the room sucked in a sharp breath. She might not like her title much, but she knew how to use it to the utmost effect.
"I hate my mother!" Castanea spat as she dodged around some first years playing Exploding Snap. "I hate her!" She absently ruffled Regulus's hair as she walked past him. "She's stark raving mad, Lucius. And it better not be hereditary!" She paused to kiss Narcissa Black's cheek. "I knew she hated me, but not this much."
Lucius only had a few seconds to realize Castanea's intentions. He got his arm up just in time to support her back as she sat on his lap sideways and folded her legs across the arm of his throne. He breathed in the scent of cinnamon and apples. Eyes widened in disbelief around them, but he didn't care what his fellow Slytherins thought. He was too worried about her.
"Regulus said you've been banished from the Black properties—all of them." Lucius gritted his teeth and regretted for the first time that they didn't write letters during the summer months. If he had known, he would've made sure she was somewhere safe.
"So I have," Castanea agreed. She leaned her head against his shoulder; there was no way she could miss the sound of his heart pounding. "I spent the summer at Potter Manor."
It felt like ice had replaced the blood in his veins. She was fifteen now; had she run off and bonded with Heir Potter? "What?"
"Aunt Dorea took me in. She was really nice about it, too. My favorite part was when she yelled at my mother through the Floo for over an hour. I'd never heard a Potter curse before. Then again, she's a Black by blood," Castanea rambled, unconsciously setting Lucius back at ease. "And James was awkwardly sympathetic, instead of being a spoiled prat. That was a nice surprise; he's never had to share his parents with anyone before."
"Why?" Lucius asked.
Castanea snorted. "Because he's an only child, Lucius." She removed Lucius's wand from its holster and started twirling it expertly through her fingers. It startled him, because no one other than him had touched it since he bought it. He didn't take it away from her, though, and that didn't go unnoticed by their audience.
"Obviously," Lucius drawled. She was very playful tonight, wasn't she? "I was asking why your mother had banished you, as you well know." She was much cleverer than she led people to believe. He wouldn't let her pull the ignorance card on him—not on this subject.
"Oh! Why didn't you say so?" Castanea laughed, though it was hard and brittle. "She banished me because I threatened to see myself ruined." She spoke as if the words were no big deal, but her back muscles bunched against his hand in protest.
The witches in the room gasped and blushed, and several of the wizards' mouths fell open.
"What?" asked Lucius. He knew he sounded dense, but he didn't have a retort prepared for this scenario; his brain was still processing what she had said.
"When I got home for the summer, Mother informed me that I would be bonding with Lord Nott by the end of the month," Castanea said with a shudder. "He's older than my father. I met him once, when I was five. It's disgusting!" she hissed. Castanea fisted one hand in the front of Lucius's robes and grasped his right knee with the other. "I'd rather see myself ruined than bed a lecherous pervert—pureblood lord or not."
The thought of Castanea bedding anyone but him caused Lucius's magic to pounce from his skin and cover her in a protective shield that would maim anyone not of Malfoy blood. He turned to face the fireplace and then pressed his cheek against her hair, terrified of what must be visible in his expression.
Castanea relaxed against him fully, and then her voice came in a vicious tease of words. "Don't worry, Lucius. I would've come to you." She purred in his magic's hold. "I'm not entirely naïve. I'm sure you know your way around a witch."
Lucius gulped, his mind diving into a cesspool of fantasies that he did his best to always lock away with Occlumency. She deserved better than where his mind traveled on occasion. "Such topics are—"
Huffing, she didn't let him finish. "I'm sorry, what was that?" Castanea asked. She stroked his knee. "It sounded like your title was attempting to speak to mine."
For the first time, Lucius let her have the last word. He couldn't bring himself to voice his true thoughts. His title speaking to hers was the last thought on his mind. Right now, his body wanted to converse with hers. And he couldn't let it . . . yet.
Lucius found her in Gladrags Wizardwear, after it felt like he had searched every shop in Hogsmeade. He hated being away from her for so long, but Castanea could only leave school grounds on Hogsmeade weekends and for the holidays. He had entertained the thought of repeating seventh year, solely to keep an eye on her, but she would've hated him for it.
The last thing in the world he wanted from Castanea was her hatred.
The shopkeeper approached him with a smile. "How can I help you, Heir Malfoy?" she asked.
Lucius dropped a pouch of galleons in her hand and said, "Close up shop for an hour." He didn't want Hogwarts students wandering in and disturbing them. He had to share her with the whole school over nine months a year; he wanted some time to himself.
"Heiress Black is—"
"She can stay," Lucius interrupted, uncaring if he offended the woman. He didn't even want to hear a suggestion of Castanea leaving right after he arrived. He was here for her, after all.
"Of course, Heir Malfoy." The witch bobbed a curtsy, flipped the sign, and locked the door. "I'll just be at the counter if you require anything."
"How does it look?" Castanea asked the three-paneled mirror she stood before.
The mirror tutted. "That's not your color at all, dear. You look much too pale. Why don't you go back in and try on the next one."
"Okay," Castanea said before returning to her dressing chamber. Lucius wished she were that biddable when he spoke to her.
Lucius walked over to the wall that had rows of fabric on it. There was a thick, ivory wool that was the softest he had ever felt. He rubbed it between his fingers, imagining it wrapped around Castanea. White was one of the Malfoy family colors, and he knew she would look magnificent in it. Her ebony hair would make a striking contrast. He crooked his right index finger.
The shopkeeper bustled over to his side. "Yes, Heir Malfoy. How can I be of assistance?"
"A hooded cloak, made from this. The Malfoy crest is to be embroidered on the back of it," he ordered. Lucius couldn't wait to see it on Castanea. It was about time that he made his intentions entirely clear; she was sixteen now, and he wouldn't let anyone believe that she wasn't spoken for.
"I'll need your measuremen—"
"It's for Heiress Black," Lucius said, interrupting her once again. "I assume you already have her measurements?" Despite his best efforts, Lucius's mind wandered to the last time he had hugged Castanea. He probably knew Castanea's measurements better than the seamstress did.
The witch grinned, before winking at him. "Of course, Heir Malfoy. This will just take a few minutes." She removed the wool from the shelf and then worked her magic, levitation charms, severing charms, mending charms, and a bunch of others that pertained to needlepoint and magic thread. Lucius had never bothered to learn such things; he had no use for them in everyday life. When she finished, she suspended it in the air and spun it slowly, so that he could inspect it from every angle. "Will this do?"
The sight of his family crest, massive and pale blue, brought a genuine smile of triumph to his face. "It's perfect," Lucius said, offering a rare bit of praise. "How much do I owe you?"
Glowing, the shopkeeper tutted. "Nonsense, Heir Malfoy. You've more than paid for it."
"Very well, Madam. Thank you," Lucius said, before draping the cloak over the nearest mannequin. He spent the next twenty minutes casting a series of charms on the cloak; it came with the standard ones, so he didn't bother with those. Instead, he laid protection spells one after the other—some specific, some general, some Light, some Dark, some foreign, and some ancient. By the time he was done, it radiated with Malfoy family magic and his magic in particular.
He headed back through the racks, so that he would be able to see the mirror by the dressing chambers again. Castanea's voice reached his ears before she was in sight. "How about this one?"
"You look stunning, dear. Wizards will throw themselves at your feet if you wear that." The mirror chuckled. "Or tear it off you, if you catch my drift."
"Don't be ridiculous!" Castanea chided. "He'd never be so crass as to tear my robes off."
She better be referring to me, Lucius thought, before his ability to converse with himself went down the drain.
Castanea stood before the three-paneled mirror in a pale blue gown that shimmered like ice. It had three-quarter sleeves that belled just past her elbows. The bodice laced up the front, which brought his gaze to her chest. Castanea had enough cleavage on display to draw his eyes, which meant other men would look as well. Unacceptable. It fit like a glove to partway down her thighs, giving him a better visual of her bum than he had gotten in two years, before swishing out.
If anyone saw her in those dress robes. . . . He could picture wizards throwing themselves at her, and he didn't like it. But he couldn't gainsay the mirror's other opinion either. Because if Castanea were already his, he would happily tear them off her and cancel their plans for a night in.
Lucius walked up behind her, grinning when she noticed him and spun around. "Lucius! What are you doing here?"
He swung the cloak around her body and fastened it, not giving her a chance to examine the back of it. His breath caught in his throat at the sight she made. Castanea looked like a Malfoy bride. His voice was gruff as he answered her question. "Hand-delivering your Yule present."
"Oh!" Castanea glanced downward and flushed. "Are the dress robes 'unseemly'?" she asked, voice tentative.
Lucius stroked her cheek with the back of his hand. "Not if you're wearing them on my account, Heiress Black." He had listened to her on-going conversation with the Mirror while he was spelling the cloak. She had been adamant to find the perfect gown and, given the color she had settled on, Lucius could only hope all the trouble she was going to was on his behalf.
Her voice shook as she asked her oft-repeated question. "I'm s-sorry, what was that?" Castanea raised her head to meet his gaze. "It sounded like y-your title was attempting to speak to m-mine."
His control was fraying rapidly. "You're more beautiful than I can bear," Lucius whispered, before brushing his lips against her cheek. And when kidnapping her started making sense in his head, Lucius forced himself to let her go and hurried out of the shop. As much as he hated waiting, she wasn't ready quite yet.
The sound of silence drew Lucius's attention away from the platter of crumpets. His mother's companions for afternoon tea were many things, but silent was never one of them. The pureblood ladies likely couldn't stop gossiping and matchmaking if their lives depended on it.
If just one more of them suggested that he offer for Lady Narcissa Black, solely because her coloring complemented his, he would start casting curses without bothering to think of the consequences. What wizard in his right mind would ever choose Narcissa over Castanea? He certainly wouldn't! Not even if Narcissa held the title and Castanea was from the branch family.
Lucius glanced over his shoulder and sucked in a sharp breath.
Castanea, bundled up in the cloak imbued with his magic—which, come to think of it, had to be how she had gotten through the wards without invitation—was marching toward him with a look on her face that was altogether confusing. It was equal parts terrified, enraged beyond the point of sanity, and unshakable determination.
"What are you doing out of school, young lady?" Walburga Black snapped from a nearby table.
Ignoring her mother, Castanea stalked right up to Lucius. She wrapped both her fists in the front of Lucius's robes and yanked him down. Her eyes fluttered shut (and his widened) just as his lips settled over hers.
Gasps of disbelief and outrage filled the room, only for giggling to echo soon after.
"C-Castanea?" Lucius stuttered. He stared at her slightly swollen lips, awed and desperate to taste her again. Merlin, he had waited forever to take her in his arms and taste her.
"I thought you'd be better at that," she muttered, eyes still closed.
Affronted, Lucius hugged her against him and kissed her as he had wanted to for the past few years. It was not a kiss meant to be given or received in public. Lucius didn't care. She had bloody well challenged his ability to satisfy her, and he would die before letting that challenge go unanswered.
She nipped his bottom lip when he withdrew, and then opened her eyes. "Better."
"Lucius, what is the meaning of this?" Lady Lucretia Malfoy inquired. Her tone was utterly disapproving, but her eyes sparkled with blatant approval.
"Sorry for barging in unannounced, Lady Malfoy," Castanea said before leaning away from Lucius just enough to offer a perfunctory curtsey. "A filthy Mudblood tried to steal my first kiss for a dare about half an hour ago."
"What?" Lucius clutched her to his chest and tried to push away the image of anyone else's lips upon hers. He had never wanted to hurt someone as much as he wanted to hurt this faceless wizard in his imagination.
Castanea patted his arm. "I refused. I think he'll understand the message if he ever wakes up in St. Mungo's." She leaned to her left and said, "By the way, Mother, you should expect a lawsuit from Muggles; I did just put their only son in a coma."
"St. Mungo's? You should've put him in the graveyard, Castanea!" Walburga said. "Mudblood filth trying to despoil a maiden of the Sacred Twenty-Eight. How dare he?" She sneered, and then turned a calculative eye on Lucius. "Why didn't you ever say anything, young lady?"
"Because you hate me, Mother," Castanea said. For the first time ever, Lucius witnessed all the color draining from someone's face. Walburga was as pale as the Bloody Baron. "Why would I tell you about anything that matters to me, just so you can destroy it?"
Walburga stood and smoothed her hands down her robes; Lucius had never seen her make a nervous gesture like that in public in his entire life. "You might not believe me, young lady, but I don't hate you." She smiled, but it was distorted, as if she couldn't even remember how. "Your father and I love you."
Castanea focused on her mother with a hawk-like stare. "You're right, Mother. I don't believe you."
She ruthlessly interrupted her mother. "Lucius has time for me. He never sends me away. He never forgets my birthday. He never throws curses at me to test my reflexes. He doesn't tell me I'm ugly, or overweight, or too emotional, or a pathetic excuse for a witch. And he has never, not even once, told me I'm unworthy. Lucius loves me, Mother. That's all I need."
With each item Castanea listed, Lucius shook harder and harder. How dare Walburga speak like that to his beloved? Castanea was everything. He had never met a pureblood witch more worthy of her magic, and he was blasphemously including his mother in that thought. His sweet, gentle mother appreciated her magic, but she didn't love it as Castanea did.
Lucretia set a hand on her son's shoulder and spoke a single word. "Out." The manor's wards Disapparated all the guests from the room, so that only she, Lucius, and Castanea remained.
"Lady Malfoy?" Castanea's voice was carefully blank.
"I know I raised you better than that, Lucius," Lucretia said, before tapping the back of his head. "Don't you have something to say?"
Wanting to avoid her familiar retort, Lucius simply said, "Castanea, bond with me."
She blushed and leaned her head against his chest. "That didn't sound like a question, Lucius," she retorted.
Lucius smirked. "That's because it wasn't."
He almost didn't hear Castanea's desperate, aching plea. "Promise you'll never stop loving me."
The pain in his chest was vicious. It took four tries for him to get the words out of his suddenly dry mouth. "I promise." He meant it. Oh, how he meant it. It was the sincerest promise he had ever given anyone.
Castanea didn't speak a single word. She merely nodded once against his chest. That one gesture was enough to send his heart soaring with victory. After years of laying siege to her heart, she had surrendered it to him.