How Lady Vengeance Takes Her Tea Preview

a/n: And now for something completely different—a preview of my new WIP, How Lady Vengeance Takes Her Tea.

It's been some time since you last visited your grandmother; perhaps not since you sat for your N.E.W.T.s, though you can hardly be blamed for that. You've been busy with your new job, firstly, which everyone agrees is understandable, and your father only recently secured his second term as Minister, so your grandmother hasn't necessarily been a priority for some time. Now, though, Papa insists you pay a visit, and so you join your grandmother in the usual place in the garden, sitting down with her for tea on a particularly crisp autumn afternoon.

"I suppose I ought to tell you a story," remarks your grandmother, after the usual gratuitous praise for how well you look and the perfunctory questions about your post-graduate studies. You, of course, are mindlessly smearing strawberry jam onto a scone and thinking about how you're much too old for this; but Papa insisted you pay a visit, so it's probably best you don't complain.

"Have I told you the one about Lady Vengeance?" Grandmother asks.

A snappy title, that. You say no, though presumably Grandmother will have her say regardless, and predictably, she does. "Well," says your grandmother, "Lady Vengeance was born in a very different world than the one we're all accustomed to now, petal. There was no Minister for Magic then," she explains, glancing fondly at Papa's portrait, "and the Ministry itself was just beginning its rise to prominence. Wizarding court was a mirror of the muggle one, you know," she adds, and you nod, just to prove you're listening. "There were lords scrambling for power in both Parliament and the Ministry at the time, but both were still governed by a king."

King Lucius, you supply primly. You know this because you received an Outstanding in History of Magic, and also, it isn't as if this is Grandmother's first foray into the mythos of her glamorous youth. Still, the stories of glittering ballgowns and fashionable courtiers are her bread and butter, as far as you're concerned. They are where her countless tales come most successfully to life.

"Yes, King Lucius," your grandmother confirms, "and his was an extravagant court indeed. But beneath the illuminating charms and beauty enchantments, his courtiers mainly glittered with ambition, and thus the king was made to keep a careful watch over their schemes. Wizarding monarchy was on a decline," she laments, "and the king was constantly surrounded by backstabbing nobles and spies. Beauty, then, was made to be everywhere, if only to obscure the ugliness of court politics."

Your smear of clotted cream smooths easily over the jam as you listen.

"The king had a son, of course; famously handsome, even as a boy. Rotten through and through, too, and dreadfully spoilt, with terrible rumors following him like a shadow, making him sullen and quiet over time. His mother died very young, you know," she says, pouring a bit of milk into her tea. "An illness, or so the palace claimed, though many reported having seen the queen in perfect health the very day she died. When young Prince Draco did not spill a single tear upon hearing the news, many suspected him of having contributed in some way to her death; perhaps having cursed her in a rage, or having struck her from some kind of tantrum."

You think this is a terrible thing to accuse a child of doing, but of course you become distracted when you register the mention of Prince Draco, because that is another name you know.

"Ah yes, the prince," your grandmother remarks with a chuckle, catching the look on your face. Regrettably, she seems fully aware that you and your housemates stared overlong at the prince's portrait in your fifth year textbooks. "I told you he was handsome, didn't I?"

You think it's heartily embarrassing to be discussing handsome men with your grandmother, so you bite demurely into your scone while she laughs.

"In any case, Lady Vengeance did not think much of him either," she continues, "nor he of her, not at first. They met as children, encountering each other upon one of the prince's rare visits to Hogwarts. There was always something between them, or so legend has it, though it did not matter for much until nearly ten years later. By then, King Lucius had already been murdered, and—"

Here you look up with a start, because no such thing was taught in your textbooks. King Lucius was certainly not murdered.

"He certainly was," your grandmother scoffs.

No, impossible. You've read all the books, and never has there been any mention of King Lucius' death at all, outside of it being untimely.

"Untimely and unnatural," assures your grandmother, "as murder so often is."

Now you're intrigued, largely as a professional matter. What did Lady Vengeance have to do with it? It's certainly possible your grandmother has gone a bit dotty, seeing as she ought to know you're not some gullible child. Was Lady Vengeance the reason for everything that came next?

"Oh yes, undoubtedly," your grandmother says. "She is, after all, the reason there is no longer a curse upon the bloodlines of the Sacred Twenty-Eight."

Curse? Now you're a bit disappointed, as this is clearly just another fairy story your grandmother is spinning to try and mesmerize you, mistaking you for the same young girl you once were. You are old enough now not to hang on her every word, and certainly to understand that there are no such things as curses; not the kind your grandmother means, anyway.

"There used to be, in my day," Grandmother primly corrects you. "Prince Draco had one, and everyone knew it. Even," she adds, "those who did not."

Well, now that's just nonsense. Blood curses have been debunked several times over, for one thing. You've studied them yourself, and in no recorded instance was it ever actually a curse, but always something else. A poltergeist. A bit of bad luck here and there, or simply a highly clever witch or wizard for an adversary. But since your grandmother is unlikely to be convinced by any logic you put forth, instead you tempt her with a test.

Assuming the curse was real, how could she know for sure whether this so-called Lady Vengeance had anything to do with breaking it?

"Well, petal," your grandmother says with a smile, "I know because I saw her do it."

a/n: In which: Olivie writes historical romance, give or take some demonic possession; Georgian gowns come laced with questionable motives; any prospective balls, weddings, or society affairs arrive with the caveat of possible murder; and all in all, a rather uppity grandmother takes her time getting to the point.

The full first chapter, should you choose to accept it, is available to follow now. Thank you for reading, and I hope you enjoy!