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Author's Note: Once again, I do not speak French. I am using a dictionary/translator on my computer, so I'm aware it won't be perfect. If you do speak French, I would like to apologize now for any slaughtering of the language I may have inadvertently caused. Otherwise, what do you care, right?
French translations: ((example))
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Okay, now onto the last chappie…
Fifteen Years and Eleven Months Later…
January 14th, 2014
Virginia ran her finger underneath another sentence on the page of the ancient Book in her lap, about four seconds away from snarling and ripping handfuls of her hair out. She'd been looking for a spell that would do what she needed for what seemed like forever, and she was growing mightily impatient. The Lady had stayed resolutely silent about the whole affair, and Virginia got the feeling that She was quite amused with the entire situation. Oh, yes, because it was just so bloody funny, wasn't it? Abandoning the Book of the Ever After, she stood and started pacing the floor of the small room to the side of the main library that she was currently barricaded in.
She'd come there since she knew that the others would look for her just about everywhere but in the chain of little soundproofed rooms that traveling scholars and such used to study the texts kept within their halls. And why would they? She had plenty of larger, more comfortable places to go and read. But she needed the privacy, because if she couldn't find what she was looking for, then she sure as fuck didn't want anyone else to get wind of it and start premature rumors. She could just see the looks on Draco and Blaise's faces if someone went to the Throne Room with that bit of information spilling from their lips.
And the seven witches right outside the door would most certainly run tattling to them if they knew what she was doing. She hadn't seen why she needed ladies-in-waiting, but her station demanded it by the Old Laws, and she hadn't really had a choice in the end. It was to promote better unity among the nobles of the Court and the Royals, not like they needed it, but tradition was tradition, and the nobles had latched onto that particular custom like rabid wolves. So the youngest daughters of some of the more important families had been sent and sworn into her service, and she knew that she was close to snapping.
Every seven years the girls were exchanged for new ones, and the first two groups hadn't been half-bad. She'd actually become partial friends with a few of them, and she'd tolerated the others well enough. But this latest group was a bunch of sniveling, drooling, brainless brats. Or, the nasty little voice in the back of her mind intoned, you just don't like them because every one of them is besotted with your lovers. Okay, so maybe that had something to do with it. But who could blame her? She was just waiting for one of them to step out of line, to let the desire that she could smell spill into their eyes, to verbally acknowledge it in any way. Because then they would die.
But they all knew better than that after the first girl had been replaced. The cute little brunette that was a blood cousin of Blaise's. The cute little brunette who'd thought that he might be into a little incest if she could flaunt her charms appealingly enough. The cute little brunette that they'd had to scrape off of the marble floor after Virginia had walked in just in time to see her kiss him, just in time to see Draco rip her off and one of the Ezutîël backhand her, just in time to see Blaise wiping off his lips, which had been smeared with the bright pink mush that she'd caked onto her mouth. Virginia's fury had been anything but pretty.
But it had taught the new ladies-in-waiting a valuable lesson that the rest of the Court had learned long ago, and they did nothing to oppose or challenge her in any way. She thought it ironic that the people loved her but her own maids despised her, and all because they wanted something that they could never have. Well, two somethings. But she couldn't protest unless they fucked up outright, since Padma put up with her own as well, and Draco and Blaise had each taken a squire into their care, tutoring them in everything from spellwork to weapons. So yes, she was very glad for her privacy, and could only pray that no one saw her maids shuffling around outside.
Slamming one fist into the wall hard enough to make it hurt, she glared at the Book that was lying so innocently on the floor as if it were her immortal enemy. She'd combed through it thoroughly, but its pages were always shifting and changing, so then she'd searched every library worth searching for the last six years and found nothing that could help her. Now she was back to point A again, because she simply didn't know where else to look, and with the Lady being so stubborn, she was out of options. Cocidius couldn't help her either, as the kind of magick that she was looking for was the one kind that he had no power over.
Her lovers couldn't aid her for the same reason, not that she would have asked them anyway, since it would have defeated the purpose in the first place. The element of surprise would be crucial, because their true feelings would only come into play without any shielding or masks if she timed it just right. Which she would. If she could ever find a spell or charm that would actually work, that is. She was almost to the point of breaking and ruining the surprise for Padma and Pansy as well just to get some help, and decided that she would do just that. She would hunt them down and force them to get a welter of paper cuts with her, damn it.
But only after she tried one more time.
Call her stubborn, but she had looked every-fucking-where, and it was personal now. Ending her staring contest with the Book, she pulled her hair back into a tight ponytail and stomped back over to it, flinging herself on the ground and once more glaring at it moodily. Stupid thing, she cursed silently, and then immediately felt more than a little silly for taking her frustration out on a book, and a book that had helped her numerous times, at that. Picking it up again and once more placing it in her lap, she held her hand over it and willed it to show her what she wanted. The pages fluttered randomly, before settling again and causing her to groan.
What was wrong with it? Why did it keep showing her things like 'How to Control the Undead' when she hadn't even thought of anything like that? She knew how to raise a zombie, thank you very much, and the Book knew that. Starting to think that the Fates were either completely against her or sitting in their spinning room laughing heartily at her, she growled and gripped the Book tighter. Flames spread over her skin and then over the Book, and she pulled back abruptly. What the hell? She hadn't lost control like that in years. Checking to make sure that she hadn't harmed the artifact, she nearly bit her tongue when the crackling fire sunk into the parchment.
Staring, she watched wordlessly as the pages started moving on their own, fluttering this way and that as if moved by an unseen wind. Then they froze, and her heart was in her throat as she waited for the familiar green scrawl to appear. But it didn't, and she sucked in a breath. Only the darkest spells in the Book did that, and she knew what was needed. Digging her thumbnail into her middle finger, she let four drops of blood fall onto the empty page. Slowly, oh-so-slowly, they sunk into it just as her flames had, and words did appear then. Her eyes racing over them, disbelief and joy almost choked her, but not enough to stop her scream of triumph.
Leaping to her feet once more, the Book still in her hands, she closed it carefully, this time treating it like a beloved friend, knowing that the page would show itself to her later since she'd seen it once. Not that she needed to see it again. Every word was stored in her mind permantly. What had Lycelle called it? A photographic memory? But no matter, she had found what she needed, and she would start the potion right away. It took a week to brew, and it would take her another two days to recover. But then…But then she would drink it and do what needed doing, and the next week of exhaustion and pain would be worth it.
Oh yes, it would be more than worth it.
The crystal vial in Virginia's hands shattered on the porcelain tile underneath her feet as she stumbled backwards and barely caught herself on the courtyard wall, shocked senseless. It had worked! It had really, really worked! Six years of searching and hoping and praying, and the potion had worked! Oh gods, she thought wildly, I think I'm going to faint. Her vision started swimming and she slid bonelessly down the wall a second before her guards were rushing over the courtyard walls as they felt her distress. But it wasn't really distress, or at least not any kind that they could help her with, and they seemed to sense that as they surrounded her.
"Lady? My lady, what ails you?" Xejime asked, throwing back his hood and revealing a head of white hair, his fangs flashing briefly and his forever-youthful features clouded with concern and apprehension. She shook her head, unable to speak so much as a word. Nothing was ailing her; in fact, she felt absolutely wonderful, but it was an utterly stunned wonderful.
"My lady!" That from one of the others, Imramee, who also threw her hood back, her kitty-cat eyes turning a vibrant greenish-yellow when Virginia couldn't answer them. "Have you had a vision?" She shook her head again.
"Go get Padma." Xejime ordered another, and the hooded vampire was gone in moments as if it had never even been there.
The other six stayed huddled around her, trying to find out what was wrong with her since she had no wounds or any other problems that they could see or smell. She had no idea how much time had passed before Padma, Pansy and Anton rushed out of hers and her lovers' bedroom doors and into their private courtyard, their own guards flanking them like dark ghosts. Two of the Ezutîël were with them as well, and they were at her side in seconds, her guards parting to make room for them. Padma's hand was on her forehead a moment later, Pansy was running hands over her shoulders and down her sides, and both huffed in exasperation while Anton just looked at her.
"You're shielding too tightly for us to sense anything, Virginia." Padma said in her soft, soothing voice. "Bring them down and let us see what's wrong, hmm?"
But apparently, Virginia was more shocked than she knew, because she simply couldn't remember how. Everything but the knowledge that her spell had worked had completely vanished from her mind, that and what she herself could sense within her now. It was earth-shattering and remarkable, and she still couldn't believe it even though she could feel it. It was only when their panic spiked and they decided to send for Draco and Blaise, who had left that morning for a few international meetings, that she tried to fight her mental dizziness enough to stop them. It was harder than it sounded, though, and it took quite a few tries before she managed to wrap her hand in Anton's robe tightly as he rose to go get them.
Her refusal surprised them, she knew that much, but how could she explain it? How could she explain why they couldn't? It would ruin a large part of her plan, and there were no second chances with this. It had to be done right the first time, or the vision that she'd had all of those years ago would come to fruition and her lovers would never fully heal the last of their soul-wounds. She had seen the complete memory of what had happened the night their fathers had died, and knew that she would again that night. That last piece of the puzzle is what had given her an idea on how to heal them, is what had driven her to years of endless searching.
And if she could follow through with the rest of it correctly, if they could accept what she offered them, then she knew that the true healing would finally begin. But if she couldn't, or if they didn't, then they would never heal, and the wound would fester even farther until it was a constant agony, their sires' final revenge. It would drive them both mad eventually, and with their degradation, the entire world would fall with them into sickening shadows and corrupt perversion. They were the Shadow Kings, and their well-being was the world's well-being. Their mental deterioration would affect all that lived within their Realm.
It could be years before that happened, or it could be days. The vision hadn't been time-specific; it had only shown her the two choices spread before them, a fork in their fated paths. And there were only two people that could shield the earth from them and their lunacy should that dreaded choice be the one made. Her and Padma. But she knew, on some level that had nothing at all to do with visions and everything to do with love, that should they be corrupted, she would follow them. She would follow them anywhere, even down into the farthest reaches of evil and debasement, no matter what the cost to her soul.
They had told her once that should she ever fall into such disgrace, should she ever wish to rule with cruelty instead of the dark justice they currently used, that they would break the world and its people in a heartbeat for her pleasure. Love twists things, twists people, and it can make the strongest of their kind bow before it willingly. It can make the best among them do things that they would never usually do, and they knew, as did she, that should their beloveds become tainted, they would be unable to stop them, unable to do anything but follow them no matter where they led. So the question was, would Padma follow too?
Virginia wasn't completely sure, but she was sure enough that she would bet heavily on it. The twins would, of course, they wouldn't really have a choice, and even should Padma hesitate in the beginning, their turning would force her into it as well. There was that love factor again. But truthfully, Virginia doubted that they would succumb before Padma, because the Marks were tricky things, and she loved the three of them as well. Pansy and Anton would be the next to fall and the rest of the Court would follow, then the minor lords and ladies, then the rest of the purebloods, then the halfbloods, the mudbloods, the Squibs…
So her only hope, the earth's only hope, was for her plan to work.
"No." Her voice was stronger that time, and she straightened up as she drew herself together.
"But Virginia, if they find out about this and that we said nothing…"
"I said no! Will you defy a direct order?" Silence. "I thought not." Rising to her feet and pushing away their grasping hands, she gave the guards a healthy glare. "Leave us."
They did not argue, as they all knew her too well not to recognize the steel in her voice and eyes, and they disappeared back to their stations all around the bedroom and courtyard. Padma, Pansy and Anton were all waiting patiently for her to explain her odd behavior, and she motioned for them to follow her to one of the benches. They sat while she paced back and forth, and they were silent for a long time, waiting for her to speak. Funny how with all of the planning that she had done, she hadn't thought of what she would tell her friends when the time came. And seeing as how she couldn't walk around constantly shielding forever, the time had most certainly come.
"Okay." She let her breath out in a sigh, and couldn't stop a goofy, euphoric grin from spreading across her face.
"You're starting to scare us." Pansy commented, her voice dull but her eyes watchful and worried.
Virginia stopped her sporadic pacing and stood in front of them, her eyes drinking in the features of her closest friends as she tried to imagine what their reactions would be. They (and the twins, of course) knew her better than anyone except for her lovers. She trusted few these days, and even that trust was always shadowed by doubt. Once you had seen as much betrayal as she had, and to such degrees, you couldn't help but become paranoid and jaded. But there was no doubt with them, she had seen into the deepest corners of their minds, and she trusted them not just with her own life, but with the lives of her lovers as well, and that alone spoke volumes.
They had always been there for her, be it for dire emergencies or small, stupid things, like letting her crawl into bed with them when Draco and Blaise were away and she was having nightmares. They had done the same, after all, and no one questioned their odd hours and strange sleeping arrangements. Not that anyone would dare to do so to begin with, and no one besides them, their guards and their immediate families were allowed inside the Royal Wing anyway. But the point was that they had always, always supported her and never laughed at her or shunned her. They would do anything for her, they would die for her, and they had all proven that many times over the years. So…
They had a right to know.
"Don't be scared." She finally replied in a low, sure voice. "Rejoice."
"Rejoice?" Anton questioned, looking puzzled, which was very rare indeed. "Whatever for?" She took a deep breath and let all of her previous tension drain away in favor of the glee that was rising within her until she wanted to raise her voice in song and dance with sheer joy.
"For this." She said, and let her shields drop for them and only them. All three swarmed off of the bench in the blink of an eye, falling to their knees so that they could place hands and cheeks and lips all over her abdomen wonderingly.
Lycelle threw a last glance in her mirror, making sure that her creamy white robes were in order and that her hair wasn't sticking up. It wouldn't do to be seen disheveled around the Court or the Americans, and she had looked as perfect as possible earlier, but Marcello…He'd always fancied her in these toga-style robes. It wasn't her fault that he hadn't been able to keep his hands to himself. Trying to glare at him as she slid her wand into her pocket, she failed miserably as soon as she saw his prone form, nude and slick with sweat from their…activities, laid out on the silver sheets most invitingly. Shaking her head, she tried to re-focus.
Pansy had come to her the day before with absolutely glorious news, and had actually made her take a blood oath not to speak a word of it. Virginia wanted the happy news kept under wraps, for now at least, and it apparently meant more than just the obvious if they were going to such lengths to keep it a secret. But it was not Lycelle's place to question a command from the Night Bride, and she had taken the oath without any fuss. The only person that she might have told otherwise would have been Marcello, and maybe her acolyte, Damia, but she was content to wait. And Pansy had made another request of her as well.
She, Padma and Anton wished to give Virginia a gift, and one worthy of such an occasion. Padma had remembered something that she'd read about once, a sort-of upgraded version of a Pensieve, and it had been simple enough for her to transform a regular one into what they needed. It was called a Sansieve, and it basically did the same thing as a Pensieve, expect for two major differences. One, the giver didn't lose the memory themselves. And two, whatever person's memory you delved into, you delved into them as well, and you saw everything from their eyes, feeling exactly what they had felt at the time. So they were on a mission for pleasant and meaningful memories.
It was going to look suspicious enough asking everyone that mattered to participate, and therefore, Pansy and the others hadn't thought it wise for them to go to America to talk Draco and Blaise into it. Enter Lycelle. The two High Kings didn't like dealing with her very much due to her status as a High Priestess of the Lady of the Light, that was a widely known fact, but a fact less known was that they usually agreed to whatever she wanted (since she never asked for anything outrageous) just to get her to go away. It wasn't that they disliked her, per say, but more like they wanted nothing to do with the Dawn Star in any shape, way or form.
They had teased Marcello constantly when he and Lycelle had first married, asking if he would don robes of white and 'go good and holy' as well, but they had never teased her since they didn't like getting that close. It was a problem for Padma and Virginia as well, since the Ladies were known to…disagree, especially after Twilight's Pride had ascended the Great Throne and become the Queen of All, ruling side by side with Cocidius. So no, they couldn't tolerate Lycelle's presence for long, but they never did anything about it because she was the sister of one of their greatest friends. And now that sister hoped she could pull off the impossible.
"Lycelle? You're going to miss your coach." Marcello's deep voice brought her out of her musings, and she gave him a sheepish smile before hurrying over, kissing him goodbye, and rushing for the door.
She slowed her pace once she was out of the east High Court wing, since she really didn't think that they would leave without her. Sometimes her last name came in quite handy, as did her own status. White Wanderers were not to be overly toyed with, after all, and she was the first that had been Awakened all of those years ago after the Great Battle. She had finally found out why she was so different once Cocidius had shattered the Ban that Dagda had enforced for so long, the Ban that had kept all of the gods, but for Him, from their Chosen for so long. The White Lady had come for her when the blood was still wet upon the ground.
Two more of her kindred had also been Awakened in the years afterwards, a Spanish witch named Nadia and a Texan wizard named, of all things, Tex. Other gods had begun to take Chosen as well, many but not all, since the Call couldn't be forced. For some, it was their time, for others, it was not and they would wait a few more years or decades or centuries until the right Shadow-dwellers did Call to them. A guard at the end of the hall nodded at her as she drew closer to him and a seemingly dead end. But it wasn't a dead end, just one of the clever little portal pads that the Royals had come up with, and all she had to do was speak her destination to be transported.
As long as her destination was within the property's wards, that is. They sure as hell weren't leaving open portals to anywhere lying about. That would be awfully convenient for any would-be assassins; if any even had the balls to try their luck after what Draco had done to the last one that had attempted to kill one of his lovers. That time it had been Blaise, who'd actually let the fool stab him with a poisoned silver blade to the heart just so he could watch the primordial terror surface in the wizard's eyes when he'd seen that he hadn't so much as flinched, let alone died. The entire Court had been in attendance that day, and all had seen the man meet his end.
It had been quite gruesome, and while Draco was busy showing the wizard how people really could be turned inside out and still manage to scream if enough magick was applied, Virginia and Padma had been sweeping the room, probing everyone's minds until they'd fleshed out the man's accomplices and handed them over to the Dementors for safekeeping until they could be questioned. And executed. Blaise, meanwhile, had stayed lazily sprawled across his throne, licking his heartblood off of the dagger as if it were nothing more than sticky red candy. It had definitely made a statement, at the very least.
The first assassin had tried to get Virginia when she was eating at a small New Zealand restaurant with her mother, and the woman had thought her to be alone. That had been proven false when Blaise had come out of the back room in time to see her aiming her wand and starting the Killing Curse, not that it would have been enough to murder Virginia in the first place. But the intention was all that had mattered to him, and they'd only found pieces of her by the end. But that hadn't been nearly as public as Draco's moment of fury, and hearing rumors was quite different than actually witnessing it. Needless to say, no one else had made any attempts.
The majority of the people were happy with their reign anyway, considering all that they had accomplished. Peace, freedom, the continuation of their race, which was thriving like never before, the return of the gods, peace, freedom…Everyone was pleased, except for a rare few that hadn't been fully cleansed of the Bane that fateful day almost sixteen years ago. Oh, and the people who crossed them, of course. Most didn't live to see another dawn, but a few had, and they led miserable lives. Fresh air tickled across her face, and she opened her eyes to see one of the carriage stations before her. She'd made it just in time.
"Evening, m'lady." One of the servants greeted her, a young boy of no more than ten or eleven, and she gave him a warm smile as he held open the door to her coach, slipping him a few galleons as a tip, since she knew that most of the nobles rarely bothered.
His eyes widened before he gave her a genuine smile in return, but it didn't last when his eyes flickered to the inside of the coach. Suddenly suspicious, she slid her hand inside her pocket and wrapped her fingers around the length of maple wood that rested within it. She didn't truly need it anymore; she hadn't since the Lady had Marked her, but it was still comforting to keep it with her, to know that it was there. Steeling herself, she climbed the short set of foldout silver steps and came face to face with the last people that she had wanted to see. The carriage door shut behind her, and she suddenly felt very, very trapped. Fuck.
"Mother. Father. Felix." She intoned blankly, taking a seat as far away from them as possible.
"How nice of you to finally arrive." Célina Parkinson said coldly, her accent heavily French, although her English was perfect, much like the rest of her. She was beautiful in every sense of the word as long as you kept it to physical characteristics. She had long, cognac-colored hair that never had a single wisp out of place, eyes that were twins of Pansy's, as well as the same small, up-turned nose. She appeared dainty and delicate, but it was lie of momentous proportions.
"I was busy." Lycelle murmured, hating the way that she still felt like a worthless child whenever she was around them.
"Busy." Her father repeated, making it sound ridiculous, as if he thought so little of her as to assume that she never did anything of worth. Which he did. "And what were you…busy with?" He asked, his accent as thick as her mother's, his blond hair pulled back in a tight, neat ponytail so that it would stay out of his hazel eyes and not distract the gaze from his sharp cheekbones and full lips.
She didn't get to answer as the air in the carriage became momentarily stifling before the whole thing shivered and leapt forward. Only the noblest of nobles were allowed in these coaches, because they traveled through the ether, fueled by the Royals' magick and power. It was the quickest way to travel across continents or oceans or both, and it wasn't tedious or overwhelming like, say, if she'd wanted to Apparate, floo or even use a portkey. Only the walls of the coach kept them from being crushed by the incredible pressure right outside, but as long as you didn't think about that overly much, the ride was perfectly comfortable.
Which was too bad, since it gave them the opportunity to start talking again.
"Ask her not, Philippe, for it will be nothing that we would wish to hear her prattle on about." Felix, her cousin and her most hated family member, said absently, as if he'd barely noted her presence at all.
He, too, was blond, just like their fathers, who were brothers, and he had the same bone structure as well. He could have been her father's son, they looked so much alike, and she knew that her father wished that he was, knew that he wished he could trade Lycelle for him. He would never give up Pansy, because her sister was their family's pride and joy, but he would have gotten rid of Lycelle long ago had Pansy not objected so vehemently. Only the threat of losing his precious firstborn had made him stay his hand and let Lycelle continue to stay with her grandmother, and sometimes she wished that Pansy had not interfered. Usually at times like these.
"Fuck off, Felix." She had no problem fighting with him. She had been ever since she could remember, after all.
"Isn't that what your dragon rider is for?" He sneered, and Philippe raised one hand.
"You go too far. Marcello Moretti is a perfectly respectable young man, as befits his family. He simply has bad taste." Her father drawled, his eyes raking over her and making her feel dirty and worthless, just as they always did. "And you," he said, as if speaking her name would somehow hurt him or foul his tongue, "you have not even had the decency to bear any children."
"I'm not my sister." She said in a small, tired voice, and three tinkling laughs followed that statement.
"That much is more than obvious, I assure you." Her mother agreed nastily. "Pansy has already done her duty to the McGregor line and our own." She said, referring to Pansy and Anton's five-year-old son and three-year-old daughter, the first of which was the heir to the McGregor line, and the latter that was the next heir to the Parkinson line.
Lycelle doubted, however, that Anton and Pansy would be Passing anytime remotely soon, considering that they had not aged a day since letting the Royals Mark them as the twins' were Marked, and that was over fifteen years ago. It was remarkably strange to have an older sister that looked younger than she did, an older sister that was almost thirty-two and didn't look a day over eighteen. And most likely never will if my suspicions are correct, Lycelle thought distantly, most of her attention on her family. They were not people that it would be safe to let her guard down around. She had learned that long ago after Felix had tried to shove her down four flights of stairs the summer after her first year at Hogwarts. Her parents had laughed.
Gods, how she hated them.
"Yes, I know Pansy's accomplishments as well as any." Lycelle said after a moment, and her mother smiled a vicious smile.
"Do you?" She asked, and Lycelle caught a flash of something strange in her mother's eyes before she could hide it. Something that looked a lot like jealousy. A thrill shot through Lycelle from head to foot and she had to stop herself from grinning broadly. So their mother was envious of her relationship with her sister? Good.
"Oh, yes." She said, a level of smugness in her tone that had never manifested itself around these people before, and her new knowledge gave her confidence. "We make sure to have brunch together at least twice a week, no matter how busy we both are. In fact, I'm going to America to do her a favor that she couldn't entrust anyone else with." Oh, she'd had no idea how satisfying rubbing this shit in could be. No idea at all.
"You're a fucking liar, Lycelle." Felix spat. "She trusts the Royals more than you, she trusts Anton more than you, she trusts a lot of people more than she does some fucking weak little white witch."
"Weak." Lycelle scoffed. "Who's weak? Maybe I should call my Lady and see if she agrees, hmm?"
"Do not think to threaten us." Felix hissed, his hand tightening around the wand in his lap that she hadn't even seen. Stupid, stupid, stupid, she reprimanded herself. What if he had decided to use it before now? She wouldn't even have seen it until it was too late. "We are favored by the Royal family more than you are or ever will be, and you know as well as I that to harm us would be treason."
"Ah, but you forget, dear cousin, that I might not be the Royals favorite person, but I am highly cherished by my sister, and she would vouch for me."
"Against her own family? Think again, little witch." Her father said haughtily, and some of her arrogance was squashed underneath his piercing hazel eyes, eyes that were barely three shades lighter than Anton's. She'd always wondered if Pansy held more love for their father than she let on, and if Anton having eyes so much like his had been an added bonus in her mind. Her father seemed to sense her deflating, and he smirked in an all-too-familiar way. "You are the Chosen of the Lady of the Sun, and yet you still fear me." He stated, sounding quite pleased.
"You made sure of that long ago." Lycelle murmured, and his smirk grew ever wider.
"I'm glad to know that it has not changed." He said, and she wanted to hit him, scratch him, make that pretty face bleed. But she wouldn't, not even now, and she hated herself for it, hated her reluctance and cowardice. It would be all too easy to kill him, to turn her Lady's Light into something that was in no way good or righteous, to watch him scream as his skin split open, white-hot rays spilling from his flesh and—
'You will do no such thing.' The Lady told her sternly, and she felt a blush stain her cheeks. She hadn't meant to project her thoughts loud enough for the Lady to hear.
'Forgive me, Great One.' She begged, her pride gone in the face of her master's ire. 'I wouldn't have, it was only my thoughts running free. These people affect me like no one else.'
'I know.' The Dawn Star replied, but She didn't sound very convinced. 'But regardless, I do not wish for you to go before America's ruling class with such horrid thoughts still rushing through you. I will send Tex to meet you at the station.'
'I do not need a babysitter!' She thought indignantly before she could stop herself, and immediately regretted it.
'My decision is final.' The Lady snapped, Her honey-and-flowers tone gone in an instant. Then the link between them closed with a suddenness that left Lycelle gasping and cursing herself for losing control badly enough to anger her Lady.
"Maybe she's dying." She distantly heard Felix comment gleefully, and she lifted her head to glare at him.
"Shut up." She snapped, in an utterly foul mood. "Just shut up. I've already annoyed the Lady today, and I'm this," she held up her fingers for emphasis, "close to taking my chances and doing it again just to see how you look with all of that beautiful hair on fire. Now leave me alone. My day will be difficult enough without you making it worse."
"Why are you going to the United States?" Her mother suddenly asked. Well, more like demanded, but she was so used to it that she barely registered the difference.
"I have to meet up with Draco and Blaise." She said unthinkingly, so her mother's sharp slap came as a complete surprise. "Wha—"
"Do not speak their names!" The woman ranted, her cheeks turning a light pink with fury. "You are not worthy enough for it, and I refuse to have you disrespect our Kings as you disrespect us! You will show the proper respect, or I will name you traitor myself! And to speak their names is to draw their attention! How wise do you think it is to distract them while they are at a council with the American muggle rulers? Sometimes, no, most of the time, I simply cannot believe that you are my…child." The last word was said in the most disgusted tone that Lycelle had ever heard from her.
"Me? A traitor? You've said some outrageous things before, mother, but that about tops the list." Wow. That was probably the rudest thing that she had ever said to the woman in front of her, and it had felt excellent.
There was no time to say more, if she'd even have been able to, because the coach finally began to slow, shaking minutely as it broke through the ether at the Royal family's carriage station in Washington, D.C. She wasted no time in exiting, and her feet hit the grey gravel less than nine or ten seconds after they'd stopped. Breathing the fresh air and feeling free again, she hurried towards the station and only realized when she got there that she had no idea why they had come to America at all. Probably for the council, but she didn't care enough to check and find out. She was away from them, and that was all that she truly cared about.
"Lycelle!" A familiar voice called as soon as she'd stepped inside the cool, richly furnished waiting room, and she looked up to see Tex striding towards her in robes the same shade as hers.
He still looked almost exactly the same as he had the last time that she had seen him almost six months ago, except he had cut his brown hair shorter than it had been, leaving only a thin layer of stubble to cover his head. He was still a burnt reddish-brown from the Texas sun, though, and she doubted that would ever change. He towered over her, almost six and a half feet tall, and he was built like a large, walking mountain. His huge, muscled frame would probably have looked strange to her in the loose, flowing robes, but she'd grown up with the Crabbes as her closest neighbors, so it just didn't seem as odd to her as it did to most people.
"Hello, Tex." She greeted him warmly, her bad mood evaporating as it always did when he turned that boyish grin on her full-force. Now that had seemed odd to her at first, but she'd quickly learned that it was just a part of who he was.
"So, where to?" He asked, and she sighed.
"The Capitol Building."
He whistled and rocked back on his heels. "Damn, girl. Do you have the jurisdiction to get in there? The place has been all over the news. Security's tighter than my mother's—"
"Stop right there." She warned, trying to look serious and failing when he grinned again. That was Tex for you.
What on earth had drawn the Lady to this lecherous, uncouth wizard was beyond her. Well…No, that wasn't completely true. Because she knew that underneath the tough attitude and crude sayings, he had a heart of gold. He was the kind of person that stopped to pick up trash off of the side the road with his hands instead of spells, the kind of person that would willingly die for a stranger in order to save them. He was also very, very vulgar when he wished to be. Vulgar enough that a comment he'd made to Virginia one time in jest had almost gotten his throat ripped by one of her guards before she had been able to stop laughing long enough to drag them away.
"My apologies." Tex intoned, not sounding the least bit sorry, his deep Southern accent rolling through the room like a bass drum. "The Capitol Building it is, though I sincerely hope that you do have some sort of authorization, because otherwise, they're going to kick our asses out before we even get within three blocks of the place."
"They've shut down the main roads?" Lycelle questioned, and he cocked an eyebrow.
"Well, of course they have, honey child. The High Kings rarely visit our country, and the President sure as hell don't want anything to happen to happen while they're here and it be his fault due to lack of security. That could end up a very bad thing. A very bad thing, indeed."
"I know." She said, sighing again. "Well, let's go. Do they have an Apparation point set up somewhere close?"
"I have no idea, I just got here. We can ask her, though." He said, nodding to the girl behind the counter that was reading Witch Weekly. Lycelle agreed and walked over to the young redhead, rapping her fingers on the counter to get the girl's attention. The girl took one look at her white robes before gazing up at her face, and Lycelle saw recognition spark in her eyes.
"Lady Moretti, how can I help you?"
"I need to get to the Capitol Building." Lycelle started, watching the girl's eyes widen. "Are there any open Apparation points close to it?"
"At the check station on New Jersey Avenue." The girl replied after a moment, shaking her head. Lycelle thanked her and walked back over to Tex.
"There is. Come on." She said, and away they went.
They found themselves facing a small white booth that was obviously movable, but the armored tanks blocking off the street and the dozens of army personal didn't look movable at all, nor did the media vans that were four thick in every direction. Apparently, the muggle news had latched onto the Kings' visit like mad wolverines. One of the first things that Draco and Blaise had done after being crowned and making the people safe and strong again had been to disband the Ministries and refuse to go along with the secrecy policies that the said Ministries had obliged concerning the truth of their race. Their people no longer hid in the shadows.
The muggle world's reaction to finding out that their collective governments had been keeping such a huge secret from them hadn't been pretty, riots breaking out all over the globe after the emergency bulletin. Why an emergency bulletin, you might ask? Because the High Kings hadn't given them much choice, and they'd had to warn their citizens before witches and wizards had started strolling down the streets of their cities in robes and carrying wands, performing spells and flying on broomsticks. At first, many muggles had thought that their leaders had gone insane, but the first time that they'd seen a person disappear or fly or change into an animal…Well.
The media had eaten it up, and the Presidents of four countries had been removed from office by national votes. The wizarding world had celebrated for sixty days and sixty nights, and many much longer than that. Now it was common to see the sidewalks teeming with robed figures, common to see a witch brewing potions in her front yard, common to come across a centaur in a public park gazing at the stars. And one might think, since those things were common now, that the novelty would have worn off. Not so. The muggles were still fascinated, still frightened, still flabbergasted. They still carried an aura of general disbelief.
Apparently, it was quite shocking to discover that the conservative man down the street was a real-life wizard, or that the nice old lady next door could hex you into oblivion with what to the muggles was nothing more than a stick. And it was seemingly even more shocking that those wizards and witches had a true Royal family, a true monarchy. Shocking that their Kings looked like walking wet dreams, shocking that they'd regained their thrones in a war that the muggles had known nothing of. Shocking that their countries' leaders had known about it all, shocking that they had witches and wizards in office, shocking, shocking, shocking.
"This is a restricted area." The uniformed man at the booth told them, a large machine gun strapped across his back in easy reach. Lycelle had been studying muggles for a few years, so she knew what the black, bulky thing was. "You need to leave."
"I'm here to meet with my Kings." She said, letting the man know that she was a witch incase the robes and her sudden appearance hadn't clued him in. It could be surprising how dense muggles could be at times. This one, though, apparently had a fully functioning brain, and he glared at her.
"No one gets inside. Those are my orders."
"Fine." Lycelle sighed yet again and held out her hand. "See this ring? Now let me in."
"No one gets inside."
"Sweet Merlin." This was going to get old fast. "This ring is a symbol of the Royal family. My sister is their sworn sister, and that makes me sort of like an adopted member of the family. So let me through, or I'll contact the High Kings mind-to-mind and get them out here themselves. Trust me when I say that you wouldn't like that." She wouldn't really, of course, not unless it was urgent, and this wasn't. But he didn't know that.
"No one gets inside." He looked a little shaken but still resolute, and she wondered what to do until another uniformed officer walked up to them, four gold stars on his chest and a 'don't-fuck-with-me-if-you-know-what's-good-for-you' expression on his hard face.
"What's the problem here, Andrews?" The man asked, and Lycelle nearly crowed with joy when she saw the wand tucked into one of his boot holsters.
"There is no problem, General." Lycelle said before the other soldier could respond. "He didn't seem to understand." She finished simply, and held out her hand once more. As soon as the man saw the ring and her face, he kneeled before her and nearly gave his underling a heart attack. He kissed her hand and stood again, his features tinted with a respect that hadn't been there before.
"I take it you wish to join the council, my lady?" He asked, and she nodded wordlessly, putting on her best arrogant face and beckoning Tex to follow her when the man led them to another white booth. "Right in here. Take one of the passes on the counter and then touch the standing lamp. It's a portkey."
"Thank you, General." She said, and he nodded before bowing and going to chew out the officer at the other booth for giving her trouble.
She and Tex went inside, and she took one of the plastic passes for herself before handing one to him. They each laid a hand on the bronze lamp that was sitting against the opposite wall, and a few seconds later, they were in a pristine lobby, standing before a receptionist that looked up at them with very pink, very non-human eyes. No glamour spells for her, not anymore. It was now discrimination to terminate or not hire a member of the magical community simply because they were of the magical community. Most were too scared to discriminate anyway, at least not so openly. With a voice like little girl's, the nymph greeted them.
"Good day." Her eyes flickered to the passes hanging around their necks. "Here you go." She reached underneath the counter before setting two shiny stones on its surface. "These will take you to where the council is in session."
"Alright." Lycelle looked around before turning back to the nymph. "I thought security was tight around here. I saw all of the guards outside, but what about in here?"
"Oh, they're here, my lady." The nymph laughed. "They're everywhere. But you'll only see the muggle ones unless the others want to be seen."
"Invisibility charms." Lycelle murmured mostly to herself, before thanking the nymph and grabbing one of the stones.
Tex did the same, and they were soon in a large room that was filled to the brim with people, all of whom had their attention on those that were speaking. Trying not to cause a scene with their entrance, she and Tex each took the first empty seats that they saw, and what looked like the last empty seats out of several hundred. They were spread out in rising rows around the circumference of the room, and she saw Draco, Blaise and the twins immediately, down on the floor in the center, seated upon dark, wooden thrones. All four wore robes of black, and all four looked annoyed. She knew from personal experience that that was never good.
"All I meant, your majesties, was that we don't think it's a good idea." One of the men on the floor with them said, looking slightly nervous. "We cannot possibly condone—"
"You don't seem to be listening." Blaise cut him off, tapping his black-nailed fingers on the arm of his throne impatiently. "We are not asking you to condone anything. In fact, we are not asking you to do anything. We are telling you."
"But, your majesty, we can't give them all those days off!" The man exclaimed, apparently losing his control over his emotions, which was not a smart thing to do around them. They could smell weakness from miles away.
"You will," Draco said, his voice cold and commanding, "or you will not like the consequences."
"Is that a threat, your majesty?" The man's voice was thick with disbelief as he shook his graying head, his small brown eyes growing large.
"Why, yes, yes it is." Blaise crooned, and Lycelle knew that tone of voice, knew that he was thinking of blood and all of the ways that he could make the man scream. "You will give our people time off from their jobs for the Eight Great Sabbats so that they may properly worship, just as you give your own time off for your major holidays."
"Or what?" Now the man sounded angry, and that was the stupidest thing he could have done. Why in the hell were the Americans letting this fool do their negotiating? He would get them all killed if he didn't either shut up or quickly gain some sense.
"Or we will flatten your pretty little city to the ground." Draco snapped, apparently done with formalities. Whispers spread around the room like wildfire, and a woman rose after the President leaned in and said something to her. She walked up to the man who had been talking to them and mumbled something in his ear. He turned a bright red, stood, and stormed off and out of a side door. She took his place in the seat directly across from the thrones, and folded her hands demurely in her lap, looking utterly professional.
"Forgive him, your majesties, he meant no offense." She said politely, and one of the twins (she couldn't see the differences in their shades of eyeliner from where she was seated) sneered.
"Yes, he did." He said, and the woman took it in stride. She was already looking like a much better choice.
"I apologize. We will speak to him about his rash tongue."
"You do that." The twin settled back into his own, slightly smaller throne, and the woman seemed to breathe a sigh of relief, along with the other people crowded into the room.
The muggles might outnumber witches and wizards, but they were no match for them in open warfare, and they knew it. Especially not with the power that the Royal family alone held. They knew that the Kings' threat was not an idle one, even if it had been made in a moment of anger, and they had no wish to see their country decimated. Which it would be if they pushed Draco or Blaise or both too far. At first, the Americans had not been used to having to answer to anyone, had not been used to being the second strongest nation in the world, but they had quickly adjusted after Virginia had removed their power-hungry President's head.
The Vice President that had taken his place hadn't been much better, but he'd met his end quietly in his own home, in a much less public display. The Speaker of the House of Representatives had then taken office, and he'd been much more accommodating. Smart man. He understood what most did not. He understood that witches and wizards populated every country across the globe. He understood that they would destroy anyone or anything that their High Kings ordered them to, and if that happened to be America or some other country, they would do it from the inside. There was no barring them by sea or air, since they already lived with their borders.
No war since the Civil War had been fought on American soil, and he hadn't wanted that to change. So he had done his best not to offend the Royals, and the current American President did the same. But there were still right-wing activists that swore they were the children of the Devil, and when one reporter had said as much to Blaise, he'd happily told them that it was true, and that he would make sure to tell Lucifer that He was being thought of the next time that he and his lovers visited Him in Hell. That had made front pages globally for months afterwards. Shit, it still did when the papers and tabloids had nothing else to print.
"I will see to it personally, my lord." The woman replied, and Lycelle knew that she recognized her from somewhere, probably from a different council. "Now, exactly what days are we talking about?"
"October 31st, December 21st, February 2nd, March 21st, April 30th, June 21st, August 2nd and September 21st." The other twin said in a bored voice, and the woman nodded.
"May we have an hour to convene amongst ourselves?" She asked, and the twins looked to Blaise and Draco.
Draco touched Blaise's hand ever-so-lightly, and the raven-haired King turned his full attention on the woman. She actually handled it quite well, and Lycelle wondered if she had magical blood in her veins. Most muggles found their eyes unnerving to the point of breaking out in a sweat and quivering in instinctual fear, and that was when there wasn't any power behind those silver and cerulean gazes. Those eyes could melt a muggle's mind in seconds if they wished it, and some part of them seemed to know it, which tended to make them scared shitless within a heartbeat of being under those stares. She flinched and dropped her own eyes, but that was it. Blaise wasn't trying to terrify her, after all. It was just the way things worked.
"If you feel that you need it." Blaise said so softly that only Lycelle's improved hearing let her catch his words.
The woman nodded again, not looking nearly so composed as she had earlier, and the High Kings rose with the twins. A flickering of silver eyes in Lycelle's direction was enough to have her standing as well and drawing curious gazes as she made her way down the aisle to them. She was stopped before she could go through the small, waist-high gate, but a mercury glare had the guard backing off and letting her through. She went to her Kings and kneeled, Tex right behind her doing the same. A cold hand rested on her shoulder, the world spun, and she suddenly found herself on soft carpet that was much easier on the knees than the polished wooden floor had been.
"Rise." Draco said absently, walking to a liquor cabinet, and she took the opportunity to spread out her senses and look around.
They weren't even in the same building, which should have been impossible considering that it had been surrounded by Anti-Apparation wards, but then again, she didn't know of any wards in existence that could hold them anymore. They were still in D.C., though, probably at their estate, and there were wards around the room, wards that nothing less than a Dark Royal of Cocidius's Court could get through, and even they would have more than a bit of trouble with them, if she was gauging the power levels in them correctly. And the wards around this room were positively shabby next to the ones around the Palaces.
They were in a room done in solid black, and when she said solid, she meant solid. The carpet, the walls, the ceiling, the furniture…It was all a deep ebony that barely reflected the illumination that the balls of dim witchlight near the roof gave off, and the only spots of color were their robes, hair and skin. Blaise melted into the darkness, and she wouldn't have been able to see him at all if it hadn't been for his alabaster skin and vivid eyes. Draco, though, Draco almost appeared to be glowing, his snow-white skin, silver hair and platinum eyes complementing and being complemented by all of the black surrounding him. And Fred and George…Well.
Fred and George looked a lot different than they had at the Great War's end. Their beauty had grown until it was almost as breathtaking as the Kings' own, their hair was as dark a scarlet as their sister's, looking like spilled blood against the colorless walls, and not a single freckle spotted their ivory skin. Cocidius had granted His Chosen and their Chosen another twist to their shapeshifting, and now they had all of the options that a Metamorphmagi had, so some days the twins had hair that hit their waists, others that it curled around their shoulders, and others, like today, that it was back to being chin-length.
"What brings you and your friend here, Lycelle?" Blaise asked as Draco handed him a glass of some amber liquid, and he motioned for them to sit if they wished.
There were three leather couches in the room, a handful of squishy armchairs, two huge desks, and a low divan against one wall. Tex moved to one of the chairs, and she took the one beside him while Draco and Blaise sank gracefully onto one of the couches. Fred fell onto the cushions beside Draco while George sprawled out by Blaise, and they curled up next to them like lazy, contented cats, their heads on their shoulders and their arms around their waists, their fingers intertwined and resting on the Kings' stomachs. All four looked completely comfortable, and she'd seen them in similar positions countless times.
"I have a favor to ask of you, my lords." She said after a moment of watching them. Anyone who didn't know better would have probably thought that they were all lovers considering their intimate positioning, but she did know better, and it didn't faze her.
"Then ask. And cut the fucking formal shit. We've dealt with enough of it today without hearing it from one who has ties to us like you have through your sister and husband." Draco intoned dryly, sipping his own glass of liquor and running the fingers of one hand through Fred's hair over and over slowly, as if the movement soothed him. It probably did.
"I need your memories." She said, and knew instantly that she could have phrased that better when their faces went utterly blank.
"Do you." It wasn't a question. She answered anyway.
"Yes." Now to explain as much as she could without giving it away or lying. They could smell one of the latter as easily as they could weakness. "Padma made a Sansieve, and we wish to make a gift of it for Virginia. A surprise gift. We are gathering memories from all of those closest to her, and it certainly wouldn't be complete without yours." She said, directing her last statement at all four of them. Tex stayed utterly silent. Their presence alone tended to have that affect on people.
They all stayed so quiet and so still for so long that she started to get really worried. Would they refuse? Would they ask a thousand questions? Would they break into her mind when she couldn't answer them due to her oath of secrecy? She started really, really hoping that Pansy hadn't misjudged this whole situation. Worst-case scenarios played randomly through her head, and she wondered if her Lady would even try to aid her should things go horribly wrong. Not that it would help all that much if She did. Her Lady was powerful and awesome, but She was no match for Her sister or Cocidius, and the Kings and the twins were infused with their power.
She knew that Tex could feel her sudden anxiety through their Marks; she knew that he wondered why she feared them so, even though her sister was bound to them. But he hadn't been around them long enough yet to truly understand what they were like, what they were. They were volatile and lethal in every way imaginable, and they had long ago lost any sort of conscience that they might once have possessed. They would kill as quickly as they would heal, but they took good care of their people until those people fucked up. And really, their laws were much more laid back and lenient than the Ministries' had been, and few had any problems with the changes.
All magic was accepted once more, which had scared the majority of the white witches and wizards to pieces at first, but it was surprising how many of them now practiced arts that they'd once called 'questionable' or 'evil'. A new generation was springing up from the ashes of the old one, and it was a much more open-minded generation than the last had been. Many people who'd loathed them once, years and years ago, now sung their praises in temples across the globe, adored them for leading their people on a slow, but sure, path to being as mighty and proud as they had once been, before Dagda's Ban, before the last Sovereigns had Passed.
Many understood what they were in context, but they didn't see them day by day, didn't see them as clearly as she did. And what she saw, what she felt, was unmistakable. They were dark, so very, very dark that all that kept them from sinking so far down into the void that they became pure darkness were those that they were bound to, those few that they loved more than anything else in the world. Eight people made up their Court's inner circle, and those eight people were like pieces of a giant puzzle, some larger than others but all just as vital as the next in order to keep the whole together, to create the whole picture. Now she sat before four of them, and only a fool wouldn't have been nervous.
Nervous and terrified. Nervous and terrified and wondering if they were drawing one of their last breaths.
"You ask for much, daughter of the Dawn Star." Draco's silky voice finally broke the silence, giving her a formal title that, technically, she could claim since she was the White Lady's High Priestess.
She was on shaky, shaky ground. It was like being in the middle of a frozen pond the size of an ocean and hearing the first sharp cracks starting underneath your feet, echoing and echoing until you didn't know if it was more ice breaking or just your own terror overwhelming you. It made you so scared that you were afraid to move, so scared that you were afraid to so much as breathe for the fear that one wrong step, one breath too deep, would send you down, down, down into all of that inky, freezing darkness. The strongest of people could fall victim to it and not be able to do a damn thing about it, because the cold conquered you so quickly that you couldn't even struggle, couldn't even fight to try and reach the surface of that frozen hell.
"I know. And I would not ask such a thing of any of you lightly." She thought she deserved major points for the fact that her voice only barely reflected the fear within her. Not that they couldn't hear her heart beating rapidly like a caged rabbit's, hear her blood pounding through her veins. Taking several calming breaths, she tried to concentrate on something else. It wouldn't help anything to smell like prey, like food.
"I have read about this 'Sansieve' that you speak of." Blaise commented, twirling his glass around with slender fingers in a thoughtless, absent gesture. "It does not surprise me that Padma would remember it. But why make it now?"
"Um…" Fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck. Think, Lycelle, think, she told herself desperately. "Padma broke her leg three days ago and Virginia healed it." Well, that was true at least. But she also knew that Padma was going to freak on her as soon as she found out that Lycelle had told. But what else was she supposed to say? Certainly not the whole truth.
"Padma did what?" The twins demanded in unison, and she flinched. Yeah, Padma was definitely going to make her pay for that slip of information. She'd have her doing something asinine and brain-numbing like building bowtruckle houses for the next few months. That woman was evil when she got annoyed.
"She broke her leg."
"You are not lying." Draco said thoughtfully, and she had to close her eyes when his lifted to hers. "But you are also not telling us everything, either."
"She broke her leg, she was exhausted, you know how she gets when some animal or another gets hurt, and that time it was one of the young unicorns that still had its gold coat." Why did she always end up rambling around them? "She'd already been tired from working at St. Mungo's for two straight days, and the poor thing would have died, it really was quite gruesome, but she healed it, and she didn't want to worry you, so she kept the Marks closed and drained her reserves instead." She was already in deep shit. She might as well tell them all of it.
"Did she now." The twins said in low, all-too-calm voices that were only betrayed by their ticking jaws and narrowed eyes, by their white-knuckled grips on each other's hand. She counted herself lucky that they even trusted her enough to show that little bit of emotion around her. Had they been, say, in that council room, she knew that nothing would have shown through their princely, courtly masks, she knew that nothing but bored blankness would have filled those stunning features.
"Yes. And when she was on her way back through the grounds, the same colt almost ran into one of the Acromantula's birthing caves, and she called it back, but it's an adventurous little thing and headed in anyway. So she went after it, and the mother spider was already attacking. It stopped when it calmed enough to sense Padma, of course, and the colt got away, but Padma's leg got crushed by a boulder. The spider's mate carried her back to the Palace and Virginia patched her up and agreed to continue shielding the accident from the four of you so that you wouldn't leave the council early."
"I'm going to kill them." George hissed, dagger-like nails digging into the back of the leather couch. "I'm going to fucking kill them both with my bare hands."
"You'll have to get there first." Fred argued, already starting to rise. A pale hand stopped him, and he sat back down, returning to his previous position, his face going steady and unreadable with that single touch.
"And Padma told you to tell us this?"
"Not really. I believe that her exact words were, 'Use any means necessary to get the memories', and that was relayed to me through Pansy."
"So be it." Blaise said, and Lycelle nearly sighed in relief until he continued. "But whatever else it is that you're hiding, and you are still hiding something, had better not be of any true importance."
"I understand, your majesty." She said, back to being formal since that last had been spoken in a voice filled with smooth, liquid lightning, the voice of her King, not of her sister's friend, and she wished that she'd never agreed to do this. But she had, and they'd agreed, and she didn't want to waste any more time. An hour only lasted so long.
"What kind of memories is it that you want from us?"
"Anything good, your majesty. It can be about Virginia or just something that pleases you. Anything that gives you joy, anything that you cherish. She will appreciate whatever brings those that she cares for happiness. But there is no way to really filter the memories with a Sansieve except for one to go inside them and pick through them after they've been put inside it."
"And I take it that you will do the picking?" Draco asked, and she nodded slowly.
"Yes, your majesty. Once all of them have been gathered, I will sort through them and discard anything negative."
"I doubt that you would want to see our negative memories, blanc un." Blaise drawled, something in his tone that sent a shiver down her spine. Thinking quickly and hoping she caused no offense, she spoke quietly, questioningly. ((white one))
"Is it that I would not wish to, your majesty, or that you do not wish for me to?" She needed to know, because if they changed their minds due to her participation, then she would have to floo Pansy and get her down here. That or abandon the idea all together.
"We care not what you see from us, Light Bride." Draco stated, that familiar hint of distaste coloring his velvet voice as her title slipped from his frosty lips. "We have nothing to hide. But many things that we remember are not things that one of your ilk would be comfortable seeing, experiencing."
"I know that you carry darkness within you." She started, and their laughter almost made her stop. There was that odd inflection again, that strange something that made her doubt that she knew anything at all. "I know that many things I might see will scar me. But I also know that it will be worth it." They seemed to consider her words for a moment, weighing them and judging them, and she waited with baited breath.
"Alright." The High Kings agreed simultaneously. "But do not come crying to us later saying that you did not understand. We will try to ease the flow, keep the more horrible things out, but we will make you no promises, for we have never used one of these clever little devices before."
"I ask for nothing more, your majesties." She said, and then looked to the twins. They studied her silently for a moment more before nodding slowly, that vibrant, shockingly red hair falling over eyes that had darkened to a deep cobalt, only traces of the former cornflower blue showing in small starbursts around their pupils.
Nodding herself, she held out a hand and called in the small black box, which was covered with a cloth, that Pansy had given her. It would hold their memories until Lycelle got back to the Palace. The actual Sansieve was in Padma's possession, and she would go straight to her when she returned in order to use it and report on what had happened. That was going to be a pretty conversation. Not. But her sister had said that the small box would do what needed doing, and that all she had to do was speak the spell and let them touch it. She would have explained it to them, but Blaise had said that he remembered reading about Sansieves, and she took him at his word.
She didn't touch the box with her bare skin yet, that could wait until later, but they each laid a few fingers upon the scratchy wood, and she watched their eyes glaze over. They stayed so still that she fancied she could blink and they'd be gone, but they did nothing so dramatic as that. They just stayed motionless and unseeing until Draco and Blaise broke away and slid back against the cushions. The twins followed a few moments later, and they all stared at the box as if it were some foul little monster that had just tried to bite them. Wrapping it back up in the dark maroon fabric, she said nothing, as nothing she could have said would help.
She had not seen such haunted looks, rooted deep within their eyes, in so long that she'd almost forgotten they'd existed. Pansy had told her once that the eight of them had felt something strange on the battlefield, a returning awareness of their past lives and of who and what they had been like during them. But right then, Lycelle thought that for the first time in a long time, it was just them looking out for a moment, them as they had been before. Because there were some things that you cannot defeat, some things that you cannot overthrow or thwart or vanquish, and she wondered if maybe, just maybe, asking them to look so deeply into themselves had been more than a little cruel.
"Take that and go." Blaise said abruptly, standing in a movement so quick that she only caught parts of it. She tried to get up but felt stuck in place, and she could feel Tex trying to pull her to her feet.
But her attention seemed glued to the four eternally youthful men in front of her, men that would forever look no older than nineteen or twenty, men that were almost too beautiful to be called 'men' at all, as if they deserved a different word, a word that captured all of their grace and elegance and etherealness. They were wiser than their years, much wiser, and sometimes, every once in a rare, rare while, the masks that they always wore would slip, and she would catch the age in those eyes, the uncountable eons that they'd seen and lived and died, and it humbled her in a way that few things did anymore. Royalty, indeed. Timeless Royalty.
Now was one of those times, and yet it wasn't. She would glimpse one of their eyes and think 'ancient', then see the other and think, 'so young…too young', and it was one of the most confusing experiences of her life. How could they be half one thing and half the other? But then again, how were they any of the things that they were? They were walking impossibilities as it was, so what was one more aspect to them, one more glimpse? They had proven time and time again that they were living paradoxes, and she had learned not to question two of them long before they'd been Chosen or Shadow Kings, and the other two over time.
"Go!" That from Draco, and the command in it hit her like a whip, jarring her back to reality.
Standing, she hurriedly tried to put the box in her pocket, forgetting her magic as she watched their control starting to slip the tiniest bit. The twins snarled, their eyes all for that stupid box, and she felt it taken from her gently. Turning, she saw it disappear into Tex's huge pocket before he wrapped one of those large hands completely around her upper arm, and Apparated through the hole in the wards that the Kings threw open. It closed after them immediately, and the last thing she saw was the room being destroyed piece by careless piece, the twins looking soul-sick and heartbroken as they watched their best friends lost in pain and forced memories.
She found herself back at the carriage station, shaken but mostly fine. What on earth had they remembered to get such a reaction? She felt truly wretched for asking this of them now, and wondered if Padma, Pansy and Anton had known how agonizing that would be for ones who had seen and lived what they had seen and lived. She wondered if they'd known how agonizing it would be for the twins, who were right next to them with the Marks wide open, unable to help them, to soothe that heartache. She didn't think they had, but if she found out otherwise, some shit was going to go down. No one deserved the internal torment that she had only briefly witnessed.
Especially not her Kings. She felt the same draw to them that everyone else with magical blood did, a primal sort of feeling that didn't make much sense when thought of consciously, but made every kind of sense possible subconsciously. It was like when she had seen the old pictures and tapestries depicting the lost Royals, but a million times stronger. And she might not have the power even with her Lady's help to stand up to Padma, Anton or her sister, but she could damn good and well give them a piece of her mind. Growing ever angrier as Tex led her to a coach, she barely noticed them making the jump into the ether. They had better have an explanation, and a damn good one.
"Lycelle?" Tex called softly, shaking her shoulder. "Honey-child?"
"No, no you're not."
"She could have warned me." She said, letting him put an arm around her shoulder. He opened the Marks between them the tiniest bit and sent her peace, the inner-peace that filled him everywhere where he went. It wasn't as unshakable as Padma's, but she was the earth, and that was no big surprise. But he was powerful in his own right, and it was a gentle, loving power, even though he looked like a small walking mountain.
"Who could have warned you?" He asked, and she sucked in a sharp breath, trying to get herself together.
"My sister. She could have warned me. If she'd known what it might be like, then she'd also known that I wouldn't be prepared to see my Kings in such pain."
"You felt it too?" He asked, his voice low and slightly awed, as it usually was only when he spoke of their Lady.
"Of course I did." She replied, her voice matter-of-fact and showing none of her still-broiling ire. "They are our Kings. What did you think that meant? You should know by now that they hold anything but empty titles. You lived too long among the muggles."
"Maybe. But I…I just never thought that I could feel anything like I just did for people that I don't even know."
How many times had she heard that note in someone's voice over the last decade and a half? That first note of rising devotion and adoration? She had a feeling that he would be singing of them during temple services with much more enthusiasm. Many of the stronger-willed witches and wizards needed that final push, that final step that cemented the ties the inner circle made with that odd, binding power at the Great Battle's end. All it took was gazing upon their faces, to seefeelsense the divinity racing underneath their skin, behind their captivating eyes. It made you want to fall at their feet and beg for them to touch you, bless you, just once, please.
"I mean, I felt tied to them before, we all do, but that…that was fucking intense, Lycelle. What the fuck was it?"
What to say, what to say, what to say? The truth, she supposed. "It's the natural order of things, Tex. It's just…the ways things are supposed to be. Don't you agree?" He was quiet for a moment, but she knew what he would say; it was what they all said.
"Yes." So quiet, so hesitant. Then louder and more sure, "Yes."
They stayed silent for the rest of the trip, and she was still angry when they reached the Palace. She told Tex goodbye and got the box back from him, and he stayed in the carriage to ride it back down to his country while she stormed in a side door and made her way to the Royal wing. If she'd had to walk the entire way, it could have taken literal days, the place was a maze, an enormous fucking maze, and the portals were there for a reason. If you had a wonderful onyx ring on your finger declaring you a member of the household, then the public portals were yours to use. Otherwise, have fun wherever you end up, and hope that you manage to make it in one piece.
She came out in one of the more plain hallways, one that looked older, but it was a deception. The halls of the place were barely fifteen years old, reconstructed by the hands of gods in honor of their High King and Queen's Chosen. It had taken them a week to rebuild on top of the ruins of the old Imperial Palace, but they truly had outdone themselves. It was done in sections, four large primary ones, each of which experienced a different season. The seasons rotated from section to section weekly, and the east side was having autumn in all of its glory; Virginia's season. And the hallway, for all of its modesty, was still extravagant.
Open windows lined the walls, showing an endless night sky littered with billions of twinkling stars, and a soft, warm breeze trailed in, smelling crisp, with the faintest whiff of wood smoke. Red, brown and orange leaves swirled in, littering the marble floor with splashes of color that crunched underfoot. It made some girlish part of her giggly, made her think of Samhain, of setting windows in the candles for the dead and lining the Great Halls with warm, steaming food in honor of their Ancestors, reminded her of burying apples for the homeless dead, of carving turnips for protection, of fending off the pixies and fairies and doxies, all of whom became crazed on All Hallow's Eve.
It reminded her of jack-o-lanterns and pumpkin pies, of spicy cider and honey mead, of dancing around and around the bonfire until you were so dizzy and full of worship that you fell onto those crackling leaves and the world seemed to gray, the Veil between the worlds that everyone spoke of drawing back and letting you see. Taking a deep breath, she savored the sharp scents that brought so very many memories. Gods, she loved autumn. Coming to a secret panel, she opened it and waited. She knew that if she just stuck her hand in and touched the plaque, she would die. But she knew better, and she stayed perfectly still as a shadow slid toward her.
"Yes?" The guard hissed, contained malevolence in that airy, dangerous voice, and she knew there were more guards all around her, guards that she couldn't see or even sense.
"I'm here to report. I'm sure you've been expecting me." She said evenly, and the guard said nothing, simply motioned for her to follow.
She was led through several more doorways and mirrors, a few walls, and one statue that must have weighed more than a giant. Then there was another panel and another plaque, and that one she did touch, the world melting away again. She came out in a courtyard filled with more rustling leaves, trees whose baring branches reached for the heavens, and a fountain made of piled rocks that trickled into a pond surrounded by divans and cushions. A small bonfire burned to the left in front of open French doors and a raised porch made of green-veined black marble that reflected the permanent starlight like tiny flecks of silver.
There was nothing understated about this courtyard, and it was easily identified as Padma's by the large garden that took up almost half of the huge space, row after row of every plant and flower and herb imaginable. The twins had left their mark as well, brooms and Quidditch robes and a few spare daggers thrown haphazardly in one corner, left untouched until their return, just as their things always were by Padma's orders. There were also two pairs of familiar sais on one of the benches, Virginia and Pansy's, as well Anton's spiked leather wrist sheathes and Draco and Blaise's 'special' platinum cauldron, the one that no one was supposed to touch for safety reasons.
"Ah, so you've returned." That perpetually calm voice called, and she turned back to the large French doors, watching as Padma practically floated down the dark marble stairs. Her hair was plaited in a single, thick braid of glimmering rosewood, the black and red strands catching the silvery light and making it glitter. The green in her eyes seemed impossibly bright, lit from within, and Lycelle kneeled, suddenly deciding to wait for accusations until after she had sorted through the memories. "Rise."
"Your highness." She said formally. Padma was a Princess of the Royal family, legally adopted by Draco and Blaise as their sister, much as Pansy had been. She was also much more, and not to be trifled with.
"You got them." It wasn't a question, and Lycelle knew then that the males had opened their Marks already.
"Yes, your highness. Forgive me for the method I had to use. Anything else would have been a lie."
"You are forgiven. They would have found out sooner or later. I take it that you wish to use the Sansieve?"
"Yes, your highness."
"You may stay out here if you wish. It is at the pond's edge." Padma's serene, peaceful voice washed over her, and she nodded wordlessly before moving for the mentioned area.
How could grass be so soft? A strong desire to take her shoes off and let her bare feet touch that blessed greenery gripped her, but she resisted the urge for fear that she would foul it somehow. Padma was barefoot in flowing violet robes, but Padma was Royal and very nearly divine, and she could walk anywhere and be worthy of it. Grace and life enfolded her like a cloak, though she was all but one of the immortal undead. Just enough left human to let her walk in the sun. But her Elemental energy had melded with it seamlessly somehow, and she was another paradox; earthy life and eternal death mixed into one. The others with the Blood were colder.
Even Blaise, with all of his scorching, crackling lightning, had a heart of ice that thawed for only a very few people. He and Draco had always been cold, so had Pansy and Anton, but she had watched Fred and George's hearts freeze over, darkness enveloping all until she could barely remember them any other way. And Virginia might wield flames and fire, but she had a heart to match her lovers', a heart just as glacial. But who could blame them? Who could blame them after all of the betrayal they had seen? They didn't even trust their own families. Only each other, always each other. Because only with one another could all doubt truly be gone.
The Sansieve looked much like the Pensieve that it had been forged from, except that it was made of stone the color of blood, and the runes were different, not obviously so, but a trained eye could tell the difference. She sat down on one of the divans gingerly, since it appeared made of crystal, the cushions a deep blue. She didn't really think it would break, but if it would, then she sure as hell didn't want to be the one who did it. Calling in the box again, she took several deep breaths, sensing Padma going back into hers and the twins' rooms, and she said a different spell, then laid her fingers lightly on its surface.
Yanked forward violently, she felt like she was coming out of her skin before she came to a sudden stop as if she'd hit a brick wall. She opened her eyes and saw—a little dragon. Recognition lit within her; it was one of the ones that they'd made so long ago to celebrate their relationship with Virginia. But it was not Draco or Blaise's eyes that she was looking out of, but Fred's. She just knew it was him, and he was attaching something to the little dragon's foreleg. It was a tiny vial of some sort, a clear, tiny vial full of a dark yellow liquid, and she suddenly knew that it was poison, just as she had known that it was him, and she felt herself speak with his voice.
"Take this and fly, swift one. That foolish bastard won't see another dawn."
Emotions trickled to her, a simple neutrality about the whole situation. He was not in the least bit affected for sending someone a painful, anonymous death. The wizard had disobeyed his Kings' laws, he had hurt an innocent witch, and now he would die. It was as simple as that, and the dragons had been found to be excellent little assassins. The world spun again and he was looking at Padma. The emotions swamped her then, and it was as if she was him. Love filled her to the brim as hers (his?) eyes raked over the piece of mocha perfection before her. Those dark, emerald-strewn eyes held all of the secrets of the world, and she craved to be closer, closer…
And then she was, and she was kissing those ravishable lips, and she was home. All she needed was her, all she craved, wanted, breathed was her, and she begged for something she couldn't understand. But she understood when fangs sank into her flesh, drawing her life's blood up through her veins and making her scream and beg again, this time for her to finish it, to turn her and make her like she was. And Padma did, because Padma loved her too, and she did as George asked as well, crawling up beside them and looking upon beauty enough to make one wish to weep. Gods, how they loved her, adored her.
She changed them both that night, that same night that they had first told her exactly how much she meant to them, and then Lycelle/Fred's world flipped, and she wasn't Fred anymore, but George. She knew that they had gone back, back to the day after the last battle, when she saw Marcello running up with her beside him, each of them dragging two huge, unconscious figures, adrenaline giving them strength. She felt George's confusion, then that same switch happened, and she was him, feeling what he felt as if they were one and the same. Moving closer to Virginia, she looked at the other six that she was bound to and saw the same confusion.
"Draco! Blaise!" Marcello was calling, and they all went to them.
"What is it?" Blaise asked, and Marcello looked ill and shocked as he answered.
"The traitor." Hisses followed his words, and he rushed on. "I saw him, saw him stab him. Gods, I think he's dead, and I didn't know what to do, and…" He'd trailed off because Draco threw the hood off the figure Lycelle had been pulling, and Vincent's deathly pale face looked ghostly in the rising sunlight.
"Vincent? Vincent was the traitor?" Draco asked in disbelief, and she went to him, kneeling beside him and wrapping an arm around his waist.
"No." Marcello choked out, lifting the other figure's hood. "He was." George's eyes flew to that face, and surprise flared through her, surprise and apprehension. Gregory had never looked so sinister before, had he? Or was it only the knowledge that he had betrayed his closest friends, his lovers, that made him appear so? Mira would be devastated, and if Vincent survived…Draco, Blaise, Anton and Pansy looked like the world had just become less steady, and Pansy moved forward, her brandy eyes wide.
"No. No, you had to have seen it wrong." She said, shaking her head and backing away again. Anton was at her side instantly, but he didn't look much better off. Virginia had moved in between Draco and Blaise, her face full of such sorrow, as if she'd expected something so horrible.
"I didn't." Marcello said, his voice uneven. "Look." He leaned down and ripped open the side of Gregory's robes, revealing a muscled chest eaten away by leprosy and a grinning black skull on one forearm.
Draco, looking as blank and devastated as she had ever seen him, leaned down and laid a hand on Gregory's forehead. With the Marks open, she knew what he learned as he broke into the other's unconscious mind. Jealousy, anger, meeting with Voldemort, thinking, agreeing, getting branded with the Dark Mark, leaking information about their offices, about where they were, what they were doing, about Paris and Pansy. Putting the Imperius on Daphne and having her lead Pansy into the woods, having her trip, having her take off her amulet and be unable to use her wand to help Pansy fight. Feeling the madness and sickness grow and grow…
And always, there was envy. Such envy of the things he wasn't, such envy of those that had loved him. That envy turned rotten, spoiled, and it all came pouring out when Voldemort infused him with the Bane. So many things he'd helped do, murder and rape, coming in late and crawling up next to Vincent, and later, Mira, with the blood of his victims still on him, spicing it up to his new tastes. He wanted power, power that never would have been his, but he had sunken low enough in pursuit of it, being the first to break Daphne, and then having the balls to offer and carry her when they rescued her. He had given his amulet and Vincent's to their clone-like brothers, had told Vincent that he had lost his.
But his last betrayal was classic; a knife in his love's back.
Everything went black, and she was in a bed again, Padma riding her while Fred fucked her from behind, and she felt such wonder as she looked upon this goddess's face, as her eyes roamed over caramel skin as ecstasy raged liked a wildfire inside her, as she knew that from this day forward, she would get to call her wife, that she would get to spend eternity bound to her by marriage oaths as old as time. And then she was Fred again and she wasn't fucking anybody. No, she was years backwards again, watching Blaise drag a screaming Hermione into the Imperial Palace by her hair, his nails digging into her scalp hard enough to leave a dripping blood trail.
Down, down, down into the dungeons she was taken, and Blaise told her in a gleeful tone that he had found her in a boat marina, curled up next to Dean Thomas. He had left Dean alive and panicking, and he said that he'd actually changed his mind about killing Hermione. Apparently, Harry's condition (he was still in St. Mungo's) had given Blaise an idea, and he'd decided to keep her. As a pet. It took less than a day to break her, and when she wasn't wandering around aimlessly and drooling, she was sleeping in an oubliette designed specifically for her. And Lycelle/Fred…Well, she/he didn't really feel anything about it. Blaise was their King; they followed him in all things.
Then she was back to being George, and she was sitting at a table with Virginia and Fred, across from their parents. Such anger, she was full of so very much anger, and it was the first time that she could feel herself rising to a murderous fury over something that they had done or said. But their mother had gone too far this time, and she swore that if that tear spilled from Virginia's eye, she would do something that she would regret, something to make them pay…Taking Virginia's hand, she squeezed her fingers, trying to let her know that it would be okay. Somehow, someway, she would make it okay, and her parents were talking again.
"Really, Ginny, you cannot seriously want to—"
"But I do, mum, I do!" Her sister argued, and Molly turned red.
"Honey, I didn't want to do this yet because I know that you're still too attached to them, but they're not good for you—"
"Not good for me!?" Virginia exclaimed, rising from her seat. "They are my life!" Molly shook her head.
"Baby, it was one thing in the abstract, but this…what you're talking about…"
"I can't believe this." Virginia murmured, falling back into her seat. "I can't believe that you're doing this now…"
"I refuse to let you marry them!"
"And I do not need your permission, mother of mine!"
The world grayed out and she was going back again, back to last battle, and she was looking down at Jeran, loathing filling her to the brim. The Dark Lord's snake-whore, Nagini, was beside him, pinned by the twins' swords where they had left them. Neither had survived their master's Passing, and no more Revenants would be awoken as Jeran had been, not ever again. Then she was spinning away again, and random flashes of images and emotions coursed through her. Virginia, cherished, cherished Virginia, Padma, their hearts' joy, Draco and Blaise, their best friends, their Kings, Pansy and Anton, two who knew them better than almost anyone else.
Then it all stopped immediately, and her perception changed entirely. She was looking through two sets of eyes, and she felt so powerful that she thought she would burst. She was sitting on something so soft it felt like spun spider silk, and she knew suddenly that it was a cloud, that she was seeing through her Kings' eyes, and that they had brought their heart here on a date long overdue. Her eyes met her eyes, which was so very strange, though she understood on some level that it wasn't her, but Blaise and Draco looking at each other. They felt so strongly that it blinded her, stole her wits and left her hanging by a single thread of sanity.
Such devotion, such need, such worship…She felt it all as they looked at one another, felt their undying affection. Then her eyes lifted to meet Virginia's, and the intensity of the love that spiraled out from her core to engulf her nearly made her scream. How could they hold so much inside? How could they use their love for each other in such a way? How could they turn that into one force, making it possible for them, together, to love her more than anything, to love her more than any one person ever could? They considered themselves practically the same person, soul-sharers, and it only seemed natural to do so, to love her as one instead of separately.
And love her they did. No, she needed a stronger word, but she did not know any. What could be stronger than love? Whatever she was feeling now, that's what. And she saw the same staring back at her out of Virginia's eyes, saw the same depth of feeling and desire and need that they themselves felt every waking moment, until it had become as routine as feeling their hearts beating, but so very much more revered than that, or anything else, could ever be. The war had been over a year and seven months, and they wanted something that they had thought to wait for sooner than expected. They had always wished for it, but now it was like a pressing need, all they thought of, and…
"What do you think so seriously of, beloveds?"
Gods, could her voice be any sweeter, any more like ambrosia to the ears? Could she be more beautiful inside or out? No, no, she couldn't be, for she was perfection, their perfection. She was standing, stretching, and she moved with grace untold, like a vision of flawless purity at its best, and they were enthralled by her every movement. Moving in unison, they crawled to her and stayed at her feet, knowing that for her, they would stay there forever if she asked it of them. She was the only one that they would ever kneel to, just as they were the only ones that she would ever kneel to, barring their Lord and Lady.
"Marry us." They said together, always together, especially for this. They felt her stiffen, felt her shock, and forgot all of the words that they had practiced, saying only what they felt and letting it come out as it wished. "Marry us and complete us and save us, nos cœur. We wish for nothing more than forever with you, and we will do anything to get that, anything at all. Tell us what you want and it is yours. You are our pride; our eternal joy. Without you, we are not Kings; we are not anything at all. Without you, all is bleak and tainted, all is colorless and dull. You are our dark sun, but we want you as our Queen, our wife. Marry us. Please." ((our heart))
Nothing else was said as they watched her watching them, and time seemed to freeze for a small eternity. Lycelle had never known her Kings could feel such nervous trepidation, but they were filled with it then, and she was them, and she was filled with it to. She had cracked into something larger and more intense than anything that she had ever known was possible, and it was all contained inside them, waiting for their lady's word. Virginia sank to her knees as well, her whole body shaking, and when she lifted her eyes to theirs again, so much was screaming in those charcoal orbs that she felt as if she were drowning in them.
"Yes, yes, gods yes, of course I'll marry you."
Euphoria. Pure, unhindered euphoria was all she knew after those words, and then she was spinning out again, walls forming around her, dark, dank walls that made her shiver and wish to be somewhere else. She had seen enough dungeons to know what one looked like, felt like, and she probably would have been terrified, but her Kings' weren't, and almost all she was feeling came from them. So she was able to look at the musty room impassively, able to look at the two young girls chained to the wall impassively, able to turn slightly and gaze upon their fathers impassively. She felt young, and the bodies she looked down at were barely seven or eight.
No, no, please, no! What was left of her, just her, screamed out, knowing that she was in one of the memories she had never wanted to see, but she could do nothing as the men that looked so much like her Kings broke away from each other and turned their attention to their sons. She felt nothing as she looked back at them, and it was such a drastic change from a moment ago with Virginia that it took some getting used to. Not to mention that they were so very, very young to have such dead, unfeeling places inside of them already. But they did, and at the moment, they were consumed by them, because they knew what their fathers wanted, and to feel was to go mad.
Then, once again, she was completely another person, this time just Blaise, and she knew with a stinging suddenness what Lucius and Jeran demanded. She knew that the girls on the wall were muggles her age, and that their fathers wanted them to kill them. She knew that the other option was their own deaths, or so their fathers said. She looked over at Draco, and wanted nothing more than to get him away, to do it herself so that he didn't have to, but she knew better than to offer. Their fathers would just call them weak and go get a few more, turning the night into a full-on slaughter. And she understood their bloodlust already, but not their desire to take innocents.
What sport was there in killing little girls that were so scared their eyes were rolling back in their heads and all they could do was sob and cry for their mother? Sure, they were muggles, so much lesser than them, but what had they done, what could they have done? They hadn't harmed anyone or even said anything insulting, they hadn't done anything at all. She thought, absently, that she would never kill without some kind of reason, not of her own will. But this was not her own will, and if she wanted to keep Draco safe tonight, then she had to do what she was told, no matter how debasing she thought it to be.
And he…he would do the same, and she would never be able to keep the scars from building up on his soul. She could give a damn about her own, but Draco was precious, and deserved so much better. And that drove her to run the little girl through with a sword much too big for her small hands, and she watched the light trickle out of those shocked, broken eyes, feeling the dark, dark place within her grow. There was blood on her hands, her face, but she didn't move a muscle, just watched the girl's eyes even as Lucius dragged her away. And she felt…nothing. She felt nothing more than the fact that what had just happened was wrong, no matter what flavor your magic.
To feel was to go mad.
Then the world blacked out again, and again she switched bodies, minds, looking out from Draco's eyes as hers opened. The roaring of the crowd was the first thing to hit her senses, and then the bright flashes of robes as the players zoomed back and forth on their brooms. She was Draco, purely Draco, and she knew that they were at the Quidditch Cup, the one that had taken place the summer right after the war's end, and all of their closest friends were seated with them in the best seats in the stadium, as was Virginia's family. They had planned to bring them here as a treat to their love before the mess with Voldemort, and they had fulfilled that wish.
Everyone was smiling, laughing, and they were all supporting Scotland, who was winning. Blaise's hand was warm in hers, utterly beloved and identical to hers but for the black nails, and she couldn't have cared less about the game. Virginia's was even hotter trapped within her other hand, and just as cherished, and she wasn't the least bit fazed when Scotland scored again, or when their Seeker caught the Snitch, her mind on other, more appealing things. Things like creamy white skin underneath her fingertips; a curtain of blood falling around her as she sank fangs into everything so delightfully Virginia; indigo eyes glassy with ecstasy.
Love and unending need. She seemed swallowed by it.
Then back, back through time and other memories, dark mist surrounding everything until she was running through a hallway of Tenebre Stella as if a thousand demons chased her, running because she could hear him screaming, and he never screamed unless it was bad, so very, very bad. And she couldn't deal with almost losing him again; she couldn't. Their fathers grew more careless every day, and it took more to keep each other alive than ever before. Their mothers had been sent away like they were always sent away, and they tried not to let them know the worst of it anyway, because they would try to kill Lucius and Jeran, and then they would die.
She and Blaise had dealt with ten years of this shit anyway seeing as how they'd both turned fourteen months ago, and they didn't want or need their mothers' help or pity. She skidded around a corner, the screams growing louder, and she didn't even have time for fury as she saw Jeran, Lucius behind him, starting to shove Blaise down all of those twisting, winding stairs, stairs that seemed to grow so much longer all at once, even though there were plenty enough as is. And then, like getting hit in the head with a Bludger, she knew that she loved him. She'd always loved him, but this…She loved him, loved him. More than anything, more than life.
She shot forward with a burst of that blurring speed they held as shapeshifters, and seemed to have all of the time in creation to watch that raven hair fanning out, to see that that they had ruined his face, that beautiful, heart-wrenching face, that they had taken all of the skin from it. She decided to ruin theirs mid-movement, lashing out with sharp claws and raking them over their cheeks and eyes even as she threw herself under Blaise, kicking him hard in the back to get him back on the landing, and then she was falling, falling, and she didn't pray for herself to be saved, but for him to be. Always him.
And now, now Blaise was screaming, and she realized that he hadn't been doing so out loud before, but in his own mind, and that she'd just been hearing it through their link. But she could hear him doubly so now, she could hear him screaming and screaming as she hit the first of the marble stairs hard, and kept hitting them down and down and down until the world was growing black and she hurt in so many different places that it was all going numb and tingly. And that, she knew, was not good, not good at all. But it was good in a way, because it was her body and not his, and her only regret was that it hadn't been her face as well.
It was a quick switch that time, moving from mind to mind, and she didn't change memories, just saw and felt it from Blaise's perspective almost instantly. She felt the skin on her face being peeled off, heard laughter that made her flesh crawl, and she screamed internally for all she was worth, because she wouldn't, she absolutely refused, to let them hear her do so. She screamed because she didn't know if she could heal this, didn't know if she would be truly marred so horribly from now on, and the thought of Draco seeing her in such a state was almost unbearable. Damn the rest of the world, but Draco…
Then she felt herself start to fall, and what happened next happened so quickly that she barely understood what was going on. But she understood watching Draco fall, watching him fall for her, and enlightenment exploded through her as the first true scream left her lips. She loved him, gods how she loved him, and she barely registered leaping over the banister and falling herself, falling much too far for her already depleted strength to handle, and she felt her legs break as she finally hit the floor. But she'd hit before Draco, and that was all that was important, and she turned her eyes upwards to watch his progress.
He was hitting the marble hard, so hard, and she could hear bones cracking, the sound making her nauseous and furious. Four flights down he came over the edge, and she barely had time to crawl, her legs shrieking in agony, to get underneath him. He hit her hard, but she saved that precious silver head from cracking against the stone floor and splitting open, and as everything went black, she wondered if either of them would survive this night. It was a familiar feeling. Then the pain receded, the world changed, and she was sitting on a bed next to Virginia, Draco at her side, and their souvenirs from the World Cup were scattered around them.
"I really don't want to go back." Their love was saying, her nose scrunched up as she looked at the Hogwarts letter in her hands. "And I can't believe that you two think I should." She continued, glancing up at them.
But they only smirked, and waited for her to open the letter. She did so, ever so slowly, and a badge tumbled out and onto her lap. She picked it up, looking adorably confused, and flipped it over. Then her lovely eyes widened, her hand flew to her mouth, and she…squealed. Jumping to her feet on the mattress, her eyes scanned the letter, widening ever farther before she started laughing, spinning around gleefully before falling back beside them and then jumping up again, not seeming to know what to do with herself. Then she launched herself at them, knocking them both over in a swirl of long skirts and crimson hair.
"I don't know how you…whatever you did…oh gods…thank you!!" She exclaimed, showering them in kisses from soft, warm lips and looking down at them with such affection and rapture in her smoky eyes that their hearts seemed fit to melt underneath her knowing gaze.
"It was not only us. Severus has had this planned since that night we mentioned it to him in his office after the Gryffindor mob incident. He'd had Dumbledore pretty much convinced months ago." Draco said somewhat breathlessly as her fingers trailed down his chest.
"And we, as the High Kings, can stay with you every night if you wish it. We would not leave you there alone." Lycelle/Blaise intoned silkily, and Virginia's smile was like blood running over their tongues, the stuff of life.
"I wish it." She said, and the Slytherin Head Girl badge glittered beautifully on her chest where she pinned it. They'd had nothing to do with the 'Head Girl' part, but everything to do with the 'Slytherin' part. And who was more Slytherin than she? She would make a good Head, and was a natural for the House Team.
Thrown out of the memory, Lycelle swirled and twisted until another took her, and she was in the Throne Room at the Imperial Palace, but she was seeing it as never before, considering that she was on one of the High Thrones. They were there to sever Virginia's blood ties with her brother, and both she and Ron were standing before the dais. Shifting to the side a bit, Lycelle became Blaise again, and she felt his vindictive pleasure, felt his hate of the redheaded fool before him. She looked over briefly at Draco, and they both lifted a hand, calling on the power of their Lord and directing it at the two before them.
It was like a giant knife severing a line that the eye could not see, and both would have fallen had Virginia's guards not caught her. Ron did fall, gasping and clutching at his chest as if he'd been ripped in half, and a genuine smile curved her lips and Draco's. The twins went next, and Ron was barely conscious by the time it was over. She rose, her soul-twin beside her, and they went to their love to soothe the pain while Padma went to the twins. And still there was that satisfaction, the knowledge that Ron would be gone from their lives forever. They would throw a party that night; a ball. Such an occasion deserved a celebration of magnificent proportions.
Then she was going back again, back and back until she was in a bedroom by the sea, the open windows letting in the pounding of the surf. She stood beside the window, looking over the blue water that stretched on forever, watching the play of moonlight on its surface. A soft rustling of sheets drew her attention back to the bed, and a soft, rare smile curved her lips. Draco and Anton were both very nude and very visible tangled in silk sheets, and they were still glowing faintly, testifying that the sex had been very, very good. She knew their bodies like the back of her hand, and while she wasn't in love with Anton as she was with Draco, she did love him.
They were beautiful together, they always had been, and she knew that Anton would have a hell of a time unwinding himself from all of that platinum hair when he awoke. And hopefully, this would convince Pansy that she felt more than just lust for their dark-haired friend. Much more. They had seen her watching him. Then Lycelle was spinning away even farther back, and she was at Hogwarts, still Blaise, and she was sitting behind Pansy, who was sandwiched between her and Draco, and she was braiding her hair, which was long instead of short, and she let herself sink into the closeness between the three of them.
Candles were the only illumination in the room, and Pansy's hair was spread out over her thighs, tickling her skin and reflecting the light in dark gold highlights. She was kissing Draco, pale hands running over pale skin, and was safe with them, safe to be herself. She pushed back against Lycelle/Blaise, pushed back as if she were trying to crawl through, her body arching as Draco drew back and sunk fangs into the soft skin above her breast. Thankfully, that vision ended before Lycelle saw much more of her sister than she ever wanted to, and she was rocketing forward, back into the future before it stopped again.
She was back to being Draco, and she was helping Anton get his formal robes on straight, laughing and telling him not to worry, that as long as he didn't faint before he said 'I do', then Pansy would forgive him. Blaise snickered and Anton threw a pillow at him, and she knew a moment of pure contentment. Then she was racing forward again until she came to a halt several months later, and she was gazing down at the small, rosy face of a child that had Anton's almost-black hair and Pansy's honey-colored eyes. Peace filled her from head to foot, a feeling of rightness and protection, and she knew that she would protect the tiny darling with all of her power.
Then there was Padma, Padma and the twins, and they were running through the underwater gardens, chasing one another as they tried to tangle each other up with long, slimy strands of seaweed. She was sitting beside Blaise and Virginia, Pansy and Anton on a kelp bed at their feet, bottling something and arguing the entire time, and she was laughing, because Virginia was trying her damnedest to talk Blaise into singing. He kept refusing and throwing pomegranate seeds at her, while she threatened to throw him out of the wards and into the open ocean. And suddenly, they were both hit with seaweed, and the twins were running away, snickering madly.
And then, then she was back to seeing through two sets of eyes and feeling mixed feelings from two sources that melded into one within her. A salty breeze whipped past them, blowing mercury and sable locks around their faces, and creatures of every shape and form and species were spread out around them, over the sand of the beach and surfacing from the churning waves. They mixed with their friends and family and loved ones, mixed with the nobles that had begged to come, with those of the general populace who wished for nothing more than to see the joining of such great Houses, of such great powers.
They wished to see the rising of their Queen.
And they were not denied it, because Draco and Blaise were thrilled enough that they were in quite generous moods, and it went with tradition for the people to witness the joining of Royals. So they stretched for as far as the eye could see over the earth, the nobility on floating carpets over the sea, lounging next to the merpeople and other sea life that had risen from the depths. Birds of every feather were lighted on every available perch, and so many more creatures spanned out everywhere that it was impossible to keep track of them all. Draco and Blaise stood a hundred feet off shore, the waves like a gently rocking floor underneath their feet, and they waited.
Everything waited, it seemed, as if the night itself was holding its breath, as if the earth had stopped rotating and all hearts had frozen mid-beat. They knew that theirs had. And then she was there, and sighs sounded from every throat, nearly lost in the pounding of the waves hitting the shore. She was utterly ethereal, divine and glorious, and their hearts had started again, thrumming madly as she took the first step towards them, her arm laced with her mother's. It was the mother who gave the bride away, because the mother brought the bride into this world, and it seemed only appropriate that she be the one to set her free.
Molly had refused at first, and Narcissa and Silana had planned to fill in, but she'd appeared early that morning, sobbing and apologizing and begging to get her place back, her daughter back. So she walked with her, but they barely even noticed. Their eyes were all for Virginia in her dress of deepest black, black the color of Blaise's hair, black embroidered with the runes of binding in a luminescent silver the exact same shade as Draco's eyes. The veil was the same color and it hid her face from them, but the Marks hid nothing, and they felt her joy meshing with theirs. They felt the same eagerness, the same anticipation, the same bliss.
It was a night of completion for them, a night of making the last of the bonds between them strong and unbreakable. But mostly, it would be a night of husky words and writhing bodies, of consummating their vows with actions and ecstasy that spoke louder than any words. It would be a night of worshiping her, a night of dark, dark passion and pleasure, and they would revel in it, in her. Their Queen. She took the first step out onto the waves, and the earth underneath her split open, hot, boiling magma solidifying underneath her feet and making a carpet of red and black with every step that she took.
It didn't burn her or her mother, but the steam coming off of the water obscured them in wavering tendrils, and her scarlet ringlets swayed around her, loose and unbound. A tightness grew within their chests as she drew ever closer, spiraling out to the tips of their fingers and toes in ripples, and they knew that the twins, Pansy and Anton could feel it too as they stepped back from them the smallest bit, their faces filling with wonder as they truly felt the full extent, the bottomless abyss, of their Kings' love. They'd felt their hate, their fury, the blank, black places that were filled with nothing but empty coldness, but never this.
Padma felt it as well, standing behind them and getting ready to marry them, bind them, and she laughed, she actually laughed, as if something had been lifted from her, some worry that she'd kept hidden, as if she'd feared that those empty places outweighed everything else. And they did, just not this, not Virginia, not each other. Their love for one another and for her was endless, timeless, and as she finally reached them, as each took one of her hands, nothing had ever been more aligned; nothing had ever seemed to fit together so well. Their vows slithered from them, vows that had been spoken countless times by countless pairs of lips, and they meant every word.
They could feel it, feel their souls reaching out and wrapping around one another tighter than anything should have been able to get to them, until all three split open and spilled into each other, through each other. The wind picked up, howling around them madly, the water grew choppy and unstable, and the lava beneath their feet spread and grew until they stood on a small island, a dais built of devotion. They drew her veil back, and everything they felt was reflected there, reflected in their Marks, and they kissed her, crowned her, made her their Queen. Cheers drifted over the waves to them, and closer ones right next to them, but they knew nothing but each other.
Again, Lycelle was ripped away, and she wanted to fight it that time, because she didn't want to lose that dark fount of power and emotion, but she had no choice. She found herself in Blaise's body, time moving backwards again, and she was stalking down a dark passageway that led to a small study in the Manor, a study that her love was being held in. She remembered lying in the field with him, eating strawberries and drinking wine, she remembered their fathers coming and finding them kissing, and she remembered the argument afterwards. But after that all was fuzzy and distorted, and she had woken up in the kitchens, drugged and insensible.
But their fathers had underestimated her, and she had mostly fought off whatever poison they'd used, using her link to her lover to sense him out. The kitchen staff had tried to make her stay when they'd seen the murder in her eyes as she'd felt Draco's disgust and revulsion, when she'd felt his fury and growing madness. Now she went to him, and she would kill whoever or whatever was in that room with him. She'd made it to the right floor when Draco's mother and Severus came around a corner ahead of her, but she paid them no heed, not even as they were running after her, pleading with her to stop. They just didn't understand. She couldn't.
"Blaise, they will kill you!" Narcissa was whispering furiously, her sky-blue eyes frantic. "They will kill you both!"
"And I would rather die beside him than leave him to die alone!" She bit back, shaking Narcissa off and pulling open the study door, ripping it right off of the wall and tossing it aside.
Fury was not a forceful enough word for what gripped her as she saw what was happening inside that room, nor was anger or ire or rage. Draco was full of holes, so very many holes that she could see the wall behind him, and he wasn't healing very well due to the chains of davasca pinning him to the wall. He had much more of the toxic fluid pumping through his veins than she did, and only repulsion kept him awake. Repulsion because Jeran had his face between Draco's legs, his mouth wrapped around him. Lucius stood to the side, his dick out and his hand wrapped around it, and Draco's loathing eyes were all for him, filled with such freezing hate the temperature was starting to drop.
Jeran noticed him first, but Lucius spoke.
"Do not come closer, or he will take what's most precious to you." As he spoke, Jeran pulled his lips back enough to let Blaise glimpse teeth set firmly in his lover's soft skin.
"If you think that is what is most precious to me, than you know me even less than I thought." She said, and Draco's weary eyes lifted at the sound of her voice, filled with the same promise of death that filled her own.
He was still too drugged to call on his magic, though, still too foggy with pain and poison, but she wasn't. Crackling, frying lighting spread over her skin and lit within her eyes, and she had never felt it so strong before. She knew what was happening suddenly, knew that her first unleashing was upon her, and she let out the first wave of that energy with barely a thought. Jeran was hit first, convulsing and letting Draco go involuntarily, and then Lucius, who hit the wall hard, slumping to the ground gracelessly with his pants around his ankles. Then she was moving and undoing those forsaken chains, Draco falling against her painfully.
Calling in a cloak and wrapping him in it, she did the only thing she could think of, and kissed him. She kissed him and poured that unrestrained energy into him, down his throat and through his body. It raced through the poison, slashed through the pain, and it cleared his head enough to let him feel his own unleashing underway, cleared it enough to let him pull on that power, that cold, cold power, and he healed under the mixing of magic, healed under her lips and hands. A strange steadiness filled them, and neither wondered at it, they just went with it. Years and years of hate poured out, poured out until it exploded out and sought the source.
It was the first time that they had felt each other's Elemental magic in such a way, and they twisted them together, ice and lightning slamming into their fathers with enough force that they simply…disintegrated. But it wasn't true disintegration, more like they'd been plastered all over the walls, and suddenly, that wasn't enough. They wanted to wade in all of that chunky red slush, grind every bit of remaining bone into paste until it slid between their fingers in heavy drops. And they were doing just that when they were pulled back, Narcissa and Severus screaming something about it having been several hours and Aurors coming, but they heard none of it.
And still that hate had grown, grown while they were in Azkaban and then later at school, grown until it was all they'd thought of. But then Virginia had come and she had pulled them back from the edge of that pit of corruption that it had been slowly driving them to, but it still stayed, always hidden, always there. Because fathers were not supposed to do the things they had done, not to their children. Because fathers had ties to their sons, deep ties, ties that were not severed with death, only with life, and they could not make life, only death. Death was all they knew, all they'd ever known. So they would carry the wounds to their graves.
Choking and gasping, Lycelle came back to herself, the smell of raw meet and congealed blood trapped in her throat, the horrible things she had seen racing through her mind, and she crawled a little ways away from the pond in order to be thoroughly sick. She was shaking and trembling, and she threw up until nothing but bile burned her throat, threw up as if trying to rid herself of all that she had seen and felt. She couldn't remember the good things, only the bad, and she felt like she was drowning in them, suffocating and silently screaming. Tears were pouring down her face, bitter, bitter tears, and that time she screamed aloud, her rage rushing back.
"Padma!" She got to her feet, stumbling as she drew herself up, the damned box lying on the ground like a hideous wooden reminder. "Bride of the Night, hear me and answer for this!"
"What is it, Lycelle?" That gentle, soothing voice intoned from behind her, but nothing could soothe the things she had seen.
"Do not act so bloody fucking calm!" She shrieked, losing her control completely, and Padma stayed still, not a single strand of her hair so much as swishing in the breeze. "How can you stand there, so pristine and perfect, after what you've done?"
"What's going on?" Pansy called from the doorway, Anton beside her, and Lycelle spun on them.
"Wrong? What's fucking wrong? The things in my head, that's what's bloody wrong!" She was pulling at her hair, and she knew that she must have looked as crazed as she felt, but she couldn't help it.
"Lycelle—" Pansy started, but she cut her off.
"You knew, do not say that you didn't! You all knew, and you let me go there, you let me ask such a thing from them, you let me see things that I should never have seen! You had me request this of them, you had me rub in how it was for Virginia, when you know how they feel, when you know that they would do anything for her! You…Oh gods, they blocked the worst of it! If the things that I saw were that horrible, then what must the things that the Kings blocked from the box have been like? What have I done? What have you done!?" The last came out hysterical, and she fell to the grass, fighting their hands as they tried to calm her down.
She didn't want to be calm, she wanted to hurt something, someone. Them, herself, it didn't matter. How to explain the feeling within her, how to explain what the Kings meant to their people to those that were almost their equals? The reforming of the Shadow Court had been exalted by all, and they had not been idle Kings. They had made them great again, made them a worldwide power that was recognized, respected and feared by the muggles, but they had done more than that as well. With Virginia, Padma, the twins, Pansy and Anton, they had started healing the world itself, making it healthy and green once more.
They had always said that the wizards were supposed to have been the caretakers of the land, but mixing with the muggles had made us forget, made us destroy. Many had never thought that they were telling the truth or that they actually cared, but they'd thrown themselves into it, their magic, Elemental and dark alike, cleansing the worst of the pollution first, regrowing towering forests and jungles, hills and glades, cleansing the oceans, fixing the ozone. Oh, and the cities! They were built in the styles of the ancients, Roman and Greek, Celtic and Egyptian...The list went on and they were all beautiful; works of art almost too spectacular to live in.
There were Babylonian-type hanging gardens that actually had the cities on them in the sky, and cities built in the tops of massive trees, on mountains, even in enormous underground caves. But the jewels, the most stunning and breathtaking, were the huge, rebuilt cities on the moon and on the ocean floor, one of which was the capital, Caliga. They could live anywhere they wanted with magic when they didn't have to worry about being seen or hiding. The ruins of the Imperial Palace on the moon had been unearthed, as had the ruins of its sister Palace in Caliga, under the waves of the Atlantic. So much done in so little time.
Their people lived again as they had always been meant to live, their magic openly coating every aspect of their lives, and they owed that to them. They owed the healthy soil and the clean air to them, they owed the trees and the thriving animals to them, they owed the return of the gods to them, and she had just had four of them go through something horrid in return. She felt guilty and angry and somehow as if she had failed them, and she wished that she could turn back time, or have her memories erased like Daphne's had been, so that she could live her life without such foul things in her mind, in her heart and soul.
Daphne had been granted that gift, her memories of the rape wiped clean, because her friends had not been able to watch her ghost around, Melody trailing her like a grieving widow. They had not been able to bear the pain in her eyes, the remembered horror, and they had asked her one day if she wanted it all to disappear. Many Light witches and wizards would never have done such a thing, saying that she needed to deal with it, but why? Why make her relive the worst moments of her life day by day when they could stop it? She had said yes, she had begged and pleaded, and the Kings had erased her memory of the rape, nothing more.
She smiled again, laughed again, and they all knew that it was worth it every time that they saw her running through the halls, some new concoction in a small cauldron as she rushed off to share her latest discovery with Melody or Severus or one of the Royals. And now, now all that Lycelle wanted was the same release, the same forgetfulness. She wanted the images that seemed burned into her eyelids gone, wanted to quit seeing them murdering little girls and bathing in their fathers' blood. She wanted everything back the way it had been a few hours ago, when she was still in bed with Marcello, her only worry being what flowers to put on the White Lady's altar that day.
"Lycelle?" Her sister called, and she jerked away.
"Do not touch me!"
"Lycelle…" That from Anton, and she raised her eyes to his, letting him see all of her anguish.
"Did you know?" She questioned harshly. "Did you know what it would make them relive? Did you know that they would remember their fathers so clearly, remember things that will give me nightmares for years? Did you willingly subject your best friends to that? Did you!?"
"Yes." He said, his face closing down into that bored mask that they all wore so well.
"Bastard. Fucking bastard." Then she was crying, really crying, but she still wouldn't let any of them near her. She curled up on herself, curled up until her head was between her knees and her tears stained her robes, and she cried. For herself, for her Kings, for misery in general. Then the Lady was there, and She did soothe part of the ache, but nothing could make it ever fully leave her, nothing.
"Maybe we should take her to her rooms. If I'd known that it would be so hard for her, I would have—"
"It's not about me!" She shouted, jumping to her feet. "It would be so like you to think only of yourself, Anton!" She didn't really mean that, but she meant to wound, and she knew how to do it, because she still had part of her Kings' knowledge, and she couldn't think better of using it, even though she should have. "You have always cared only for yourself; I doubt that you even truly love my sister! No wonder you didn't tell Virginia about any of this! A 'gift', indeed! She would never condone…How could anyone with a heart make them do that? How? I'll tell you how. Because you do not have one. You only love their power, their—"
"Stop." Anton hissed, that mask starting to crack with fury and darker things, and she watched his fingers curl, wondering if he would hit her. She hoped that he would, even as she desperately wanted to take her words back, to tell him that she was sorry. Instead, she kept talking.
"It's true! You do not love them, only what they stand for! You love their names and their titles, and only that! You didn't see them, you didn't see how much this remembrance hurt them, you didn't see—"
"I have seen it countless times!" He finally snapped, the black specs in those hazel eyes growing larger, and she knew, suddenly, that she had gone much, much too far. "Do not presume to tell me about ones that I love more than my own life! You barely fucking know them, you only know what you saw, but have you ever helped them live with that burden? I have! I have taken that raging madness into myself to make their pain less to bear, and here you call me heartless? Go fuck yourself, Lycelle." Then he was spinning on one heel and stalking off with grace to die for, and she watched him go with a sense of emptiness, of regret.
"You owe him an apology." Pansy said, and she didn't like the tone in her sister's voice at all. "I understand what you're going through, or I would not forgive you for the things you just said. Anton has very nearly died for them more times in this life than I would like to count, and he has seen them through memories much more wretched than any you might have seen."
"But they were so horrible, Pansy, so horrible." She muttered, sitting again and rocking back and forth. "What could be worse than what I've already seen?" She looked up after both women stayed silent, and she didn't like what she saw in their eyes. It made her skin prickle, made the hairs on the back of her neck stand up, and she wondered just how much they had been siphoning off of the Kings to keep them sane. She asked before she could stop herself, and Pansy blinked before shaking her head.
"Don't worry about it, we'll be fine. But them reliving what they did was necessary in a way, because they needed to before tomorrow night when they return."
"Because Virginia plans to start the true healing, and that will help it along. You threw accusations at us quickly enough, but you should know better than most that we would never ask such a thing of them unless it was worth it. And if Virginia succeeds, it most certainly will be. Now, you can leave if you like. We can finish from here."
"No, no, I can do it. I said I would."
And so she did. She prepared the Sansieve as best she could, keeping only the good memories for it and leaving the bad ones, and she tried to think of how to apologize to Anton, how to say sorry for words that she should never have spoken. She doubted that he would ever really forgive her for them, and she couldn't blame him. Because she did know how much he loved them, them and her sister and his other bonded, she did know how much they all meant to him. Hell, she'd been him put himself between Virginia and a psycho wielding a machine gun, had seen him the mornings after he'd channeled part of Draco and Blaise's pain, although she hadn't known what was wrong at the time.
She just hoped that he would at least listen.
How dare she! How dare that little White Wanderer bitch speak of things that she knew nothing about? How dare she throw things in his face that she fucking knew weren't true? Gods, he couldn't fucking stand her half the time anyway due to the Light power that she was saturated with, but now…Now he just wanted to see her blood run. If she were anyone else…But no, it helped nothing to think of such things. He was so angry he could barely see straight, and that wouldn't do at all. And it really didn't help when he'd barely made it three floors down before being stopped by some cloaked peasant wanting favors or some sort of blessing.
Duty could be a real bitch sometimes.
"Yes?" He asked, and the kneeling figure rose. He caught a glimpse of dark skin and brown eyes that looked vaguely familiar, but he couldn't place it and didn't care to.
"I was told to come to you, your highness, since the Queen has left orders not to be disturbed."
"What has happened now?" He asked, used to it all by now.
And as a Prince of the Realm, due to being a sworn brother of the High Kings, he got to deal with all sorts of shit on a daily basis, most of it quite odd. Commoners and nobility alike brought him and the rest of the Royal family things that they didn't want to bother the Kings and Queen with. But then again, there were times like the one that the Queen herself had had an issue about the Kings. Apparently, she and Draco had found Blaise tucked away in some closet somewhere, watching the most interesting recording crystal. And it hadn't been one of the ones of Ron turning into a pink snake (although those had made them quite a pretty profit).
Oh no, Blaise had apparently recorded something else entirely, and when Virginia had told him that he was a fucking porno addict, he'd asked what 'porno' was. While explaining, both Draco and Blaise had become enthralled, and declared that they wanted to add a 'porno' company to their lists of businesses. Appalled, she'd gone to her brothers first for help, but they'd agreed with Draco and Blaise, and had thought that their shops, which were currently worldwide, would be awesome doubled as 'porno' shops. So then she'd found him, and she'd nearly slapped him when he'd laughed and asked if he could get free products, being a close, personal friend and all.
Eventually, when she'd realized that they didn't mean to star in the movies themselves, she'd agreed, and she'd told him later, when they were very, very high one night, that Blaise still recorded everything, and that Draco was almost as bad. Recording crystals were everywhere, she'd laughed, and when he'd stayed quiet, she'd gotten that knowing look in her eyes and had quietly demanded, 'You knew, didn't you?', and being as wasted as he was, he'd snickered and agreed, then told her not to worry, because he had his and Pansy's rooms rigged too. Then she'd called them 'filthy males' before making him let her see so that she could torment Pansy later.
'Filthy males', indeed.
"Nothing too serious, your highness." The man in front of him replied. "The Lady Wilbrige was in muggle London earlier, and the car that she was in malfunctioned. I know a bit about muggle devices, and I saved her from going into a lake. She said to tell you that I am owed a Royal favor, and that this will prove it." The man held out a ring, a ring that Anton recognized immediately, and he took it from the mudblood before him. He'd known the purity of the blood as soon as the man had been in smelling distance.
"And all of this happened when?"
"Earlier today, your highness. We only just took the lunar transport since the ether coaches were all in use."
"And she is alright? Why were we not informed immediately?"
"The lady's orders, your highness."
"We shall see." Closing his eyes, he called to Daphne, reached for her mind with long practice, and he brushed against the outside of her inner barriers before she opened them enough to let him in.
'Are you okay?'
'Ah. I take it my helpful hero has made it to you.'
'Answer the question before I come and see for myself and make you swallow a thousand different tonics.'
'I wasn't hurt, Anton. You worry too much.'
'Females always say that, when you all worry ten times as much.'
'Ten times as much as a normal man, perhaps, but you are not normal, are you, dear one? No, our Slytherin males are special, unique.'
'I would rather that you didn't mock me right now.'
'Someone has angered you. Very well, but I was not mocking you. And we appreciate it, even though we tease you all about it. But truly, I'm fine thanks to the Gryffindor hero. Give him whatever you think my life is worth.'
'The sun, then? A few thousand stars? What a stupid thing to say, Daphne. But I'll see what I can do. And did you say 'Gryffindor?' Her laughter was all of the answer he got, and he looked back at the man standing before him.
"She says that you saved her life. For that I will grant you any boon that you wish of the Shadow Court, for she is dear to us. But keep it somewhat reasonable. I certainly won't make you immortal, or any such drivel."
"I wish only for something that you possess, something that means nothing to you and everything to me."
"No riddles, either. Come, just say what you want."
"I want Hermione Granger."
"Really." Well, whatever he had been expecting, it certainly hadn't been that. Who in the hell would care about her? Harry was locked up in the loony bin, stark-raving mad, Ron was banned from both capital cities and didn't really give a shit anyway, and he couldn't smell any Polyjuice in the man's bloodstream, which meant that it was someone else.
"Yes, your highness. That is the favor that I ask of the Shadow Court in return for one of your most beloved noble's lives."
"She is not mine to give away."
"You are blood-bound and soul-bound to the Kings and the Queen. They would not stop you if you commanded her release."
"You seem awfully sure of yourself."
"No, but I am sure of you, your highness. I am sure of your status, and I am sure that they deny you nothing. Please, your highness. She is all I think about. I wonder if I could have saved her, if I could have—"
"Stopped her from willingly handing over her amulet to Voldemort? Stopped her from obsessing over our Silver King until it had twisted her, corrupted her? Blaise warned her, time and time again, and it is not our fault that she didn't listen, nor is it yours. So stop feeling guilty about things that you cannot change, for they will only destroy you."
"But I have to change this, and I can if you let me take her, if you let me try to help her."
"She is a convicted traitor. We cannot just let her go."
"Then keep her tracked, keep us both under surveillance, but please, please, your highness, let me have her, let me get her out of here."
"Oh, give her to Mr. Thomas, Anton. She does nothing but drool on expensive furs anyway." A familiar, haunting voice said from the shadows to their left, and both dropped to their knees as their Kings came into view. Anton rose when Blaise wrapped a hand around his shoulder, and he kissed his Kings' cheeks before embracing the twins as well.
"I didn't think that you were supposed to be back until tomorrow." He said aloud, while inside, he was shouting at Pansy to warn Virginia incase she hadn't sensed them arrive. He hadn't, so there was a good chance that they were shielding. Pansy heard him and started for Virginia's chambers at a dead run, and his full attention went back to his friends.
"We weren't. But it was the funniest thing. The Americans think that it would be positively splendid to let our people have the Great Days off as national holidays." Blaise intoned lazily, and Anton's eyes narrowed. "What?"
"What alternative did you give them?" He asked suspiciously, and Blaise sneered.
"Would I play so dirty?" He asked, looking offended, and Anton wondered if that look would deepen should he laugh outright.
"Yes. In a bloody heartbeat. What was it this time? Did you threaten to kill all of their firstborn sons again? You probably really shouldn't have read their Bible. You find throwing things back in their faces from it all too funny."
"And you don't?" Blaise scoffed. "I'm not the one who set a bush on fire in a public park and projected my voice so loudly that you had an entire city praying in the streets, thinking that the apocalypse was upon them."
"That was an accident." Anton argued, and George snorted.
"How in the fuck do you 'accidentally' do something like that, Anton?" He asked, and Anton scowled.
"Look, all I was trying to figure out was what other option you gave the Americans. You all make things so difficult when you go alone."
"Yeah, and you're a real charmer." Draco supplied. "At least we didn't dress any conveniently unconscious Senators in drag and hang them outside of the White House just to prove that we could get around the muggle guards."
"That wasn't the only reason, and you know it. And how, exactly, did this become about me?"
"It's because we've missed you so much, Anton love." Fred said dramatically, swaying and falling to the side enough that Anton had to catch him or let him hit the ground. The grin on the redhead's face made him wish that he'd chosen the latter.
"Oh, fuck you all. You can deal with this Granger bullshit, because I'm going to go find my wife, as I'm sure you'll all be doing. Have fun, and do tell me how it goes."
"How what goes?" They called after him as he left, but he only snickered, whispered, "Don't you wish you knew," and kept on walking.
They were back early! Early! Everything could have been ruined, she hadn't been shielding, and oh, thank the gods for Anton! She would have to do something very, very nice for him sometime soon, maybe a vacation in the Greek Archipelago for him and Pansy, she'd watch their brats, she adored them…But now was not the time to worry about that, because her husbands were back, and it was time to see what their future would hold. She could keep the shields up only so long before they would get suspicious, so it was best not to test her luck. And gods, was that the door opening? It was. Standing and smoothing her hair down, she tried not to panic.
Sweet Circe, she had missed them. They'd only been gone what, four, five days? First to France, then to Russia, then to the States, but it had felt like much longer, and she forgot her hesitation in favor of running to them and throwing her arms around them, breathing in their scent and letting her world fully right itself once more. They rarely went to visit other leaders, since those leaders usually came to them, but every once in a while they did, or she did, or they all did, but she hated it when they were separated. Call her selfish, but so be it. She was fucking selfish. And she wouldn't have it any other way.
"I missed you." She said, had been saying, time blurring as it always did around them, and she pulled back slowly, minutely. "Did our people get their Holy Days?"
"Of course, ma chéri." They replied, their faces buried in her hair, muffling their intoxicating voices. "But why do you shield from us?"
"Come with me." She said, taking their hands and leading them outside, into the warm, autumn-spiced air.
Muggles hadn't believed that they could live on the moon, but what did they know of wards and shields and spells? They hadn't believed that they could live in floating cities or on the ocean floor, either, but that didn't make it any less true. She didn't stop in their courtyard, but kept going, scaling the wall with them easily and heading towards the Royal family's private gardens, gardens filled with flowers and plants that stood out vividly against the dusty white layer of dirt that rested above the richer soil that they had brought to life underneath it. They went deep into them, so deep that trees almost blocked out the endless stars and the scent of mint and lemons covered all, reminding her of her lovers, which is why she'd picked this place.
"I have something to show you." She said, since 'tell' wasn't the appropriate word. Not for them, not for wizards as strong as they were. She guaranteed that it would be visual, and she was as excited as she was nervous.
"Then show us, precious one, but stop hiding." Draco's fingers were in her hair, Blaise's on her waist, and she sank to the ground, pulling them along with her.
"I found a spell, a spell that I brewed last week and used the night you left for France." She met their eyes, saw their patience and acceptance of whatever it was, and wondered if they would still look like that in a moment.
"Hmm, oui, we remember that night. It was quite…entertaining."
"Yes, well, that 'entertainment' is what made this spell activate, and look, my loves, look what it has done."
She took their hands, placed them on her stomach, and she let her shields drop before they could question her. She let them feel the brand-new life that was growing within her, the life that pulsed of all three of them so strongly that it took her breath away. She hadn't allowed herself this luxury yet, she'd wanted to wait for them, and she was glad that she had. She felt their shock, their bafflement, then…then she felt their wonder, their awe, their joy, and the intensity of it almost brought her out of her skin. She felt them thinking that they would love the child always, no matter which of theirs it was, and she corrected them gently, just as awed as they were.
'No, beloveds, look deeper. Not one, but two.'
They did, and the shock that time was much more profound as they realized what her spell had done. Twins, she carried twins, but they were not just hers and Draco's or hers and Blaise's, because she had found a way to meld them both together, to take the essence of both and make it one. Each child had a bit of each, a bit of Virginia, of Draco and Blaise, and each had something uniquely their own, even so early. Muggle children weren't infused with a soul until well into their second trimester, but wizarding children were semi-aware from the moment that they were conceived. With training, one could access those memories, though they were quite repetitive.
But for wizarding adults who had an unborn child before them in such a way, an unborn child of their blood, they could…touch the child almost, send it feelings and emotions and thoughts, and the child would respond, its aura throbbing with good things and shrinking with bad things. But for the three of them, Seers every one, it was more than that, as well. As soon as they made that reach, as soon as they brushed their children with loving mental fingers, they Saw many things. They Saw them as they were then, flickering and barely there, the smallest candle flames in a world of darkness, and then they Saw them later, growing, changing.
They watched, utterly enthralled, as they Saw them right after they were born, all fuzzy heads and bright-dark eyes. Then later, as they stumbled from place to place, learning how to walk and run and fly, and Virginia's heart skipped a beat and caught in her throat as she got her first true glimpse of what they looked like with their eyes the colors that they would be forever and their achingly familiar hair. She already loved them, how could she not, but now she longed for them desperately. One had Blaise's raven hair, but the tips of it were Virginia's fiery crimson, and his eyes were the silver of spilt mercury, mercury ringed in charcoal.
The other was his exact opposite, even as their features were perfectly identical, and she wanted to touch them, kiss them, hold them. His twin had Draco's metallic, platinum hair, the tips of which were also the same shocking scarlet, as if they'd been dipped in fresh blood, and his eyes were blue, that soul-stealing blue that saw right through you, and those indigo orbs had their own smoky gray rings. Then they faded, only to reappear older, six or seven, and they were gazing up at Draco and Blaise as if they were the center of the universe as they spoke, and her heart melted right there and then.
Then forward again, until they were twelve or thirteen and dressed in green and silver Slytherin Quidditch robes. The ebony-haired one was grasping a Snitch, sneering proudly, while the other held a Quaffle propped on his hip carelessly, and she distantly heard cheering and familiar Slytherin hisses. Then the image changed again, and she wanted them to last longer, longer, but she knew that she was lucky for this to be happening at all, and she went with it. They were older again, older and graduating, and she sucked in a startled breath. They looked exactly like their fathers but for their hair and eyes, so alike that they could have been brothers, quadruplets.
It briefly reminded her of her lovers' demonic clones, but these clones looked out over the crowd at Draco and Blaise with rapt adoration, not loathing or jealous hate. Then their eyes turned to her, and she felt faint. Such love, she thought. I never loved my parents like that. But then, they never loved me this much, either. Because love them she did, and she could feel their love for her, like a beating pulse inside her soul, and she snapped out of their vision, snapped back into the reality before her. Amazement danced within her as she gazed down at her stomach, and she saw the exact same in her lovers' eyes when they ripped their own away to meet hers.
"You…" Draco started, then couldn't seem to finish, which was rare.
"I…" That time Blaise had the faulty speech patterns, but she wasn't doing much better herself.
"How did you…"
"I mean, did you See that…"
"Are you mad?" She finally formed words, and both stopped abruptly and just stared at her for a moment as if she'd gone completely insane.
"Mad?" They both questioned slowly, as if making sure that they had heard her right, and she nodded.
They looked down again, back at their fingers, which were still on her abdomen, and she waited, waited to see which path they would be taking. Would the first vision that she had come true? Or would the vision of their children that they had all just witnessed come to pass? She had needed them surprised, needed them unguarded, because this moment meant more than anyone could know. Would their memories of their own fathers taint their views, or would they finally be free of them by embracing her gift to them, embracing their sons? Would they finally be able to heal? As soon as their eyes met hers again, she knew that everything would be fine, and her joy was so great that she hardly registered their words.
"No, we are not mad. We're ecstatic. It was simply…unexpected."
Well, that's the end! This was almost three times as long as a normal chappie, just for you guys! I hope you've all enjoyed this as much as I've enjoyed writing it, and thank you to everyone who's reviewed, and to those who will still review. A lot of my life went into this, and I truly appreciate all of your support.
Now, help me break 1000 reviews, minions! LOL!
((Samhain – Halloween))