Michael knew he was in trouble when Miranda – and it was definitely Miranda now, not Mrs Zabini – invited him and Ginny back to the Zabini estate for the weekend.

"We're celebrating the engagement of a friend of mine," she said. "I do hope you and your sister can join us." And she'd laid a slender hand on his arm, dark eyes watching him from beneath long lashes, and Michael hadn't been able to say no.

It came as something of a shock to realise he hadn't wanted to say no to her.

Yeah, she was gorgeous, and usually, that was enough to catch Michael's admittedly shallow attention, but her dry, sharp sense of humour, her weirdly endearing arrogance and self-absorption, and the tendency she had to smile at him with that palpable knife-edge of warning – all of it made his mouth go dry, his robes feel too tight, and made him wish frantically that she wasn't a suspected serial murderer because, God, he really wanted to fuck her.

And it would be fucking, he thought hazily, leaning heavily against the wall and trying not to make any noise while he wanked. Jesus, with seven husbands, she'd know all sorts of weird, depraved shit none of his previous girlfriends had wanted to try. She was probably into heavy bondage, and toys, and – fuck, fuck – and orgies, and, and –

"Shit," he said with feeling, as he came. He slid down the bathroom wall, dazed and breathless, wiping his hand on a nearby towel.

Apparently he had kinks. Who knew?

***

When he swirled through the Floo to the Zabini estate, both Miranda and Blaise were waiting for him – and ten seconds later, Ginny – in a small anteroom just off the main hallway. Blaise was wearing his usual black – Michael had yet to see him in anything but – while his mother was wrapped in a vibrant turquoise summer dress, lovingly smoothed over every curve.

I'm screwed, Michael thought desperately, trying not to stare at the dark swell of her breasts and failing. I am so screwed.

Whether Miranda noticed, it was hard to say, but she smiled at both him and Ginny, tugging on the latter's arm and leading them through to a large sun room, where apparently the engagement party was being held. Blaise followed, slouching carelessly – and okay, Michael might find the opposite sex infinitely more appealing than his own, but hell, that arse could probably convince him otherwise – and Michael trailed behind, looking around at all the understated opulence of the Zabini homestead.

Chandeliers were much in evidence, but instead of the usual colourless crystal, these were dripping with jewel-bright stones that sparkled multicoloured pinpricks of light where the sun hit them. The floors were polished cream marble, the walls hung with tapestries in warm tones, and the grand staircase they passed on the way to the sun room curved off to the right and left at the summit, leading to the next floor. A man-sized vase stood in this corner, an armless white statue in that one, while a small Flutterby bush twitched and quivered in yet another. Nice, thought Michael, the interior designer.

There were already several other witches milling around in the sun room, sipping glasses of golden champagne, or tropical style drinks with umbrellas and bits of ornamental fruit floating in them. He and Blaise were the only men there, Michael realised, feeling slightly panicked. He'd heard what happened at hen parties from his older sisters – he was not going to participant in that kind of fresh hell, thank you very much.

Not that any of the women here seemed inclined to that sort of thing. They all looked like the very posh, refined, uptight women the wizarding aristocracy was full of, which was another reason Michael kind of wanted to sleep with Miranda. She was so cool and composed most of the time that he wanted to tear her hair down from its sleek knot, hike her dress up to her waist and fuck her over a table, the sofa, the end of a bed.

Jesus. He was such a pig. And that was definitely not the kind of thing he should be thinking about in a room full of women who would probably castrate him if they could hear his thoughts. Michael hurriedly adjusted his trousers so they wouldn't notice his semi-erection, and took the drink that Ginny passed him. She smiled at Blaise as she did so, almost as if she couldn't help herself, and Michael had a second to be vaguely amused and slightly disconcerted, before turquoise filled his vision and he we getting an eyeful of Miranda's cleavage again.

"Michael," she said, that smooth, husky voice going straight to his cock. He hadn't bothered to give her a false name when they'd met; his records with the DMLE had been temporarily 'misplaced', so, should Miranda or Blaise get the urge to do some investigating, they'd find no trace of him anywhere. Ginny had been unable to do the same, owing to the fact that she'd known Blaise at school, and also that her colouring would mark her down as a Weasley before she had chance to introduce herself.

"Michael?" Miranda said again, a slight furrow appearing between her eyebrows, and Michael realised he'd been staring at her, open-mouthed.

"Sorry, miles away," he said, smiling sheepishly at her. "What can I do for you?"

Oh, he'd really set himself up there. Miranda smirked, and yes, it was definitely a smirk, and a particularly lewd one at that.

"Would you mind getting some more ice for the drinks?" she said, although with that sexy rasp in her voice, she could very well have been asking for something much more enjoyable. "I'd magic it in but, well, I don't have my wand." She smirked again, leaning in. "I had nowhere to put it," she said, whisper-soft, her breath hot on Michael's ear.

Blood drained from his head to his groin without seeming to pause in his midsection. Christ, he had to get out of there. Nodding frantically, he followed her directions to the small room where the ice was being kept magically fresh, scooped a silver champagne bucket into the freezing cubes, turned, and went back into the sun room.

Miranda was waiting for him over by the bar, fingers carelessly curled around a champagne glass. She beamed at him when he brought the ice over, an honest to God all-out beam that made Michael's breath catch, and brushed her hand over his in thanks when he'd set the bucket down. Her fingers were cool and slightly damp with condensation from her glass. Michael felt a shudder start at his spine and work its way upwards. She smiled, slow and cat-like, and withdrew her hand.

She must know what she's doing, Michael thought wildly. She has to know she's driving me insane.

But apparently, she didn't know, or at least, she wasn't letting on that she knew. Someone called her name from the other side of the room, and with an apologetic glance at him, Miranda sailed off to talk to whoever had hailed her. Michael was left standing at the bar, staring dumbly at his hand where she'd touched him.

***

He didn't speak to her again for another three hours. He sat with Blaise and Ginny, who were chatting pretty amicably for two people who'd despised each other only a week ago, and a few other blokes who'd been dragged along by their wives for whatever bizarre reason. Several of the other guests drifted over from time to time, including one witch with short blonde hair and a serious attitude problem, bitching loudly about the Ministry's politics surrounding female employment in the Wizengamot under a new Chief Warlock. Michael thought dyke about ten seconds before he realised she actually had a point under all the legal-speak, and resolved to get her name for a referral to the wizarding courts.

He wandered around the room a little while after that, heading to the bar, when he heard someone mention Miranda's name, followed immediately by someone else saying, "That's right, I heard the ink hadn't even dried on the marriage certificate before she did away with him."

A weird feeling settled on Michael's chest at those words; half anger that someone would say such a thing at a party hosted by the woman in question, and half unease at the thought that there might be truth to the rumours about Miranda Zabini after all. He stopped a little way away from the two witches having the discussion, pretending to be staring out over the rest of the guests, minding his own business.

"My God, how did this one die?" the redheaded one said, one manicured hand fiddling with her necklace.

"Well, they say he choked on a fishbone, but my Katherine, she works in the Auror department, you know, and she said no bone was ever found, and more to the point, there were marks around his neck, as if he'd been strangled." The shorter of the two women, her curly hair pushed behind her ears as if to tame it, looked on impressively as her friend gasped, horrified yet strangely delighted at the tale.

"Of course, it's not much of a surprise," the redhead said eventually, a surprising amount of venom lacing her voice. "She always was a vicious bitch. And there are rumours about she and her son, you know, that they ... well. Let's just say they're closer than they ought to be."

"No!" the other woman hissed, shocked. "Are they really? Dear Merlin, the entire family is degenerate! Something should be done about them, they can't be allowed to get away with that sort of thing, surely?"

"She's probably sleeping her way through the Auror ranks, Bernice, you know that. It's why no one's carted her off to Azkaban yet."

Bernice gasped again, and Michael couldn't listen to them anymore. He turned, about to lash out at them for spreading more slander, and then realised that he was guilty of the same thing, and he whirled on his heel and stormed out of the room.

There was a small chamber just off the main hallway, about two doors down from the sun room. He went in, closed the door behind him and went straight to the window, where the late evening sun was streaming through the glass, staining everything a deep gold-orange.

This was typical, so fucking typical. He'd just got used to the idea of lusting after an older and more attractive woman than he usually went for, and it just figured she'd be a maniacal husband-slaughterer who used sex to keep herself out of jail. There was a part of him that wanted not to believe the rumours, but an even bigger part knew there was something decidedly macabre going on. One woman did not become a widow seven times without indulging in some sort of foul play. It was just impossible.

And as for the rumours ... Yeah, he'd heard the one about husband number seven and the fishbone, and the one about sleeping her way through the Aurors. But the one about her and Blaise, that they had some perverted, incestuous relationship – bloody hell, people really would believe anything they heard, wouldn't they?

Behind him, the door to the room opened, and he turned, expecting Blaise or Ginny, perhaps wondering where he'd got to. It wasn't either of them; instead, Miranda stepped into the room, closing the door behind her and then walking over to join him by the window. She said nothing for a few minutes, seemingly content to just stare out at the grounds while Michael wondered what was going on.

"So," she said at last, not looking at him. "You've finally heard the rumours."

"What?" Michael said, playing for time. This was not a conversation he wanted to have. The fact that he had to, not least because it was his fucking job, for crying out loud, didn't make him feel any better about it.

Miranda sent him a sharp look, made all the more pointed by the bitter, sardonic smile twisting her mouth.

"Please don't play dumb with me, Michael," she said flatly. "I saw you listening to Bernice and Cornelia, and I know exactly what those two think of me."

Michael honestly didn't know what to say to that. Miranda sighed impatiently and faced him.

"Let me guess," she said conversationally, but there was a sneer lurking in her expression. "You heard the rumour about my seventh husband's death? About how no fishbone was ever found but there were mysterious marks around his neck? Or perhaps the one about my fourth husband and how the Aurors found him in a pool of his own blood on the patio?"

Actually, Michael hadn't heard that one, but he didn't get the chance to say so because Miranda was still talking.

"Or maybe it was even the one where I walked in on my second husband in bed with his lover and slit both their throats? No?" she asked, eyes bright with malice, voice lowering to an angry growl. "Ah, well then, perhaps it was the one where I killed off my son's fiancées in a fit of jealous rage because we're sleeping together?"

She didn't shout, her voice just continued in that pleasant, almost cheerful tone, like they were discussing the weather, or the state of the wizarding world. But there was a resentful curve to her full mouth that twisted Michael's gut when he realised he was doing this to her, that the people out there in the sun room right now were probably perpetuating the many and sundry rumours about Miranda Zabini and not caring about the effect it might have on her.

"I don't – I mean, I know ..." he began, without any idea of what he was going to say.

Miranda shot him a mocking, amused look. "You don't know a damn thing, Michael," she stated, and Michael bristled because, damn it, he was probably the only person who wouldn't care if she'd killed off all her husbands, if she was fucking her son or the Aurors and –

Holy shit.

He really, seriously didn't care if she'd murdered someone, multiple someones in fact – the idea was, well. It made him uneasy, of course, freaked him out a bit, because if she could get rid of seven people without getting caught and locked up in Azkaban for it, then who was to say she couldn't get rid of seven more? And who was to say he wouldn't be one of them? But hell – and that was where he'd probably end up for thinking this – if it wasn't the tiniest bit arousing. He'd always had a thing for the strong, powerful female thing, though this was so far beyond the pale, and Miranda was just ...

God, but he was so fucked.

She was looking at him curiously, but with a glint in her eye that suggested she knew what he was thinking, which sent all sorts of obscenely thrilling thoughts running in Michael's head, and he swallowed against his suddenly dry mouth.

"I actually don't care," he said, and his voice had lowered about three octaves and Miranda had to know what that meant. "Uh, about the rumours, and stuff," he clarified, feeling numb and stupid with lust as she smirked again. "Seriously. I – I mean, they're only rumours. Right?"

And here was the bit where she was supposed to agree, and Michael would snap out of this daze and they'd go back to the party, and that would be the end of it. No one seemed to have told Miranda that, however, because she moved closer, confident and alluring like she was in everything, into his personal space.

"For a jaded business wizard, you're incredibly naive sometimes," she said softly. Then she leaned in, and he could smell her, not just her perfume, but her, musky and exotic and incredible, and Michael couldn't help taking a deep breath and tilting forward to meet her halfway.

She smiled again, and moved to his ear. "You want to know a secret?" she whispered, and pressed her lips to the hinge of his jaw. Michael heard himself make a small noise but couldn't seem to stop it. He nodded, but truthfully he didn't care about any secrets, he would have agreed to anything she said at that moment, if only so he would finally get to touch her.

She bit his earlobe sharply, and murmured hotly into his ear, "My first husband died while we were in bed together, while we were fucking," and Michael couldn't take it anymore, hearing her say it was the last straw.

He turned his head, found that lush mouth and kissed her hard, one hand coming up to cup her breast, the other sliding along her thigh to grab at her arse. She sucked in a sharp breath and hooked the same leg around his hip, turquoise dress slipping upwards, fisting her hands in his jacket's lapels and fucking his mouth with her tongue. Michael pushed the left strap of her dress down a smooth brown shoulder, sliding his hand inside to get at hot flesh, stroking a thumb across her nipple just to feel Miranda jerk against him. With a rough sound, she bit at his bottom lip, then pulled her mouth away to smile a not-quite-pleasant smile at him.

"I'm going to fuck you," and it sounded like a threat the way she said it, but Michael didn't care, because he could so get behind this, was desperate for it.

"Yeah," he panted, unable to resist leaning down and licking a wet stripe across her nipple. She cursed and rutted against him helplessly. "Fuck, yeah, do it, I want –"

His hand, which had been steadily sliding under her dress at her hips, fingertips learning the feel of her skin, suddenly reached her groin and found no barrier of underwear to speak of. He almost choked as his fingers stroked through coarse hair, finally meeting heat and wetness. He paused, surprised and crazy with want, and Miranda let out what could have been a groan and pressed his hand down harder with her own, manipulating his fingers over her clit. She groaned again, and gasped out, "God, God, just there – right th – oh, God."

Before he could figure out whether that high-pitched keen meant she'd come or not, Miranda ripped his hand away and kissed him, dirty and messy and hot, and before he knew it, she was pushing at his head, his shoulders, trying to push him down, and he moaned and ground at his cock with the heel of his hand when he realised what she wanted.

He pushed her backwards, aiming her towards – thank God, a handy table, and lifted her onto it. Then he kissed her again, missing her mouth in his haste and getting her chin slick and wet; she didn't seem to care, only let out a hiss of, "hurry up, hurry up, fucking do it already," as he kissed his way down her neck, her collarbone, between her breasts, as far as he was able until he came to the top of her dress. He knelt on the floor, rolled the skirts of her dress up until they bunched at her waist, then parted her long, smooth, dark brown legs and buried his head between them.

The first touch of his tongue had her arching up, hips thrusting uncontrollably, as she pressed a hand to the back of his head and urged him on. He licked into her, laving at her clit over and over again, feeling heady and dazed as she fucked his face, her heavy pants turning into short, desperate wails. The heat of her under his mouth, the smell of sex and her, the twitching muscles in her thighs as he stroked the outsides with his palms, even the ache in his jaw as he opened wider for her ... Jesus, God, he could do this all day, let her use him like this, take what she wanted without asking.

When she came, her whole body seized up for several long seconds, and then she fell back, limp, onto the table, breathing harshly and unlocking her legs from around Michael's shoulders. Michael leaned back, frantically tugging at the zip on his trousers and shoving his hand in, pinching his cock so he wouldn't come too. Miranda lifted herself up onto her elbows and stared down at him, watching with a lazily amused expression, looking for all the world as though she intended to do so for hours. Michael absolutely did not whimper when she got down from the table, hair a mess and dress still hiked up to her waist, looking so thoroughly fucked that he couldn't help but feel a bit smug, and kissed him again, this one a little bit slower and sweeter than the ones before.

If it wasn't for the ache of want in his cock, he might have enjoyed it more. As it was, he pulled away and bit out, "Touch me, or, or fuck me, or something, please, God, I need – need –" realising at the last minute that he sounded utterly desperate and not caring in the least.

With a laugh that didn't sound particularly amused, Miranda yanked at his trousers, pulling them and his boxers down to his knees. Then she threw one leg over so she was straddling him, held onto his shoulder with one hand, grabbed his cock with the other and guided him into her without pausing. She slid onto his cock easily, hot and wet and perfect, and rolled her hips slowly. Michael gasped out a wordless approximation of her name, gripped her hips and shoved into her, mouthing wetly at one of her breasts where the material of her dress had slipped down to reveal it.

They pushed and thrust that way for a few more minutes, but the angle wasn't right and it was taking too long and he was so close, so close. So he gently pushed her backwards, felt her legs tighten around his waist again, and laid her out on the floor as she writhed and shoved back against him. Her hands were smoothing over his back, one slipping down the back of his trousers, into his boxers, finger sliding along the crack of his arse. Michael let out a choked sob – Christ, she was – and it was – and fuck, that was – and came so hard his vision greyed out at the corners and he couldn't breathe for a few seconds.

He pulled out and rolled over to lie down next to her on the floor, breathing so hard he wondered vaguely if he was hyperventilating. But no, it was just the result of really great sex, so he wasn't too concerned.

Beside him, Miranda was suddenly sitting up and walking over to a small chest of drawers Michael hadn't noticed before. From the top drawer she pulled out her wand, and set about repairing the damage that had been done to her appearance. Several spells later and her hair was smooth and neat again, the wrinkles in her dress had been ironed out, and her make-up was immaculate once more. Michael much preferred her post-coital and messy, but said nothing.

At last, she turned to him, smiling the bland, careless smile that she gave everyone, which, ouch, suddenly didn't seem so attractive anymore. "Well," she said, and even her voice had gone back to normal. "As enjoyable as that was, I must get back to the party. People will be wondering where I've got to."

She moved to the door and opened it, and it wasn't until she was almost across the threshold that she glanced back at him, eyes flashing hot for a second as she said, "Oh, and next time? I'm going to blow you. Have a nice day."

Michael could only stammer out a reply as he stared after her retreating back.

***

Two days later, she made good on her promise (threat).

***

Two days after that found him tied to a bed, completely naked, while Miranda stood over him, fully clothed, and Michael had no idea how they'd got there.

Well no. He knew literally how they'd got there; it was when he'd turned up at the Zabini estate, hard and feeling like he must be going insane. Miranda had taken one look at him and dragged him inside and upstairs, kissing him and stripping him in the most tortuously slow fashion.

What he couldn't figure out was why. He'd never really been into the whole dominant/submissive thing, and okay, he'd tried the bondage thing out a couple of times but it hadn't really done a lot for him. His five years as an Auror had left him with the standard fear of losing control, and every single one of his past girlfriends had bemoaned his lack of interest or commitment to them once they'd got the sex out of the way. So why the hell did he keep ending up on his back, getting fucked three ways from Sunday by a woman who, let's face it, was in all likelihood a sociopathic serial killer with deep-seated psychological issues and an incredibly twisted relationship with her only son?

Yeah. It made no sense. And then Miranda scored her nails firmly along his thigh and he decided that as long as he continued to get fucked three ways from Sunday by said sociopath, he really couldn't bring himself to angst over the whys and wherefores.

***