Disclaimer: I'm not J.K. Rowling; I'm only visiting her universe for nonprofit fun and edification. (No profit is being made and no copyright infringement is intended).
Hypatia Malfoy had grown up surrounded by mysteries, some of which were open secrets. She already knew to humor the grownups when they revealed the secrets that she long since had puzzled out. Her father was a wizard — of course! — because who didn't know that. Why even the Muggle neighbors knew it, when she was visiting with her Granger grandparents.
She had wondered for a long time why her papa and her aunt looked nothing alike … well, once she knew to wonder. Papa was thin and blond like herself, except that he didn't wear spectacles. They shared that pale, fine hair and brows, and pale eyes, grey that was really blue and green swimming together, like fish in a northern sea. Aunt Hermione was shorter and sturdier, with thick flourishing hair,
"You used to think it was a toy," her aunt said. "Once you got quite comfortable with me, you always had your hands in it."
And her Uncle Neville would smile and say he could quite understand that, and Aunt Hermione would smile at him in that way that lit up the room.
Her Nana Malfoy, well, she looked just like papa, which made sense given that she was his mother. Their house was enchanting, and she always loved playing with papa's old toys.
Of course it wasn't exactly a secret, given that she'd heard more times than she could count how her father had gotten in trouble with the Ministry when she was three and had first discovered how to climb down the side of the Grangers' house by grabbing the bricks with her fingers and toes, and he'd been out and about on his broom looking for her, in broad daylight no less.
At least it was during the working day in that quiet suburb, Aunt Hermione said.
Hypatia wasn't sure why it was such a secret at all…
Just now, on the night of her eleventh birthday, she was hearing them at it again, with yet another secret.
She was relaxing after a very satisfactory ramble up North with Uncle Neville and Aunt Hermione and her cousin Matilda, who was really only her cousin by marriage (Uncle Neville's Gran's great-granddaughter by another marriage). Matilda was very full of herself because she was expecting her Hogwarts letter. Justifiably enough, Hypatia thought; Matilda had earned herself a scolding for at least two unlicensed Apparitions.
Hypatia had gotten to the top of the escarpment nearly as quickly.
Matilda's father had promised to take Hypatia caving when she turned twelve, and she was counting the days. Not Matilda, who couldn't leave for Hogwarts soon enough, and was already getting a bit show-offy. Uncle Andrew made it clear that he wasn't about to take flighty Matilda underground, where she could get herself into who knew what difficulties.
Matilda had thrown a tantrum at that, and declared that she didn't care about stupid baby Muggle nonsense like caving, when there was Hogwarts waiting for her.
Once back at Uncle Andrew's, Matilda had been spoken to rather severely by Uncle Neville. Hypatia didn't know what he said, but she heard the low rumble of his Very Serious Voice and then Matilda crying, and saying "I won't say it again. I'm sorry, really I am."
And coming out of the room, Uncle Neville had said to her that words trumped deeds, and he would expect to see very much better behavior in future, as befitted a proper witch.
Matilda hugged Hypatia—sticky Matilda, she was always sticky, which there was no excuse for since she wasn't a baby—and said she was sorry she had called her a Muggle. Hypatia said that wasn't quite correct, she had called caving "stupid baby Muggle stuff" and anyway, Hypatia knew she was neither a baby nor a Muggle, so it didn't matter.
She told papa about it when she got home, after the party with the cousins. It was the best birthday ever, and even though she got lots of presents she thought the best present of all was the ramble. Aunt Hermione had given her books on geology and chemistry, and a new computer, and Uncle Neville had given her a new plant, a rather scary thing with grinning magenta flowers with tiny sharp white teeth.
It wasn't in any of the field guides, but Uncle Neville's presents never were.
Papa had smiled-but-not-really, and changed the subject.
He was like that sometimes, most notably after the visits to Nana's husband, the Old Man in the Castle. She still came along with Nana; papa never did. She didn't know why that was. That was one of the mysteries she hadn't unraveled yet. She did not like the Old Man. He peered at her in a way that gave her the willies.
She didn't like that island in the North Sea either, which was cold even in the summer, as if someone had imported all of the creepy haunted-house chill put in short supply in Northern Europe by the invention of central heat. The Castle, or the Fortress as everyone else called it, was probably her least favorite place ever.
After the cousins went home, Uncle Neville took baby Lizzie upstairs to quiet her before bed. She was a very round, very placid child, but that number of people over-stimulated her. At Yule, the sheer overload of a Weasley family gathering had resulted in a magical outburst that singed the curtains in the front room.
Magical children were very difficult. Hypatia was proud that she had never given her papa the least bit of trouble.
She was having a bit of private time with Aunt Hermione, setting up the security and the user accounts on the new computer, when papa came in and hovered in that way he had, waiting for them to finish.
"Don't hack the Ministry while I'm gone," Aunt Hermione said, which was something of a joke between them. She got up and walked to the other room with papa.
Hypatia didn't have magic, but she did have a knack for making herself unnoticed, which was how she had learned so very many interesting things. Not to mention that her hearing was rather more acute than the norm, which her papa kept forgetting in his fuss about her being an unmagical non-Muggle.
She fiddled about with the computer, as if she were quite as absorbed as she had been—
"How am I going to tell her?" papa said.
"Well, I would think that I'd begin by introducing them socially," Aunt Hermione said in her reasonable voice.
"Blaise got you tickets to his performance, didn't he?"
"Well, that's me and Neville, then, and Hypatia can bring a friend—"
"Not Matilda. That girl is a barbarian. Blood will tell. Hadrian built that wall for a reason."
A sigh, no doubt accompanied by Aunt Hermione's speaking glance. "Honestly, Draco."
"No one can accuse me of being other than reasonable," he said, "but she's altogether too fond of Incendio."
"And she doesn't like Shakespeare, so let's not put everyone through unnecessary suffering. Hypatia has lots of friends. Teddy and Victoire…"
Another sigh. "Great Merlin, no. The dalliance of eagles, or Weasleys."
She laughed. "If you get them on a good night, they'll upstage you and Lelia."
"But there are only six tickets."
"I'll talk to Blaise. He'll manage a seventh if it comes to that."
"Even if he has to nick it from the royals," papa said. "I admit your plan has a certain Slytherin charm. But then there's the restaurant afterward …"
"Patterson's," she said decisively. "The flaming desserts will keep them entertained." A short laugh — no doubt papa was pulling one of his sulky faces — "Draco, has it occurred to you that she knows?"
"How can she possibly?"
"Neville told me she talked about it. 'Papa rather likes that Madame Laveau,' well, I think that would be plain as day. And he asked her what made her think so, and she said that you had mentioned her a lot, pretty much every time you came back from the Manor."
"Well, she's a noted expert on weather-working, and I should think that I'd mention with whom Mother was discussing the family archives." There was that odd shift in his voice, and she wasn't sure how she knew, but he was smiling in spite of himself.
"And widow of a weather-worker herself."
"Well, rather difficult to shut down a hurricane, I would think. Why he even attempted it…"
"One might ask the same question of your great-grandmother."
"Well, that was wartime."
"And it would be best if you discussed this with Hypatia before you take the trip to New Orleans by way of return hospitality, and make it clear to her…"
"I don't want to talk about this."
"Yes, you do. You pulled me aside … oh gods, why did they sort you into Slytherin? She knows, Draco. Why can't we just have a nice family council like other people. 'Hypatia, your papa is seeing a nice witch …' Much better to discuss it, before you tell her baldly that she's getting a stepmother."
"It hasn't reached that point yet," papa said in his tense-and-brittle voice. "Her people have a marked lack of enthusiasm about me… hence, the inquisition awaiting me in Louisiana. If they approve … well, then we can talk about stepmothers."
Hypatia permitted herself a momentary bit of smugness that she and uncle Neville had worked it out between them. No doubt Neville had explained it to Aunt Hermione, because she and papa were rather thick about certain things, and sometimes in much the same way.
And she had met Madame Laveau, because Nana Malfoy had taken her for Italian ices to her favorite cafe on the wizarding Riviera, and Madame Laveau had just happened to come along. Hypatia rather liked her lilting voice and her warm brown eyes, and the stylish way that she swept her robes about her, colorful where Nana's were dark, since she was out of mourning now.
She was as tall as Nana, dark where her grandmother was pale, but in a very interesting way the same sort of person.
Hypatia loved going to the theater, everything from the glittery shawl she got to wear (a gift from Nana Malfoy) to the earrings that Aunt Hermione had given her, after she had gracefully acceded in the battle over pierced ears. Hypatia was quite sure that she worried that the next thing would be pierced eyebrows and who-knows-what, but she had read all the same health recommendations as her aunt, and knew the limits.
Her silver spectacle frames went with the whole ensemble quite well, black and silver, so she looked well next to papa who wore full evening dress, black as midnight with a green-and-silver silk carnation glowing in his lapel. It made him look rakish, though she knew it was merely a bow to his old House affiliation.
Aunt Hermione dressed in rich burgundy and gold against black velvet—an allusion similar to her father's boutonniere—and Uncle Neville looked quite handsome next to her. Percy and Audrey's eldest was minding Lizzie, who loved to tumble and squawk among her numerous Weasley cousins.
Teddy and Victoire were late, as usual, but at least not quarreling.
When they arrived, they stood arm-in-arm markedly closer than any of the adult couples. Hypatia rather hoped that they'd maintain decorum and not be too conspicuous with shows of amity.
Madame Laveau joined them in the theater lobby, and smiled both to papa and herself. Papa turned faint pink, and looked flustered, glancing nervously from her to Hypatia.
"Delightful to see you again," Madame Laveau said to her.
Hypatia dropped a brief informal curtsy.
Papa settled, and offered Madame Laveau his arm, and they went into the theater.
Blaise had spared no expense, apparently—for the tickets were seats in the box. They arranged themselves in the seats, and papa smiled at Madame Laveau and asked if she were quite comfortable. Fussing and hovering was one of his chief forms of affection, as she well knew.
Hypatia amused herself by watching the audience mill about below. There were lots of people she knew. There was papa's school-friend Pansy Black, arm-in-arm with her husband. He was a banker in the City, and another unmagical non-Muggle, a cousin of Nana Malfoy. And Gregory Goyle the children's Quidditch coach, whom her cousins raved about as the best teacher ever. Professor Lovegood, radish earrings and all, conversed with one of her Muggle colleagues there in the corner. "More things in heaven and earth" she knew first as one of Professor Lovegood's sayings, before she learned that Shakespeare had said it first.
Some of the grown-ups didn't leave off their obsessions even at the theater; she very much suspected that Professor Lovegood was talking about quantum mechanics rather than Shakespeare, and likely Senior Healer Derwent and the two Muggle doctors were talking shop as well. Auror McConnell, now she was talking with Uncle Harry down below, their spouses smiling at each other. She did like Mary Esmond, who knew all sorts of interesting things about the theater. And Aunt Ginny didn't always talk about Quidditch …
And there was great-aunt Andromeda, who shot a single glance at them, a smile-but-not-really in Teddy's direction (you will not disgrace us) and a real smile in hers. She was chatting with the Grangers and Kingsley Shacklebolt … who apparently was a distant cousin of Madam Laveau, Nana Malfoy had informed her. Very distant, as in some centuries, but however tenuous, the ties of blood meant something in their world.
Hypatia Malfoy was related to most of the wizarding world herself.
She loved the way that they all looked, under the electric chandeliers, Muggle and witch and wizard, and the non-magical non-Muggles as well, faces agleam with the joy of dressing up and going to immerse themselves in a world apart.
And she did adore the Scottish Play, even knowing the real history — Muggle and wizarding alike — behind it.
The curtain rose on darkness wreathed in fog, and the voices of the Weird Sisters rose among it, calling up malign magic.
She shivered in anticipation.
She knew Blaise Zabini, but she wouldn't be seeing the genial friend of her father's, who teased him as if they were still schoolboys.
There would be three scenes before that roughneck barbarian general showed himself. The witches were making their magic again (which she knew wasn't real magic, except for the bits that were):
Thrice to thine and thrice to mine
And thrice again, to make up nine.
Peace! The charm's wound up.
The fog parted and a figure staggered out of it, Macbeth leaning a bit on Banquo — face darkened with blood and aghast with dust — for a second, Hypatia squinted to make out Blaise, and as soon as he spoke, forgot that it was he.
"So fair and foul a day I have not seen."
Papa, next to her, stiffened and then sighed. Hypatia sensed rather than saw Madame Laveau take his hand in the darkness, and squeeze it.
Hypatia leaned forward, holding her breath, as the story unfolded. She forgot everything, as her field of view narrowed to the world on stage, even where the voice in her head that knew where fiction diverged from truth made a footnote.
Eventually, that voice fell silent entirely.
At the murder of Macduff's family, she heard rapid breathing next to her, then a choked sob. Her father got up and walked to the back of the box. Madame Laveau followed him and stood by his side, whispering something in her low and lilting French. Hard to follow, even with her supernaturally acute hearing, and she wasn't sure she wanted to know.
She knew that her father had been in the war, and that he had seen bad things. Even years later, the oddest things could set him off: sounds, or smells, or even a quality of light. Aunt Hermione or Uncle Neville had explained it to her. Recently, they each had told her that they had such trouble themselves from time to time, and some things would never be the same.
She breathed deeply, feeling her own heart slow as she did that. Papa had taught her that. He had learned it in the clinic.
The things on stage were unpleasant, very unpleasant, and the light and the sound and the very lines of the set directed the eye to that vortex of blood and violence. She had forgotten the dark enchantment of this play, which was far more powerful on the stage than on the page assisted only by imagination.
"Mais c'est Blaise." But it's Blaise, that much she could make out, and that only because it was her father's voice, and his accent.
Madame Laveau was speaking in a low tone, or else making soothing shapeless noises that weren't words at all, the sort of sounds that Uncle Neville or Nana Malfoy spoke to her when she woke from nightmare as a small child. Everyone had nightmares, even those who hadn't been in the war, Aunt Hermione clarified for her. Only if you had been in the war, your mind had more to work with in constructing terrifying worlds to inhabit by night.
And some revisited those worlds night after night.
It was better, it was very much better now, everyone said, but from time to time there were reminders.
Someone put a hand on her shoulder, and she turned to see Uncle Neville sitting next to her. She nodded to him, to let him know that she saw and understood. He sat in her father's vacated seat, and she leaned forward, nonetheless holding his large warm hand.
Things on stage went rapidly to the bad.
At the second intermission, she saw that her father was loitering in the by the concessions, slowly sipping a drink—something amber in a heavy tumbler—and Madame Laveau was nodding in approval. Something medicinal, no doubt.
"We'll see Hypatia home if you wanted to go," Aunt Hermione said.
He shook his head. "No, it's Blaise's premiere. I'll see it through." He smiled at Hypatia, though it looked forced. "And then cherries jubilee at Patterson's after, if you and the hellions will behave yourselves."
Hypatia nodded sagely, keeping to herself the intelligence that Teddy and Victoire had been quiet only because they had been discreetly snogging in the back of the box… well, she wasn't sure if snog and discretion were compatible concepts. At any rate, she was very fond of cherries jubilee.
Aunt Hermione laughed. "Ah, bribery. An honest Slytherin tradition."
"And I'm an honest Slytherin, so I'll stand you a whiskey now."
Aunt Hermione laughed, and accepted a tumbler. "If I have to put up with Blaise's witticisms, perhaps that's not a bad idea." She took a sip, and smiled. "Ah, yes, Malfoy spares no expense."
"Nor does Zabini," Papa said. He took another sip of whiskey, and shook his head as if to clear his vision. "And he's rather terrifying as Macbeth."
Rather terrifyingly plausible, the translation floated in the air between them.
Madame Laveau smiled indulgently, and sipped her glass of wine.
Out, out brief candle. Life's but a walking shadow / a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage …
Hypatia's lips moved along with Blaise's rant, for she had this bit by heart. Oh yes, and the forest was on the move—how marvelously the shadows suggested it. Her waking mind would puzzle out how it had been accomplished — for she liked to watch horror films on the telly with her schoolmates, and puzzle out how they'd scared her, after the fact — but now, she was swimming underwater through a dream of unrelenting terror, which she felt along with the murderous king, even though he deserved his fate.
She could feel the breath of the Furies in the room, the cold wind of their unearthly wings.
During the final duel, she watched each parry and thrust as (in her peripheral vision) Uncle Neville bowed his head with his hand shielding his eyes. She reached across to place her hand in his. Aunt Hermione was staring directly at the stage, her face faintly lit in the livid stage-light, her mouth set in a hard line. Much as a general would watch a battle playing out, Hypatia thought: no matter how horrific, one had to pay attention, lest one miss something decisive.
Even Teddy and Victoire had disentangled, behind her, and she could feel their intent energy leaning forward instead of inclining toward each other.
And then—a flash of light on a raised sword, and they all rushed inward, Blaise at the vortex. The lights cut to blackness, then came up again.
The severed head was held up, and Uncle Neville let out his breath in a long, slow relaxation, and released her hand. "It's done," he whispered.
Aunt Hermione had that distant, stony look on, as if she had personally ordered the execution. "Yes," she said. "Yes. It's done."
Her father stood behind her, looking at them all as the house lights came up, already poised for the standing ovation.
"And now," he said, "there will be cherries jubilee. After we visit with Blaise, if he's receiving."
Blaise Zabini looked odd with the stage makeup hastily removed from his face, and his hair still disordered from the wig, amid the sharp scent of sweat in the dressing-room. Hypatia liked that tang of heavy makeup and sweat and other things, paint perhaps…
She said so, and Blaise laughed. "Don't say that in front of your beloved papa, or he'll cut you off with a shilling."
Papa rolled his eyes, as if they were both schoolboys.
"He'll worry you'll run away to a life upon the stage, just as in the melodramas…"
Then Mary Esmond and Auror McConnell were crowding into the dressing-room too, and Blaise stood up to receive an embrace from each of them. He wiped his eyes when they separated, and gestured toward a framed photograph that stood on his dressing-table.
"It's an unlucky play," he said, "but she gave me luck."
"She played Mrs. M, you know," Mary said. Blaise nodded.
"Oh, I looked her up, and they hunted up a videotape for me. Did you know?"
The two women looked at each other, and Mary Esmond slowly nodded. "Yes. Let's watch it together. I think it's been long enough."
"She was amazing." He looked at her, quite serious, not Blaise of the quips and cranks, but someone entirely new. "I felt her onstage with me tonight."
"You'd have done her proud," Mary Esmond said, and wiped her eyes. Auror McConnell nodded, standing to one side.
"And I've you to thank … though it's been a long road." He glanced briefly at papa, as if realizing that he was in the room. "Would you like to join us? We're going to Patterson's for cherries jubilee. And I'll stand you drinks—at a minimum."
They looked at each other, and then nodded in unison, in the fashion of couples who discussed things in a flash and without words.
Aunt Hermione smiled, and said, "They have big tables at Patterson's."
"Never mind tables," Blaise said. "I've reserved a private room." He toweled the last of the makeup from his face, and stood. "Now go wait—I've got to make myself presentable."
The flames leapt blue and gold, lighting all the wondering faces around the table — Teddy and Victoire, even though they pretended sometimes to be grownups already, and Aunt Hermione, and Uncle Neville, and Auror McConnell, and Mary Esmond. Papa and Madame Laveau were laughing, as the waiter extinguished the conflagration, and the confection was served up over vanilla ice cream in crystal bowls.
Blaise laughed as well. Hypatia watched in fascination as his white sharp teeth showed. On stage, that expression had been fierce, wolfish with ambition; now he laughed easily, and teased her. "The smell of the greasepaint, that's the first warning sign," he said, "one finds it irresistible, and then there's the applause of course. Addictive, that."
"But well-deserved," Aunt Hermione interjected in her utterly sensible way. Blaise looked down briefly, as if something had struck him; the green eye-liner glittered on his dark eyelids, in the steady light of the candles.
"And it's been a long enough trip," Mary said. "I wasn't sure you were going to come out on the other side of it at times…"
"Well, it's not such a foreign country as all that. 'Fools are thick on the ground in both worlds,' " he added in a pitch-perfect imitation of Gran Longbottom.
"So they are," Aunt Hermione said, "and I don't see why they hesitated so long over casting you. But you've won out."
Blaise nodded, and the smile looked quite a bit more like Macbeth's than his own, and he took another glass of the punch. "And you as well." He turned to papa, who was smiling at Madame Laveau, his own glass of punch untouched. "Eh, Draco, you could have married this sensible one…"
Aunt Hermione cuffed Blaise lightly, but with unmistakable intent. "None of that," she said. "That wasn't even funny as a joke ten years ago."
"I wouldn't presume such a thing," Blaise said. "I was only speaking of possible worlds."
"Nearly as bad luck as naming the Scottish Play," Hermione said, "and I'm surprised you'd do it, given what a superstitious lot you are."
"Wizards, or actors?"
"Oh the more so when it's both. A multiplier effect."
Mary laughed at that.
Hypatia wasn't sure what they were bantering about, but she would ask papa about this later. She knew that Blaise liked to joke, but she knew as well that jokes of that sort — that were bringing out her aunt's flashing sword, in repartee that seemed to have more than a bit of animus in it— generally hid some bit of truth.
"All's well that ends well," Blaise said, "though of course we're never sure of it but at the end of the play. Or maybe we think we're in act five, scene five and the curtain hasn't even raised yet."
Hypatia said, "So how did they manage it with the head?"
"Well, it wasn't my head, " Blaise replied, "though you will notice a certain resemblance to my own irresistible visage. They took a cast …"
"Oh no," Hypatia said, "I mean how they chopped it off."
"Legerdemain," Blaise said, "and of course if I gave away the secrets, the brotherhood would seek me out to the ends of the earth…"
Hypatia knew he was only half serious, but at least this had turned aside the disturbing witticism about her aunt and uncle getting married—well, some aunts were married to some uncles, but Aunt Hermione and papa, well that seemed inconceivable.
"And were you fooled?"
"Well," she considered, "it's a story of course, but I believed it when it happened." She shuddered. "It's a rather horrible story."
Blaise shrugged. "Based upon a true history. Just like our headlines in the tabloids. For that matter, Othello—though that's a fairish role, I would say I am most heartily sick of suggestions I play it. There are other roles in the repertoire, after all."
Hermione had chimed in, "So what do you have your sights set on now?"
"Hamlet, oh most definitely. Though if I can't be Hamlet, I'd settle for one of the gravediggers. The lowlies in Shakespeare get the very best lines."
"So if you couldn't be Macbeth, you'd want to be the Porter," Hypatia said.
"Oh, well, that's different. No skulls there."
Hypatia had the very definite sense that something, more than one thing, was being discussed under the surface banter.
Madame Laveau watched Blaise as well, her head cocked to one side as if listening for the unheard.
"No small parts," she quoted, "only small actors."
Blaise raised his glass to her. "Precisely, madame," he said. "Though the skulls add a certain je ne sais quoi." Papa flinched, visibly, and Blaise added in a light tone that fooled no one (certainly not Hypatia), "On the stage, mind you, not in life. Skulls in life are a rather different matter."
The conversation wore on, and turned to general matters; how Pansy Black was expecting her fourth child, and how Weasley hadn't been in attendance because one of the children was feeling poorly. (There were five Weasley uncles, but Hypatia knew that Blaise meant only one person when he said 'Weasley,' her Uncle Ron.)
They parted reluctantly from Madame Laveau and the cousins, and rather later than anticipated.
The thing that Hypatia had never liked about her birthday was that it fell too late to be winter of the celebratory sort, well away from the warmth of Yule, but too early to be spring. The wind in the wee hours was raw and cold, with a burden of sleet. The grownups were on Muggle ground, and punctilious, so there was no Warming Charm to dull the chill of it, and it was a bit of a hunt finding a place from which to Apparate.
She knew it was late, from the darkened houses.
"That always feels like a longer journey than it is," Uncle Neville said.
Papa looked at him, and then at Aunt Hermione. "Most certainly." And then smiled at Hypatia, "But well worth the trouble. Eleven birthdays." He always got a bit reminiscent on her birthday. "And Blaise is right. Fools are thick on the ground in both worlds, so my luck has been extraordinary."
"Years ago," Aunt Hermione said, "no one could see this house. Or rather they could see it, but no one would look for long." In the tone of someone telling a tale of long-ago, far-off, unhappy things.
"And then one night a visitor chanced to come to that lonely house," papa said, in that same storytelling tone. "Only because he was in dire need, and afraid…"
A gust of wind, and they all shivered, and hurried up the walk to the front door to let themselves in.
As they shook out their wraps and charmed them dry, Hypatia looked expectantly from papa to her aunt, but they weren't really talking to her, and Uncle Neville had fallen silent as well, watching Hermione's face in that way he had, as if making sure of her, whether it was a cup of tea when she was in heated conversation, or a glance across the room in a crowded party. Hypatia sidled over and sat next to him on the couch, letting her usual invisibility take her. They did not pay attention to her when she was quiet and well-behaved…
Particularly now, as her father and aunt were telling a story. "He had been cursed with nightmares, and he thought that the witch who lived in this house might be the cause of it."
Hypatia looked from one to the other.
"And it was still a dangerous time, so she had a foe-glass and a dozen layers of defense," her aunt said. Well, yes, Hypatia did know about that. There still was the occasional consulting job that would send her across the British Isles, or even to the Continent, on business with Gran Longbottom.
"So fair and foul a night he had not seen," papa said, and she recognized both the joke on Blaise's lines in the play and something that he still wasn't going to tell her. "Ten years…"
"No, eleven," Hermione said, "Hypatia was born that year."
"And well I remember," papa said.
"Such a panic you were in…"
There was some secret between them, Hypatia knew. Nana Malfoy had explained that they were foster-sister and foster-brother, and even shown her the Court Wizard's contract with its many seals, the copy that resided in the family archives at Malfoy Manor, in a very fine frame, nearly as fine as the one that proudly displayed the commendation from Winston Churchill for her however-many-times-great grandmother Malfoy who had died in the line of duty, weather-working on behalf of the Allied invasion at Normandy. Her papa was the first Court Wizard in Britain in six hundred years, continuing a tradition established in dim antiquity by Merlin and carried on by the likes of John Dee, wizard and translator of Euclid.
The Malfoys were a very respectable family, if a bit dull, for all they did count some number of rogues among the ancestors.
Though the one ancestor about which she knew nothing was the very one closest to her, about whom they said almost nothing. Hypatia had long since resolved that she would find out who her mother had been, though this was not the moment.
"I remember that whole year in the dark—as if it were always four o'clock in the morning." Papa cleared his throat, as if there were something very awkward. "You know, that whole business Blaise was teasing about …"
"Which business? Blaise teases about everything."
"I wish he hadn't, in front of Lelia, ah, Madame Laveau. About me marrying you…"
"Blaise is impossible. One doesn't marry one's foster-sister, not even among the Zabinis." She added, "And Madame Laveau is perfectly splendid. When shall we be seeing her again?"
"Well, I'm to accompany her when she returns to Louisiana… oh, well, if it turns out well, then certainly by early summer."
"Will you be relocating, then?"
"Oh, no. Though we shouldn't talk about it… oh, you're right. Superstition. Nonetheless." He pulled himself together. "If all goes well, and if I pass the inquisition, well, it will be a matter of commuting. I have duties here, and she has duties there, and there are Portkeys."
"Unpleasant things, Portkeys," Uncle Neville offered, affably.
"But so very convenient. And of course we don't want to disturb Hypatia's schooling."
Aunt Hermione looked at Hypatia then, and smiled. She hadn't been invisible at all, after all.
"I like Madame Laveau very much," Hypatia said.
Papa sighed, and pushed his hair back, in that way that emphasized his high forehead, and said to Aunt Hermione, "Well then, Granger, I will grant you the right to say that you told me so."
"I'll take you up on it in the morning, perhaps," Aunt Hermione said. "It's nearly four as it is now."
They must have been great friends at school, Hypatia thought, if they could tease each other like that even as grown-ups.
Author's Note: Thanks to everyone who has followed this story from its inception, and particularly those who reviewed. Special thanks to Silverbirch and Silver Sailor Ganymede for the impromptu Brit-picking, TruantPony for end-game beta-reading, and all of my reviewers for encouragement and perceptive notes. The version of Blaise here is owed principally to Silver Sailor Ganymede, whose Slytherin vignettes are once more commended to my readers.