CONTEST WINNERS THIS CHAPTER: User mrtinibeer recommended the song "Dear Sister" by The Pretty Reckless and user 6sixtieniner9 recommended the song "Born to Die" by Lana Del Rey for Theodore & Daphne this go around, and I thought them both a perfect complement to Daphne's thoughts here. So, this chapter is dedicated to mrtinibeer and 6sixtieniner9 - congratulations! Lyrics for that song appear at the bottom of this chapter. Hope you'll find these songs somehow and give them a listen.

I want to dedicate this chapter also to user sallymact for having picked up on a secret plot within the story that's been foreshadowed subtly from the start. GOOD EYE, sallymact - you rock!

Also, thank you so so so so so much to my amazing betas, Ladysashi and GJeanGirl, both of whom have kindly offered to help beta the remainder of this story with me, and who helped me crack open this chapter after much agonizing and 4 hair-tearing revisions. Thank you so much ladies! I bow to your amazing-ness!

READERS, PLEASE REMEMBER: Daphne and Theo don't know who dropped out this round while people were in their private suites. YOU know from reading the other chapters, but they only know who was left in the main common room during the last question round: Hermione, Harry, Draco, Tracey, Daphne, and Theo. Just FYI. Also, the tiny, short foreshadowing in Theo's tale from Chapter 1 finally makes sense here. Do you remember what he said about Daphne's siblings in Chapter 1?

PLEASE REVIEW!


CHAPTER NINE (#6): Theodore & Daphne

Daphne was distracted, considering what had happened during this last Question Round, and so was quiet as she and Theo made their way into their room together. Her Deeds card dangled from her fingers, ignored, as she turned the problem over in her head.

Why hadn't the cards reacted to Miss Granger's attempts to reveal them with magic? Even ancient magical spells should respond to a Revelio charm, so why hadn't the deck?

Also, was it true that the cards had once belonged to a witch who had committed suicide? Such a thing would be incredibly unlucky for the willed recipient of the cards, similar to being the owner of a house where a murder had been committed or inheriting jewellery from a woman who had died in childbirth. Such things were evermore haunted by their tragedy, eventually becoming defined by them.

At least, according to people like Amelia.

Daphne's older sister was a superstitious ninny, though, always foretelling of trouble just around the corner and making poor predictions, the same as their current Hogwarts Divination professor. If there was even a sniff of bad luck to be believed about a certain look or an action or a word, Amelia would give it full credit and invent a ritual to avoid it. She was known to throw salt over her shoulder, to avoid walking under ladders, and to make the sign of warding against broken mirrors. She counted crows that roosted around her house, never opened umbrellas indoors, and made 'Groaning Cheese' for her pregnant friends, praying over every wheel for her own pregnancy someday. Why, she even believed that virginity carried a special magical power to it, and that such power could be stolen for one's own use by sleeping with a virgin!

All utter tosh, of course.

And yet, perhaps there was something to the idea of death lending power to spells. After all, the Hogwarts ghosts were able to manifest upon this plane of existence despite their non-living state. And Vampires, like Mr. Sanguini, who had been a guest speaker for their fifth year Defense Against the Dark Arts class, were basically non-rotting corpses, their reanimation fuelled by some unknown blood magic that took effect right at the moment of their death. Both groups had defied biology and had somehow remained alongside the living without actually being alive. Those facts were plainly indisputable.

There were other such examples that Daphne had heard of over the years, too. For instance, her own father was a member of an ancient and secret order of scholarly wizards whose members all believed in the tale of some sort of stone that could bring the dead back to life. The Resurrection Stone, they called it, and they insisted the thing was as legitimate and authentic as the Philosopher's Stone—which had been proven to be real. Then there was the story of young Miss Weasley's possession during the girl's first year by some malevolent spirit, rumoured to have been that of the long-dead dark wizard, Voldemort. The gossip went that a piece of the Dark Lord's soul had been trapped inside a book and that the tome had somehow managed to come into Miss Weasley's possession. Supposedly, the evil spirit had been able to influence the girl so much that she had committed dark deeds at its behest—acts such as writing those frightening messages about the return of Slytherin's heir on the school's walls and even petrifying students.

But those last examples were just hearsay and hoaxes... weren't they?

"After you, my delectable Queen," Theo pronounced, opening the door to their private suite and making a production of ushering her in.

She suppressed a giggle at her partner's silly antics. "Thank you, my beloved."

She stepped in, he followed, and the door shut behind them with a loud 'click'.

The room, she noted almost immediately, was exactly as they had left it the round before last, rumpled bed and all. Daphne frowned at that. Why wasn't the room still configured for their prior requirement of the library? She was sure that it wasn't supposed to reset without at least one assigned occupant willing it so. Had Theodore requested their old arrangement?

She was just about to ask him if he was responsible for restoring their prior room's setting when the surprised expression on his face deterred her. "Eh, where's the library?" he asked, scratching the back of his head and turning around in a circle, clearly confused. "You didn't change it back to the old room, did you?"

"No, I did not," she confirmed for him, adjusting her glasses and squinting into the dark corners of the room, looking for hidden clues. "It would seem our room has reset to the previous round's design without input from either of us. That should not have been allowed, from what our Captain explained on the way up here tonight, before the start of the game. He and Mister Potter had specifically designed the rooms to remain at their prior configuration until the occupants wished them otherwise."

Theo whistled in amazement. "Huh. I'm starting to wonder if there isn't some trickery going on after all."

Daphne looked down at the card in her hand. It was blank on the side where writing would normally appear.

"I... believe I must concur."

She showed Theo her card.

His eyes widened. Quickly, he held up his own card.

FORFEIT: Tell your partner your darkest secret. You must answer all her questions about it.

"What the-? I pulled a red card, not a blue one!" he growled, throwing the card to the ground in anger. "I'm positive about that!"

Daphne put a hand on his arm to both restrain his temper and to assure him that she was on his side in this case. "I can assure you that you did, indeed, draw a Deeds card. I observed each drawing with special attention after Miss Granger's failed Revelio spell."

Theo turned and wrapped his arms around her. "The cards are changing, then. Granger was right."

She pulled her card up between them and glanced at its blank face again. "Yes, I am now inclined to think that is the truth of the matter."

"So, should we keep playing?"

That was the real question, wasn't it? Perhaps it would be prudent for them to forfeit the game now, as the Action Round was just beginning. That way, they would not be constrained by Theodore's card's requirement.

Then again, if they quit now, they may never discover the purpose of the allegedly changing cards. Perhaps the answer lie in not quitting, but to completing the game?

To Daphne's amazement, letters began forming across the blank, waxed surface of her card.

~.~

THE FIRST MUST PLAY TO WIN OR ALL ARE CURSED TO LOSE.

~.~

The blood drained from her face and a cold shiver ran up her spine. Amelia would have said Daphne's grave had just been trod upon. "It would seem we no longer have a choice in the matter," she whispered and showed the card to Theo.

He took it from her hand, eyes flaring wide with fear as he read the text that had appeared in the blank space. "Holy fuck. That's... Shit!"

For a moment, neither of them moved nor spoke again, both too stunned by the bizarre and frightening proclamation that had magically appeared before their eyes. All they could do was stare at the words with a growing sense of alarm. For the first time in her life, Daphne could admit that she was right and truly terrified. Something or someone was controlling them, as Miss Granger had hypothesized, and it didn't seem to be a very benevolent entity, given its implied threat of a curse upon them all.

Who was it controlling the magic? Was it the spirit of the witch who had once owned this deck and who had successfully committed suicide, or someone worse, like the supposed evil spirit that had inhabited Miss Weasley's diary?

She inched closer to Theo, shivering, needing his warmth and strength just then to keep her knees from knocking together.

"'The first'," Theo finally murmured, re-reading the card and shattering the ominous silence. "Wonder who that is?" He turned his head and looked down at her. "What do you think?"

She glanced up at him, noting his concern for her reluctance to answer in his darkening blue gaze, and realised quite suddenly that she was being the ninny now. Her eldest sister would, most likely, find much merriment in the fact that the most sensible of the Greengrass daughters was suddenly reconsidering her stance on superstition and the inexplicable! "The context of the warning is rather vague," she agreed, squaring her shoulders and readjusting her glasses again. "It is possible it refers to the first individual to play this game," she noted.

Theo seemed sceptical. "As in, ever?" He shook his head, doubting that explanation. "I think we'd be shit outta luck if that were the case, as Granger and Drake said the deck was a couple hundred years old. It's doubtful anyone who played with the cards then is still alive today."

"Perhaps it refers to our specific iteration of the game, then," she said, considering the problem from a different angle. "Individuals, perhaps? Mister Malfoy was the first to sign the cards joining the game. He is most likely the one the message refers to, in such a case."

Her partner hissed. "Then that means Drake can't forfeit!"

"Nor can we afford to, if the warning refers to teams as a whole, and not individuals, which is a possibility as well. As Slytherin initiated the game and issued the challenge to Gryffindor, in that case there must be one Slytherin standing in the end for the presumed curse to be avoided," Daphne pointed out. "Currently, we are in the lead, as there is only Miss Granger and Mister Potter remaining for Gryffindor's side as of the last Interrogations round. However, and I do not like to speak ill of our teammates, but I believe Tracey would forfeit should her partner request it of her this round. She is utterly besotted with Gryffindor's Captain and easily led astray by him. However, were we to forfeit this round as well—"

"—that would leave just Drake and Granger... and it's obvious he'd give up the game to her if she wanted, too. He's as whipped by her as Tracey is for Potter." Theodore ran a frustrated hand through his hair, mussing it. "So, we can't let Draco quit, just in case the warning refers to the first person to join the game this round, and you and I can't quit either if we're to keep Slytherin in the lead, because both Tracey and Drake are unreliable suckers when it comes to their partners." He glanced over at his discarded forfeit lying inert upon the ground. "Then that means I'd have to play out my card this round. Motherfucker!"

Daphne considered his response and began wondering which of her lover's secrets would upset him so. Surely there couldn't be that many? His mother's scandalous death and his father's attraction to the dark arts were old news, known by most in their circle. She already knew about his sometimes controversial and ruthless nature, as well, and she had, in fact, personally experienced it tonight in the game. She was also aware of his more aggressive kinks in the bedroom from rumour and through covert observation. Truly, not much about Theodore Nott was unknown or unsuspected by her.

...Except one thing.

"How old were you when you lost your virginity, and to whom did you give it?"

As she stiffened, realising what secret he clearly did not want to share with her, he cast a weary glance her way, as if suspecting her thoughts. She noted a gathering of sweat upon his upper lip.

"Daphne, I don't want to answer this one. You'll be very angry with me if I tell you. You won't understand."

What wouldn't she understand about his choice of partner for his first sexual experience, exactly, and why was he so worried the name of his former lover would incense her? Might it be one of her friends, perhaps Pansy or Tracey? But no, his being with either witch would not make Daphne angry or jealous, as it was a natural thing for enthusiastic and hormonal teenagers to attempt to slake their fickle lusts where they could. Besides, it was glaringly evident from the reactions of her two female housemates to their game partners tonight that their emotional interests were now firmly fixed upon other specific targets, and that Theo was clearly not in the running for any kind of a repeat rendezvous, if in fact there had ever been an initial opportunity.

Perhaps his first sexual encounter had been with a man, with Theo topping rather than bottoming. That could explain why he'd stated he'd never been anally penetrated. Yet, even knowing her lover had possibly slept with another male wouldn't cause adverse feelings in her—surely, he knew that by now. She'd been more than frank during the game that she, herself, was bi-sexual.

No, the contentious issue couldn't be something as irrelevant as gender, so what was it about his first lover that distressed him so greatly that he was willing to take corporal punishment rather than give up the person's name?

"I'd rather you hurt me than I hurt you."

And she had. She'd paddled him for keeping mute on the subject.

Now, that reluctant victory would be for naught, as he had no choice but to reveal all to her or possibly risk Slytherin losing the game and facing the wrath of the cards. No matter the specifics of what being cursed entailed, she didn't need to borrow from Amelia's superstitious nature to know it could not be a good outcome.

It certainly seemed as if the game had intended all along to ferret out the most haunting secrets of its players. Slytherin knew, she'd already laid herself bare to her partner, as well as to Pansy and Miss Granger. Apparently, it was now Theo's turn to become so vulnerable. To what nefarious ends, though? What was the spell on the cards intending to achieve with such devastating revelations between its players? Why draw them in, creating intimacy and building affection between them, only to turn them against each other in the end?

From between her eyes, there came an instant, sharp pain signalling the beginning of a headache. She removed her glasses and rubbed the area, pinching the skin to try to ward off the ache.

"Daph, you okay?" Theodore reached for her, his hold upon her shoulders firm, but gentle at the same time. "What's wrong?"

She replaced her glasses and blinked several times until Theo's handsome face was no longer blurry. There was concern in his baby blues for her, but there was also a wariness to him that was typical of an ambushed animal attempting to consider a way out of the trap he now found himself in.

There was no escape this time, however—not if they'd read the card right. He was going to have to tell her the name she'd waited years to discover, resentful of having had his hands effectively tied on the matter. The aftermath would not be pleasant, she was sure.

"I am well enough," she informed him, "although I am equally as concerned about the coercion of the cards in this instance."

"Coercion?" He barked a bitter laugh. "Sounds nicer than it feels, I swear! My secret, it isn't something I ever wanted to tell you. I'm not... proud of what I did, and I know... you're gonna hate me for it once you know the truth." He looked off towards the fall wall, jaw clenched. "You've already guessed what it's gonna be, I'm sure."

"The name of your first lover," she guessed.

He gave a jerking, short nod, lips pressed into a tight, thin line as if he could hold back the coming tidal wave of emotion that would follow his confession.

"Who was she? The woman who took your virginity?"

"You don't want to know."

"You claim to have feelings for me, yet you keep secrets."

"To protect you!"

Protect her from what? She wondered. Who could he possibly name that would hurt her so? Obviously, it was someone he thought would disgust her. Either that or it was someone very important to her, more so than a mere friend. Someone as close as family.

The idea brought Daphne up short.

Family—as in a sister, perhaps?

Specifically, an elder sister, who was attracted to virginity like a bee was drawn to nectar?

The moment the thought crossed her mind, Daphne dismissed it as preposterous, and began to wonder if all of the physical exertion she'd engaged in over the course of the night was beginning to mentally fatigue her as well. Perhaps she ought to take more of Draco's restorative potion, because the fact was it simply wasn't a logical conclusion to jump to that Amelia had slept with Theo simply because Theo was worried the name of his first lover would somehow upset her. For Merlin's sake, Amelia was married!

...Which did not prevent a person from engaging in a clandestine affair or three, a nagging voice in her head reminded her. As Daphne well knew, both her parents dallied on the side on occasion. It was almost an expected diversion among their social circle, which was primarily made up of arranged marriages with rarely a love match between them.

And Amelia was attracted to the sexually uninitiated, specifically to the power she believed their purity granted to the one who deflowered their innocence...

Cautioning her cynical side, she attempted to look at the possibility with some measure of rationality, aiming to debunk the theory.

For starters: how would Amelia and Theo have even met? Amelia was four years older than Theo, and as far as Daphne was aware, her sister did not know him except as a younger student who'd been sorted into Slytherin House, too. She'd never seen them speak, walk near each other, or even share a study table during Amelia's school days. In fact, if asked, Daphne would have referred to them as complete strangers if required to classify the nature of any relationship between them. Yes, of course, her parents and his knew each other from traveling in the same pure-blood circles for years, but they were hardly friends, more passing acquaintances. They'd appeared at some of the same parties together and had attended Lady Nott's funeral, like the rest of the wizarding beau monde, but they'd never sat down and shared a cup of tea, surely!

The chances of them knowing each other was very slim, indeed.

Second point: what would the beautiful, resourceful Amelia want with a younger man when she was married to a rich, successful, and very handsome and charming wizard? Daphne's brother-in-law, Lucian Bole was everything a good Slytherin pure-blood heir should be; he was good-looking, engaging, ruthless, and ambitious. He was a fast climber in the world of wizarding finance, and as she recalled from a column dedicated to him in Witch Weekly earlier that year, he'd been sent by his father to some special school in Italy during the summers between his fifth and seventh years so he could better learn business acumen. The man had been bred for success, and Amelia was riding that wave right along side her man, ever upwardly-mobile.

Yes, it seemed absurd to believe that her sister would risk such a brilliant match to have an affair with a younger, undistinguished wizard whose family was in decline, virgin or not.

The more she considered the idea of Amelia and Theo together, the more ludicrous it seemed to Daphne, honestly.

And yet, that voice in her head whispered, and yet...

And yet, her sister had been suffering from a terrible case of 'baby fever' since her wedding night, unable to conceive with her husband for a reason as yet unidentified, at least according to her mother's gossip (that special listening trick Daphne had honed over the years in Slytherin House had served her well in more than one capacity!). Might that type of irrational desperation have been enough incentive for Amelia to have done the deed with Theo, hoping to use the supposed power of his virginity to assure a conception took? Unfortunately, that could definitely be a motivating factor in favour of the imagined scenario in Daphne's head, even if it was clear that such a scheme had failed, as Amelia had yet to become pregnant.

The overall conclusion, however, was obviously weighed heavily against her bizarre fantasy. It was, plainly put, pure speculation on her part that Amelia had anything to do with Theo's first sexual conquest and was, most likely, simply a case of nerves and mental fatigue making her absurdly suspicious.

Stepping around Theo to glimpse into a small, round mirror tacked to the wall, she fidgeted with her hair and with her glasses, refortifying her emotional armour so when she turned to face him again, she was back under control. "It would seem we have little choice but to continue playing the game, if we are interpreting the card's warning correctly, so we must speak of this matter." Girding her nerve, she straightened her shoulders and looked him in the eye when she requested, "Therefore, I would like you to tell me your darkest secret, my Theo. We will weather it together, much as we weathered my terrible secret earlier."

He flinched and looked down at his feet, agreeing to her wisdom with a resigned sigh. "Then... will you let me explain mine, like I let you explain yours?"

In the name of fair play, Daphne should agree. However, she was also Slytherin to the core, and there was no such thing as a square deal between the lot. Should she demand the name, or give him his chance to justify his actions?

Decisions, decisions.

With her curiosity burning a hole through her stomach, she opted for full truth. "Explain the circumstances to me before you reveal the name, that I might better know your motivations and intentions."

He watched her warily for half a minute more. "You're never going to forgive me once you know." He sighed forlornly. "Okay, here goes... Remember your sister's wedding last summer?"

"Of course."

How could she possibly forget her parents' constant bragging about Amelia's good luck in catching the eye of the heir to the Bole fortune, or having been required to wear that hideous yellow bridesmaid dress that had made her appear jaundiced from head to toe? Honestly, she'd been more relieved than nervous to have left soon after the big event for Italy to face the beginning of her sexual training with Carmen Zabini and her Sex-Warlock boyfriend under the auspices of a Charms apprenticeship, if only to escape her mother's constant tongue wagging about pure-blood witches marrying well.

Her knees trembled at the mention of Amelia, though, and Daphne silently prayed that the mention of her older sister would just be a coincidence in this case. Perhaps Theo had met some stranger at the wedding and they'd made one of those lust-fueled, temporary connections for the night that were common at such events?

"As one of the 'Sacred Twenty-Eight', my dad and I were invited to represent the Nott family at the wedding and reception," he explained.

She remembered that, too, thinking Theo handsome in his dress robes as he stood across the other side of the wedding tent from her, talking to Astoria.

"It was really hot that day, and that wanking tie I was wearing was choking me, so I went into the main house to find the loo. I'd wanted to toss some water on my face to cool down. As I was going into the bathroom, I ran into the groom coming out."

The groom, Lucian Bole? What did he have to do with this tale?

Theo scrubbed a hand over his face. "I congratulated the guy on his nuptials and he shook my hand in thanks. As soon as our hands clasped, there was this... moment. Luc just stopped and looked at me, like he was surprised by something. I have no idea what was up, but the next thing I knew, I was being dragged into the loo, and I felt this... weird electric spark crawl up my spine, and I was so aroused I almost came in my trousers right there. We started kissing like mad, groping each other, frotting, tearing at each other's clothing. It reminded me of that one time in third year with—" He paused, swallowing hard, seeming reluctant to name names. "Well, let's just say it reminded me of some fumbling experimentation I did back then with someone else. A... friend. It was that same kind of lust and desperation. Like I'd die not to have him."

His cheeks bloomed red as he conveyed then how Lucian Bole had aroused him into a frenzy, enough to get Theo to willingly suck the other man off right there in the bathroom. "After it was over, he said he'd see me again, zipped back up, and left in a hurry." His expression tightened with pain. "I just sat there on the bathroom floor for the longest time after, feeling used, and horny as hell, and confused as fuck. I could still taste him in my mouth and I still wanted him even though he'd been kinda rough and rude, and I felt such... such despair at his leaving me. I'm not exaggerating when I say I had this serious urge to kill myself. The only thing keeping me from doing it was his promise that I'd see Luc again."

Her partner glanced up at her, wary of her reaction to his strange confession. In all honesty, Daphne was reeling. An electric spark followed by mad lust, and then a depression so great it swallowed one's entire hope—she intimately knew that sensation!

Last summer, Carmen Zabini and her lover had introduced Daphne to the art of kissing, fondling, and tantric breathing techniques with them. The education had been enlightening... and emotionally challenging. It had taken all her will and a constant reminder of her end game with Theo to get Daphne to return to England at the end of August. She'd also consumed a lot of chocolate in the weeks after to improve her mood. That was when she'd made the decision not to allow her emotions to rule her, and had clung even tighter to cold rationality as a coping mechanism.

Unfortunately, this blasted game had blown her protective shell wide open tonight, making her waffle between extremes, making her question her own sanity. A pall of doom had seemed to hover over her head ever since the third action round...

"Daphne, you still with me?"

Jerked out of her inner musings, Daphne quickly nodded assent at her companion, and mentally conjured a cosy chair to settle into for the duration. Feminine intuition told her she was going to need to be sitting for the rest of the tale or else risk falling onto her backside from the shock of it all. "Do continue," she directed, gripping the padded arms and digging her nails in, waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Theo seemed more nervous than ever to go on. "Let's just say that whatever Luc did to me that day, it made me want him. Hard. Didn't matter that he was married and that I don't really find men attractive. I spent the next two weeks in agony, walking around with a boner that wouldn't go away every time I so much as thought about him." He frowned. "Then, out of the blue one night, I get this Floo-call from him, telling me to sneak out and come over to his place."

Two weeks... That would have been right around the time Amelia returned from her honeymoon, Lucian's work calling him back in despite his newly married status and his request for a short leave of absence. Daphne recalled how bitter her older sister had been to be forced to cut her holiday short, complaining to their mother about the lost opportunity to assure the conception of her husband's heir.

"I headed over to the address he gave me, my dick leading the way," Theo said. "When I got there, what I saw shocked me: your sister was kneeling on the floor at his feet, naked and wearing only a leather collar around her neck with a leash that he held the other end to." He glanced over again at Daphne. "Not sure if you knew it, but Amelia's into hardcore BDSM."

Daphne's jaw dropped. No, she hadn't known that. She'd always known Amelia to be a bit of a bohemian at heart, but whips and chains and collars? No, she never would have pegged her elder sister for such a thing. "I had no idea," she admitted, quite stunned by that fact.

Theo sighed. "Yeah, she's her husband's very own whipping girl, with the marks on her back to prove it. She's even got nipple and clit piercings, if you can believe it."

As Daphne's stomach dropped out of her and fell through the earth at her feet, she pressed her hand to her mouth to hold back the sob that threatened to escape from between her lips. Theo did know Amelia, and apparently in an intimate enough manner to have seen between her legs.

God, was it true? Had Amelia been Theo's first lover?

"Needless to say, things got a little freaky between the three of us," he conceded. "Whatever Luc did to me, he was obviously doing it to your sister, too. I didn't touch either of them that night, or the next few times I was invited over to serve as their audience of one, but I got to watch the things they did together—the things he did to her, and... Daphne, I admit it turned me on. Even without Luc's influence, I realised I wanted to do those same things with a woman someday. I also liked what Amelia did for her husband, the submitting stuff. She let him tie her up, beat her, and fuck her in every hole while I watched and wanked to it. Sometimes, he did worse to her, but she liked it all. She always begged him for more, and I knew I wanted to try that, too."

Daphne's nails dug harder into the furniture. So her sister and her brother-in-law were the ones responsible for turning Theo's sexual preferences dark. Damn them both!

"Go on," she instructed him, barely restraining her anger.

Theo looked away again, his body tensing, clearly sensing her displeasure in his revelations. "So, um... that kind of thing went on for the rest of the summer, and there were more than a few times they came to Hogsmeade after school started up again that year, too. They stayed at the Inn and slipped me a note to meet them there. That year, I learned a lot about sex without actually having it. I mean, I got my cock sucked by both of them, licked cunt, used toys on them both while they did each other, and did a lot of watching, but I was still a virgin, technically." He sighed. "Everything changed during Easter hols, though. I stayed behind because Luc asked, and my dad... hell, he never cared whether I came home for breaks or not, too caught up in his research and magical experiments. I met your sister and her husband at the Inn again, and we all got naked, starting fooling around." He covered his eyes, pressing the heels into them. "I did what they wanted. I let them blindfold me and lay me down on the bed. I thought they were going to do what they'd always done: suck me and make me lick or suck them back. Turns out, I was wrong. We did a whole lot more."

Daphne's heart pounded in her chest. He was going to finally say it: he was going to admit to having fucked Amelia.

A part deep inside Daphne died at the thought, and she debated quite firmly with herself about staying or going. Did she really want to hear this?

"It wasn't at all what I expected," he admitted. "I thought it'd be Amelia, but it wasn't."

Not Amelia? Then... Merlin, his first time had been with Lucian?

"It was some other girl."

Wait, what?!

Daphne sat forward in her chair, surprised by the news.

Theo gripped his hair in his fingers and stared down at the floor. "To be honest, I was just so excited, I didn't care who it was riding me. I was finally getting to fuck someone after all those months of watching and wanting! I mean, I could hear Amelia guiding the girl over me, murmuring to her about what to do, but I was too focussed on what I was feeling to give the two of them much thought. Sounds stupid, I know, but seriously, it felt so good—better than I'd imagined, and all I could do was lie there gritting my teeth and sweating and trying not to come too soon, because I didn't want to look like a chump my first time. I mean, it was obvious the girl was a virgin, too, but beyond that I couldn't have given two fucks who she was or how she was feeling. All I knew was I didn't want her to stop moving. Man, it felt too brilliant!"

"And?" Daphne pressed when he paused, wanting him to just get to the punch line. She had agreed to hear him out, and had tried to be patient for his tale to unfold naturally, but now all she could obsess over was the name of his partner. Who was it that Amelia had led like a lamb to the slaughter for Theo to deflower at the same time as he was being deflowered?

"And it was over quicker than I'd wanted it to be," he said with a shrug, cheeks pink with embarrassment. "Maybe six or eight thrusts and... pop went the Billywig, you know? But we weren't done, despite the fact I'd come. I'm pretty certain Luc cast some sort of Lust spell on all of us after that, because I'd barely recovered before I was rearing to go for round two... and three... and four. While he was shagging his wife into the mattress in the background, I shagged my partner in every position I could think of until I finally collapsed from sheer exhaustion sometime around dawn." He shook his head and cupped himself. "Hell, but my balls still ache just remembering how much I hurt later. I was in bed for three days trying to recover from fucking my brains out. How ridiculous is that?"

And with that sentiment, Daphne's patience was formally at an end. It took everything in her not to burst apart into a million pieces just then from the amalgamation of bitter jealousy and gnawing curiosity churning through her veins, heating her blood and tormenting her mind. She gripped the chair's arms so hard, she felt the fabric tear under her sharp, little nails. "The name, Theo," she demanded, her voice school matron hard. "Did you know who she was?"

Reluctantly, he nodded. "After that first time, I took the blindfold off, so... yeah, I knew her." He paused, his throat bobbing up and down as he attempted to swallowed the lump of dread and guilt clogging his windpipe. "Daphne, please don't hate me," he implored, clasping his hands in front of him in the symbolic pleading for mercy, "but... well, she was... it was Astoria."

It took Daphne a second to process what he'd just said.

Astoria.

Astoria?

No.

No, that couldn't be right! She'd misheard. Or Theo was mistaken, perhaps confused by his memories. His partner had most likely been one of Amelia's friends who just so happened to resemble their baby sister. Maybe they had the same eye colour or pixie haircut. Yes, that had to be the case, because it was simply inconceivable that Astoria had enjoyed sexual intercourse with Theo. She was much too young, much too innocent, much too—

Slytherin.

"I'm not a baby anymore, Daph."

...

No, she wasn't, was she?

Although only finishing up her fifth year now, Tori was three months shy of her 'sweet seventeen' and of officially being recognised as an adult by the Ministry. A mere twenty-one months separated them in age, and Daphne had always viewed that gap as a measure of not just time, but a division of maturity as well. Had she'd been so completely wrong on that account?

She'd always assumed Astoria had been sent to the den of snakes by the Sorting Hat as a result of it taking into account her sister's personal preferences. It had, but perhaps not in the manner in which Daphne had always deduced; she'd believed the sorting was a result of Astoria's personal request to stay with her kin. Amelia and Daphne had both been Slytherins, as had all of their family as far back as could be remembered. It was a proud Greengrass tradition to be sent to the green and silver. However, if the Hat had sorted Astoria based upon her true personality and innate characteristics, then that meant the unthinkable: that her sister was the best play actress the world had ever known: a slippery Slytherin masquerading as a harmless Hufflepuff.

Circe's soul, could it be true?

If Theo wasn't mistaken, that meant her younger sister—who had known Daphne's feelings for Theo years ago, when they'd shared such information in secret, as sisters close in age were wont to do—had deceived her. It would mean Astoria had taken Theo's virginity knowing that Daphne was desperately in love with him!

Then there was Amelia's part in this bizarre tale. Why had she and Lucian sexually groomed Theo for months, for that is clearly what they'd been doing to him. Had it been her sister and brother-in-law's intention all along to use him as a breeding stud after what had happened at the wedding between Theo and the groom. Amelia wasn't getting pregnant with her husband. If so, why would she and Lucian have changed their minds in favour of allowing Astoria the honour of deflowering Theo instead? Or had it been Amelia's intention all along to trick both Theo and Astoria into offering up their individual virginity so she could harness the magic she believed the loss of such innocence would provide to assure pregnancy took? Theo had said that while he and Astoria had been... having sex... Lucian and Amelia had been going at it like rabbits, too. Had Amelia been grooming their youngest sister, too?

She gripped the sides of her head and squeezed her eyes shut, blocking out the sight of Theo's stricken features.

Good God, how far did the lies and betrayal go? Every question led to even more questions, and every possible avenue of explanation seemed to drive straight towards despair, as far as she could determine. It seemed she lived in an endless labyrinth of lies, from her family life to her love life, and many things in-between. The shocking revelations of the past collided with the uncertainty of her future, leaving her reeling and looking for an anchor to cling to. She put her hands over her eyes wanting to hide herself away like a wounded snake.

Playing this game had been the worst mistake she'd ever made! She never should have put her name on that infernal Partners card!

Theo, who had remained quiet all this time, letting the truth lay between them in its rawest form, asked her now, "Do you hate me?" His voice was whisky-rough with shame. When she didn't immediately answer, he made a noise in the back of his throat that was part sob, part whimper. "You do, don't you? You hate me!"

Dropping her hands, she stared up at him, feeling as lost and unsure as he was just then. "Theo, I—"

He came at her quickly, knelt at her feet, and stared up at her, miserable and filled with obvious regret. "I'm sorry! I'm so sorry, Daphne! I wish... I wish I was a better person, and that I hadn't done so many things in the past that were thoughtless and stupid like what happened that day! I wish I could go back in time and change things. I can't, though. All I can do now is promise to treat you like a queen every day from here on out." He threw his arms around her mid-section and buried his face against her chest. "Cuff me, Crucio me, whatever you need to do to get even with me for hurting you, I'll take it. My old man could invent some really fucked up punishments for me as a kid, so I'm used to it. I'll take whatever you want to dish, Daph, but just please don't walk away from me!"

Her heart pounded hard and her eyes burned with tears. Walk away from him? After all they'd shared tonight? No!

And yet...at the same time, knowing Astoria and Amelia had both been with him, and had actually gotten there before her hurt worse than anything she'd ever felt before. It wasn't Theo's fault that he'd performed perfectly as their puppet, but still, it made her feel ill and a bit diminished to think of Astoria happily taking his cock into her pussy, or of him sticking his tongue deep into Amelia's cunt and making her orgasm.

Could she truly overlook his sordid past with her siblings? Could she move past the truth and not let it ruin what they had built here tonight?

Faltering at the thought that she might not be able to keep her eye on the bigger prize this time, she pressed her lips tightly together to hold back the tide of her suddenly overwhelming emotions. Her heart throbbed with pain behind her ribs, while at her sides, her hands balled into tight-knuckled fists, her nails pressing into the flesh of her palms. She wasn't okay with this, no matter how she attempted to reconcile it with logic. She really wasn't!

The helplessness, the frustration, and the sense of betrayal coalesced into a bright ball of fiery anger as the full impact of what her siblings had done to not only her, but to Theo as well, hit her: her sisters had trained and primed Theo, tricked him into giving up his virginity to their nefarious, lusty purposes, and then they'd discarded him like an emptied, worthless vessel when they'd gotten all they'd wanted from him. They'd abused his trust as assuredly as they'd abused hers. He was so ashamed by what he'd done with them, in fact, that he was here now on his knees, pleading for her forgiveness like some kind of whipped dog!

Her despair gave way to a white-hot fury and a powerful sense of possessiveness.

No one humbled her King or humiliated this Queen!

Those bitches would pay once the game was over!

With a firm grip, she grabbed hold of some of Theo's hair and gently pulled his head back, forcing him to look up and meet her eyes. "On your feet, beloved. You kneel for me only when I request it, never otherwise."

He blinked, as surprised by the icy hiss in her voice as she was, but he easily obeyed and rose to stand before her once more.

She made her feet as well, standing next to him as an equal. Taking hold of his hand in hers, he raised it to her heart. "This is yours. It has been for longer than I can remember, my Theo. No one and nothing can change that."

She looked down at the two Eros & Psyche cards lying on the floor near their feet... and brought her heel down on the one with the ominous warning, stamping it into the ground. No one threatened the future she'd worked so hard to gain—not family, not Gryffindors, and certainly not some chintzy magical cards from an old, tarty Sex-Witch.

Anyone who attempted to interfere in her relationship with Theo again would discover to their peril exactly why Daphne Edeline Greengrass had been signed, sealed, and sorted into Slytherin House!


TO BE CONTINUED...


AUTHOR'S NOTES:

Finally back! About time, I know. I apologise sincerely for taking so long to update this story, and I want to thank everyone who's constant prodding through reviews & PMs inspired me to pick this one back up after a long hiatus. Hope this chapter leaves you hungry for more!

FYI: I have a rotation schedule for my WIPs, in case you didn't see the note on my profile page.

The 'Sacred Twenty-Eight' are the list of British family names compiled in the Pure-blood Directory (believed to have been authored by Cantankerous Nott) which indicates which families were still pure-blood at the time of the directory's writing (in the 1930's). This information was revealed on Pottermore by J.K. Rowling, and as such is considered canon material.

For the sake of this fic, Astoria was born 23 September, 1981, Daphne was born 10 January, 1980, and Amelia (an original character I invented for this fic) was born 20 April, 1976. As a result of her eleventh birthday occurring after the 1 September cut off in 1992, Astoria was forced to wait to go to Hogwarts until 1 September, 1993 (three weeks shy of her 12th birthday; this delay is similar to Hermione Granger's situation in canon).

.

First Musical selection for this chapter: "Dear Sister" by The Pretty Reckless. Lyrics are as follows...

Dear sister, can you help me lie?
I've told the truth so many years.
No one seems to wanna hear that
I'm not someone else inside.

I've been alone this lonely road.
Looks like I'm not coming home.
But I don't mind. Please don't cry.

.

Second Musical selection for this chapter: "Born to Die" by Lana Del Rey. Lyrics are as follows...

Feet don't fail me now.
Take me to the finish line.
Oh, my heart it breaks every step that I take,
but I'm hoping at the gates
they'll tell me that you're mine.

Walking through the city streets...
Is it by mistake or design
I feel so alone on the Friday nights?
Can you make it feel like home,

if I tell you you're mine?

It's like I told you, honey:

Don't make me sad, don't make me cry.
Sometimes love is not enough and the road gets tough,
I don't know why.
Keep making me laugh.
Let's go get high.
The road is long, we carry on.
Try to have fun in the meantime.

Come on, take a walk on the wild side.
Let me kiss you hard in the pouring rain.
You like your girls insane.
Choose your last words, this is the last time,
'cause you and I, we were born to die.

Lost but now I am found.
I can see, but once I was blind.
I was so confused as a little child,
trying to take what I could get,
scared that I couldn't find
all the answers, honey.

Don't make me sad, don't make me cry.
Sometimes love is not enough and the road gets tough,
I don't know why.
Keep making me laugh.
Let's go get high.
The road is long, we carry on.
Try to have fun in the meantime.

Come on, take a walk on the wild side.
Let me kiss you hard in the pouring rain.
You like your girls insane.
Choose your last words, this is the last time,
'cause you and I, we were born to die.

Come on, take a walk on the wild side.
Let me kiss you hard in the pouring rain.
You like your girls insane.

Don't make me sad, don't make me cry.
Sometimes love is not enough and the road gets tough,
I don't know why.
Keep making me laugh.
Let's go get high.
The road is long, we carry on.
Try to have fun in the meantime.

Come on, take a walk on the wild side.
Let me kiss you hard in the pouring rain.
You like your girls insane.
Choose your last words, this is the last time,
'cause you and I, we were born to die.